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Denebola » News 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 South alum organizes Japan benefit concerts http://www.denebolaonline.net/2011/04/15/school-spirit-suddenly-surfaces/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2011/04/15/school-spirit-suddenly-surfaces/#comments Fri, 15 Apr 2011 07:50:08 +0000 Rutul Patel http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=5774

Yoko Fukumura

On Friday, March 11, 2011, the great Eastern Japan Earthquake hit Japan. A tsunami that followed caused untold destruction and misery leaving homes and families torn apart. Even now the recovery effort is still in its infancy.
Along with the American Red Cross, charities and celebrities are raising money for the relief effort. On a much smaller scale, Newton South High School alum Taichi Fukumura (Class of 2010) has organized seven benefit concerts, the proceeds of which will go solely to helping the Japanese people.
An undergrad at Boston University studying violin, and a conductor of the Boston Accompanietta Orchestra, Taichi Fukumura saw no better way to help ease the suffering than to use his gift of music.
“When I was watching the videos on the news I decided that we, that everyone, need to do something to help,” Fukumura said. “Fortunately all my family was ok, but I do know some people whose relatives didn’t make it.”
Taichi, along with several other musicians and orchestra groups, used their collective background in classical music to help the people of Japan. He also enlisted the help of his younger sister and junior at South, Yoko Fukumura, and his friend and senior at South, Daniel Zhang.
Yoko Fukumura, a pianist since a young age, did a benefit concert a few years ago for an earthquake in China. “I am Japanese myself, so I feel more connected. And since my brother is organizing it, [that] further deepens my connection with this cause. I am not directly affected, but I hear stories from other people about their families and the conditions and I get scared,” Yoko said.
Zhang, a senior at South is the conductor of an orchestra group called the Boston Acompanietta and plays the violin “masterfully”.

Daniel Zhang

Taichi and Zhang created the orchestra in 2008 after the former head of the Music Department, Dr. Rossini, retired. Zhang is also in South’s official student orchestra called the Newton South Sinfonietta (NSS).
The Acompanietta is completely student run and directed, and does not play at the official school orchestra’s programs. Usually, the NSS plays a few times a day, despite having to perform in contests and shows. On the week of April 25, it will perform Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals as well as the three concerto competition winners’ pieces.
Zhang has realized the difficulties of maintaining the NSS and conducting for the Acompanietta, but during the benefit concerts he will not be conducting, but rather performing while Taichi conducts.

“[The concerts] are a wonderful cause,” Zhang said. “I think it’s really brave that a lot of different groups are willing to perform for this cause.
Six days after the earthquake struck, Taichi began planning the concerts. Originally planning to have only a couple concerts with some solo performance, Taichi’s plans reached newer heights when he got in touch with other musicians.

Taichi Fukumura

“The organization was mostly my own. I got into contact with many administrative people in BU for help. Most of the people that I found were music major students studying to become professional performers,” Taichi said.
From then on his passion project picked up speed as he began turning his small time charity event into seven full-fledged benefit concerts. Out of the seven concerts, three are held in BU, three in the Eliot Church in Newton, and one at the New England Conservatory (NEC), a concert hall in Boston.
The concerts in Newton are on Saturday, April 16 at 8 PM. and Saturday, April 30 at 5 PM. and 8 PM.
Taichi has a policy of not performing in concerts that he organizes.
“[I usually don’t like to play] when I run the concerts. There is too much managing to do and performing would take a toll on me, both physically and in terms of the quality of performance. It wouldn’t keep me in the right mindset,” Taichi said.
He, however, chose to go against his principle of not performing and managing because this charity is close to his heart and will be conducting the last concert in Newton.
All three concerts are free of charge and funding for this charity is strictly on a donations basis.
“Any donations for Japan at the events will be greatly appreciated,” Taichi said.

