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Superintendent Marco Rodrigues talks during a meeting of the Superintendent Student Advisory Committee. (Photo submitted)

by Dakota Antelman

Marco Rodrigues, in one of his first acts as superintendent, offered 12 students a seat on a new Superintendent Advisory Committee that encourages and facilitates student involvement in the district’s decision-making processes.

Meeting monthly at Hudson High School, the committee includes representatives from grades 7-12 and has already addressed issues ranging from the quality of cafeteria food to the possibility of a study hall for all grades.

“We want them to be part of the solution and perhaps better understand the process,” Rodrigues said of the group and the motivations behind its formation. “Sometimes, if there’s a problem, people will say nothing is being done. But, sometimes, nothing is being done because we can’t fix something now, but we can fix it in January, or it is something that we’re already talking about in the budget process.”

After discussing the idea during public interviews with the School Committee in March, Rodrigues solidified plans for the committee over the summer. He asked principals to select students for his committee who would not otherwise be involved in such a program.

From there, Hudson High School Principal Brian Reagan said he consulted with the school’s guidance counselors to identify students within each grade that fit that profile.

By Dakota Antelman

“[We were looking for] different types of students who may have an interest in leadership but maybe wouldn’t have run for student government or did run and showed interest but didn’t get elected,” he said. “There are a number of kids who, we think, maybe if we tap them, they might be good in that setting.”

In addition to the superintendent and the students chosen to advise him, HHS Assistant Principal Dan McAnespie has attended the committee’s first two meetings to potentially allow HHS administration to solve issues.

“Issues are raised, and we’re able to hear them first hand and see if we can’t address some of those issues or move them on to the Community Council,” Reagan said.

Already two meetings into their schedule, the committee will meet six more times before the end of the school year. As student representatives approach those meetings, Rodrigues said, they decide which issues get discussed.

“They need to go out and talk to other students about things,” he said. “Then whatever issues they want to bring to the table, they bring that and populate the agenda.”

Before the committee can gather those student concerns, however, Rodrigues and members agreed, it must focus on informing students that it exists.

“We don’t have the means yet to focus on getting the word out,” said senior representative Garet Mildish. “The thought was to use social media and, more importantly, to use posters which would have all of our emails so that you could contact members about an issue that you have. But we’re working on that.”

After just over one quarter of the school year, members and administrators are excited about the committee’s potential. As it continues to take shape, however, students say they are eager to see results, and administrators say they are looking forward to the new perspective students can provide on aspects of the Hudson Public Schools’ operation.

“When they have ideas, how can those ideas be incorporated into something that maybe the adults didn’t think of but the kids thought about,” Rodrigues said. “That is the kind of input that I want to see happening.”

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Superintendent Marco Rodrigues discusses the 2016 MetroWest Health Survey with the school committee. | Photo via HudTV

by Dakota Antelman

Superintendent Marco Rodrigues touted Hudson’s success in lowering drug use and bullying rates, but he acknowledged the persistent problem of stress in Hudson students as he presented the results of last year’s MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey to the school committee last Tuesday.

The data released is just some of the information the survey collected. Still, it serves as a measuring stick for the district and the success of its efforts to improve student health in Hudson. Administered every other year, the release of the 2016 data comes almost exactly two years after data from the 2014 survey sparked concern and some action over mental health and drug abuse in the district.

by Dakota Antelman

“We look at all those indicators to understand the landscape of a school. When we look at those indicators now, they’re trending down,” Rodrigues said. “That’s encouraging. We’re not where we want to be yet, but we see a decrease in the number of incidences that we are being able to capture through the survey.”

Indeed, recent electronic cigarette use among high school students fell 12% in 2016, continuing a downward trend from a peak of 39% in 2008, the first year the survey was administered. Cigarette smoking also decreased among middle school students while rates of electronic cigarette use fell as well.

Lifetime alcohol, marijuana, and prescription drug use all continued downward trends in both middle and high school categories.

