The Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda Union Free School District, commonly shortened to "Ken-Ton," is located in northern Erie County along the Niagara River shoreline. Ken-Ton has a population of approximately 75,000 residents and a student population of approximately 7,000 students, making it the third largest school district west of Rochester and among the largest school districts in Upstate New York. The District encompasses the vast majority of the Town of Tonawanda and the historic Village of Kenmore, which has won numerous distinctions including identification as "One of the Top 10 Great Neighborhoods" in the United States by the American Planning Association and as the highest-rated community in Western New York by "Business First."
The District operates five elementary schools, two middle schools, and two high schools. The District's two high schools, Kenmore East and Kenmore West, are two of only four International Baccaulaureate (IB) schools in the eight counties of Western New York. Ken-Ton is also well known for its high school Career Academies, its exceptional art and music programs, and other innovative program offerings.
Offerings & Opportunities:
For seven years in a row, Ken-Ton has been counted among the 4% of the nation's school districts to be designated as a “Best Community for Music Education” by the NAMM Foundation for its outstanding K-12 music programs. These programs are led by approximately 30 full-time music teachers, many of whom are well-known and accomplished performers in the WNY music community.
Music education begins in kindergarten for every student, and vocal and instrumental education begins in Grade 4. Students can take part in band, orchestra and chorus ensembles at the elementary, middle and high school level with many additional smaller-group and advanced ensemble opportunities at the high school level.
Ken-Ton students and ensembles routinely perform exceptionally at regional and state-wide competitions. Music faculty and students also extremely active in the community, providing entertainment at major regional events and venues through partnerships with a multitude of organizations. High school students can also take various music electives including Advanced Placement (AP) Music Theory and International Baccalaureate (IB) Music.
Ken-Ton is widely regarded in the Western New York arts community as one of the region’s leading K-12 art education programs. The programs include two comprehensive high school career pathways, opportunities to earn advanced certifications, and close partnerships with local art galleries and organizations.
With approximately 20 full-time art teachers, students are exposed to a robust offering of art education programs beginning in kindergarten. In high school, students can take part in many different art electives including Advanced Placement (AP) Art and International Baccalaureate (IB) Art. Students can earn multiple professional certifications such as Adobe and Autodesk (during the 2015-16 school year, the Kenmore East and Kenmore West art programs maintained a 100% Adobe certification pass rate).
Students can also follow two art career pathways: the Fine Arts Career Pathway with courses such as Studio in Art, Drawing and Painting, Photo I and II, Advanced Studio in Art and 3D Design, and the Media Arts Career Pathway with courses such as Multimedia Studio in Art, Advanced Multimedia, Illustration and Animation, Drawing and Painting for Animation, and Advertising Design.
Significant investments are being made in instructional technology to create state-of-the-art, Future Ready dynamic learning environments.
A 1:1 mobile device initiative has brought hundreds of iPads into classrooms with engaging and challenging apps and individually tailored instructional activities. Full-time Technology Coaches help teachers utilize these tools to give students more control over their own learning while facilitating analytical and critical thinking and collaboration, opportunities for differentiated instruction, and accelerated learning. Significant investments in bandwidth and wi-fi access are also being made to support 1:1 as well as the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiative. BYOD enables older students to use the devices they have come to rely on to advance their learning.
Other recent investments include GPS tracking capabilities on all school buses that allow parents to track their child's school bus in real time; 3D printers, CNC rapid prototyping machines, and robotic automation capabalities for pre-engineering and technology programs; new iMacs and the most up-to-date industry software for art programs; hundreds of new Chromebooks for the high schools; videostreaming capabilities; and high-quality recording capabilities in music practice rooms to facilitate immediate performance assessment.
World Language Education
World language education begins in seventh grade — when students may choose French, German or Spanish — and continues throughout the high school years, with Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) course opportunities.
The Ken-Ton School Distirct also enjoys long-standing school exchange partnerships with schools in France, Germany, and Spain. Families in the Ken-Ton community welcome visiting French, Spanish and German students in the fall, and participating students at Kenmore East and Kenmore West travel to France, Spain and Germany in the spring.
International Baccalaureate (IB) Program
Kenmore East High School and Kenmore West High School are two of only four schools in the eight counties of Western New York that offer the prestigious International Baccalaureate (IB) Program, which includes some of the most rigorous high school coursework in the world.
The programs and staff undergo extensive certification requirements with international externally assessed grading. Students complete college-level coursework in six subject areas over the course of two years; a 4,000-word research paper; extracurricular activities and community service; and the IB Theory of Knowledge course. The Class of 2016 included 61 IB students, and Ken-Ton consistently maintains a pass rate above the state and national average.
Each year, Ken-Ton IB students earn millions of dollars in scholarship opportunities. The IB diploma is highly valued in college admissions across the globe. Ken-Ton IB students have been accepted into some of the most selective and highly rated colleges and universities in the U.S. including Amherst College (MA), Boston College, Boston University, Bowdoin College, Colgate University, Cornell University, George Washington University, Johns Hopkins University, Le Moyne College, Loyola University Maryland, New York University, Quinnipiac University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, UCLA, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Rochester.
