Fife Public Schools

October 2019 eNewsletter

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A Message from Superintendent Alfano

Dear Fife Public Schools Community,

I'm often asked when talking about our school district with those in the community, “Other than looking at just test scores for our students, how is the Fife School District doing and what aspects can we look at to see if we are maintaining a quality education for our students?” I think it is a great question for several reasons.

When school districts measure their success based on test scores alone, they are missing out on a lot of indicators that speak to the success and assurances that our students are growing. First, a test score is like a photograph. It is a snapshot in time that only captures what is happening at that single moment. In Fife, we like to think about the growth and success of our students more like an old fashioned movie reel. Unlike a photo, a film captures more details and tells a more complete story over time. While standardized test scores are important, they fail to give us multiple measures of success or areas that need to be addressed for improvement.

This sentiment is not new in Fife. While I enter my sixth year as your Superintendent, I taught and worked as a building administrator in Fife for 15 years before becoming superintendent. In over twenty years working in the Fife School District, one constant we have always maintained is the core belief that while tests scores are important, they are only one measure of student, school, and district success.

From a financial standpoint, the Fife School District is in a great spot. As you may have seen in the news in the past two years, many school districts - and many of our neighboring districts - can’t make this same statement. They have a rapidly decreasing fund balance (savings account), they have ever-increasing expenditures, and they are forced to decrease their staffing and make other difficult decisions to accommodate their financial reality.

In some regards, Fife has had to make tough decisions when it comes to spending, but we have also been able to maintain a very healthy fund balance for sustained financial security moving forward. Additionally, we have an amazing credit rating of Aa2 as reviewed and given to us by Moody’s. Similar to your personal credit score, our rating is one of the best in the state and is actually the highest rating for a school district of our size. This credit rating allows us to achieve lower interest rates on the bonds we sell to finance our future construction projects.

On a related note, our annual financial audits have been exemplary over the last several years - without a single audit finding or suggestion! Did you know that in addition to financial affairs, we are also audited for things like student record keeping and processes as they relate to programs? These areas have been unblemished over the past several years as well.

By now I am sure you have heard about - or have actually seen - the various construction projects we have going on or are ready to get started across the district. In February of 2018, our voters approved a construction bond program totaling $176.3 million! This is allowing our school district to significantly upgrade many of our aging school buildings. While it is amazing to think that we will still have needs after this current bond program concludes in the spring of 2022, this program is significantly upgrading our schools, creating more secure access points in our schools, and providing for much needed capacity so we can keep up with the enrollment growth we are seeing in our district and surrounding areas.

Having a bond program of this magnitude for a school district of our size is almost unheard of in our state and is something we are very proud of. We love the fact that we will be able to provide cutting-edge teaching & learning environments that will be on par with the innovative teaching & learning experiences that our students get every day in Fife. Probably the biggest celebration here is the fact that we are able to maintain some of the lowest class sizes in the Puget Sound region!

Another area of personal pride is the continuous increases we are seeing in our graduation rates. I officially became superintendent in January 2015. From August 2014 to December 2014, I served as the interim superintendent after the passing of then Superintendent John McCrossin. That year, the Fife High School graduation rate for the Class of 2015 dipped to a disappointing 78%. Since that time, FHS has seen a steady increase every year. Last June, the FHS graduation rate for the Class of 2018 reached 92%! While we still have work to do to continue this upward trend, we are very proud that we are preparing more and more students for life after Fife High School.

At the end of my first year as superintendent in 2015 - with the assistance of many stakeholder groups - we created a strategic plan aimed at addressing graduation rates and the preparedness of our graduates. We feel this strategic plan has helped create continuity throughout our school system and is resulting in more and more students leaving our district career and college ready. Our school board is extremely proud of this work and the results we are seeing, and we invite our entire community to celebrate this success along with us!

Research tells us one of the highest predictors of on-time graduation is the number of credits earned during a student's 9th grade year. Consequently, we have closely monitored and worked to improve the percentage of 9th grade students who complete their freshman year "on track" to graduate.The staff at Columbia Junior High have taken this to heart and worked diligently to steadily decreased the number of 9th graders losing credit each year. These efforts have resulted in CJH 9th graders now passing more classes than any other 9th grade in our region!

