In the wake of post-election protests in many parts of the country, Hendersonville High Principal Bob Cotter is asking teachers to “keep an ear out for insensitive comments” and to instruct students “that the nation must now come together for the good of our country.”

In an email sent to staff Thursday (Nov. 10), Cotter said, “With the divisiveness of this election, there are still some lingering feelings about the outcome. Unfortunately, our students have picked up on the rhetoric as well.”

Many times, he wrote, the remarks are delivered in jest “but can still be taken offensively.”

Indeed, several students told The Ville News on Friday that they have heard angry comments in recent days.

“On the bus, I have been hearing racist chants and slurs,” said freshman Alexis Selva. “People tell me I’ll get deported.”

“Yes, there is tension in the school,” added freshman Cameron Cox. “People are stressed out.”

Protests broke out in several cities across the country, including Nashville, after Republican candidate Donald Trump won Tuesday’s presidential election over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

With 290 electoral votes, Trump surpassed the required 270 to win. Clinton, however, won the popular vote by nearly 400,000 votes.

The results led to a sharp split among many Americans. Some are elated and hopeful for the future, others are disappointed and frightful of what is to come.

While most of the protests have been peaceful, some have turned violent. Police in Portland, Ore., for example, are calling demonstrations there a “riot” after protesters threw objects at officers and vandalized property.

Cotter urged restraint and an open mind.

“I truly believe that Mr. Trump will surround himself with able bodied people to help him make decisions that are in the best interest of this country going forward,” he said in his email.

The principal also suggested that teachers “move on with the business of teaching our students and preparing for upcoming assessment, but at the same time help them understand the world around them when those questions arise.”

A walk through the halls Friday found at least one teacher discussing the election and its aftermath with the class.

Junior Madeline Martin seemed to sum up the sentiment of many at HHS when she said, “I just think we should have respect even if you don’t agree.”

Computers and programming teacher Thomas Clark said America has experienced political turmoil before and will overcome this latest rough patch.

“If you want to show anger or happiness, get involved,” Clark said. “Do not throw a rock. Get Congress to listen to you.”

Reporters Sarah Yi, Ashlyn Williams, Ashley Baez, Cleo Graham, Lindsey Glowacki, Jensen Tabb and Kolby Hayes contributed to this story. 


 United Way will launch its annual Hendersonville High fundraising campaign Monday (Nov. 7) with a cuddly moose and an ambitious goal.

This year’s target of $8,000 is $2,000 more than last year's total and nearly double the amount collected only two years ago.

“Mr. Cotter has always pushed for a very strong United Way program,” said Debbie Sheets, counselor for STARS (Students Taking a Right Stand), one of 31 community programs funded by United Way.

Indeed, before Principal Bob Cotter came to HHS in 2014, Sheets said, the most collected in a United Way fundraiser here was $2,200.

This year’s campaign, which runs through Friday, Nov. 14, will include Bruce the Moose, a stuffed moose who will be popping up in classrooms during the week.

Bruce’s routine will work like this: Teachers who collect the most money during second block will get to keep him in their room the next day.

“It will be kind of like Elf on the Shelf,” Sheets said of the antlered mascot that sports a white jersey and a big grin.

Besides STARS, the United Way provides money to local service groups such as Home Safe Program, Crisis Pregnancy Center, Meals on Wheels, Community Childcare and The Literary Council.

Sheets, who coordinates the campaign at HHS, said that in the past year alone United Way of Sumner County has provided a safe place for more than 100 abused women and children; helped 1,576 working adults without insurance see a doctor; assisted 2,978 low income families with rent, utility or food; and counseled 650 high school students going through difficult times.

“United Way is a campaign that allows those who care about something important to help that cause,” she said.

Article by Jensen Tabb, Anna Burke, Sarah Yi, Cleo Graham and Lindsey Glowacki



NOTE: Story updates with state Department of Education plan to phase in EOC scores over three years.

It is a question students often ask and teachers often avoid: Will the End Of Course exams count toward final grades?

Educators fear that if students know the state-mandated tests don't count, they won’t try as hard, potentially hurting teacher and school performance measures. 

So, will the tests be part of students’ grades this year? Well, it depends, guidance counselor Charles Billingsley told The Ville News recently, largely because of problems with the state's testing system.

The state system fell into disarray last spring when officials tried to implement a new online test called TNReady. Only about half of student statewide were able to take the test and many others experienced major delays.

The state then tried to switch to TNReady paper tests, but due to the short deadline couldn't get them delivered on time and ended up having to cancel testing for some grades.

This fall the state Department of Education has a new company to administer the tests and says most of the testing will be done by pencil and paper.

Originally, Billingsley thought the EOCs would not count this school year because there would be no way to get the tests graded and the scores back in time to be calculated into students' final grades.

Then he did some checking.

