Tacoma Public Schools with Tanisha Jumper

hosted by
marguerite martin


a photo of tanisha jumper from tacoma public schools in a purple shirt over a background of stadium high school in tacoma washington

About This Episode

Are Tacoma Public Schools good schools? Tacoma Public Schools Chief Communication Officer Tanisha Jumper joins us on the podcast to talk about Tacoma Public Schools. She also shares about growing up in Steilacoom and returning to Steilacoom to live with her family after living in Ohio.

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Episode Transcript

This is Channel 253. Move to Tacoma! On this episode of Move to Tacoma. You have to pass bonds in order to, to replace schools, to have the money to fund, because the money that we get from the state for schools is for Educating kids. And so putting a roof on a building, although kids need roofs on buildings to be educated is not considered part of the school funding formula.

And so we, it goes back to tax players to support bonds and levies for all the other things that are not direct education. Channel two five three is member supported. I’m producer Doug Mackey, and I hope you will show your support by going to channel two five three. com slash membership. Enjoying. Thank you.

We’re back. I’m Marguerite, and I want you to move to Tacoma. Move to Tacoma, move to Tacoma, move to Tacoma. You’ll like it. Move to Tacoma, move to Tacoma, move to Tacoma. com I’m Marguerite from Move to Tacoma, and I’m here today with Tanisha Jumper. Welcome, Tanisha. Thank you. Thank you for having me. How are you?

I’m great. You are with Tacoma Public Schools. What is your title? I’m the chief communications officer, chief communications officer. So I am going to ask lots of dumb questions about schools. I don’t have any kids. I have to answer questions about Tacoma Public Schools sometimes. And I just feel like such a fraud.

And I’m very excited to have you here today to just tell people how things work. I imagine I’m going to Send this interview to lots and lots of people moving to Tacoma who want to know how Tacoma public schools work. So, all right. Thank you for being here. I love talking about it. So thank you for having me.

Give me the opportunity. Well. When did you move to Tacoma and why? So I actually grew up, um, in Steilacoom and I went to, I left for college, um, when I was 17, I went to Ohio. I lived in Ohio for 20 something years. Um, and I kind of say, I, you know, grew up a second time in Ohio with my, with my college friends, started a family, got married, all those things in Ohio.

And then in 2015. the universe decided it was time for me to come back home. And all the stars aligned, and I came back here to work for the city of Tacoma. I did that for, um, about eight years, and then I’ve just had one year, um, at Tacoma Public Schools. So, um, yeah, it’s interesting. Tacoma, um, I, I moved back to Steilacoom, so I don’t actually live in Tacoma.

Um, I moved back to Steilacoom, and, um, When you’re 17, you think things are regular, like you think that like riding your bike to the beach is regular, that waking up and seeing mountains where, you know, um, and mountain ranges on your, on your drive to places is normal, and then you realize it’s not. You go to Ohio, and it’s not, well, silicone in particular, like, yeah, how would you describe silicone to somebody that that’s never been there?

I mean, it’s I always think of it as like a practical magic land. Yeah, I would say it is it is the the town you see in a movie that you’re like, that doesn’t really exist. It does. And it’s like this blend of old, like it’s the first, it’s the first incorporated city in the state of Washington. So I went to, I’m a graduate of Steilacoom district number one, cause I am number one.

And, um, it is beautiful. And it’s small and we all know each other and my teachers lived in our neighborhood and we knew where they lived at. And, um, all my friends, you know, some of my friends parents still live there and I still pass. And my kids are like, who are you waving at? I’m like, oh, that’s Mr.

Harris. Um, and so, um, but it, I rode my bike everywhere. Silicon is like 95 percent hills. I was just going to say, you must have very strong legs. I was, I was very fit as a child. Um, And it’s just like, We don’t even have like one year class reunions, it’s like four or five years together because everybody’s like related and people got married, other people from Steilacoom, and it’s just, I don’t know, it’s, it’s just beautiful, and, uh, I, I went to Pioneer Middle School, it’s not where it’s at now, now Pioneer Middle School’s in DuPont, but it used to be right Steilacoom, and so I would literally finish middle school, go down the street, To the little, um, place called Grundle’s behind, um, Uh, the church and we would get our sandwiches and we’d go across the street to Bear Dragon, get a milkshake and then ride our bike to Sunnyside and we’d be there all day.

And I thought that was completely normal. And then I got to Ohio. It’s like normal for the 1950s in a movie. Yeah, and it was happening in the 90s. Wow. And, um, and then I got to Ohio and people had never even been to the ocean or seen a mountain. Right. And then I got the label of a West Coast snob, um, because they were like, you’re always like, the fish is better, the fruit’s better, like, it’s prettier.

And then I had some, once I moved back, I had some friends from Ohio visit me and I was correct. The fish is better, the fruit’s better. Well, I mean, it’s like the highest praise in the world to like, move away and then like, bring your kids back and raise them in the place where you grew up, right? And do you think they’re having the same experience you had?

Or I mean, is it still? similar or has it changed a lot? So the coolest part, so my kids are all graduated from high school now, but um, my youngest was in going into seventh grade when we moved back. Um, he got to have my gym teacher and, uh, Mr. Hayes who like shout out to Mr. Hayes, best person ever. Um, the only African American teacher when I went to Steilacoom and I got him in sixth grade.

