NOTE: See companion story “Cotter says he would extend breaks if students did their part.”
There is no shortage of opinion about the new Commando Time “skinny block” at HHS. Below is a sampling of responses from students and teachers.
“I have HS101 and it’s not helping at all. It is like study hall."
- Spencer Rupert, freshman
"It's effective if the students want it to be. My class is study hall and my kids use it effectively."
- Russ Plummer, soccer coach and physical education teacher
“It’s too soon to tell. It took everyone off guard, but it’ll get better.”
- Erin Flannery, French teacher
“We really don’t do anything in skinny block.”
- Annsley Hubbard, sophomore
- Katelyn Eddy, sophomore
“The idea was to get teachers to teach things they never had the opportunity to teach, and I wish they kept with the original plan of you choosing what you wanted to teach.”
- Heather Thomas, algebra teacher
“I feel like it is a good idea. The choice of classes isn’t fleshed out though. The administration is still learning and it’s only the first year, so next year will be better.”
- Caitlin Hall, Latin teacher
“CT time is preparing us for adjustments we want to make in the future … I do think there’s an issue with not having enough computers for all of the ACT Prep classes to use.”
- Tina Clem, credit recovery teacher
Students sent to HHS’s Commando Court face some stiff and often creative punishments.
One of the most unusual involved a boy who used a cuss word in class.
Criminal justice teacher Regan Cothron, who oversees the student-operated court, didn’t repeat the word in a recent interview, but it wasn’t hard to guess which one it was from the punishment.
“He had to make a PowerPoint about the female dog,” Cothron explained.
The court prides itself on coming up with sentences that fit the offense. A cell phone infraction, for instance, might end with a 500-word essay on the history of the cell phone. A student chewing gum without permission could wind up scraping gum from the bottom of desks.
“I think sometimes the students are stricter than the administration,” Cothron said.
Commando Court isn’t new to HHS. Former criminal justice teacher Kirk Schwabe started the court and ran it for several years before he left HHS in 2014.
The court disbanded after Schwabe’s departure, but with the new skinny block this year, Cothron saw an opportunity to revive it.
Commando Court hears about a case a day during skinny block with students assuming the same roles found in adult court – all except for judge, a post Cothron occupies. There are two defense attorneys, a prosecutor, a probation officer, and a jury of six to eight students.
Before trial, prosecutors meet with the teacher who brought the case while defense attorneys confer with the accused.
All proceedings are confidential.
“We try to make it as close to adult court as we can,” Cothron said.
Cameron Gallina, a junior in the class, said he joined the court because “I thought it would be a good entry into that work field.”
“I’ve always been influenced by my dad who works in law enforcement,” Gallina said.
Most cases are by teacher referral and deal with things like disrespect, tardiness, sleeping and talking in class. Fighting, drugs and other more serious offenses go directly to school administrators.
Although students testify and have their “day in court,” the court always assigns a punishment, even if only a letter of apology to the teacher.
If students fail to follow through with their sentence or continue to get into trouble, they are sent back to court for a tougher penalty, a 1,000-word essay instead of a 500-word essay, for example. After “three strikes,” Cothron said, the offender is referred to administration for punishment, which can include suspension.
“In the cases I’ve worked in, the students’ behavior has improved,” she said. “They take it seriously.”
So far, Cothron said, the court has had only three repeat offenders, and none of them has had to go to administration.
Still, teachers and students express mixed views. Some students don’t like the idea of peers reprimanding them.
“I’d feel mad at a student giving me punishment,” said sophomore Heather Robinson, who has not been before the court.
But algebra teacher Heather Thomas said she found the student court effective.
“One girl in my advisory class had it for sleeping in class. She was pretty upset about it,” Thomas said.
Other teachers see the court as a good learning experience and, like Thomas, a useful tool for dealing with minor problems.
English teacher Kim Coyle, however, thinks some kinks need to be worked out.
“It can be a good way if it’s utilized effectively, but I think right now the students don’t know quite what they’re doing,” said Coyle, who has used the court.
One way Cothron seems to be addressing concerns is with the recent creation of the probation officer to check up on students who have been in trouble.
