This past year, the BFCS organization went through the process of becoming nationally accredited by AdvancED. The process involved a reviewing of our processes, curriculum, staff, teachers, vision, and everything else that attends building a quality school, including a three day on-site visit. During one of these sessions, one of the auditors clicked off his recording device and commented to myself and our department heads, “Off the record, I have to tell you that what you are doing here is amazing – really something special.” The charge that we here at Benjamin Franklin High School have set out to keep is just that – to create a truly remarkable institution where students are given the tools and the opportunity to pursue the true, the good, and the beautiful.
As we get ready to embark on our third year together at Benjamin Franklin High School – our first with seniors and a graduating class – I wanted to take a moment to reflect upon where we have been and how far we have come, as well as where we will be going in the future. We understand that our parents and students alike took a large leap of faith in trusting that a school that had provided an amazing K – 8 education for nearly 20 years, could venture into the complex and critical arena of high school education and develop a program worthy of the BFCS name. Thanks to the tireless work of committed teachers and staff, faithful parents, and the character of diligent students, BFHS has had a remarkable start and is on the path to becoming one of the best high schools in the state.
It was not long ago that our modest, barely completed school consisted of a mere 23 classrooms surrounded by dirt. Since that time we have added, or are in the process of adding, more than 400 students and 17 classrooms – including specialized rooms for art, weights, band, orchestra, choir, and dance as well as labs for physics, biology, and chemistry. Additionally, the past two years has seen the construction of an athletic complex which includes a state-of-the-art football/soccer/track facility, baseball field, softball field, and practice fields. Our course offerings have mirrored the rapid expansion of our facilities – with the addition of over a dozen new electives, a 7th hour, and online dual credit elective options offered through our partnership with Grand Canyon University.
The Charger sports program made the leap into the AIA last year and is now a full member in Division V. Our commitment to excellence on and off the field led to the expansion of our summer sports programs and ‘Lil Chargers Camps, the expansion of our weight room, the aforementioned construction of beautiful sports facilities, and the hiring of top-notch coaches, including two-time Division V Football Coach of the Year and a 15-year weights coach in Dave Jefferies.
Any program associated with Benjamin Franklin Charter School would be expected to have a thriving fine arts department – and BFHS is no exception. A full one-third of our 900 student population is involved in band, orchestra, or choir – with several dozen more participating in theater, art, dance, and the school newspaper. Our advanced art students create works that surpass their age in beauty and skill. Our theater class put on a wonderful play this past Christmas and in the spring our top music ensembles traveled to California, competing alongside schools many times our size.
During this trip, our band and orchestra received a ranking of silver, meaning they were scored in the top 20% of all groups, while our choir received a gold ranking, equal to the top 10% of all ensembles based on the national scoring rubric. Our talented and hardworking students and teachers continue to make our fine arts program a source of pride for our school and a source of beauty to our senses.
Above all, the goal of the dedicated teachers and staff at BFHS is to provide a world class education in an environment that affirms the fact that a student’s virtue and character are paramount - as the best education is only valuable when applied to a moral foundation. The result is a school where students interact with the collective wisdom of the ages, the greatest minds, and the most formative and inspirational works of all time – and students that develop a love and appreciation for things of consequence and permanence – stoking the fires of intellectual curiosity and the love of learning. The nature of the education that our students receive is not only superior in preparing them for the rigors and learning style of a college education, but more importantly will help prepare them for life. Our classical program has attracted the best and brightest teachers from some of the top schools in the nation – the type of teachers that other schools try to attract, but fail to draw to their programs. In addition to producing students with a high propensity for attending college, the classical education that students are receiving at BFHS has a bearing on scoring higher on standardized tests. For instance, on the 2012 SAT students attending classical schools averaged a score of 1824 compared with the national average of 1497 (successfulstudent.org). Additionally, the resulting culture of a school that holds high academic and personal standards creates a virtuous, accepting environment where students are free of many of the social pressures that make many district schools difficult to navigate for those that hold themselves to a higher standard. Benjamin Franklin High School is not only a place where students can challenge themselves (honors level courses, as well as nine AP offerings), but is also a place where students are accepted, cared for, and receive a well-rounded high school experience.
All of this is to say that we are very proud of the principles upon which our school was founded, excited about where we are today, and hopeful about our future. Students will spend roughly 6,500 hours in class during their 7th – 12th grade career. These are formative hours in the life of a human being. Where you choose to send your child to school matters! It matters not only as to the quality of education children will receive, but goes a long way in shaping the kind of people they will become. We appreciate the faith that has been shown to us through the entrustment of your most cherished treasure to our care – we take this responsibility seriously and fervently hope to do our best by them. Thank you for your continued support as we look forward to a great school year. GO CHARGERS!
Mark A. McAfee
Benjamin Franklin High School