Our elementary schools are tackling the issue of more and more students coming to us with adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) that result in challenging behaviors at school. By implementing Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support (PBIS) systems, we are successfully meeting the needs of our most needy students while maintaining school environments that build empathy, understanding, kindness, and love for all.

As you can see, we have a lot to be proud of. Are we perfect? The simple answer is “no." But we do believe we are on the right track and have many successes that our entire community can celebrate and be proud to be a part of!

Together we are Fife!

Kevin Alfano, Superintendent

Construction Updates - Jeff Nelson, Assistant Superintendent of TLI

Here’s the latest news and updates about our various construction projects!

SLMS: Steel, trusses, and a big crane are the main parts of the SLMS work these days! We should be able to see the entire ‘skeleton’ of the new SLMS by the latter part of November. It’s amazing how quickly the bones of a building come together. If you’ve driven by SLMS lately, you might notice that the gym is being painted pink! That is actually waterproofing...not the color of the new school. The main classroom building is about to commence construction! Huge thanks to our contractor, Cornerstone, for their amazing work at SLMS!

Elementary School: Thank you to the over 150 people who responded to our recent request for input using ThoughtExchange! Here’s a link to the entire Q and A document. It is our goal to continue to add to the Q & As as we move forward! From the initial input, we have three very clear areas of interest from the staff and community members participating in the survey. Here are the responses to the most commonly asked questions:

  • Traffic. Questions around traffic were by far the most often asked. We have been working with our architect, contractor, and a traffic consultant (TranspoGroup) for several months, specifically focusing on traffic. Our traffic consultant has been conducting a variety of studies of the entire area around the new elementary school. The consultant has also worked with our transportation department to understand our bus routes. We also have had a series of meetings with the City of Fife to discuss the potential traffic impact of the new elementary school. Our next steps will be to assimilate all that work and build our plan for parents/staff/buses in and around the new school. Stand by for more details!

  • Staffing. We had a good number of questions about the staffing of the new building. As we did with Columbia Junior High School (our last school to open), working with our teacher association leadership team and our HR department, we will establish a set of guidelines and procedures for staffing the new elementary school. We expect to begin this work around December of next year, 2020.

  • Boundaries. Lots of great questions about which kids will go to which school. Obviously opening this new elementary school, while closing Endeavour, will require new boundaries for all three of our elementary schools. We have already contracted with a boundary/traffic/growth company (Flo Analytics) to begin that work. They have met with our transportation department to get the lay of the land. As this work moves forward, we will share the information to help keep parents up to speed.

FHS STEAM Center: Our architect for the FHS STEAM Center is now meeting with educators at FHS to get specific input into the classrooms and program spaces! This part of the process is called Design Documents. We look forward to sharing renderings of the new building with the community very soon!

For the latest news on all of our projects, please check out our construction website, via If you are on twitter, you can also get information using #buildingfortomorrow.

Thank you!

New Staff Join the Fife Family!

Each year, the Fife School District is privileged to welcome new staff members to the Fife Family, and this year was no exception. One of our favorite traditions in Fife is to introduce our newest staff members to our school board at their end-of-September meeting.

Here is a breakdown, by building, of our fantastic new hires for the 2019-2020 school year.

National Banner Assembly Showcases Fife High School - Inclusion at Its Best!

Fife High School was recognized nationally as a Top 5 School for Inclusion on Wednesday, October 2, as representatives from ESPN and Special Olympics came to be a part of the Unified National Champion Banner Assembly along with the entire FHS student body. Together everyone in attendance celebrated something Fife High School is doing better than almost every other school in the country: being unified, including their peers, and making high school a kinder place for all.