“The probation officer can follow through and see if the student is doing what he or she is supposed to do,” she explained. “They can go to the teacher and make sure the student is behaving.”
Article by reporters Sarah Yi, Anna Burke, Isabella Stokes, Jensen Tabb, Grace Jones, Rebecca Porter, Lindsey Glowacki and Sarah Whitlow
Sophomore Kelsey Dotson says she’s always wanted to be a published writer. Now she has her chance.
Dotson is in Kim Coyle’s creative writing class where she writes stories, poems and essays aimed at Hendersonville High’s literary magazine, “Mosaic.”
The latest edition, subtitled “A Balancing Act,” came out this month with the next one set for spring.
“The students do all of the work on their own,” Coyle said. “I just publish it.”
One recent morning, her students were beginning a unit on poetry. Many of their poems will appear on the blogs they are promoting in the halls with fliers titled “Life On and Off the Ice,” “Our Insecurities Highlight Our Beauty” and “This Is My Struggle to Keep Calm and Carry On.” Later, if they are good enough, the poems could be published in “Mosaic.”
While Dotson said she enjoys writing poetry, she is partial to creative non-fiction, another genre students explore in the class.
“If I had to pick my favorite piece that we’ve done so far, I would pick the nostalgia one where I pick a moment from my childhood and we just make the person feel like they’re there,” Dotson said.
For Sophomore Alexa Gronemeier, fiction is the favored genre.
“We’ve written about 10 to 15 stories already this year,” Gronemeier said, adding, “I definitely want to be a writer when I grow up.”
Coyle started the HHS literary magazine a few years ago. She had had one at her high school in Texas and thought “it was something I wanted to bring here.”
Any HHS student can submit work for “Mosaic,” but the creative writing students choose which pieces get published. They also put the magazine together and write and edit most of the content.
Besides poems, stories and essays, “Mosaic” also features student artwork. The latest issue, for example, includes a color painting of a sunset over a frozen lake, a black and white illustration of dangling light bulbs and a photo collage of Stonehenge.
The written pieces are often personal. In one essay titled “Author Incognito,” last year senior Mara Lowhorn wrote, “Sometimes I get anxiety just thinking about writing. A lot of times, I’m too afraid to even start. But when I get out of the rut and finally put pen to paper, I’m usually too afraid to stop.”
“Mosaic” can be purchased in Room 202 for $15 in advance and $20 after publication. Back copies are $10 apiece.
Article by Cleo Graham, Anna Burke, Kolby Hayes, Ashley Baez, Jensen Tabb, Lindsey Glowacki and Rebecca Porter
During this week’s homecoming celebration, HHS students can smash a car to pieces, mill around a huge bonfire, and dress up like Star Wars characters.
One thing they can’t do is attend a school dance.
Organizers nixed the homecoming dance after low turnout in recent years.
“Only like a hundred people showed up last year,” senior Channing Graves, a member of the Student Council, told The Ville News on Monday.
Graves and fellow council member Janie Bundy, who both helped organize this year’s homecoming events, said the dance probably didn’t go over well because it followed the homecoming football game late Friday evening after a long week of activities.
“Plus it was in the Field House on turf and some people were like ‘gross,’” Bundy said.
The Fall Ball, held next month in the annex gym, has traditionally drawn larger crowds, and since the two dances are so close together, organizers decided to drop homecoming and focus on Fall Ball, which is set for Oct. 29 this year.
“There was more enthusiasm about the Fall Ball,” Bundy said of the decision.
Even without the dance, there will be plenty to do this week. There is a car bashing at 6 p.m. Tuesday ($1 for three whacks at a donated vehicle) and a bonfire at 7 p.m. – both in the band practice field by the old front entrance to the school – not to mention the powder puff football games (finals are 5 p.m. Wednesday in front of Ellis Middle), a parade at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Streets of Indian Lake, a Friday morning pep rally, and a homecoming ceremony before the 7 p.m. kickoff against East Nashville.
The bonfire was once part of HHS’s homecoming festivities but was done away with nearly 10 years ago.
