News

0 221
by Dakota Antelman

by Dakota Antelman

Across the country, voters headed to the polls on Tuesday to cast their ballots on voting day 2016. Candidates for president, state senator, and congressional representatives were all running in contested races on Tuesday. Voters also supported or opposed four ballot questions on marijuana legalization, charter school expansion, authorization of one new slot machine for gambling, and a question on farm animal confinement.

We talked to voters at Hudson High School, which serves as the polling place for Precinct 1 in Hudson, to get their opinions on this year’s election.

In this year’s primary elections in the spring, Precinct 1 reflected the trends of the rest of Hudson, voting in favor of Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton on the Democratic ballot, and selecting Donald Trump over his closest competitors John Kasich and Marco Rubio on the Republican side.

In the last general election in 2012, Precinct 1 voted 899/592 in favor of the Democratic Obama/Biden ticket over the then Republican Romney/Ryan ticket.

Valarie Scannell

Steve Viegas

Brian List

Brian Falla

Amanda Sted

 

 

0 153
by Dakota Antelman

by Dakota Antelman

The English Department has long enjoyed success both in the classroom and on the annual MCAS test. But with the loss of funding and a reworked MCAS test scheduled to be introduced next year, its teachers and administrators are preparing to make adjustments to their instruction.

Over the past three years, an average of 91% of HHS tenth grade students, and an average of 77% of eighth grade students have scored proficient or higher on the English MCAS. In 2015, the last year for which such data was available, those scores put Hudson within just a few percentage points of the state average.

Data via Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education district profiles. | by Dakota Antelman
Data via Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education district profiles. | by Dakota Antelman

In the eyes of the state, specifically the Department of Education which considers MCAS scores in their rating of school district performance, these scores are key in proving that the English Department has been successful in educating its students.

For Curriculum Director Todd Wallingford, however, the scores are just a part of the feedback that he gathers about his courses.

“When you get to the test itself, it’s a three to four hour test that kids take that is meant to sum up their literacy skills,” Wallingford said. “It only covers a very narrow set of those standards. It doesn’t assess any sort of speaking or listening skills, and there’s really only one part that assesses writing.”

Nevertheless, Wallingford heaped praise on the department’s teachers, commending the teachers of tenth grade, who helped produce a 94% proficiency rate last year, for their work.

“They were solid,” he said of the scores. “All tenth grade teachers along with students and parents are responsible for how well kids perform, but the English teachers do most of the test prep. They have good reason to be pretty pleased with those scores.”

In tenth grade, the three English teachers regularly meet to coordinate their lessons and ensure that their grading practices remain constant. When MCAS or other student performance data comes in, the teachers are also able to discuss any changes they need to make to their lessons.

“We’re able to look at that data and make decisions about the kind of writing assignments we’re giving students or the supplemental materials we might bring into the classroom,” English teacher Carol Hobbs said. “That’s been a real boom for us to be able to sit together and talk about that.”

Going forward however, those conversations may be taking place about new topics as the state phases in the planned MCAS 2.0 over the next two years.

With a new emphasis on synthesis and argument, Wallingford expects MCAS 2.0 to be “pretty different than in the past.”

“[But] this is all in theory because the state hasn’t shown us what the assessment is actually going to look like because they haven’t designed it yet,” Wallingford explained. “It’s all just talk now of what it’s going to be.”

MCAS 2.0 is not the only change the English Department will have to deal with. The department recently lost funding for the afterschool MCAS prep sessions it has been running for years. The now cut program allowed students who needed test taking advice, review of concepts, or were nervous about the test to attend prep sessions beginning in February and running up until the test in March.

Without that in place, the department is currently working on new ways to prepare students for the test using class time.

For Hobbs, finding a way to adapt to these changes will be crucial in continuing the success that the English department has had at HHS.

“I do think that many students will not be serviced well if they’re not aware of what that test looks like,” she said “It’s not that I want to teach to the test; I prefer that students explore literature, but I think that there are students who will do better and who will be less nervous and more prepared if they know what the format of that test will be.”