And he. kept track of me until I graduated from Steilacoom High School. So, um, just the coolest person ever. And so when my son got him, and then the first time he didn’t turn in an assignment, and Mr. Hayes just called me directly like, Hey T, got a problem. Amir didn’t do his work. And Amir was like, You can’t do that.

I’m like, He can here. Wow. So, um, and then my son, my middle son, he went, he came to Steilacoom as a junior. Um, and, He had my government teacher, who is Gary Wusterbarth, who I would say is responsible for, has a huge influence on who I am as a person now. He is my AP government teacher. He is my intel. I’m a political science major.

Like he sparked, sparked the thing and my son had him. And when my son got voted homecoming, um, for the homecoming court, he had Mr. Wusterbarth. Escort him because that was his favorite teacher, too. Wow. So just that alone made it great And I never expected my kids would be graduates of Stillicum High School because I didn’t anticipate we’d be back here But I’m back back in the house.

I grew up in in the neighborhood. I grew up in the guy across the street for me is The well the family across the street me and their kids went to school together Wow and this in the house next to him His grandma lived there, and so we played together as kids, and now he lives in that house, and I live in a house, and everybody on my street knows Mr.

Ted, who’s my dad, who’s passed now, but like, Mr. Ted’s yard was the best yard, and all this stuff, so, it’s just, it’s just a sweet, very sweet place, and a very, Sweet childhood outside of all the chaos that was the rest of the childhood. Yeah. That’s awesome. Yeah. So you work for Tacoma Public Schools. Yep. Um, and Tacoma Public Schools just passed a bond.

Is that correct? And what does that mean? What happens now? So it is a capital bond. So, um, we have been going through, I think over the last 10, um, 10 plus years, uh, replacement, replacement of old schools. We, you know, there’s, school funding does not cover, um, roo, like, maintenance, maintenance of buildings or repairs.

There’s no money for it. regular budget. It, it, it, the regular budget doesn’t encompass it. So you just don’t take care of the roofs. Yeah, right? So we have to, you have to pass bonds in order to, to replace schools, to have the money to fund, because the money that we get from the state for schools is for.

And so putting a roof on a building, although kids need roofs on buildings, to be educated is not considered part of the school funding formula. And so we, it goes back to taxpayers to support bonds and levies for all the other things that are not direct education, if we want them in our district. And so that’s what we do.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Tacoma voters. We passed a 651 million bond that will allow us to replace eight schools. And um, there are schools that we are going to completely rebuild and there’s buildings that are historically preserved and so we’ll be doing just a remodel of those schools. And some people are just like, well, one, why don’t you just take care of the school and why do you, you know, well, because we don’t have the resources to do so.

Right. Okay. And. Um, two, um, some of our schools are really, really old and, um, they’re not, they weren’t made for the type of education we do now. We have kids in, um, the idea school, which is industrial design, engineering and arts school that are building boats. Um, kids didn’t build boats in schools, even when I went to school, you didn’t build boats in school.

Right. You didn’t, you know, learn how to run a whole. podcast like this, right? So we have, we have, we build studios. Now we build art classes that allow kids to use like heavy machinery. We, we have our, um, in some of our newer schools, like hunt, uh, middle school, like when you go into their science class, the class is completely mobile.

All the desks can move so that you can do them. Big class projects, you can do small class projects, you can, you can show, um, we, we just were, uh, we just did a, a Facebook reel of, in one of our schools, I think it’s Bowes, they have a, um, a screen where kids can play dodgeball. With the screen. Oh my gosh. And so, you know, back when I was in school, we played dodgeball and, you know, it was a little aggressive.

Um, and now you can have the same fun, but it’s safer because we are doing it with, um, We’re using technology to do it. So like technology has advanced and all these things have advanced. So that levy allows us to really keep our schools up to date with the new technology. And so it’s great. And again, thank you to the voters for allowing us to do that.

Well, something I get asked a lot because I talked to a lot of people who are moving to Tacoma and whether they have kids or not, they’re going to ask this question at some point, which is like, how are the schools in Tacoma? Are they good schools? And I always like, Tense up, you know, I try not to I answer this question if I shouldn’t be still tensing up, but it’s such a fraught question from a real estate perspective, because historically good schools meant white schools meant funded schools.

It was part of how America was segregated. You know, Nate Bowling has said on his podcast here on the network, you know, we’re more segregated now than before Brown v. Board. And people don’t know it when they ask that question, but it’s So loaded. And I, and I don’t always know how to answer. So you are the official communications person for Tacoma Public Schools.

How do you answer that question? How are Tacoma Public Schools? Are they good schools? Tacoma schools are great schools. Okay. Um, we have a 91. 1 percent graduation rate, which exceeds the state average, which is 85%, and we outperformed almost all the districts around us. Um, When I, when I say that, so we’re very diverse, we’re the most diverse school district in the state.

In Washington State. Um, yep. And we have so many innovative and interesting programs. It’s kind of like every school doesn’t have everything, but we have everything across the schools, right? So, like I said, you have IDEA, which is Engineering Design, um, I mean, Engineering Design. industrial design, engineering, and arts.