 “I wanted to be sure,” Billingsley said, so “I contacted our testing coordinator at the Central Office. He said we are not sure at this time. It all depends on how quickly scores come back after the test.”

The state Department of Education thinks the scores will be available on time. It wants to phase the test in over three years for high school students. This year the test would count 10 percent of the final grade, next year 15 percent and then 15-25 percent during the 2018-2019 school year.

Previously, before the new TNReady exam, the state test counted 25 percent of a student's final grade.

The Department of Education's plan must gain final approval before it can take effect. 

End Of Course testing is part of the state’s TCAP, or Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, which began in 1988, according to the state Department of Education website. The tests, which are scheduled to begin at HHS in late November, include the current TNReady assessments in math, English language arts, social studies and science.

Standardized tests like TNReady have been controversial, with many saying they are not a reliable enough measure of student achievement to determine teacher and school performance scores. Others contend that students are already over-tested, and high-stakes EOCs only add unnecessary stress.

“If classrooms already have state standards and the teachers follow them, then why have an extra test?” asked sophomore Henry Sprouse.  

“I find the EOC to lack purpose,” said sophomore Delilah Davis. “Too much standardized testing can take away from the teachers and students.”

English teacher Ruth L. Bellflower said that if the EOCs affected students as much as the college entrance ACT test does, students would take them more seriously.

 “The ACT is a big enough deal to make students who usually don’t perform well on tests at least try to perform well because it literally is a test that decides your future,” Bellflower said.

As it stands, HHS students will just have to wait and see whether the EOCs will be included in their final grades.

Article by Rebecca Porter, Sarah Yi, Isabella Stokes and Ashlyn Williams



Few at Hendersonville High are watching the World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians with more interest than biology teacher Phil Colling.

A native Chicagoan and lifelong Cubs fan, Colling says the Series has been excruciating at times.

“I’ve watched every inning of every game,” he said. “It’s like I’m stuck in a glass case of emotional despair when the Cubs are losing and then I’m having an eternal birthday party on Mars when they are winning.”

A lot is at stake for both teams. The Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908 and the Indians not since 1948.

After splitting the first two contests in Cleveland, the teams are in Chicago for Game 3 tonight (Friday, Oct. 28) and then Games 4 and 5 in this best-of-seven series. If necessary, Games 6 and 7 will be back in Cleveland.

“My original prediction was that the Cubs would win in five games. I'm still hoping that this happens so they can win a World Series at home at Wrigley Field,” Colling said. “Of course if that happens, it's going to be utter mayhem.  It will be crazy if they win regardless, but winning at home would be nuts.”

Several others at HHS are enjoying the Series, with most pulling for Chicago. Here is what some of them had to say:


The Cubs should win because they are ruthless. They have cool colors, and they have the best record in baseball. They haven’t won in 108 years.”

-Meg Sewell, sophomore


“I’m pulling for the Cubs. My wife and I both have family in Chicago and over the years it has become one of my favorite cities. I predict the Cubs will clinch it in six. I think Chicago’s depth at pitching will be the difference."

-Chuck Billingsley, guidance counselor


“Honestly, I don’t care, but I think that the Cub’s jerseys are cute. I hope they win” 

-Presley Eastwood, sophomore


"There has been a lot of good baseball being played. I want to see the Cubs win because it might not happen again in a lifetime. I predict the Indians will win in six."

- Rich Zajac, English teacher




“The second game seemed cold and rainy, that’s all I know, but my dad wants the Cubs to win so I do too.”

-Caroline Burke, junior


 “I’ve been watching the games here and there, and the Cubs are going to beat the Indians. That’s all. I stand by them.”


-Julie Spencer, sophomore 


Article by Anna Burke

The Hendersonville High Spanish Club is selling handcrafted bracelets to help a Guatemalan boy continue his education.

The leather bracelets, called Yuda Bands, are made in Guatemala and cost $7 each. The sale began Monday and continues through Friday (Oct. 28) during lunch.

 The Spanish Club’s goal is to sell at least 400 bracelets and raise $2,800.

The money will help Elvis Elias, a 13-year-old boy in Guatemala, where children are not required to go beyond the sixth grade in public school and usually have to pay to stay in school, said Spanish Samantha Sebestik.

Spanish teacher Jessica de Jorge said that when teachers in Guatemala saw the potential in Elvis they decided to seek scholarship money, which is how the HHS Spanish Club became involved.

“Our club is actually providing that scholarship by selling these Yuda Bands,” de Jorge said in a video about the project. “It’s such an opportunity to get to bless a family in this way.”

The teachers and some Spanish students got to Skype with Elvis last week and learn more about him. He plays keyboards, drums and guitar and wants to become an architect, Sebestik said.

Yuda Bands are the basis for a service project run by youth across the United States, according to the project’s website, which explains that Yuda is derived from “AYUDA,” the Spanish word for help, aid or assist.