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Elementary school music update http://www.denebolaonline.net/2011/04/15/elementary-school-music-update/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2011/04/15/elementary-school-music-update/#comments Fri, 15 Apr 2011 05:48:44 +0000 Daniel Barabasi http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=5769 For the Music Department, recent cuts have hit hard, especially on the elementary school level. Fourth grade chorus and third grade recorder programs are being eliminated.
Along with cuts there are increases in fees like $200 for elementary instrumental music and a new $200 fee for All-City Band and Chorus groups.
South’s music department is mainly dependent on enrollment, so many smaller groups such, as music technology, are first to be cut or are forced to run less blocks. Due to the cuts in elementary school music programs, however, South spots troubles in the future. “What we are going to see is a reduction in the number and quality of musicians in the future,” Fine and Performing Arts Departments Head Jeff Knoedler said.
“When cuts start at the elementary school level it magnifies the effect that it has on the high school music program,” Music teacher Jason Squinobal said. When you cut the students’ first experience, like the recorder class, students start to learn to play later and they start to learn to play in a group together.”
The cuts in music will also bleed into the enrollment of classes like music theory, “Students will not be as interested in learning music theory as they won’t have the experience of what it is like to talk about reading music, playing scales, or learning theory at that third grade level,” Squinobal said.
Often due to a smaller priority assigned to the arts in comparison to other departments, the fine and performing arts have a tradition of being the first to feel the effect of negative changes in the school budget.
“It seems like arts in general is deemed less important than what people call the big five academic departments, English, History, Science, Math and World Language. When you place a higher priority on the big five, the arts become more expendable and are cut first,” Squinobal said.
Lisa Linde worries for future students. “I think all of Newton’s performing groups, which includes about twenty percent of our school, and around 50% of middle school students, will feel the heat in the next ten to fifteen years,” she said.

For the Music Department, recent cuts have hit hard, especially on the elementary school level. Fourth grade chorus and third grade recorder programs are being eliminated. Along with cuts there are increases in fees like $200 for elementary instrumental music and a new $200 fee for All-City Band and Chorus groups.South’s music department is mainly dependent on enrollment, so many smaller groups such, as music technology, are first to be cut or are forced to run less blocks. Due to the cuts in elementary school music programs, however, South spots troubles in the future. “What we are going to see is a reduction in the number and quality of musicians in the future,” Fine and Performing Arts Departments Head Jeff Knoedler said.“When cuts start at the elementary school level it magnifies the effect that it has on the high school music program,” Music teacher Jason Squinobal said. When you cut the students’ first experience, like the recorder class, students start to learn to play later and they start to learn to play in a group together.”The cuts in music will also bleed into the enrollment of classes like music theory, “Students will not be as interested in learning music theory as they won’t have the experience of what it is like to talk about reading music, playing scales, or learning theory at that third grade level,” Squinobal said.Often due to a smaller priority assigned to the arts in comparison to other departments, the fine and performing arts have a tradition of being the first to feel the effect of negative changes in the school budget. “It seems like arts in general is deemed less important than what people call the big five academic departments, English, History, Science, Math and World Language. When you place a higher priority on the big five, the arts become more expendable and are cut first,” Squinobal said.Lisa Linde worries for future students. “I think all of Newton’s performing groups, which includes about twenty percent of our school, and around 50% of middle school students, will feel the heat in the next ten to fifteen years,” she said.

