Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/denebolasandbox/denebola_2009/wp-includes/ms-load.php on line 113

Warning: Cannot modify header information - headers already sent by (output started at /home/denebolasandbox/denebola_2009/wp-includes/ms-load.php:113) in /home/denebolasandbox/denebola_2009/wp-includes/feed-rss2.php on line 8
Denebola » Denebola 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 Wisconsin union struggle and Newton budget parallels http://www.denebolaonline.net/2011/03/23/wisconsin-union-struggle-and-newton-budget-parallels/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2011/03/23/wisconsin-union-struggle-and-newton-budget-parallels/#comments Wed, 23 Mar 2011 05:31:56 +0000 Denebola http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=5682 In past several months public sector unions have suffered attacks by the state governments of Ohio, Indiana and most notably, Wisconsin. The Wisconsin governor recently succeeded in a bill stripping collective bargaining rights from most public workers.
Tens of thousands of protestors responded by flooding the lawn and cramming the halls of the Wisconsin State Capitol. Democratic senators walked out and remained in Illinois so as to create a legislative stalemate by depriving their Republican counterparts of a quorum on fiscal matters.
After three weeks, the Wisconsin governor and Republican senators pushed through the bill limiting bargaining for public-sector workers by a much-criticized late-night repeal of parts of a previous bill restricting the number of senators needed for a quorum.
In Newton labor problems exist but in the area of education are handled less dramatically. “People move to Newton to raise their children in a top-tier education environment and therefore Newton prioritizes education,” Physics teacher and Newton Teacher Association Building Representative Alex Kraus said.
Historically strong support of public education and the Newton Public Schools translates into power for teachers and their unions to negotiate. “Our teacher unions are stronger,” History teacher Jamie Rinaldi said, “Deval Patrick looks to cut public funding but does not have the boldness to attack teachers union in Massachusetts due to their high levels of public support.”
Current lack of teacher contracts in Newton and announced plans on future cuts in public education do not appear to parallel conditions in Wisconsin. “Newton has a budget shortfall and therefore there are tough economic conditions for the union and school committee,” Kraus said, “It should be noted that this is not the first case that we have worked for a period of a year without a contract, and it will not be the last.”
Yet the power of unions in the past has not fazed Wisconsin’s union opponents. “Wisconsin has been a huge supporter of public education,” Principal Joel Stembridge said, “It is disconcerting that this is happening in Wisconsin.”
Rinaldi agrees, but is heartened by the responses to the Wisconsin bill. “The response by the teacher’s unions, this massive collective response where people are occupying their state house is also evidence that unions aren’t going to back down easily. There is strong popular support for the teachers.”
Despite how it was accomplished, passing the Wisconsin bill could affect teachers unions in Newton and nationwide. “A loss in [Wisconsin] would send the message that unions are weak and can be knocked down” Rinaldi said.
And a collapse of teacher’s unions would offer easier cuts in public education budgets. “We’re in a dire economy and one of the ways to solve that is to cut on teacher’s pensions, health care, and pay rather than press for more a more equitable tax arrangement,” English teacher Michael Kennedy said.
Failure to pass this bill or bills limiting or eliminating collective bargaining in other states would offer a brighter future for teacher and other public service unions. “What happens in Wisconsin affects every union in the country as it sends a message to legislators,” Rinaldi said.
Alex Kraus takes this assessment a step further, saying, “My hope is that the struggle in Wisconsin sheds light on the public sector’s work and their contribution to society.”
NTA President, Mike Zilles, believes that Newton is safe from the drive to strip public school teachers of collective bargaining, “[Mayor] Setti Warren has made it clear from the beginning that he does not agree with the drive to take away collective bargaining rights.”
The power of teachers will most likely be their saving grace.
“The responsibilities of teachers are immense, nothing short of insuring the happiness and well being of the American community and the future of the nation,” Stembridge said. “In the words of Christa McAuliffe, the teacher aboard the Challenger space shuttle, ‘I teach. I touch the future.’”

]]>
http://www.denebolaonline.net/2011/03/23/wisconsin-union-struggle-and-newton-budget-parallels/feed/ 0
Le prof de franÇais http://www.denebolaonline.net/2011/03/23/le-prof-de-francais/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2011/03/23/le-prof-de-francais/#comments Wed, 23 Mar 2011 04:01:04 +0000 Denebola http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=5715 DENEBOLA sat down with French teacher Sebastien Merle to ask him about life in France.

