Seven years had passed since Renaissance High Principal Brian Bass came before the Williamson County Board of Education to present the various facets of the small project-based school.
At that time, he was the new principal at what was then Middle College High School. Under the direction of then Williamson County Schools Superintendent Mike Looney, Bass was embarking on a new direction for the school located in the former Battle Ground Academy building on Everbright Avenue in Franklin.
He returned to the school board Thursday night during its February work session to give an update on where the new direction has led. It’s apparent the school has been on the right course because an increasing number of students are applying to enroll.
“Supply and demand is what we wrestle with the most, and it’s the hardest part of this job,” Bass told board members during his half-hour presentation and Q&A.
The school’s enrollment this year is 182 students, 32 over what the school was initially zoned for and 22 over the ideal ceiling of 160. He said 125 freshmen have applied over the past two years.
Though Renaissance High is indeed part of WCS-- following board policy and utilizing the same curriculum and scope and sequence as other high schools in the district-- Bass said it offers a niche for its students.
“We’re like a greenhouse, and in a greenhouse you’re going to see lots of different kinds of plants, from all over the place,” he explained. “And what we provide is a different kind of environment where people feel they’re going to thrive. Not everyone is going to thrive in our amazing high schools, but if you put them in a smaller, more creative environment, they’re going to thrive.”
And they’re especially thriving in recent years. The school has consistently had a high graduation rate, but some students from the early years seemingly entered a void once they ended their high school years.
“We’re going to get you across the finish line,” Bass said. “What changed for me was getting them across the finish line and having them come back. I’ve never seen a higher percentage of kids come back to visit us, because it’s like home. Finding out what they’re doing after school really inspired me.
“In the beginning they weren’t doing a lot necessarily. They had the piece of paper, but they could have done so much more. I didn’t want to put more starving artists out in the world. I didn’t even know if they were going to make ends meet. So I said, we have to start thinking about what comes next because we’re not doing them any favors getting them across the finish line and then saying you’re on your own.
“Now it’s about investing in the kids long-term whereas in the beginning it was more about the short term.”
The WCS school board meets Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Williamson County Administrative Complex.