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Department heads plan around fiscal year 2012 budget http://www.denebolaonline.net/2011/04/15/department-heads-plan-around-fiscal-year-2012-budget/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2011/04/15/department-heads-plan-around-fiscal-year-2012-budget/#comments Fri, 15 Apr 2011 05:11:53 +0000 Daniel Barabasi http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=5793 The new public school budget for Newton, approved on April 5, comes as a hard hit for department heads and classes alike. The 2011-2012 school year will see an increase in class sizes as well as a decrease in staffing and classes.
As of now, the History and Social Sciencedepartment is planning to cut three classes. “We cut based on signups and trying to keep class sizes reasonable,” History Department Head Robert Parlin said.
One of the main classes not running for the history department in the next year is Advanced Placement (AP) European History, which has run for many years in the past. “We have to set priorities based on how many people have signed up and so we cannot run a class of 15 and run a class of 30 elsewhere,” Parlin explained.
A new course, AP Comparative Government, is starting up in its place and has been overenrolled.
The mathematics department is expecting to have similar trouble. AP Computer Science will not be running next year due to under enrollment.
On the other hand, Curriculum I and Honors classes will see an increase in class sizes to over 30 students per class.
This is not an ideal situation for any department, but other options seemed more detrimental in the long run.
“We could have decided to cap numbers for Honors and AP classes at a lower number, but that would leave more students with missed opportunities,” Math Department Head Steven Rattendi said.
Increased class sizes can also lead to effects inside the classrooms.
“There might be cut backs on writing assignments, which will be determined on a course-by-course basis. An AP course that has a research paper every quarter and the class is 32 kids could see the teacher saying that he or she couldn’t give a research paper every quarter because of time constraints,” Parlin said.
In the World Language department, under-enrollment and cuts based on under-enrollment are hitting lower-level classes harder than in other departments.
Out of the four introductory courses offered at south (Spanish 1, Chinese 1, Latin 1, and French 1) only Spanish 1 and one other will be offered next year. The classes that see the least enrollment will be canceled. This, however, causes difficulties for students, as South requires two years of language and colleges often scout for three.
”Such restrictions are not permanent. It is just that all departments are forced to make cuts. We want to speak to students at the middle school level to make sure that Latin 1 [ and all the other courses] can come back the year after,” World Language Department Head Suzanne DeRobert said.
To account for decreased number of classes being taught, 1.25 positions are being cut in the Math and World Language departments and 0.75 positions are being cut in the English department as well as more position-cuts in other departments. This does not mean a whole teacher and then a quarter of another teacher is being fired, rather teachers will be teaching five blocks less total per week in the Math and World Language departments.
In the case of the Math department, a decline in the budget was planned for. “We anticipated a cut in our budget and we decided beforehand how many sections of each class we were going to run,” Rattendi said. “Now that the budget is official, we just have to make our plans official as well.”
The English department made similar plans.
“We have done our work and anticipated cuts. All we know are figures. The biggest variable is senior year enrollment, due to the large number of courses we offer,” English Department Head Brian Baron said.
As schedules come closer to becoming finalized, the strain that budget cuts put out radiate further.
“It is not ideal and it is not going to be easy, but the whole budget won’t be easy,” Rattendi said.
The current hope of the district is to offer the best that they have with what they have available. DeRobert described the efforts of her and her fellow administrators as, “we have to concentrate our resources to teach what we can.”

By Daniel BarabasiThe new public school budget for Newton, approved on April 5, comes as a hard hit for department heads and classes alike. The 2011-2012 school year will see an increase in class sizes as well as a decrease in staffing and classes.As of now, the History and Social Sciencedepartment is planning to cut three classes. “We cut based on signups and trying to keep class sizes reasonable,” History Department Head Robert Parlin said.One of the main classes not running for the history department in the next year is Advanced Placement (AP) European History, which has run for many years in the past. “We have to set priorities based on how many people have signed up and so we cannot run a class of 15 and run a class of 30 elsewhere,” Parlin explained. A new course, AP Comparative Government, is starting up in its place and has been overenrolled.The mathematics department is expecting to have similar trouble. AP Computer Science will not be running next year due to under enrollment. On the other hand, Curriculum I and Honors classes will see an increase in class sizes to over 30 students per class.This is not an ideal situation for any department, but other options seemed more detrimental in the long run. “We could have decided to cap numbers for Honors and AP classes at a lower number, but that would leave more students with missed opportunities,” Math Department Head Steven Rattendi said.Increased class sizes can also lead to effects inside the classrooms. “There might be cut backs on writing assignments, which will be determined on a course-by-course basis. An AP course that has a research paper every quarter and the class is 32 kids could see the teacher saying that he or she couldn’t give a research paper every quarter because of time constraints,” Parlin said.In the World Language department, under-enrollment and cuts based on under-enrollment are hitting lower-level classes harder than in other departments. Out of the four introductory courses offered at south (Spanish 1, Chinese 1, Latin 1, and French 1) only Spanish 1 and one other will be offered next year. The classes that see the least enrollment will be canceled. This, however, causes difficulties for students, as South requires two years of language and colleges often scout for three.”Such restrictions are not permanent. It is just that all departments are forced to make cuts. We want to speak to students at the middle school level to make sure that Latin 1 [ and all the other courses] can come back the year after,” World Language Department Head Suzanne DeRobert said. To account for decreased number of classes being taught, 1.25 positions are being cut in the Math and World Language departments and 0.75 positions are being cut in the English department as well as more position-cuts in other departments. This does not mean a whole teacher and then a quarter of another teacher is being fired, rather teachers will be teaching five blocks less total per week in the Math and World Language departments.In the case of the Math department, a decline in the budget was planned for. “We anticipated a cut in our budget and we decided beforehand how many sections of each class we were going to run,” Rattendi said. “Now that the budget is official, we just have to make our plans official as well.”The English department made similar plans. “We have done our work and anticipated cuts. All we know are figures. The biggest variable is senior year enrollment, due to the large number of courses we offer,” English Department Head Brian Baron said.As schedules come closer to becoming finalized, the strain that budget cuts put out radiate further. “It is not ideal and it is not going to be easy, but the whole budget won’t be easy,” Rattendi said.  The current hope of the district is to offer the best that they have with what they have available. DeRobert described the efforts of her and her fellow administrators as, “we have to concentrate our resources to teach what we can.”

