Reporters usually have to find news, but sometimes news comes to them. That is what happened to Brinson Martin and Sloane Wright, two reporters for The Ville News who ended up in the path of Hurricane Michael during fall break.
Their first-person accounts of the experience are below, beginning with Brinson’s narrative of a family vacation gone wrong in Destin, Fla.
I went to Destin on an early Saturday morning (Oct. 6). As we were driving down, we were so excited about a week at the beach that we had no idea Michael was headed straight for us. We checked into our condo that day and it was sunny and warm.
That Saturday we just hung out with friends and went to the beach and to the pool. Even the next morning was sunny, so I still had no idea about the hurricane’s whereabouts. I didn’t learn about Michael’s path until the second full day I was there.
We didn’t know many details about the storm. We didn’t know what category it was, or how severe it would be. We had no plan of what we were going to do. We just decided to wait and see.
By Tuesday morning, mandatory evacuations were under way, and we knew our family vacation was going to be cut short by five days. Even when we left the condo that morning, though, the weather was still okay – nothing like the startling images of destruction that would flash across the TV after the hurricane hit.
The trip home took 11 hours because of all the people fleeing the coast. The mood in our car was far more somber than it was when we were driving down only a few days earlier. I hated having to leave because I love Florida, but we got our money back on the condo and we knew things could have been much worse for us. And there is always spring break!
Story by Brinson Martin
My family and I arrived in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., on Friday (Oct. 5). It was a clear, beautiful day, but there was a red tide (a toxic algae bloom) and it had caused a lot of dead fish to be washed up on the beach.
Once we were in Florida, we began to receive messages about Hurricane Michael on our phones. It wasn’t long before a sheriff’s car went around our neighborhood telling us to evacuate to Orange Beach, Ala., which is about 90 miles to the west.
As we were leaving Santa Rosa Beach, everyone was boarding up their homes and businesses. It was strange to see how hurricanes are a way of life for people who live on the coast, something they are used to and accept.
We rode out the hurricane in Orange Beach. The wind was really strong and the waves were big, especially farther out to sea, but I was with my family and we still managed to have a good time. The only really bad thing was that my friend was supposed to fly down and join us on Wednesday, but her flight was cancelled because of the storm.
It was disappointing to have to change our vacation plans, but it was certainly a vacation I’ll always remember.
Story by Sloane Wright
As much fun as Homecoming Week was for many HHS students, some say they are glad one part of it is over: Junior-Senior Wars.
“Junior-Senior Wars is always a Homecoming Week tradition," explained senior Dylan Cunningham. "Usually the seniors start it off, but everybody knows the first Monday night of Homecoming somebody’s house is getting rolled or somebody’s house is getting egged.”
Although the pranks are supposed to be harmless and fun, a few students told The Ville News that things went too far this year, even getting parents involved.
“We hit his (an unnamed senior's) house and his dad caught us at a red light while we were leaving and chased us around Hendersonville for 15 minutes,” said a junior who asked not to be identified.
Most of the pranks involve egging and rolling houses, but some students took them to another level by throwing dead animals, damaging cars and firing airsoft guns.
Senior Luke McClendon said lines were crossed. "Yes, 100 perecent," he said. "I’m glad it's over.”
Not everyone agrees, saying that if they have the chance to participate next year, they will elevate the pranking even more.
School Resource Officer Kyle Pierce believes that harmless fun is “beneficial for both classes to create a tighter group ... but the problem I do have is when it becomes a law enforcement issue.”
Story by Brinson Martin, Elena Giordani, Rianna Waters, Gracie Eastman
Whether heading to Maui or to the mall, HHS students and staff can’t wait for fall break to get here.
“I’m going to Colorado and Wyoming to visit my friends and family,” said attendance clerk Cheri Glor.
Freshman Eva Plummer isn’t traveling as far. “I’ll be going down to Florida with my friend,” she said. Sophomore Abby Kimbrough and freshman Brinson Martin will be in the Sunshine State as well, along with many others from HHS.
The break begins Monday (Oct. 8) and runs the whole week. School won’t resume until Oct. 15.
While some are traveling west and some south, sophomore Ian Sewell is going north, all the way up into Canada.
Sophomore Cheney Phillips will be roughing it closer to home camping with her family in Gatlinburg.
Sophomore Sky Warren might have everyone beat when it comes to exotic locales. She will be in Maui, Hawaii, for fall break.
Not all are hitting the road, though. Many say they will stick close to Hendersonville.
“I will be staying in and taking care of the greenhouse to get ready for this spring,” said agriscience teacher Hailey Gates.
Spanish teacher Sarah Wolf said she’s just thrilled about “not waking up at 4 every morning.”
Guidance officer Gina Kammerzell will use the time off to earn a little extra cash by working her second job at Hobby Lobby.
Whatever your plans for fall break, The Ville News wishes you a safe and happy week off.
Story by Lillie Franks, Eryn Petty, Savannah Kane and Claire Grandlienard
The county School Board recently tightened its attendance policy to make it tougher to skip classes, but some HHS students say the change goes too far.
