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Denebola » Astha Agarwal http://www.denebolaonline.net The Award-Winning, Official School Newspaper of Newton South High School, Newton, MA Fri, 17 Jun 2011 02:00:19 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.0.2 Firefighter saves baby from burning building http://www.denebolaonline.net/2011/04/14/firefighter-saves-baby-from-burning-building/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2011/04/14/firefighter-saves-baby-from-burning-building/#comments Thu, 14 Apr 2011 23:30:29 +0000 Astha Agarwal http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=5875 When firefighter Nick McGrath left work on March 30, he never imagined that in the next few minutes he would break down two doors, put his life on the line, and rescue an entire family, including a one year-old infant, from a burning building.
Driving home, McGrath noticed a three-decker house on Auburndale Avenue engulfed in flames. A woman stood in front, screaming that a child was trapped upstairs. Wearing plain clothes, McGrath immediately broke down the door, ran upstairs, rescued the family on the second floor, and went on to the third floor to make sure no one had been left behind.
When McGrath arrived on the scene, the family om the second floor apartment was completely unaware that the building was on fire. Babar Shahza and his one year-old daughter, were taking a nap, while his wife, Zorah Bahtti, was about to take a shower.
McGrath banged on their door and not only convinced them that the house actually was on fire, but safely evacuated all three of them as well.
He guided Bahtti and her daughter down the stairs, and after the other firefighters arrived, walked away from the scene humbly without mentioning his heroic act to the other firefighters anything about.
“He’s very humble. He hasn’t said a whole lot. He’s a man of few words,” an official said about McGarth.
“The whole view was unbelievable,” Bahtti, after she left the building,
“I could never imagine that this was happening [outside],” she said.
“I heard the smashing of the door and a voice like, ‘Get out of the house! [The] house [is] on fire!’ And I was like what he’s talking about?” Shahza agreed.
But, according to Shahza, when he saw the curtains catching flame, he understood the grevity of the situation. The fire began on the first floor and quickly spread up the back of the building.
If not for McGrath, the family may not have evacuated in time. “I’m grateful to him. And I cannot thank him enough,” Shahza said. He said that he could not imagine a worse situation, one in which his wife or daughter could have been hurt.
At age 25 and the youngest firefighter in his station, McGrath managed to save the lives of Shahza, Bahtti, and their one year-old daughter.
Still, McGrath denies having done anything heroic.
“I was just in the right place at the right time,” he said in an interview.
Ultimately, it took 45 firefighters from Newton and Waltham to put out the fire, and four of those firefighters were taken to Newton-Wellesley Hospital with minor injuries, but were later released. The most serious injury, according to Newton Fire Chief Bruce Proia, was a broken thumb.
Proia praised McGrath, as well as the other firefighters, for their excellent response.
“These firefighters were fighting their way into the inferno,” he said.
Mayor Setti Warren honored McGrath with a Certificate of Appreciation as well.
“We’re so proud that he went above and beyond the call of duty,” Warren said in his speech, adding that McGrath’s actions are “part of the ethos of our firefighters here in Newton.”
Afterwards, Shahza and Bahtti returned to collect belongings which hadn’t been destroyed by the fire, managing to save some pictures of their daughter in a dresser drawer.
Although the actual cause of the fire hasn’t been determined, Newton Fire Deputy Chief Michael Castro said in an interview, that the probable cause of the fire is a lit cigarette.
Another fire on Waverly Avenue, which killed a Bunker Hill Community College professor and former WGBH producer, also began for the same reason.

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Fire hits Chestnut Hill; South provides refuge http://www.denebolaonline.net/2011/03/23/fire-hits-chestnut-hill-south-provides-refuge/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2011/03/23/fire-hits-chestnut-hill-south-provides-refuge/#comments Wed, 23 Mar 2011 05:39:15 +0000 Astha Agarwal http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=5624 February 18 began like any other day for freshman Deyar Dashti, who left her Chestnut Hill Towers apartment for school that morning.
She always just dreamed of adventure, but what met her that afternoon was more than she ever expected. When she arrived home from school, ready to begin her February vacation, she found it surrounded by policemen, fire brigades, and medical staff.
An electrical unit’s failure started a fitre that displaced about 200 residents from their homes for two days, leaving them to find shelter with family and friends, to pay $69 a night for a room at the Crowne Plaza, or to sleep on an army cot in South’s cafeteria.
Spanish teacher Helena Alfonzo, also a resident of the Towers, was in her apartment when she heard that she needed to evacuate.
“Because this [kind of thing] happens a lot, I left with just my sweater and my keys – no coat, no purse, no wallet, no credit or debit cards, no cash, and no ID. I didn’t have anything,” she said.
“The policemen told us we couldn’t go up to our apartment,” Dashti said, “But after three hours, when we came back, they told us the problem was bigger than they thought it would be. So we couldn’t sleep there.”
The Towers’ management and the Newton Fire Department, along with other city staff, safely rescued all the residents whose units lost power. Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority buses arrived to take them to a Red Cross relief center stationed at South’s cafeteria, because, according to Newton Fire Deputy Chief

