Page 1

STORIES SOCIAL EMOTIONAL LEARNING strengthening relationships and improving classrooms

Pages 3–4

BIG BROTHER MENTORS student athletes grow their bodies, minds and hearts

Pages 5–6

ROBOTICS: SERVOS TO SERVICE Impi international outreach efforts

Page 7-8

MUSICALLY-MINDED musical thinking that celebrates our local flavor

Page 9

AHEAD OF THE CURVE longtime Ferndale Schools students excel on SATs

Back Cover

EXTRAS INFOGRAPHIC music awards & recognition Page 10


Impi Robotics Story by Nolan Handyside All Other Stories and Photos by Bill Good, Beth Grillo, Jason Naumann & Dina Rocheleau Photos by Ievgeniia Andrusiak, Bill Good & Jonathan Skowronek Superintendent, Ferndale Schools: Dania H. Bazzi, PhD Board of Education: President Jackie Hart, Vice President Jennifer LaTosch, Treasurer Jim O’Donnell, Secretary Mike Davisson, Trustees Sandra N. Dukhie & Nancy Kerr-Mueller



Superintendent Bazzi poses with Lower Elementary students after the school-wide peace walk to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Day.

My name is Dania Bazzi and I am the new Superintendent of Ferndale Schools. I am so excited that I have had the chance to join this amazing community of learners. It is also my distinct pleasure to introduce our new community education publication, Local. Local will be distributed to our entire community two times each year. I could not be happier to share these fantastic stories about our district with you. This new magazine is probably a little different than what you have seen in the past. As you begin to read, it will become clear that it is not a simple magazine but more of a portal. In creating the publication, our goal was to streamline the printed material to save on both cost and environmental impact while still allowing our families to hold (and share) something tangible. Each story you read in this magazine will be accompanied by website links and QR codes, either of which will to allow you to access additional material and video content online to further enhance the information within. At the bottom of each story, you will see these web tools. These tools are here to help you access all of the good news we’ve collected for you. I hope you enjoy reading about Ferndale Schools and its amazing students in this magazine.

In Education,

Dania H. Bazzi

Superintendent Ferndale Schools


Local: Volume One



Social Emotional Learning techniques and activities that strengthen relationships and behavior in the classroom Written by Beth Grillo & Dina Rocheleau



Ferndale Schools, like our communities, are diverse. When we interview alumni, the most frequently cited aspect of their education that helped them succeed is the range of human experiences and perspectives among their peers. Our students are multicultural and multilingual, coming from diverse social and economic backgrounds. This is increasingly representative of the real world. Serving this diverse student body means adapting our educational model to a spectrum of students with different ways of engaging in learning, different levels of academic performance, and different motivations for behaving positively. One of the most useful tools we have developed for overcoming these challenges is our Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) framework. SEL provides a foundation for safe and positive learning, and enhances every student’s ability to succeed in school, in a career, and in life.

SEL is rooted in our ‘whole child’ philosophy. What does it mean to educate the whole child? It starts with recognizing that learning is about more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. Ferndale Schools teachers and administrators 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. This framework 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.

Socialization and relationship building continue to be key areas of children’s lives as they transition into adolescence. At the secondary level, we have designed a curriculum to support this stage of development, including Impact Hour. Impact Hour is a daily class in which students learn ‘soft skills.’ Soft skills are those desirable qualities that apply across a variety of jobs and life situations—traits such as integrity, communication, courtesy, responsibility, professionalism, flexibility, and teamwork. In order to support college or career readiness, our students strengthen these skills while learning to manage time better and meet deadlines. They also are encouraged to develop strategies to deal with setbacks and build on their ability to get along with each other. Students develop soft skills and begin to understand their importance through socialization, learning core values, attitudes, and actions with their teachers and peers. By adding this important curriculum element for our secondary students, we are empowering them with essential practices needed for success after graduation.

Our K-5 Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) framework teaches children to acknowledge, understand, and regulate their emotions so that they know how to respond to life’s daily ups and downs. Each student learns that every brain has both an ‘emotional’ and a ‘thinking’ response to challenges and problems. They learn how their emotions trigger their brain to work before they are in control. Then, they are taught skills to manage these emotions, including how to set achievable goals and how to show empathy for themselves and others. This helps them to build supportive relationships and make responsible decisions. And the curriculum is spiraling, meaning that the different aspects are reinforced through circular repetition. As each student begins to better understand and integrate the principles and procedures, they are presented with new opportunities to use those skills and to teach their classmates how to use them as well. K-5 teachers at our upper and lower elementary schools use the SEL framework to guide their classroom through techniques and activities that strengthen student relationships and behavior. The result is a stronger sense of community and a place where all children can and want to learn.

Ferndale Schools has been at the forefront of the movement toward SEL for years and has been recognized by both the State of Michigan and national organizations for its SEL curriculum. The American Institute of Research has also visited Ferndale to learn about our approach as it supports districts throughout the country in their own efforts to match our success. Many of our neighboring school districts have also requested training from our staff in the Ferndale SEL curriculum. This interest is a testament to the incredible work done by our staff in their continued focus on educating the whole child.


