Authors Posts by Clement Doucette

Clement Doucette


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    English teacher Susan Menanson (right) is pictured with history teacher Pam Porter, a former student of Menanson. | Submitted photo

    by Clement Doucette

    After a 43-year teaching career that reached from the Australian Outback to Hudson High School, English teacher Susan Menanson is retiring.  

    In 1975, English teacher Susan Menanson began her teaching career in an unlikely place; the small town of Kerang in Victoria, Australia.  Roughly 130 miles northwest of Melbourne, Kerang is a small agricultural community situated near the Mallee Desert that is home to roughly 4,000 inhabitants.

    Kerang sits on the edge of the Australian Outback. | by Clement Doucette

    For Menanson, teaching in this small town was an enjoyable experience.

    “In the summers, on really hot days, we would close the school down after lunch and take the kids to the local swimming pool to swim for the afternoon,” said Menanson.  

    While the climate allowed for such unique experiences, the vastness of the rural school district still posed some logistical challenges not found in suburban Massachusetts.

    “Many of our students were bussed in, so we couldn’t do any activities on the weekends because kids couldn’t get to school,” said Menanson. “The kids couldn’t get their license until they turned eighteen.  They couldn’t get in to school on the weekends, so all the sports and other activities had to be done during the week during school time.”

    After leaving Australia, Menanson returned to the United States to teach at Greater Lawrence Technical School where she worked for several years before beginning her 25-year career at Hudson High.

    At Hudson High School, Menanson became a fixture of the English department and assisted new teachers with curriculum by providing readily available resources.  English teacher Carol Hobbs, who has been working with Menanson for twelve years, came to Hudson High School after teaching composition at Pine Manor College. Menanson selflessly helped Hobbs with her transition from college teaching to high school.

    “Coming back into the schools was a little daunting, since it is a much different experience teaching high school than it is teaching college,” said Hobbs.  “But Ms. Menanson was right there. She had a curriculum that had already been mapped out for tenth grade English, she had materials, she had all of this stuff in binders, huge, thick binders of materials for teaching tenth grade English.  And she took me under her wing right away and shared everything.”

    Menanson will also be remembered for her devotion to helping students learn and embrace the English Language Arts.  Jen Wallingford, an English teacher at Hudson High School, sees Menanson’s AP English Literature class as a formative experience.

    “In my other English classes, we literally read from an anthology and answered questions at the end,” said Wallingford.  “[AP English Literature] was the first class where I was really doing analysis, and I loved doing it. We were talking about the books that we were reading and poetry in a different way.  I had always liked reading, but I think that was the first time we did analysis of it. That made me want to continue doing it, and I became an English major. And that led to me being a teacher.”

    When Wallingford returned to Hudson High School to teach, Menanson readily assisted her with her sophomore English curriculum.

    “When I first taught at Hudson High, I worked pretty close with her on curriculum for things like Things Fall Apart, and she definitely was a mentor,” said Wallingford.  “She gave me advice and guided me.”

    Pamela Porter, a history teacher who took Menanson’s sophomore English class, praises her teaching style and feels that Menanson’s class improved her writing.

    “I think she never lets you give up on yourself.  It’s so apparent in everything she does,” said Porter.  “I think one of the things that I, as a student, credit her for and so many of the kids that have her say that she makes them better writers because she makes them rewrite all the time.  But then she also lets you keep doing it. She lets you make revisions and continue to get better, and I know that I am a better person for having taken her class.”

    Porter, who did not excel in English, found Menanson’s love for reading and literature inspiring.

    “As a high school student who wasn’t naturally a reader, it was always great to see people just owning reading and seeing cool people doing it,” said Porter.  “It makes you smarter, and I always just appreciate her doing that as a teacher.”

    Despite her numerous successes, teaching has not been without its challenges for Menanson.

    “I think the biggest challenge I’ve found, and this is true in Australia as it is true in America, is the little value that is placed on the English language arts,” said Menanson.  “English language arts is demeaned. People don’t think it’s important. People think, ‘Oh, it’s just reading and writing. Anybody can do that.’”

    Still, fighting this uphill battle has led to fulfilling moments with her students.  Menanson has shared her love for and immense knowledge of Shakespeare with her students by running the annual Shakespeare competition, an event which she describes as one of her favorite aspects of teaching at Hudson High. The discontinued clustering system also allowed for her to work with students on Shakespeare-related projects.

    “As much as everyone hated clustering, I was able to work with groups of kids on interesting projects,” said Menanson.  “One year we had a Shakespeare group, and they put on scenes from the plays. I didn’t particularly like the clustering, but I did get to work with some interesting kids.”

    Hobbs fondly recalls Menanson’s encyclopedic knowledge of Shakespeare and English literature.

    “I think she remembers every word she’s ever read.  I believe that’s the kind of mind Ms. Menanson has,” said Hobbs.  “She is there to help anyone who wants to question some idea in literature, and she has the knowledge and background to really bring that to the table.”

    One of Hobbs’ favorite memories with Ms. Menanson involves a stage adaptation of Macbeth.  In 2007, Hobbs and Menanson traveled to New York City alongside English teachers Amy Vessels and Nicole Brother to view the production featuring Patrick Stewart.