That’s a high school on the east side. That’s a high school on the east side. You have, um, our specialty schools, which are SAMI, which is, uh, schools of art. No, it’s science and math and why did I just do that? Science and math Institute and then you have SOTA, which is School of the Arts. So you have those specialty schools and then you have schools like FOSS that have our IB program.

You have Stadium and Lincoln and Mount Tomah, which are comprehensive high schools. Mount Tomah has, Mount Tomah and Stadium both have health Pathways programs, where in the next year, kids will graduate from Tacoma Public Schools and already have their certification to become, um, a medical assistant type thing.

We’ve got programs where kids Kids are leaving I think 98 percent of our graduating seniors left last year with a verified acceptance to the next institution So that’s either military, college, apprenticeship. We make sure we’re passing them off to the next thing we have I think a thousand kids got dual credits between CTE and so coming out with actual certificates of to operate forklifts or to do these things like we’re really intentional about What happens after you graduate from high school?

Why does this matter? We recognize that we’re in a we’re in a time in in our country where Everything’s kind of like, why do I, why, what’s in it for me, what happens, you know, why do, why do I need to do that? And really setting us up to say, like, what’s next? And this is the next thing that’s going to happen for you.

Um, we also have, um, Jobs 253, where our goal is to have every kid who wants one to have a paid work experience before they graduate. We also have middle school programs called Next Move, which is where you job shadow and kind of do career exploration. So. When I say we’re a great school, it’s, it’s because you, we have state of the art equipment in Mount Tomah High School, where kids are actually doing real medical work and teaching and, and getting to explore that to see if that’s something they want to do long term.

We also have Flex, which is online classes where it allows a kid, so if you’re a kid who’s got to work because you have to support yourself or you have to help your family and you maybe want to take a morning shift. Or maybe you work late at night and you want to take the first two periods of day of the day Not working you can do flex Which is our online classes for those to cover those two periods and then you go to school a little bit later And do it or maybe you need to help with child care and you need to come Get out of school a little early you can get out of school a little early and take two classes online So we think we just have really leaned into innovation and finding How do we how do we meet every kid where they’re at and I don’t know that other districts I shouldn’t even say that I don’t know who else has done that but that is a commitment that we’ve made at Tacoma Public Schools And is that possible just because you’re you’re larger than a lot of the districts that are immediately around?

you know you have more resources to try some of these things and more students like to kind of group off or I think it’s, um, honestly, I think it’s because we, we have a lot of people around the table at the cabinet level who have had varying experiences with schools. Like, you know, I’m, I’m your, your textbook AP kid.

I loved school. I never had a problem with school. I’ve never taken a class that was, you know, even really difficult. It’s just like, Oh, I love school. I’m good at school. And there’s other people in cabinet are like, ah, that was not a good experience for me. And I didn’t feel like they understood me. And so.

The innovation and kind of the ability to create and the question, the one question that Superintendent Garcia always asks us is, is it good for kids? Is it gonna serve, is it good for all kids? You know, um, and because of that, I think we’ve just been allowed to kind of imagine what these things could look like.

And we’ve got some great staff who have, you know, imagined and said, hey, I’d like to do this, and we figured it out. So we started the Jobs 253 program, and we were like, wow, a lot of these kids who are getting these paid work experiences don’t bank. And so they are going to cash, check cashing places. We partnered with Giza and I think in April we’re opening up a credit union in Mount Tomah High School.

It’s like, it just is like, it keeps Building on each other and we learn something and we’re like, okay, not enough kids are taking credit for, you know, not taking advantage of this, boom, we’re doing this. We also pay for SAT, PSAT, IB. Wow. Because it’s not only that we believe in rigor and that kids should get a good education, but we also believe that the equity in that, right?

That a kid shouldn’t not take it. an IB class or shouldn’t not take an AP class because their family can’t afford it, or that they shouldn’t have the opportunity to take the SAT, the ACT, or the PSAT. We pay for all those things. We opt all kids into AP classes and you basically have to of it. If we think that you’re right, you know, if your grades and your scores say that you belong in AP class, we put you in AP class and you have to get out of the AP class.

Um, and we’re a majority minority district. And so, um, we know that there’s some barriers or some, you know, barriers. historical barriers. There’s been places where kids have kind of felt like, well, I don’t belong there. Or maybe their parents, when they were in school, were kind of told they don’t belong there.

And so we try to eliminate all of those barriers so that kids get the right education that they, that they need. One of the things I think is so interesting about Tacoma public schools, like, so my best friend lives in for Chris and she has two sons and one went to Silas. And one is going to Sammy, he’s going to go to the, um, school of math and yeah, so like they have, they’re two very different kids with two very different focuses and she’s, you know, they, they went where they were going to thrive, you know, and if she might have had another kid that was going to, you know, go on and do big things and actually I have no idea what this means, but like the, the, the international baccalaureate program, you know, then they would have gone to, to FOSS, right.

Right. And, and I. I don’t think a lot of people who are coming from other districts where things are very strict understand that sort of open enrollment. Could you explain how that works? So because people think, well, I have to do, I have to buy a house right next to Sammy if that’s where I want my child to go.

And it’s like, no, no, no, no, no. Yeah. So the, the, the partner schools, which are this Sammy Soda and idea. You don’t, you can live anywhere in the district and go to those schools. Um, if you live in an, in a catchment area, so if you don’t know what school you want to go to and you move to a house, we’ll tell you, okay, you’re in stadiums area, or you’re in grants area, or wherever, whatever school.