DISCOVER MORE » /magazine/SEL 4

Local: Volume One


Role Models Rising student athletes grow their bodies, minds and hearts Written by Jason Naumann

Any athlete will tell you that keeping an active body helps focus the mind. Physical and mental exercise helps them improve their attention and manage stress. Guided by coaches and supported by teammates and superfans, student athletes cooperate and build self-confidence while fostering these leadership skills that will aid them throughout their lives. Our Big Brothers Little Brothers (BBLB) program has been helping our Ferndale Eagles Football players to share those gifts with K-2 students at Ferndale Lower Elementary for over a decade. Big brothers are selected at the beginning of every year from student athletes who exhibit leadership traits on and off the field. The young men are also required to be attentive in each class, delivering weekly reports to their coach tracking their grades and class participation. The big brothers have been visiting the lower elementary school for over a decade, each assigned to one young, male student. Brothers develop a partner handshake and decide on a specific area of academics to focus on, like addition and subtraction or reading. The partners also work on physical development, playing games and exercising together. Most of the younger students are able to attend football games, and often stand with their teachers on the sidelines to watch their big brothers. The program was the brainchild of Ferndale Schools Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Dina Rocheleau, then principal at Roosevelt Elementary.†Dina was seeking a way to connect young, male students with older role models they could recognize themselves in. The benefits for both partners were immediately encouraging. Little brothers began to show improvements in academics, attention and overall behavior. Big brothers also immediately excelled in the classroom after forming these new bonds. And the program seems to have improved performance on the field as well. 5

†Roosevelt Elementary was renamed Ferndale Lower Elementary in 2016 as part of the District Restructuring process.

BIG BROTHER, LITTLE BROTHER PROGRAM Several of this year’s big brothers were once little brothers in the program themselves, and they attribute some of their 2017 playoff run to the dedication they learned in the program. This is another example of the hidden benefits of a sustained committment to a school family. Junior Donovan Pitts-Reed has come full circle from Little Brother to Big Brother. “It really helped me with figuring out what I wanted to be. Now, I’m a role model, sports-wise and education-wise. I’m a student athlete,” Donovan says. “I want to work with these kids now so they understand that hard work does pay off when you get older. You just have to start early and know how to do it, so when the time comes–time to get to the point–it’s easy for you. When I was young, I was really struggling in elementary school. Now that I’m here, its not that hard, and the big brothers helped me with that.” Throughout this year, Donovan has maintained a GPA above 3.0 while excelling as a 3-sport athlete. He was a defensive and offensive lineman on the Football team’s championship run in the fall, qualified for his second-consecutive State Championship Meet in wrestling this winter, and is currently preparing to throw discus in the spring.

The BBLB program has been recognized for its impact as part of the Brain Smart Start initiative. In 2007 and 2011, Ferndale Lower Elementary (then Roosevelt Elementary School) was recognized as a National School of Character and awarded the Promising Practices Award from the Character Education Partnership in Washington, D.C. It was also named a Michigan School of Character.


DISCOVER MORE » /magazine/mentors 6

Local: Volume One


Servos and Service FHS robotics students extend an invitation to innovation across the Atlantic Written by Nolan Handyside, FHS Senior Each year, thousands of teams in elementary, middle, and high schools compete around the world in the FIRST program. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an organization that teaches students about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and, more importantly, essential life skills such as teamwork, communication, and problem solving. Throughout each season, the Chairman’s award is given to teams going above expectations. This award is the most prestigious honor a FIRST robotics team can earn at a competition. The heart of the Chairman’s award is community service. At every competition, the Chairman’s award is presented to the one team that exhibits how they are a model for other teams to emulate within their community. Most teams compete for this coveted award at their district competitions, having designated students present what the team has done before judges. Our team, the Impi Warriors, have won the Chairman’s Award twice in the past two years at our district competitions. At the end of last season, we decided to aim for a new 2018 goal that would make an even bigger impact through our community outreach: team 1025 made it our imperative to apply our knowledge of STEM and FIRST in an effective way to the global community. Knowing firsthand how helpful FIRST robotics is in teaching essential life skills, the team decided that a FIRST Robotics team would benefit students in a developing country. We also believed participation in a robotics program would help steer them toward becoming more STEM-oriented, as it has with most of our own team members, knowing STEM is a blossoming field of exploration. While brainstorming ideas about next year’s goal, one team member described how she had traveled to Ghana with her

father in order to meet her grandmother and two aunts. During her trip, she had witnessed first-hand the poverty of a developing nation. Knowing how much FIRST has impacted us, and after discussing her experiences, some of us began to ask ourselves, “What if we could help start a First Lego League team in Ghana?” We then proceeded to email several schools in Ghana with information about starting a robotics team. We received our first response from University Basic School in Legon within one week, sharing our excitement about the opportunity. The Impi Warriors then jump started several fundraising events, which included a bottle drive and a limited time only “FLL in Ghana” T-Shirt sale as well as selling Impi Robotics wristbands throughout Ferndale High School. As a team, we worked to raise the money to provide supplies necessary for the team in Ghana to succeed. FIRST has taught us the importance of making an impact in our own communities. Awards are nice, but the real lesson has been seeing the lasting impact we can make in our community’s future. As students in Ferndale we have learned that we now have the ability to be participants in the global community and reach across oceans to help everyone succeed.