    “The play was an amazing production,” said Hobbs.  “At one point, MacDuff learns of the deaths of his family.  I remember sitting there and MacDuff delivers the line, ‘He has no children.’  At that point, I was in tears. I look over and Ms. Vessels is wiping away the tears and Ms. Brother as well.  I look over and Ms. Menanson was the doing the same. We were all just so moved by this performance of MacDuff.”

    Hobbs will also remember Menanson’s witty and sarcastic sense of humor.

    “I think for people who get Ms. Menanson’s sense of humor, it’s a delight,” said Hobbs.  “She has this way of looking at the world that doesn’t take itself too seriously. She will make a joke that’s sort of caustic or sarcastic, and it takes some people aback.  It takes them just a minute to figure it out and when they do, they realize how incredibly humorous she is. It’s very ‘Oscar Wilde.’”

    Wallingford will also miss Menanson’s personality, which she describes as being “lovably gruff.”

    “It’s not hurting my feelings or anything, but I told her recently that I was reading something, and it was a good escape because I like magical realism,” said Wallingford.  “She said, ‘Ugh, magical realism.’ She has no time for my nonsense, but she’s great.”

    Hobbs will miss her lunchtime conversations with Menanson the most.

    “I’m just going to miss that time of just sort of sharing our ideas on politics and on teaching, and on life in general, and on literature,” said Hobbs.  “Each lunchtime, I’m going to think, ‘Oh, I wish Susan were here.’ I’ll always wish Susan was there. I’m sorry to see her go because she really means what Hudson means to me.  Somebody who’s dedicated, super smart, and cares about her students and her fellow teachers. She is really an amazing teacher.”

    While it is certain that Menanson’s retirement will be felt deeply by the HHS English department, there are fewer certainties regarding her retirement plans.

    “Looking around, I’m not going to sub, and I’m not going to work as a para,” said Menanson.  “I’d like to be able to go back and visit Australia again, and I might be able to do that again next year perhaps. Really, I’m not thinking about what I’m going to do with retirement, except that I will tell you one thing for free; I am spending all summer by the pool.  That’s what I’m doing all summer. So, if you come looking for me in the summer, you’ve got to come to my pool. Rain or shine, I’ll be at the pool.”

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      Massachusetts was one of only seven states that did not mandate civics education in schools. | by Clement Doucette

      by Clement Doucette

      Senior Elizabeth Cautela is dedicated to politics.  

      Once every two months, she commutes to the Massachusetts Department of Education in Medford to join her fellow students on the State Student Advisory Council.  Her lengthy journey to the headquarters takes over an hour and involves a change of trains. For Cautela, maintaining her position on the council is worth the commute.

      The student arm of the Massachusetts Department of Education, the State Student Advisory Council discusses hot-button topics in education and school policy.  These students have a unique opportunity to cast light on education issues from across the state; only Massachusetts affords students the opportunity to participate in education policy making and a voice at the Department of Education.

      “We have a lot of power,” said Cautela.  “Though we can’t make legislation, we can push legislators to do what we want them to do.”  

      One student, Hannah, even misses up to sixty days of school per year to serve on the board of the Department of Education as a voting member.

      Over the past year, Cautela and her fellow students have used this power to push an important issue through the legislature; mandatory civics education.

      For years, Massachusetts was one of only seven states that did not mandate civics as a graduation requirement.  In April, the Massachusetts State Legislature voted to pass a bipartisan bill mandating comprehensive, hands-on civics education in schools at the eighth grade level.  The bill, which will first impact the class of 2022, originated when students from the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, Worcester South Community High School, and others presented the issue to their local legislators. Eventually, it was brought to the attention of the Department of Education and the State Student Advisory Council.

      “When we go to the state council, we spend our day there divided into different tasks,” said Cautela.  “One of the days we spent the entire day [focused] on civics education with a woman and a man who work for the department.  They came in, and they wanted us to give feedback on the framework that they had made up for their new curriculum.”

      Student input is one of the most important roles of the State Student Advisory Council.  While the council does not have much of a say in crafting education policy itself, its members serve as a channel for the concerns of Massachusetts students to be heard at the Department of Education.

      Back at Hudson High School, Cautela has shared the proposals from the Department of Education with friends and teachers.  Reception to the new curriculum has generally been positive.

      Freshman history teacher Pam Porter has seen the new curriculum as a positive change.  While the standards for the curriculum have not yet been officially released, she is optimistic that the requirements would benefit the school history curriculum.

      “We’re not quite sure where the civics portion will go,” said Porter.  “Potentially, it will be joined with the American Revolution because you really want to keep those together.  Maybe that will free us up in some ways to bring in a lot more content.”

      Currently, Hudson High School teaches the history of early democracy and the American Revolution to freshmen.  Moving these topics to the eighth grade civics course might allow ninth grade history teachers to delve deeper into other topics.

      “I’m kind of bummed to see that go,” said Porter. “On the other hand, I would really like to spend more time on reconstruction and race relations in America, which would be nice too.”

      However, there have been concerns that the eighth grade is too young to effectively teach civics to students, since they are far too young to vote.  Cautela, a registered voter, has expressed skepticism regarding the curriculum’s placement at the eighth grade level.

