Frisco ISD is a global school district, Superintendent Jeremy Lyon said.
According to the Texas Education Agency, in the past five years FISD’s student population has increased by about 16,000 students. Frisco students are more racially diverse than ever before, district officials said. The Asian population in particular has grown exponentially, according to TEA reports.
In most school districts in Texas the largest minority group is Hispanic, but the Asian population is the largest in FISD at 17.9 percent. The Hispanic population is the second largest at
14.4 percent, according to FISD.
“In [FISD] our fastest-growing population is the Asian population, and these [families]are coming from all over the world specifically to work, live and have their children educated in Frisco; we’re very proud of that,” Lyon said.
Because of the increased number of diverse student groups the district has increased its student programs, multicultural activities, staff diversity and programs for parents, Lyon said.
Language and ESL growth
According to TEA data from 2014-15, the top three non-English languages spoken in FISD are Spanish, Telugu—spoken mainly in India—and Korean. Most of the top non-English languages spoken in FISD are different Asian languages.
Meredith Choate, FISD bilingual and English as a Second Language coordinator, said this is the most she has seen Asian languages grow in FISD since she started in the district.
Choate said the department added more staff and is encouraging teachers to earn ESL certifications.
“Our [ESL] program has changed the most by raising the level of awareness in classroom teachers of what good ESL instruction is, what good language instruction is and helping them see that ESL teaching strategies that are critical for ESL students can also be great teaching strategies for all of our students,” Choate said.
Choate said one of the greatest resources the district has for ESL students is their peers.
An ESL student will be paired with another student from the same culture or a student the teacher feels will encourage the ESL student to develop a further knowledge of English.
“In nature, ecosystems are the strongest and most resilient when there is great diversity. So from a biological standpoint diversity is something to be valued because it builds resiliency and strength within that particular community, and it’s really not that much different in human populations.”
-Jeremy Lyon, Frisco ISD superintendent
Lyon said the district encourages campuses to welcome and recognize different cultures that students bring to the schools. On many campuses, Multicultural Night is held once a year. Students and their families make displays and wear traditional attire representing their culture and heritage.
Other programs, such as Multicultural Minute, also recognize different cultures.
Multicultural Minute is a short segment during a school assembly in which a student speaks about his or her cultural background.
“The Multicultural Minute began because I was thinking of a way to make multiculturalism a focus in the school on a more regular basis rather than just one night a year,” said Tammy Meinershagen, the inclusivity chairwoman for FISD’s Council of PTAs.
Bledsoe Elementary School is the only FISD school with Multicultural Minute, but Meinershagen’s goal is to expand the program throughout the district and encourage more parents to be involved.
FISD’s Diversity Task Force focuses on maintaining an educational environment that is committed to high expectations for all staff, students and the community by promoting equity, embracing diversity, and encouraging active participation on the part of families and the community.
Kranti Singh, the task force’s chairwoman, is the assistant principal at McSpedden Elementary School where last year the Asian student population was the largest percentage (68 percent) among all student groups.
One of the initiatives of the task force is to recruit a diverse group of teachers to add to the district’s staff, Singh said. The group visits universities and seeks teachers that reflect FISD’s student population.
Singh said the task force is working on initiatives, including updating the district website and implementing programs, to involve more parents and remove language barriers.
“Sometimes when parents don’t know the language they tend to refrain from participating in school activities or programs,” she said.
Lyon said diversity is embraced throughout the district’s strategic plan by establishing campus-based programs for greater understanding and awareness in the Frisco community.
“This beautiful diversity we have in Frisco allows us to truly reach our goal, of being a global world-class school district because that’s the audience we have, and that’s what we’re serving,” Lyon said. “So there’s tremendous opportunity and abilities we have to celebrate our diversity.”