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Sean Morton, Jacob Doherty Munro, Jack Snow, Garet Mildish, and Thaya Zalewski will perform in the District festival. | photo submitted by Jason Caron

by Rebecca Shwartz

Thirteen students auditioned for the Central Massachusetts District Senior Musical Festival on November 19, and five students were accepted. Seniors Thaya Zalewski and Jack Snow, juniors Garet Mildish and Jacob Doherty Munro, and sophomore Sean Morton have been accepted into Districts, with Snow, Zalewski, and Doherty Munro invited to audition for the All-State Festival.

Students will perform in a concert on January 14 at Mechanics Hall in Worcester.

Around 1400 students audition for the Central MA District Festival each year in 4 separate categories of voice, band, orchestra, and jazz. Only 140 students are selected for voice, 110 for band, 100 for orchestra, and 19 for jazz, according to Caron, who is a member of the Massachusetts Music Educators Association.

The music festival, run by the Massachusetts Music Educators Association (MMEA), has taken place for the past sixty years, and auditioners consider it an honor to be accepted into the festival.

“I’m surprised, excited, and I’ve never been in something this exclusive before,” Mildish said. “I’m proud of that.”

Zalewski, on the other hand, has auditioned for the past four years, has been in the festival three times, and was recommended for All-State last year.

However, during the past summer, Zalewski developed a vocal node from playing the clarinet and speaking too much. Not practicing for two weeks to recover after having surgery to remove the vocal node “was the longest and weirdest two weeks,” Zalewski said. She was able to recover and practice for two months, just in time for the audition.

Band director Jason Caron, who has helped students to prepare for the festival for years, says, “It really is an honor to play in this festival. You get to experience a full concert band that has every instrument, the right amount of instruments, and experience the music from a band repertoire,” Caron said. “You get to experience advanced music played by skilled students, and it can be life changing for the student.”

 

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Notice sent home to parents about the MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey. |by Rachel McComiskey

by Rachel McComiskey

Two years ago, approximately 68 percent of students said a huge part of their stress comes from school. Reports of self injury have increased by about four percent, and suicidal thoughts have increased from 10.5 percent in 2010 to 14 percent in 2014.

These stats came from the 2014 MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey. Administrators use the survey data as evidence when looking to add personnel or new wellness units to address the harshest revelations from the survey.

Students in grades 6-12 take the survey every other year. Students at the high school just completed the survey on November 22. The survey asks questions about substance use, mental health, bullying, and general health and nutrition. For students in grades 9-12, there are also questions about sexual behaviors. It’s anonymous and voluntary. The main office sends a notice home about a month in advance, so parents are aware of it and can send a part of the notice back to the school asking for their child not to participate in the survey.

In the beginning of the 2011-12 school year, the school hired Jamie Gravelle, the school adjustment counselor, and, this summer, a second school psychologist joined the guidance department. Special education teachers have been added to the therapeutic academic support class, as well, as a result of the survey data.

In the past few years, the wellness teachers have been altering their classes to include more visits in class from the guidance counselors. Since 2011, guidance and wellness teachers have increased the programming around mental health, adding presentations like “Break Free From Depression” in the ninth grade and “Stress and Anxiety” in the eighth grade.

“Those [units] are typically about raising awareness,” Jamie Gravelle, the school adjustment counselor, said. “Helping students to know what the signs, symptoms, resources, [and] the coping skills people can utilize are. For me, it’s really about decreasing stigma [and] normalizing that there’s a pretty high percentage of the population who experiences stress, anxiety, or depression. It happens a lot, and by talking about it in classrooms and normalizing it, it makes it easier for people to get help.”

A ninth grade student, who requested for her name not to be used, has noticed the shift to focusing on mental health and substance abuse in health classes.

“I feel as if it’s important [to talk about] because there are so many people struggling with depression and harming themselves, as well as drinking alcohol and smoking weed,” she said. “I feel like letting people know [the consequences of] doing those things is good. So [when students and their parents] look back [they can’t] say, ‘Wow, it’s the school’s fault for my drug abuse [because they never taught me about it]’ or ‘The school never taught students to [talk to an adult if they know] people who are struggling with depression’ or ‘Wow, nobody taught me about depression. I could’ve done something, but now it’s too late.’”

In addition to the increase in mental health units, the wellness teachers altered the substance abuse curriculums. In 2014, administration noticed an uptick in alcohol abuse.

“To be honest, it wasn’t that we weren’t paying attention to it, didn’t see it as important,” Gravelle said. “I think there had been so much shift to focusing on opioids and marijuana that we had spent less time talking about alcohol. So the data [pointed out] that [alcohol use needed] to continue being a potential concern.”

Junior Spencer Cullen has seen the negative effects of substance abuse on school and the personalities of people he knows. However, he doesn’t think those problems have been addressed very well.

“[I think] more of an upfront and personal stance [would influence students more],” Cullen said. “[Right now] it’s very textbook [based] and not personal.”

Beyond the school system itself, educators have also sought outside help to take action on the survey results.

Using the data, Hudson applies for grants, such as the Hudson Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition. The coalition will help facilitate and implement strategies and activities in Hudson High School and Quinn Middle School. Strategies include supporting the addition of new wellness courses, supporting efforts to increase screening for youth substance use, prevention, intervention, and referrals to treatment.

