But It’s Just a Study Hall!

Written by Nicole Healy and Ashley Roberts

“Students who know the worth of their education are the ones who consistently come to class,” said Mrs. Stewart, Naugatuck High School’s English department chair. So why are some students skipping class?

After polling 20 students at Naugy High we found that 65% have skipped class before. When asked what classes they cut, they said study halls, math and English classes.

Does the fact that the class is required rather than chosen by the student affect whether or not they skip the class? Dr. Kobylenski, one of the art teachers at Naugy, said not a lot of people cut his class because they choose to be there to pursue their love for art. He believes students would want to come to class more if the school offered more classes and gave more freedom to choose what students want to  take. “Money is what keeps it from happening,” Kobylenski says.

Elective teacher, Kevin Wesche, said he doesn’t get many cuts either. But when he does, he says, “It is very hard to make up a hands on class like CADD.” He believes to keep students in their core classes teachers just need to make class more enjoyable and make students comfortable in the class. “Why did you become a teacher of something if  you can’t make it interesting?” he says.

On the other hand, Mrs.Saam, the principle of Naugatuck High School, says she does not decide what classes are graduation requirements. It is in the hands of the state of Connecticut to decide, she just follows their guidelines.

Saam said she understands sometimes students have bad days or go through emotional issues at home and can’t handle going to class sometimes, but wandering the halls instead is not acceptable. The school has guidance counselors and social workers to help students through personal issues, but that option is not often used.

So, how exactly are we are we supposed to keep kids in class? We can’t change the curriculum, money isn’t exactly available, and our counseling services  aren’t always being used.

Mrs. Stewart suggests,“Let the kids know it matters they’re there.”

Editorial: The Chokehold of Injustice

On July 17 Eric Garner said his last world known words, “I can’t breathe.” Eric Garner was a 43 year old African American male and father of 6 kids in Staten Island, NY.

Officer Pantaleo, a white male, and other officers on the scene forcefully arrested Eric Garner.  Officer Pantaleo held Mr. Garner in a chokehold while other officers piled on him to hold him down. Throughout the assault Garner repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe.” When it came to the point that he actually couldn’t, Garner died.

Why didn’t the officers listen to Garners pleas? What was the need for the choke hold when there was already several officers on top of him?

What was the point of his arrest?

Mr. Garner was a peaceful man protecting his civil rights. Mr. Garner was accused of selling loose cigarettes without tax, but where is the evidence? All around the country protests have occurred in the fight for justice for Garner. But not only for him but for the fight against racism in our country.

“I can’t breathe,” he said, and neither can we. This case is breath-taking. It is shocking that a man, an innocent man, died with no justice. That his murderer, who was sworn in by God and the people of Staten Island, N.Y., who should have been his protector, could ignore his pleas and not receive justice.

Are we protecting this man because he is white or simply because he wears a badge?

Commentary: The Search for James Franco

A business near Barnes and Noble declares its love for Franco while asking patrons not to block the store's entrance.

A business near Barnes and Noble declares its love for Franco while asking patrons not to block the store’s entrance.

When I found out that Naugatuck High Schooll was offering a trip to see John Steinbeck’s play Of Mice and Men on Broadway in May, I have to admit that the first thought that popped into my head hadn’t been that of actor James Franco. You know him. 127 Hours? Spiderman’s tortured bestie? That guy.

Steinbeck’s novel is a literary masterpiece, exposing social and economic inequalities of early 1930s America and migrant workers. I’d also seen the movie with Gary Sinise and John Malkovic, and I figured it’d be pretty cool.

Soon, however, rumors ran through school about James Franco and Leighton Meester (of Gossip Girl fame) taking parts as the leads, and I almost cried tears of joy. (Really, I’m not exaggerating. That day was just a roller coaster of emotions.) I admit it – I love them. This was an opportunity to see celebrities in person. So I signed up and bought my ticket, and that was that.

Chelsea Iglesias shows of her autographed hand. That's James Franco, in case you can't read it.

Chelsea Iglesias shows of her autographed hand. That’s James Franco, in case you can’t read it.

After about two months of agonizingly waiting for my chance to see Franco and Meester on stage together, the day finally came. It was the first day of the rest of my life. Or is that graduation? I wasn’t so sure at that point.

I sat through what was supposed to be only a  two-hour bus ride, with nothing to accompany me but my book The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (I got through 200 pages that day alone, thank you). It was a good day. I even missed it when we drove through Harlem to get to Times Square.

Stepping off the bus at 8th Avenue, I immediately saw the facade of Longacre Theater, where I’d been only one other time in my life. Staring at the huge poster of James Franco’s face, it was

The book signing expedition poses out front of the Longacre Theater.