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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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Garber wins Nationals http://www.denebolaonline.net/2011/03/23/garber-wins-nationals/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2011/03/23/garber-wins-nationals/#comments Wed, 23 Mar 2011 06:40:43 +0000 Robert Wang http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=5617

Ron Garber performing with partner Ashley Golman at an NDCA ballroom dancing event.

Senior Ron Garber and his partner, Ashley Golman, both 17 years old, have recently placed first in the National Dance Competition Association’s (NDCA) National Championship in Provo, Utah. Participating in one of the most prestigious ballroom dancing events in the country, Garber and Golman competed against forty other couples in their under-eighteen category.

After dancing for nine years and training with his partner for four, Garber finally began to see his work pay off, “I felt accomplished. Finally all my work paid off. For the last year we were always so close to being first. We were always second or third but never first,” he said.
Before dancing with Garber, Golman was exclusively doing ballet. When she did, however, transition to ballroom, Garber noted that “she wasn’t that advance, but picked it up really fast.”
Along with their coach Jean-Philippe Milot, a Canadian professional ballroom dancer, Garber and Golman did intense training to prepare for the event. Contending in Utah would have its physical difficulties. The higher elevation in Provo would result in difficulty in breathing.
In the NDCA championship, Garber and Golman danced in an elimination style. After each of the four rounds, couples were eliminated till only six were remaining. Those six  then danced once more for a chance to be crowned champion.
In their first dance, Golman slipped during the routine. “She was really nervous and wiped out.” Garber recalled. “But after that we calmed down and got better.” The two dancers got a boost of confidence with each subsequent round and performed increasingly better.
The NDCA used the Brigham Young University court for the competition. “The audiences were on the bleachers that went [sky high]. You count pick out anyone. Nonetheless, everyone was cheering and really excited. It motivated you to do better because not all competitions are that big,” Garber said.
While the usual and known competitors were present and performing at BYU, a lot of the couples dancing were from the West coast. “It was a different