Bullying and cyberbullying rates also decreased, according to Rodrigues’s presentation.

Director of Nursing Lee Waingortin, who prepared the presentation, attributed those decreases both to improvements in wellness education and to the efforts of the Hudson Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition. The Coalition grew between the 2014 and 2016 surveys and has helped organize a variety of public awareness campaigns about drug abuse, ranging from a 5k last fall, to a demonstration to parents about how to identify possible signs of drug use in teens.

“There’s no magic bullet,” Waingortin said. “But things are trending down because of efforts in the community and in the district.”

The mental health portion of the survey results, however, showed smaller gains by the district.

While Rodriguez noted a decrease in depressive symptoms and self-injury among high school students, he said stress levels remained unchanged after they spiked from 25% in 2012 to 35% in 2014.

“You don’t have easy solutions for that,” Rodrigues said. “You can council a person. You can help a person maybe manage time better or be able to do things different, but, in the end, I cannot control somebody’s personal life. I cannot control somebody’s attitude, or caseload, or job issues, or family issues, or household situation.”

In addition to high school data, stress rates among middle school students continued to increase from 11% in 2012 to 19%.

That increase persists even after the district took action to mitigate middle school students’ stress after the 2014 survey. They, specifically, implemented a three-year grant they won in 2016 allowing them to hire additional staff to help students transition into the middle school after elementary school or extended absences. Though the district has worked to address these issues, Rodrigues noted that they remain at the core of the ongoing stress issue among middle school students.

“Everything changes,” he said. “You’re in a larger environment where you rotate from class to class. I think all those things impact [middle school stress]. I don’t think it’s all of it, but it is part of it.”

While Rodrigues did address data on depressive symptoms, self-injury, and suicidal behavior, his presentation did not include the actual numbers behind those statements. It simply said that there was a “decrease in depressive symptoms and self-injury while there was no notable change in suicide attempts since 2008.”

The presentation’s summary of that data for middle school students was even more vague.

“After increasing from 2010-2014, reports of mental health problems are somewhat lower in 2016,” it said.

In the past, Hudson has released hard data on those categories. According to Waingortin, however, the district will not release that data this year.

The superintendent of each district surveyed decides what data get released publicly. Two years ago, Rodrigues’s predecessor, Jodi Fortuna, released raw data on several “key indicators,” such as suicide attempts or recent depressive symptoms. This year, however, Rodrigues decided to publish only his presentation, not the data it analyzed, according to Waingortin. As a result, the only trends publicly available are the ones specifically mentioned in the presentation.

“It’s not that anyone is trying to hide anything, but it can be misconstrued or misread by individuals who may not know the backstory and what is being done,” Waingortin said of the decision, noting that each of the 25 other districts surveyed publish varying amounts of their district-specific data.

Regardless, the Hudson Public Schools and their students are already considering possible paths forward from this year’s data.

Sophomore and student representative on the school committee, Ben Carme, said he feels little has changed since the 2014 survey, even though Hudson did emphasize mental health education in its wellness curriculum in recent years.

He hopes that, with the 2016 data, the district, among other things, solicits students’ feedback about possible remedies to student stress.

“We all know that we have to get these perfect scores for college,” said sophomore Ben Carme. “That leads to stress from eighth grade all the way up until when you’re a senior. There is no specific group to help deal with that. That’s the biggest problem.”

Waingortin, however, said Hudson’s efforts are having a positive effect on key categories. Going forward, she hopes the district can increase the community’s involvement in continuing downward trends in such areas as drug use, bullying, and some mental health categories.

“We’re certainly not letting down the efforts at all,” she said. “If anything, we need to keep on track with what the data is. So far, it’s showing good response to what we are doing. We need to continue those efforts.”

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by Veronica H-Mildish

This school year, the Hudson school district has decided to switch from the previous grading system of IPass to Aspen.

Aspen is a system that is currently available to school counselors, teachers and students in the high school. It should be available to parents by the end of the term. Students can access Aspen at https://ma-hudson.myfollett.com/aspen/logon.do and follow the login procedure that was sent to student emails.