ebruary 18 began like any other day for freshman Deyar Dashti, who left her Chestnut Hill Towers apartment for school that morning.She always just dreamed of adventure, but what met her that afternoon was more than she ever expected. When she arrived home from school, ready to begin her February vacation, she found it surrounded by policemen, fire brigades, and medical staff.An electrical unit’s failure started a fitre that displaced about 200 residents from their homes for two days, leaving them to find shelter with family and friends, to pay $69 a night for a room at the Crowne Plaza, or to sleep on an army cot in South’s cafeteria.Spanish teacher Helena Alfonzo, also a resident of the Towers, was in her apartment when she heard that she needed to evacuate. “Because this [kind of thing] happens a lot, I left with just my sweater and my keys – no coat, no purse, no wallet, no credit or debit cards, no cash, and no ID. I didn’t have anything,” she said.“The policemen told us we couldn’t go up to our apartment,” Dashti said, “But after three hours, when we came back, they told us the problem was bigger than they thought it would be. So we couldn’t sleep there.”The Towers’ management and the Newton Fire Department, along with other city staff, safely rescued all the residents whose units lost power. Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority buses arrived to take them to a Red Cross relief center stationed at South’s cafeteria, because, according to Newton Fire Deputy ChiefMichael Castro, Newton South is the official shelter for the south side of Newton.
He said, however, that accommodations were very basic; the cots, for example, were designed only for temporary living of up to four days.
In the end, all the residents decided against using the cots and went to stay with family and friends or to pay the reduced rate at the hotel.
Dashti’s family stayed at her cousin’s house in Cambridge until the complex’s management allowed residents to move back to their apartments.
Although the fire was contained in the Towers’ concrete basement room, it damaged the transformer and other electrical equipment and residents’ personal belongings, forcing NStar to cut power to the building.
“The initial damage was about $300,000 in the equipment itself,” Castro said, “But there’s consumable stuff in the refrigerators [in individual units].”
According to Castro, the blanket insurance policy for the complex will cover claims that residents make for such consumable items.
“We weren’t allowed to go upstairs because we didn’t have anything important in our apartment. Only elderly people were allowed to go back, with a firefighter, to get their medications from their refrigerators,” Dashti said.
Castro and many other Towers residents commended all the city staff and management involved for their aid in a safe evacuation and for their great response to the situation.
“It wasn’t an immediate decision to evacuate [the Towers] because they thought it could be restored quickly,” Castro said. “We had to evacuate 423 units with minimal lighting and no elevators.”
He continued to say that the subsequent efforts went as planned: safely and efficiently.
Many of the residents were elderly, and had to be carried down several flights of stairs by staff. There were no injuries, and after the evacuation, the Fire Department went back and checked all the rooms to make sure that no residents remained.
Alfonzo agreed, “The management acted in a very proper way, and everybody was safe. And nobody was hurt, so I was really, really grateful.”
This was the Towers’ first evacuation since 1980, and the management has been collaboration with the Newton Fire Department to take measures in preventing such fires in the future.
The Towers reopened on Feb 21.

