Tacoma Public Schools

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Tacoma Public Schools
Tacoma Public Schools logo 01.png
Central Administration Building
601 South 8th Street
Tacoma, Washington 98405

United States
District information
GradesPre-K through 12
SuperintendentCarla Santorno
Other information
WebsiteTacoma Public Schools

Tacoma School District No. 10, commonly called Tacoma Public Schools, is the main school district for Tacoma, Washington, USA. Composed of 35 elementary schools, nine middle schools, and eight high schools, it is the third largest school district in Washington State. Tacoma Public Schools serve more than 30,000 students PK-12 and over 5,000 employees, making it one of the largest employers in the greater Tacoma area.[1]


Old logo of Tacoma Public Schools

In the decades preceding World War I, Tacoma Public Schools, like much of the United States, were largely influenced by a new influx of European immigrants that had been creating challenges among both governmental and religious agencies in devising a plan for best addressing ethnic integration. Many immigrant families, primarily from eastern and southern European descent, were of rural backgrounds and struggled to adapt to a more urban and advanced way of life. In 1913, the National Conference on Immigration and Americanization developed a list of three essential aspects of immigrant assimilation: literacy, health and hygiene, and the learning of democracy. As a result, schools across the nation began introducing new policies and programs that were intended to promote and teach the importance of these three values.[2]

Closely following national trends, the Tacoma School District began widespread incorporation of nurses, health clinics, showers, and home economic departments, all of which were designed to improve health and hygiene within school property. Tacoma Public Schools also witnessed a significant expansion in social services, including after-school programs, summer school, and availability of on-site lunches. This focus on the civic responsibilities of schools resulted in the improvement of libraries, lunchrooms, administrative offices, and other rooms designated towards providing the necessary space and tools that address new communal values and concerns.[2]

United States involvement in World War I had a significant effect on the demographics of both Tacoma and its school system. The 1914 opening of the Panama Canal, and the 1917 establishment of Fort Lewis (Now Joint Base Lewis-McChord) resulted in a significant population increase in Tacoma and its surrounding areas. The Panama Canal succeeded in expanding business and industry associated with the Port of Tacoma, while Fort Lewis quickly became the largest in the United States at the time, consisting of 37,000 soldiers. From 1915 to 1920, enrollment in Tacoma Public Schools had rose from 14,211 to 18,023 (a 22% increase). To address the rapid growth of student population, the district school board debated between three possible educational models, all of which would have an effect on the future construction of schools. The models included the 8-4 system, the 6-6 system, and the 6-3-3 system. The 8-4 system, which was the typical model for schools prior to World War I, had grades one through eight in elementary schools with grades nine through 12 in high schools. The proposed 6-6 system advocated for grades one through six in elementary school, with grades seven through 12 in high school. The 6-3-3 system, which was eventually adopted, advocated for grades one through six in elementary school, grades seven through nine in middle school, and grades 10 through 12 in high school.[2]

Promoting the transition to this new elementary, intermediate, high school model, Tacoma voters authorized a $2.4 million plan in 1923, which jump-started construction of six new intermediate schools and additions to several existing elementary schools. Jason Lee was the first intermediate school to be constructed, soon followed by James P. Stewart and Morton M. McCarver middle schools. Franklin B. Gault, Allan C. Mason, and Robert Gray middle schools were the last constructed, and all opened on the same day the following year.[2]

The onset of World War II resulted in another significant population spike within Tacoma and its schools, as both the Port of Tacoma and Fort Lewis boomed with similar economic prowess as seen previously in World War I. From 1950 to 1956, public school enrollment shot from 22,157 to 29,778, illustrating a 26% increase. The overcrowding of aging elementary schools and need for construction in suburban areas prompted the school board to draft a new building campaign, which emphasized quick, cheap, and flexible school construction.[2]

List of schools[edit]

Elementary schools[edit]

Middle schools[edit]

High schools[edit]

High Schools (Grades 9-12)
High School Type Established Enrollment[3] Mascot WIAA Classification [4] Notes
Henry Foss Comprehensive 1973 1,298 Falcons 2A Located in Central Tacoma
Lincoln Comprehensive 1913 1,618 Abes 3A Located in East Tacoma
Mount Tahoma Comprehensive 1961 1,865 Thunderbirds 3A Located in South Tacoma
Oakland Alternative Alternative 1988 106 Eagles N/A Located in Central Tacoma
Tacoma School of the Arts Magnet 2001 500 N/A N/A Located in downtown Tacoma
Science and Math Institute Magnet 2009 140* Buckminsterfullerenes or Stem Cells (unofficial) N/A *School is in a state of expansion, should eventually house around 500 students. Located in Point Defiance Park.
Stadium Comprehensive 1906* 1,990 Tigers 3A *1906 as Tacoma High School, 1913 as Stadium. Located in North/Downtown Tacoma.
Woodrow Wilson Comprehensive 1958 1,296 Rams 3A Located in North/West Tacoma.

