Willow oaks to ‘tie’ circle, FHS campus

Ready to plant one of 25 willow oak trees around “The Circle” at Farragut High School — with other trees on the trailer in back — are principal Dr. John Bartlett, far right, who is joined, from left, by Donald Dodgen, athletic director/administrative assistant, and teacher-head coaches Jon Higgins (boys varsity basketball), Eddie Courtney (varsity football), Matt Buckner (varsity baseball) and Jason Mayfield (girls varsity basektball).
Leaving no stone, or circle, unturned in yet another idea on how to make the total experience at Farragut High School more enjoyable, it was time to start planting willow oak trees in late February.

“Dr. (John) Bartlett is beautifying the campus because you want a good first impression when people drive on,” said Donald Dodgen, FHS athletic director and administrative assistant, about the principal having 10- to 12-foot baby willow oaks planted around “the circle,” a roughly 15-foot grass strip dividing the circular entrance to the main campus and the parking area for administration, teachers and seniors.

Also including trees to be planted in the grassy divider islands inside the circular parking lot, a total of 25 will be planted “to tie everything together” tree-wise “when you enter near (Farragut) Middle School from West End Avenue coming up,” Bartlett said. “We want our campus to have kind of this common theme. And there’s nothing better than a native tree.”

Adding to existing trees and scrubs in the circle, which are located across from the main school entrance, “It’s a pretty tree, and a good, hearty tree that’s drought-tolerant and native to East Tennessee,” he said.

Moreover, these trees “will grow quickly,” Bartlett said. “They’ll get, looking online, to 50, 60, 70 feet. In 15 to 20 years they’ll be pretty big.”

With the services of SiteOne Landscape Supply, 2200 Lovell Road, the process began Thursday, Feb. 27. “Hopefully they’ll all be planted” by mid-March.

Bartlett estimated the cost at “right around $5,500,” which he said already has been paid out of the school’s general fund “for operations and maintenance.”

However, with a shout-out to everyone at FHS — from students, teachers, other employees, organizations and school clubs to sports teams, booster clubs and fellow administrators — Bartlett said he encouraged sponsorship of a tree “to get the money reimbursed,” he said.

All individuals, club, organizations and sports teams who sponsor a tree will be recognized “with some type of signage, either by the tree or in the building,” Dodgen said.

“Essentially, I sent it out by e-mail to all our faculty, and coach Dodgen is taking it for the athletics, trying to spearhead the athletic part of it and the community part of it.”

Costing about $200 per tree, “We’ve just had clubs come back and say, ‘Hey, we want to purchase a tree,’” the principal added. “We just had (Student Government Association) say, ‘We’ll take five trees.’”

Thanks to “clubs and athletics, we’ve got about 15 trees already” pledged for reimbursement, he added.

The school’s AD said this is the next step in Bartlett’s campaign “to clean the campus up and to beautify it; we’re putting new signage up. The campus already is more student-friendly, staff-friendly and community-friendly.”