Superintendent proposes more STEM, CTE offerings

Published 10:32 am Wednesday, March 7, 2018

In hopes of reversing a downward trend in the total student population of Franklin City Public Schools, Superintendent Tamara Sterling has put forward a plan to expand science, technology, engineering and math classes at the city’s elementary and middle school and to increase the number of dual enrollment and career and technical education courses offered at the city’s high school.

Sterling briefed the city’s council and school board on her proposal during a joint meeting of the two governing bodies held on Feb. 21 at 6 p.m. in the Franklin Business Center.

“We want to become a magnet for students in our community to want to come back to our schools,” she explained, citing that there were currently around 200 school-age children living within the city limits of Franklin who do not attend Franklin City Public Schools.

Sterling’s plan to attract these students back to FCPS includes offering computer coding and advanced science and technology courses at S.P. Morton Elementary School, as well as increasing the number of students identified in the gifted program and expanding the use of project-based learning.

At J.P. King Jr. Middle School, her plan calls for offering high school credit algebra I, geometry, Spanish I and II, earth science, art and physical education courses, as well as courses in robotics, coding, and career and technical education. Her plan also calls for a new four-by-four block schedule, college tours and increasing the number of cultural field trips.

At Franklin High School, in addition to increasing dual enrollment and CTE offerings, Sterling’s plan calls for offering year-long internships, increasing the number of state and national certifications offered to students, increasing college tours and cultural experiences, implementing a mandatory community service requirement and allowing parents to gain college credits by enrolling alongside their children in the school’s dual enrollment offerings.

“Parents always come back and say, ‘You don’t have anything to offer,.I need my child ready to go to Division I [colleges],’” Sterling said. “When you have 600 students at the elementary school, only have 125 going to J.P. King but really get 98, [and] at the high school level it’s in the 70s, it’s not because they’re moving out. They still live here, they’re just going to other schools.”

She identified Southampton High School, Southampton Academy and the Rock Church School as the top three schools pulling from Franklin City Public Schools’ student population.

According to division-wide average daily membership data she presented, total enrollment was at 1,174 during the 2011-2012 school year. By 2016-2017, that number had fallen to 1,061, with the sharpest declines occurring during the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years.

The cost to implement Sterling’s vision for all three schools has been estimated to require nearly $1.45 million in additional funding. However, Deputy Superintendent Kelvin Edwards Sr. confirmed that the division does not intend to ask for the entire amount from City Council when it makes its budget request for fiscal year 2018-2019.

“The division is working on a phase-in approach to cover, at minimum, three years,” he said.

Edwards also said that Sterling was exploring opportunities to work with neighboring school divisions to expand its educational opportunities, particularly in the realm of dual enrollment and career and technical education. The only such formal partnership FCPS currently has, he said, was with Paul D. Camp Community College.

Sterling cautioned, however, that if FCPS relies on neighboring divisions to facilitate its dual enrollment and CTE offerings, the cost of transportation and teachers for those courses would not be recovered or reimbursed back to the division.

“We want to be self-sustaining,” she said when Councilman Linwood Johnson asked her about the matter during the meeting. “In the past, we did not have teachers accredited to teach those courses so of the [money spent to send students off-campus] we only got a small portion of it back and we could not afford to send another group.”

The division is expected to present its budget request for 2018-2019 to City Council this month with final approval anticipated in May.