Guidance Counselor Angie Flynn likes the fact that students and parents have their own personalized accounts.

She also likes that she can access a ton of information, such as IEPs, conduct, and 504 information. They were available before on IPass, but they are much easier to access now.

The teacher’s response to Aspen is pretty diverse. History teacher Tim Reinhardt explains likes that he is able to pick specific assignments to drop while making sure others, like test grades, stay. He can also access medical information on his students.

He still is finding some negatives to Aspen. He finds that he isn’t able to access the schedules of students he doesn’t have. This could be problematic if he needed to discuss an afterschool activity with them.

For some teachers this isn’t an issue, and they prefer Aspen. I like it a lot better than iPass for many reasons,” says English teacher Maureen DeRoy, “but like anything new, it definitely took some getting used to.” With Aspen she is able to add notes to her grades with much more ease than she ever was able to with IPass.

And although, in the beginning, many students were upset about not having access to their grades like they were accustomed to, as they gained access and became more acclimated to the program, they liked it more and have similar opinions to the teachers.

“I thought it was really confusing at first, and I didn’t know how to get around Aspen, but now I’m getting more comfortable and I like it better,” says sophomore Sammy Gogan.

Athough there is positive feedback, some students still prefer IPass rather than the new system.

“I think Aspen is convenient and I like the way it’s set up, but I liked IPass better because we could see everyone’s assignments easier and we could see what the teachers put in,” says freshman Erika Ashman.

In the future, Flynn thinks guidance is going to focus on figuring out all the parts of Aspen before they add any other new projects. She is hoping that, with the program, she will be able to make a better master schedule for next school year. For now, they’re just going to take this new program “day by day, step by step.”

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Signs posted along the walk guiding participants through the race depict Michaella throughout her life. | by Siobhan Richards

by Siobhan Richards

The Miles and Smiles for Michaella event in memory of Michaella Walsh Libby was held at the Morgan Bowl on October 21. Libby was a member of the HHS class of 2010, and she attended the University of Maryland before her passing in 2012.  

Her parents, Marty and Erin (Walsh) Libby; younger brothers, Nick and Ben Libby; as well as friends and family join together each year to put on the event. This year the Michaella Walsh Libby Foundation became an official non-profit charity, and it has added a third scholarship.

To raise money for the foundation each year there is a 5k walk around Hudson, as well as events such as the high heel dash. In addition, there are small raffles donated by family, friends and local businesses, and a larger raffle to win a trip to Tuscany, Italy. 

They give scholarships each year. One goes to a HHS senior who is dedicated to serving the community and is going into the field of public health, just as Michaella was. This year’s recipient was Cara Sullivan who is interested in the public health field at the University of New Hampshire. The second scholarship goes to a student at the University of Maryland, who is also an AOII sorority sister. This year a third scholarship will go to three children in Honduras to attend bilingual schools as part of a joint effort with the Students helping Honduras foundation.

As a Hudson High School student, Michaella participated in cheerleading, gymnastics, and track and field. Each year the current cheerleaders help run the event. They provide balloons and sharpies for the balloon release. Each person has a balloon and may write a message to their loved ones who have also passed away.

The foundation continues to grow each year, keeping not only Michaella’s memory alive, but her passion for helping others.

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Freshmen English class put their chromebooks to use.

by Ally Jensen

 

The Hudson school district has provided students in grades eight, nine, and ten a personal chromebook free of charge this year.

Students have been actively using these new devices in classes, and many teachers have been beginning to use less paper and more technology.

“Most of the time I get to choose to take my notes online or on paper, but homework has changed because in my classes there is a lot more online work,” says freshman Audrey Dezutter. But not only are the computers useful for notes, classwork can also be managed online.