0 292
NJHS President Maya Levine lights the candle of Scholarship, one of the core values of NHS. | by Siobhan Richards

by Siobhan Richards

0 324
by Siobhan Richards

by Dakota Antelman

In 2014, math teachers at Hudson High School received a list of numbers that they did not like.

Seventy-three eighth grade students and 21 tenth grade students had scored a “needs improvement” or below on that year’s mathematics MCAS. Overall, Hudson High School had 24 more struggling math students, according to the test, than the state average that year.

The scores frustrated members of the math department.

“My goal as a teacher is to always make sure that the students are challenged but still learn,” says Algebra II teacher Joe Lentino. “We want to make sure that they’re being successful. I felt like the programs that we were implementing at the time just weren’t working.”

Later that year, it was Lentino who found what has become Hudson’s solution to its testing problem — a discovery-based curriculum called Eureka Math.

For Lentino, it started out as just another piece in the patchwork of curriculums the math department had used to try to boost test scores. But just three years later, every math class, from kindergarten to pre-calculus, in the Hudson Public Schools is being taught using the Eureka Math curriculum.

“It’s not the way I learned math; it’s not the way I’ve ever taught math before, but this is the way math should be taught,” explains Geometry teacher Shelley Beauchamp. “It makes much more sense than what we were doing before.”

Eureka Math is a curriculum that begins in kindergarten and follows students as far as their senior year of high school. First created under the name Engage New York as a state-wide curriculum for the New York Public Schools, Eureka is one of just a few curriculums mapped to follow the Common Core standards without any modification.

Before adding Eureka Math, Hudson had worked to both comply with Common Core and produce strong test scores using curriculums ranging from the College Preparatory Mathematics program to the Holt McDougal textbooks. Under those curriculums, however, students were not performing as the department wished.

“I was willing to try something else because the students were struggling,” Lentino says. “It didn’t matter what we tried, MCAS, midterms, finals, everything had low scores. We wanted to find something that would make our kids more successful.”

Lentino switched to the curriculum midway through the 2014 school year. Likewise, Beauchamp and three other teachers picked up Eureka math over the summer and brought it to their classes in the fall of 2015.

For those teachers who took up the new curriculum, last year was full of “growing pains.”

“The amount of planning that it takes to implement this effectively is not something that teachers are used to,” says Math Coach Tracey Lamson. “When you work out of a textbook, it’s pretty linear. One page leads to the next and everything is kind of compartmentalized. With Eureka, it’s not. The teachers really need to see the scope and sequence between grades that this curriculum has.”

Despite the initial struggles with the program, the Hudson Public Schools decided in early January to switch to Eureka across the district. After that announcement, the HHS math department began devoting half of its professional development time to devising a plan to efficiently move through the Eureka curriculum.

Teachers met during the school year and over the summer to eliminate extraneous lessons and create a pacing calendar to ensure that teachers are able to cover every lesson this year.

This fall, with the teachers who did not teach Eureka last year now integrated into the curriculum as well, Lamson is trying to provide as much support as possible to ensure a smooth transition.

“They still have their curriculum teams, where they meet with other teachers of the same subject, and then they have me to tap into if they need that support,” Lamson says. “Nobody can implement a curriculum effectively without some sort of collaboration.”

For students, this year’s total switch has brought welcomed continuity between classes.

“We all learned the same thing, but we didn’t learn it the same way or with the same ideas in mind,” explains sophomore Sophia Togneri, adding. “Now, if one of Mr. Lentino’s kids is working with someone from Mr. King’s class, we would all have similar ways of getting the answers instead of being on two completely different sides of whatever we were doing.”

For the math department as a whole, seeing test scores rebound is important, but it is not the only thing Lentino, Beauchamp and their colleagues hope to accomplish.

“We’re hoping that with a cohesive curriculum from K through 12, the math students here at Hudson are going to be ahead of the curve, not only on the SATs and the other tests but at stronger universities,” Lentino said. “We want them to be engaging in math long term. I think in the long run, we’ll be better served with the cohesive curriculum.”

 

0 254
Peter Vacchina holds a bat during his expedition to the Pantanal wetlands in Brazil. | Submitted by Peter Vacchina

by Rylee Cowie

Peter Vacchina has been teaching for 37 years total, with six years in California and 14 years abroad in Italy, Belgium, England, Mexico, and Brazil. For the past 17 years he has taught three chemistry courses at Hudson High School. At the end of this school year, Vacchina will be retiring.