The book signing expedition poses out front of the Longacre Theater.

slowly started to sink in that we’d be breathing the same air in less than five hours.

The story gets even better, trust me.

I overhear some girls talking about a book signing. James Franco wrote a book? And I’ve never read it? One of the chaperones had offered to take the girls. Could I get in on this book signing at Barnes & Noble, where my husband-to-be would be making an appearance to autograph Palo Alto?  Is that even a question? Apparently it wasn’t. Soon, we had hailed a cab (first time ever being in one, might I add, but it seemed worth it at the time) and were standing in front of the entrance to Barnes & Noble on the lower East Side of Manhattan. Except, I’m pretty sure the line stretched about eight times around

Waiting for the show to start.

Waiting for the show to start.

the entire building. No exaggerations there, people. I was also three hundred percent sure that close to none of them were there because they were actually interested in the book (No offense, Franco, because everything you touch is gold).

My brain kept telling me, “No, don’t you dare” while my heart kept telling me “OMG we’re literally in the same geographical area right now!” We got line, the end so close to the entrance, yet so far away. An hour-and-a-half later – after worrying about what body part or article of clothing I want him to sign – we have arrived around the corner from the entrance. We had endured odd questions, police directives, and mothers who thought bringing their children was a good idea. We will make it, I thought. I do believe.

And then they announce that they have run out of books. Barnes and Noble, the biggest book store in Manhattan, has run out of books. A BOOK STORE has run out of books. And  unless we have a copy with us, no one is getting in to see James.

And we have no books.

I begged that the sky would send a soft cover book through the clouds, flying at my face at that very moment. But it was clear and sunny, with no forecast of falling literature. It was a shame; I was so sure that once he saw my face he’d immediately fall in love and beg me to stay by his side forever.

Dejected, I crossed 17th Street and stuffed my face with french fries from McDonald’s,  figuring I was fortunate that I even had tickets to his play. That was still pretty great.

Our group hailed another cab back to Times Square, where we met up with others in front of the Longacre. We had spent all out free time in New York City standing in line, waiting for James Franco … and instead found fast food french fries and tears. As consolation, we stood next to the door  the actors would use to enter the theater. I began to grow hopeful again.

But, after a half hour, James Franco didn’t show. He apparently got into the theater, since we watched him perforrn, but it wasn’t through those doors. Not even his brother, Dave, who has nothing to do with this story, made an appearance. I’m pretty sure they don’t travel around together, but he’s just as beautiful, and I would have taken him as my consolation prize. Let’s share a moment of silence for their parents’ hard work.

When James appeared on the stage for the first scene of the play and started talking about beans and ketchup, I felt myself fall in love like you fall asleep: slowly, then all at once (Reference to The Fault in Our Stars? Check). I was in a trance from the beginning to the end, memorizing every picture and tone. I even remember the part where he was laying down in the “woods” and his shirt rode up a little bit. Yes, ladies, I saw skin.

The play ended way too soon, and after his final bow he started talking about a charity that we should donate to, and I just couldn’t stop staring. He wasn’t even in character, and he was just James, and it made me want to weep Niagara Falls and fling myself onto the stage. But I held it together.

With every tragic story, there must be heartbreak. After the play, we filed out into the street and waited for the cast to come out and sign autographs. I was in line until one of my teachers (no names, but they may have ruined my marriage) told us we should get back to the bus. I stared at the crowd forming with such longing. Later, I learned that three girls had gotten signed autographs, photos, and even touched James Franco’s bicep. As they got on the bus with glittering faces, I tried not to leap out a window.

Though, as we passed by, I saw him with a black hat and sunglasses, about 15 feet away from where I was sitting on the bus. All was not lost. If you think about it, our eyes could have locked then, and I wouldn’t even know. Maybe he didn’t chase after me because he had an obligation to his fans. Maybe he would find me through Twitter or search all of Facebook. Maybe he’s still searching, now ….

I guess we’ll never know.

After Newtown, Is Open Campus Even an Option?

By Justin Rinaldi
Staff Writer

The year 2013 has great things in store for Naugatuck High School. With the recent renovation plans starting, Naugatuck looks forward to a new school with new perks.
The new school renovations, scheduled for completion in 2017, have students looking forward to newer classrooms and a larger building, filled with new features like a “senior lounge,” dance studio and offices for the Board of Education. The senior lounge is a designated space where seniors in good academic can go to get homework done in a mature, senior-friendly area.
The new building plans bring new ideas to the table, and one that has been talked about is the luxury of having an “open campus.”
Having an open campus allows students at Naugatuck High School to  leave school anytime the student has a study hall or lunch. Having an open campus in a high school sets the tone for college in the following years.
Having an open campus also sets the tone of a more mature educational setting, along with a feeling of mobility and responsibility.  Students would no longer feel confined to the hallway/classroom/cafeteria setting and would feel a sense of freedom.