      “I’m excited for eighth graders to get a stronger grasp on politics,” said Cautela.  “I do wish a civics education became mandatory for high schoolers instead of eighth graders, because there are things from eighth grade that I don’t remember.”

      Still, Porter remains optimistic that eighth graders will benefit from this education.

      “I think the government is great to fit in any grade,” said Porter.  “You could do it with fourth graders. You could do it with eighth graders.  Maybe, in the upper grades, we could start implementing more of what they learned or doing some community and civic engagement related to their knowledge.”

      While Cautela and Porter believe that the civics curriculum may help to build civic knowledge and mindfulness, sophomore history and AP US Government and Politics teacher Leah Vivirito expressed skepticism with the curriculum’s effectiveness.  She does not feel that any current deficit in civics knowledge results from a lack of a curriculum.

      “The public schools do their very best to provide as much information as they can, and it is up to the students to pick it up and take it in,” said Vivirito.  “Do we have kids who lack knowledge on civics? We do. I’m not sure how much the curricula or that scope or sequence is going to change that.”

      Still, Vivirito sees the placement of the civics curriculum in the eighth grade as a positive change.  

      “I think it will provide a good sort of structural foundation with regard to the simple structure of our federal government and understanding exactly what organs of government can do and how they operate,” said Vivirito.  “I think it will benefit kids only if the history classes then build upon what they learned in the eighth grade and then drive it home over time.”

      Currently, elements of civics education exist in Massachusetts’ history curriculum, but they are not integrated in a foundational way.

      “The mentality was originally to not teach geography discreetly, or civics, or economics discreetly,” said Vivirito.  “We weave them into the history classes. The way they are planning it right now is they are calling out civics separately in hopes of emphasizing that from the get go.  That foundation will allow history teachers to carry it through.”

      Porter also recognizes this benefit of the revised curriculum.

      “If there is a course that is more dedicated to it, it might be more like what we had ten years ago when students were really getting a lot of civics,” said Porter.  “And I think that could help students understand our government more and help turn out more of that passion for civic engagement.”

      While uncertainty surrounds the rollout and effects of the new curriculum, it is certain that Cautela’s role on the State Student Advisory Council has taught her much about state government and policy making. Cautela is hopeful that the curriculum she helped approve will make her fellow students more civically minded.

      “I am excited because I think this is a good step forward,” said Cautela. “We can create a more informed society.”

      Student activism and an increase in youth political participation has also made Porter hopeful for the future of the curriculum.  She has also recognized the importance of teachers and families in spreading civic mindfulness.

      “I would love to see more civic mindfulness in general,” said Porter. “This year, with so many things happening in the community, kids have been really engaged.  Kids were in the Parkland walkouts. Kids went to the school committee meetings and spoke about their teachers. Some kids went to the town meetings as well and were observing about the budget.  I’d like to think we started that, but I’ll give your parents credit, too.”

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        Ben Chase poses with date Louisa LeBourdonnec of Algonquin Regional High School at the 2018 Hudson High School prom. | by Clement Doucette

        by Clement Doucette

        Family and friends of 2018 prom attendees gathered at Hudson High School on Friday evening for the pre-prom reception.  The annual event serves as an opportunity for students to take photographs and interact with non-attendees prior to the prom.

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          More HHS students take the SAT than the ACT. | by Clement Doucette

          by Clement Doucette

          For students residing in the East and West Coasts of the United States, sitting for the SAT is an integral part of the college applications process.  Many take the College Board’s trademark exam multiple times and enroll in prep classes with the hopes of obtaining the best score. Meanwhile, these students’ Midwestern counterparts prepped for the ACT, the College Board exam’s chief competitor.  

          For many years, this testing breakdown occurred along geographic lines and still does.  The Massachusetts Department of Education does not report average ACT scores at high schools as it does with SAT scores.  However, recent statistics have shown that these boundaries are breaking down. In 2012, the Washington Post reported that for the first time, the number of students who took the ACT college admissions test outnumbered those who took the SAT.  In the following years, the number of ACT test takers increased rapidly.

          Hudson High School does not seem to have gotten this memo.  School counselors still extensively promote the SAT. HHS does not offer ACT sittings, making it difficult for students to take the test.  They must travel to either Marlborough High School or Algonquin Regional High School, a challenge for students who lack reliable transportation. HHS also offers an SAT prep class while completely ignoring prep for the ACT.  

          Rather than promoting one test, students should be encouraged to take the test that best fits their learning and test taking styles.  While many will say that the two standardized tests are similar, their content and structure varies. Encouraging students to take one test while ignoring other options is not ideal.

          English teacher Jennifer Wallingford has been teaching an SAT prep class for twenty years.  Over the years, the format and types of test questions have changed, making it more challenging to teach test-taking strategies.

          “The test has changed maybe two or three times since I’ve been teaching the course,” said Wallingford.  “Back in the day we used to have to help people with analogies. That was awesome, and I miss it. The analogies were like riddles that you had to solve.  They were these little discrete problems that, dare I say, were fun to go over with everybody. But now, everything is passage based.”