Denebola: Where in France are you from?
Merle: I grew up in Southwestern France, in a small town, with 25,000 people, an hour west of Toulouse, which is one of the biggest cities in France.
[It is] a very rural region. In my town you have pretty much nothing around but villages and farms.
I grew up there, then I moved to Toulouse, and lived there for four years before I moved to the States.
Denebola: How did everyday life in Toulouse when you were a high school student compare to everyday life in Newton?
Merle: It’s very different; I would need a full hour just to describe how different it is. Students have a lot more freedom in a lot of ways; everything is not as structured as it is here.
I feel like you have more responsibilities at a younger age. I didn’t go to very good schools, either, especially my middle school.
Also, my typical high school day would start later, and when I had a free block during the day I would either go to the library or I would go to the student center.
Something that would be really shocking to a lot of Americans would be that this little café was right around the corner, and [my friends and I] would spend our time there, chatting, drinking coffee and playing cards. We didn’t get into trouble, we just spent a lot of time there.
We usually had a 45 minute to a one hour break for lunch and my high school was downtown so it was very easy to go a variety of places, or eat lunch [at school]. The school day was a lot longer; it was very common for me to have classes until 6:00 at night.
Kids in France, they got two weeks [for vacation in February and April], so I remember teachers complaining constantly about the fact that the curriculum was not going to be completed by the end of the year.
Because the curriculum is set up by the government, as opposed to the state, [defining the curriculum like they do] here; it’s much more centralized because it’s a much smaller country.
In France, you hear teachers complain a lot about the fact that you need to wrap up the program by the end of the year and that they don’t have enough time.
Denebola: Are schools structured differently in France than they are in the U.S.?
Merle: No, they’re pretty much the same, except preschool is more developed. Public school starts when you are two or three, because it’s a welfare state, so you pay a lot of taxes, but then the government takes care of your kids from an earlier age.
The other difference is that high school started in tenth grade, the way it used to at South, and then they added a year. But that’s the way it was where I grew up.
I remember growing up, when I was in elementary school, I had Wednesday off, the whole day, and I had to go to school on Saturday morning.
Then, when I switched to middle school, I had school on Wednesday morning only, [in addition to] Monday through Friday. It’s give and take.
Denebola: Newton South has a reputation for being very rigorous academically. How does South compare to your high school experience?
Merle: There’s no comparison; I had pretty bad school experiences. It’s very different [now].
Public education in France is comparable in its advantages and disadvantages to what’s going on in the United States right now.
It’s definitely a buzz word now; you hear “public education” in France when you talk about what’s broken, what we need to fix.
I have the French Channel at home, and they did a pretty interesting documentary about that. You get to college and these kids are so humiliated because they’re so not ready, and a lot of them drop out of college because they can’t handle it.
So, the same problems are right here, with American public schools. My middle school was a zoo. Teachers were extremely violent.
It was a while ago, and I’m sure there have been improvements, but there was this really antiquated system where teachers would be protected to a degree that was really disgusting; they didn’t have to be accountable for anything, so most teachers were absolutely horrendous.
Then, I was fortunate enough to have really amazing teachers in high school, very inspiring. Still a lot of really bad teachers, too, but I had some teachers that really made a difference, and my high school experience was a lot better because of it.
Denebola: South has a lot of extracurricular activities. Are those kinds of opportunities available in France?
Merle: Not at all; it’s because the school day’s so long, there’s no time for anything else. There was a Theatre club, but that was really late, from 6:00 to 9:00 after school, and then you had to go on the weekend.
If you wanted to do sports at the level that you do them at South, or in a lot of American high schools, where you have Varsity [level sports], you have to go to a special school in France, where the afternoon is dedicated to sports, so you have classes in the morning and sports in the afternoon, but that’s a much bigger commitment.
Here, that’s really one strength of the system: you can be such a well-rounded individual.
It gives you much more opportunities to shine in so many different ways, and even if you’re not academically a brilliant student, you can always feel like there’s one area where you’re going to be able to feel good about yourself. So if it’s arts, or sports, that’s a great strength of the American system.
Denebola: Most South students choose to continue their education at college. Is that true in France?
Merle: No, because the system is so based on tracking; you’re tracked at a much earlier level.
You have to choose a specialty at an earlier stage in your academic career. Already when you’re in tenth grade you need to know whether you’re more of a science person or [not].
The emphasis is on sciences; the “smart” kids are the kids who do math and science. It’s a stigma that has always existed in France and will continue for a really long time.
They give you a little bit of flexibility; they tell you that you can take maybe one more math class if you’re on the humanities track, but it’s very limited.
Really, if you’re good academically [in America], you can be a much more well-rounded individual than the French system would allow you to be in a lot of ways.
There’s also the vocational track. If you’re not doing well academically, you’re going to be systematically offered to go into the vocational track. For example, half of my high school was what they call “Générale,” humanities and sciences, and half of the school was vocational. You can get started on a vocational track in eighth grade.
Denebola: A lot of American students worry about SAT, MCAS, and all kinds of standardized testing. Is that a major point of concern in France?
Merle: No, there’s no standardized testing in France.
Denebola: What about the [Baccalauréat (bac), an academic qualification test in France]?
Merle: The bac is not standardized. With standardized tests there’s a very specific set of skills and knowledge that’s being tested. With the bac, there’s no multiple choice, for example.
[The bac] is all essays. You have to come up with a thesis and then organize an essay according to your thesis. It just teaches you a certain way to think.
[You are tested on] your ability to come up with a coherent argument based on you knowledge. In France, you never, ever, give your opinion on anything, because nobody cares.You have to be extremely unbiased. You have what they call the “thèse-anti-thèse”: you take one side of the argument, you argue for that side of the debate, and then the “anti-thèse,” when you have to argue for the exact opposite. Everything has to be backed up by your knowledge, your articles, the data.
That also affects the French mentality. A lot of Americans, when they travel to France, and strike up friendships with French people, [Americans] say, “It’s funny, I say one thing, and French people, they always say the opposite.” And it’s almost that mechanism that’s forged by the educational system.
It’s not that [French people] want to antagonize you, it’s just that they want to debate; it’s just a playfulness.
It’s a very conversational culture. Debating, discussing things is very much a part of the French mentality in a lot of ways.
Denebola: As a teacher with outside perspective, what universal qualities do you notice about students who are both French and American?
Merle: Just that kids are kids. I really feel like there is such a thing as globalization. French teenagers are a lot more similar to American teenagers now than they were in the 1950s and 60s.
[French and American kids] listen to the same music; there are cultural differences of course when it comes to food, make-up, those kinds of things, but there seems to be a common understanding of the same things.

