Fifty years ago, Dr. Ben Furlong arrived in Kyrene School District during a time of unprecedented growth.
While he was superintendent from 1972 to 1987, the district grew a whopping 1,100 percent.
On Feb. 22, Furlong’s service to Kyrene was celebrated by guests, community members, students, staff and district leaders at school district’s education center that now bears his name.
“Once a part of Kyrene, always part of Kyrene,” Kyrene Superintendent Laura Toenjes said. “That is certainly true for Dr. Ben Furlong, who is not only a legendary former Kyrene superintendent but also the keeper of so many of our Kyrene stories.”
In 1984, Furlong published The Story of Kyrene, a book that documents the founding of the district and events that took place during his superintendency. Furlong has become the keeper of many Kyrene stories through his written and spoken words.
“Dr. Furlong’s service helped make Kyrene the exceptional institution for learning that it is today,” Toenjes said. “This District has a legacy of excellence that reaches back 133 years and, thanks to our community, our future is limitless.”
Students on steel drums from Kyrene de las Manitas opened and closed the intimate ceremony, and Jazmine Bridgewater, a student at Aprende Middle School, shared how Kyrene district schools helped her find success in and out of the classroom.
“The Kyrene School District is an amazing place,” Jazmine said. “Everyone is so nice and kind. I love my Kyrene school.”
The Ben Furlong Education Center recently received a face lift. Updates included new lighting, landscaping and paint as well as a new front-entrance walkway. The celebration included a ceremonial ribbon-cutting to recognize the updates.
“Thanks to voter-approved bonds and overrides, we have been able to address the facility and infrastructure needs of our schools, and a small portion of Kyrene’s bond dollars were used to finance the upkeep of our central office,” Kyrene Governing Board president Kevin Walsh said. “We take great pride in all our facilities, and we want to provide a workplace our employees can be proud to step into every day.”
Tempe Mayor Corey Woods closed the celebration by reading a proclamation recognizing the rich history of Kyrene School District, Furlong’s dedication to documenting that history for posterity, and reiterating that students are the future. Woods declared Feb. 22 Kyrene School District Day in Tempe.