Maple Valley Town Hall focuses on high school proposal
By KRIS HILL
Covington Reporter Assisitant Editor
October 11, 2012 · Updated 12:02 PM
Tahoma School District Superintendent Mike Maryanski took his case for a new high school in the donut hole in Maple Valley to residents at the city’s annual Town Hall meeting Oct. 3 at Lake Wilderness Lodge.
Maryanski told the audience that if the district is going to have one building which is driven by a vision — something the district doesn’t have now — then the high school should be just that.
“We want to build a regional learning center,” Maryanski said. “We’re trying to create a learning culture and a living culture that young people can be proud of.”
Part of the plan includes partnering with the city to develop its property near the proposed site of the new high school on 156 acres of land owned by King County in the heart of the city. The site is located off Southeast Kent-Kangley Road and 228th Street Southeast and is designated rural and unincorporated yet wholly surrounded by the city of Maple Valley. It is home to nine holes of Elk Run Golf Course, a 13-acre county transportation maintenance facility and a large stand of trees.
But someday, it could be home to a brand new Tahoma High School that could become a regional learning center which helps prepare students for life after high school as well as being a place of learning for adults in the community.
Maple Valley City Manager David Johnston said that as the city has talked about economic development, staff and City Council members have realized it was having similar discussions about work force development as the school district.
“Same topic, same types of challenges, just a different moniker,” Johnston said. “We found out everyone was on the same page and we wanted to take advantage of that.”
To that end, the city has partnered with the district to work toward developing this regional learning center while also building ballfields that would work for the district and for the community on a city-owned site that could connect to the site of the proposed high school.
This concept is part of a larger effort by school district staff to help students become future ready. Statistics show that about 60 percent of Tahoma High graduates go on to a 2-year or 4-year college, however, of those about 40 percent graduate in four years.
Those numbers brought up questions for district staff. Teachers, principals, school board members and nearly 50 people who served on a career and college ready committee over the summer all wondered what the district could do to better serve the students who don’t go to some kind of 2-year or 4-year school after college.
They also were curious what to do to help students who do go on to college have greater success.
“We want to have conversations with families at an early age,” Maryanski said. “We don’t want to take college aspirations away from anyone, in fact we’d like to see more young people go to college. If you have that aspiration we want you to pursue something that makes sense. So, it’s a different conversation. We’re very interested in what happens with every kid, not just those who go to 2-year and 4-year schools.”
As TSD has worked with King County on the idea of a land swap involving the district’s 30 acres next to Tahoma Junior High off Summit-Landsburg Road for some land inside the donut hole, staff at the high school and the junior high have been moving forward with the initiative by developing the first Future Ready Day, set for Nov. 2.
Terry Duty, principal at Tahoma High, said that day kicks off the initiative. Ninth-graders at the junior high will spend the day hearing from adults out in the working world in a series of short career sessions. Sophomores will take the ACT.
All of the 11th graders will get on a bus and go somewhere to see what their options are in order to learn what the best fit will be for them, like a trade or technical school, a military base, as a few examples.
Seniors will have a chance to see what life is like post-high school.
“All of our seniors are going to do job shadows so they can kick the tires and see what the real world looks like,” Duty said.
Parents in this community, Duty said, care about their kids. That’s one thing he is confident about.
But, as the data has come in, the principal said, he is not as confident in how the school has prepared all kids for their futures.
“Every year we have kids who grab their diploma and all they’ve known is school,” Duty said. “That next step after our school board hands them their diploma and they’re scared, they’re not ready.”
From now on, though, the plan is to change that. Students will be given more guidance about their options and all plans, not just the four-year college path, will be valued.
Tahoma High graduates should not be embarrassed to talk about life after high school regardless of what their plans are, they should have a path and they should know where they’re going, but they should also know their plans are equally valued as those of their peers who plan to attend University of Washington, Duty said.
“What I’ve found is that every kid has a different definition of what’s successful for them,” Duty said. “What is success and how are we going to get there? That’s our mission, that’s our goal.”
Beyond that, Duty said, parents will be asked to sit down with their students once during the 10th grade and 11th grade years then twice during senior year and ask their children questions about what success means to them, what does it look like and how can it be accomplished as well as how can it be paid for and what can they do to help their child get there.
Duty added that the community — parents, district staff, the school board, business owners, and colleges — need to help guide students to the right place for them to get the right training for the right job.
“We can do something special for our community. We can do something special for our kids,” Duty said. “Together I believe we can get all of our kids future ready.”
Contact Covington Reporter Assisitant Editor Kris Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or (425) 432-1209, ext. 5054.