“On Day 1 [of each 7-day cycle] I’ll have my freshmen write a practice paragraph on Google Classroom, and then I can just go online and make notes or corrections. What I like about Google Classroom is that it allows you to see all the mistakes and also the corrections, so you can still see the error,” says English teacher Jennifer Wallingford. “I usually have them use the chromebooks at least once every seven-day cycle.”

Some teachers have used Google Classroom for a while now, but with the release of the Chromebooks even more teachers are using it. Now teachers have been more up to date with assignments and can even post lessons ahead of time, which allows students to get to see what the upcoming work will look like.

In addition to having access to future assignments, having classwork posted online makes it easier for students who were absent to catch up on missed work. This makes students more responsible for their own education in new ways.

“If they’re not checking Google Classroom, then they might not remember to do the work,” Wallingford says. “I think there’s still a certain amount of diligence required if you’re looking in your planner or on Google Classroom.”

Students are now more in charge of their work because they have new ways to reach it outside of the classroom. One of the most important factors of the Chromebook distribution is the expansion of learning methods and the new way to personalize each student’s education, and now all students with these devices are given equal opportunities.

 

 

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by Clement Doucette

Hudson celebrated its 20th Annual Pumpkin Fest at Morgan Bowl on Saturday.  Community organizations, businesses, and performers came to showcase their work around town, while children and adults appeared in costume.

 

 

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by John Houle

Spirit Committee hoped to inspire more student involvement and spirit this year in its approach to spirit week. will host this year’s homecoming dance at the Portuguese Club on October 21. This idea was introduced by the JR Boosters and is being implemented to increase school spirit.

Spirit Committee faculty advisor Chelsea Silva was a member of Spirit Committee when she was in high school. Now, Silva sees a lack of spirit in school and has identified how this has occurred.

“When I was in Spirit Committee,” Silva said, “the class officers and the grades had a more active role in creating school spirit. Now, this common active role has stopped, and Spirit Committee has to be more active and push for their ideas to be implemented.”

Homecoming has included Spirit Week, a full week of dress up days. This week has included both classic dress up days, such as color day, and new ideas, such as pink day, but one classic day will not be making an appearance.

“This year,” spirit committee member Bianca Chaves said, “Red and White day will be replaced with USA day because the homecoming game will be USA themed.”

Spirit week culminates with the first pep rally of the year. This year will feature a schedule that’s unlike previous pep rallies.

“The schedule of the rally,” Chelsea Silva said, “will include a focus on interaction with a trivia club competition and performances from the band and dance team.”

The pep rally will also announce a homecoming king and queen for each grade. The male student and the female student that have shown the most school spirit throughout the week will win. The rewards for winning this competition will include a tiara and bragging rights.

Spirit Committee also created a hashtag challenge on Instagram. For the competition, each grade will get the hashtag #HudsonHighSpiritYOG, with YOG being replaced with the student’s year of graduation. The grade with the most pictures will win free admission to Friday night’s homecoming game.

The multitude of photos on the Instagram and Twitter accounts show that the Spirit Committee’s efforts to increase school spirit have been successful.

The week will end with a homecoming dance at the Portuguese Club on October 21. Junior Boosters introduced this idea to increase school spirit.

“I hope,” Silva said, “that everyone appreciates Spirit Committee’s efforts and participates in homecoming.”

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by Rebecca Shwartz

Paul D’Alessandro is retiring this year after working at Hudson High for 32 years, teaching the workshop class that began along with his career. 

“I’ve been working in public schools for 36 years, and it’s not as common now for teachers to work at one place for their entire career, but I chose to work here for these past 32 years,” D’Alessandro says.

“David Quinn told me ‘Oh, you should work here, they need someone to run vocational classes,’ so I took his advice and applied,” D’Alessandro says. It had started out as a dropout prevention class called STRIVE, convincing students who were thinking of dropping out to stay and attend the class. It became something much more than that as the years went by.

After he graduated with a Special Education degree, D’Alessandro was hired as a special education teacher to teach vocational skills, thus creating the workshop class. The class, now connected through the Carpenters’ Union Training Facility, would help students prepare for entering that vocation.

