The Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda Union Free School District (commonly shortened to “Ken-Ton”) encompasses the vast majority of the Town of Tonawanda and all of the Village of Kenmore. With strong institutional traditions and a long and proud history going back more than 125 years, the Ken-Ton School District continues to define itself through the passion and dedication of its students, parents, staff, administrators, Board of Education, community, and alumni. In academics, music, art, athletics, and other competitive pursuits, Ken-Ton students earn countless distinctions, awards, and honors and exemplify the outstanding quality of the programs and schools they represent.
The success of the Ken-Ton School District is founded upon its staff, many of whom not only live in Ken-Ton, but grew up in the community and count themselves among the district’s proud alumni. Ken-Ton has fostered a world-class teaching staff through an innovative and comprehensive framework of mentoring, coaching, and staff development. A significant number of Ken-Ton teachers have earned National Board Certification, which is considered to be the gold standard in teaching, and many staff have been distinguished at the regional level and beyond for demonstrating excellence in their professions.
The Ken-Ton School District prides itself on its exceptional K-12 music and art programs, a comprehensive framework for social-emotional success, and extensive high school offerings. These include the International Baccalaurate (IB) Program, NYS CTE-certified Career Academies, Project Lead the Way pre-engineering curriculum, art career pathways, Honors/AP programs, and the innovative Big Picture non-traditional high school program. The district's two high schools, Kenmore East and Kenmore West, are two of only four IB schools west of Rochester, and both schools were among the top high schools in the U.S. to earn the "Best High Schools" designation in the U.S. News & World Report's 2020 Best High Schools rankings. With a long history of athletic achievement, the Athletics Department oversees nearly 50 varsity sports during the fall, winter, and spring seasons, which have ranked among the top teams in the league, section, and state.
Ken-Ton School District alumni include two national TV news anchors, a U.S. Court of Appeals judge, a former Skylab astronaut, the former president and CEO of Dunkin' Brands, and individuals who have achieved the highest levels of success in their careers, from professional athletes, actors, comedians, and musicians to business leaders, doctors, engineers, and educators.
By the Numbers:
- With approximately 6,560 students, Ken-Ton is the third largest school district in the eight counties of Western New York and the 19th largest of more than 500 school districts in Upstate New York. The district encompasses 17.1 square miles, representing most of the Town of Tonawanda and the Village of Kenmore, with a population of approximately 67,000.
- In 2020, the district's two high schools, Kenmore East and Kenmore West, were among the top high schools in the U.S. to earn the "Best High Schools" designation in the U.S. News & World Report's Best High Schools rankings. Both schools placed in the top 25th percentile of schools nationwide, outperforming more than three-quarters of the 17,790 high schools ranked in the U.S., and were among the top 25 high schools out of 72 in Western New York.
- Ken-Ton has been distinguished as a Best Community for Music Education by the NAMM Foundation for 12 years in a row. The district’s art programs, with 2 high school art career pathways, are widely regarded in the professional arts community as among the best in the region.
- The district is known for its extensive high school offerings. Kenmore East and Kenmore West are 2 of only 4 International Baccalaureate (IB) schools west of Rochester. Both high schools offer four NYS-certified CTE programs as part of its Career Academies, as well as the international Project Lead the Way pre-engineering curriculum and two art career pathways.
- With a long history of athletic achievement, the Ken-Ton Athletics Department oversees nearly 50 varsity sports during the fall, winter, and spring seasons. Ken-Ton teams and athletes achieve numerous distinctions each year in the Niagara Frontier League, Section VI, and at the state level, including, most recently, the 2022 Section VI Girls Hockey Championship, 2021 Section VI Hockey Championship (Kenmore West), 2019 Section VI Baseball Championship (Kenmore West), and 2016 New York State Division Hockey Championship (Kenmore East).
- Ken-Ton has fostered a world-class teaching staff through an innovative and comprehensive framework of mentoring, coaching, and staff development. As of 2022, a total of 24 current or recently retired Ken-Ton educators have earned their National Board Certification, which is considered the gold standard in teaching. This makes Ken-Ton among the districts in New York State with the highest number of National Board-Certified teachers, and has one of the highest percentages – if not the highest percentage – of its teaching staff who have earned this distinction in the western region of New York State.
- Ken-Ton’s innovative Big Picture Program, a non-traditional high school program and the only program of its kind in Western New York, has helped guide its students to graduation typically with a 100% graduation rate. The Big Picture Program is distinguished by its small class advisories, individualized project-based approach to learning, and internship experiences. Because of the enormous success of the program, the program now encompasses Grades 7-12.
- With the upcoming Capital Project, which is expected to be completed in 2025, a total of $175 million will have been invested in school buildings and facilities since 2009.
What is a "Union Free School District"?
The designation "Union Free School District" goes back to the 19th Century, when school districts in New York State were authorized by the State Legislature to operate elementary schools up to eighth grade but were not authorized to operate high schools. In 1853, the State Legislature authorized two or more 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."
In 1908, New York State certified the Village of Kenmore's first elementary school, School #6 or Kenmore Union School, as an academic institution of the Union School District No. 1 of the Town of Tonawanda. This later became Union Free School District No. 1 after the construction of the district's first high school, Kenmore High School, in 1911. Schools operated under this name until 1973 when the name was formally changed to “Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda Union Free School District.” Learn more about the history of the Ken-Ton School District at www.ktufsd.org/OurStory.