Journalism

Time with family is a big theme for HHS students heading into the holiday break.

Most everyone we caught up with over the past week or so mentioned family dinners, family vacations and family visits as part of their plans.

They should have plenty of time to fit everything in - from Thursday (Dec. 20) afternoon all the way to Monday, Jan. 7.

Below is a sampling of what students shared with The Ville News about their holiday plans and traditions:

  • Jack Brown, a freshman, will spend Christmas Eve at his grandparents’ house.
  • Nate Vaughn, a senior, is also going to his grandparents, and squeezing in a little snowboarding too.
  • Cole Boyssonneault, a junior, is flying to Canada to visit family.
  • Mckenzie Collins, a senior, will eat Christmas dinner with her family and take a cruise to the Bahamas.
  • Noah Carmean, a freshman, will visit relatives. Ditto for Kendal Rosenboom, a senior, and Jax Winters, a sophomore.
  • Allie Mays, a freshman, will go shopping the Saturday after Christmas with her mom and grandmother, a family tradition.
  • Maya Batson, a sophomore, will have her grandmother over to her house for Christmas.
  • Brett Means, a freshman, will go to his grandparents’ house for dinner; his brothers will all be there too.
  • Abigail Wyatt, a freshman, will head to Mississippi to be with family.
  • Jada Williams, a sophomore, will visit family in Nashville.

Whatever your plans, The Ville News wishes you happy holidays!

Story by Rhianna Wilson and Anela Lopez

The last place one might expect to find students during their holiday break is at school.

But for several HHS students, the school parking lot is hard to resist.

HHS Principal Bob Cotter told The Ville News that loitering and trash in the lot had become a big problem in recent years but had gotten better – until last month’s Thanksgiving break when the parking lot again became a hangout.

“I believe it is more former students, college friends coming back and getting together,” Cotter said. “I think it’s two-thirds former students and one-third of our kids.”

He’s hoping the renewed interest in the parking lot was a one-time thing and not a return to the days when he said he and former football Coach Bruce Hatfield would have to spend hours cleaning up after students.

“People would leave everything – everything,” he emphasized. “We would find alcohol, beer cans, marijuana, paraphernalia. There were lots of other things that I don’t want to go into but should not be found in a high school parking lot … it’s an embarrassment.”

And it wasn’t only trash, either. Damage was done to the visitor bleachers, and there were complaints of drag racing and other inappropriate behavior.

Police stepped up patrols and signs were posted against loitering, and the problem got better.

Senior Presley Eastwood said much of the activity these days is caused by kids using the lot as a meeting place. They might spend 15 or 20 minutes there while making plans for the evening.

“It’s a central location, so it’s a good meeting place,” Eastwood said. “Everyone knows where it is, and they’re comfortable leaving their car there.”

Eastwood used to hang out in the parking lot regularly when she was a sophomore.  Back then, she said, there might be more than a dozen vehicles at a time behind the visitor bleachers with people listening to music and talking. She said she never saw anyone smoking pot or drinking alcohol.

She quit hanging out there after Cotter began telling students to stop, and she thinks most of her peers did the same. She occasionally still uses the lot as a place to meet up with friends before carpooling to an away game or to some other outing.

“When I drive by there, I don’t see as many cars as I used to,” Eastwood said.

Story by Gracie Eastman and Elana Giordani

 

Many HHS students just received an early Christmas gift from the Sumner County School Board.

Classes with a state-mandated End of Course test will not have a final exam under a new policy approved by the board Tuesday (Dec. 11).

The change, which was announced to HHS staff Wednesday in an email from Principal Bob Cotter, affects students in math, English, and U.S. history this semester.

“In a nutshell, EOC classes will not have an exam, and the EOC will count 15 percent” of students’ final average, Cotter said.

Non-EOC classes will still have a final exam, and it will also count 15 percent of the final average.

The school board “no longer wanted EOC kids to have an exam and an EOC that counted for such a large portion of their final grade while non-EOC classes did not,” Cotter wrote.

So next week, teachers in EOC classes can only give a test over material covered or reviewed after the EOC, and the test will count as a regular test grade instead of as a final exam.

“If you do not teach an EOC class, then the only real change is that the exam will count 15 percent,” Cotter told teachers.

Final exams are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday (Dec. 19 and 20).

 

Several schools are banning the use of cellphones in class, saying the technology has become more of a hinderance to learning than a help.

 

And some Sumner County teachers hope the idea catches on here.

 

“I would completely do away with cellphones,” said French teacher Erin Flannery. “Students can’t follow the rules.”

 

Indeed, a growing number of educators in the U.S. and around the world are deciding that smartphones and similar mobile devices are a major distraction that can be eliminated now that schools have enough laptop computers for students.