Um, if you, Moved here, and you were like, but I really want my kid to go to a Montessori school. Well, then you would fill out an application, and then we would, this is called choice enrollment, we would enroll you in Bryant or Geiger, which are our, our, uh, Montessori schools. And those are elementary schools.

Those are elementary schools that do so, so that’s an option for everybody in Tacoma. Yes. Um, now obviously schools have limits and sometimes they’re full. Right? Only so many people can go into it. But if there’s space and you do the application and we can fit you and we fit you in. Um, so yeah. So anywhere in the district, there’s no like.

You don’t have to test in, you don’t, like, for the partner schools we do use a lottery system just because so many people want to go into that, but you apply for the lottery and you get in, and if you get in, you get in. Um, but there’s still programs at every school. One of the things that Flex allowed us to do and our Tacoma Online, so we have a fully online school, so if you are someone who even wants to homeschool, you could do Tacoma Online.

And then you just do it from home and you support your kids, and then there’s activities that they do in person. That was going to be my question, so they can plug in anyway. Yeah, but because we have Flex and to come online, it also has broadened, like, so if you go to a typical district in a typical situation, they might not have an AP.

computer science class because they don’t have enough kids in one school that’s interested. We took those classes that are kind of the specialty classes that maybe there’s maybe 20 kids through the whole district who want to take it. We made those online. So they have an instructor, but they do it online.

Those kids take those classes as part of their regular school day. It’s, uh, it’s kids from FOSS. It’s kids from Mount Tahoma. It’s kids from You know, Silas and, and a stadium taking an online class. So would that be like if I was gonna Silas and I have my normal high school life and I’m like a cheerleader.

I was not a cheerleader. . Well, this was like, I’m like living the normal high school life, but I wanna take the specialty class. There’d just be like a gap in my schedule and I’d just go to the library and do my online class or something like that. Yeah. Wow. Or you take it in flex or you take it either before you come to school or after you go to school.

Okay. And. You would take it that way. Wow. And so that It’s like on your own time. Yep. So that allows us to let kids really have choices about like, it doesn’t matter if you’re the only kid in your school who’s interested in AP Physics. Right. You could still take AP Physics class because we have it available for the, you know, And then 15 very special people who want to take AP Physics.

What kind of support is available for them? So if I’m the only kid in my school taking AP Physics and I get stuck on gravity, I mean, I’m sure they’re getting stuck on something way smarter than that, but like, who do they go to? They have a teacher. So all the online classes have a teacher with them.

There’s like, they can, all the things you would get if you were in a classroom with a teacher, you could get in Flex, but you would just do it. virtually. Very cool. All right. Well, we’re going to take a break and when we come back, we’re going to, we’re going to ask lots more questions about schools. All right.

Hi, I’m Marguerite from the Move to Tacoma podcast on channel 253. Move to Tacoma. com is a neighborhood guide, blog, and podcast to help people in Tacoma, Pierce County, and beyond find their place in the city of destiny. For more information, visit movetotacoma. com. And we’re back with Tanisha Jumper from Tacoma Public Schools.

Um, all right. So the next question I have, we’ve kind of talked about like Tacoma. Is it good schools? You say, yes. Tacoma schools are good schools. Okay. Well, Schools are really different in different parts of the country now. Yes. And one of the categories of people that I speak to a lot is people who are coming from states that have a lot more restrictions around human rights.

And you know, where they’re beginning to restrict education around certain topics like America’s history of racism around LGBTQ rights, all of these kinds of things. So if it’s okay, I’d love to ask you, I don’t know how exactly how to ask this question, but like, What is our curriculum right now? What, what can parents expect their kids to be learning about at school?

What if they have a trans kid, you know, like what are the, what are the, what, what are the systems of support in place for kids in Tacoma public schools and what will kids be learning about that might be different than if they went to school in Florida or Texas? Yeah, well, I would say, first, um, we are very committed to the whole child, and so we, Tacoma Whole Child Initiative, like, we’ve gotten national and international recognition for our supports of kids mental health, of kids, um, really wanting to ensure that our environments are welcoming and supportive.

And so we spend a lot of time training our teachers and making sure our school buildings are welcoming and that we, accept you however, however you come. So, uh, kids are allowed to be kids with us. And we do a lot of restorative justice and we do a lot of circle and just, we have activities built into every school at every level that is there to really put kids first and put their needs first.

And so, you know, In doing that, um, we have clubs at almost every school. We have black student union. We’ve got API clubs. We’ve got trans clubs. We’ve got ally clubs. Like we, our high schools have groups for anything you can think of. I mean, because we understand that like children are full humans, right?

And so their cultural backgrounds matter. The historical backgrounds matter. They’re, Their identities matter, and so, um, if you were to, um, follow us on social media, you would see, we, we highlight our trans kids, and we have them talk about what it means to be called by the name that they choose. And it’s not because we have some political ideology, other than, This is a person who’s coming to us to learn and in order for them to learn, their needs have to be met and they have to feel safe.