Senior Ron Garber and his partner, Ashley Golman, both 17 years old, have recently placed first in the National Dance Competition Association’s (NDCA) National Championship in Provo, Utah. Participating in one of the most prestigious ballroom dancing events in the country, Garber and Golman competed against forty other couples in their under-eighteen category.After dancing for nine years and training with his partner for four, Garber finally began to see his work pay off, “I felt accomplished. Finally all my work paid off. For the last year we were always so close to being first. We were always second or third but never first,” he said. Before dancing with Garber, Golman was exclusively doing ballet. When she did, however, transition to ballroom, Garber noted that “she wasn’t that advance, but picked it up really fast.” Along with their coach Jean-Philippe Milot, a Canadian professional ballroom dancer, Garber and Golman did intense training to prepare for the event. Contending in Utah would have its physical difficulties. The higher elevation in Provo would result in difficulty in breathing. In the NDCA championship, Garber and Golman danced in an elimination style. After each of the four rounds, couples were eliminated till only six were remaining. Those six  then danced once more for a chance to be crowned champion.In their first dance, Golman slipped during the routine. “She was really nervous and wiped out.” Garber recalled. “But after that we calmed down and got better.” The two dancers got a boost of confidence with each subsequent round and performed increasingly better. The NDCA used the Brigham Young University court for the competition. “The audiences were on the bleachers that went [sky high]. You count pick out anyone. Nonetheless, everyone was cheering and really excited. It motivated you to do better because not all competitions are that big,” Garber said. While the usual and known competitors were present and performing at BYU, a lot of the couples dancing were from the West coast. “It was a differentexperience competing against the West Coast. They were all unknown and had their own [flare],” Garber said. “But our biggest accomplishment [that night] I think was defeating our long-time rival from New York.”

Phil Kudryavtsev, another South student who attended the NDCA competition and placed fourth overall, said, “[Garber and Golman] presented themselves well and they danced well as a couple. They give great motivation for others to perform better.”

Alair Nahebedian, another ballroom dancer from South, reciprocates Kudryavtsev’s sentiment, “I’m really happy for Garber. He’s an amazing dancer and worked really hard to get what he achieved.”

Garber and Golman danced in the youth category and after placing first with the youth, participated in the under 21 category. They placed second in the under 21 category. “I am even more proud of placing in the under 21 category. Its incredible that that happened,” Garber noted.

Next year, both dancers will be eighteen years old, and therefore they must compete in the amateur (older than 18) category of competitions. Naturally, the competition level for the amateur category is higher than the youth category.

Garber’s ultimate goal is to be an internationally ranked dancer. To stride towards his goal, Garber and Golman will be competing in another national competition in a couple months. If they place first or second in that, then the couple will be invited to the Czech Republic to compete in a global event. This would make Garber one of the youngest at that competition and one step closer to his dream.

Both of dancers also plan on attending the Black Pool International Dance Festival in May. Hundreds of couples will be attending the competition, and this is the first major competition Golman and Garber will attend together in the amateur category.

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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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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.’”

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Fan bus paid in full http://www.denebolaonline.net/2011/03/23/fan-bus-paid-in-full/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2011/03/23/fan-bus-paid-in-full/#comments Wed, 23 Mar 2011 04:01:58 +0000 Maarten Van-Genabeek http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=5620 For the fourth round of the Girls’ Basketball Division I State tournament fans, who braved the 45 minute journey to Massoit Community College to watch the Lions were in for a surprise. A generous donation by the team allowed roughly 150 student fans to enter the game free of charge. This provided an incentive for more fans to show up, as more than 200 South students arrived to show their support. “It was great that so many of us were able to come there and show support,” senior Colby Medoff said, “The energy was great, we outnumbered their fans.
The donation was accumulated by David Bikofsky, father of senior and Captain Sophie Bikofsky, who went around the community and his work gathering donations so South fans could help support the team. “My dad understood how influential the fans are in our games and thought that it would be tough to get them to go all the way to Brockton” Sophie said.
Mr. Bikofsky valued the importance of a large fan base at games, but realized it would be hard to get students to come out on a school night to Brockton and pay seven dollars to enter. So Mr. Bikofsky went around asking friends and people at work to donate money to the team in order to sponsor kids to go to the game. “It was great that we didn’t have to pay to get in. I’m sure many more people came because of it,” Medoff said.
In a show of remarkable school spirit, approximately half of the stadium was filled with the black-clad student and faculty body of Newton South.
The school also provided a free bus to and from the game transport to those who could not drive or did not have a ride.

