The sophomore class received their class rings this month. Each graduating class has the opportunity to personalize their class rings as a memento of their high school years. Some teachers, staff, and students shared their rings and the stories behind them.
Arlington’s Laura Chesson made her pitch to be the next superintendent of the Hudson Public Schools (HPS) on Wednesday, offering more than 20 years of experience in analytics that, she says, may help the district with its budget and state rating.
After visiting Hudson’s schools throughout the day, Chesson sat down with community members Wednesday afternoon for a Q&A and returned Wednesday evening for a public interview conducted by the school committee.
The sitting Arlington Assistant Superintendent began working with district budgets when she became the Principal of Maynard High School in 2008 and has since also gathered experience analyzing, reporting, and responding to MCAS and other data that the Massachusetts Department of Education collects.
“Being able to analyze data is critically important as a superintendent,” she told the Big Red shortly after speaking to the community in a public Q&A. She later added, “Sometimes, it just raises more questions for you, and if you can’t analyze that data, you can’t see what those questions that you need to ask are.”
Chesson started her education career as a math teacher, working first in New Mexico before briefly moving to Hudson. After she left HPS in 1997, she worked as an administrator in four different districts, including, most recently, Maynard and Leominster.
Her current job in Arlington has often utilized her skills in data analysis and budgeting. Last spring, she and her fellow Arlington administrators worked through months of deliberation to add six million dollars to their budget for the 2017 fiscal year. This year, she once again helped compile her district’s budget.
“There were things that we felt like we needed to add into the budget to meet our goals,” she said, later adding. “In order to add approximately $800,000 worth of things, we had to cut $730,000. So my ability to be able to look at and understand the budget enabled us to decide what we needed to cut and what we needed to add. My ability to analyze data helped with that.”
Hudson itself is facing budget cuts for the third straight year after the district cut roughly $750,000 from its budget in 2015, cutting parts of the elementary band program among other things.
As parents and staff fear further budget cuts, many also call attention to the state of special education in the district.
“We have significant issues that are constantly being addressed and readdressed,” said Maureen O’Brien, the mother of three HPS students and a special education teacher in the Worcester. “Consistency is always a question for me as a teacher, and a parent, and a friend of a lot of people in the special education community.”
Hearing O’Brien and several other citizens throughout the now months old search process, the school committee followed suit also brought up this topic in their public interview with Chesson.
“Special education and general education have to work in a partnership,” Chesson told the Big Red after the Q&A and before the school committee interview. “I have worked very closely in that partnership for the past five years, even though my role isn’t in special education.”
Indeed, Chesson lacks the resume experience of the three other candidates that the school committee initially picked as finalists. She is the only Hudson finalist to have never worked as a special education teacher, coordinator or paraprofessional.
She did, however, fill the shoes of her current district’s special education administrator when that administrator went on maternity leave last year. Before that, she had also worked in a three-person teaching team early in New Mexico that integrated special education students and teachers with their general education classmates and colleagues.
“We were fully included, so I had students even with severe cognitive disabilities that were members of my class,” she said of her work there.
Their interviews with Marco Rodrigues of the Worcester Public Schools, and Chesson, complete, the committee did announce on Friday morning that their fourth finalist, Jahmal Mosley, had withdrawn his application for the Hudson job after taking a position in Nashua, NH.
They will now interview Brett Kustigian of the Quaboag Public Schools on Wednesday, March 29, before they vote to appoint a successor to sitting superintendent Jodi Fortuna the next day.
The Big Red will be following the superintendent search until after the vote to appoint. Check back regularly for updates as the district holds new interviews and meetings!
The Hudson School Committee kicked off the final stages of its superintendent search Monday by hosting a Q&A and public interview with Marco Rodrigues of the Worcester Public Schools. In both appearances, Rodrigues listed transparency and communication as priorities should he become superintendent.
The Worcester Chief Academic Officer and experienced public school administrator told parents, staff and the school committee that he values communication between parents and their student’s school as well as communication between teachers and their colleagues.
During the evening school committee interview, speaking before a largely empty room, he also noted how he would work not only to spark dialogue but also to make it more effective.
“It’s very important that the superintendent of the school is a person who the community knows,” he told the Big Red earlier in the day. “[The community needs to] know that he or she can be accessed, and [they need] to have opportunities to have forums where they can actually have conversations with the superintendent.”
While sparsely attended, the conversations that HPS parents, staff and school committee members did have with Rodrigues centered around familiar topics from the past four months of the superintendent search — special education and the budget.
Rodrigues brings experience as a special education coordinator and executive director of the Central Massachusetts Special Education Collaborative among other things. He described his approach to special education.