And so that is, that is our intent. We don’t, we’re not saying, Oh, this is a, you know, do this, do that. You should, or we’re going to teach you how to be. No, we’re going to let you be. And that’s, I think that’s, that is our goal is that, um, that as far as our curriculum, our curriculum is aligned to OSPI standards.

What is OSPI? Yeah. Um, Office of Public Health. Office of Superintendent of Public Instructions. Oh, okay, for like Washington State standards. For the Washington State standards, so we, we, our curriculum aligns to those standards. Um, there’s nothing in Washington State curriculum that says we can’t teach about, you know, our, history as history was actually written.

Um, we, we, so we go by those standards and we teach and we teach in really interesting ways. Like, so, um, FOSS has the international baccalaureate program. And so part of that. kind of philosophy is that after kids learn things, they do a thing called PSA, which is a public service, um, presentation that they do.

Like, this is what we learned. And so the, there’s two teachers there who have taken that curriculum and said, okay, well, how does this apply to black and brown students? How does, how does science and some of the biases or things that have happened in science, how have those things, you know, How do we make this interesting?

So when they were learning about the COVID vaccine, they were also learning the history of how vaccines have been used or weaponized against communities of color. And how do you make science ethical? And, you know, and you can’t just assume that science is unbiased because it has historically been biased and it wasn’t.

Again, it’s like, if we’re going to create scientists, you have to know the history of science. And so, um, so yeah, I think we, we have all kinds of incredibly innovative educators all across our district that find ways to make learning applicable. To the kids that are in their classroom, which means it’s going to look a little bit different.

It’s going to feel a little different. We have lots of, um, dual language programs where we’re teaching in Spanish and English because it’s one of our primary languages. Um, and so we’re interested in, you know, developing strong minds and future doctors and lawyers and teachers. Teachers, and I mean, we have a pathway program for teachers.

So if you go to public schools and you wanna be a teacher, we actually have a partnership with PLU where you can go to PLU and be a teacher. You will do your internships with us in the summer through our Beyond the Bell program and some other programs. You’ll do your student teaching with us, and then you’re guaranteed an interview.

Once you graduate, because we know one of the ways to make sure we always have a strong future pipeline is to create it ourselves. It’s so interesting to me because I mean, this is a little off from what I was just asking you, but like, Tacoma Public Schools has the most interesting partnerships. Like, I don’t think this is typical in other districts where it’s like, okay, we’re gonna, we’re gonna build this school and we’re gonna build it in partnership with the Parks Department.

We’re going to work together. We’re going to fund it together. Like that’s not typical. Well, like you say, like, okay, we’re going to have an education program that feeds into a local private universities, teaching certification, right? Right. That’s not typical. So how, how is it possible that these partnerships are set up in Tacoma?

Because I mean, I, I probably don’t even know half of them, right? There’s so many. so many. And they must be complicated to fund. They must be complicated to arrange. So how does this keep happening? They are, um, it’s goes back to that, that innovation thing of, you know, we are going to teach science and math and we have one of the best park systems and we have a whole zoo and aquarium.

Yeah. And Why would we build our school far away and bus kids there when we could have kids who are interested in that who can be right there in the middle of the zoo, right? And so we built Sammy in the zoo and then stuff will happen like Metro Parks will say, Hey, we, we’ve got this dock and there’s algae growing under it.

And we’re trying to figure out the pH balance of the water that’s allowing that much algae to grow. And then our science teacher is like, Hey, I’ve got kids that can build robots that could go underneath there and do the testing. That’s wild. And it happens, right? So it’s, and so MultiCare, we’ve got a great partnership with MultiCare and Franciscan, well, Virginia Mason, whatever their name is now.

Sorry, Doug. I should remember, um, that organization has, um, and they’ve invested in how do we, you know, create more nurses and doctors in this area? Well, we’re going to start in the high schools and we’re going to get kids excited about this program and we’re going to, you know, walk them through and we’re going to let them come into the hospitals.

And so I think part of it is the attitude of like, how do we get to yes. And when something is presented to us, you know, figuring out And so these partnerships take all different kinds of shapes, right? One of the best, one of our biggest ones is the Marine, um, Maritime Skills Center, which will be built.

Down in the port, so that Maritime is one of our biggest, we’re like the third biggest port in the, you know, on the west coast. Yes. And we are going to train kids, not just Tacoma Public Schools kids, but kids from all through about Pierce County, about Maritime skills and the skills that take you into really well paying jobs.

Right. And we’re gonna be co located with the port, you know, and we’re gonna, we’re gonna give kids real life experiences and we’re gonna teach them what it means to be. A maritime skill. And boy, amazing. And when does that come online? So, it was part of that bond that we were talking about. I’m not sure the start date for the school, but it is in this next bond package that we will start building the school.

And there are some classes that are already taking place. We already have some marine, um, programs and some skill, like, programs that are related to the port. So, like, how to, um, There’s kids that go out on boats, and there’s kids that, like, learn safety and stuff like that. Um, and so we’re going to continue to do that through our CTE program, our continued student tech ed programs, um, until we have the school built, and then all those programs will move into that school, and then the school will start to take people from even outside the district that can, that want to learn.

Pathway. Awesome. So when it comes to like the way that Tacoma Public Schools works and the curriculum, like you said, like the curriculum is the curriculum. It’s the Washington state curriculum. So sometimes people when they’re moving here, they’ll say something like, you know, we just had to get out of where we were and go somewhere like so progressive, like the Northwest.

