Nearly 31,000 students and 4,300 staff members poured into the 51 schools that make up the Fort Wayne Community Schools district to begin another school year.
While FWCS could very well be named the largest school corporation in Indiana after the official student count is made public in September, that title means little to Superintendent Wendy Robinson.
We can’t focus on that, she said. It does not mean additional funding or support; it simply means we’re the biggest – nothing more.
Robinson spent the morning greeting staff and students, including a stop at Kekionga Middle School, where she went room to room hugging teachers and speaking with students.
We’re just glad they are here, Robinson said, referring to a long line of students in the hallway who had not yet registered.
What is of great importance to Robinson as the district begins another year is a new wrinkle, as she called it: Staying competitive in light of growing voucher programs and charter schools.
School funding continues to dwindle as the state has limited dollars, but legislators have chosen to give some of those public school dollars to other sources, Robinson said.
In terms of connecting with the community and families, we can take nothing for granted, Robinson said. Make no mistake, parents and students are our customers, and we will make sure their needs are met.
The school must take a proactive stance that includes communicating and partnering with neighborhoods, businesses and families, Robinson said.
Our mission is to make certain that parents and teachers understand that we are the best buy, she said.
The district has the data to back up that mission, she said.
We have three years of test scores showing improved student progress at every grade level, Robinson said.
Also, a widely used early literary assessment showed 90 percent of the district’s kindergarteners were at grade level by the end of the year, compared with 71 percent of kindergarten students nationwide.
And, passing out new computers to students does not ensure their academic success, she said.
Other school districts have garnered some attention for giving students iPads, but the sheer size of the FWCS district would make such a venture cost-prohibitive, Robinson said.
There are 15,000 students in our elementary system alone, she said.
Robinson said technology is critical, but the schools want to make sure that same technology is used as a learning tool, not for entertainment.
Our schools and teachers have technology already in place that is in use every day, Robinson said.
It sounds so cliché, Robinson said, but our focus will be to continue to make sure all students reach those higher levels of academic success.