Staff changes abound at FHS

If you returned to Fairmont this fall and can’t find a teacher you knew, there’s a good reason why. No, there wasn’t a mass kidnapping or even massive budget cuts. It’s all about 10 retirements, as well as other staff who left for personal reasons. That led to the hiring of 22 new faces.

“There are more changes this year than I have ever seen before,” said Linda Bergman, a 27½-year Fairmont veteran. Bergman became the Social Studies Department chair after Chris Griggs retired last year, and she immediately was faced with hiring four teachers in her department. “We will miss the experience of the teachers who left Fairmont, but I can honestly say that the four new Social Studies teachers are a really impressive group.”

Bergman isn’t the only new department chair this year. The other new chairs are Susan Bennett in the Art Department, Audra Samanas in Foreign Language, Tim Cogan in Health/PE and Scott Mitter in Math.

Principals tackle new roles

Also, Central Unit has a new principal, Andy White. White, who previously was the head principal at Mechanicsburg High School, says coming to Fairmont was a process with many different steps.

“There’s more of everything,” White said. “More people, more staff, more buildings. It is a transition.” However, he also said he was going to be patient with the transition process and enjoy establishing himself as Central Unit principal. “I want to be an approachable, reasonable and likable guy, and hopefully my impact will be a very positive one. I want to fit into the administrative team and become a trusted, skilled and effective administrator.”

Other changes at the administrative level include the promotion of former Math and Engineering teacher Tyler Alexander to South Unit principal. He feels he’s ready for the change. “I want students to feel like they can come to me at any time,” said Alexander, adding, “I know Fairmont, and I want what’s best for the school.”

The South Unit principal post became vacant when Dan VonHandorf was promoted to FHS head principal. That position, of course, became available when Dr. James J. Schoenlein was named superintendent of Kettering City Schools, replacing Dr. Robert Mengerink.

“We need to communicate well with the community and be open with the students,” said VonHandorf, who’s been on staff at Fairmont for 13 years. The new principal also wants Fairmont to prepare students for college and the world. “We want to create a businesslike environment where our students come out work-ready. That means being on time, dressing appropriately and being professional.”

VonHandorf is “humbled and honored” to be Fairmont’s principal, but does he feel ready? “I hope so. I’m going to work really hard to make this a great place for students,” he said.

Scores of interviews lead to 22 new faces

His first chance to put his mark on Fairmont and its future came during the summer, when he interviewed dozens of potential candidates for teaching and other positions. VonHandorf even scheduled one interview at 6:30 on a Saturday morning.

Many of the new teachers at Fairmont have a previous connection to the school. For example, Social Studies teacher Corey Wilson and French teacher Rebecca Gentry are Fairmont grads, as are Daniel Boyer (Math), Scott Byer (Social Studies), Melissa Charske (P.E.), John Harvey (Math) and Emily Newman (Science). Two of the Fairmont grads also have family on staff at the school, including Newman (whose sister is Science teacher Molly Merrill) and Byer (whose father is Business teacher Len Byer).

Some of the “new” staff are not really new at all. Instead, they have taken on new roles. Among them is Jenny Borchers, who became the Student Activities Coordinator when Intervention Specialist Ruthann Kain returned to full-time teaching. Borchers, who was an Intervention Specialist last year, will still teach, but part of her day will be devoted to her new role. “My emphasis is going to be on promoting student leadership,” said Borchers, who wants to make Class Council more of a commitment for members.

Bergman, the new Social Studies chair, is optimistic about the influx of young teachers. “I look at them and think, ‘We’re very lucky to get these folks. They’re very impressive,’ ” she said.

There are lots of changes at Fairmont, but teachers and administrators have settled into a rhythm and look forward to great year with FHS students. Alexander is among them. “You are going to continue to see students doing great things here,” he said.