The halls at HHS will feel a little emptier next school year after the retirement of three long-time educators: Soccer Coach Russ Plummer, Band Director Dr. Jeff Phillips and Assistant Principal Ray Henson.
Henson, the most recent announcement, has already left the school citing health reasons. His last day was Oct. 18. Henson was at HHS about 11 years.
Plummer, who has been here 33 years, announced last month that this will be his final year. He is leaving to work for the Tennessee Athletic Coaches Association.
“I don't know if there was ever really a moment when I decided to retire" from teaching, Plummer told The Ville News recently. “I was offered an opportunity last December and then through the summer talks continued and things fell into place. It just seemed like the right time and the right situation for me.”
With the TACA, Plummer will continue to be around high school athletics, which was a big draw for him.
“I enjoyed my time here very much, and as a teacher and a coach, I don't think you can do what we do if you don't enjoy it,” he said. “I'm not retiring because I don't enjoy it. I’ll miss it every day, but I'm retiring because it's just time.”
Like Plummer, Phillips probably won’t be spending his afternoons on the golf course once he leaves teaching.
“I've been teaching 15 years at Belmont (University in Nashville), so I’ll be doing more there, though I'm not quite sure what yet,” Phillips said. “I also preach at Saundersville United Methodist Church, so I'll be there too. I've worked here for 29 years and have taught in general for 34, so basically I'm just retiring because I can.”
HHS Principal Bob Cotter called the departure of Plummer and Phillips a "huge transition."
“The soccer team will be fine of course because Coach Plummer has built such a good program and strong support group,” Cotter said. “The soccer foundation is probably one of our most successful booster clubs because it’s been together for the longest. The new coach that comes in will have that as support.
“As for the band program, that's another huge change,” he continued. “Dr. Phillips is going to sit in on the interviews so that we can make sure we find someone who understands what we require out of our band directors for HHS.”
Cotter’s remarks to The Ville News came before Henson’s retirement was made public. But the principal told staff this week that history teacher Kerry West will serve as interim administrator for the rest of the school year.
HHS staff and students say they will miss the retiring educators.
“I’m really sad about Dr. Phillips leaving,” said chorus teacher Elizabeth Evans. “He was here in my hiring process and is just really knowledgeable about a lot. He is also really dedicated to his job, so it’s great to have him right next door so I can go ask him questions if I need to. He’s a great friend too. It’s going to be sad to not have him around.”
Asked about the impact on the band program, Evans observed, “I think band will do fine. It really just depends on who HHS hires. Everyone has different strengths. For example, Dr. Phillips is phenomenal at jazz, so our jazz band absolutely rocks, but I'm sure Dr. Phillips will make sure the band has a proper band director before he leaves.”
Sam Campbell, a sophomore, said he came to HHS because of the band program and is sorry to see Phillips go.
“I was supposed to go to Beech,” Campbell explained. “Dr. Phillips is one of the big reasons why I came here and stayed in band. He’s helped me a lot with music too, so it's pretty sad that he's leaving. I think we will all miss him, but at the same time we are very excited for what's coming.”
Soccer players had similar reactions to Plummer’s departure. Sophomore Claire Mathis called Plummer a “great coach” who instilled a sense of tradition that will be hard to replace.
“He’s all about tradition and has certain things he likes for us to do, and we’ve followed those traditions for years,” she said. “It's going to be really weird with him gone because a new coach is obviously going to bring in new ideas.”
Mathis also said Plummer brought a “tough-love” approach to coaching and teaching and “taught all of us like his own kids.”
“He wanted the best for us,” she said.
Story by Corrine Mitchener and Zach Pearson
Looking for a way to give back to the community? Look no farther than your pantry! This week (Oct. 21-25) is the annual Canned Food Drive, and HHS needs your help to collect cans of food to feed families in Hendersonville.
The Canned Food Drive is coordinated through the Hendersonville Samaritan Center, where the cans are sorted and organized before making their way to those in need. The center only serves Hendersonville residents.
LeEllen Claud, food bank manager at the Samaritan Center, at 116 Dunn St., told The Ville News this week that the center serves about 50 families per month with food baskets, which contain enough food to last two weeks.
But Claud added that “if someone is struggling because they got sick and had to miss a few days of work, they can come by and get food so that their money can go to pay bills instead of buying food.”
The most urgent needs are applesauce, canned fruit, large soups, Campbell soups, canned meats, canned vegetables, and canned pasta.
The Samaritan Center asks that no one bring in peanut butter, green beans, ramen noodles, corn, or mac and cheese because they have been blessed with an abundance of those.
Students may also bring in monetary donations. One dollar is equivalent to five cans, so $5 equals 25 cans.
Besides the HHS Canned Food Drive, the Samaritan Center only has one other large food drive per year, which is through the Post Office in May.
“Those are the two big deal drives that keep our shelves stocked for the whole year,” Claud said. “They’re such a big help because every penny that we don’t use to buy food goes to helping people in other ways like keeping their electricity on.”
Last year, the HHS drive donated over 70,000 cans, which is equivalent to about 11,000 pounds of food. In addition to cans, HHS students brought in a total $8,000 in monetary donations.
“If we didn’t have organizations like you all and people who do fundraisers like this, it would take a big chunk out of our budget to buy food, and that makes all the difference in how many people we can serve,” Claud said.
Students can turn in their donations to their first-block teachers.
Story by Bailey Guy and Cailsey Scott
The HOSA Club’s annual Coloring Book and Crayon Drive collected 1,336 donations – well over double last year’s amount - to help benefit patients at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.
