Fenton Area Public Schools – Fenton, Michigan

June 27, 2024

Fenton Area Public Schools

Pillars of Innovations and Community Engagement


Championing educational excellence through strategic innovation, community partnerships, and a focus on student well-being.

Fenton Area Public Schools, with a modest enrollment of just over 3,000 students, mirrors the essentials of a traditional educational setting. Comprising one high school, one middle school, three elementary schools, and an early childhood center, the district thrives on its connectivity while ideally located off Highway 23. This strategic location benefits commuting parents and creates a tightly-knit community essential for holistic educational experiences.

Superintendent Heidie Ciesielski elaborates on the district’s recent expansions and innovations, “In the past few years, we’ve significantly enhanced our program offerings across all levels. Our early childhood center now features programs for toddlers through preschool, emphasizing early community engagement. Our elementary schools incorporate STEAM education, ensuring a comprehensive learning environment from a young age.”

The district’s educational framework is robust, with various advanced academic opportunities catering to middle and high school students. “Our middle school students have access to advanced math classes, while high school students can choose from various post-secondary pathways,” Ciesielski notes. “We are proud to offer the IB Diploma Program and several AP classes. Additionally, our partnerships with Mott Community College and UofM-Flint allow dual enrollment and early college experiences.”

Ciesielski highlights the core values driving these advancements: “Our primary aim is to prepare students not just to be global learners, but global leaders. Our mission and vision reflect our efforts to work collaboratively with the community, ensuring students excel academically and are well-prepared for future endeavors.”

Community support is a cornerstone of Fenton’s educational ethos, as demonstrated by the recent passage of the most considerable bond measure in the district’s history. “Our community’s involvement is vital,” Ciesielski asserts. “For instance, our Education Foundation actively supports our initiatives, recently funding our students’ trip to a national competition in San Diego after their victory at the state level. This support highlights the vibrant, engaged community surrounding our schools.”


Early Engagement in STEM

In the ever-evolving world of education, Fenton Area Public Schools emphasize integrating Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) into the curriculum from an early age. Melissa Lane, Executive Director of Teaching and Learning, shares insights into the district’s strategy for building a solid foundation in STEM education.

“From the elementary levels, our focus is on providing all students with opportunities to engage with STEM during the school day. We weave these activities into the standard curriculum, aligning them with science, math, and social studies standards. It’s about taking their classroom learning further, making it hands-on and interactive.”

Lane highlights the benefits of this early exposure, which helps students make informed decisions later. “When they reach middle and high school, they can choose courses that interest them, like advanced computer science or more challenging math classes. It’s about remembering that coding project they did in fifth grade and realizing they are passionate about it.”

As students transition into higher grades, the opportunities continue to expand. Lane mentions the high school curriculum’s richness and alignment with real-world skills. “Our high school is particularly robust in its offerings. Students can take general math and science courses and push through AP and IB tracks. We’re also excited about new courses such as drone technology and an integrated marketing class, which enhance their STEM skills and readiness for modern career paths.”

Real-World Experience through Local Partnerships

As Fenton Area Public Schools propels its students towards success, it harnesses the power of community and industry partnerships to provide real-world experiences that complement academic learning. Superintendent Ciesielski discusses the district’s approach to integrating real-world experiences through strategic partnerships.

“We’ve established a partnership with a countywide career and technical center which offers a variety of CTE and work-based programming. Additionally, we’ve initiated a promising partnership with Niles Industry for a pre-apprenticeship program. This program allows students to gain hands-on experience and complete coursework necessary to join a  union after graduation.”

This new initiative with Niles Industry represents a significant step forward in directly linking education with industry requirements, ensuring students are knowledgeable and practically skilled.

Barry Tiemann, Director of Communication and Innovation, elaborates on how innovative educational technologies support these practical experiences. “Our innovations primarily focus on STEM and STEAM areas. For instance, the upcoming drone course and our use of VR headsets in grades seven through twelve revolutionize how our students engage with math and science. These tools simulate real-world scenarios, allowing students to experience virtual job skills.”

On the promotional front, Tiemann explains how the district communicates its successes and opportunities to the community. “We leverage social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and a district newsletter to keep our community informed. Our strategic tagging of business partners and initiatives, such as working with the local pet adoption agency, promotes our programs and supports our partners.”

Prioritizing Holistic Student Development

Recognizing the intertwined relationship between academic performance and emotional well-being, Fenton Area Public Schools has adopted a comprehensive approach to education that prioritizes the holistic development of its students. Lane explains the district’s initiatives to support students’ social and emotional well-being:

“We’ve been able to enrich our resources significantly in recent years, particularly in mental health. This includes adding general education social workers at the elementary level and partnering with organizations like Easter Seals to extend these services to older students.”

