Education Week - November 29, 2017 - S4
On the Hot Seat:
Predicting and preparing for growth
plays a key role in district success
IMAGE: Brandon Thibodeaux for Education Week
BY DENISA R. SUPERVILLE
risco, Texas, was a farming and ranching outpost about
30 miles from Dallas, with one traffic signal and 800
schoolchildren, when Rick Reedy got a job there in 1976 as a
high school math teacher and coach.
By the time he retired in 2013, having risen to become
superintendent, the bedroom community where the majority of
residents once grew wheat and corn, raised cattle or commuted
to work in the city, had become a thriving exurb of about 129,000 residents,
with a bustling multimillion-dollar shopping mall, office parks, and a Major
League Soccer team.
A commercial and residential boom beginning in the early 1990s brought
thousands of new families to Frisco, swelling the school district's enrollment
from just under 5,000 in 1999 to an estimated 58,000 today.
"It was just fast and furious," said Richard Wilkinson, who was the deputy
superintendent for business services during the bulk of Reedy's tenure
and during a time when the district was opening, on average, about three
buildings a year. The district now has 68 schools, with four more set to open
While U.S. public schools added more than 10 million K-12 students between
the 1987-88 and 2014-15 school years, districts such as Frisco; Loudoun
County, Va.; Forsyth County, Ga.; and Plainfield, Ill., more than quadrupled
their enrollments during that time. Those districts built schools at a frenetic
pace to keep up.
Frisco's school system grew more than 3,800 percent between the 1987-88
and the 2014-15 school years-the largest percentage growth among districts
with 20,000 students in the 2014-15 school year. And from the 2005-06
and 2010-11 school years, the district welcomed more than 3,000 students
annually, according to an Education Week Research Center analysis of federal
It's not the only district to deal with exponential increases in enrollment.
The Plainfield school district, about 40 miles from Chicago, grew from
approximately 3,500 students in five schools in 1990 to 28,000 students in
30 buildings by 2017. (Enrollment grew to just shy of 30,000 in the 2009-10
school year, but the district has since lost some students.)
"I used to tell people, 'Don't stand by the side of the road because they'd build
Education Week * November 29, 2017