Here are the winning articles of the 2001 Hemingway Writing Awards for
School is starting, the festive haunted trails are reopening and the Lakota levy struggle is again in full swing. Letters are rolling into the local papers either preaching "support our schools and our future," or demanding the omnipresent "no more taxes."
This time if the levy doesn't pass there won't be enough technology, the schools will be too small and classes will actually be conducted on that rocky soccer field out back. The regular chairs were uncomfortable enough after 45 minutes- the levy had better pass.
Despite the prospect of producing the entire Spark on the original Commodore 64, there is one aspect of this levy ond issue that hasn't yet been beaten into the ground. The starting salary for a first-year teacher at Lakota is $25,964 (a whole $16 er hour). when it's taken into account that I made $10 our this summer at Homearama opening the doors for people, I have to admire the courage first-year teachers possess.
Teachers not only have bills to pay and food to buy, but they often have to support a classroom budget. Some spend as much as an entire paycheck on supplies for their students. With some already operating on a salary less than $30,000 (with a college degree of course), extra expenses cannot help matters.
Parents wonder why successful teachers such as Doug Mader leave the district to teach at other schools, but the answer is painfully obvious. It's hard for Lakota officials to keep experienced teachers on staff if they can't pay salaries comparable to what other schools are offering. Instead, when teachers like Mr. Mader leave to go to districts like Sycamore that can offer a more competitive salary, the Lakota administrators are forced to higher less experienced teachers. While some former Lakota teachers left for administrative posts and to pursue other positions, the problem still remains: how does a district attract top professionals?
Sure, if the levy doesn't pass there will be less space and fewer computers, but believe it or not, the schools can function without those things for a little longer. What the district is facing now is a problem that numbers can no longer measure. Lakota is losing experienced, personable, successful teachers. We may have a beautiful new school and brand new iMac computers, but extra material supplies can't compare to the knowledge of a good teacher.
If the levy doesn't pass it's really not going to affect me. I will be at a college far, far away. It will mean no tax increase for many area residents, but what taxpayers need to realize is that they're paying for the future. They're paying for their future through better school district and higher property values, as well as investing in educated students who are able to think on their own instead of out of a textbook. It will be those same students handling social security in 20 years.
Published Oct. 6. 2000
It's the season of giving and receiving. The season of holiday cheer, festive Christmas lights and general goodwill. But for teenagers, the holiday season is much more than a time to huddle with the family around the living room fire to tell stories about the "good old days" of Dad's youth. Forget Christmas (except the presents of course) and let's face it: with parents going out of town to visit distant relatives, it's the party season.
I didn't know Renee LaSance. I was just one of the almost 500 East sophomores that heard her name on the morning announcements and saw her pictures in the local paper two years ago. But even the sophomores knew there was more to her death than just a horribly unfortunate accident. No one talked about it, though. Maybe it was because her face was too fresh in the minds of the students who were close to her. Maybe it was out of respect for her family in their time of grief, or maybe it was because so many students and parents realized that her death was something much more tangible and closer to home than they were willing to admit to themselves.
Like a teenage breakup, her death went relatively unmentioned in the halls of East only one or two months after the accident and it seemed that everyone's life just went on. Now, two years later, I find myself a senior with first-hand knowledge about the concept of teenage drinking and related vehicular accidents.
I'm not really into the party scene. I don't drink and I certainly don't drink and drive but from each of the few parent less parties I have attended, at least one or two teens has driven home drunk. It's not that every student is going out, downing a 12-pack and driving aimlessly around West Chester looking for a good time, but even a few drunk kids driving home just two miles constitutes a serious problem.
Those who drive drunk know what they're doing, remember it the next morning, and they'll openly confess what millions of dollars of drunk driving education has tried to prevent: it's no big deal. For these selfish teens the ends always justify the means. That is, as long as they are snugly under the covers before Mommy and Daddy wake up the next morning.
Before driving home drunk, teens should think about how they're going to explain to the parents of the child that died in the accident exactly why it was so important that they drive themselves home. The difficulty won't come with facing a DUI and a revoked license. The difficulty will come with being forced to explain to a grieving parent that his child was an unwilling victim sacrificed to save a selfish teen from a month of grounding.
In 1998, 2,104 teens, aged 16-20, died from alcohol-related car accidents. One of those deaths was a student at Lakota West. She was a member of the junior class, Junior Classical League, JV volleyball, and involved in Young Life. Not every teenager involved with drinking is a loser on the brink of dropping out of school. Drinking and driving isn't just a source for nationwide statistics anymore. It's here, it's real, and it won't stop with Renee.
Published Dec. 20, 2000
She opens the closet door to reveal a mountain of shoes in every color and style imaginable. Cradling her favorite pair in her arms, she playfully kisses them, laughs, and begins to tell their story. "I got these last spring and I took them with me to Colorado for a month, so they've been all over Colorado Springs. I took them whitewater rafting and died in them. Then I took them to four cities in Canada, and to another whitewater rafting trip where I almost died..."
Collecting shoes is just one of Lakota East senior Sarah Frisch's many quirks. These quirks characterize Sarah, build her personality, and mold the individuality which is cherished by her family and friends. Frisch, above all else, is definitely known as an individual.
"My taste is always the odd ball one. I always like the thing that nobody else likes," says Frisch as she absentmindedly plays with her lip ring by moving it from side to side with her tongue. Piercing her lip was something that she had thought about doing for a long time, she reflects, but she never told anyone about it. She didn't want to be influenced by others opinions, so she just went with her gut instinct, taking everyone by surprise.