IB students can earn up to 30 college credits depending on college/university requirements and the student’s final IB grade. Many students begin college as sophomores based solely on their IB credits.
Both high schools offer four Career Academies – Pre-Engineering, Computer Networking, Information Technology, and Business & Enterprise – which represent New York State-certified Career & Technical Education programs.
The Career Academies allow students to choose a concentration and course sequence that provides them with a real-life and specialized learning experience in a career area that interests them. They can also earn college credit and graduate with a Technical Endorsement on their diplomas. Many internship opportunities are also available to students through local business and industry partners.
Project Lead the Way
The internationally recognized Project Lead the Way (PLTW) pre-engineering curriculum in both high schools and the PLTW Gateway Program in middle schools create a seamless Grade 6-12 engineering pathway. Teachers have undergone extensive training and implemented the rigorous PLTW curriculum in order to become PLTW-certified.
The programs feature state-of-the-art engineering equipment, including 3D printers, CNC rapid prototyping machines, and robotic automation capabilities. Six PLTW courses are currently offered in addition to a variety of technology classes and courses that are part of the district’s Pre-Engineering Academy.
The Ken-Ton School District was also among the first districts in Western New York to implement the PLTW Computer Science & Engineering course, which aligns with the College Board’s new Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science Principles framework. The course teaches a variety of contemporary topics such as mobile app design, website development, cybersecurity, and data analysis.
High School Electives
High school students can take advantage of an extensive and broad array of elective courses in all subject areas, including International Food, Public Speaking, Journalism, World War II, Illustration & Animation, and Yearbook, in addition to courses in the Career Academies and Art Pathways.
In addition to the rigorous International (IB) course offerings, both high schools offer Advanced Placement opportunities in at least 10 different subject areas, providing students with the opportunity to earn college credit.
Big Picture & Twilight Programs
The innovative Big Picture Program is a research-based multi-faceted educational model for students who may have fallen off track. The program is designed to get them on track to graduate through project-based learning combined with the specially designed traditional classroom instruction they will need to earn their Regents Diploma. In addition, internship opportunities allow them to develop relationships with mentors and get real-world workplace skills while cultivating a better understanding of where they want to go and how that corresponds to what they are learning in school.
In addition to the Big Picture Program, Ken-Ton also implemented the innovative Twilight Program through a partnership with Erie 1 BOCES. The Twilight Program provides students with a late-afternoon academic option that offers opportunities for after-school credit accrual, credit recovery, and career and technical education. This enables students who are behind or need more flexibility in their high school schedules to earn their Regents Diploma.
Physical Education, Athletics & Wellness
Boys and girls can compete in a multitude of varsity, JV, and club teams at Kenmore East High School (home of the Bulldogs) and Kenmore West High School (home of the Blue Devils), as well as modified sports at both middle schools. Ken-Ton teams and athletes win many accolodes each season, such as the Kenmore East High School Boys Varsity Hockey Team's 2016 New York State Championship.
Students also have access to enhanced physical education options that continue to expand, with students exposed to new opportunities such as snowshoeing, cupstacking, and technology such as heart rate monitors and iPads integrated into the PE curriculum. In addition, wellness rooms have been established in each elementary school; intramurals have been implemented at the middle school level; and high school students have access to brand new, state-of-the-art fitness equipment and facilities.
Family Support Center
The District’s Family Support Center provides a unique community-supported family counseling model to address non-academic barriers to learning for students. Through this model, the entire family is incorporated into counseling and support to address all facets of what may be affecting the student's academic progress at all levels.
The Family Support Center is often a first stop for families in need and provides counseling services for school district families as well as staff. The Family Support Center also connects clients with countless resources in the community, and it has been identified as among the most invaluable community assets by the John R. Oishei Foundation’s Mobile Safety-Net Team and UB Regional Institute.
$100 Million in Capital Investments
By 2019, more than $100 million will have been invested in school buildings, middle school/high school auditoriums, and athletic facilities through the Phase 1 Capital Project (completed in 2014) and the Phase 2 Capital Project, which broke ground on June 7, 2016. These projects are primarily funded by New York State Building Aid.
The Phase 2 project includes upgrades and enhancements at all school buildings including new technology and fitness facilities and a new gymnasium at Kenmore East, state-of-the-art high school and middle school auditoriums, and significantly upgraded athletic facilities including artificial turf fields at three sites: Crosby Field, where the Kenmore West Blue Devils compete; Adams Field, where the Kenmore East Bulldogs compete; and the Kenmore West athletic fields.
What is a "Union Free School District"?
The designation "Union Free School District" goes back to the 1800s, when school districts in New York State (then referred to as "Common School Districts") were authorized by the State Legislature to operate elementary schools but were not authorized to operate high school programs. In 1853, the State Legislature authorized two or more Common School Districts to join together (thus forming a "union" between the districts) and operate a high school (thus "free" of the previous restrictions). These were called "Union Free School Districts." Additional legislation in 1914 created the designation "Central School District," which were authorized to operate high school programs and resulted from the joining together of any number of Common, Union Free or other Central School Districts.