Surprisingly, a science teacher was never something that Vacchina thought he would become. At a young age, he worked in the machine shop at General Electric. After he finished college, Vacchina moved into teaching by becoming a substitute teacher. At first, he taught almost every subject before falling in love with the idea of teaching chemistry to high school students.

Vacchina remarks that he enjoys the hands-on aspect of chemistry. He believes that the students will not only have more fun while learning, but he will also have more fun teaching his class.

He will leave behind many memories at Hudson High School that he will treasure forever. Among the most memorable are some of the trips he has been on. “I’ve taken students on two-week expeditions to the Pantanal of Brazil, which were the greatest trips ever.”

The Pantanal of Brazil is the biggest wetlands in the world. On this two-week trip, students worked on field research with scientists. Vacchina and his students had to pay their own way to give money to the scientists for their research, but they also were paying for the unforgettable experience.

Even though he got to do amazing things, he still faced many challenges in his 37 years of teaching.

His biggest challenges have been meeting the needs of his students. He explains that every student has different needs while learning. But, he will miss each and every student he has ever taught.

“I’ll miss the interactions with students. I love teaching because I enjoy the academic atmosphere. Education can sometimes be burdensome, but once you get into a classroom with students, it’s a joy.”

Many teachers and students throughout the school have been reminiscing on their amazing times with Vacchina following his retirement announcement.

Anatomy teacher Mike Nanartowich has grown very close to Vacchina over his many years at Hudson High School.

“I will miss his smile,” Nanartowich said. “Every morning I walk by his classroom and say ‘Pete!’, and he goes, ‘Hi Mike!’ So, I will miss that little exchange.”

But, they have also had good times together outside of school.

“I traveled to Brazil with Peter, and he wouldn’t let me into the room unless I gave him the room number in Portuguese, which resulted in us being locked outside for a little bit. People don’t know Mr. Vacchina’s dry sense of humor like I do,” Nanartowich said.

“We’ve had some great times together. I’m gonna miss Pete a lot,” he remarks.

Fellow teachers are not the only ones that will miss Vacchina.

Sophomore Hannah Farrell takes Honors Chemistry with Vacchina and remarks that it will be sad not seeing him around the hallways next year. She will also miss his sense of humor that everyone seemed to love.

“He’s always joking and making funny sound effects,” Farrell says.

Not only is he a great teacher, he was also known for bringing laughter to his classrooms.  One of Farrell’s favorite memories with Vacchina was when he was doing a demonstration to the class, and none of them seemed to work. “It ended with shredded balloons and a small fire,” remarks Farrell, laughing.

Though he will miss teaching he is really looking forward to retiring. “It seems like a good opportunity to try something else, like art or sculptures. I enjoy carving stone as well, so that’s what I’m looking forward to right now.” He is currently working on a project making busts of each of his five grandchildren, but he has only finished three so far.

He also plans to spend time with his family in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Although everyone in Hudson will miss him, Vacchina has made a lasting impact on this school.

 

0 289
McMahon (right), Bruce Hedison (center), and June Murray (left) at the 2014 graduation ceremony. |Submitted photo

by Stephanie Petrovick

As a paraeducator for fifteen years, Betty McMahon has been involved in many aspects of our school.

One of the most notable things that she has been involved in is gaining recognition for the paraeducators of the school and working in the Paraeducators’ Union, for which she has been the treasurer.

“I think the biggest thing is by being in the union, paras are recognized as people, as important people in the building, in the school district. We were considered nothing before, when I first started. We were just people. And I feel that the teachers and the administrators do respect us a lot more, as time has gone on,” McMahon said.

But education was not McMahon’s first career choice. She started out as a legal secretary and had gone to Mass Bay for two years, but she decided not to transfer to a different school to become a teacher.