"Yeah, the only girl at Lakota East with a lip ring is my daughter. We're very proud," says Frisch's mother, Vicki Frisch, sarcastically as we all break into laughter.
As her mother mentioned, Frisch is "never afraid to be bold." Frisch's individuality is important to her. She wishes that everyone would "screw what other people think," not understanding why people follow the crowd, probably because she personally never has.
Frisch sets herself apart from her peers through her form of expression, her artwork. As her current art teacher, Lisa Hagadorn, put it, "Her art is an extension of who she is."
Frisch has taken Fine Art 1, Introduction to Painting, 2-D Art Studio, and 3-D Art Studio. She has also taken a 10 week course in nude figure drawing at the University of Cincinnati. The course gave her a taste of college, and now she is excited to begin that new phase of her life. As she put it, "All that I've known my whole life is just going to school everyday. I'm going to
graduate and then, it's like I can do whatever I want, as long as I work hard to get there. It's a free feeling."
As Frisch moves on from high school she will also move on with her art. She has applied to several art schools, such as Savannah College of Fine Art and Design, and to the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Her personal goal is to keep learning, not only advancing but trying different things and experiencing everything she can.
"The thing with art is you never master it. There's always something new you can do, and you keep trying and trying," says Frisch. "It's like reading a book, you're just finding new things over and over again."
Going to art school is something that Frisch wants to do and something that she has always dreamed of doing. It is times like these, when her eyes are set on certain goals and she knows what she wants, that the typically easygoing Frisch becomes intense. Frisch is "passionate" which is reflected by the vibrant use of colors seen in her artwork.
"She goes above and beyond being ordinary and always tries to do something a little more challenging. She has a tendency toward the more exotic subject matter," comments Hagadorn.
As Frisch mentions those that helped her develop through art, she is quick to bring up her art teachers, Hagadorn and Gary Stewart. Who Frisch, a "firm believer in fate," believes she was meant to meet.
"Everything happens for a certain reason, and we just can't control it. There are just certain fates and people meeting is a huge example of fate. Every encounter that we have everyday is fate," says Frisch.
Her greatest fear in life is that she will follow a course which is not her fate, thereby allowing life to pass her by.
But Frisch has never let that fear get in her way. This past summer she "nearly died" twice going whitewater rafting. Both times she was stuck underwater for long periods of time.
"I fell off and then all of them (in the raft) went flying. I was under the water the longest and it was so scary. I was on the bottom of the river. Get to the top. Get to the top.' It (the rapids) is so powerful," recollects Frisch.
Amazingly enough, these close calls didn't phase her.
"I'm doing it again. It was a two-day trip and it was the first rapid so everyone said, `Don't quit now or you'll be scared of it'... So I went for the rest of the two days and it was a great experience."
In fact, she plans to spend the summer, which she considers to be the last of her childhood, working as a whitewater rafting guide in West Virginia.
Just as she will guide others this summer, so have many guided her through life. She claims her family to be her largest support.
"My family wants to see what I've done and it just encourages me because they care enough to ask me about my artwork. That gets kind of funny when I take a bunch of nude drawings to show off to the family," says Frisch.
Frisch's mother saved all of the things that Frisch drew as a child. She laughed as we looked through the papers filled with floating heads, flowers, smiling hearts, and an occasional stick figure. The progression of the budding artist was evident as we flipped through the papers.
"I know this sounds really clicheish but art is a form of self-expression. The things that I feel and the things that I see, I can portray through the different mediums and colors that I work with. Art is self discovery thing too. Every new thing that I do is like, wow, I can do that. It's something that I didn't know I was capable of," says Frisch.
Her family's continual support encourages Frisch as she develops confidence in her ideas, spawning creativity and style. Hagadorn says that Frisch has a definite and "sophisticated" style, built through her acute attention to detail.
"Every little piece goes together to create my own style, my personal style. I compare it to a personality or a fingerprint. It can never be duplicated," says Frisch.
It will be interesting to see where Frisch will go from here, for, as Frisch agrees, she is just now really beginning with her art.
"It will be really exciting to see where she goes with it," says Vicki.
As her art is truly just beginning, so is her life. Everyone, including Frisch, wonders which path life (or fate) will take her along. All that is sure is that she'll always have her little quirks, her shoes, and her oddball taste. She's never one that you can expect to find conforming to the crowd.
published May 25, 2000
A sound echoes down the hallway, his head turns. Someone walks across the room, his eyes follow. Someone says something to him, but there is no answer, just a slow blink of his eyes in affirmation.
"Is he gonna get better?" The question seems to pulse in their hearts and even in the air. It's a question of genuine concern, but also a question without an answer. Unknowns are something that Steve Jackson's family and friends have been forced to accept as their lives have fluctuated alongside his for the past eight months.
"With something like my brother's injury, you just don't know," says his older sister, Katy. "It's a question that you hear day in and day out. And there is absolutely no answer for it."
For now they survive by taking one day at a time. They've had to ever since that one day, and that one accident.
It was after school when Steve, then a sophomore at Lakota East High School, was driving alone over to his mom's Springdale office to pick up her credit card. His plans were to continue to the mall after picking up some friends. His plans, and his life, however, were unexpectedly altered.
While heading east on Hamilton-Mason Road he was a half mile from his home when, at approximately 3:15 p.m., he lost control of his car and slid into oncoming lane of traffic. With the 80 mph combined impact of a mini van colliding with his Saturn, the unfastened Steve was thrown around inside of his car, breaking 7 bones, puncturing his right lung, and suffering (among other internal injuries) severe head trauma.