For the fourth round of the Girls’ Basketball Division I State tournament fans, who braved the 45 minute journey to Massoit Community College to watch the Lions were in for a surprise. A generous donation by the team allowed roughly 150 student fans to enter the game free of charge. This provided an incentive for more fans to show up, as more than 200 South students arrived to show their support. “It was great that so many of us were able to come there and show support,” senior Colby Medoff said, “The energy was great, we outnumbered their fans.The donation was accumulated by David Bikofsky, father of senior and Captain Sophie Bikofsky, who went around the community and his work gathering donations so South fans could help support the team. “My dad understood how influential the fans are in our games and thought that it would be tough to get them to go all the way to Brockton” Sophie said.Mr. Bikofsky valued the importance of a large fan base at games, but realized it would be hard to get students to come out on a school night to Brockton and pay seven dollars to enter. So Mr. Bikofsky went around asking friends and people at work to donate money to the team in order to sponsor kids to go to the game. “It was great that we didn’t have to pay to get in. I’m sure many more people came because of it,” Medoff said.In a show of remarkable school spirit, approximately half of the stadium was filled with the black-clad student and faculty body of Newton South. The school also provided a free bus to and from the game transport to those who could not drive or did not have a ride.

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“Cuts” http://www.denebolaonline.net/2011/03/23/%e2%80%9ccuts%e2%80%9d/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2011/03/23/%e2%80%9ccuts%e2%80%9d/#comments Wed, 23 Mar 2011 04:01:55 +0000 Rutul Patel http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=5619 “The school budget is famously opaque,” former history department chair Marshall Cohen said.
March 14 marked a pivotal day for the Newton Public Schools (NPS) and their Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12). On that day, Superintendent David Fleishman presented his $171.6 million dollar budget for FY12 and gave to the NPS a budget that, if passed by the School Committee, would include cuts in the Arts, World Language, and Special Education programs, in addition to cutting 30 teaching positions district-wide.
“We may loose our jobs. But it’s the students that are losing out,” art teacher Jeff Wixon said.
Amongst the cuts and confusion is a new “user fee” policy. These new fees are projected to produce $1 million to aid in the budget gap. Upon approval, the user fee would charge students for an activities fee, and increase existing fees for transportation and building use. The current proposed student activities fee is $125.
Increase in fees include: a $200 fee per year for 5th grade music, a new $200 fee for all city bands, choruses and orchestras, a rise from $120 to $160 per sport per season with a $480 cap in athletic fees, a $60 fee for middle school non-athletic activities, an increase in the fee to participate in high school football from $210 to $400, and a new $150 fee to participate in high school plays with a four-play $450 cap per year.
“We recognize the risks in introducing and increasing fees but we believe there is greater risk in curtailing the existing opportunities for our students,” Fleishman said.
Much of the administration agrees with Fleishman’s user fee idea. “They make me uncomfortable but it is hard to disagree with them if the alternative is teacher cuts for lack of funds,” fine and performing arts department head Jeff Knoedler said.
“Fee increases wont be popular, but personally I think that in these tough financial time everybody needs to make sacrifices,” Newton Teachers Association President Mike Zilles said.
“It was somewhat of a painful choice made by the superintendent,” Mayor Setti Warren said. “We have declining revenue and state aide. Newton has to make tough choices and we have to attempt to prioritize and protect the classrooms.”
Before the budget was proposed, Fleishman and Warren spoke to parents and residents of Newton about the possible scenarios. “At a number of our Town Hall discussions we heard that the community would rather have us protect what goes on in the classroom and to keep class sizes as low as possible. They would notmind increasing fees in some areas,” Warren said.
Special Education Chair Ann Walker said, “We will restructure and reschedule, we will still provide the necessary services but in different ways.”
Walker acknowledged that Newton’s reputation for these services went beyond Newton and even Massachusetts. “I just received a phone call from California [about our programs],” Walker said.
Besides increasing fees and removing funds, a major detrimental cut was made to the Arts. The budget specified cuts at the middle school and elementary level in music, band, and art itself. Cuts included: no more elementary school recorder program, no more funding of Art in the elementary schools, and no more middle school Latin.
