Reading can be habit-forming, at least that is what some HHS English teachers are finding.
A handful of teachers recently started independent reading programs in their classrooms and say the results are encouraging.
“Yesterday, as a matter of fact, a boy told me that for the first time in his life he read a book from cover to cover,” said English Department Chairman Carmen Watts, who pioneered the program at HHS last year because she said many teens do not read as much as they should due to social media, video games and other distractions.
Each day, Watts has students read a book of their choosing the first 15 or 20 minutes of class. She does approve the books to make sure they are suitable and requires students to keep a journal of what they read. Still, students have more freedom than the standard approach of only focusing on the classics. Many wind up picking up their books outside of English class.
“The last book I started reading was called Through My Eyes. It was written by Tim Tebow, and it was kind of like his autobiography, about his life and his time in Florida. It was pretty good,” said freshman Gabriel Epperson.
Watts’ colleagues Candice Cunningham, Ashley Jones and Dr. Rebecca Bene have incorporated independent reading this semester. All four teachers still assign books for class, but now students get to mix in some of their own selections.
“Most of my students seem to be, for the most part, excited about being able to pick the book that they want to read and then have the opportunity to read it because many of them don’t outside of class,” Bene said.
She added that the HHS librarians are also pleased with independent reading because “it just gets students in there and looking at books they might not normally have looked at.”
In fact, library records show that the number of books checked out this semester appears to be way ahead of last year. So far this semester, 1,397 books have been checked out compared with 1,670 for all of last school year.
“We saw a growth in independent reading last year and the trend has continued this year,” librarians Jeane Trovato and Angie Woods said in a joint statement. “We love getting student book recommendations to drive our library purchases. We have seen several students this school year who have not visited the library in a long time to check out books.”
Story by Peter Livesay, Kennedy Tilson, Caden Watterson and Bailey Guy
Editor’s Note: The new HHS rock needs a name. You can submit suggestions to an envelope outside the Guidance Office, across from the cafeteria.
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the big rock splattered with paint outside the gym is a prime example.
It might not be much to look at, but the rock, which Principal Bob Cotter had placed there at the beginning of the school year, is a thing of beauty to many at HHS.
“That rock symbolizes the War Team,” said senior Conner Strumm, class treasurer and War Team leader. “Through all the storms, that rock will stand. That is how the War Team should be. Whether we are winning 10 touchdowns to zero or if we are getting blown out, the War Team will be there to cheer and encourage our boys. I think our students have pride in the rock and are glad to see it painted black and gold.”
Even Mr. Cotter is a little gushy about the rock. “It’s a matter of spirit where the seniors, student body officers, and War Team can be creative and show that HHS has school spirit.”
The principal put the rock in motion, so to speak, after student body officers suggested to him that it would make a nice addition to campus. Gallatin High and Merrol Hyde Magnet already had rocks – why not HHS?
So Mr. Cotter figured it was time to rock and roll. He cleared things with the county maintenance folks and the idea became, well, set in stone.
The rock hasn’t been without controversy, though. Before the football game with Beech, the Beech Patrol sneaked in the night and defaced it with orange and blue.
Strumm came to school early to paint over it.
“I did not want any Commando to have to see such a putrid and gross orange and blue rock,” he said.
Story by Kelsey Dotson, Giulia Giordani, and Kayla Delk
HHS Principal Bob Cotter is an avid hunter who can sit still for hours in a tree stand, but you won’t catch him sitting still much at school. He rushed to a recent interview with The Ville News and answered questions with a walkie-talkie by his side. Still, Cotter was patient and candid in discussing a wide-range of issues. His edited remarks are below.
Do you foresee any changes in the dress code? We understand that it was developed years ago when styles were much different.
Right now, it’s really not my call. The high school dress code was developed by the high school principals several years ago. We revisit it every now and then as a group to see if it needs tweaking. At this point, I just can’t go out and say ‘Hey, I’m getting rid of this part of the dress code’ because it was a mutual agreement among high school principals. Right now I’m satisfied with it. I really want people to look at the dress code and understand and follow it.
The administration seems really strict with IDs. Would it be acceptable to wear IDs tied to backpacks instead of around the neck?
The number one reason to have it on is for security purposes, so that we know who is in the building is supposed to be in the building. Secondly, we have learned from different scenarios involving emergencies at schools that the police that come in during those times are also looking for the IDs. If you are separated from your backpack, they don’t know if you’re legit or not supposed to be here. We try to reiterate this with the staff too, because police request that they have them on to know if they are supposed to be here or not.
When do you think it is appropriate for students to use their phones in the building?
Basically what we have lined up now, which is during lunch and when teachers allow that access in the classroom. Students need to realize that when their phone is on, whether it is being used or not, it is pulling data down from the network. This messes with online testing because our network may not be able to support everybody being online at one time. That is why we make announcements sometimes requesting for you to turn your phones off.
Is it acceptable for students to listen to music during down time?
We don’t have a problem with this at lunch, and I think there are teachers who allow some of that in their classrooms. Our big concern is when you have headphones on and you’re walking through the hall because it makes it hard to communicate with you. It is a safety issue because you can’t hear announcements that may be telling you to get into the classroom, or anything. We aren’t against listening to music, it just has to be at appropriate times.
How do you feel Commando Time is going, and do you expect any changes?
I think it’s better than it was last year. It’s another one of those things where you’ve got a new program you’re starting and you evaluate it when it’s over and you try to tweak it and make changes to it. The teachers have a big part in making Commando Time work and we’ve tried to make things a little easier for the teachers as opposed to having so many different options like we did the first year.
Why can’t students leave campus during lunch?