“I volunteered a lot at the elementary school, and when somebody was like ‘Oh, we’re going to need a para,’ it was like, I was meant for this. I didn’t even have to interview because I had been so involved in the school. I just went up to him [the principal] and said, ‘I want to work in Jean’s room,’ and he just said ‘Okay,’ because he knew me so well. And when I started working for the school system in Mulready with intensive needs children, and some of them were in wheelchairs, some of them couldn’t talk, but I found that I could communicate, no matter what. We would take the kids out of wheelchairs, and we would do somersaults with them, and it just made me feel good,” McMahon said.

McMahon’s interest in working with disabled children started before then, and it only increased as she worked at the elementary school.

“It was something that goes back many many years,” she explained. “One of my neighbors had a sister, a girl my age, who was in a wheelchair. I don’t even remember what she had – probably cerebral palsy or something. And she couldn’t talk or anything. She would just grunt and groan, and I would watch her brothers and sisters and parents carry on conversations with her. And I always thought, ‘Whoa, that is so cool.'”

In her time at Hudson High School, McMahon has helped the teachers and students alike to succeed when she has worked in the English, chemistry, ELL, and physics classes. She tries to help the students and show them that adults do not know everything, and it is all right to ask for help.

“I think when I’ve had an ‘Ah-ha!’ moment, and I am willing to say, ‘Oh, now I get it!’ out loud. I think the kids realize, no matter how old you are, if you’re in a new class or something you’re not going to get it all. I really feel that they understand that we’re human too, and we don’t have all the answers and stuff. And if I knew kids were struggling with a concept, I’d raise my hand and go, ‘Could you explain that again because I don’t think I got it all,’ even if I did get it all,” McMahon said.

McMahon has also made friends with the teachers that she has worked with, such as ELL teacher Emily Smyth.

“I don’t know what next year will be like without her,” Smyth said. “She has a positive energy and a great attitude, and whenever I ask her for something she’s like, ‘Done! Already done!’ It’s always, ‘Yes, I can help, just let me know what to do.’ She’s used to anything we throw at her from our English Language Learning department.”

In the ELL classes, she has helped students write essays or memorize parts for plays, and she has helped with any other assignment they might have. One year a student had to perform a skit but her partner was absent, so McMahon took her out into the hall and learned the part in ten minutes to help the student.

“She also helps us with our ELL ceremony. Every year she sits in about the second row, and she has a huge smile on her face. As the students are at the podium speaking, many of them in English and for many of them it’s their first time in front of a huge crowd speaking English, [but] she’s there to comfort them and to give them the support they need. She’s brought in clothes for some of the students that might need fancier clothes for the ceremony; anything we need she’s not afraid to jump in and do it for us, and we appreciate her for that,” Smyth said.

English teacher Susan Menanson also appreciates McMahon in the classroom because she anticipates what Menanson needs and takes very good notes that she will distribute to any student who needs it, not only the kids on her caseload. But McMahon also knows when she needs to be strict with the kids.

“She’s very strict with the kids, and she can speak to them as a parent, where I can’t. I have to speak to them as a teacher. But she can put herself in parental mode, and the kids don’t resent that. If I tried to do that, they would resent that,” Menanson said. “You know, I can understand why she wants to go. I mean when we’re at that certain age, we all want to retire, but I feel sad because I’ll miss her a lot. She’s been a very valuable person to work with, and I’ll miss that.”

Outside of the classroom, one of the most notable things she has done is run two blood drives every year. She collects at least 30 pints of blood, which means that up to 90 people have been given the blood they need.

“As a person who had to receive blood once when she wasn’t expecting it, in one of my hip operations, I just feel like I’m giving back now, to somebody who gave me blood,” McMahon said.

After retiring, she plans to volunteer at the Worcester hospital to cuddle and help take care of babies who are premature or are addicted to drugs. She also plans to work on her house.

“I’ve never been home with my husband for any length of time because if he worked in the summer, I worked in the summer doing Sunshine Camp, and when you think about it, that only leaves you a few weeks during the year where you’re together all the time. And it’s like, ‘Hmmm…Are we going to drive each other crazy? Maybe.’ And I’m going to clean my house. All those boxes I put away years ago, and I’m sure most of them I don’t need what’s in there because I haven’t looked at them in years, gone! Gone! I’ll have an empty house soon,” McMahon said.