And I always like, Kind of like flinch at that because of course, you know, we, we are not like some progressive utopia. If you work, imagine an education, just like if you work in real estate, you know, like in Pierce County is a very purple place. And like, you know, there is a dialogue around standards around, you know, what’s going to be taught in schools.

There is a tension around that. And I imagine there’s always going to be a tension around that when it comes to like educating kids and, you know, parent involvement and all these kinds of things. So like, are You know, do you feel like like education is going in a good direction as far as like, you know, being transparent about history and making room for kids?

Is that something that is that I’m trying to figure out how to ask this question? Like, are you fighting a battle against a tide that wants us to constrain or do does it seem like we’re moving in like a progress? I know this isn’t the way to ask this question, but like, I think I understand what you’re saying.

I mean, we don’t have. And there’s always people that have opinions about what we do and what we should do more of. And there’s people who, you know, feel like all of the social emotional learning that we’re doing through hold child is not necessary and we should focus more on academics. Um, but we are very data focused and where all these other districts had, um, a rise in suicidal ideation, low self esteem during the pandemic are.

Our, our scores held strong, our kids did good. And so even though the funding that we use to start a lot of those programs were kind of came from the, um, their ESSER funds, but it’s like the Biden administration trying to, you know, fix some of the stuff from the pandemic, um, the recovery act dollars, we said, no, those things worked.

And so we’re going to figure out a way to keep what we can of that, to keep those services for kids. And so So you’re saying like in a lot of districts after the funding went away, they just shut those things down? Well, a lot of districts didn’t use their money for that. Oh. So the ESSER dollars, we were allowed to figure out like what supports do we need to put in for kids?

A lot of people went 100 percent academic. Got it. We said Yeah, but you’ve got kids locked in house, you know, and the world feeling very unsafe and crazy around them. So we’re gonna, we’d already had the whole child, but we were like, we’re not going to let that go. We’re going to make sure that that work continues.

And then coming out of the pandemic, we invested in partnerships with multi care and mental health providers so that our kids have access to. Counseling inside and outside of school, and that they can, if their need comes up, we have people to deploy to help them navigate, you know, coming back to school after being out of school for a year.

Like, so all of these things of like, we are looking at it through the lens of, If we’re doing something, it’s because we believe it is what our kids need, and if, if somebody were to want to kind of push back against that or fight us against that, we’re not just doing things just willy nilly, like again, we’re not into, you know, trying to indoctrinate or whatever, you know, we’re really looking at what is presented in front of us, and what does that kid need, and so, um, I feel like we can stand on that.

Yeah. And, um, we’re not afraid to have a difficult conversation if somebody wants to come and have a conversation about why we’re doing what we’re doing. And there’s people have come and, you know, had, you know, concerns with that and we can just have a dialogue. Yeah. You know, we, but we’re, we’re not, we’re not doing anything weird or nefarious, you know.

It’s all pretty out in the open. We’re not trying to hide. We’re very transparent about, you know, what. What we’re doing and, you know, we, we celebrate Black History Month, we celebrate pride and, you know, and we, we get, we get comments, we get people that have, you know, issues with that and it’s okay. It’s okay.

I mean. If you have raised a lot to have their opinion, at the end of the day, we’re going to do what’s best for kids. That’s awesome. So, logistically, uh, you know, either I have kids, and they’re getting to that age where it’s time to start school, or maybe even before school? Like, do we have anything that’s before school?

Yes, we have kids. We have preschool programs, we have traditional kindergarten programs, and yeah. So, if it’s either I’m from Tacoma, and I have kids, here and it’s like, okay, when is it time for me to put my kids into the Tacoma public school system? Or let’s say I moved here and I have to figure out like, okay, wait, which school is my kid going to go to?

What does enrollment look like? How do we look around at schools? Like people always say like, Oh, get in the schools, like look for yourself and see where your child is going to, you know, like how do they, how does a person orient when they arrive in Tacoma or when their kid arrives to school age and what is school age?

Right. So our youngest programs are three. And those are some of our early Head Start, Head Start programs. Um, and then, and, and so preschool is, is kind of complicated. So I’ll just say that, but you apply and then we look. At all the factors, because like certain programs and certain funding fund based on income, some fund based on ability, like not ability, but like if you have any type of disability or something like that, so there’s like different kinds within preschool, there’s like There’s a formula.

So just apply once your kid is about to be three, apply. And then there’s programs where you will, you know, four year olds are the priority cause we obviously want you to have that year before you start kindergarten is the most important in terms of, you know, us getting you into the right programs and the right supports and all of that.

Um, so I think one of the things you can do is we have a newsletter that goes out every Sunday to families. And you can sign up for that at any time. On the website? Yeah. You just go to the website, you sign up for news, and then you would get the news. That would give you a really good indicator of like what kind of things we’re doing.

Yeah. And I would do that like the year that, you know, when your kid’s 3, about to turn 4, I would sign up for that and then that way you’re just like in the loop. If you know you’re moving to Tacoma, you can go, put your name on the thing. Sign up. And you can start seeing, oh. Wow. That school has a robotics program.

