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Fremin leaves grants, PR to head ‘back to school’

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By Kristin Beck

After nine years as the first Carroll County Schools director of public relations and grant writer, Jeff Fremin is returning to his roots. Starting in August, he will be the new Carroll County Middle School instructional coach, returning to the school for the fourth time in his career.

Originally from Louisiana, Fremin came to Carrollton in 1987 and taught language arts for three years at the middle school before returning to Louisiana. He moved back to Carrollton in 1993 and taught language arts at CCMS for four years. Then, he taught English at Carroll County High School from 1997-2004. He began the 2004 school year as the director of public relations and grant writer, with his office in the middle school.

Fremin said he always likes to try new things and was ready for a change. “For me to do anything for nine years is an incredibly long time,” he said in an interview Friday.

The position was posted on the Carroll County Schools website Tuesday, July 16. Applications will be accepted through the website until 11:59 p.m. (Central Standard Time) Friday, July 26.

“I have loved the opportunity to serve the children and families in Carroll County and am proud of my contributions to the growth of our district and community,” Fremin said.

The project he is most proud of was co-authoring the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant proposal with Joan Moore, Pam Williams and Pam McNeal that initiated the Early Head Start Program. The district was awarded $2.12 million and has since received additional funds that have allowed for the expansion of the program. “Every single person worked hard to get that project done,” he said.

Fremin also wrote the proposal establishing the 21st Century Community Learning Center program at Kathryn Winn Primary and Cartmell Elementary and the grant for the comprehensive STEAM Program with Project Lead the Way and Engineering is Elementary.

He and Moore, then-executive director for the Carroll County Community Development Corporation, also applied for the Safe Routes to School grant to fund a sidewalk connecting the high school with the other schools in the district. Fremin said he suggested the sidewalk grant might kick-start the Schuermann Street extension project that had been discussed for years, but never acted on.

“I feel like I’m ready to move on to work with teachers and students at the middle school,” Fremin said. “I appreciate the community and school district for giving me the opportunity to be a part of these projects that I think will have a long-term impact on the community.”

One of the most important things he has learned about grant writing is that no matter how much you talk about something, you never know if something will work until you put it on paper. “Until you actually put something on paper, it doesn’t exist,” Fremin said. “A grant is always supposed to be funding for a trial project that the community, school, district can try out and eventually sustain on its own.”

A perfect example of this is the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which provides new books to enrolled children every month from birth until five years old. The program began in Carroll County in 2005 with parents and grandparents sponsoring books for their children and grandchildren, Fremin said. The program was picked up by local corporations, in particular Dow Corning Foundation, which sponsored the program for three years. Now, the Carroll County Public Library has picked up the program, and it is sustainable, he said.

Fremin earned his master’s degree in instructional leadership in 2009 from Northern Kentucky University. Since then, he has applied for other leadership positions within the district, but was not chosen. However, he believes everything has worked out for the best because he has gotten to work on some important grants in the last few years, including the 21st Century Learning grant.

Directing the summer program for the past two years also helped draw him back into the learning environment. Among the activities he organized were swimming lessons for kindergarten through second grade students at the YMCA in Switzerland County and taking 1-15 middle school students to General Butler State Resort Park for a “Hunger Games” program. There, they cleared a trail in the park, and he taught them some essential survival skills.

Fremin did a lot of thinking before he could take the leap and apply for the instructional coach position. He did not apply until the afternoon of the application deadline, June 28. Ultimately, he believed that he needed to get back involved in instruction so that he could take on greater leadership responsibilities within the school district.

As middle school instructional coach, Fremin said his main job will be to work with the teachers, especially the new ones, on how they can be more effective in the classroom. He also will keep up with the latest research and make sure their best practices are solid. “We want to maximize our efforts and make sure (what we’re doing) is going to work and be effective,” he said. He hopes to lend his experience and bring a fresh set of eyes and a new perspective to the school.

He will continue to work in his current position until a replacement is hired.

Also starting in the fall, he will teach English 101 from 8-9:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at Jefferson Community and Technical College as an additional responsibility. This will be his second time teaching a college course, as he taught film at JCTC in the Spring of 2011.

Over the years, Fremin has seen his role as the person in the background lighting the spark, making the suggestion and helping to make things happen. “It always takes a team to get anything done,” he said.

Fremin said what he will miss most about his job is being able to visit all of the schools and see students learning, from early childhood learning to the high school. He also enjoyed making the community aware of things going on in the school district that they were not able to see.

His least favorite part was stretching a full year’s worth of work into an abbreviated schedule. He was paid for 202 days, but said he had 240 days of work and had to take some half-days in order to make himself available year-round.

When asked to offer advice to his successor, Fremin said it is important for the grant writer to engage the people benefiting from the grant; the best grants are the ones written as a team. As the public relations director, keep an active to-do list. He was always going in a lot of different directions, and it is important to stay focused and not get distracted, he said.

Superintendent Lisa James said Tuesday she hates to lose an effective leader like Fremin, but she also wants to see him grow in another position.

“Jeff Fremin has done a fabulous job for our school district in writing grants that provided a lot of resources and additional funds to support the goals of our district,” James said.

Fremin also will create a void on the public relations side as well. He has a background in effective communication and has done a tremendous job writing about the district and developing the district’s communications piece.

James said she will be looking for the same type of person to fill Fremin’s shoes, someone with great written and oral communication skills. It also helps to have a working knowledge of the community and the school district.