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Denebola » Chris Erspamer 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 Senate considers Student Evaluation of Teachers Bill http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/02/10/senate-considers-student-evaluation-of-teachers-bill/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/02/10/senate-considers-student-evaluation-of-teachers-bill/#comments Wed, 10 Feb 2010 08:56:53 +0000 Chris Erspamer http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=3600 The South Senate has begun working on a proposal that would make mandatory teacher evaluations by students.

The measure would provide students with the opportunity to give input on their class’ policies through unanimous surveys at the end of the school year. The Senate is also considering midterm evaluations.

Senator and junior Rachel Leshin, who included student evaluation in her platform during the 2009 Senate elections, is spearheading the bill. After realizing that she and her fellow classmates found certain classes less enjoyable, Leshin was motivated to create the Senate’s three-member Student-Teacher Evaluation Committee.

Although some teachers do allow their students the chance to submit feedback in June, they are a minority, and according to Leshin, many students refrain from taking issues up with their teachers or department heads due to fear of reprisals.

“I’m surprised our school doesn’t already use student evaluations, Leshin said. “They are used in many other high schools and universities, and teachers here should be receptive of them.

The assessments will likely take place online, so that data and trends can easily be analyzed. Student participation is expected to be optional, but the Senate has discussed the possibility of certain incentives–such as encouraging teachers to have the evaluation forms count as extra credit–that may be put into place.

The committee is working on writing down a concrete version of the bill, after which the Senate would vote on it and send it to Principal Joel Stembridge to sign.

Although the bill’s specifics are yet to be determined, the actual measure seems likely to pass. The Senate is unanimous in attempting to ensure its passage, and according to Senate President Ben Chelmow, Stembridge appeared to be favorably disposed towards the idea when he was first informed of it.

“We do not yet have a specific date as to when the proposal will be able to pass, Chelmow said, “but I don’t think it will take more than a few weeks, and we’re aiming at getting the student evaluations implemented hopefully at the end of this year.

The measure so far has not generated any opposition among teachers, many of whom have expressed interest at the idea of standardized assessments.

“It would be fantastic to get periodic feedback from kids as to what works and what doesn’t, math teacher Leslie Quattrini said.

Latin teacher Alice Lanckton already gives student evaluations twice a year.

“I learn the most about teaching from my students, Lanckton said. “Their comments help me figure out which techniques are more helpful for the class in general.

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Community service builds discussion http://www.denebolaonline.net/2009/12/23/community-service-builds-discussion/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2009/12/23/community-service-builds-discussion/#comments Wed, 23 Dec 2009 08:35:59 +0000 Chris Erspamer http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=3361 Four years after Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans, junior Mollie Solon participated in rebuilding homes damaged or destroyed by the storm.

Solon is part of the Saint Bernard Project, a nationwide non-profit organization dedicated to raising money to repair the destruction in New Orleans. Since its creation, the Saint Bernard Project has attracted over 10,000 volunteers of all ages and succeeded in rebuilding over 240 homes.

Solon, who joined the Saint Bernard Project last year, had previously worked for a similar association her freshman year, but considers her present group to be more effective.

“Saint Bernard is really careful in how it commits its money, she said. “It has been able to help out more families than other groups have managed, and it has done so in a faster and cheaper way.

Like Solon, many South students actively participate in community service, which may soon become a graduation requirement.

In response to students passing Senate Question 1 last June (52 to 48 percent), the South Senate voted to further discussion on a Community Service Bill that would make community service a graduation requirement starting with the class of 2014 on December 17.

Solon believes that more students need to get involved in community service, and she considers last year’s vote to make community service a graduation requirement as a “really smart move.

Many other Massachusetts high schools, such as Lexington, Needham, Natick, Lincoln-Sudbury, Dover-Sherborn, and Weston, have already required from 30 to 70 hours of community service for a student to graduate.

“[A community service graduation requirement] is an important step toward improving a community that provides so much for its students, senior and Senator Allen Li said. The Senate’s Community Service Committee consists of Li, senior Zack Hausle, and junior David Altman.

Before passing the bill, the South Senate hopes to hold a public forum where students can voice their opinions. Currently, the bill states that the minimum graduation requirement will be 35 hours, the hours being maintained and documented by the student.

According to Li, the South Senate hopes to “hear the benefits and the detriments to implementing a community service requirement before “pass[ing] it on to the faculty committee for review.

Students have mixed feelings regarding a community service graduation requirement.

Junior Hannah Thomas, who participates in community service, believes there should be a graduation requirement “because we need to be able to give back to the community.
“People who do community service because it’s required aren’t really doing it for the right reasons, junior Rachel Feinman said.

Senior Nina Bellio believes that the school should encourage community service instead of “forcing it.