At the scene of the accident there came immediate aid from a stranger, a medically trained woman. She held Steve's hand through the car window until help arrived, so that even though he was unconscious, he would know that he was not alone.
Flown by air care up to Miami Valley Hospital as an unknown, his parents, Dan and Joni, wouldn't find out about the accident until later that evening. When Dan pulled into the driveway on his way home from work, he found the Sheriff waiting there for him with the news.
"Is he alive?" was the first thought in Dan's mind. But the Sheriff had little information to offer and the Miami Valley Hospital wouldn't release any information over the telephone. The uncertainty of his condition remained during what was a very long trip up to the hospital.
The doctors approached them outside of Steve's room in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) with words that brought anything but comfort, "The injuries are very severe. He's fighting for his life."
The Jacksons began to gather the family together at the hospital for what they thought would be a final good bye.
However it was anything but a good bye. The Jacksons wouldn't leave Steve's side for months, and consequently the hospital became their second home.
"We slept outside of his room in couches for the whole time that he was in the ICU," says Joni. "One or the other of us was with him 24 hours a day."
And this situation didn't last for days, it lasted for months. As the Jacksons tried to cope with Steve's accident and the unknowns surrounding his injury, they found solace in their faith.
"Our faith pulled us through. We were saying constant prayer," says Joni. It comforted them to know of the prayers going out for Steve "coast to coast." That sort of support from their friends was critical.
"We were never alone at the hospital. Our friends took turns being there with us," says Dan.
And the cards. There was a "tremendous" amount of cards from friends, relatives, and even people who they didn't know.
"The support of his family and friends plays a huge part in his recovery," says long time friend and Lakota East junior Brandon Cozzi.
It was Thursday afternoon following the accident, and his friends had come up to the hospital to see him.
As they approached Steve's room they saw his mom and few family friends off to the side. His mom greeted them each with a hug.
"It's helpful (to sit and talk to Steve's mom)... because to her I am closest thing to Steve, and to me she's the closest thing to Steve," says Cozzi.
Joni misses Steve's friends being around the house, yet she understands how difficult this accident has been for each of them to deal with.
"It's really hard for his friends that came up to the ICU to see Steve like that. It was much different than you would expect," says Joni.
The boys stood in the room, watching their friend lie there listlessly. This was the boy who always was active, always doing something. This was the boy known for his sense of humor and "class clown" antics. This was the boy whose life was a part of theirs. This was the boy so much like each of them.
And now after an accident that lasted but one brief moment, he was lying in a hospital bed, helpless.
It had been a clean accident, as far as external cuts and scrapes, so one's expectations of his physical appearance were different than the reality. Cozzi expected to find him bruised and cut up, but he "looked like Steve, just asleep, except he was hooked up to lots of equipment."
When the boys left Steve's room in the ICU they dropped to their knees. They finally understood the severity of the accident. They understood that he would never be "the same Steve" again.
The accident has obviously changed Steve, as Katy says, "I didn't lose a brother, but I lost the brother I loved."
Steve's life has been dramatically changed since the accident happened, nearly 8 months ago. However, many things remain the same, in his eyes you can still recognize Jackson as the "survivor" that he is.
"He's my hero," says Joni. "I want him to know that as long as he keeps fighting, I'll be right there with him."
And Steve has always been a fighter. As a child he was diagnosed with dyslexia, and therefore he had to work hard in school, "pushing himself to understand the material and get better grades."
He fought against the disease on his own, refusing the help of an aid and even taking a foreign language, which is not a requirement for students with dyslexia.
Now Steve is fighting a different battle, the battle to progress daily toward what his parents hope can be a "happy and independent life."
It was a couple of days before Steve was initially scheduled to come home from the hospital, which would be one of the first big steps of his recovery process. There were only a few final arrangements to be made before the Jackson family could leave the place they had practically come to call home. One of these arrangements was the removal of his tracheal tube.
While in the hospital he had the trachea tube for assistance with his breathing. The trachea tube was inserted through a minor surgical procedure and hooked up to a respirator, which helped to fully inflate Steve's lungs. This procedure also provided a back up system.
Going home, the tracheal tube would complicate matters. Steve was now breathing fully on his own, so a decision was made to remove it in a simple surgery before he was released.
Unfortunately, this simple surgery didn't go quite as expected.
What had been overlooked before the surgery was that a large cyst had developed directly above the opening for the trachea tube. Once the tracheal tube was removed and the opening closed, this cyst blocked Steve's airway which, although fine initially, soon set him to panic. He couldn't breathe.
"Once he started to panic his throat closed down and his airway was completely blocked off," says Dan.
The nurse then tried to reinsert the tracheal tube but the hole had already closed up. He was in a state of respiratory distress and this spasm prevented her from putting it back in.
At this point he was beginning to suffocate. They were going to have to perform an emergency surgery. Doctors, surgeons, nurses, and aides crowed into Steve's hospital room pulling the crash cart after them. Joni was forced to step away, letting the professionals do their job, and watch as Steve began to turn blue.
"We're losing him," the words issued a code blue and Steve was once again rushed down to the ICU with his life on the line. In the ICU they were able to calm him down and reinsert the tube in order to inflate both lungs. Again he had survived a life threatening situation, another unexpected trauma. The unknown continued to loom in the air.
As Katy relates, her brother's life used to constantly be on the line. There was no way of knowing, from one day to the next, whether or not he would survive. Such emergencies as arose when removing Steve's tracheal tube could come up at any moment.
