Laptops: Teachers should not allow them in class.

By Fiona Davis

Indepenent Staff

With too much screen time outside of school already, it is time for students to shut down laptop note taking in class. From the excessive use of the Internet and Facebook to the annoying tapping sound of typing on keyboards, laptops are simply too distracting to have in the classroom environment.

Though students use laptops in class under the guise of note taking, students are often checking Facebook, Twitter, Stumble Upon, or other distracting sites while teachers are giving important information.

Furthermore, social networking sites have health risks to the brain as reported by Susan Greenfield, a professor of pharmacology at Oxford University. Oxford’s studies suggest links between too much Facebook and screen time in general with anti-social behavior and attention deficit disorder.

Many teachers threaten detention and loss of laptop privileges for misuse of computers in class, but teachers cannot know for sure what is minimized just behind a word document full of fake or old notes. A Georgetown University professor, David Cole, reported that since laptops were introduced into the classroom, the most frequent answer to his questions has been, “Can you repeat the question please?” Laptops clearly distract students in class. Due to their lack of attention, students do not get the valuable education they need to succeed on tests and later in life.

Laptops can even be distracting for other students besides the laptop user. Loud tapping from the keyboard, the light and reflection from the screen, and curiosity in what a laptop user is doing online are only a few of the unnecessary aspects of laptops that detract from the learning experience.

According to Kevin Yamamoto, a professor at South Texas College of Law,  “reports on laptop bans have been positive. Students are more engaged and talkative in class and show an increased ability to reason.” The only way to stop the health risks of excessive screen time and refocus students on lectures in class is to forbid the use of laptops in class for any purpose. Smartphones are already banned with no ill effect. Now is the time to reboot and restart students on the path of focused learning during a critical educational period by prohibiting laptops in class.


Special Education department welcomes high school chair, district head of student services

By Kendall McCormick

Independent Staff

Two new staff members, Louise Vose and Allison Collins, joined the special education department this year. Collins became the district head of student services, and Vose became the high school chair.

Both of these teachers moved from the Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District.

According to both Collins and Vose, the special education program here is similar to Hamilton-Wenham’s although differences remain.   

“In Hamilton-Wenham we’ve been doing a co-teaching model for the last five or six years, and it’s kind of new here,” Vose said.

She said the special education teachers work well with the classroom teachers, making the program efficient.

According to Collins, the special education staff here is very dedicated and committed, contributing to the success of the program.

Coming together from Hamilton-Wenham, Collins and Vose were already well acquainted with each other. Vose described Collins as a great leader with a very keen sense of problem-solving. Collins described Vose as very calm, organized, and dedicated to helping students.

Special education teacher Colin Cook said Collins has a clear vision for the department and where it’s going and has been successful leading the department in a positive direction. He described Vose as being both patient and focused.

Both teachers enjoy their choice of profession.

“I like figuring out how to strategize and help the students get the help that they need,” Collins said.

Vose said she enjoys seeing kids succeed and experience their classes like their peers.

According to Vose, she decided to relocate here for a challenge and felt she could be a good resource for some of the newly developing aspects of the program.

Collins said she had been in Hamilton-Wenham for a long time and thought it was a good time to move on due to administrative changes there.


Golf team finishes season strongly


Courtesy Sophie Neligan


By Carolyn Heslop

Independent Staff

Despite lack of seniors, the golf team achieved a record of 11-5, the best record in school history, according to varsity coach Jane McConnell.

Junior captain Josh Christopher said the team went into the season with the goals of making it to States and doing better than last year’s 5th place finish.

 Freshman captain Ben Bichet added that another goal was to win the Cape Ann Classic, a tournament that the team has won the past two years.

“We met nearly every single goal, and we had set some pretty high goals, considering that we had lost five seniors last year,” varsity coach Jane McConnell said.

According to Christopher, the team won the Cape Ann Classic and qualified for the State tournament. The only goal that they didn’t quite accomplish was to make it to the final round at States.

“We had six players who played in every single match. In golf, there’s really no time-outs or substitutions, so if you’re put in, it’s up to you to play the entire time,” McConnell said.

According to McConnell, these six players included junior Josh Christopher, sophomores Miles Wood and Petey Morton, and freshmen Ben Bichet, Michael Fuca, and Will Burgess. They served as the heart and the anchor of the team, she said.

“I think it was a pretty good year. We have a lot of young guys for next year, and I’m looking forward to next season,” Christopher said.

According to Christopher, the team could possibly lose sophomore captain Miles Wood next year if he does end up changing schools, but they will still have their other three captains, sophomore Jeffrey Durkin, Bichet and Christopher.

“This year we will have no graduating players. We did well with young players this year, and we hope to do just as well next year,” Bichet said.


Football team progresses despite losing record

By Landon Komishane

Independent Staff

After winning two straight to get to their first winning record since 2009, the football team lost four straight games to fall to 4-6.

They did, however, stop that losing streak last Saturday with a 7-6 victory over Lynnfield.

 Football coach Mike Athanas is still optimistic about his team despite their recent skid.