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Rowing their way to top universities http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/12/06/rowing-their-way-to-top-universities/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/12/06/rowing-their-way-to-top-universities/#comments Mon, 06 Dec 2010 11:35:07 +0000 Astha Agarwal http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=5104 As the seconds count down, senior Sam Zoloth steadies his oars and focuses on the race ahead. He sees nothing, thinks of nothing, but the course he must traverse. As the referee blares the whistle, Zoloth and his fellow rowers are off – and headed for college.
Zoloth, like many other students at South, participates in crew. In light of his long participation in the sport, he has been speaking with coaches from Wesleyan, Bowdoin, Dartmouth, Skidmore, and the University of Pennsylvania about recruitment. His current position marks a recent trend among students: in the past few years, crew has become a major avenue for South seniors to gain acceptance to college.
According to Athletic Director Scott Perrin, the small number of high school rowers is a main cause of the surge in recruitment.
“Colleges need rowers, he said. “There are thousands of football players; there are thousands of basketball players; [but] there are not thousands of rowers.
Zoloth believes that crew has been receiving more and more attention from high school students.
“People are discovering how useful it is for colleges, he said. “What got me started was that it would be good for a lot of colleges, but then I loved the intensity and the competition, the spirit, [and] the teamwork.
He also added that crew is now being passed down as an interest between siblings. “My sister and my dad both row, and that got me sort of interested, he said.
Senior Jenny Wong agrees. “I started crew the fall of my freshman year because my brother did it before me and he really liked it.
Wong is a coxswain for Community Rowing Inc. in Brighton and devotes about 15 hours a week to crew. “I have a special position on the boat¦ I steer, I make decisions, I motivate the crew, and I run practices, she said.
Wong has been recruited for crew by Dartmouth College, Stanford University, and Harvard University.
South does not currently have a crew team, so students who want to participate in the sport join outside clubs and rowing teams.
“Club sports provide kids a balance where they’re not necessarily competing with their school. They have a little bit more time flexibility and they like rowing; it’s not offered here, so they go that way and get the attention of national universities, Perrin said.
As of now, there are no plans for a crew team at South. According to Perrin, the removal of existing sports is a greater concern than the addition of a crew team. In any case, not very many students are able to commit themselves to crew due to high expenses.
The students who become reasonably good rowers, however, are very likely to be scouted by colleges, for several reasons. Stacey Rippetoe, Head Coach of Boston University Women’s Rowing, said that some of the things she looks for in students are a “long, lean frame, good erg scores which show strong cardiovascular fitness, and positive recommendations from coaches. “We need people who like to work hard and who are coachable, she said.
John Pojednic, Head Coach of Northeastern University Men’s Rowing, looks for “unique young men who have demonstrated a passion for something challenging over time.
According to Northeastern University Head Women’s Rowing Coach Joseph Wilhelm, coaches look for students to recruit both nationally and internationally.
Rippetoe receives contact information for all athletes that try out for the US Junior National Team, in addition to recommendations from coaches. She added, however, that the “majority of athletes in [the] program seek [them] out.

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North gun scare draws police http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/12/06/north-gun-scare-draws-police/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/12/06/north-gun-scare-draws-police/#comments Mon, 06 Dec 2010 11:00:11 +0000 Astha Agarwal http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=5112 After a student mistook another student’s lighter for a gun, Newton North went on lockdown for an hour on December 13. The lockdown began at about 9:30 AM and although classes resumed at approximately 10:15 AM, police remained stationed at the only two entrances open to the school.
A 16-year old student had a butane lighter tucked into his pants so that only the pistol grip handle, which closely resembled that of a gun, was visible. Another student who noticed the lighter suspected it to be a gun and reported it to a department head. Soon the administration informed the police, and along with them, searched for the student. The police found him just outside of school grounds at about 11:45 AM returning to school for a class after leaving earlier that day.
The student was then taken to the police station, where he and his family spoke with the police. His family assured the police that he did not have a handgun, but the student did admit that he had a lighter.
North students, however, were not informed of the situation until it had been resolved.
“They didn’t actually tell us what was going on until it was over, North freshman Paroma Mullick said. “Most people thought it was just a drill, except then it was really long.
In an e-mail North principal Jen Price sent to parents, she praised the student who brought the potential safety concern to the attention of the faculty, as well as the police, faculty, and students, for their excellent response.
Although the 16-year old student in possession of the lighter will face no criminal charges, he may face disciplinary action from school.

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“Haz you seen my binz?” http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/11/02/haz-you-seen-my-binz/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/11/02/haz-you-seen-my-binz/#comments Tue, 02 Nov 2010 10:20:01 +0000 Astha Agarwal http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=4948 Orders for seven double-tandem recycling and trash dollies for South, and eight for the city, were accidentally shipped to another company in New Mexico at the end of October.
These dollies, which are “part of the recycling initiative for South, according to South Recycling Coordinator Sally Rosen, will be “used for custodial staff to wheel around from room to room to collect recycling and trash.
A new recycling program at South is aimed to encourage both students and faculty to pay attention to what they are recycling, and to make sure that they are not using the recycling bins as trash cans.
But in order to improve recycling, the South community would need to be informed about which materials are recyclable and which are not. An environmental club, led by Rosen, is trying to do this.
To start with, the custodial staff has begun classroom recycling with the tandem dollies, which arrived at South a few weeks ago.
When the dollies failed to arrive on time, “I checked the tracking order, and thought, ‘ËœWhy are they in New Mexico?’ Rosen said. “But then I didn’t ask any more questions because they just shipped them back here.
Although this error did not make any financial difference for South, it delayed the recycling initiative by a week.