"Now I'm sure that he's not going to die tomorrow," says Katy. Then she considers the other, more positive aspect of the unknown. "But he could open his eyes tomorrow and something could click and he could start talking. Now there is a huge change in what his life is like, and that changes our lives."
Steve has been undergoing physical therapy since his first week in the hospital, when he was still in a coma.
"He's very much alive and fully conscious. He's just not making connections," says Katy.
This is one of the results of his severe brain trauma. All of the connections in his brain must be rebuilt, which is where his therapy comes into play.
"Repetition is very important for those with brain injuries," says his physical therapist Joseph Baldwin.
Steve works between three and five days a week with his physical therapist, his occupational therapist, and his speech pathologist. To the Jacksons these individuals have become family.
"We're his cheerleaders," says Katy of the support offered to Steve. Not only have the therapists been working with Steve, but since the beginning of this saga his family has been encouraging him and pushing him to recover. Katy, for example, taught Steve how to pucker up because she "loves getting kisses from her brother."
However, the road to recovery is long and the process is slow. Steve started over from the beginning as he relearned how to chew, how to swallow and how to smile.
"We set short term, achievable goals, so that we don't get bogged down," says Steve's occupational therapist Frederick Bubolu.
Just recently he has made major improvements as he has begun to localize sound, meaning that when the phone rings he will look toward it. Advancements like these always encourage the Jacksons, who are full of hope for Steve and his future.
"I know that my little brother is going to push himself to get better until seriously he can't. Until his body and his brain will physically not allow him to get better anymore because of the extent of his injury," says Katy. "I think that because there is a possibility for full recovery, he will do it. And it may take years, but eventually he will be what he wants to be."
Published Oct. 6, 2000
March 13, 2000: A police officer investigates a parked car in a Rocklin industrial parking lot, late at night. He discovers Del Oro band director Stephen Martin and a Del Oro High School student engaging in what the officer, according to one local newspaper, called "inappropriate activities." Martin now faces a criminal trial on statutory rape charges.
Teacher-student sex cases were made famous in 1996 by Seattle teacher Mary LeTorneau, who had sex with one of her 13-year-old students.
There have been numerous other cases - Kansas teacher Amy Rodriguez, who had sex with a student in `98; Mark Blilie, a Seattle teacher who had sex with a former student of his, a 15-year old girl, in the early 1990's; former Eureka Elementary School teacher Cynthia Wicks, who was accused last year of having a sexual relationship with a minor.
But sex isn't the only form of harassment that can exist between a teacher and a student.
A sexual comment, an unwanted advance, a touch or a grope, a stare or innuendo can all qualify as sexual harassment. This broad definition has lead to confusion at the least, and wrongful (not to mention harmful) accusations at the very worst. And while this sort of atmosphere has caused headaches for students and parents, teachers are also affected.
Paul Everts, the Granite Bay High School band director, was especially saddened by the news of Martin's arrest. Everts knows Martin from their work with two competitive high school bands.
And the arrest has made him step back and think about he interacts with students.
"I have over 100 students in one class this year," GBHS band director Paul Everts said. "There are times during the year when my students are around me more than they are around their parents. Band class goes on trips, performs, competes, and I go along with them.
"The time we spend together creates a bond between us; I think of them as my children, and I treat them as such. I am an affectionate person, and I do hug my students. I am probably one of the few teachers on campus who still hugs their students, who still holds their hand. Teaching is an intimate profession."
While Everts is affectionate with his students, he is also very clear where he draws the line.
"When I hug my students, it is never in a sexual manner," Everts said. "It's in a loving manner, in the same manner that I hug my daughter."
Everts said the arrest of Del Oro's band teacher has had ramifications beyond Loomis and Del Oro's students and faculty.
"Circumstances, such as the ones involving Mr. Martin, have led me to taking precautions," Everts said. "It is a rare thing for me to be in a room alone with a student, and even then, I make sure that there are people nearby."
While Everts has more students in a single class than any other GBHS teacher, he is not alone in showing affection to his students.
"It's hard not to teach someone - in building a relationship with someone - without touching them, such as a hand on the back or a nudge of the arm," media teacher Marty Newborn said. "I act spontaneously; I will put my arm around someone's shoulder sometimes and not even think twice about it.
"Because of my spontaneity, though, there will be times at the end of the day where I find myself saying, `Uh-oh, you did that - you put your arm on a young lady's shoulder, ' Then I start to worry what she was thinking and what other people around us were thinking. I don't want to stop interacting with people, with touching each other. But I am also afraid of the heightened sensitivity of the entire situation."
Everts and Newborn certainly aren't alone in their worry that their affection could be mistakenly viewed as sexual harassment. In a poll of 23 teachers, only five said they had been sexually harassed by a student. But 12 teachers - more than half - said they have been concerned that their actions would be misinterpreted as sexual harassment.
There is cause for that concern - many teachers said they have known a colleague at some point in their careers who participated in inappropriate sexual conduct with a student. Not only that, four teachers said they have been sexually harassed by another colleague.
While few students themselves have actually been victimized by an educator, even in Granite Bay there are students who have experienced the effects of sexual misconduct.
Junior Amy Schabert wasn't abused by her fifth grade teacher, Cynthia Wicks, but she was affected nonetheless.
"I couldn't really believe that she would do that," said Schabert, who learned of Wicks' alleged offenses five years after she had been one of her students. "I didn't like her very much; she was (just) my teacher. But I didn't think she was that type of person. I felt kind of betrayed."
It's not just innocent students who are victims of inappropriate sexual conduct by teachers - it's also innocent teachers.