0 548
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, Looking for Alaska by John Green, We were Liars by E. Lockheart, and The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey. |Tess McDonald

by Tess McDonald

This spring, eleven members of a faculty summer reading committee have joined together to create a new way to get students to read over the summer. With the completion rate of reading for academic students at less than 50%, the faculty is pushing to increase that rate.

The faculty has made a list of 20-40 books that they will sponsor. Students can choose a book from that list to read and discuss when school starts again in the fall. In the past few years, students have had no choice in what book they read. There has been one book for history and one book for English.

“[The idea] came from a meeting about a month ago when we usually start talking about summer reading, and one of the teachers asked if we could try what Quinn does,” Curriculum Coordinator Todd Wallingford said.

HHS teachers have been discontent with the old policy, so getting teachers on board to iron out the details of a new policy became the easy portion of the task.

“I am optimistic about this new approach,” Wallingford said. “I hope that I like this one better than the old one.”

Wallingford also hopes to increase student reading levels, which can be achieved simply through reading over the summer.

In studies about the importance of reading, students who read over the summer show a higher grade point average of almost 2 points. Those students strengthen their skills while students who don’t can fall behind for the next school year.

“We have seen a plateau in the students who participate the last couple of years in summer reading, and there is a gap between the honors students that finish, and then the academic students. We aren’t closing the gap, which is pretty important, and it’s our goal right now to close it up, and with this [current program] we don’t feel that we are reaching our goals,” Wallingford said.

Wallingford says he wants reading to become a big part of the culture at Hudson High. He insists that the new summer reading program is a way to make that happen.

In many cases, students say they would be more willing to read books over the summer if they were able to choose. The new program allows students to pick a book.

It also gives select seniors the chance to sponsor a book and lead book discussions in the fall.

With students running discussions, not only will more students be motivated to read a book with friends, but they also will work together in the way that the school wants.

While the faculty is still ironing out the finer details, the new summer reading policy will be introduced for the 2016-2017 school year at the beginning of next week.

0 358

Samantha McLaughlin sees what health care is like in Malawi.

Samantha McLaughlin and several other students hold children from villages in Malawi. | by Samantha McLaughlin

by Elizabeth DiLauro

People in the United States often do not understand how different their health care experience is from other countries, but sophomore Sam McLaughlin got to experience the difference first hand for two weeks. She went to Mtunthama in Malawi as part of the program Bridges to Malawi. This organization’s goal is for students to understand what health care is like in other countries and at the same time for them to help to improve the medical care there.

McLaughlin was one of 14 students who participated in this program.

As they explain on Bridges to Malawi’s website, Malawi is one of the world’s “least developed countries,” and it “depends heavily on outside aid to meet development needs.” One of those needs is health care. Malawi is a country in southeastern Africa that has a life expectancy of 59 years. According to UNAIDS, 1.1 million people in Malawi lived with HIV in 2014. 

In Malawi their hospitals are the size of a classroom. They are old and rundown with patients that are extremely sick. To get medical attention it requires more money than the people can afford. They either stay in the hospital until they can afford to pay off their treatment, or they will wait until they are extremely sick before seeking the care they need.

The program Bridges to Malawi tries to provide the health care that they do not have.

In villages the students set up a clinic to treat patients and to provide medicine.

“They all were very nice and grateful we were there to help them,” McLaughlin said. “I feel like they get a lot of help there, but just knowing that people are there for them, they get very excited.”

The people treated the students like doctors even though they do not have medical degrees.

Each day students would wake up at six in the morning, learn about what happened during the night, do rounds in the pediatric and adult ward, play with orphans or run the outreach clinics.

During her two-week stay, McLaughlin noticed the differences between the United States and Malawi.

“Here everyone gets health care even if it’s not a lot, but everyone gets a baseline. In Malawi they really don’t have health care,” McLaughlin states.

Due to the lack of health care, the people were susceptible to malaria and other diseases like meningitis.

McLaughlin got the chance to observe a doctor giving a spinal tap to a little boy with meningitis and saw people who had severe malaria and were treated with IVs and O2 treatments. They watched doctors drain abdomens, tumors, and cysts.