          Contrary to the former analogy-based questions, a student cannot use one surefire strategy to answer the new passage-based questions.  While the lack of a surefire strategy may be a downside, the new questions require students to use “real world” skills that they would use in a standard high school English class.

          “The newest version of the test asks new questions about where evidence was located for the answer to the previous question,” said Wallingford.  “There’s no fun way to teach that. It was a little more entertaining, believe it or not, to teach the skills and strategies. Now, students really just read a passage, paraphrase what is in the passage, and determine where they are finding the evidence.”

          Still, the SAT poses a significant challenge when compared to the MCAS, the state standardized test that affords test takers an unlimited amount of time.  Although the content of the SAT has changed, cultivating time management skills remains a crucial lesson taught in the prep class. The new, evidence-oriented questions make time management more challenging. Test takers must read five passages and answer fifty-two questions in sixty-five minutes.

          “Most of my information has to do with specific uses of time and how to use time wisely,” said Wallingford.  “So, skills like skimming a passage rather than reading it carefully or ignoring answer choices and spending more time back in the text. We practice reading and thinking the way they might not be in their classes and that they didn’t have to for the MCAS.”

          The format of the SAT may not be ideal for all students, despite the efforts of prep programs.  While the ACT presents similar time management problems, the SAT has been known to include questions that could trip up some, especially in the math section. It presents conceptually simple problems in a complex or convoluted manner.  A student with strong computational skills could still struggle with the math section, which now requires critical thinking ability that students can hone through prep classes and practice.

          This SAT math question presents a simple algebra concept in a convoluted manner by presenting variables in the problem and in answer choices. | by

          In general, the SAT is more math-heavy than the ACT.  There are two sections of math; one that allows students to use a calculator and one that does not.  The ACT includes one hour-long math section with sixty questions that permits test takers to use a calculator.  For students who excel in reading and English, the ACT may be the better test. It includes two English-based sections and the science section, which tests students’ critical reading abilities.  Still, many students fail to take the ACT even though their scores could be stronger.

          According to 2017 data presented in the Hudson High School profile, only 34% of students sat for the ACT, compared with the 77% of students who sat for the SAT.  Many students may be lacking the potential benefits of taking both tests, or taking the test that best suits the students. Additionally, this report showed slightly higher scores for ACT takers when compared to SAT takers.  SAT takers earned, on average, a composite score of 1123. ACT takers scored an average of 24.3. When converted to match the SAT scale, the average ACT score is an 1160-1190.

          While the school does not keep official data on score improvements from the prep class, counselor Angie Flynn noted that students who took the class improved their scores by roughly 20-30 points after a pre-course pretest.  While the prep course has benefits for students taking the SAT, taking the ACT may be another option for students to improve their scores.

          Senior Paige Mega took both the SAT and the ACT.  Although she did not take the school-offered prep class, she scored higher on the ACT.  Prior to a meeting with guidance, Mega did not know that the ACT was an option.

          “I think the SAT was definitely pushed more because there was the prep class,” said Mega.  “I know personally that I researched the ACT myself. I went with other people to the testing site and we carpooled, and they didn’t even know there was a science part or an essay part.”

          While students should still be aware of the contents of the test, part of this problem may be attributable to the promotion of the SAT over the ACT.  The College Board still reigns supreme in Massachusetts and the East Coast where the majority of students take the SAT. These geographic boundaries are restrictive and keep students from exploring ACT testing options.  Mega described the ACT’s science section as a factor that boosted her score.

          “I’m going into a science field, so it helps to have the science component to raise my score,” said Mega.  “I think people don’t realize that that’s a component of the ACT, even though it might benefit them. I also think the math was somewhat easier.  I think if science is your strong suit, you should definitely take it, and maybe if math isn’t your strong suit, you should also take the ACT.”

          Still, these benefits may stay unknown to many students.  The ACT is infrequently discussed in school presentations, and test takers do not have the advantage of a school-offered prep class.

          “I think that guidance could present both as an option,” said Mega.  They could maybe offer a prep course for the ACT or a general standardized test prep course that helps you with both instead of just the SAT.”

          Running a joint SAT and ACT prep class could teach students skills for taking both tests.  Both tests require students to use skills such as time management, efficient reading, and locating evidence in passages.  Wallingford noted that the two tests are becoming more and more alike.

          “I think the new SAT is trying to be more like the ACT,” said Wallingford.  “My understanding is that some of the SAT questions are a little more interpretive, which is what I saw with the ACT.  The ACT also includes a science section, and the SAT made sure that they put two science passages in the reading section.  The SAT doesn’t penalize for the wrong answers the way that they used to, which the ACT never did.”

          By teaching skills that are applicable to both tests, students could determine which test is ideal for their test taking style and academic strengths.  Students who have strong science and reading skills could be encouraged to take the ACT first, as a result of its inclusion of a science section. In general, the ACT is more reading-heavy and lacks the two math sections found in the SAT.  On the other hand, students with strong math skills would likely excel when taking the test’s two math sections.

          While both tests are equally difficult in their own way, it is imperative that students are aware of their options.  The impersonal process of standardized testing could be personalized if counselors discuss options with students and work to determine the ideal testing strategy.  Expansion of the pre-existing prep course could bring prep benefits to students who wish to take the SAT.