"It is a black eye on the profession when something like that happens," Everts said, referring to Martin's arrest and pending trial. "Regardless if he is innocent or not, the accusations - the entire situation - creates a paranoia among the students, the teachers and the parents."
Stuart MacKay, GBHS English teacher, also has felt concerned that his actions would be misinterpreted.
"Unfortunately, the `system' has led to this hysteria," MacKay said. "I do believe there are teachers out there who are genuinely harassing their students. But there are a lot of teachers who don't, and their actions are being mistaken for something less than pure."
MacKay believes the assumptions about teacher behavior are increasingly true for both genders.
"Before, this might not have been the case," MacKay said. "But these days, a female teacher needs to be just as concerned as a male teacher."
According to Newborn, all teachers need to be concerned about how their actions are going to be interpreted, but males more so than females.
"The instances where a female teacher is accused of harassment by her student are far less than the cases where a male teacher is accused," Newborn said. "I think male teachers need to be more careful, and that male teachers really need to be aware of what they're doing."
Mary LeTourneau was charged with second-degree child rape because of sexual encounters - encounters that produced a baby - with a 13-year-old student of hers. She was given a suspended sentence.
On the other hand, Mark Blilie had an affair with a 15-year-old girl. He was convicted of third-degree child rape and child molestation and was sentenced to four years in prison.
The differences go beyond that - in the Seattle Times, LeTourneau was described as "wearing an aquamarine sweater, a black pleated skirt, and her hair pinned up with soft tendrils." In other news accounts she was described as attractive.
Mark Blilie was never physically described by the Seattle Times, and the caption underneath his photo in the newspaper identified him as a "convicted child rapist." LeTourneau's caption identified her as a "former teacher."
Kay Bacharach, a female GBHS English teacher, confirms the difference between the genders.
"I think that male teachers need to be more careful," Bacharach said. "It's sad that an innocent touch can become misconstrued as something sexual, and it's sad that people have to worry about things like that. It is more difficult for males because there are a lot more cases involving male teachers."
And even more disturbing, according to Everts, are the implications as they apply to all of society, not just the teacher-student relationship.
"The entire issue about `touch' is worrisome to me," Everts said. "I do worry now, about whether or not my fatherly affection will be misconstrued as sexual.
"It is natural for me to hug, to show warm feelings, and it's disturbing to me that now I sometimes wonder if my fatherly hug was mistaken for something sexual."
Published May 9, 2000
For many students, Sierra college classes are a no-brainer.
They earn both high school and college credits, earn an extra grade point to bump up their grade-point average and the courses themselves are identified as honors classes on transcripts and college applications.
And, according to social studies department coordinator Brandon Dell'Orto, "it's a hell of a lot easier."
Enthusiasm on both the student and district level has lead to a burgeoning number of Sierra College classes being offered on campus.
"I took History 17B because it's easier and you only have to come two days a week," junior Eric Nelson said.
Senior Brian Price had the same feelings about English 1A.
"The class is kind of a joke," Price said. "We only come two days and we don't have much homework."
Granite Bay High School teachers, however, aren't so thrilled.
"Sierra College (students) meet one third of the time that we meet, write... half what we do and have no literature requirements," said English department coordinator Ramona Slack. "We call Sierra classes an honors class, they get the privilege of putting `honors' on their transcript, and yet they are, in terms of content, inferior to what our traditional students are held accountable for doing."
Dell'Orto echoes Slack's sentiments.
"I have to struggle to teach U.S. history in the short time I'm given - I lose 11 percent of the instructional minutes in a 4x4 schedule" compared to the traditional six-period day, Dell'Orto said. "Yet students in Sierra classes come two days a week. And sometimes they only stay 15 or 20 minutes to take a short little quiz.
"It's easier, and the students recognize that. We went from having one History 17B class to having four."
Sierra classes meet a total 40 hours during an 18-week term, while GBHS classes meet for 120 hours. Traditional academic English 12 at GBHS has public speaking requirements, listening requirements, presentations and projects, reading quizzes, speeches and two final exams.
English 1A does not have any such requirements.
"The English department believes that it is unrealistic (to try to compare English 12 and English 1A) - the sequencing is misaligned," Slack said. "If they are getting credit for college and for high school, what in (the Sierra College) curriculum identifies them as honors? There's nothing."
Slack considers the credit Sierra classes are earning so inequitable that she has proposed lowering the regular English 12 requirements for GBHS students.
"I have requested of our principal, and of the district office, that we review our standards because they are inappropriately matched," Slack said of the college vs. high school English offerings. "We will have a meeting in the December with district officials regarding this. They tell me nothing will change next term, but we could realign for next year.
"We can't have this huge disparity at one level and call it equal in terms of grade points. You can't allow Sierra College to work on third of the time and do less than half the work and call it equal or better than the current (English 12 course)."
Among the requirements Slack intends to change is the amount of homework required of traditional English students.
"We need to cut our curriculum back by two thirds," Slack said. "We need to eliminate homework because we're in class so much more time - they'll have more time to complete work in there.
"We will do what high schools are focusing on: preparing students for the high school exit exam. And we will spend more time on the rudimentary skills that are more appropriate for a student who chooses not to be an honors student."
Slack's reasons for lowering the requirements in English 12 are mixed.
"I would never try to lower standards," Slack said. "However, I will not hold students accountable for more than a student who is enrolled in Sierra. I am appalled at the concept of standards being lowered, and as an AP teacher I am doing everything I can to raise standards. But I am not going to hold traditional-track senior students more accountable than we would hold the `honors' students.