“It’s amazing, watching them grow from knowing nothing about building to keeping an eye on them as they make their own cabinets,” D’Alessandro says. “My students usually go into the field of carpentry and woodworking, either working the wood or planning constructions.”

D’Alessandro has built many different products for customers with the help of his classes, ranging from barn doors to wardrobes and cabinets.

Since D’Alessandro is retiring, the future of the workshop is unclear. “It’s up in the air, what’s going to happen with the workshop class, but students won’t be able to get training before going to the facility.” 

In addition to starting the workshop, D’Alessandro has been involved in other important school programs, such as coteaching. The STRIVE class came to an end five years ago due to the fact that students weren’t passing MCAS. At that point D’Alessandro re-entered the classroom. When coteaching, a program that brought special education and regular education teachers together in the classroom, started, D’Alessandro taught with English teacher Shane McArdle and physics teacher Kate Chatellier. He taught Academic Support and two classes of woodworking as well.

“Even though I’m retiring, every moment here was memorable for me; every success and failure, teaching with McArdle, and all the years I spent here,” he said.

“He’s a great guy, and I’m going to miss him,” McArdle said. “He helped me build a shed, built an adjustable stool for my three year old. He’s great.”

“This was a great ride,” D’Alessandro said, “and it’s something I won’t forget.”

 

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Winners of this year's Big Red prom pictures contest.

by Big Red Staff

Juniors attended prom on Friday, May 12. More than 100 of those juniors submitted their prom pictures to the Big Red’s prom pictures contest using the hashtag #HHSPromPics2017. Members of the Big Red staff met Monday and selected winners in seven categories.

The winner of “best picture” wins a $10 Dunkin Donuts gift card.

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by Cheyenne McLeod

Principal Brian Reagan proposed an incentive for rising seniors to the school committee on April 11. His proposal would allow students with rigorous schedules to have a free “X’ block if they meet certain criteria. On May 9, the school committee voted and approved this schedule change for seniors starting with the class of 2018.

In the following weeks after Advanced Placement exams, qualified rising seniors will be notified and given the option to add an “X” block to their schedule for next year.

The criteria of a rigorous schedule is under discussion, but Reagan says that they will consider the amount of AP and Honors classes students take and their participation in activities.  

Since the introduction of the block schedule four years ago, Reagan said that many parents have become concerned about students’ course load.

Reagan supports this proposal.

“We don’t have a lot of incentives for seniors like a lot of high schools do. There’s not a whole lot that seniors get for almost making it to the finish line. If we put something like this into place, this can help promote academic rigor, excellence and responsibility among our student body.”

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To qualify for this opportunity students must meet the following criteria: a daily attendance rate of 95%, a GPA of 3.5 or higher on the 5-point scale, no disciplinary offenses, and as expected, a signed parent permission form*. Administration will be focused on the student’s junior year to determine eligibility.

 

Students have the option to choose “X” block as either a year-long or a semester course, and “X” blocks are not credit-earning electives. Senior students with an “X” block will be able to leave campus for that 70-minute block period, and on some days that includes coming in late or leaving early. Seniors are also given the freedom to work quietly in the library or receive extra help from a teacher during school hours.

Seniors with an “X” block must carry their student ID with them when they leave and return to campus, and students must sign in and out of the office, as well as comply with all of Massachusetts Junior Operator Licensing regulations. If any rules are broken, the administration can revoke a student’s “X” block privileges.

*Criteria for senior privileges are subject to change.*

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Sample layout for seniors with an “X” block

 

 

Since the approval of “X” block, this raises questions about the junior class. They take rigorous courses, too. Should they be able to have an “X” block?

“If it goes well next year for the seniors,” Reagan says, “we’ll consider a similar option for juniors.” Juniors would not be able to leave campus, but if they qualified, they could have a study hall period.

As for the underclassmen, Reagan has hope that this change will “encourage underclassmen to work hard” and earn better grades to eventually qualify for this opportunity.