          The choice of standardized tests should not be based on arbitrary factors such as geography or testing site locations.

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            Junior Cam Miele is pronounced the winner of Friday's "Mr. HHS" pageant after being handed the trophy belt by senior Tim Cabral. | by Siobhan Richards

            by Clement Doucette

            Before attending Friday’s “Mr. HHS” pageant, I’ll admit that I felt a bit apprehensive.  I had heard rumors that some acts performed during rehearsals could be sexist or could push the boundaries of a school-sanctioned event.  In particular, Jordan Bushey’s act about picking up girls concerned me. As I entered the auditorium that Friday, however, I spotted a wide array of students and members of the community. My apprehensions soon vanished when I saw that the pageant unified, not divided, the school community.

            The Mr. HHS pageant, last hosted in 2012, returned after a six-year hiatus.  Members of the senior class, the Drama Society, Spirit Committee, and the dance team worked with class advisers Erin Cothran and Mike Nanartowich to bring the pageant back.  Last held in 2012, support for the pageant declined as school spirit dropped. However, a noted increase in school spirit spearheaded by members of the senior class prompted its return.  Senior class adviser Erin Cothran noted the spike in spirit and sought to bring the pageant back to the high school’s stage.

            “Mr. HHS was something that was happening when I was a student here at Hudson High,” said Cothran. “I decided that we were having such a real high with spirit here at Hudson High that we thought we would pitch it to the kids and see if people would buy in, and they have.  It has been fabulous.”

            Students enthusiastically supported the pageant’s return, abating Cothran’s fears that students would be unwilling to participate.

            “At the end of the day, if we weren’t going to have any interest in it, we weren’t really going to put too much effort into it,” said Cothran.  “We had discussed that we would have a cutoff of around twelve. We ended up having exactly twelve people interested and twelve people that were truly committed.”

            Student commitment to the event also demonstrates the ability of students to unite upper and underclassmen.  In total, seven seniors, three juniors, and two sophomores participated in Mr. HHS. In general, most students expressed excitement at seeing their classmates on stage.  

            “I think that it has been a bright spot for a lot of kids. They are looking forward to seeing their classmates have a laugh at their own expense,” said Cothran.  “One of my sophomore contestants is in my class, and all of my sophomores in the class want to come and support him. They want me to save a whole row just for them so that they can support Andrew.”

            While Mr. HHS unified students from different grades, it also brought together members of the Drama Society and the pageant participants.  

            “It’s not just these twelve people; there’s been huge support from the drama community who are helping us with the lights and the program,” said Cothran.  “Ben Carme has been outstanding with designing the program and other students with the music.”

            Mr. HHS represented one of the rare instances of cooperation across all sectors of the school community. Senior Drama Society member Katie Moran noted the benefits of the cooperation between the contestants and Drama Society.

            “I hate categorizing people like this, but the drama kids and the athletes that were working in Mr. HHS connected and made friendships,” said Moran.  “They had a group chat together, and I would hear them talking all the time; they had inside jokes together which was really cool.”

            According to Moran, this cooperation represents a rare show of unity that the high school lacked.  

            “The senior athletes and sophomore drama kids talking together and actually saying ‘hi’ to each other in the halls is something I’ve never seen in my years here,” said Moran.  “I would love to see the two groups united more because that’s how it used to be, apparently. There’s been separation, but I think if both ‘sides’ work together, great productions could be made and the community here at school would be so much nicer.”

            The Mr. HHS pageant could also serve to bring awareness to the Drama Society’s work.  Members of the Drama Society have noted a division between themselves and the rest of the school.  Hopefully, participants in Mr. HHS will audition and participate in future drama productions.

            “I’m hoping that they reach out to drama kids now to ask when the next audition is,” said Moran.  “I’d love to see the population of Drama Society grow because of it.”

            Senior Andy Lenox, a participant in the pageant, noted that it could not have taken place without the help of the Drama Society.

            “They helped us with everything we wanted to do,” said Lenox.  “They gave all of us stage directors, and a couple of us would go to a certain person in Drama Society who helped with each performance and each act.  Our transition from practicing in the gym to the auditorium was a big shift for us, and they made it so much easier. We are very thankful for them.”

            Working one-on-one with Drama Society members facilitated an atmosphere of cooperation and friendship, bringing together diverse student groups.

            “Being involved in Mr. HHS was one of my favorite high school experiences so far,” said Lenox. “We just put in so much effort and work.  Everyone was working together and working hard for so long; I’m just glad that it came out as well as it did.”

            Events such as Mr. HHS could have the potential to unite students from all groups within the school community, and continuing the pageant in the years to come could bring the Drama Society and the athletic crowds even closer.  As long as the pageant’s humor is not discriminatory or offensive and school spirit remains elevated, it could continue to be successful in the years to come. In fact, more events like Mr. HHS should be present in the school calendar.  Mr. HHS demonstrates the power of humor to unite students from across our school.

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              Local poets worked with students during a TASC advisory period at Contoocook Valley Regional High School. | by ConVal Staff

              by Clement Doucette

              Changing the Hudson High School schedule has always been a rocky and difficult process.  