"If anything, we are not lowering standards - we're realigning them with other courses at that level."
Slack has also proposed that students would have to take both English 1A and 1B from Sierra College to be able to opt out of English 12 at GBHS.
Surprisingly, her views are shared with Sierra College English 1A teacher Candace Taylor, one of the Sierra teachers who teaches English 1A this semester at GBHS.
"I've been a high school English teacher for over 10 years, and I've also taught AP," Taylor said. "English 1A is as hard as AP, but it's only half the work. Students should have to complete English 1A and 1B."
Taylor has a daughter at Roseville High School who is taking advantage of a community college class offered on that campus: English 1A.
"She's taking English 1A, and I wish she would take AP," Taylor said.
Dell'Orto has also expressed concerns over the apparent inequity of the requirements between Sierra College's History 17B class and the junior U.S. History class. He said that GBHS social studies department is considering lowering the U.S. history requirements using History 17B as the yardstick.
Jo Sumner, associate dean of curriculum and instructional support at Sierra, defended the English 1A classes as being both rigorous and fulfilling the agreements between Sierra and the UC and CSU systems for transferable units.
"Our English 1A class is the same as if they went to Berkeley or Sacramento (State)," Sumner said. "We meet the same standards as every other community college class. English 1A holds to what they call the Berkeley standard, which requires a certain amount of writing per course.
"English 1A is not the same as an AP class because AP is designed to be a bit more exploratory, as far as I know."
However, the beef for GBHS teachers is not confined to the inequity of the classes - they are questioning the quality of instruction as well.
"(Sierra College teachers) have their master's (degrees)," history teacher Burnell Pinkerton said. "Maybe they have more knowledge in the subject matter, maybe they don't. My question is: Do they know how to teach as well?"
To maintain their licenses to teach in the state, California teachers credentialed on the K-12 level are required to participate in 150 hours of instructional hours every five years to ensure their teaching competency. Sierra College teachers have no such requirement.
"We have no control whatsoever over any of the people teaching (courses on our campus)," Dell'Orto said. "By and large, depending on those being hired their permanent staff is still is at Sierra College - it's their part-time staff that comes out and teachers our students. It's hap-hazard."
Slack is also concerned that GBHS is responsible for the quality of instruction students receive in Sierra classes offered on campus.
"When our students get a transcript from our school, it says `staff-taught English class,"' Slack said. "(Sierra teachers) are not people that we have any say in what they're doing, and yet we will be held accountable for what our students did or did not achieve in high school."
According to Alec Ostrom, the Roseville Joint Union High School District's assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, the district has encouraged teachers to become certified to teach Sierra College courses to remedy the kinds of discrepancies that have frustrated teachers at GBHS.
"We encourage our high school teachers to teach the college classes," Ostrom said. "There is a simple process that they must go through at Sierra College."
The process for GBHS teachers to become credentialed by Sierra College is straightforward. Teachers either must have a master's degree in the subject to be taught or they must go through a process at Sierra College in which they are required to prove they have the experience necessary to teach the class.
According to Ostrom, no RJUHSD teachers have taken advantage of this opportunity.
"We had two teachers start the process, but neither completed it," Ostrom said.
In the neighboring Los Rios Community College District that serves Sacramento, Yolo and El Dorado counties, college classes offered at high schools are usually taught by the resident school's faculty.
"High school teachers teach our courses at the high school," said Los Rios Community College public information officer Stephen Peithman. "We want to give students opportunities, and it gives them a boost. It makes more sense if the high school teachers teach the class because they're more familiar with the territory and the students."
But perhaps the biggest complaint of GBHS teachers is the fact that college courses are being offered on a high school campus at all.
"Our job as teachers in this high school system is to get students ready, as best as we can, for life and r college," Dell'Orto said. "If we just had to get you ready for work, like what Sierra College is geared for, we would do different things. School would be about different things."
Dell'Orto also blames parents who are too eager for their child's A grade.
"It never ceases to amaze me how frustrated, angry or righteous parents will get when their child doesn't get a decent grade," Dell'Orto said. "But they won't bat an eye, in general, if their child gets a high grade and learns nothing. School is supposed to be about learning something, but we've gotten to the a point where as long as transcripts look good, actual learning takes a back seat. And that is an incredibly sorry state."
According to some, the problem is widespread, affecting all levels of schooling.
"This is occurring with (people) knowing full well that nothing is happening in these classes," Dell'Orto said. "They don't seem to mind because it frees up time for something else. We just turn a blind eye to it, and it's been happening for five years."
Pinkerton agrees with Dell'Orto, but he appreciates the student perspective too.
"I'm all about what's best for the kids, not the easiest route to get kids into and through college," he said. "I don't know how good these classes can be when you go to class two days a week and do about an eighth of the work.
"On the other hand, students go to class only two days a week and have three days off. Who wouldn't want to take one of these classes?"
Still, Pinkerton remains unconvinced that Sierra College classes at GBHS are really focused on what students need.
"It (should be) about what the kids learn," Pinkerton said. "I thought that's what we are all about, but maybe not - with all these tests scores and grades, maybe we're just about getting kids into college. If that's the case, I'm getting out."
And he might not be alone.
"It begs the question," Dell'Orto said, "what the hell are we here for?"
As soon as Sierra College classes were offered on campus at Granite Bay High School, some critics thought they might actually be illegal.
Some teachers at GBHS and other schools in the Roseville Joint Union High School District thought district schools were receiving Average Daily Attendance credit for students who enrolled in Sierra classes that were offered on the high school campus, even though they aren't GBHS classes.
