Story by Sara E. Teller
Ferndale Public Schools is made up of portions of four communities – Ferndale, Oak Park, Pleasant Ridge, and Royal Oak Township,” explains Bill Good, Director of Communications and Pupil Services. “For many Oak Park residents, Ferndale Schools is actually their home district – many Oak Park residents don’t realize this.” As a ‘Schools of Choice’ district, Ferndale also welcomes students from Oak Park who are not assigned but wish to attend.
Ferndale Schools offers an intimate, interconnected environment for its educators, students, and families. “Ferndale offers a hometown, small school atmosphere that gives parents, students, and teachers, and community an opportunity to really get to know one another,” Good said. “The district is large enough to provide a wide range of curricular and extra-curricular offerings, but small enough to maximize student participation and maintain a community feel.”
Ferndale Schools has created a curriculum and school culture centered around each child’s age, developmental milestones, and specific needs. “It is a focused approach on the whole child that facilitates growth academically, emotionally, socially, and physically,” Good explains, adding, “Collaboration between children, teachers, parents, and community members creates a community of learners and a purposeful learning environment.”
The District uses social and emotional learning (SEL), the process through which both children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions; set and achieve positive goals; feel and show empathy for others; establish and maintain positive relationships; and make responsible decisions. This concept that is rooted in the schools’ ‘whole-child’ philosophy has been recognized at both the state and national levels, and has been adapted by other districts.
Good poses the question, “What do we mean when we say educating the whole child? We recognize that learning is about more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. We are dedicated to educating and nurturing the entire child, so each student grows into a purposeful, lifelong learner. Our talented educators have developed a guiding framework that is integrated into the classroom every day which teaches social and emotional development skills and the benefits are clear – academic achievement increases, students feel more confident, and teachers have more time to teach.”
FERNDALE IS ALSO KNOWN FOR ITS HIGH SCHOOL IMPI ROBOTICS TEAM, which has qualified for the national championships the past two years. The Impi Warriors recently took it upon themselves to help spread STEM education across the globe, fundraising for the development of a new robotics team in Ghana. The FHS Football Team also made the playoffs for the second straight year in a row.
High school senior Jacob Keener recently received notoriety as one of just a handful of students nationwide who achieved a perfect score on both the ACT and SAT test, and senior Matt Ballard and Junior Donovan Pitts-Reed qualified for the state championship wrestling meet. Student athletes Jacob Keener and John Stellard were selected from a pool of more than 4,200 nominees to be among 16 finalists awarded the Michigan High School Athletic Association Scholar Athlete (MHSAA) award. Students continue to excel at sports, academics, and extra-curriculars each school year.
The District also has some innovative plans in the making to promote educational growth. “With the explosive growth in technology the days of the traditional ‘library’ or ‘media center’ are past,” Good explains. “Last year, Ferndale Schools began our transition away from the old model and transformed half of the FHS Media Center into ‘The Nest’.” The Nest is a flexible learning space that teachers can reserve for small group projects and instruction. The tables and chairs in The Nest are all on wheels and can be moved and reconfigured to fit the needs of the teacher or groups of students. The Nest is also home to a mobile smart board which allows students or teachers to plug in their devices and share their display. The project was funded by a generous donation of ‘The Profit’ Marcus Lemonis and NBC/Universal who visited Ferndale Schools last year.
For an illustration of school assignments by area, please visit FerndaleSchools.org and click on the district map. Residents interested in joining Ferndale Schools through the Schools of Choice program can apply from March 13 to August 3 by calling 248-586-8686.