“The challenge is that each individual is so different that you never have two students who are alike,” he told the Big Red after the Q&A. “Different students have different needs, and some are more extensive than some teachers can provide. So it’s a balance of understanding who the population is and our day being grouped together and us providing our teachers with the best resources for teaching those students.”
During the Q&A itself, he went on to apply his philosophy to Hudson and the system of state ratings of public schools.
“For Hudson, when you look at the aggregate data from the state, you don’t look the greatest,” he said. “But when you look at the high school and the middle school and Forest Ave and the other schools individually, the schools are different, and the needs may be different.”
Near the end of his school committee interview, he circled back to a topic that had come up at several points during the day. As Hudson faces the threat of budget cuts for a third consecutive year, Rodrigues tackled the topic of finances head-on.
“There’s not one district in the commonwealth that doesn’t have a budget issue,” he told the Big Red. “The cost of education continues to rise, and you often don’t have more revenue to support that increase in need.”
If selected for the Hudson job, he said he would bring a “zero base budget” approach from Worcester to HPS. The system, which he helps operate on a yearly basis as a WPS administrator, requires his district to draft the budget “from scratch” every year, allowing his district to regularly reevaluate its spending choices.
“It’s about looking at every dollar that is being spent and making sure that it is being spent in a way that is providing the students with the best experience that they can have in the Hudson Public Schools,” he said.
At the beginning of his closing statement during Monday’s interview, Rodrigues complemented HPS on the quality of both its instruction and its facilities. Speaking earlier in the day on a similar topic, he noted how those two assets could come together with the effective communication and engagement he advocates.
“A school like this is very open to activities through the evening,” he said of Hudson High. “That’s the way all the schools should be. We have all these structures for school. We have to use them for community purposes as well. That’s when you start that dialogue of ‘It’s OK to be here. It’s OK for you to participate, and it’s OK for you to know what your child needs to do and needs to have to be successful.'”
Their day with Rodrigues completed, the school committee will now host similar Q&As and public interviews with other finalists — Brett Kustigian, Laura Chesson, and Jamal Mosley — before they vote to appoint a successor to current Superintendent Jodi Fortuna on March 30.
The Big Red will be following the superintendent search until after the vote to appoint. Check back regularly for updates as the district holds new interviews and meetings!
Every other year, students travel to Germany during April vacation. This year ten students will visit Germany for the first time, but for Aly Haley this will be a trip back to see the community she met just two years ago.
“Honestly I just fell in love with Germany,” Haley says. “And I actually hosted a German myself, and now she and I are close friends. I’ll hopefully be staying with her when we go. I talk to her almost every week, and I still talk to the girl who hosted me two years ago. We’re really close, too.”
Despite the cultural differences, the two talk constantly just to check in and see what’s going on in each other’s lives and how they’re doing.
“I don’t actually think we have so much in common besides maybe like the same kind of TV shows, movies, and music. I can’t really explain why we clicked. We kind of just did,” Haley says.
Haley not only made new friends, but she also experienced many other firsts on the trip.
“I really didn’t know what to expect. I had never been outside of the country before, and I wasn’t going with friends or family. So there were a lot of firsts for me. But it was such a good experience, seeing the culture, and the town it was just..amazing, really,” Haley says.
In addition to Haley’s excitement about reuniting with Franzi Kobert, she is excited to spend more time sightseeing and visiting tourist attractions.
This year the students are spending three days in Berlin, so this trip will have much more sightseeing in Berlin than the previous trip. They will be touring a castle in Wernigerode, walking on a historical tour of Berlin Center, and get the chance to tour the city of Braunschweig.
Though the itinerary has changed, it still embodies the main message of cultural experience and long lasting friendships in an international community.
In Scott Kall’s freshman year at Harvard, he has not only joined one of the university’s most famous groups, but he has also founded a new organization on campus.
After years of singing, dancing, acting, and laughing with his friends in Drama Society, Scott Kall was not ready to leave his love for acting in the past. He performed in two shows at Harvard, and then he decided to audition for the 200-year-old Hasty Pudding Theatricals.
The Hasty Pudding Theatricals are generally known for their small casts and their student-written shows. As a freshman who loves theatre, there is no wonder this club caught Kall’s eye.
In order to get cast, Kall had to audition and go through callbacks. For his audition he sang 32 bars of a song. Then when he was called back, he had to dance from 10 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. that Sunday.
Kall learned that he was cast after hours of dance and acting callbacks. Before he knew it, rehearsals for Hasty Pudding became a regular part of his life.
After rehearsing for months, Kall opened with Hasty Pudding on February 14. He did shows Tuesday to Sunday. He did close to nine shows per week.