Lunch is only 25 minutes long, and it’s a huge liability to let students leave campus. To leave to go somewhere and come back all within 25 minutes just doesn’t work.
What are your thoughts on homework and the amount teachers should assign?
Homework is important to reinforce what you’ve learned. It should always be something your teacher has already taught you because if you learn something the wrong way, it will be really hard to learn it the right way. The amount of homework assigned should depend on the skill. But I don’t think a teacher needs to assign 20 problems when five will show mastery of the skill. And we have to talk to teachers about that sometimes.
There is a lot of emphasis on football and basketball, yet many students play other sports. Is there more that can be done to call attention to the other sports?
Football and basketball are our two main revenue sports. It’s not purposeful, and I admit that we should do a better job of promoting other sports.
Some students would like to see prom held off campus so it would be more of a special event. What are your thoughts?
There is a cost factor with having prom off campus because you have to rent the facility that you want to use. Here we don’t have to rent the gym. There is also a safety factor of driving somewhere to have prom. By coming to campus, we eliminate a lot of that.
What are your favorite and least favorite things about your job at HHS?
My favorite thing would be the energy that high school students put off. It keeps me feeling young - if not looking it. I also like being able to interact with a large group of kids. There are always so many things going on; as an administrator you never get bored. My least favorite part is having to do discipline and dealing with all of the change, with trying to keep up with the newest thing the state wants you to do which they pass down to the county. The constant change is sometimes hard to deal with.
What would you do if you were not a principal?
I would probably go back to teaching history and social studies, probably back to sixth grade. I have a soft spot for sixth graders.
Article by staff writers Kelsey Dotson, Abigail Lewis, Bryce Mathias and Giulia Giordani
Some HHS students were plenty resourceful and a little bit sneaky in navigating the new numbered parking system.
Several went to a different Golden Opportunity night than they were supposed to, enabling them essentially to cut in line for purchasing parking passes and to snap up many of the best spots.
The Golden Opportunity oversight won’t happen again, HHS Principal Bob Cotter told The Ville News recently.
“We are considering … switching the arrangement of Golden Opportunity to put juniors and seniors together on the first night, and then sophomores and freshmen on the second night so the only group that should be buying on that first night is juniors and seniors,” he said.
Another likely change for Golden Opportunity, the principal said, is requiring students to show their driver’s license to prove that they are even eligible to drive and rearranging the stations so students must verify their grade level and get an ID badge BEFORE they buy a parking pass. Last time, no one checked grade level.
“We know for a fact that’s a couple of areas we need to get ready for Golden Opportunity next year,” Cotter said.
Shenanigans aside, the new parking policy draws mostly positive reviews from students and staff.
Before the change, Cotter said, “It was getting harder because people were parking everywhere. You know, people were parking by the band trailer and parking in the grass.”
Now, he said, everybody is guaranteed a place. “Theoretically, if you get here 10 minutes before school, you have a parking spot.”
Many at HHS like the new setup.
“It keeps people out of my spot,” said sophomore Jonathon Coomer.
“I think it’s pretty cool if you have a spot that’s up close, because like no matter when you get to school you know you have a parking spot,” said senior Connor Pace.
“But,” Pace added, “having a spot that’s behind the away (side of the) stadium kind of” stinks.
Office worker Cheri Glor said the new policy has reduced first-block tardiness. “Before we had assigned parking, people had to drive around to find a spot,” she said.
Teachers also prefer the new arrangement. “I know that I’ll have a spot waiting for me every day,” said English teacher Carmen Watts.
History teacher Amanda Elmore likes that she can leave campus during the day and have the same spot when she returns.
Not everyone is pleased, though. As Pace mentioned, for students with good spots, the new policy is great, but for those with bad ones, the old first-come, first-serve method was better.
“I feel like if you get here early you should get a good spot, but if you get here late you should park in the back,” said senior Reggie Grisham.
“It’s so dumb because sophomores have better parking than juniors” said junior Hayden Redditt, adding “seniors should get first pick.”
Pace suggested staggered pricing, like concert seating; students would pay more for prime spots.
Others think more places should be designated for visitors so they wouldn’t have to take student or teacher spaces.
Nearly everyone seems to have a horror story about arriving to school and finding another vehicle in his or her spot.
Cotter says he’s working on that.
“We try initially to send someone out to get them to move their car,” he explained. “If they don’t have a parking pass, then we tell them they can’t drive back on campus. If it becomes a repeated issue, then we issue tickets.”
Article by staff writers Sarah Kovach, Bailey Guy, Peter Livesay, Giulia Giordani, Kayla Delk, Kelsey Dotson and Olivia Nutting
With every new school year comes new teachers, but this year there are more new faces than usual.
Twenty-five teachers started at HHS this school year, about double the number from last year.
Principal Bob Cotter said there is no single reason for the spike. “There are new teachers each year because people retire, choose to pursue other professions,” he said.
“And quite frankly,” he added, “some are not rehired because they turned out to not be a good fit for HHS.”
There are so many new teachers that it wasn’t uncommon the first weeks of school for a student to drop by a classroom expecting to see one teacher only to find he or she gone and a new teacher occupying the room.
The Ville News recently spoke to a few of the newcomers about their early impressions of HHS.
Following is a list of other teachers new to HHS along with their room numbers and subjects:
Article by Staff Writer Kelsey Dotson
Fall 2017 Advisory Dates
August Dates: 7th, 8th, & 25th
September Dates: 8th & 22nd
October Dates: 6th & 27th
November Dates: 10th
December Dates: 1st & 15th
Spring 2018 Advisory Dates
January Dates: 12th & 26th
February Dates: 9th & 23rd
March Dates: 9th
April Dates: 6th & 20th
May Dates: 4th & 18th