Lane further emphasizes the district’s efforts to monitor and respond to student needs effectively. “Our approach is data-driven; we regularly analyze academic and emotional health data to tailor our support services effectively. This ensures that every student benefits from our Positivity Project, integrated into our core curriculum district-wide.”

The support extends beyond the students to their families as well. “We also host Parent University nights,” Lane continues, “where we bring in mental health professionals to discuss pressing concerns with parents, such as anxiety about school or managing their child’s worries. It’s about strengthening the community’s capacity to support our young learners.”

Superintendent Ciesielski then shares the financial strategies underpinning these initiatives, particularly considering recent challenges posed by the pandemic. “A significant portion of our Esser and Covid relief funds have been allocated towards mental health services to address the severe impact of the pandemic on our students’ well-being.”

Ciesielski also details the district’s broader investment in infrastructure, which is made possible by community-supported bonds. “The recent bond passage allows us to modernize our facilities, including essential upgrades to HVAC systems, which contribute to a safer and more comfortable learning environment.”

She reveals plans for further development fueled by this financial support. “We are excited about adding STEAM labs to our elementary schools, establishing a performing arts center, and enhancing athletic facilities. Moreover, this summer, we will construct a new secured entrance at the middle school, improving security and controlling access more effectively.”


Leveraging Technology and Community Ties

In an age where technology seamlessly integrates into daily life, Fenton Area Public Schools ensures its students are not left behind. Superintendent Ciesielski discusses the district’s technological landscape, emphasizing their adaptive device usage model.

“We operate under a modified 1 to 1 scheme. Our students from grades 6 to 12 each have a Chromebook at home and school, while our younger students access devices on carts in their classrooms. This system ensures all students can engage with digital learning tools effectively.”

Interactive technology further enriches this experience. “Every classroom has an interactive whiteboard, allowing dynamic learning sessions that complement our Google Classroom framework. This integration is crucial for interactive and engaging teaching,” Ciesielski adds, highlighting the importance of technology in modern education.

The superintendent also elaborates on the district’s deep-rooted community connections that amplify their educational impact. “Our relationships with local first responders and city council members, who also sit on our Education Foundation board, exemplify our integrated community approach. These partnerships extend to infrastructure improvements, like the collaborative effort with the city to extend a sidewalk enhancing student safety.”

Ciesielski is proud of the synergistic relationships between the school district and local businesses, which offer significant support and opportunities. “Being on the Fenton Area Chamber of Commerce board allows me to align our educational goals with local business needs directly,” she states. This dialogue ensures that the school’s offerings resonate with the community’s economic and social fabric.

One remarkable partnership involves LaFontaine, a major car dealership, which annually awards outstanding school staff a two-year vehicle lease. “This gesture recognizes excellence among our staff and strengthens the bond between the school and local businesses,” explains Ciesielski.

Priorities for Fenton Area Public Schools

As Fenton Area Public Schools approaches the end of the calendar year, the focus sharpens on strategic initiatives that promise to significantly enhance the educational environment and the safety of its students. Superintendent Ciesielski reflects on her inaugural year and the substantial progress made under her leadership.

“We’ve launched an update to our strategic plan, which has been a significant focus. We’re starting the first series of work outlined in our recent bond initiative, which is crucial for our continued success. We’re also overhauling some of our high school classes to be semester-based, which will facilitate the integration of new programs and allow students to combine academic courses with CTE or dual enrollment options. This flexibility is vital for accommodating diverse student needs and aspirations.”

Safety remains a cornerstone of the district’s policy, with ongoing efforts to enhance physical security and mental health support. “We’re constantly evaluating our safety protocols and infrastructure to ensure our schools are as secure as possible,” Ciesielski explains. “Additionally, we’re expanding our mental health services. Our partnership with Easter Seals at our middle and high schools has already brought on-site clinicians, and we plan to extend these services to our early childhood center.”

With a clear focus on revitalizing educational programs and reinforcing safety measures, Fenton Area Public Schools is dedicated to fostering an environment where students excel academically and feel supported and secure throughout their academic journey.


Fenton Area Public Schools

What: A public school district emphasizing innovative education, community engagement, and student well-being

Where: Fenton, Michigan

Website: https://www.fentonschools.org/


Bill Carr Signs, Inc – https://www.billcarrsigns.com/

The State Bank – www.thestatebank.com

AUCH Construction – www.auchconstruction.com

Sovita Credit Union – https://www.sovitacu.org/

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