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Denebola interviews new Superintendent David Fleishman http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/10/28/denebola-interviews-new-superintendent-david-fleishman/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/10/28/denebola-interviews-new-superintendent-david-fleishman/#comments Thu, 28 Oct 2010 11:03:47 +0000 Astha Agarwal http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=4775 What is your role as superintendent of the Newton Public Schools?

I look at my role in a few ways. I want to do everything possible to take a very high quality school system and make it better; one part of my role is working with people in the system, principals, and others teachers, department heads, and figure out how to do that.
And to find out what our strategies are educationally.
I also want to make sure we have a culture that’s respectful, tolerant, careful, so that we not only take care of the academic needs of our students, but the social and emotional needs.
Then there’s the whole management role.
When you’re the leader of the system with almost 2000 employees there’s a lot to manage, I want to make sure we hire the strongest people, provide the best training, and use our resources wisely. We have limited resources and we have to educate a lot of kids, and make sure that our buildings are in good condition. South is in good shape, but our elementary schools could use some work. I want to make sure I build strong relationships with the community.

Why did you decide to switch districts?

I was born in Boston and lived in Newton since my family was here.
This made it a wonderful professional opportunity and it worked out well personally. I’m excited to be here, Newton’s a very dynamic city. It’s a very exciting place to work.

What are some differences between Chappaqua and Newton that you’ve experienced? What are some things you miss and some things you enjoy having here and not there?
I had a terrific job as superintendent of the Chappaqua school system and enjoyed it all.
Newton presents a great opportunity as well.
Newton is larger, so there are more schools than there were in Chappaqua.
It was easier to get to know people there because there weren’t as many people to get to know. On the other hand, the larger size is something I like about Newton.

Any challenges you are looking forward to meeting in Newton?

I think its size presents challenges, but also provides for wonderful diversity. It adds complexity but also wonderful opportunity. Both districts have lots of people who are very passionate about education.

What are your goals for Newton schools and Newton education in general?

I’m interested in thinking about how we can use technology more effectively, and working with people to figure out how we can do that. That’s one piece, but I also want to make sure that we have schools that address the needs of all students, especially those that struggle.
I want to make sure that we have the best strategies in place for those who face challenges in school.
I want to make sure that in the long run we have school facilities, especially at the elementary level, that are better that they are now. Frankly some of the facilities are not in good shape here.
We need to make sure we have a plan to address the facilities.
A big challenge is how to keep moving the system forward through a time during diminished resources.
We have to keep improving education.
I’m still learning,
I’ve been here three and a half months, however I’m already working with leaders in the district and the school committee to figure out how we take an excellent system and make it even better.

What have you done so far to help improve the school system?

I’ve spent most of my time trying to build positive relationships, understanding principals and their challenges and figuring out how I can address challenges at other schools.
I’m doing a lot of listening and a lot of learning first. Basically I’m learning and responding to issues when I need to, but I’m planning first and that’s what all good leaders do.

How did you react to the feedback about the school lunches this year? What do you plan to do now?

This started before I got here, where the school system and school committee were in negotiations to privatize the school lunch program.
And that takes time, so I know the first few months of school have been hard.
I’m hopeful that when all of this is done the options for students will be better than they were before.
It’s one of those things that we’re asking for peoples’ patience with.

How has the Newton North student murder affected the Newton schools? What is your role in dealing with that?
Two issues from Newton North; first we had Adam London whose life was lost tragically before school, and one who of course was incarcerated on a criminal charge.
I just want to make sure that we have the supports in place. Part of the school’s role is to support kids socially and emotionally. Newton North is a safe school, but we also had an incident of a drug bust in Newton South.
I met with both principals to discuss responsible decision making among students.
We can’t solve that problem ourselves – we need students, parents, community members, schools, churches, and synagogues.
It’s a community effort.
I can tell you that after the first tragedy, they opened up the school the next day so kids could come in.
There was a crisis team there, making sure the kids were ok. After Adam’s death there were councilors available and the students were supporting each other.
After the second incident, the crisis team was available again.
They were looking for kids who knew the students well and so if the kids were scared or vulnerable, they found out who they were and provided support.
They were very different kinds of incidents, but you want to provide social and emotional support for students. I think the school has calmed down now.

Fiscal cuts and the high cost of the Newton North budget have strained staffing in Newton schools. How do you plan to resolve the situations?