District Facts[1][edit]


Student Count 30,877
American Indian or Alaskan Native 371
Asian 3,045
!Hawaiian or Pacific Islander 802
Black or African American 5,877
Hispanic or Latino 5,068
Multi Racial 2,077
Free or reduced-price meals 19,515
Special education 3,661
English Language Learners 3,186
Elementary schools 37
Middle schools 9
Comprehensive high schools 5
Alternative learning sites 14
Total Employees 5,035
Teachers 2,028
Beginning salary $40,105
Average salary $64,239
Estimated per pupil cost $12,690


Total operating budget $363,959,013
Local tax revenue $84,119,382
Local non-tax revenue $6,111,595
State general revenue $167,082
State special revenue $52,566,900
Federal general revenue $310,504
Federal special revenue $39,650,008
Other school districts $1,800,000
Other entities $1,116,376
Other financing sources $1,500,000

School Board[5][edit]

Scott Heinze, President[edit]

School Assignments: Lincoln, Community-Based Transition, First Creek, Stewart, Blix, Boze, Fawcett, Lister, Lyon, Mann, McKinley, Roosevelt, Sheridan, Whitman

Term expires: November, 2017

Karen Vialle, Vice President[edit]

School Assignments: Wilson, Willie Stewart Academy, Mason, Truman, Downing, Jefferson, Point Defiance, Skyline, Sherman, Washington

Term expires: November, 2017

Catherine Ushka[edit]

School Assignments: Mount Tahoma, Early Childhood, Baker, Gray, Arlington, Birney, Edison, Fern Hill, Larchmont, Manitou Park, Stafford

Term expires: November, 2015

Debbie Winskill[edit]

School Assignments: Foss, School of the Arts, Giaudrone, DeLong, Geiger, Franklin, Reed, Wainwright, Whittier

Term expires: November, 2019

Kurt Miller[edit]

School Assignments: Stadium, Oakland, Science and Math Institute, Jason Lee, Meeker, Browns Point, Bryant, Crescent Heights, Grant, Lowell, McCarver, Northeast Tacoma, Stanley

Term expires: November, 2015

Carla Santorno is the superintendent for Tacoma Public Schools. Prior to moving into this role, Carla Santorno served as Interim Superintendent and Deputy Superintendent. Previously, Dr. Art Jarvis was superintendent.

Graduation Rates[edit]

Reaching a graduation rate of 82.6%, the Tacoma School District's Class of 2015 witnessed its most successful year since the State began tracking the statistic in 2003. This year has also marked the fifth straight year of increased graduation, pointing to improved efforts by educators across district to promote academic excellence and higher education. The school board's goal of reaching 85% graduation by 2020 came after criticisms back in 2007, which labeled Tacoma high schools as "dropout factories," with graduation rates as low as 55%. However, a new school board focus in closing the graduation gap, particularly among minority students, has led to a district wide rate of 82.6% that significantly exceeds the statewide average of 77.2%.

A number of factors can be attributed to this increase, including the hard work of faculty, new indicators of student success, and a greater emphasis on promoting a culture geared towards pursuing a higher education. The Tacoma School District has begun tracking ninth graders who are failing classes in hopes of addressing concerns early, while local colleges and community organizations have increased the support and mentoring for those of troubled socioeconomic backgrounds.[6]

Three-year Graduation Trends
Demographic Group 2013 2014 2015 Difference
Asian 74.7% 86.2% 82.6% +7.9
Black 67.4% 74.7% 80.9% +13.5
Hispanic 57.2% 67.3% 80.4% +23.2
Native American 58.1% 68.2% 71.4% +13.3
Pacific Islander 53.6% 68.6% 80.0% +26.4
Multi-ethnic 34.5% 62.5% 87.7% +53.2
White 75.8% 82.2% 84.2% +8.4
Three-year Graduation Trends
Graduation Rate By High School 2013 2014 2015 1-year Difference 3-year Trend
Foss 64.9% 74.1% 69.6% -4.5 +4.7
Lincoln 65.7% 79.0% 81.9% +2.9 +16.2
Mount Tahoma 62.8% 67.6% 74.2% +6.6 +11.4
Oakland 7.7% 14.8% 56.1% +41.3 +48.4
Science and Math Institute 97.0% 97.3% 100% +2.7 +3.0
Stadium 79.0% 85.4% 90.6% +5.2 +11.6
School of the Arts 91.4% 97.5% 97.1% -0.4 +5.7
Wilson 84.7% 91.1% 93.8% +2.7 +9.1

Athletic and Activities[edit]

High school students of Tacoma Public Schools compete in the Narrows League for athletics, and member schools are a part of West Central District III and the Washington State Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA). Students have the ability to compete in as many as 21 different sports at the high school level, while middle school students from grades six to eight can compete in 11 different sports at the junior varsity, varsity, and C-team levels.[7]

According to the round table of South Sound athletic directors, funding has been a primary concern in the ability of schools to maintain and improve their athletic programs. Terry Jenks, athletic director of Curtis High School, mentions increasing difficulty in finding quality coaches, as schools remain unable to offer salaries to make coaching a full-time job that accounts for cost-of-living increases. There has also been a recorded decrease in attendance at sporting events, which Puyallup high school AD Rick Wells attributes to an offering of more sports, but fewer people interested in them individually. Decreased attendance is also supported by the rise of social media, where students have the opportunity to catch up on scores and highlights without being present at the games itself. Also mentioned is an increase of poverty, resulting in less students who have personal transportation and are able to travel to games and events on their own accord.[8]


  1. ^ a b "About Us". Tacoma Schools. Archived from the original on 2015-12-22. Retrieved 2015-12-12.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Swope, Caroline (2010). "Preserving Tacoma's Historic Schools" (PDF). Historic Tacoma. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 December 2015. Retrieved 10 December 2015.
  3. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-08-10. Retrieved 2009-07-03.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ http://www.wiaadistrict3.com/index.php?pid=
  5. ^ "Your Board of Directors". Tacoma Schools. Archived from the original on 2015-12-09. Retrieved 2015-12-12.
  6. ^ "Tacoma continues 5-year climb on graduation rates". thenewstribune. Retrieved 2015-12-12.
  7. ^ "Athletics & Activities". Tacoma Schools. Retrieved 2015-12-12.
  8. ^ "State of high school sports: South Sound athletic directors roundtable". thenewstribune. Retrieved 2015-12-12.

External links[edit]