On December 14, Solon reached the $15,000 quota necessary to repair her first house on and has already raised over $3,000 towards the repair of the next.

Solon has been to New Orleans twice and is planning to go again with her family during December vacation. Her father, who also takes part in the organization’s activities, has visited New Orleans six times.

Although Solon tried to start a club at the school for the purpose of raising awareness about the group’s work, she was unable to do so because students starting fundraising clubs must be official members of that fundraiser and the Saint Bernard Project only accepts volunteers.

Solon has met other students who have participated in aiding Katrina survivors, and, during her latest visit to New Orleans, she worked alongside 20 high school students from Massachusetts.

Nevertheless, Solon still feels that far too little attention is given to the difficulties of Katrina victims, both among students and among Americans in general.

“Even today there are many families stuck without a home, but since it’s not in the media as much, people tend to forget, she said. “Part of what our project tries to do is to point out that the problem is not solved, that there are people who are still suffering and need help.

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School reinforces bus pass policy http://www.denebolaonline.net/2009/11/25/school-reinforces-bus-pass-policy/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2009/11/25/school-reinforces-bus-pass-policy/#comments Wed, 25 Nov 2009 08:41:12 +0000 Chris Erspamer http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=3168 School officials have announced late last month that they will now begin enforcing regulations regarding student bus passes.

To ride a bus, students must either carry a bus pass or have their name on a registered school list, both of which are provided by the Newton Transportation Department for a fee of $260 per student. Waivers are given to those who apply for financial aid.

Campus aides are now boarding certain buses at least twice a week, sending away those without proper identification, says Assistant Principal Purnima Vadhera. Vadhera reported that the school’s main reason for cracking down on students without bus passes was due to overcrowding, which usually becomes even more severe during the winter.

According to Goodwin Housemaster Charles Myette, unregistered students have continuously been boarding their friends’ buses in the past few years, and the buses have become severely overcrowded as a result.

In some buses, seats that were meant to hold two people instead accommodated three and sometimes four students, prompting bus drivers to refuse to start the vehicles due to safety concerns. Bus drivers, however, do not have the authority to dismiss passengers.

“The bottom line is that students can’t be on the bus without a valid pass from transport, Myette said. “Making sure they comply with this rule is our job.

Plans for a routine checkup of the buses started last spring, but school officials initially refrained from carrying them out consistently.

This year, administration decided that a harsher crackdown was necessary, and intercom announcements warned students that anyone without a pass would be prevented from riding.

“We’ve gotten a lot of complaints from kids recently about the conditions that they have to ride in, Vadhera said. “We want to make sure these kids have a safe ride home, and they cannot be safe if they have trouble sitting down.

Although campus aides are currently only checking bus passes in the afternoon, the school is considering having aides also inspect passes in the morning.

So far, these stricter measures have gone by smoothly, although there have been cases in which students–especially underclassmen–refused to leave and had to be sent to their housemaster.

According to Vadhera, students who want to ride the bus have no reason not to obtain a bus pass.

“Bus passes are easy to obtain, and the transportation department is generous in providing financial aid, she said. “It’s just that many students don’t know that and assume that it would be more convenient to not apply and ride anyway.

Some students do not see much difference despite the school’s efforts to enforce bus policies.

Senior Rebecca Robinson, who occasionally takes the bus home, says that although her bus sometimes gets overcrowded, it has never been inspected.

“They say they’re going to check them, and then they don’t, she said.

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Interim position assigned to Marini http://www.denebolaonline.net/2009/09/30/interim-position-assigned-to-marini/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2009/09/30/interim-position-assigned-to-marini/#comments Wed, 30 Sep 2009 05:56:22 +0000 Morgan Seiler http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=2632 In the wake of Jeffrey Young’s resignation this June, the School Committee voted unanimously to appoint James Marini as Young’s temporary replacement. Marini will serve for one year while the board continues to look for a permanent replacement.

Marini believes his role is to establish procedures and practices that will implement the policies consistent with school committee guidelines.

“I was honored to be considered and am pleased to serve, Marini said. “I have great affection for Newton and deep respect for those who live and work here.

School Committee co-chair Claire Sokoloff stated that Marini will not be making any major changes to Young’s policies.

“As superintendent, Marini will be implementing the strategic plan that Young began with the intention of moving Newton forward, Sokoloff said.

After Young announced his resignation last school year, School Committee Chair Marc Loredo formed a search committee.

“The Superintendent Search Committee was decided after notifications were sent out asking anyone who was interested to apply, Loredo said.

Additions to the Search Committee included two principals, custodial union representatives, teachers, community members, and one student from each Newton high school. Ben Chesler is the representative for Newton South.

The Search Committee interviewed several possible candidates, and appointed Marini, a lifetime resident of Newton and a former student of Newton High School (now Newton North).