Cuts to programs include: eliminating Latin in middle schools, eliminating drama for 7 and 8 grades, eliminating the grade 3 recorder program, eliminating grade 4 chorus, and reducing art class time from 60 to 45 minutes.
Zilles sees the cuts as attacks on the arts and foreign language programs as a disconcerting phenomenon. “I think its sad that again we’re going at Arts programs. They are so valuable to our schools. When there’s a cut, we go around the edges. No one wants to increase class sizes. I feels like there’s an undervaluing of the Arts,” he said.
“I have some serious concerns about the quality of education we’re giving South students. If Arts are cut it tells them that having a place to be creative, to take risks, to generate ideas is not as important as say math or history. Its not a wholistic education experience,” Arts teacher Karen Sobin-Jonah said.
Zilles noticed an observable trend in the cuts. Over the last 10 years there have been slow and steady cuts in the NPS budget. Eventually the weight of the cuts piles on to the teachers that have to cover for the positions and programs that were lost.
Other teachers have also noticed this and agree with the faulty policies implemented, “You cannot expect to have a top-notch school system and at the same time chronically undertax. These so-called crises are therefore entirely predictable,” History teacher Brian Muarry said.
“I’ve been to all 22 schools [in our district], and parents, teachers, faculty and students all say we have a great school. It’s great because everyone is working hard. And next year they’ll have to work harder.
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Brandeis Road parking ban continues into April http://www.denebolaonline.net/2011/03/23/brandeis-road/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2011/03/23/brandeis-road/#comments Wed, 23 Mar 2011 04:01:33 +0000 Jason Yoffe http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=5614
This winter administration informed students that parking on Brandies Road past the Senior Parking Lot was temporarily prohibited because snowdrifts squeezed traffic down to one lane. This temporary arrangement, however, may become a permanent policy.
On April 2, South’s High School Council will present its case to ban this parking to increase parking pass revenue and eliminate safety hazards.
According to Principal Joel Stembridge, the area off-limits for parking is from the Senior Lot to the first house beyond the school, which will remove 11 free spaces.
Though money is a motivating factor for many supporters of the policy, Stembridge maintains that his primary concern regarding parking is safety.
“It’s so much safer driving [when there are no parked cars] because you can actually see people in the crosswalk,” he said. “Before, as you came around that corner, you could only see cars, and then all of a sudden, you’re in the crosswalk. And sometimes there’s a student right there.”
The School Council looks to compensate for the loss of free spots by reducing the semester parking pass from a fee of $200 to one of $180, a savings of $2 a day for a student subscriber.
“Fees for everything else are going up, but parking prices are going down,” Stembridge said.
The proposal indicates that the price could drop another $5 in the future if minimal interest is displayed over the course of a few years.
This year, parking fees accrued $23,400; if the Senior Lot was filled to a full capacity, with a $175 fee, revenues would increase over $5,000. This capital adds to the district’s overall operational budget for salaries, books, and other expenses.
A total of 165 parking spots are available in the Senior Lot, but students purchased a mere 115 out of the 165 first semester, a 15-tag drop from 2009’s second semester.
When South was renovated, the student lots overridden with construction equipment, students were permitted to park on the Wheeler side temporarily.
Though this segment of the road was not designed for parked cars, the temporary situation became permanent.
The district, not South’s administration, has jurisdiction over Brandeis Road and parking. In fact, the administration openly and willingly helps students in need to pay for parking, and will considers financial aid if a student wishes to explain his or her situation.
“It’s not the administration’s fault because it has been known to help students in need,” senior Alex Gershanov said. “The school committee needs to take a more responsible approach because not too many students can afford the $200 price tag. It’s just really unreasonable what the committee is doing.
“It’s an insane amount of money to pay per semester. It really undermines all the students that can’t afford it,” he said.
For Gershanov, a feasible price for parking is $60 to $80 per semester.
While there is pushback in opposition to the proposal by the School Committee, the parking fee reduction is a step in the right direction in the campaign for more reasonable prices; unfortunately for student drivers, the tradeoff is a loss of free parking.
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