“It’s not data we just do to get it and then just throw it into a filing cabinet somewhere,” Principal Brian Reagan said. “It’s actually used.”

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by Siobhan Richards

Photos by HHS photography students Sophia Proia and Sabrina Braga

Teachers from each department select students to be recognized as the student of the month. Below is a photo of each student with a description of why they were chosen.

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Drew Patel ~ Wellness Department

“Our department has chosen Drew for a number of reasons. To begin with, he is always a positive light in any of our classes! He works well with ALL types of people and all ages. Drew is soft spoken, polite, and works very hard to do well. He is always willing to try new sports, and is an extremely good listener to adults and peers. His smile and kindness are one in the same. Drew graduates this year, and we wish him lots of luck in his future endeavors. Always stay true to the wonderful young man you have become.”

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Emily McLaughlin ~ Science Department

“Emily has been a solid student in all science courses she has taken, but in addition to that scholarship, she has exercised significant leadership responsibility regarding this year’s Haunted Physics Lab. She has recruited and trained fellow Honors physics, astronomy, and AP physics students to build and present demos. She managed all the logistics for the event, only occasionally seeking input from Ms. Whitesel and Mr. Prior as needed. Finally, while undertaking this project, Emily earned great respect from faculty, staff, community members and her fellow students. All have been eager to follow her lead as the project moved toward the big day!”

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Ben Plucinski ~ Business/Technology Department

“Ben is currently taking Introduction to Engineering Design and Engineering Development and Design. He has been consistently at the top of his class in all aspects of the courses. In addition to his own academic success this year, he has been very helpful to several younger students in class, helping and monitoring them in the Introduction to Engineering Design course.”

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Danielle Joubran ~ English Department

“Danielle Joubran is an insightful student whose regular contributions to classroom discussions encourage others to think deeply about literature. In particular, her thoughtful questions demonstrate that successful students of literature go beyond easy assumptions and interpretations. Her annotations of classroom texts are nuanced and deliberate, and she is a model of effort and enthusiasm for her classmates.”

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Ben Chaves ~ World Language Department

“In addition to being a diligent and hard working student, Ben regulary employs circumlocution tactics in the classroom to communicate his meaning in the Spanish language. He uses the language that he knows to express his thoughts, beliefs, and opinions in Spanish and to make himself understood. In addition, Ben demonstrates knowledge of and an appreciation for Spanish-speaking cultures and seeks to make meaningful connections to cultural information as well as to ask thoughtful questions. Furthermore, Ben demonstrates the attitude of a linguist in his willingness to rephrase, reiterate, and repeat his thoughts for his classmates while continuing to use Spanish.”

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Seema Patel ~ Math Department

“Seema is a model student and representative of the math department Student Achievement Award. In class, Seema ask thoughtful questions, participates actively in discussions, and cooperates well with her peers. Outside of class, Seema comes after school on a regular basis to clarify her own understanding and persevere through problems with which she is struggling. She also voulunteers her time to help other students with their math learning by being a co-leader of the Math Center, giving her own time, and coordinating the schedules of her other student helpers.”

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Emily Figueiredo ~ Social Studies Department

“Since the start of the year, Emily has taken a leadership role in her eighth grade social studies course. Emily regularly pushes class discussions to a higher levels with thoughtful questions and insight about the lesson material, often bringing in her own background knowledge or making connections to what students have learned in other courses. She also is a strong presence in the classroom, demonstrating sincere effort and focus in all of her work. Her peers know that they can always look to her for guidance, and she will clarify difficult concepts or instructions with patience and ease.”

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Alicia Sagastume ~ Performing Arts Department

Alicia is the type of student who will go the extra mile for anyone. On several different occasions, I have watched Alicia seek out new students and invite them into her social circle, allowing them to feel welcome in their new environment. In class, her hard work and dedication inspires others and, in turn, makes their work that much stronger. She has performed in our after school program since she was an eighth grader. In fact, she has participated, in some way, with every show since her sophomore year. Through the arts and community service, Alicia has learned how to focus on the now while preparing for the future.”

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Daniellen Fonseca ~ Visual Arts Department

“Dani was chosen not only because of her creative talents as an artist but also because of her ability to create a positive studio environment. Last year, Dani was an eighth grade Art History student mixed in with several upperclassmen. However, this did not hinder her ability to confidently volunteer, as she consistently shared invaluable insight to all of our class discussions. She has proven to be more than an intelligent and hardworking student in Introduction to Creative Fashion Design with her drive to create unique and beautiful works of art. The passion she shows while enthusiastically completing each assignment, not only helps inspire her peers but energizes Mrs. Johnson’s teaching practices as well.”

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Trump supporters hold signs during a protest in October. | by Dakota Antelman

by Dakota Antelman

In 2016, millennials began to exert a considerable influence on presidential politics. Yet when the dust settled, the predominantly liberal millennial demographic had drifted far enough from Hillary Clinton to allow Donald Trump to win the presidency.

For thousands of millennial voters who joined a mass exodus to third party campaigns, the mainstream parties both failed to nominate candidates that represented their values.

In the first podcast by the Big Red, we talk to two millennials on opposite sides of the political spectrum to pin down which issues are most important to millennials within the changing landscape of 21st-century American politics. We also sought their insight on how this year’s decisive campaign will affect the beliefs and behaviors of millennial voters in the future.

 

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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

 

 

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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.”

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

by Siobhan Richards

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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.”

 

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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.