*****

     December 14, 2012 was the day that changed education and the way we view the safety of children in school, forever. Armed with a semi-automatic rifle, Adam Lanza shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown and opened fire on their students, killing 26 first-graders and teachers.
Since that day, schools have been reviewing their security procedures and protocols as well as ways to improve safety for everyone in the school building.
Naugatuck High School had already undertaken this task before the Newtown shooting. Last year, IDs and lanyards were passed out and their use was mandated by Principal Janice Saam. With resistance from the students, implementing this security measure required diligence and penalties for noncompliance.
The recent tragedy in Newtown shed light on the importance of safety and the NHS ID system as an easy way to identify Naugatuck students from visitors.
Another way Naugatuck High School is planning to stay safe is to practice the drills and codes more frequently to make sure everyone in the building knows how to properly react to an emergency in the future. Practicing our responses can help students manage a crisis and improve their chances of survival in the event of a school shooter.
Codes that will be practiced include Code Blue, Code Red, and Code Black. Calling a Code Blue requires all staff and students to evacuate to the NHS football field; a Code Red requires an immediate lockdown of all classrooms and hallways, including closing blinds; a Code Black (get info here!). The codes and drills are put into place for our safety. “If we don’t practice seriously, you won’t know how to react in a serious emergency,” said Saam in a meeting regarding school safety.
Saam also mentioned new upgrades to the school security with the renovation project. The renovated facility of Naugatuck High School will have a designated entry point and about five entrances that will only be unlocked by a barcode reader on the door.
The barcode on your I.D. will be programmed to only allow certain people access into the building at different programmable times.  Each time a barcode is read it is logged into a computer of who scanned, at what time, and what time that person left the building.
The new security upgrade also includes new doors with alarms that, if left open for an extended period, will sound an alarm. That way if an intruder is using an item to keep a door pried open, after a short period of time an alarm will sound, alerting security and staff.
The new security will also include the installation of more than 100 cameras that can be accessed through the I.P. address of the computer monitoring system, insuring 24-hour monitoring of the school facility.
So how could an open campus policy be part of the school in the wake of heightened security and the threat of violence? Does the practicality of the open campus concept outweigh the risks? Is open campus still even a thought after the Newtown tragedy?
For Mrs. Saam, that is a question that is still being explored.
With the liberty of leaving school for a class period also comes the potential for abuse. Leaving school would have to be a more organized process with a way to “clock out” and “clock in” again.  There would also need to be a clear punishment system for students who never “clock back in.”
“The students that respect the rules will respect the rules, but the problem students will continue to be the problems students,” said Mrs. Saam.
If open campus did come to NHS, Saam said she’d “open the opportunity to only seniors in good academic and behavioral standing.” After all, open campus is a privilege and she is willing to promote and reward good behavior. Open campus is one way to reward those responsible students.
But when thinking about the idea of open campus, you begin to think about what you’d do with the 44 minutes. Naugatuck does not have many options for students during the school day. While many restaurants line Rubber Avenue, it is about the only place for students to go besides the borough’s library.
If given the opportunity to leave for 44 minutes, it would provide enough time to run over to  McDonalds, Subway, various pizza places and perhaps even Chinese food, but it is not enough time to have a sit-down meal.  For many students, it would not even be enough time to run home for lunch and return for class.
Students look at open campus as an opportunity for more freedom but the question might be: Freedom to do what?
The 44-minute window doesn’t lend much opportunity to get anything more accomplished because 44 minutes is simply not enough time.
When talking with students about the idea of open campus, students mentioned the opportunity to have a meal outside of the school cafeteria.  That can be accomplished without open campus. New outdoor patios will be built for students who are looking to eat outside on a nice day. The current front patio will be enclosed and the narrow grassy areas between Judd and Goodyear will be an area for students to sit on benches outside and enjoy some fresh air.
Current policies in place already allow students to leave if there is an emergency and seniors who are 18 years old can sign themselves out of school. If a student needs to rush home to get their glasses or to a book left behind, students can call home and get a note to leave and return. If that’s what they are hoping open-campus would accomplish, it is an option already available to them.
Our current facility doesn’t seem to lend itself to the perks of open-campus yet, but with new renovations to the building, it could offer students more freedom and responsibility as well as insuring a safer environment.