Local media floods FHC’s first day of school

After a 23-mile ride to a new school, 51 transfer students from Normandy High School arrived at FHC Thursday Aug. 8, to begin their adventure in a new community with new students in a new school. News stations greeted them at the front entrance as the eyes of the St. Louis metro area were glued to the welcoming of new students.

Principal Sonny Arnel was interviewed eight times on the first day of school because of these transfer students. He feels that while there were no problems with all of the changes, it was a good opportunity for the school to receive positive publicity.

“I think [the coverage] was necessary because there are so many people that don’t know how great we are and if we are able to send out a positive message, it is a good thing,” Dr. Arnel said.

With all the normal stresses of the new year, the media added more to Dr. Arnel’s schedule. The publicist for the school district, Neosha Hayes, organized all of the day’s interviews for Dr. Arnel and made sure that the interviews were kept to a minimum.

“I appreciate Neosha because she organized it all, so it was really simple. We are able to work with media and able to have a more positive story because she organized it all,” Dr. Arnel said.

Although other schools received nearly the same number of students, only FHC was contacted by the local media. Dr. Arnel believes this is because he has had more experience as head principal and it was more convenient for the district to keep the interviews limited to one school.

“It is my seventh year as principal and I have had the most experience. I also think [the district] wanted to limit [the media] to one high school so that they could organize all of the interviews at all times,” Dr. Arnel said.

As many details pertaining to the transfer were initially unclear, schools in the Francis Howell School District were unable to prepare in advance. When numbers of students were announced publicly and FHC received names of students and families joining our district, counselors and principals contacted students and informed them of their schedule pick up dates, according to Dr. Arnel.

Families in the Normandy School District were given the choice to transfer their children to Francis Howell at the beginning of the summer and had until Aug. 6 to register for the new year. Principals, teachers and counselors assisted new students and their families as they began to pick up their schedules and were introduced to their new school. According to Dr. Arnel, students and parents were eager and grateful for this opportunity.

“Schedule pick up went great. The parents were very thankful and happy, and the kids were excited and ready to get going,” said Dr. Arnel. “[The Normandy students] are excited to be here. It has been one of the more gratifying experiences of my life.”

Although there were negative reactions to this change initially, many students, such as senior Alexis Waters, have looked to this as an opportunity to better their education in a different setting. Many classes that Waters wanted to take were not offered at Normandy High School and she transferred to help with finding a career.

“[I transferred] for a better education. Normandy doesn’t have journalism or a speech class,” Waters said. “Here, there is more of a variety of classes that will benefit me with a career choice.”

As the number of students transferring was finalized, the district assigned students to schools through a draft system. FHC received the most students out of all three high schools (Howell received 45, North received 44), because the district wanted to keep families within the same school. As a student with a sibling was assigned to a school, their sibling would automatically be placed in the same school and FHC happened to receive more families with multiple students.

After many upset parents displayed their feelings, many teachers and students expressed their excitement for the change. Dr. Arnel explained how guidance counselor Kris Miller and his wife and Spanish teacher Jennifer Miller, brought cookies, brownies and flowers for students and parents to enjoy during their schedule pick up.

Teachers and students have resisted the temptation to judge and point out new students and have been welcoming, according to Waters.

“I’m excited. It will be a different environment because there are way more kids at this school. Everybody has been really kind,” Waters said.