Federal Way Public Schools have a graduation problem, and Superintendent Rob Neu has promised to fix it.
In August, Neu promised that 100 percent of students from this year’s freshman class will graduate on time. His bold vision will focus on black, Hispanic and Native American students.
Federal Way pays Neu big bucks ($240,000 a year after a recent 20 percent raise) to lead the school district. Neu is sticking his neck on the line with this promise, and the community should give him a chance to fulfill that promise.
Is this an impossible promise to keep? Yes. Is this a promise worth chasing? Yes.
The district will focus on minority students with traditionally low “on-time” graduation rates. The overall class of 2012 rate was 70.2 percent. Here’s a breakdown of that 2012 rate by ethnicity:
• Pacific Islanders (54.2 percent)
• Hispanics (57.7 percent)
• Blacks (61.5 percent)
• Asians (79.5 percent)
• Whites (76.1 percent)
In comparison, the overall graduation for 2009 was 75.6 percent.
In a recent meeting with The Mirror’s editorial board, Neu reiterated his “100 percent” promise and said the “low bar” was for these groups to reduce the graduation gap by half. For example, if 54 percent of Pacific Islanders graduated in 2012, the ideal minimum for 2016 is 77 percent.
Indeed, achieving these metrics would be monumental for Federal Way schools. It would fall short of Neu’s “shoot for the moon” goal, but it would mark a significant improvement for the district. Isn’t that what we all want?
Recent controversies have shaken public confidence in the school district — including a flawed grading system, a school board president’s arrest, a hefty raise for the superintendent, and multiple international taxpayer-funded trips related to the “Global Learning Intiative.”
It’s easy to lump these controversies into one overall feeling of frustration and disappointment with the school district.
The superintendent now has the burden of showing the public whether the district can live up to a big promise. Let’s allow the superintendent to lead the local education machine and rescue children who fall through the cracks. Let the district try to succeed in adequately preparing more students for college and the real world.
Neu is willing to accept responsibility if he falls short. The school board must hold the superintendent accountable if there is no progress.