In other words, some people thought there was double dipping going on.
It turns out, however, that the Sierra College courses taught here are legal, if controversial.
"High schools can only claim instructional minutes that are taught by their district teachers," said California state fiscal education consultant Kim Clement. "They cannot claim instructional time for the time that the community college teacher teaches."
Because of a change in the law in 1996, students must attend 240 minutes of instructional time in order for their high school to receive ADA credit. In order to get three quarter credit, students must attend at least 180 minutes a day.
Before 1996, no matter how close a student was to a 240-minute day, a school could only claim three-quarter credit until the student hit the magic number of 240 minutes.
"It gets very complicated," Clement said.
GBHS is on the 4x4 schedule, with about four 90-minute periods. If students only attend three of those periods, they still generate full ADA funding for the high school. So the majority of students who take Sierra college classes still manage to generate full credit funding for GBHS.
However, there is the option to take a period off. A student could, for example, take 1st period off and a Sierra class 4th period - this would generate only three quarters ADA credit for the school.
According to Clement, only four GBHS students are taking two GBHS classes and a Sierra College class, and their ADA revenue is manually adjusted.
Published Dec. 5, 2000
Lakota East Principal Ruth Barber leans back in her chair and ponders again the question that has been on the minds of Lakota East students, faculty and administrators since the second week of August. This is when the first player from the Lakota East football team, E.J. Underwood, transferred to Hamilton High School. Since then, seven others have followed, causing emotions to run high in the Lakota East athletic department. But the question for everyone still remains: why would they transfer to Hamilton? Why not to go Lakota West or a private school, or just stop playing ball? These questions have still not been answered for members of the Lakota East family.
"I consider everyone in this school to be a part of my family," says Barber with a touch of sadness. "Some of my family has been unloyal and I am obviously disappointed. The stakes would have to be very high for those boys to do what they've done."
And part of what they have done involves a significant financial commitment to the Hamilton School District. Hamilton offers open enrollment but the right to attend costs each student $4300. According to Hamilton Principal Tom Alf, there is only one way to waive this fee and that is to have a parent on the faculty, which is true for Underwood's father, Elmer Underwood, who is now a substitute teacher for Hamilton. Alf says this should not be surprising.
"We use the waiving of tuition as a bargaining tool for the hiring of teachers," says Alf. "As in most schools, we are desperate for subs, so anyone who applies has a job."
However, this was only the case for one of the eight families involved. While most families declined to comment on the circumstances of their departure or were unable to be reached, some did cite reasons such as academic eligibility, scholarship opportunities, and problems with the East coaching staff. But the students have the right to switch districts whenever they wish to under the rules of the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA).
According to OHSAA Commissioner Claire Muscaro, in order for a player who has played in a game or scrimmage for Lakota East this year to switch to Hamilton and play football, they must either move, get a legal change of guardian, or be released by the Lakota School District. Six of the eight players were released by Lakota Superintendent Kathy Klink. The other two players fell under the 15-day clause, which allows players who are not playing a fall sport at the original school to transfer to a new school within the 15 days of the school year and begin participating in athletics.
Despite the legality of the matter, many people from Lakota East still feel betrayed by the decision. Barber wonders how theses students still intend to fit in.
"How do you get divorced and then come visit your inlaws? It's nothing personal, but it just doesn't work," says Barber. "There's no gray area in loyalty. Either you're loyal or you're not."
Barber also points out that even if the players had a problem with the Thunderhawk coaching staff, they always had the option to transfer to Lakota West without the cost of tuition. This, she says, is a very common transition.
Alf argues, however, that transfers between school districts are also very common.
"We always have a lot of people come here as a result of our strong little league programs for football and baseball," says Alf. "Transfer is also common throughout the state. If you look at the state basketball tournament last year, every team that won a state title had players from other schools."
He admits that though Hamilton has always had transfer players, having eight from one school is unprecedented. Barber agrees, stating the OHSAA needs to take action to avoid this type of behavior.
The OHSAA is doing just that. A vote will be taken later this year regarding a new policy that will deal with player transfers in the same manner as the NCAA. A player must declare as a freshman where they plan to play and if they switch at any time, they must sit out for a full year unless the student has moved.
Barber says that this is a step in the right direction, but it does not help the effect that these transfers could have on Lakota East.
"What will new families think when they move into the area and are looking for a school? They hear good things about East, but they also hear that the athletes are leaving the school in droves," says Barber. "Suddenly they are wondering what could be wrong at East. That is my question as well."
The players involved seemed to feed off of one another. Former Lakota East junior Andy Johnson says that he was originally considering leaving East because of conflicts with the coaching staff. He looked at several area schools, including Lakota West and Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, but finally decided on Hamilton because of the positive experiences that Underwood had there. Johnson, whose family hosts a foreign exchange student attending Lakota East, did not feel comfortable discussing the conflicts.
Former Lakota East kicker Kenny Harpers says that he chose Hamilton because they have "better people who are more outgoing." He also declined to discuss the Thunderhawk coaching staff but he did deny that he was promised his starting position before he transferred.
Hamilton Athletic Director Larry Wood says that he was "told not to discuss the situation." but Hamilton Head Football Coach Ed Mignery did confirm that he had no contact with the players prior to transfer. Mignery also stated that Underwood and Harper were the only starters for the Big Blue while the rest of the players were on the reserve squad. These two players were in fact the only transfers to participate in the Lakota East-Hamilton game on September 23, though others were on the side-line in uniform.
