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August 27, 2014

District officials, students, parents ready for back to school

By Sherri Kolade
C & G Staff Writer

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District officials, students, parents ready for back to school
Farmington High School Link Crew member Katie Nuttall, 17, left, high-fives incoming freshman Jordan Ruhl, 14, during an Aug. 22 freshman orientation at FHS.

FARMINGTON — Dozens upon dozens of bright-eyed, incoming Farmington High School freshmen packed into the gymnasium early Aug. 22 and got down to the business of fun.

These future FHS students — along with junior and senior Link Leaders guiding the upbeat group — bonded and problem-solved before the first school bell echoed down the halls Sept. 2.

During a Link Crew Orientation, FHS staff and students prepped the class of 2018 during the annual Link Crew Freshmen Orientation to make the transition from middle school to high school a positive one. It was one of many orientations occurring throughout the district.

Link Crew is a high school transition program aimed at increasing freshman success. Juniors and seniors in the program are Link Leaders who act as positive role models and mentors to freshmen they partner up with at the beginning of the school year.

Large and small group activities were designed to address students’ needs and concerns.

“The biggest thing is being happy to see your fellow students being in the Link Crew,” incoming senior Justin Baldwin said, while sporting the signature Link Crew tie-dye shirt during the orientation, which he will also wear during the first day of school so freshmen can easily recognize his position and receive assistance if need be. “You have to rely on your other Link Crew leaders to be successful. It is like paying it forward. My freshman year started off not as good as I wanted it to be. I made mistakes, and I don’t want that to happen (to them).”

FHS officials held a brief meeting for parents of freshmen in the auditorium, providing them with an overview of the school and its philosophy, and an introduction to school administrators.

Tara Walker, parent of a ninth-grader and an 11th-grader, said FHS has a lot of clubs for her children to be involved in, as well as teacher support.

“Everything is great,” Walker said. “I like the family environment. The teachers are very supportive. Teachers know me by name. There is lots of communication, which is very important to me, and quick feedback; it is a true partnership.”

New Farmington Public Schools Superintendent George Heitsch said that partnership is felt districtwide.

“Once the students come back in the fall, it is going to feel like a new school year, always … with a lot of excitement and a lot of hope,” Heitsch said in his office Aug. 12. “But the system is still going to operate with the same high-efficiency and student caring that it always did in the past. I’m excited to get it going.”

Heitsch,  who was selected as the new superintendent during a special May 8 board meeting, said he has reacclimated himself with the district after serving FPS before, and he is ready to lead.

“Things have changed,” he said. “Eight years in a community’s life in a school system is a long time. Students that were in kindergarten when I left … are now high school freshmen. That is a big difference. Their lives are different. The community has changed some.”

Incoming Farmington Hills freshman Jake Justice, 14, whose family moved from Tennessee, said he came to the district for the opportunity to receive a wrestling scholarship down the line.

Justice, who has been wrestling since he was 7 years old, said there are opportunities here.

“We decided to try it out,” he said during freshman orientation, adding that another passion is science.

“I’m hoping they’ll have a good science program here. It is probably one of my strong suits,” he said.

FHS Assistant Principal David Reese said the nice thing about FHS is that academically, students have exposure to “a ton” of student leadership groups, among other aspects.

“That is one of the themes we hear, educational and instructional support for all,” he said. “Each year, you get invigorated by the students coming in. They all bring in different personalities and … you are constantly learning from kids.”

For more information on FPS and its programs, go to http://www.farmington.k12.mi.us/.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Sherri Kolade at skolade@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1046.