Denebola: Where in France are you from?

Merle: I grew up in Southwestern France, in a small town, with 25,000 people, an hour west of Toulouse, which is one of the biggest cities in France. [It is] a very rural region. In my town you have pretty much nothing around but villages and farms. I grew up there, then I moved to Toulouse, and lived there for four years before I moved to the States.

Denebola: How did everyday life in Toulouse when you were a high school student compare to everyday life in Newton?

Merle: It’s very different; I would need a full hour just to describe how different it is. Students have a lot more freedom in a lot of ways; everything is not as structured as it is here. I feel like you have more responsibilities at a younger age. I didn’t go to very good schools, either, especially my middle school. Also, my typical high school day would start later, and when I had a free block during the day I would either go to the library or I would go to the student center. Something that would be really shocking to a lot of Americans would be that this little café was right around the corner, and [my friends and I] would spend our time there, chatting, drinking coffee and playing cards. We didn’t get into trouble, we just spent a lot of time there. We usually had a 45 minute to a one hour break for lunch and my high school was downtown so it was very easy to go a variety of places, or eat lunch [at school]. The school day was a lot longer; it was very common for me to have classes until 6:00 at night.Kids in France, they got two weeks [for vacation in February and April], so I remember teachers complaining constantly about the fact that the curriculum was not going to be completed by the end of the year. Because the curriculum is set up by the government, as opposed to the state, [defining the curriculum like they do] here; it’s much more centralized because it’s a much smaller country. In France, you hear teachers complain a lot about the fact that you need to wrap up the program by the end of the year and that they don’t have enough time.

Denebola: Are schools structured differently in France than they are in the U.S.?

Merle: No, they’re pretty much the same, except preschool is more developed. Public school starts when you are two or three, because it’s a welfare state, so you pay a lot of taxes, but then the government takes care of your kids from an earlier age. The other difference is that high school started in tenth grade, the way it used to at South, and then they added a year. But that’s the way it was where I grew up.I remember growing up, when I was in elementary school, I had Wednesday off, the whole day, and I had to go to school on Saturday morning. Then, when I switched to middle school, I had school on Wednesday morning only, [in addition to] Monday through Friday. It’s give and take.

Denebola: Newton South has a reputation for being very rigorous academically. How does South compare to your high school experience?

Merle: There’s no comparison; I had pretty bad school experiences. It’s very different [now]. Public education in France is comparable in its advantages and disadvantages to what’s going on in the United States right now. It’s definitely a buzz word now; you hear “public education” in France when you talk about what’s broken, what we need to fix. I have the French Channel at home, and they did a pretty interesting documentary about that. You get to college and these kids are so humiliated because they’re so not ready, and a lot of them drop out of college because they can’t handle it. So, the same problems are right here, with American public schools. My middle school was a zoo. Teachers were extremely violent. It was a while ago, and I’m sure there have been improvements, but there was this really antiquated system where teachers would be protected to a degree that was really disgusting; they didn’t have to be accountable for anything, so most teachers were absolutely horrendous. Then, I was fortunate enough to have really amazing teachers in high school, very inspiring. Still a lot of really bad teachers, too, but I had some teachers that really made a difference, and my high school experience was a lot better because of it.