“I think Mr. Cotter wanted to bring back the tradition,” Graves said. Only this time the “bonfire” is actually a mechanical gas-fueled contraption that officials say is safer than a burning pile of brush.
Besides all of the events, there are also themed dress up days all this week. Monday was Favorite Team Day, Tuesday is Harry Potter vs. Star Wars Day, Wednesday is Tourist Day, Thursday is Camo Day, and Friday is Class Color Day.
Graves and Bundy said other ideas were floated to school administrators for dress up days but shot down, including Pajama Day (dress code violation), Beach Bum Day (negative connotation to the word “bum”), and finally Toga Day and Gender Bender Day (need we even mention the objections?).
Bundy said a surprising amount of work goes into putting the homecoming activities together and, frankly, she’s glad it’s almost over.
“It’s a relief to have everything planned and worked out,” she said. “It relieves a weight from your shoulders.”
Reporters Anna Burke, Jensen Tabb, Isabella Stokes, Riley Hooper, Roxana Reyes, Rebecca Porter, Cleo Graham, and Ashlyn Williams contributed to this report.
September 26 - FAFSA Workshop 6pm at HHS
September 27 - 2016 Sumner County College Night @ Vol State Community College Pickel Gym 6pm - 8pm. Students are REQUIRED to register with www.gotocollegefairs.com for this event. Students will then receive a barcode & can either save this code to your smartphone or print it out in order to bring with you to the college fair.
October 1 -TN Promise FAFSA Day (TN Promise Workshop) at Vol State Community College. Students will be able to reserve their spot at one of our TN Promise workshops and complete their TN Promise Application, Financial Aid Application (FAFSA) and Application for Admission to Vol State. Staff will be on hand to guide and assist you every step of the way. (FREE). Spaces are filling-up quickly. Times still available include: 10 am; 11 am; 12 pm & 1 pm. The link to RSVP is: www.volstate.edu/promise
Short on cash?
Hendersonville High’s new student-run bank in the gym lobby can help. The bank is open 11:40-1:35 most days during third block. It can issue loans up to $5, break large bills, and even set up savings accounts.
“It’s more for your convenience, like with the savings accounts and everything, just so you can have money at school if you forget anything or if you forget your ID” and face detention, explained junior Cory Graham, one of nine students from business teacher Brittany Watson’s Banking and Finance class who run the bank.
Most loans can be issued in less than 5 minutes. So far, around 80 have been given, with the largest lump coming before the recent in-school volleyball game.
“For the volleyball game, we gave out like 28 loans,” Graham said.
The HHS bank,which is across from Commando Corner, is sponsored and supported by the commercial Volunteer State Bank. It isn’t the only one of its kind in Sumner County; Gallatin and Portland highs also have student-operated banks. Nationwide, many schools are experimenting with banks, with Union Bank and Capital One two of the biggest sponsors, according to a 2014 report by National Public Radio.
Like a commercial bank, the HHS bank charges interest – 10-cents a day, not including weekends and other off-days. And if a student doesn’t repay a loan, there are consequences.
“Most people pay us back in the first day or two,” Graham said. “We’ve had a little trouble being paid back, but it’s not too bad.”
After 10 days, delinquent loans are turned over to school administrators, who handle them like other unpaid school debts. Report cards can be withheld, or seniors can be blocked from walking the line during graduation.
The bank’s biggest obstacle has been awareness. It is still early in the school year and many students don’t know much about the bank, despite the gold and black fliers posted around the hallways.
“I think it’s a good idea, I just haven’t used it yet,” said senior Lauryn Dugger.
Sophomore Wrenn Arevalo said, “I don’t think I’d use the bank, but I do think it’s convenient for students who might need it. “
The HHS bank isn’t just about convenience, though. There is also the educational component for Watson’s students, who work as tellers, loan collectors, and data entry specialists. They switch positions from time to time to gain experience in different areas.
“I feel like it’s better than just sitting in class,” said senior Dylan Richards, another of the bank officers. “It’s a real hands-on experience where you’re actually doing something. You can’t sit there and not do anything like you can do in a normal class.”
Article by reporters Anna Burke, Skye Cadorette, Lindsey Glowacki, Ashlyn Williams, and Isabella Stokes