              A previous schedule change, conducted in 2013, introduced the current, five-block rotation.  However, since the implementation of this schedule, a committee of concerned faculty members has noticed an increasing divide in our school’s culture.  Teachers June Murray and Lonnie Quirion lead this committee, known as ARC (Academics, Relationships, and Community). Their work began with a desire to mend this cultural divide.

              “It felt like we were moving farther and farther away from things that were always really important to me, like service and relationships,” said Murray. “We decided the best way to start this process was by creating a survey and trying to figure out where students and staff landed regarding how things had shifted in our culture.”

              The results of the survey confirmed the ARC committee’s beliefs.  Using the survey as a basis for their work, the committee pondered various ways to address the increasing problem.

              The results of the ARC survey revealed a divide between students and faculty. | by Clement Doucette

              “The idea began with the concept of perhaps having an advisory program,” said Murray. “However, we have a history at Hudson High School when we tried a program similar to an advisory period called “clustering” that didn’t necessarily work as well as we had hoped.”

              School administration implemented clustering after the construction of the current Hudson High School building in the early 2000s  It involved students meeting once weekly to participate in a teacher-monitored activity of their choice.  Students and teachers would pick their activities at the start of the school year.  

              Although the program functioned in theory, a lack of student participation marred the effectiveness of the program.  Many did not take the programs seriously.  Clustering continued for several years until it was finally discontinued, leaving many faculty members with bad memories.  Still, the ARC committee insists that their advisory program would not face the same struggles that clustering faced.

              “I did a lot of talking to people and there was this woman, Rachel Calder, who is probably one of the most cutting edge people who works with schools to help them change their structure,” said Murray. “One of the things she said to me was to contact the ConVal High School in Peterborough, New Hampshire, because they were doing something interesting.”

              At Contoocook Valley Regional High School, frequently shortened to “ConVal,” students participate in a daily, 40-minute advisory period called TASC, intended for academic support and enrichment.  At the start of the week, students work with a “home-base” TASC adviser to arrange their schedule for the following four days.  For example, a student struggling with math may choose to work with their math teacher during one of that week’s advisory periods.  During these TASC periods, teachers work with no more than fifteen students at a time.

              The ARC committee will base their schedule on the ConVal High School schedule with a 40-minute advisory period. | by Clement Doucette

              Although it may seem difficult to track students during the period, a high-tech solution amends this problem.  Teachers conduct scheduling through a custom-made computer program designed by a ConVal staff member.  ConVal offers this program to other interested schools at prices ranging from $1,500 to $3,000, depending on features, and comes with an app that would allow students to access their schedule through the week.  If students do not show up for their advisory period, they face discipline for skipping class.

              Gretchen Houseman, a Spanish teacher and member of the ARC committee, sees this scheduling system as a benefit to her students.

              “In terms of scheduling, it really calls the students to take ownership of their own schedule, and I really liked that,” said Houseman.  “The students could decide what they were interested in, who they would be with, and where they would go during that time.”

              Principal Brian Reagan also appreciates these aspects of the schedule.  He has worked with the ARC committee throughout the program’s development and is a crucial link between ARC teachers and school administration.  Reagan would play a leading role in contract negotiation procedures, the next step in the program’s implementation.

              Faculty conduct contract negotiation whenever there is a school change that could alter working conditions.  During this procedure, teachers and faculty meet during labor negotiation meetings to determine if there is a significant change in working conditions that would require amendments to the employee contract.  

              “It all depends on how it gets presented from our side and received by the labor side,” said Reagan.  “We did a survey, and we have a decent amount of support among faculty members, so I feel like there is a positive momentum behind it.  I’m hopeful that that isn’t where we get caught up.”

              Despite the uncertainty of the contract negotiation process, Murray still believes that the committee could implement the program in a timely manner.

              “We’ve created a fact sheet that has answers to staff questions that will be sent out to them, in addition to a mock schedule and a description of what an ARC advisor does,” said Murray.  “Upon feedback from them, the hope is that by second semester of next year, we might be looking at a transition. That’s the hope.”

              Still, the ARC program has its critics.  Some teachers have expressed fears that the block would cut precious time out of their classes.  AP teachers, already subjected to tight testing schedules, could feel the time reduction the most.  They fear losing seven to nine minutes of class each day.  Spanish teacher Gretchen Houseman prefers to look at this time reduction differently.

              “Instead of seeing it as time lost, I am thinking of it as time reallocated for another purpose,” said Houseman.  “For example, a student who is strong in English maybe doesn’t need those seven minutes of English instruction, but needs an extra thirty minutes of math instruction.”

              Despite the positive outlook of committee members, there are some drawbacks to the program’s implementation.  In addition to the reduction in class time, teachers have also expressed concern with the number of students that they would instruct during this period.  From an outside perspective, helping fifteen students during a forty-minute period may seem manageable.  However, this would leave teachers with a mere two minutes and forty-five seconds per student.

              While student numbers could be managed through the use of the computer program, the software implementation would impact the tight school budget.  Declining school choice figures have hit Hudson hard, and finding an extra $1,500 to $3,000 may be easier said than done.

              Even if there were ample funds in the budget, Hudson’s history with the failed clustering program could hamper implementation.  Some long standing Hudson High staff members remember its failure and are cautious of implementing another advisory program.