I wouldn’t make a direct link between budget constraints and Newton North. The fact is that we had to make reductions for Newton North debt but it wasn’t just Newton North though. School districts all over the country are having financial deficits. That’s a great challenge.
How do we keep high quality education during difficult financial times?
We’re going to have to make difficult choices, and tradeoffs, and we’ll do everything we can to keep the educational program we have and keep class sizes reasonable.
Obviously hard choices will have to be made given the financial challenges.

There has been talk about settling the North and South fiscal inequity. What are your opinions on this? Do you think South is getting “the short end of the stick and are there plans to correct this?

South has a great facility. I’ve been there a number of times.
What ends up happening is that initially newer schools always have more resources.
For example, before North’s renovation they were saying South had a lot more resources.
There’s already an effort to get more technology to South.
I’m less interested in comparisons; more interested in making sure South gets the resources it needs.
I think that when I go through schools: that’s the big difference.
There’s certainly plenty of space at South.
I will tell you that it’s good that South was renovated, had South not been, there would have been greater disparity.

Anything else you would like to share with the Newton South community or Newton residents?

I’ve really enjoyed my visits to Newton South and when students took me on a tour.
I look forward to spending more time in the school, listening to classes, students, and the faculty talk about aspirations for the school and how I can be helpful.

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State funding to renovate schools http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/10/28/state-funding-to-renovate-schools/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/10/28/state-funding-to-renovate-schools/#comments Thu, 28 Oct 2010 11:01:18 +0000 Astha Agarwal http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=4781 Bowen and Williams Elementary Schools are eligible to receive funding from the state for a new roof and two new boilers, respectively.
“Every year the mayor has given the city $1.75 million toward capital improvement project money in schools, but this year “we [may receive] some extra money from the state, Newton School Committee Chairperson Claire Sokoloff said. “We could apply for the grant money for these two projects since they’ve already been renovated.
When the School Committee agreed upon the repairs last year, the Massachusetts School Building Authority was providing grants for elementary school projects that would have positive environmental effects on the school. At the time, Bowen and Williams were the only two elementary schools in Newton needing repairs, and had already been renovated a few years ago. The School Committee submitted an application for the grant, but has not received a reply as of yet.
The repairs, however, are already on the committee’s schedule for the year, and will be completed regardless of whether the state provides funding. While the grant will not affect the completion of the projects, it may be able to move it to an earlier date.

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Principal delivers baby on highway http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/09/30/principal-delivers-baby-on-highway/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/09/30/principal-delivers-baby-on-highway/#comments Thu, 30 Sep 2010 11:02:55 +0000 Astha Agarwal http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=4629 Every child is special, but Alora Grace Nardelli decided to give her parents a real surprise. At about 2 AM on September 8, the wife of Horace Mann Elementary Principal Mark Nardelli gave birth to their daughter on the side of highway Route-128 North. Nardelli delivered his wife’s baby alone in the car, waiting for the paramedics to arrive.
“I thought we were going to make it [to the hospital], Nardelli said. But after they had been driving for ten minutes, it was clear that the baby was not going to wait.
“My wife woke me up at around 1 AM, [when] her contractions were about seven minutes apart, and said, ‘ËœWe gotta go,’ he explained. Nardelli called the neighbors and asked them to look after his two daughters, then packed the car and left for the hospital with his wife. But soon, his wife’s contractions were about two minutes apart.
Nardelli immediately called 911, and was told by the operator to pull over. His wife urged him to keep going, and so they drove on, in the hopes that they might make it in time to the hospital.  Not long after, however, the baby could wait no longer, and they were forced to pull over.
“[When] my wife said the baby was coming, Nardelli said, instead of being nervous, “I just switched into problem-solving mode, thinking, ‘ËœOkay, what can we do now?’ He went to the back of the minivan, got out the blanket, helped his wife get ready, and called 911 again to let them know that the baby was coming.
In the end, all went well. “There were no complications, Nardelli said. “If there had been complications, I don’t know if I would have been able to handle it¦ it was a pretty powerful experience.
All the attention he received, Nardelli said, “is strange, and I don’t think I really deserve it. Lots of people were supportive, and filled in for me. I’m thankful that I have really supportive people I work with, and a nice school community.
Nardelli was able to make it to the first day of school, but missed the second. On his day back, he received a lot of attention from his students. “They were really funny and asked a lot of questions, he said. “They said, ‘ËœI saw you on the news, I saw the baby in the car!’ They asked her name, and they were really excited.
Now, according to Nardelli, Alora and her mother are both doing well. He continues to maintain a humble attitude about his composure during the stressful moment. “My wife did all the hard work, he said. “She was the one who went through nine months of pregnancy, and the painful moments of birth. I didn’t do anything magical. I was just lucky to be there.

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