 

A quick search of news reports reveals several developments:

 

 

  • Seymour High School in Connecticut reported higher grades and more focus in the classroom since it instituted a blanket cellphone ban last year, according to an Associated Press story. The school’s principal said the staff also “immediately” noticed a difference in how students interacted with each other in the cafeteria, as well as a jump in productivity. “I’ve had students come to me and say, ‘You know I’ve never gotten so much homework done before,’” Principal Jim Freund said.
  • Many schools in Wisconsin have already banned cellphones or are considering it. Students “are not distracted anymore,” Portage High School Principal Robin Kvalo told Wisconsin Public Radio. “The phones are not their preoccupation. They know they can’t have the phones in the classroom.”
  • Schools in Alabama, Colorado, Ohio, Oklahoma, and other states have followed suit, as have ones in Greece, France, Great Britain, Ireland and Canada. France went as far as to ban cellphones and similar mobile devices nationwide for schoolchildren ages 3 to 15, according to CNN.
  • The British newspaper The Guardian reported a study by the London School of Economics that found student test scores improved by 6.4 percent after mobile phones were banned from school grounds. The study’s authors estimated that the effect of the ban was the “equivalent of adding five days to the school year.”

In Sumner County, individual schools and teachers largely regulate cellphones at their discretion. Some HHS teachers, for instance, don’t allow them to be used at all in their classrooms while others leave it up to students to decide when they should or shouldn’t be on their phones in class.

 

Messages left with Sumner County schools spokesman Jeremy Johnson were not returned for this story, but HHS Principal Bob Cotter told The Ville News earlier this semester that he didn't expect a cellphone ban in Sumner County.

 

“If we say absolutely no cellphones, students are going to be in an uproar,” Cotter said. “Parents are going to be in an uproar too because they see cellphones as their emergency contact with their kids if something happens at school.”

 

HHS Spanish teacher Sarah Wolf thinks trying to ban cellphones is like trying to put “a genie back in a bottle.”

 

“Cellphones are a part of our lives,” said Wolf, who allows her students a short break during class to get on their phones. “You just have to help guide them to use cellphones responsibly.”

 

As expected, just the thought of no cellphones in school makes most students cringe.

 

“Oh my gosh, No!” Sergei Wright, a junior, exclaimed about the prospect of having to leave his phone at home during school.

 

Story by Kiya Whitlow, Isabella Logue and Brittney Towe

The HHS boys basketball team is 3-3 on the season with its next game tonight (Dec. 7) at Wilson Central. Coach Clancy Hall recently told The Ville News that he is looking for steady effort and improvement from his squad, which includes six seniors, six juniors and two sophomores. "We need to be playing our best basketball in January and February," Hall said. Below are more of the coach's thoughts.

 

Q: What do you expect for this season?

A: Our team expects to compete in each game by playing as hard as we can each possession.

 

Q: What changes do you want from last year to this year?

A: We try not to compare our teams year to year due to the fact that personnel changes each season both on our team as well as the teams we play. Our expectation of excellent attitude and effort is the same each season.

 

Q: How does this team compare to last year's in size?

A: Our point guard position is shorter this year but our younger kids (sophomores and juniors) are taller.

 

Q: Have you lost many key players from last season?

A: We graduated four seniors - each of them brought valuable attributes to our program and they will be greatly missed.

 

Q: Have you seen any improvement so far within practices?

 

A: Our team has improved little by little each practice as well as each game. Our goal will be to continue to improve through the rest of the season. We need to be playing our best basketball in January and February.

 

Story by Thomas Matchell and Hudson Mortimer

 

 

Christmastime is a great time to curl up on the couch with hot chocolate and a favorite holiday movie.

“I love 'The Grinch,’” said agriscience teacher Haley Gates, “but ‘Christmas Vacation’ is my ultimate favorite.”

Ms. Gates is in good company, according to a recent poll by The Ville News.

We asked 42 students to name their favorite holiday movie and received 37 responses (five Grinches grumbled that they didn’t have a favorite or that they didn’t watch Christmas movies).

The winner of the poll wasn’t much of a surprise: “Home Alone” was alone at the top with nine votes.

Below are the other films mentioned along with their vote totals. At least two, “Die Hard” and “Rent,” aren’t really Christmas movies, just set during the season. But we won’t be a Scrooge about it.

  • “The Grinch,” 7
  • “Christmas Vacation,” 7
  • “Elf,” 5
  • “Christmas Story,” 2
  • “Polar Express,” 2
  • “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” 1
  • “A Madea Christmas,” 1
  • “Die Hard,” 1
  • “Rent,” 1
  • “Jingle All the Way,” 1

Story by Brinson Martin and Sloane Wright

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