My kid really likes robotics. I think let’s look how many other schools have robotics programs, right? Well, I have to say your, your social media communication strategy, it’s, it’s at an elite level, right? Like I can go to your YouTube channel and it’s like almost like I can see into every school, every classroom, every type of program, like it’s all out there.

So the research, you don’t even have to be physically in the school. There’s so much out there. Absolutely. And we’ve started now live streaming. So we live stream the events when, when the kids are, you know. music concerts and plays and stuff like that. Um, you know, our, our school board meetings are, um, on YouTube every week and we live stream those so you can watch those in real time.

Um, we actually have a Tacoma public schools, uh, KTPS. That’s our school. District TV station. We have an app so you can download the app and you can watch our school board meetings from the app You can watch our performances from the app So we really have we want you to see what we’re doing. So you can follow us on social media You’ll see little clips and we just got done with educational support professionals week.

And so we highlighted teachers well janitorial Bus drivers, like, because it’s not just your classroom teacher, your bus driver is the first person your kid sees every day and they, they set the tone, right? And then you get in there and they get their breakfast because every kid in Tacoma Public Schools has access to food.

So you get your, you get your, your breakfast food and the lunch lady is like, you see three adults before you ever get to your classroom teacher. And then, you know, and then, you know, At the end of the day, same thing. And so, um, we highlight those people and we, you know, let people talk to, you know, you should read the comments.

They’re hilarious. You know, you’re like, this person works in the office and you’re like, Oh, that’s Ms. So and so, like, you know, I, so we’re on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter or X or whatever you call that thing. And, um, eventually we’ll be on threads too. And you can follow. And then obviously our YouTube channels, um, allow you to see all kinds of stuff, projects that kids are doing, you know, different schools, different activities.

And we try to put it all out there because sometimes, especially with the younger kids, like they tell you something like, Oh, I did this thing. But sometimes for as a parent, it’s good to get to see it. And so we, we try to, we try to capture it. So. Is there anything that you want to make sure to say that I haven’t asked you about, or are there any, like, misconceptions about, like, how school works, or?

I think there’s lots of misconceptions about how school works, and school is really different, um, than when, and most people’s frame of reference for school is what school is like when they, We’re in school. Yeah, like I graduated in 1998. Like we had like those clear. What are they called? Micro fish? Like we had like one computer that we passed around between classes.

Like it was a different world. Yeah. And so, I mean, I graduated before you. I graduated in 92. And so like there was way different, right? And then my kids, My kids graduated in, my last one graduated in 20, but the other ones graduated in, you know, 17 and 14. And even since they’ve graduated school, things have changed.

Um, we’re, we’re a one to one district, which means every student in Tacoma Public Schools gets assigned a laptop. Wow. And they keep that laptop until they, you know, we have a cycle when we refer to them because, you know, laptops don’t last forever, but you get a laptop the entire time you’re in our school.

Wow. Um, we try to use technology to really help, like, every school has a, a screen that allows them to do, like, You could do visits with kids in Japan, you know, we like, you know, we really try to to do those types of things We really, um, you know, we have a very robust McKinney Vento program, which is for kids that are homeless or couch surfing and like try to have all the supports for them and I think last time we checked we have more children that are dealing with housing insecurity than even Seattle.

And so, you know, our goal there is to ensure that those kids can have some academic stability and still get to the finish line, which is graduation. Um, and so, like I said, when we figure out a problem, like we have a partnership with THA to support those kids and we have a partnership with TCC that they can go directly into TCC and they can get housing so that they can finish school.

Like it’s just, We have such a wide range of students and needs and so programs are as diverse as the the students that we have in them and we, you know, I have worked a long time and I’ve had the a pleasure of being able to work with and for people I honestly believe in and align with and um, this opportunity to work for Tacoma Public Schools feels like a the culmination of all those alignments.

Like I’m really in a place where I believe in what we do. And, um, it’s easy to talk about it because I feel like there’s just really wonderful things happening in our schools. Um, and we have, uh, our teachers are tenured. Like I think the average, average is like 12 to 13 years for our teachers. We don’t have, I mean, people come and stay and that allows us to really help them.

You know, that alignment of like, what are we here for, and who are we here for, and why are we here, and, um, Dr. Garcia is, you know, leads with his heart, and has a vision of where he wants, you know, us to go. And so, it’s just, you know, Yeah, there’s just a little bit of everything everywhere. So I don’t know if I’m answering your question, but I just think like it is worth exploring and you should give yourself some time to explore if you’re coming here.

If you’re thinking about Tacoma Public Schools, if you’ve, you know, I think during the pandemic, a lot of people kind of stepped away from public schools because it was scary. It was a scary time. It was an unknown time and people started doing it. homeschooling because it was easier to fit into their life.

And I think some people have stayed there. And I think, you know, if you have been thinking about like, I don’t know, maybe this isn’t forever thing, or my kids are getting into high school and I want them to be socialized, or I want them to be able to play sports, or I want them to do those things. Um, You know, I think check it out.

Like I said, there’s there’s ways there’s there’s opportunities. There’s the online school. There’s the flex program. There’s these different smaller schools, bigger schools. Um, we kind of have it all. So, um, amazing. Yeah, I think people have to just explore it and, um, not be afraid to like, Make an appointment and go check out of school.