“These items will bring smiles to the faces of young patients and their siblings throughout the hospital,” HOSA President Allison Henry said. “We would like to thank every student and teacher who contributed, especially members of National Honor Society, Beta Club, and HOSA.”
The drive was held last week. The goal was to collect 1,000 donations, almost doubling last year’s grand total of 550. But that goal was exceeded by 336 donations.
Henry plans to take the donations to the hospital and deliver them to the patients.
“This incredible participation is a prime example of Commando Pride at work. There’s really no limit to the difference we can make when we work together,” she said.
Story by Bailey Guy and Cailsey Scott
The HHS Blood Drive wrapped up Oct. 15 with 28 units of blood collected, below the goal of 35 units.
The Ville News spoke with health science teacher Wendy Vincent last week about the annual drive. Vincent was in charge of this year’s drive. Her edited responses are below.
Q: How much blood was collected?
A: Twenty-eight units, I believe. Each unit can save up to three lives because they can take different components for each unit. Twenty-eight units is unfortunately not a good number for a blood drive. Our goal was 35. Unfortunately, we were restricted to having two buses. If we could have used the gym floor we could have eight to 10 beds versus four total. That way we could work with a bigger crew and get more people through. My goal is to grow it to where we can get to 60 units per blood drive, considering we have two blood drives a year.
Q: How many students participated?
A: We had 31 blood donations made this year. Out of that, 28 were acceptable. We did not fill every spot available.
Q: What is the main reason for students not being able to donate?
A: A lot of our students were turned away because of low iron. There is a new rule that for girls you have to wait a year if their hemoglobin (red blood cells of your blood where most of the body’s iron is stored) is on the lower end of the range. They have to wait a year to give, and that is something new. Boys have to wait six months if their hemoglobin is low.
Q: What was the age group accepted to donate?
A: We had 16-year-olds and up. Sixteen-year-olds have to have their parents sign a waiver. Seventeen and 18-year-olds do not. We did have a lot of first-time kids donating. We had some kids that it was their second or third time donating, but we had several first timers.
Story by Emersyn Dyer and Kayla Battista
HHS’ student-run Commando Court has been busy this year.
The court has heard 45 cases already this semester – nearly double the 24 it heard all last semester, according to figures obtained by The Ville News.
Criminal justice teacher Tabitha Fitzwilson, who oversees Commando Court, said more teachers are aware of the court as an option for dealing with minor disciplinary issues.
English teacher Candace Cunningham said she’s sent a handful of students to the court in recent years.
“I feel like it is a better punishment than the student sitting in detention for an hour,” Cunningham said.
Similarly, criminal justice teacher Regan Cothron said she uses Commando Court because it “gives punishments that fit the crime.”
With the growing caseload, Fitzwilson wants to make changes to the court, which is run by criminal justice students.
Mostly, she wants to start an “application process” where students would have to apply to serve on the court and then she and the assistant principals would select from the applicants.
Commando Court has been around for several years and aims “to encourage students to be accountable to themselves and to their peers,” said Fitzwilson, who acts as “judge” during court proceedings.
The court operates much like an adult court. A student is chosen to be the school representative and another is selected as the student representative. Other students function as the jury.
Once assigned, the school representative talks to the teacher who filed a complaint against the student to find out what the student did and what the teacher recommends as punishment.
Meanwhile, the student representative talks to the student in trouble to figure out ways to lessen the punishment.
Then there is a hearing where both sides present their cases and discuss the aggravating and mitigating circumstances.
As Cunningham and Cothron observed, the jury sometimes comes up with creative punishments. For example, one student had to sing “the litterbug song” in front of the whole class after the student threw trash on the floor.
Another time, a student who appeared before the court for cheating had to contact area universities and find out their policies on cheating and plagiarism to see how seriously the infractions are taken in college.
Other offenders have been sentenced to do write-offs, essays, a presentation to the class, and to publicly apologize to the teacher.
If a student doesn’t do the punishment, he or she faces harsher penalty or is referred to an assistant principal for even more serious discipline.
Cunningham thinks the court is effective because students say they don’t like being judged by their peers.
“I think it’s embarrassing to them,” Cunningham said.
Senior Johnathan Espinoza said he has been before the court before and didn’t care for the experience.
“If a student on the jury doesn’t like you, then there is a bias and you may get a worse punishment,” Espinoza said.
Story by Gabriel Williams and Zach Kochan
The musical “Thoroughly Modern Millie” will be the HHS spring production, said theater arts teacher Carole Ann Everson.
Everson made the highly anticipated announcement to her class Thursday (Oct. 17).
The choice was largely for practical reasons. Everson said she has a lot of female students this year, and “Thoroughly Modern Millie” calls for a female-heavy cast.
“But there are some great male roles as well,” she told students.
Set in 1922 in New York during the Jazz Age, the musical is filled with daring women who wore their hair and hemlines short.
The story focuses on a woman named Millie Dillmount from Kansas who goes to New York in search of a new life. Her plan is to find a job as a secretary for a rich man and then marry him, but things do not work out in her favor.
The play should be filled with wonderful vocals, dancing and fun, so be sure to watch for dates and ticket information in the spring.
Story by Leilani Boleyjack, Zach Kochan and Ryan Ray
Assistant Principal Ray Henson's long tenure at HHS has apparently come to an end after the administrator has decided to retire, The Ville News has learned.
Today (Oct. 18) was scheduled to be Henson’s last day at the school, but he called in sick and did not report to work, Assistant Principal Nicole Jimenez told The Ville News.
Henson was not immediately available for comment, but he has told some teachers and faculty that he was planning to retire and pursue other interests.
Story by Corrine Mitchener and Zach Pearson