DISCOVER MORE » /magazine/servos 7


The 2018 Impi Robotics team won their first competition with an 11-1 solo record, while also earning the Motorola Quality Award. The team also were awarded the Engineering Inspiration Award–celebrating outstanding success in advancing respect and appreciation for engineering within a team’s school and community–and the Safety Award for their first two competitions.


Local: Volume One


Musically-minded how music education can improve student learning Written by Jason Naumann Every Ferndale Schools student is a musician. Even our earliest learners can be heard singing and dancing down the hallways of the Early Childhood Center and Lower Elementary School, both in play and through music education integration into our brain-based academic models. Traditional music education begins in 5th grade Band & Orchestra, where 70-80% of students choose to learn an instrument. With the transition to the Ferndale Middle & High School campus, there are bands of every kind available to these developing artists. The success of the Ferndale Schools music programs are easy to hear as you wander the halls of Ferndale High School or scroll through a list of regional honors bands and orchestras, or by viewing the Marching Band’s nine state championship banners hanging in the band room. But the true achievement can only be measured by speaking with the students and alumni who passionately discuss the importance music has played in preparing them for the future. Senior Jacob Keener was introduced to the viola in his 4th grade music class, and he sees the benefits clearly. “Music is all about patterns, and I think in a very pattern-based way. Much of my success in math and science is due to my ability to see patterns quickly and clearly, and then apply those 9

patterns. This is very similar to how I play music.” This skill accounts for Jacob’s academic success, achieving a perfect ACT score–as a Freshman–and a perfect SAT score as a Junior. “I also think playing an instrument like the viola that usually plays harmony has made me tune in more to background events, such as listening to harmonies when I listen to music or looking more closely at how mechanical objects work,”–a talent he applies as a member of the robotics team. Jacob also had this to say: “My experience in music has had a huge impact on my education. It has helped broaden my horizons, and experiences like participating in the Michigan Youth Arts Festival Honors Orchestra have given me a new outlook on art and life as a whole. Music has made me a much more well-rounded person.” Early integration of music education benefits students profoundly, and not just in the classroom. As with all of our extracurricular activities, the skills they develop will benefit them throughout life and the shared experiences amongst their peers will continue to shape who they will become.


Awards & Recognition

Ben Moy MSBOA District 4

Orchestra Teacher of the Year 2016-2017

Marching Band Championships








FHS Superior Wind Ensemble






2017-18 Student Ensembles

Earned Straight 1s - 26 Consecutive Years Running

Students Invited to Regional Ensembles

5th Grade Beginning Woodwinds Beginning Brass Beginning Percussion Beginning Orchestra Choir 6th-8th Grade FMS Band FMS Orchesta FMS Concert Choir


All-State Band/Orchestra


2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18

9th-12th Grade BANDS Symphony Band Wind Ensemble Jazz Band Marching Band Pep Band Chamber Ensembles ORCHESTRAS Concert Orchestra Symphony Orchestra Full Orchestra Pit Orchestra

Michigan Youth Arts Orchestra


Oakland University Honors Orchestra * data unavailable before 2016-17

Concert Choir Bel Canto Choir Men’s Ensemble Women’s Ensemble Mixed Choir

MSBOA Honors Band * data unavailable before 2016-17


DISCOVER MORE » /magazine/music


Local Postal Customer

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Ahead of the Curve longtime Ferndale Schoolsstudents outpace neighboring districts, state & national SAT averages Written by Bill Good Last spring the current Senior class at Ferndale High School joined students from across the state in taking the SAT. Created by the College Board, the SAT is an entrance exam used by most colleges and universities to aid in admissions decisions. The goal of the SAT is to provide colleges with one common data point that can be used to compare all applicants. For the 2017 SAT exam given last April, Ferndale High School students who have been with the district for nine years or more had an average score of 1102! For comparison, the state and national averages for the same test last April were 1007 and 1009.

“I think this goes to show the amazing things that have been going on in Ferndale Schools for a long time,” said Ferndale Schools Superintendent Dania Bazzi. “Many of our Seniors have been with Ferndale Schools for a decade or more; this success didn’t happen overnight. These results represent the culmination of years of hard work by an outstanding group of students, but also the entire Ferndale educational family and our amazing community. It’s a great demonstration of what Ferndale Schools is all about: great students, great teachers, great community.”

Source: The College Board


















Local: Spring 2018  

Local: The Community Education Magazine is a publication of Ferndale Schools.

Local: Spring 2018  

Local: The Community Education Magazine is a publication of Ferndale Schools.