Franklin school changeover plan weighed - East Valley Tribune: News

Franklin school changeover plan weighed

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Posted: Tuesday, November 10, 2009 6:56 pm | Updated: 2:27 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

When Tecia Garman began looking for a school for her son, the Mesa resident said she found exactly what she wanted at Franklin West.

"I feel like Franklin prepares the kids to succeed when they get into junior high and high school. I think it prepares them to push themselves academically and have a desire to excel and do good," said Garman, the mom of a first-grader.

Garman is not alone.

Many parents desire the structure and educational format at the back-to-basics schools. In fact, there is a waiting list for many grades at Mesa Unified School District's four Franklin elementary schools and one Franklin junior high.

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That's one reason the district has recommended converting Alma Elementary School, located in southwest Mesa at 1313 W. Medina Ave., into a Franklin school.

The proposal is one of eight on the table for the district's governing board to consider over the next few weeks.

All Franklin schools follow the same curriculum and the same format: students in rows of desks, all facing the front of the classroom, where a teacher lectures.

Gayle Householder, who has spent many years in the district leading Franklin schools, currently is principal of Franklin Junior High and Franklin Northeast. She said parents place their children in a Franklin school for a number of reasons - from test scores to safety to parent involvement.

"They know when their children go into the classroom, they're focused and learning. They're seeing real instruction going on. The students are sitting down in seats. They're focused and listening to the teacher. And they see happy children in a safe environment who are learning lots," Householder said.

The district's plan before the governing board includes turning Alma into a Franklin school for kindergarten through eighth grade. Right now, Franklin West is the most western Franklin school in the district.

Emily Kelly is the principal at Franklin West. She said some of her students - who are currently bused from the Dobson Ranch area - would be some of the first to enroll at a new Franklin if it was at Alma Elementary School.

Kelly grew up in the Franklin system. Not only was she a student at Franklin West, but her mom, Donna Schaffer, was a principal there. Kelly interviewed for the job and replaced her mom in the head post after Schaffer retired two years ago.

"I had done some interning at other schools and seen their programs," Kelly said. "I love the neighborhood schools, but what I like about Franklin is our consistency and curriculum and the training of our teachers. It helps for a smooth transition between the grade levels."

Parents are also required to commit to the school, right from the start. Before enrolling a student, they must spend two hours doing an observation. They must watch a video about the Franklin system. And they must meet with the principal, Kelly said.

"Parents have to know what they're getting into before they put their kids here," she said.

Garman said her son has thrived in the environment. And as a parent volunteer, she sees the difference in the kids and the campus.

"One thing I like is he has plenty of opportunity to express himself. I feel some parents think Franklin is too rigid, and they don't do anything fun, like a military school. It's not like that. It is a calm atmosphere," Garman said.

Any of the proposals may be altered or eliminated, board president Mike Hughes said last week during a study session when they were first made public.

People can make comments during two meetings in December or online at http://www2.mpsaz.org/future/.  

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