“Sales from Yuda Bands are used to build educational scholarship funds so youth in developing nations can attend high school who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity,” the site states.


Story by reporters Cleo Graham and Ashley Baez

NOTE: See companion story "Heard in the Hall - Students, teachers express views about Commando Time."


If you feel you’re always in a hurry this semester, you’re not alone. With the time between classes cut from 10 minutes to 5 minutes to help create the new Commando Time “skinny block,” students going from, say, music to English must zip through the halls without a bathroom break if they hope to make it on time. HHS Principal Bob Cotter addressed the time crunch along with several other issues during a recent interview with The Ville News. Below are his edited responses.


Are there any plans to extend the time between classes?

I would be open to adjusting the time between classes if I thought everybody was doing their very best to get from point A to point B in a direct manner, but when I see people in the hall talking through the 2 minute bell, then I don’t see people making the effort to get to class on time. If I can see people making the effort, and there still be a problem, then yeah I’d be willing to talk about where I could find a couple minutes. I could probably figure that out. But I don’t see a need to change it until everyone’s doing their part.


If you did extend the time, how would you do it?


I would probably take a couple of minutes out of the transfer between lunches because we have a full 5 minutes. I could shave a couple of minutes off of those to add to the class-change time.  


Even with the shorter breaks, some teachers are still really strict about allowing students to use the bathroom during class. What are your thoughts on that?


That’s really an individual decision for teachers to make. Keep in mind that teachers lost 10 minutes of class time to make room for the skinny block and they might feel rushed.


What did you hope to accomplish with the skinny block, and do you think it has been successful?


We introduced it mainly because the state mandated it. But the purpose of it was to help students build skills and to reinforce subjects the students had not excelled at and to introduce new hobbies and skills to them. It also looks better on a college application if you’re able to take a class that will make you seem more appealing to colleges - classes that we previously weren’t able to offer. We constantly strive to add more opportunities and choices for you guys.

It has been successful. After the first four-and-a-half weeks, the data was compiled and we moved a large number of students out of intervention and into enrichment (because the students tested out of the math and reading intervention).


Some students say they are in skinny blocks they’re not prepared for, especially the sophomores in ACT prep. What was the reasoning behind that?


It was my decision about the ACT prep. Everybody has to take the ACT when they are a junior. So the idea was, ‘ Let’s offer ACT prep to the sophomores’ so that they get a piece of each part of the ACT throughout the year, and by the time they move into their junior year they’ll be more familiar with ACT-type questions, the layout, and how to manage their time for the ACT.


Yes, for math in particular, we did realize that we would be teaching concepts sophomores may have not gone over yet, but that’s okay. It is okay because they are getting information and knowledge of those concepts. So when they go to classes like geometry, they will say, ‘Oh, I know about that, I have some familiarity with this.’


We didn’t offer it to juniors because kids start taking the ACT from September to June of their junior year. So we wouldn’t have a chance to give information to the kids taking it in September through October. 


Why wasn’t there better communication about the new schedule between administration and students and administration and teachers? It seems a lot of people didn’t know the plans.


None of us is perfect; we wanted to provide you guys with the best opportunities possible. We realize that through the course of that we could’ve done a better job last year. We had to manually assign skinny blocks to everyone’s schedule, so that hindered us a bit. We are in the learning process of how to go about with RTI time. We do plan to have a skinny block catalog next year much like the course catalog we have now.


Why were so many students missing a skinny block in their schedule at the start of the semester?


We gave the students surveys last year, but I think the problem with the survey is that they did not have enough information to do a good job on the survey and understand what was being asked of them. That’s why we had so many issues in the beginning of the year with scheduling and people not having skinny block choices.


What is the future of advisory and club time?


I would think the every-other-Friday advisory is probably going to remain. We like the idea that kids have somebody through four years that they have an association with and a group of students that they’re going to have an association with. It gives the opportunity to do some things that are outside the normal curriculum. We’re constantly looking for ways to improve and make it better. The bigger question is the club time. We’ll keep evaluating whether that club time makes sense and whether we’re getting the best benefit out of that every-other-Friday club time. The goal was for kids who have to ride the bus (after school) to be able to participate, so that’s why we decided to offer clubs during the school day.


Do you foresee any changes with the dress code?


Dress code is a matter of first period enforcement, to be honest. If we all do a good job then, then we can get it a little bit tighter. If I’m in third lunch and I see someone come by out of dress code, unless it’s abhorrent - I’m going to be honest - I’m probably not going to say anything because they’ve made it through a whole lot of sets of eyes before me seeing them in the lunch room during third block. But the dress code policy was written several years ago. Styles have changed and times have changed. It’s easily six or seven years old and you guys know as well as I do that things have changed and it might be time for us administrators, as high school principals, to sit back down and look at it again.


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