According to Superintendent Search Committee co-chair Reenie Murphy, the committee looked for someone who was familiar with Newton and had a lot of experience.

“Several candidates were interviewed in the first round, but none of them were the right fit, Murphy said. “Jim Marini’s name came up often from many people all over the city.

Marini began his career as a Day Middle School math teacher for seven years and afterwards became an assistant principal of the school for 8 years.

In 1990, Marini, after serving as the associate principal and principal of Concord Middle School, returned to Newton to serve as principal of Newton North.

Marini also served as the interim superintendent of North Andover and the assistant superintendent of Newton for three years. He retired in 2007 from his position as Superintendent as Winchester Public Schools.

In addition to Young, Deputy Superintendent Brenda Keegan resigned on July 1, and Paul Stein took her position.

According to School Committee member Geoff Epstein, the Superintendent Search Comittee will identify a consultant to assist in the search for a new superintendent.

“These [consulting] firms conduct nation wide searches on a regular basis, Murphy said, They know how to cast the net in a wider way.

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Ligerbots crank way to champions http://www.denebolaonline.net/2009/04/15/ligerbots-crank-way-to-champions/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2009/04/15/ligerbots-crank-way-to-champions/#comments Wed, 15 Apr 2009 05:00:36 +0000 Chris Erspamer http://www.sandbox.denebolaonline.net/?p=2183 The Newton North-South Robotics Team, the Ligerbots, placed 13th out of 60 at the Connecticut Regionals, which took place from March 25 to 27. The Ligerbots also won the Rookie Inspiration Award for effort and the Rookie High Seed Award, which they previously won at the Boston Regional earlier this year.

The Connecticut Regional was one part of the FIRST Robotics Competition, a yearly tournament in which high school teams build robots that participate in various activities. The competitions, which began in 1992, originally involved only 28 teams, but now include over 150,000 students across the nation.
“The teams we faced at Hartford were much more competitive than at Boston, so it is amazing that we did this well, Science Department Head and Ligerbots coach Charles Hurwitz said. “I expected us to do well and be competitive, but the results went beyond expectations.

The Ligerbots are attending championships in Atlanta, which will take place from today to April 18. The competition will involve around 340 teams.

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Gaza kindles rallies on opposing sides http://www.denebolaonline.net/2009/02/11/gaza-kindles-rallies-on-opposing-sides/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2009/02/11/gaza-kindles-rallies-on-opposing-sides/#comments Thu, 12 Feb 2009 00:19:40 +0000 Chris Erspamer http://denebolaonline.net/?p=776 Boston’s pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian communities mobilized during the 22 days of heavy fighting in Gaza from December 27 to January 18.

Even though the fighting in Gaza has died down and Israeli troops are withdrawing, some protesters remain dissatisfied, believing that Israel’s blockade of Gaza serves as an obstacle to the people’s recovery, and pro-Israel groups remain adamant that Israel’s actions were justified.

Pro-Israeli associations such as the Boston Israeli Action Committee, several synagogues, and the Boston chapter of the Anti-Defamation League began sponsoring several counter-protests to rallies by pro-Palestinian groups.

“We consider the blockade itself to be a war, pro-Palestinian activist and rally organizer Ahmad Kawash said. “As long as Israel is depriving people of food and infrastructure and basic needs, it is still killing civilians.

At a rally in Copley Square, over 500 people, listening to various speakers, maintained that Israel was acting in self-defense and claimed that many leaders of the peace movement were openly biased against Israel.

According to Dexter Van Zile, a media analyst of the pro-Israeli CAMERA organization and one of the main speakers at the event, demonstrators were concerned not only at the conflict itself but also at how it was being portrayed in the US.

“Since 2001, Palestinian terrorists have been launching rockets and killing hundreds of Israelis civilians, and no one condemned these attacks, Zile said. “Yet, as soon as Israel acts to protect its citizens, the antiwar groups start calling the conflict a genocide.

John Harris, co-founder of the Stop the Wars Coalition, believes the worldwide protest greatly contributed to bringing about the ceasefire last month and also helped put pressure on the United States to cut back on its support for Israel.

“The US is a main cause of the instability of Gaza, so if we manage to have an impact on its policies in the region, Israel will probably be forced to end its oppression of the Palestinians. he said.

Likewise, Zile feels that the Israeli rallies have “alerted many people to the clear hostility that the so-called peace movement has against the state of Israel.

At least twenty demonstrations took place throughout the end of December and the first half of January, some involving nearly 1,000 people, with the last protest being held on January 16, just two days before a cease-fire suspended the conflict. Although no protests are currently taking place, representatives of different antiwar groups continue to meet every Tuesday, and an pro-Palestinian march in front of the Pentagon is scheduled to take place on March 21.

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