Go see it for yourself, you know, and we you can always do that You just go to the website and plug in there Look at the contact information If you’re not sure what you need to do, you just call them a number for the district and they’ll point you in the right Direction. Yep. That’s awesome. Yep. But like I said, I think if you follow us on social media if you sign up for the newsletter You’ll get all the tidbits that’ll help you kind of figure out like, oh, this is the school.

Um, we have a website. Every school has a website that you can see some of their news and their newsletters and how they’re communicating with families, which is also nice to get a preview of that. That’s great. Well, Tisha, thank you so much for coming on today and explaining all of this. I think people are going to find this very helpful.

I’m so glad. I’m so glad. Like I said, if they, if anybody Ask questions. Do not hesitate to call the info line. We have someone who answers the calls and we can get you whatever information you need. Thank you. Thank you. If you like this podcast, check out movetotacoma. com Movetotacoma. com is a neighborhood guide, blog, and podcast to help people in Tacoma, Pierce County, and beyond Find their place in the city of destiny.

More information at move to Tacoma. com. Move to Tacoma is part of the channel 253 podcast network. Check out our other shows. Grit and Grain, Nerd Farmer, Interchangeable White Ladies, Crossing Division, Citizen Tacoma, What Say You, We Art Tacoma, Flounders Bee Team, and Taco Man. This is channel 253.

Show Notes

Does Tacoma have good schools?

This podcast interview from "Move to Tacoma," hosted by Tacoma Real Estate Agent Marguerite Martin, features Tanisha Jumper, the Chief Communications Officer for Tacoma Public Schools. The conversation delves into the nuances of public school funding, the vibrancy and diversity of Tacoma Public Schools, and a focus on the transformative work being undertaken within Tacoma Public Schools.

Tanisha's Background

Marguerite and Tanisha start off talking about how Tanisha grew up in Steilacoom, attending Steilacoom Schools. After living and working in Ohio she returned to live in the house she grew up in with her kids, who are attending the same schools she did- even with some of the same teachers. She shares what she loves about living in Steilacoom and the Pacific Northwest.

Current Status of Tacoma Public Schools

Are Tacoma Public Schools Good Schools? Tanisha says emphatically YES. She explains the importance of bond measures to fund school infrastructure projects, given that state funding primarily covers educational activities, not facilities maintenance or improvements. Tacoma just passed their bond, which means there's funding for new schools and to improve schools across the district. The passing of the bond shows the community support for Tacoma Schools. This funding is essential for maintaining and improving school environments for kids. The conversation covers a lot of ground about Tacoma schools including:
  • The passing of a substantial bond measure to replace eight schools, enhancing learning environments with modern facilities and equipment.
  • The district's emphasis on diversity, innovative programs, and the high graduation rate at TPS that surpasses state averages.
  • The introduction of specialized High Schools and programs that cater to students' varied interests and talents. They are:
  • Efforts to ensure equity in education, including initiatives to provide every student with a laptop and access to a broad curriculum regardless of their school.
  • A detailed look at the challenges and opportunities within the district, including addressing the needs of students facing housing insecurity and mental health challenges.
  • Tanisha underscores the district's commitment to meeting students' needs, promoting inclusivity, and preparing them for future success through various partnerships and programs.

With all the national controversy around what schools teach about American history and LGBTQ issues, what is TPS's approach to curriculum?

Tacoma Public Schools' (TPS) approach to LGBTQ+ students and teaching America's full history highlights the district's commitment to inclusivity and comprehensive education. Here's a summary of the key points:
  • Whole Child Approach: TPS emphasizes the Whole Child Initiative.  WCI has received national and international recognition for supporting students' mental health.  It creates welcoming, supportive school environments. This approach ensures that all students, including LGBTQ+ students, are accepted and supported for who they are.
  • Clubs and Supportive Environment: The district hosts a variety of clubs for students. This includes the Black Student Unions, API (Asian Pacific Islander) clubs, trans clubs, and ally clubs across its high schools. These clubs reflect TPS's commitment to creating spaces where students' identities, cultural backgrounds, and historical backgrounds are acknowledged and celebrated.
  • Curriculum Standards and Transparency: The curriculum in Tacoma Public Schools aligns with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) standards for Washington State. This ensures that there is no restriction on teaching about America's history of racism or LGBTQ+ rights. Tanisha emphasizes that the district is transparent about its curriculum. The curriculum taught in Tacoma Schools is designed to reflect historical accuracy and inclusivity.
  • Educational Innovation and Relevance: TPS teachers employ innovative methods to make learning relevant and engaging. Including addressing how historical and current biases have impacted communities of color and the LGBTQ+ community. This includes exploring the ethical dimensions of science and history, ensuring that students understand the complexities of these subjects in relation to diversity and equity.
  • Support for LGBTQ+ Students: TPS is committed to supporting LGBTQ+ students by allowing them to express their identities safely. They do this by incorporating discussions about gender and sexuality in a respectful and educational manner. The district fosters an environment where students can explore their identities without fear of discrimination or exclusion.
  • Open Dialogue and Community Engagement: The district encourages open dialogue about its curriculum and initiatives. TPS is willing to discuss its approach to inclusivity and comprehensive education with the community. This openness is part of TPS's broader strategy to engage with and respond to the needs of its diverse student population.