Andrew Drape was in the eighth grade at Aki Kurose Middle School when Mia Williams became his principal.
“Mia said this was her dream job and that she had begged the school district to send her there,” Andrew’s mother Chrissie Drape recalled. “At that moment, I said to myself, this is going to be good.”
After finishing eighth grade at Aki Kurose in Seattle’s South End, Andrew went on to Franklin High School, where he is a senior, ready to graduate. Under the leadership and stability of long-time principal Jennifer Wiley, Franklin has thrived.
“You couldn’t find two more passionate leaders, devoted to equity,” Chrissie Drape said. “They’re constantly advocating for students and teachers. Mia and Jennifer refuse to believe that their students can’t achieve, and they keep raising the bar and the students continue to excel.”
The majority of students in both schools face a myriad of challenges. At Franklin, 65 percent of students live at or below the poverty line; it’s 83 percent at Aki Kurose. Approximately one in five of students at both schools are learning English for the first time.
Yet, these students are surpassing all expectations. In 2009-10, 65 percent of all sixth graders at Aki Kurose were passing all of their courses. By 2011-12, 90 percent were. Among Franklin students, three-quarters take the SAT or ACT, and this year the senior class includes three Gates Millennium Scholarship finalists. Of Franklin’s 350 graduating seniors, 48 were accepted to the UW Seattle campus, 63 were admitted to the UW Bothell and 15 – so far – were admitted to UW Tacoma.
Parents and students aren’t the only ones applauding the leadership of these two UW College of Education alumnae. Williams and Wiley recently received the 2013 Thomas B. Foster Award for Excellence from the Alliance for Education and Seattle Public Schools. The awards come with more than a plaque – each principal received $50,000 in cash to spend however she wishes.
“We are extremely proud of Mia and Jennifer,” Dean Tom Stritikus stated. “Both of these stellar principals demonstrate strong leadership and a passion for collaborative school improvement. These two alums are making a positive impact on education in our region.”
This is the first time in the history of the award – a partnership between the Alliance for Education, Seattle Public Schools, and the family and friends of Thomas B. Foster – that two principals have received the honor in the same year.
“The award committee felt both Mia and Jennifer deserved to be recognized for their outstanding accomplishments this year. Rather than split the award between them and diminish the impact on each school, we decided to award each the full $50,000,” said Jody Foster, a key member of the committee.
Williams, who earned her master’s degree in education from the UW in 2001, is in her fifth year at Aki Kurose Middle School. In that time, students’ test scores have consistently improved under Williams’ leadership. She shares her building with Rainier Scholars and hosts nearly 20 community partnerships.
Wiley is in her 11th year of leadership at Franklin High School, which had the highest wait-list of all 10 comprehensive high schools in the fall of 2012. Additionally, Franklin has had notable test scores in writing, math and particularly high English language learner (ELL) performance. Wiley earned her master’s in education from the UW in 1995 and completed her doctorate in 2009. The school has a number of community partners, a strong athletic program, and nationally recognized extracurricular groups, including the mock trial and chess teams.
“I am accepting this award on behalf of an amazing staff who have enough belief in students to keep them growing, even when those students don't yet believe in themselves,” Wiley said.
About the Award
Thomas B. Foster was a prominent Seattle attorney who exemplified excellence in both his professional life and his role as civic leader. To honor his legacy, his family and friends established this award to honor outstanding secondary school principals in Seattle.