              Still, there is a clear and pressing decline in school culture.  Using an advisory program may be a resolution to this decline, although it must be implemented cautiously.  The precedent of clustering shows that changing the school schedule never has been and never will be a simple and controversy-free process.  

              The school can take steps to reduce these hurdles.  Beginning with a semester-long pilot program would allow for students and staff to get a sense for the program without risking the potential drawbacks of long term implementation.  If there are flaws, staff could redesign the program based on what they learned during the pilot period.

              Advisory programs are a fixture of many American high schools.  It is time for Hudson High School to step up by providing a program that meets the needs of both students and staff.

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                Freshmen jump in excitement for free water bottles. | by Veronica Mildish

                by Clement Doucette

                Hudson High School celebrated school spirit and winter athletics during a pep rally on Friday.  Friday’s rally featured performances by a faculty choir, the jazz ensemble, and the cheer team.  The rally concluded with lip-sync performances by members of the hockey and basketball teams.

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                  Students visit the Carmo Convent in Lisbon. | by Judy Pavao

                  by Clement Doucette

                  Seniors Clement Doucette and Lauren Eadie traveled to Portugal with five students from Newton South High School for the 20th annual UNESCO Young Scientists Conference.  The conference’s theme centered on “Intangible Cultural Heritage.”  Doucette and Eadie created a video highlighting traditions in Hudson while students from Newton South recorded a music playlist focusing on traditional American musical styles.

                  The American students were joined by students from five other nations, including Portugal, Spain, Andorra, Germany, and Italy.  While in Portugal, the students from Hudson and Newton South visited the cities of Lisbon and Coimbra in addition to the conference city of Santarém.

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                    CNN and The New York Times have been described by President Trump as "fake news." | by Clement Doucette

                    by Clement Doucette

                    In an interview with conservative commentator Mike Huckabee, President Trump commented that “the media is — really, the word, I think one of the greatest of all terms I’ve come up with — is fake.”  

                    During the 2016 election cycle, Russian outlets published news stories to social media websites that were truly fake.  However, Trump took this phrase and distorted it into an attack against mainstream media outlets, particularly CNN and the New York Times.  Of course, national media is not without its flaws; all media is biased to a degree, and coverage on CNN and broadcast news can sometimes be brief or surface-level.  Still, publications such as the New York Times and the Washington Post use fact checking and journalistic integrity.  

                    While media analysts have described dishonest journalism as  “fake news” for many years, the president’s talking points drive a frightening point into the minds of American youth.  Media illiteracy is a serious problem that should be thoroughly addressed.

                    At Hudson High School, teachers have noted an increase in students’ disbelief of mainstream media sources and an inability to find appropriate media sources.  Teacher Amy Plackowski works to include aspects of media understanding and literacy into her AP Language, dystopian literature, and linguistics classes.

                    “In AP Language, we are looking at rhetoric and credible sources,” said Plackowski.  “In dystopian lit we are talking about censorship and the media, what is credible, and what is not.  Even in linguistics, we talk about language and how it can be manipulated.  I think there are a lot of us teaching it.”

                    While teachers have been including these valuable lessons in their classes, Plackowski noted a lack of continuity across departments.  

                    “If we have a lecture in history or in another class about finding a credible source, students may not be able to transfer that understanding to an English class,” said Plackowski. “Then, we have to kind of start all over again talking about what credible sources are.”

                    Plackowski cited the work of librarian Jessica Caron as being integral to finding appropriate sources.  She has been working with students to teach universally applicable research methods and basic media literacy skills.   

                    “I think this dovetails really nicely with a lot of content.  For example, science teachers can talk about how to tell if a study is a good study.  I think there is definitely room for this,” said Plackowski.

                    Still, there is more to be done.  

                    Elizabeth Albota teaches an elective class on media literacy in which students learn how to find bias in the media and in research sources.  However, Albota’s class has been met with low enrollment and a widespread lack of understanding of media bias from students.

                    “I think we’ve just hit a point in America where there’s so much information that none of it is making sense to anybody,” said Albota.  “I think there is a problem in that my generation is assuming that there are things in place for your generation that are not in place. Your generation grew up with different understandings of information.”

                    In addition to the the generational gap, Albota noted that high school classes generally lack detailed lessons on media literacy.  These lessons often require too much time to teach during her English classes, since students often do not have strong background knowledge about locating media bias.  Still, the low enrollment of Albota’s media literacy class and the lack of understanding from students underscores the need for more instruction on this subject.  

                    Freshman Bianca Chaves appreciated the idea of increased media literacy lessons and noted that she would have difficulties in locating reliable sources and media bias.

                    “I’ve never come across a fake news story before,” said Chaves.  “If a story were obviously fake, I would know it, but if it were something that sounded true, I would think that it’s true.”

                    Exposing students to a wide range of credible media sources and fact-checking lessons would help to alleviate this problem.  Chaves noted that some of her classmates use the term “fake news” to refer to CNN and other mainstream media sources without knowledge of what the term truly means. It seemed as though these students were repeating sound bites from speeches given by Trump.