“This week marks the last week of the Cambridge run, which I am already very sad about; I’m not ready for it to be over!”
However, being in Hasty Pudding for Scott hasn’t just been rehearsing and performing. He also got to attend Hasty Pudding’s Man and Woman of the Year events. “Getting to meet both Octavia Spencer and Ryan Reynolds has definitely been a highlight of my time at Harvard so far!” Kall said.
Freshman Ben Carme, one of Kall’s friends, went to see him in his production, and he loved it.
“It was a really amazing experience to go up there and see such a strong performance done by people who just learned and wrote a show in the fall. It was absolutely one of the funniest things I have ever seen in my life. It was hilarious.”
Even though Hasty Pudding is a little out of Kall’s comfort zone, it doesn’t stop him from having fun.
“The Pudding is certainly far different from anything I’ve ever done before. I mean, I’ve never been in such a high-level production that runs for so long and takes up so much time, even while I’m enrolled as a full-time student.”
Apart from Hasty Pudding, Kall is also taking part in other organizations.
Millennials in Action is a club that Kall has started with a couple of his college friends. It allows people to share stories, topics, and things that are important to individuals. They are already receiving multiple posts on their website, and they are working to get their group recognized as an organization at Harvard.
With his first year at Harvard almost over, Kall certainly has a lot to look back on and be proud of. He is already excited for the years in front of him.
“ I can honestly say that I love college, even more than I thought I would! It has been exhausting and demanding and all the things people expect and are somewhat afraid college is, but it has been the most rewarding time of my life so far. I will say this: it is a different world from high school. My advice would be this: do what you love, surround yourself with people who make you happy, and approach everything with a positive and driven attitude. College is really what you make it, and everyone has the power to make it a truly enriching and wonderful experience.”
The Hudson ELL department updates a board with the home countries of students. Since the Brazilian economy crashed in 2015 and 2016, a growing number of students from the country have been emigrating to Hudson.
by Dakota Antelman
He wanted to buy more than candy bars with his daily salary. But that’s all he could afford in Brazil even while working at a sushi restaurant.
In October of last year, a male student, who has asked not to be identified by name, and his family decided to leave Brazil, a country marred by nearly a decade of economic depression and political corruption. He was the first to emigrate, landing in this country with only a basic understanding of English and just one family member here.
Meanwhile, the rest of his immediate family is back in Sao Paulo, Brazil, gathering money to join their son in Hudson.
His experiences match those of several Hudson High School students. They come from different parts of Brazil, but the majority of them are here because they saw no economic future for themselves in South America.
“We were trying to live there. My dad has a job at the court, but things were bad because everything is expensive and the payment is low,” the male student said. “My aunt was over here, and she said the life is better here. So we came here and are trying.”
Brazil’s Economy Crashes
While much of the rest of the world was struggling with the Great Recession in 2008, the Brazilian economy was booming. It ranked sixth out of all countries in 2011 after seeing its economy grow by 7.5% the previous year, according to the New York Times.
But in 2014, investigators exposed a then decade-old illicit system of financial kickbacks between the Brazilian government and one of its largest oil companies, Petrobras. Company officials fixed prices, inflated costs and got involved in a series of bribes allegedly worth $3 billion.
At the time, the Brazilian government owned 51% of Petrobras, and the Brazilian president at the time the scandal broke, Dilma Rousseff, had once been the company’s chair. She and other members of her Workers Party used illegal Petrobras money to fund their own campaigns.
The scandal prompted massive protests, violent crowd control measures by government riot police, and, eventually, the impeachment of Rousseff and dozens of other government officials in 2016. But the responses in the streets and courtrooms were not enough to curb the economic devastation the scandal wrought.
Average monthly income in Brazil plummeted to its lowest point in three years according to Trading Economics. The unemployment rate nearly doubled from 6.5% in January 2015 to 12% by the end of 2016 and, between March 2015 and March 2016, the Brazilian Real lost nearly a quarter of its value when compared to the U.S. dollar.
“You just got used to it,” the male student said of the economy. “Everybody has to struggle to pay the bills. Politics are crap too. Everybody [the politicians] steals money. Everybody would go to the street to protest, but that didn’t help. So we just had to keep going. That’s why my dad decided to send me here because he knows that it won’t change.”
Indeed, economists predict the crisis will get worse before it gets better. Trading Economics predicts that the unemployment rate will climb to 12.3% this year, potentially leaving nearly 12.5 million people without work in Brazil.
