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.
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 6,650 K-12 students and 225 Pre-K students, Ken-Ton is the third largest school district in Western New York and among the largest school districts in Upstate New York.
- Ken-Ton is among the tiny fraction of the nation’s 14,000 school districts to be distinguished as a Best Community for Music Education, and has been each year for the past 8 years. The district’s art programs are widely regarded in the professional arts community as among the best in the region. During the 2017-18 school year, the district’s two high schools, Kenmore East and Kenmore West, had 8 students win high honors at the WNY high school art and photography exhibitions hosted by the Keenan Center, University at Buffalo, Daemen College, and Villa Maria College.
- The district is known for its extensive high school offerings. Kenmore East and Kenmore West are 2 of only 4 International Baccalaureate (IB) schools in the 8 counties of Western New York. Both high schools offer 4 NYS-certified CTE programs as part of its Career Academies, as well as the international Project Lead the Way pre-engineering curriculum and 2 art career pathways.
- With a long history of athletic achievement, the Ken-Ton Athletics Department oversees 46 varsity sports during the fall, winter, and spring seasons. During the 2017-18 school year, a total of 24 graduating Kenmore East and Kenmore West seniors were celebrated for signing their intent to compete at the collegiate level.
- 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 with a 94% graduation rate as of 2018. The Big Picture Program is distinguished by its small class advisories, individualized project-based approach to learning, and internship experiences. The program is expanding and will include approximately 75 students in grades 8-12 beginning in September 2018.
- 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 ongoing Phase 2 Capital Project.
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.