                    “I think these students are saying that CNN is fake news to a point where they are making others believe it,” said Chaves.  “I think this is harmful, especially to some students who are new here or who don’t know that CNN isn’t fake news.”

                    Combatting this misinformation begins with offering students a selection of appropriate media sources and information regarding improper sources.  Clearly, students spreading misinformation is a prime source for fake news misconceptions.  Freshman Josh Czerwinski is aware of current events and keeps track of the news through multiple credible sources.  Although he noted that some sources he views are biased, he does not think that they are “fake news.”  

                    “Oftentimes [the bias] will vary,” said Czerwinski.  “I could think that NPR is biased towards one topic, but less biased for others.  It varies depending on the article.  I don’t use CNN or Fox News too often, and I wouldn’t say that they are fake. I think they are average news networks and are biased towards some topics, but they can be completely reliable and give proven facts.”

                    Czerwinski also noted that Trump’s “fake news” rhetoric is harmful and misguided.

                    “I think it is harmful to call these sources fake news because they can be very reputable depending on what they are talking about,” said Czerwinski. “I feel like Trump is saying that if the news is against him, then it is fake.  I know that this did happen and that these are facts.”

                    Although students joke that “CNN is fake news,” I experienced difficulty finding students who truly believe this rhetoric.  Still, the need for media literacy is underestimated.  The lack of media literacy at Hudson High School presents itself with subtlety.  In general, students do not believe Trump’s rhetoric word for word.  Rather, they consume media without the proper background for finding bias or for fact checking.  

                    Clearly, classes run on tight schedules. Still, including time for media literacy is of the utmost importance. Making media literacy a mandatory component of the eighth grade curriculum could give students the background they need.  In eighth grade, students are impressionable and could learn harmful misinformation from their peers and older students.  Teaching these young high schoolers about media literacy would give these students analysis skills to last throughout high school and beyond.  Otherwise, misinformation and insidious Russian-bot fake news stories may prevail.

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                      Senior Elizabeth Cautela reads the morning announcements during spirit week. | by Clement Doucette

                      by Clement Doucette

                      The morning announcements are an integral part of Hudson High School’s daily routine.  

                      Each morning, I join seniors Elizabeth Cautela and Lauren Eadie in reading the announcement script over the loudspeaker.  Typically, we improvise, tell jokes, and add humor to enliven the plain script.  Still, our voices can go unheard.  Some students ignore the announcements, choosing instead to talk over them.  

                      Although there is little time for socialization during the school day, ignoring the morning announcements and our Friday Morning Lights broadcasts is a sign of disrespect.  This behavior reflects a larger, school-wide problem; arts programs at HHS go ignored and students’ work goes unseen.  

                      Elizabeth Cautela has faced this problem.  In addition to the morning announcements, Cautela creates short films, spends many hours volunteering at HUD-TV, and is an active member of the HHS Drama Society.  She notes that these activities are forgotten in favor of sports.

                      “I think the school culture is very sports oriented,” said Cautela.  “It’s not really driven towards everybody else.  If you’re not playing a sport, then who are you?”  

                      Cautela noted that participating in these activities can make students feel like outsiders. Communities within HHS can be insular, and members may not branch out of their cliques.  

                      “I’m just doing HUD-TV and theater activities now, and I feel like it doesn’t even register to some people that these are a thing,” said Cautela.  “I wish people would support the arts more and go to drama shows to get another perspective on things.  Everything’s not just one way.  We can learn from all these other clubs.”

                      As an active member of the Drama Society, Cautela has been judged for her role within this group, and she senses that there is a stigma surrounding her participation.  Still, she notes that by participating in the Drama Society, she is no different than other students.  

                      “Theater is like a sport; you practice a lot, and then you perform like you do in a game,” said Cautela.  “We’re all HHS students, and I think that gets lost along the line somewhere.”

                      The Drama Society is not the only non-sports aspect of Hudson High School that is neglected; students involved with the fine arts sense that their work is often overlooked.  Ariana Jordan-MacArthur has been involved with the fine arts at Hudson High School and feels that these events are under-promoted.  In her opinion, this is a result of students talking over and neglecting the morning announcements.  

                      “I think it’s disrespectful that people talk over [the announcements], mostly because there are a lot of people who want to listen to them,” said Jordan-MacArthur.  “People always talk over them, and we can’t hear them.”

                      Typically, events such as the HHS Art Show and Drama Society productions, are announced through the morning announcements or through sparse promotion on social media.  If students ignore announcements and do not know that these events are set to occur, then fewer students will attend.

                      “We don’t get to hear the announcements about events going on at the school,” said Jordan-MacArthur.  “This makes it a lot less likely that people will go to these events.”

                      I understand that changing the culture of a school is difficult, if not impossible.  If students are unwilling to attend non-sports related events, they will not attend them.  However, there is no room to disrespect others’ work.  

                      Highlighting student accomplishment in the arts through social media would help.  Students who are willing to attend artistic events but may not have heard about these events on the announcements would be informed about them.  An integral part of learning is found in respecting and learning from the ideas and perspectives of others.  Emphasizing creative and artistic pursuits in school would make artistic students feel valued and would provide all students with a platform to showcase their ideas.  Keeping quiet during announcement broadcasts would help to make these ideas known to all students.