Brazilian Economy Pushes Teens to Hudson
As the unemployment rate rose in 2015 and finally spiked by nearly 3% in a matter of months in early 2016, many of the teens now studying at HHS saw their lives changed.
A female student who also requested anonymity is one of those teens. She emigrated to the US in August 2015, just as the Petrobras scandal and the subsequent recession began to intensify. Her father had been working in the same job cutting metal in a factory for at least 12 years but was suddenly seeing coworkers laid off or fired at an alarming rate.
“The company was just firing everybody, and my dad got scared because he thought he would be the next person,” she said.
Her mother faced a similar situation. She had been working in the same job for two years after she was laid off in 2013. Before they left Brazil, the female student’s mother saw similar cuts taking place in her workplace.
“My parents had good jobs,” she said. “They had their lives there. But they were scared because the economy was decreasing and decreasing. They knew that there would come a time where they would be fired; they wanted to prevent that by coming here.”
The female student’s parents now work as manual laborers in the region.
“My dad especially, he doesn’t like to stay at home and not work,” she said. “It makes him feel bad, so he got the first job he could here.”
While the male student’s father enjoyed more job security than the female student’s parents, he too was impacted by the struggling economy. In fact, the male student’s family was close to selling their car as a way to make ends meet before his father visited Hudson where his aunt lives.
“My dad came here to visit my aunt, and he saw everything,” he said. “He saw the school, the houses, and my aunt talked to him a lot. He got back and said, ‘We’re going to move to the United States,’ and we said, ‘You’re lying.’ Three months later, I was in an airplane.”
Since arriving in the US, the male student has begun working a weekend job. He now enjoys more economic independence than he did in Brazil.
“Thing are so expensive, so even if I have money in Brazil, I can’t get anything,” he said. “I can just buy candy. Here I can buy a car if I want to.”
Students Adjust to Life in the US
While students are excited to live in the United States, where the economy is better and the political system is more secure, they have not necessarily enjoyed a perfectly smooth landing in their new country.
The female student spent time in three schools in different states at the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year.
“For a person who didn’t speak English, that was really hard,” she said. “I would make a friend and then change everything.”
Both students’ families, likewise, struggled to leave their homes behind.
“My parents had their friends there,” the female student said. “They left my grandma, everybody there. I miss them too, but, my parents, they haven’t made a lot of friends here like they had in Brazil because they lost friends that they had known since elementary school.”
Still, for both students, the benefits of moving to the United States far outweigh the struggles of doing so. The male student said his private school outside of Sao Paulo, Brazil, was roughly the size of the Hudson High School library. It had 300 students.
“Everything here is so organized,” he said. “Everything is awesome. This school is public. If this school was in Brazil, only rich people would go to it.”
The female student hopes to go to college to pursue a career in medicine or teaching.
The male student also wants to go to college. He, however, wants to follow his father’s path into a career in the courts. He wants to be a lawyer.
Students See Futures in the US
Both students had to leave their families and friends behind, and they both had to learn English in a matter of months after their families decided to move.
The male student learned English through a mixture of lessons from his father, who was already mostly fluent, and by watching American movies with their original English dialogue.
Indeed, many of those movies do project a larger-than-life view of America and its society. Having left the economic and political stagnation of Brazil though, he said they have been more accurate than many would expect.
“It’s like a dream,” he said. “Everyone in Brazil dreams of being here. It’s like a movie.”
Harvard Sweet Boutique continues to thrive in Hudson. With online ordering, a mail order gift business, sales business, and their in-store business, they bring in a lot of customers.
With all these different ways to sell their treats, they are able to sell their products around the country, for anyone who purchases them.
“It used to be the shipping that was much more popular, but the bakery side is quickly catching up,” Sue George, the owner, says. “We do a lot of custom work, custom cakes and custom cookies for corporations in the area and that sort of thing.”
Every year there are new treats or new additions to the same treat, such as the bug cupcake. For Valentine’s day it’s the “love bug.” For St. Patrick’s day it’s the “lucky bug.” There is a variation for each holiday. These changes drive more customers in to see the new things they have added.
“I would say half the things are the same, an
d half are new,” George says.
Sue George oversees everything before it goes out. She answers the calls and manages the business, so there are no troubles.
“I used to do all the baking, but now I do none of it. I just oversee everything,” George says.
Today Harvard will have plenty of its most popular Valentine’s day desserts, sugar cookies and cupcakes, for any last-minute shoppers.
Marchers from across New England descended on the Boston Common earlier this month to protest President Donald Trump and support the various groups he insulted in his campaign or threatened with his policy proposals.
