Fairmont struts its stuff for prospective students and the community

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Photo: Alexis Parlette

The Fairmont parking lots display Firebird achievements in hopes of appealing to prospective students.

Increasingly, schools around the country are competing to attract students and families and encourage them to choose their school over others. Fairmont High School is among those making an effort to make sure potential students and their parents understand just what the school has to offer.

The newest sign that Fairmont is promoting itself are the banners flying in the school’s parking lots. The banners tout a variety of achievements, ranging from the school’s status as an International Baccalaureate school to other accomplishments in academics, as well as in music and sports.

Fairmont Principal Dan VonHandorf wants the banners to attract new students and inspire those who are already here. “I hope students and teachers see the banners and think, ‘Man, I’d like to do something to get up on a banner or my program to get on the banner,’” he said. “Right now, that’s our criteria, to put things up there that are state- and national-level awards. We’re just starting, so I’m sure that will evolve as we go.”

In addition to the banners, Fairmont also promotes itself by hosting an annual open house for non-public school students who are about to enter high school, as well as giving tours for a variety of community groups and organizations.

VonHandorf says that promoting Fairmont “absolutely” has attracted potential students and families who hadn’t realized all the opportunities available at Fairmont.

“Every year at the open house there are families that come debating schools. There’s a lot of great stuff here,” said VonHandorf, “and I think we have a really good product. I think we could compete with anybody for the talent of our teaching staff and the atmosphere of the school. This is a good place and we need to let people know about it.”

VonHandorf said the idea to really work at promoting the district grew as staff began to notice more and more parents coming in and asking questions and shopping for schools. “That kind of prompted us to think about what parents are looking for in a school.”

Visitors to Fairmont are impressed by what they see when they tour the school, the principal said. “I always hear someone say, ‘Wow! I had no idea how much this school offers students.’”

VonHandorf said he thinks people sometimes have an incorrect notion of what a high school environment is like based on what they’ve seen in the media. But when they visit Fairmont, he said, people are impressed by how quiet the hallways are and how students in classrooms are working and paying attention. “The reality is different from the image they had in mind solely from the media,” he added.

Fairmont freshman Kidron Taylor was a student at the Montessori School of Dayton as an eighth-grader and attended the Fairmont open house last year. Taylor thought Fairmont was a good school for her because it offers many fine arts programs. “I’m really interested in the arts,” she said.

Taylor admits she was “nervous at first and surprised” when the school year started and she saw just how big the school is. However, she said that once she got used to the school, she liked it. Taylor also was pleased to discover how friendly the faculty and students are. “I haven’t really met anyone I didn’t like so far,” she said.

Community Relations Coordinator Kari Basson is responsible for helping to promote all of the district’s schools, not just the high school. She says it’s important to tell parents of prospective students about all the good things going on in the district, but it’s also important to make sure Kettering taxpayers realize how good their community schools are.

“We’re fortunate to have a community that has always been supportive of its schools,” she said. “However, we can never ‘rest on our laurels’ and assume that this support will always be there. We need to be constantly telling our story to our community so that they feel that we are spending their hard-earned tax dollars wisely.”

Basson thinks the district overall is doing a great job in promoting Kettering City Schools, especially since parents look at schools very carefully to see which one would best fit their family. “Research shows that the quality of a school district is the No. 1 factor parents look to when deciding upon a community in which to live,” she said.

VonHandorf, a Kettering resident and father of four, says he understands why many parents shop around before selecting a school for their children. “They’re going to look at all the options, which as a parent, I appreciate. I want the best for my children, too.”