The policy revision approved last month and apparently aimed at students who arrive to school late or check out early is proving to be a real head-scratcher for students, staff, and teachers.
Under the change, if a student misses less than 3 hours and 16 minutes (that’s check in before 11:16 a.m. or check out after 11:44 a.m.), the absence is counted “unexcused” unless the student has a doctor/medical note.
A parent note isn’t enough anymore if the absence falls within the time parameters set by the board. So a simple tardy - arriving soon after the morning bell - will now require a doctor's note to be excused.
However, if the absence is for more than the 3 hours and 16 minutes, it is considered an “all day absence” and a parent note is all that is needed for it to be excused.
Confusing, we know. But a small piece of paper taped above the counter in the school front office helps boil things down a bit. It states, in bold letters, “A parent note may only be used to excuse a full day of absence.”
The policy switch has its supporters.
“It’s encouraging students to bring in doctors' notes and to come to school,” HHS attendance clerk Cheri Glor told The Ville News. “If you’re not in school, you’re not learning the material.”
Others, though, think the School Board changed the policy without enough consideration. They say unexcused absences affect students’ status for exam exemptions and school activities, and revisions to the policy shouldn’t be done without a lot of input and discussion.
“They’re basically saying they’d rather have kids miss a full day of school instead of them just missing a single block or two,” remarked senior Jalen Sands. “It’s ridiculous and makes no sense.”
Fellow seniors Haley Gentry-Hawkins and Alexias Ehiemua shared her sentiments.
“I can understand that they’re trying to cut down on people skipping, but it’s unfair,” Ehiemua said.
Gentry-Hawkins added, “You can’t always schedule a doctor’s appointment the day you are sick. You don’t always need to go to a doctor for your sickness.”
Story by Kiya Whitlow and Isabella Logue
A security breach with the ACT website delayed students at HHS and other Tennessee high school from taking the high-stakes test this week.
On Friday (Sept. 28) - four days before the scheduled ACT test date in Tennessee - an email to HHS faculty and staff announced that the test would have to be postponed because of the breach, which occurred in another state.
All of Tennessee and multiple districts across the country had to halt tests.
At HHS, where every student was to either take a practice ACT or the real test on Tuesday (Oct. 2), the delay affected students and teachers, who had to adjust their lesson plans.
“I am disappointed that the schoolwide ACT got cancelled because I think the practice ACT is a very valuable teaching tool for teachers of underclassmen,” said math teacher Jennifer Kotler.
“All students need to understand that the ACT is a test that you prepare for all throughout high school and not just cram for your junior year,” Kotler added.
HHS officials have said the entire school will still take the ACT – either as practice or the real thing – on the rescheduled date, which is expected to be either Oct. 16 or Oct. 30.
Story by Daniel Keatts-Thompson and Bella McBride
September has been a roller coaster of rotten weather, from heat indexes nudging 100 to gray skies spewing rain. Fortunately, things are about to change – and just in time for this weekend’s homecoming festivities.
The first push of autumn weather will arrive over the new few days, according to the National Weather Service, with sunny days in the 70s, cool nights in the 50s, and a big dip in humidity.
The turnaround should make for crisp, near-perfect conditions for Friday night’s homecoming football game with Wilson Central (Sept. 28) and Saturday night’s homecoming dance in the auxiliary gym.
It would seem that even Mother Nature is rooting for the Commandos.
Story by Isabella Logue, Kiya Whitlow and Bella McBride.
Random drug testing of student-athletes wrapped up recently at HHS.
Attempts to reach Athletic Director Dr. Ron Sarver for the results of the testing were unsuccessful, so details are sparse. But baseball coach Mike Hendrix said the tests are held each year during the fall and spring sports seasons.
Some student-athletes interviewed by The Ville News last week said that they understood and agreed with the school system's random drug testing policy, but they also said that students who are not athletes should be tested as well.
Story by Sloane Wright and Brinson Martin
HHS counselors raised awareness of teen suicide earlier this month as part of national Suicide Prevention Week (Sept. 9-15).
The counselors handed out pamphlets including one titled "Friend's Guide to Suicide Prevention," which offers advice on how to reach out to peers who might be suicidal and potentially save their lives.
According to the suicide prevention group The Jason Foundation, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 24. The foundation also reports that more teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease - combined.
Debbie Sheets, a counselor for the group STARS (Students Taking A Right Stand), said she hopes the pamphlets and other materials help teens who are struggling.
The counselors were also available to speak with students one-on-one. "Students who needed to talk more in-depth could," Sheets said.
Story by Eryn Petty and Lillie Franks
The miraculous play by freshman football players Luke Manning and Jameson Wharton that ended up on ESPN's SportsCenter back in August is still gaining attention.
A video of the play, in which Manning throws a touchdown pass to Wharton with no time left on the clock to give the Commandos a 10-6 win over Blackman, has reportedly made SportsCenter's Top 10 with millions of views.
Coach Jack Littlejohn said that while he is glad the play has gained attention, "I would feel better if we had won another game since then, but we haven't."
The team's record is 2-3 with their next game Thursday (Sept. 27) at Wilson Central.
Story by Elena Giordani and Johnny Espinoza