Taking place the day after Trump’s inauguration, the march was one ofhundredsacross the world. It attracted, according to organizers and Boston Police, 175,000 people to the Boston Common and featured speeches from high-profile Massachusetts Democrats. Nearly a week later, more protests erupted across the country in opposition to a ban on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
Several HHS students and staff members attended. After the march, the Big Red spoke to two of these students about their experiences, their beliefs, and their hopes for the future.
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The Women’s March filled the Boston Common with more people than many onlookers can remember. Like many other protests across the country, it surpassed expectations of attendance.
Elizabeth Warren, a US Senator for Massachusetts and a popular voice among progressive Democrats, headlined the pre-march rally at the Boston Common, delivering a speech in which she committed to fighting Donald Trump even though her party represents the minority in both houses of Congress.
Warren was, however, just one of several liberal leaders who attended the rally. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh declared on behalf of the city of Boston that he would fight Trump. Days after that speech, his words were indeed put to the test when Trump announced he would put pressure on sanctuary cities like Boston to turn over undocumented immigrants to the federal government.
Likewise, the two were joined by Senator Ed Markey who touched on similar themes in his speech.
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As many marches were still taking place on January 21, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer falsely claimed that Donald Trump’s inauguration drew the largest audience in history in an aggressive briefing of reporters in Washington, D.C.
The next day, in an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd, Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to President Trump, defended Spicer’s comments by saying that he had not lied. Instead, she said, “he used alternative facts.”
The events came after Trump had spent much of his campaign insulting the press and threatening to change libel laws in his administration. During the Boston Women’s March, some participants could be heard chanting in support of a free press.
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Trump’s first week in office began with women’s marches around the world. It ended with protestors flocking to airports across the US to oppose an executive order by the president that banned immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries for 120 days while the government developed “extreme vetting” programs for refugees.
Those protests were sparked when 12 refugees were detained at JFK Airport in New York City by officials citing Trump’s order and began to thin when a federal judge ruled that refugees in transit to the US should be admitted and as the White House announced that all foreigners holding Green Cards would still be able to enter the US.
For students and progressive leaders alike, the early protests against President Trump are and will continue to be a favored tactic in resisting a government over which their party has little control.
For every 7 girls, there is one boy enrolled in the creative writing courses this semester. In Creative Writing II, there are no boys. Though boys are not represented nearly as strongly, teachers say the disparity may be sustained by gender stereotypes.
Carol Hobbs has been teaching creative writing for six years, but her experience goes further than that. She’s taught the course at other schools in Canada and also taught in the summer through the Education Cooperative, a Massachusetts group that offers enrichment courses to high school students.
“I think there is this great desire, at the high school level, to be seen as doing what is masculine and not taking some of the girly, softer courses, which some people will call creative writing,” Hobbs said. “I think as a culture we tend to push boys into other areas of study like science and engineering.”
Despite the huge gender difference, students in the class haven’t noticed.
Sophomore Tim Person, who took creative writing last year, says his class wasn’t really affected by the divide.
“There was about the same amount of enthusiasm from the guys and girls in the class,” he said.
Hobbs says she thinks both genders are equally involved in the class.
“I’ve had some amazing male students in my creative writing class,” she said. “I’ve never found them to be lacking in any way when it comes to creative writing. When we run [the class], we run a workshop where students present their work to each other, and they give critiques. I’ve not seen a difference in the amount or the quality of the critique with the boys and the girls.”
Freshman Danielle Joubran says that she thinks the participation in the class has more to do with a student’s personality than their gender.
“It’s about us and our writing,” she said. “I don’t even think we acknowledge that we are different genders.”
Outside of High School
According to a 2015 survey by VIDA, the overall male to female writer ratio for publishers is one to one, a near reversal of the trends seen in high school.
“I think that at the high school we keep wanting to channel men into more traditional male ideas,” Hobbs said. “But once they’re outside at university and so on, we see men encouraged to go out into the public.”
In Hudson High’s reading list, a majority of the books students study are written by men, such as Lord of the Flies by William Golding on the freshmen list and various Shakespeare works on all of the high school reading lists.
“We in school tend to have a lot of men on our reading lists [even though there are a lot of women writers],” Hobbs said. “I think we need to change that. We need to have a perception that women are also important writers of great ideas and of great feeling.”
In the Future
Aware of the gender divide in the creative writing classes, Hobbs is hoping she and her colleagues can work together to break down the stereotypes that allow that divide to persist.
“I think if we’re going to change stereotypes about creative writing, we have to address how we talk about it as adults in the building,” Hobbs said. “And we have to encourage any student we see who seems to have an interest in or a talent for creative writing. We have to encourage those students to continue and to see it as something valuable and not just to get another AP designation on their courses.”