Denebola: South has a lot of extracurricular activities. Are those kinds of opportunities available in France?

Merle: Not at all; it’s because the school day’s so long, there’s no time for anything else. There was a Theatre club, but that was really late, from 6:00 to 9:00 after school, and then you had to go on the weekend. If you wanted to do sports at the level that you do them at South, or in a lot of American high schools, where you have Varsity [level sports], you have to go to a special school in France, where the afternoon is dedicated to sports, so you have classes in the morning and sports in the afternoon, but that’s a much bigger commitment. Here, that’s really one strength of the system: you can be such a well-rounded individual. It gives you much more opportunities to shine in so many different ways, and even if you’re not academically a brilliant student, you can always feel like there’s one area where you’re going to be able to feel good about yourself. So if it’s arts, or sports, that’s a great strength of the American system.

Denebola: Most South students choose to continue their education at college. Is that true in France?

Merle: No, because the system is so based on tracking; you’re tracked at a much earlier level. You have to choose a specialty at an earlier stage in your academic career. Already when you’re in tenth grade you need to know whether you’re more of a science person or [not]. The emphasis is on sciences; the “smart” kids are the kids who do math and science. It’s a stigma that has always existed in France and will continue for a really long time. They give you a little bit of flexibility; they tell you that you can take maybe one more math class if you’re on the humanities track, but it’s very limited. Really, if you’re good academically [in America], you can be a much more well-rounded individual than the French system would allow you to be in a lot of ways.There’s also the vocational track. If you’re not doing well academically, you’re going to be systematically offered to go into the vocational track. For example, half of my high school was what they call “Générale,” humanities and sciences, and half of the school was vocational. You can get started on a vocational track in eighth grade.

Denebola: A lot of American students worry about SAT, MCAS, and all kinds of standardized testing. Is that a major point of concern in France?

Merle: No, there’s no standardized testing in France.

Denebola: What about the [Baccalauréat (bac), an academic qualification test in France]?

Merle: The bac is not standardized. With standardized tests there’s a very specific set of skills and knowledge that’s being tested. With the bac, there’s no multiple choice, for example.[The bac] is all essays. You have to come up with a thesis and then organize an essay according to your thesis. It just teaches you a certain way to think. [You are tested on] your ability to come up with a coherent argument based on you knowledge. In France, you never, ever, give your opinion on anything, because nobody cares.You have to be extremely unbiased. You have what they call the “thèse-anti-thèse”: you take one side of the argument, you argue for that side of the debate, and then the “anti-thèse,” when you have to argue for the exact opposite. Everything has to be backed up by your knowledge, your articles, the data. That also affects the French mentality. A lot of Americans, when they travel to France, and strike up friendships with French people, [Americans] say, “It’s funny, I say one thing, and French people, they always say the opposite.” And it’s almost that mechanism that’s forged by the educational system. It’s not that [French people] want to antagonize you, it’s just that they want to debate; it’s just a playfulness. It’s a very conversational culture. Debating, discussing things is very much a part of the French mentality in a lot of ways.

Denebola: As a teacher with outside perspective, what universal qualities do you notice about students who are both French and American?

Merle: Just that kids are kids. I really feel like there is such a thing as globalization. French teenagers are a lot more similar to American teenagers now than they were in the 1950s and 60s.[French and American kids] listen to the same music; there are cultural differences of course when it comes to food, make-up, those kinds of things, but there seems to be a common understanding of the same things.

]]>
http://www.denebolaonline.net/2011/03/23/le-prof-de-francais/feed/ 0
Girls Track – 4/22/2010 http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/04/30/girls-track-4222010/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/04/30/girls-track-4222010/#comments Fri, 30 Apr 2010 05:20:26 +0000 Denebola http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=4205 AB: 69
South: 76

]]>
http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/04/30/girls-track-4222010/feed/ 0
Volleyball – Boys Varsity – 4/12/2010 http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/04/30/volleyball-boys-varsity-4122010/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/04/30/volleyball-boys-varsity-4122010/#comments Fri, 30 Apr 2010 04:35:14 +0000 Denebola http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=4202 South 3
Westford 1

]]>
http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/04/30/volleyball-boys-varsity-4122010/feed/ 0
Baseball – Boys Varsity – 4/21/2010 http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/04/30/baseball-boys-varsity-4212010/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/04/30/baseball-boys-varsity-4212010/#comments Fri, 30 Apr 2010 04:30:35 +0000 Denebola http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=4199 South 3
Bedford  2

]]>
http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/04/30/baseball-boys-varsity-4212010/feed/ 0