During that game, however, East administrators were more worried about a member of the crowd than any of the players. According to Lakota East administrators, Elmer Underwood has always been the most vocal opponent of the Lakota East Athletic Department.
When it came time to answer questions regarding the transfer, however, the Underwood family was much less boisterous. Initial attempts to interview were stopped by Elmer who did not want Underwood to talk to anyone from East. Underwood finally agreed to an interview, with his father present, but not until after the September 23 game because his coach had told him not to talk until then. When SPARK reporters tried to contact Underwood during the following week, the phone was rarely answered. Even when an interview time was established, Underwood was not allowed to leave his house.
But the athletes still playing for the Thunderhawks don't care what the excuses are.
"I don't understand why people would leave in a high school setting. You should play in your own district, that's all," says Lakota East senior Charlie McDaniel. "It was pretty ridiculous when they left before the season but the ones that left during the year, that was over the top."
Thunderhawk senior Tony Rahlf echoes these beliefs.
"They have everything they needed here to succeed." says Rahlf. "They just couldn't handle the discipline of the program."
Discipline is not the only area that appears to be more lenient at Hamilton. According to the web site for the Ohio Board of Education, the school is under a state of "academic emergency" for not meeting state standards while Lakota shows "continuing improvement," meeting much more of these statutes. Hamilton also has a different grading scale than the Lakota School District.
The grading scale at Hamilton runs such that a student is not failing until he or she drops below a 60 percent while failure at East occurs after dropping below 70 percent. While Lakota East English teacher Bobbi Neal, who used to teach in Hamilton, points out that the teachers compensate for this difference so the classes are just as hard, it is true that if a student was failing at East, he or she could transfer to Hamilton and then be eligible to participate in a sport.
"Isn't the job of parents and educators to seek the best education possible rather than finding the easier road?," asks Barber. "I'm not sure the families of the transfer students understand this. We have the stronger academic programs at East. When we lose an honor roll student to Hamilton, then I will be worried."
Published Oct. 6, 2000
A visitor needs to go no farther than the front door of Lakota East High School to see the recognition of the East boys' track team. The two banners that hang for Brian Godsey's state titles loom ominously overhead as his face in the Lakota East Hall of Champions smiles on the left more than once. As this year's group of young men are struggling to live up to that legacy, however, an unsung group of athletes is emerging in that same sport. With the exception of junior Lindsay Zinn's appearance at State, the female track athletes at Lakota East have had little recognition in the past. But now as new, younger members are coming up through the ranks, they have emerged as a power in the Greater Cincinnati area.
A recent city-wide poll by the Cincinnati Enquirer had the Thunderhawks ranked fourth in the city. This is not surprising given the strong statistics that this year's girls have brought to the Greater Miami Conference (GMC). Six girls were ranked ninth or higher in the regular season GMC standings in nine different events, including first place in four events. The Hawks have a competitive athlete in every type of event ranging from throwers to distance runners to sprinters, which led them to their second place finish in this year's GMC meet.
"We've always had a good distance team and strong throwers," says East assistant track coach Pat Kreider. "But other schools are having eye openers when they see our new sprinting group. They are really adding to the team nicely."
According to Kreider, the up-and-coming group of sprinters focuses not only around upperclassman like junior Emily Burns and senior Andrea Perine, but is helped greatly by younger athletes like sophomore Allison Simpson and freshman Alli Warnemundie and Monica Payne. Warnemundie was sixth in the GMC during regular season in the 400-meter run while she and Simpson were tied for ninth in the 100.
"We're only going to get stronger over the next year or two," says Kreider. "We have lots of young, tough runners that are going to be strong and develop together."
And no one else is noticing the improvement of the team better than those who have been on it the longest, like senior thrower Adrienne Smith.
"I'm sad to be graduating because I'd love to see them improve," says Smith. "It is amazing for them to place as freshman. We are about as good right now as Lakota High School was during its last year."
These newcomers are not the only ones that contribute to the point total. Upperclassman are stepping up to carry their share of the load and provide leadership for the younger athletes.
"(Smith and Zinn) are the best leaders on the team," says East track coach Jason Lindsey. "Not only are they dominant performers, but they also have a great work ethic and determination. They both want to see this team do well."
Both Smith and Zinn have really stepped up this year to add more points to the team's cause. Smith won the GMC title in both the shot put and the discus while Zinn lead the conference in the 1600-meter and 3200-meter run while being second in the 800-meter during the regular season.
Other juniors and seniors have benefited the team by improving their times. Junior Jaime Wyckoff was in the regular season GMC top ten in the 3200 and the 1600 while sprinters like Burns and Perine have helped to solidify the East female relay teams. The most drastic improvements, however, have come for junior hurdler Hannah Huckins, who was third in the 100-meter hurdles and sixth in the 300-meter hurdles during the regular season.
"I practiced a lot in the off-season and I am working really hard this year to improve," says Huckins. "The team as a whole is also doing a lot better this year, though. We really seem united this year. We really are a team."
It was this team attitude and high finishes throughout the year that gave the Lakota East girls track team its strongest season thus far and a second-place GMC finish.
Perhaps the girls' team is in fact on its way to a banner of its own in the hallowed hallways of Lakota East High School. Whether they win or not, however, it is clear that they have gained the respect of their male counterparts on the track team.
"They all work extremely hard all the time," says senior thrower Rob Sharpe. "All the new sprinters are really fast, the distance team always does well, and Adrienne is one of the best throwers on the team, male or female."
Published May 19, 2000