Thursday, October 4, 2012

Presenting at the Town Hall . . .

Below is Kevin Patterson's review of yesterday's presentation at the city Town Hall meeting.  We were invited to present on our College and Career Ready initiative.  Kevin is our Public Information Officer.

The Town Hall was pretty full Wednesday night, as the City of Maple Valley celebrated its 15th anniversary with cake, ice cream and ideas. City Council members and staff served up the treats at Lake Wilderness Lodge but it was Tahoma Superintendent of Schools Mike Maryanski and Tahoma High School Principal Terry Duty who dished up a whole menu of ideas that the school district is turning into action to increase students’ readiness for college and careers.

What the audience of more than 100 Maple Valley residents heard at Wednesday’s  annual Town Hall meeting is how the school district is making changes to ensure that every graduating senior has a viable plan. Statistics tell us that 60 to 65 percent of THS grads enroll in college. We’re not sure where the remaining students go when they leave us. What concerns us is that they might not have the information they need to find their way toward jobs and careers that offer a living wage and a path to the kind of lifestyle they desire. Even the students who go right into college need some assistance, as many of them leave school before earning a degree.

Tahoma High School is starting to address that knowledge gap with a program called Future Ready. Students will have new opportunities this year to learn more about college and career opportunities and what it takes to get there and be successful. Terry Duty talked about a new activity called Table Top Conferences, where students and their parents meet at school to talk about future options.  He described increased opportunities for students to visit colleges and businesses where they can learn more about post-high school learning and careers. Calls are going out now from the school district to identify and recruit community members who would be willing to host a student for a job shadow, or be part of a speakers’ bureau that shares information and ideas with students about college and careers.

Ultimately, students from elementary school through Grade 12 will learn more about the options available to them as they transition from high school. But that’s not enough. Mike Maryanski told the audience about one of the bigger ideas emerging as part of college and career ready planning: a new Tahoma High School that would be the centerpiece of a regional learning center in the heart of Maple Valley.

Part of that regional learning center plan could involve collaboration with local colleges and the private sector. Imagine a campus with a new Tahoma High School for grades 9-12 that also would be home to a branch college campus serving the entire community. Nearby would be a high-tech business park, featuring light manufacturing businesses that could partner with the high school to offer internships, job shadows and other learning opportunities. The community would have another source of living-wage jobs and new contributors to the tax base that supports civic services.

Much work remains before this vision is realized. It has progressed quickly, gaining support and momentum. It is a vision shared by city and school district leaders who see the benefits for young people and the greater community. Discussions and planning during the next few weeks will determine whether this bold idea can succeed. 

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