November 30, 2011 - When it comes to handling discipline issues at Oxford Middle School, Laura Farwell is making principal Ken Weaver and vice-principals Brad Bigelow and Carolyn Cregar's jobs a lot easier.
Farwell (click for larger version)
Farwell, from Oxford, was hired this year to become the middle school's Dean of Students, which means she will be called upon to handle the majority of the discipline problems that arise.
"Throughout the day, kids might have trouble in the classroom or something might have gone on and they need to talk to somebody...I do the discipline," she said.
"I also take care of the truancy and attendance issues. So if there are students skipping or having trouble or difficulty getting to school, I work with the student and their families and then the Oakland County Truancy program to make sure they are here," she added.
Farwell said her approach as a dean was to reconnect with students she has seen in her office in a positive manner.
"It's letting the kids know that I am an ally and not just I'm the big disciplinarian, and I think many of them have gotten that," she added.
She feels students have taken well to her approach.
"They are not used to having it around here, but I think they know a couple different things, that if the rules are broken that I will follow them and that there is going to be repercussions, but that I'm going to do it in a manner that is helpful, that is positive and that builds upon their strengths."
In addition to her disciplinary duties, Farwell noted she is also running the schools anti-bullying program.
"It's going to be a big tool for me and a big tool for the students and the community to have something like the OLWEUS program that helps with bullying...it's a big deal," she said.
She is also heading up the transition program for incoming sixth graders.
"We know that going from elementary to middle school can be a little bit of a tough transition and the work load increases," she said. "If kids are having a hard time getting their homework or anything done, teachers can refer them and they can spend lunch with me and we help get them on the right track and make sure they are turning things in."
Farwell will also assist seventh and eighth grade students who are struggling academically as well.
Hired on the last week of August, Farwell said it was a quick transition going from her previous employer of 13 years.
"It's a very fast-paced environment. Every day you walk into 1,052 kids that they could have woken up that morning and there is something else going on with them," she said. "So it's not like you fix it and it's all set; you fix it and then there is always going to be another day, another problem and another child."
However, she loves coming to work everyday. "I love it here, I really do," she said. "I really haven't met a more committed group of people from top to bottom...it's just a really nice work culture."
Before coming to work full-time for the district, Farwell worked contractually for the district, writing the 10th and 11th grade Crossing Bridges Alternative High School curriculum.
She and her husband Troy also co-own Simple Organics, located at 115 S. Washington St., with an Addison Twp. couple.
Farwell said the most rewarding part of her position was being a positive role model for students.
"Middle school is an interesting time for kids, no matter what background or city they come from," she said. "It's a time where they are growing and learning to make decisions to be responsible," she said.
When she is not working, she likes spending time outdoors with her husband and three children.
Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.