Through all of those experiences, McLaughlin’s thoughts on what she wants to do in the future changed.

“I still think I want to work in the medical field treating patients, but it opened my eyes to the fact that I get a bit queasy around blood and surgery, so I might want to spend more time in the lab part of it.”

Overall, McLaughlin says that she was inspired by the optimism in the face of adversity that her patients had.

“For their treatment they don’t have the proper medicine, and they have a lot of shortages. But they are also going through all the famine and food shortages and just their housing and stuff. They still are getting by, and they are happy with what they have even though compared to us they really don’t have anything. But they are still happy.”

0 362
Hudson students in Murphy's social studies elective classes went to the Boston Day and Evening Academy in Roxbury, MA to learn what an urban school is like. They spent the day in Roxbury with the Roxbury students, and in February the Roxbury students spent the day in Hudson. | by Caitlin Murphy

by Sophia Togneri

On April 5, social studies teacher Caitlin Murphy won the William Spratt Award for Excellence in Teaching Secondary Social Studies.

The Massachusetts Council for the Social Studies, a non-profit organization that supports social studies teachers throughout the state, gives awards to who they believe is the best teacher in every social studies topic. Though Murphy has been praised by the school community for her work for winning this prestigious award, she had a different reaction.

“To be honest, I’m really embarrassed by it,” Murphy explained. “I observe my colleagues in the building working incredibly hard, so I feel a little bit uncomfortable to be singled out as doing something different because I see lots of people around me really, really committed to students and really committed to student learning.”

For Murphy the class is all about the students and what they can get out of the class. She believes that all of her surrounding peers, including herself, have a similar goal every day in the classroom. They want to teach to the best of their ability and educate their students in a way that matters to them. She doesn’t believe that it’s her that makes her classes engaging and fun for the students; it’s the students themselves.

“Her whole focus is on the kids,” English teacher Julie McMaster said. “It’s not so much about anything that she does. In her ideal world she sees herself as facilitating other people doing great things, and she doesn’t always realize that part of facilitating other people doing great things is also doing great things yourself.”

English and Social Studies Curriculum Director Todd Wallingford nominated Murphy for the award for her work to get students engaged in the community and doing service learning with her class.

One of the activities is the exchange program with Boston Day and Evening academy in Roxbury. Every year in October, she takes about 30 students from her sociology classes, and in return around February, 30 students from Roxbury come here.

“It’s been a great opportunity to have suburban students meet urban students and get a better sense of their life and their experiences and vice versa,” Murphy explained. “I think that has been very eye opening, not only for the students’ understanding of the content in sociology, but it really gets them out in the world and opening their eyes to other experiences and realizing that other people have had different lives and different experiences than their own.”

At the moment Murphy teaches all social studies electives: sociology, contemporary legal issues, ethics, and conflict resolution.

Murphy’s conflict resolution class also connects their classwork to their local community. In class, they created a lesson about conflicts and how to create win/win solutions from them. They then went to Farley Elementary School and taught the lesson to fourth grade classes.

“Teaching the fourth graders helped me understand how resolving a conflict needs to be shown,” said Megan Leahy, a ninth grade student in conflict resolution. “It helped really understand how we need to teach younger generations to resolve problems the proper way to help them later in life.”

Conflict resolution also offers peer mediation; students throughout the school who are in a disagreement can talk to each other and to a peer mediator to find win/win solutions to the issue. The students created short videos that show teachers having a conflict that peer mediation could help.

Murphy’s goal every day in class is to get students to think critically about their everyday lives and to look at every perspective in situations. These class activities reinforce those ideas for them.

“There are constantly kids coming back years later that go out into the world and still hold onto things that she’s taught,” McMaster explained. “It’s not a specific idea or topic. It’s more about caring what’s going on and trying to make a difference.”

That is all that Murphy wants her class to do, teach students about topics that matter to them. She does not care about the awards that she wins or the recognition that she gets. She wants to make a difference in her students’ lives, to create a learning environment where students can voice their opinion and are engaged in their learning.

“The award was a recognition that that type of teaching is valued. It’s not all just about tests and data and content,” Murphy said. “It’s also about giving students really meaningful experiences.”