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First Day Sees New Faces, New Initiatives In Fulton

FULTON, NY – New clothes, new supplies, new schedules and new faces were abundant Wednesday as Fulton schools kicked off the start of the 2008-09 school year. District wide, administrators say the day was a success.

Superintendent Bill Lynch spent the day with several board of education members, touring the district and visiting classrooms.

“We are up and running,” Lynch said. “Teachers are actively engaged in activities with students and establishing routines. Everybody seems upbeat and positive.”

Lynch said that the district is doing “snapshots” of enrollment for the first few days of school to see where it stands from the district’s expectations. Already, he said it appears that kindergarten enrollment is up.

“Kindergarten is well above what we anticipated,” he said. “We are within capacity but we expected approximately 261 students and I believe we had over 300 new students.”

Principals say that the first day went off without a hitch.

“We had a great day,” said Volney Elementary principal Jeff Hendrickson. “We had our morning meeting, our kindergarten screening and orientation. … The kids all seem excited to be back.

“New shoes and smiles,” Hendrickson added. “That’s what I have seen all day.”

Fairgrieve Elementary principal Jean Ciesla said the first day was “awesome” in her building, as well.

“They have been in school for a few hours and they are already back at it,” Ciesla said Wednesday afternoon. “It is amazing how quickly they adjust and learn their routines. We’ve spent a lot of time today… getting everyone off to a good start.”

At Fulton Junior High School, students worked through an abbreviated new schedule, according to principal Donna Parkhurst.

“The kids are on a new 40-minute schedule this year. There are no more blocks,” Parkhurst explained. “We had an assembly in the morning to go through everything, like the code of conduct and the PBIS expectations. Then the students spent a long time in their homeroom getting familiar with their agendas and lockers, so everything else was shortened a little.

“So far, so good,” she added, noting that students will have their first day of a normal full schedule today.

At G. Ray Bodley High School, incoming ninth graders were welcomed alone for the annual Freshman First day. Upper classmen will begin classes today.

Assistant principal Will Greene said the program was once again a big success amongst the students and staff. At the end of the day, a group of upper classmen came in to talk to the new high schoolers.

“We had a lot of positive feedback today from new teachers,” Greene said. While some had taken part in programs similar to Freshman First, Greene said he was told than none were “quite as welcoming” as Fulton’s.

“Freshman First gives the students a chance to get comfortable and acquainted with everything,” he said. “If they had questions, they asked and received assistance. We all do that with them. We try to help them in a nice way so they feel good with the building.”

Greene attributed the success of the day to the staff, who worked for months to plan the activities for the day.

“I look forward to having a regular day with all four grade levels (today),” he added.

Former superintendent Michael Egan, who is serving as interim high school principal, offered advice to the incoming students at the opening assembly.

“Mr. Egan explained that high school really is not that hard as long as students do two things,” Lynch said. “They have to come everyday and do their work everyday. If they do those two things, they will be able to manage everything.”

Retiring high school principal Dennis Dumas is working on special projects and new initiatives at the Fulton Education Center until he leaves the district early next year.

“We are starting a new alternative education continuum of services at the Ed Center,” Lynch said, noting that just more than a dozen students are enrolled. Their instructional day is divided between the Education Center and their home schools.

“The program is intended for kids who may not be successful with traditional approaches but are very capable learners,” he explained. “So we are taking a proactive approach by identifying kids and building individual success plans that will help keep the students connected to school.”