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Lake Fenton, Fenton Schools Ready to Greet Students with Changes, Goals

All-day kindergarten, improved communication are highlights for both districts; Fenton High School to eliminate Top 10 beginning with Class of 2016.

The 2012-13 school year is ready to begin on Tuesday, but students aren't the only ones with goals and new looks for the upcoming year.

The Fenton and Lake Fenton school districts have their aspirations -- and improvements throughout the buildings -- set to greet children when they walk into class after Labor Day.

Fenton Area Public Schools (FAPS) has some improvements in store, Dr. Timothy Jalkanen, superintendent, reports. The big one is a new website for the school district, which will go live in October. It's designed to improve communication across the district, with both parents and community members at large, Jalkanen said.

Communication

When Fenton developed the strategic plan that the school board adopted toward the end of last year, administrators gathered input from as many community members as they could, he said. One area where they received feedback was, improving communication. School employees from all of the buildings have been learning to use the new website, he said.

Another main goal for Fenton includes changes in curriculum. Administrators will examine the curriculum, align it with standards the district follows, and raise student achievement, Jalkanen said.

Improvements in communication also are on the way for Lake Fenton Community Schools. Superintendent Wayne Wright said the new Breeze newsletter the school district started publishing last year will be increased to four times per year.

And students will see $700,000 in improvements at their building, Wright said. The remodeling, paid for from the sinking fund that began in 2010, include ways to make Torrey Hill more energy efficient.

"The building is looking a whole lot better," he said.

Goals

Lake Fenton Community Schools' board of education approved four goals at Monday's meeting. These are

  • Maintain and improve student achievement by using 2011-12 and as baseline data.
  • Develop and implement district policies and provide training for staff to encourage a safe and healthy environment for the entire student body. Number of disciplinary referrals and suspensions from 2011- 2012 will be reviewed to measure the increase/decrease of safety and health issues.
  • Maintain financial responsibility by using district resources effectively and efficiently through monitoring the district finances monthly.
  • Provide an effective and integrated technology system for management, communication and classroom instruction by using available district funding.

Goodbye top ten

Something new at will be the elimination of the Top 10 for graduating classes, but it won't begin until this year's freshman class graduate, Jalkanen said. There will be Top 10's for the classes of 2013, 2014 and 2015.
In addition, the high school will begin having weighted grades, another change that begins with this year's freshmen, he said. There won't be changes with weighted grades for the 2013, 2014 and 2015 graduating classes.

There will still be valedictorians and salutatorians for the 2016 and beyond graduates, Jalkanen added. And students will be recognized based on their grade point averages.

Kindegarten

Both the Lake Fenton and Fenton districts have moved to all-day kindergarten. Wright said the state of Michigan has changed how it funds schools, and districts can have half-day or full-day kindergarten. But, if they choose half-day kindergarten, they only receive half of the funding. Thus, almost all districts have gone to full-day kindergarten.

It allows students more instructional time, he said. To accommodate the change to full-day kindergarten, and increased enrollment, the district has hired two additional kindergarten teachers and will probably hire a third.

Lake Fenton schools also all have wireless capability now. And at the cell phone policy for students is changing. Before, the policy was that all cell phones had to be in students' lockers and students couldn't use them without a teacher's permission -- or ask to use them in the office. 

Now, the Breeze newsletter reports that every classroom at the high school will have wireless capability, and students will be able to use their iPods, iPads, Kindles and wireless cell phones as tools to assist them in class. There are restrictions to follow, or individual students will go back to the previous policy.

Devices must be used per teachers' direction for research and different applications, and websites they visit during instructional time must be approved by the teachers or meet the district's acceptable use policy. And devices can't be out during tests and other assessments. In addition, students can't take calls during instructional time, the Breeze said.

Back to school

Fenton teachers' first day back at work was Tuesday, and they're getting their classrooms set up. The maintenance and custodial employees have been working hard over the summer to get the buildings ready, and parent volunteers have helped beautify the schools, Jalkanen said. The postcards telling parents about bus stops and pickup and dropoff times have been mailed, and open houses for elementary students took place at the schools on Wednesday evening.

"We're moving forward and making great strides," he said. "We're looking forward to the new school year.

"Now we are just waiting for the kids."

Julie August 30, 2012 at 04:46 PM
Are we eliminating the Top 10 so the students who don't make it won't feel bad about themselves? Athletes get recognized for their outstanding accomplishments, why shouldn't outstanding academic performance be recognized? Maybe there's something I'm missing, but it appears this is yet another attempt to make everyone "feel good" about themselves. Hope the real world is as gentle!
Laurie August 30, 2012 at 06:14 PM
I hope this means that Fenton teachers will update Blackboard more regularly. Some do very well with it and for other classes it's pretty much useless. It would also be nice if all teachers organized it the same way. As it is each teacher does it differently so you have to look all over a teacher's page trying to remember where that particular teacher lists the homework for the day. Even better would be if you just clicked on your child's name and could see the day's homework for all classes in one spot instead of having to go to each teacher's page. It takes so long to find what is needed if your child is sick and misses a day or worse, a few days.
Linda August 30, 2012 at 10:43 PM
Top 10 is usually based solely on GPA. Often, studentsbwill refrain from taking more challenging courses because it can affect their GPAs. I've known students in the top 10 who have taken easier courses, including many P. E. courses when there were more challenging electives available.

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