“I have been a high school administrator now for 17 years...I’ve worked in 6 different high schools, in 4 different districts, in two different states. I've seen some incredible events, and am fortunate to have a long list of highlights that I've been a part of... especially in my time here at Fife. That said, yesterday was the single greatest day of my professional life," stated FHS Principal Brandon Bakke following the assembly. The significance of this celebration did not go unnoticed by greater the community at large either. Representatives from local, state and national government, professional sports, and the news media were all in attendance. Governor Jay Inslee stated, "Fife High School is 1 of only 5 schools in the nation recognized for creating a culture of inclusion for students with disabilities. They’re leading more in their younger years than some adults do in their older years, and I was glad to celebrate with them today."

FHS para-educator Cami Moore, who has been actively involved in a leadership role with the Unified program since its inception at Fife, expressed her pride in the Fife community - students and adults alike - who helped make this a reality. In reflecting upon the experience, Moore stated, "Becoming a Unified National Champion Banner School cannot happen without the support of the whole school and community. I found myself thinking, 'This is how life should be. This should not be the exception to the rule but the rule itself.'"

What's next? Moore, along with Fife High School Unified students Taylor Mountsier and Zoie Breland, will be traveling to China to represent Special Olympics of WA (SOWA) at the 2019 Special Olympics East Asia Inclusive Leadership Summit from November 13-16. At this summit, participants will develop and expand their understanding of how they can drive social inclusion in our countries, cities, schools and communities. They will also learn new strategies and methods to help bring to life the vision of a more inclusive world using the Special Olympics Unified Sports model.

Below is a compilation video created by Trojan Digital Media celebrating the National Banner Assembly held at FHS.

ESPN Champion School Banner Celebration

First STEAM Career Day A Success!

On October 15, Columbia Junior High 8th grade students attended an exciting, interactive field experience planned in conjunction with the FME Chamber of Commerce. Part of FME Chamber of Commerce CEO Lora Butterfield’s vision for future economic growth and development includes providing educational opportunities for our 8th grade students related to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) careers in our area. This day-long experience was designed through an innovative partnership with the FME Chamber of Commerce, Fife School District, Port of Tacoma, and other local area businesses.

CJH 8th grade students in the first semester of a new course called STEAM Innovators were part of this partnership. The STEAM Innovators class, taught by CJH teachers Terrance Troupe and Michele Render, gives students opportunities to experience STEAM with an applied learning focus. Participating students toured local businesses in our community connected to STEAM careers and employability skills. In the afternoon, over 30 local businesses provided a career fair promoting STEAM related jobs with engaging hands on activities for the students. The event kicked off with keynote speaker, Eric Johnson, former Fife High School graduate and Executive Director for the Port of Tacoma.

Below are several photos from this event...

Professional Learning Day Inspires Educators to "Innovate Inside the Box"

Friday, October 11 may not have been a school day for students, but for educators in the Fife School District, it was a day filled with learning and inspiration to innovate. The theme for the day, "Innovate Inside the Box," encouraged teachers to think about ways to ignite their passions and create innovative learning activities within their classrooms. It was inspired by the title of a new book by the day's featured keynote speaker, celebrated educational reformer George Couros (@gcouros).

Held at Columbia Junior High, the Fife School District Professional Learning Day commenced with a half-day series of breakout sessions and culminated, following lunch, with a keynote and learning/reflection activity led by George Couros himself. The breakout sessions, led by Fife School District teachers, covered a range relevant topics, including social emotional learning, using data to drive instruction, and sessions geared towards using a variety of instructional technology tools to create innovative teaching and learning experiences. In the afternoon segment, George Couros challenged teachers to push boundaries, make powerful connections, and "innovate inside the box."

A sampling of the day...

November is Native American History Month

SAVE THESE DATES! Join us for a serious of history, culture & craft activities to be held at the Fife History Museum on Tuesday, November 19 and Wednesday, November 20 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Some activities include:

  • 9:00 am - 2:00 pm - Both Days - Enjoy the Fife Historical Society Museum, DACCA Barn and the Burke Museum
  • 6:00 - 7:45 pm - Both Days - Special event for all Native American families
  • 4:30 - 5:30 pm - 11/19 - Plants and Medicine Session - Limited Availability - call Martha Sherman at (253) 517-1000 to reserve your seat