“As a whole we have played some good games and done some nice things on the field,” he said. “The kids have worked hard and done well so far moving into the Cape Ann League.”

The team ran into a wall after their win over Austin Prep on Oct. 7, scoring two touchdowns in the next three games.

 “We are doing well on defense,” senior tight end Mav MacEachern said. “Our offense really needs to step it up.”

 One bright spot of the team, according to Athanas, is the progression of junior quarterback Corey Burnham and junior running back Jacob Fitzgerald.

“I think both players have done well being first year starters,” he said. “They have improved each week and should do well next year as seniors.”

 Burnham developed under former quarterback Alex Carr for his first two years and had to learn a lot from last year.

“It was a rebuilding year [last year], so watching Alex Carr really benefited me,” Burnham said.

 According to MacEachern, the game against Austin Prep, was the game where the team truly showed their identity.

“We played well on both sides of the ball, and it was a big home win,” he said.

 Athanas agreed. “We played a tough physical team very well and made a great drive in the fourth quarter to win the game.”

The team’s last game falls on Thanksgiving in Georgetown, where the Hornets will wrap up another season.

“We need to play balanced on offense with a good combination of pass and run,” Athanas said. “Defensively we need to contain their quarterback Tyler Wade who is a very good football player. Georgetown always plays us tough

on Thanksgiving so we need to be ready to play a physical, fast pasted game.”


Student travels to Spain for year abroad


Courtesy Nikki Southard

By Austen Coviello

The Independent Staff

   Junior Nikki Southard is spending the year in Spain with School Year Abroad, a program that offers foreign studies in Spain, Italy, France, China, Japan, or Vietnam to juniors and seniors. 

  According to Southard, she was inspired to apply by her mother and one of her good friends.  “I figured it never hurt to apply, and if I actually got in, I’d cross that bridge when I got there,” Southard.

  Southard said her host family is a mother and a 6 year-old sister who live in Zaragoza, the capital of the province Aragon, which, according to Southard, is about the size of Boston.  

  She attends school in the center of Zaragoza.  School starts at 9 a.m. every day, and 10 a.m. on Wednesdays, and ends at 5:15 p.m.  Each class is 50 minutes long. There is a 40-minute break in the morning and an hour and a half break for lunch, during which the students have the option of leaving campus. 

  Southard’s classes consist of Spanish history, Spanish language, History of Mediterranean Art, English, Spanish literature, and math, all of which are taught in Spanish except English and math.

  “After about a month here, I felt pretty comfortable speaking Spanish.  It’s such a natural part of my day now that I hardly notice I’ve switched languages,” Southard said.  She said she and her American friends are now so accustomed to speaking Spanish that they often speak it when they are together.

  Southard said she has yet to feel homesick, but there are things she misses, including American food, daily routines, and friends.  However, she said the food in Spain is “amazing” and the city is “beautiful.”  She said she loves the historical aspect of the Roman architecture in the city.

  “The way people live here seems to be more laidback…There’s less urgency in the way people live,” Southard said.  “I really like that.”

  Spanish teacher Robert Bilsbury, who taught Southard during her sophomore year, said he had never heard of the program or experienced a student doing a high school year abroad.  “You need to have a passion for the language; you have to be someone who’s pretty brave,” Bilsbury said. “I think Nikki is definitely qualified for that.”  Bilsbury said a year abroad is the best way to acquire a different language.

  During her free time, Southard said she enjoys sightseeing, playing music, and meeting up with friends to go to shops and cafés.  She left Manchester on September 8and will be home around June 5.  After school ends, she said she plans to spend some time traveling around Europe.


New psychologist enjoys transition from Boston Public School System


Kendall McCormick Photo

By Anna Tyler

Independent Staff

New psychologist, Kate McGravey, has adapted to her current position these past few months with a positive outlook. According to McGravey, her job involves counseling sixth-and seventh-graders, helping with cognitive testing, and running the middle school’s Student Assistance Team.

She attended Duquesne University and then went on to graduate school at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, where she is currently pursuing her doctorate.

McGravey previously worked at many different schools in the Boston Public School System including Higginson-Lewis K-8 School and John F. Kennedy Elementary School, both of which consisted of elementary but no high school students. At her previous schools, she mainly tested students for disabilities, attended Individual Transition Plan meetings, wrote reports on students, and engaged in the Student Assistant Teams.

 The transition from Boston to Manchester was beneficial for McGravey, who was able to obtain her own private office, and she looked forward to “an environment where [she] got to know the students and teachers better,” she said. Having her own office instead of having to drive from place to place came as a much needed relief.

Guidance counselor Sharon Maguire said she was “highly impressed with [McGravey’s] academic background, and her practical experience and especially her pleasant, calm demeanor.”

McGravey believes the services for the children are exceedingly strong here and has felt “very supported and welcomed” in her new position these past couple of months.

Fun Facts

-Owns a pug names Tallulah

-Grew up in Buffalo, New York

-Previously coached rowing

-Favorite food is avocado

-First nephew was recently born


‘Blue Valentine’ shows love in a new light, depicts love’s imperfections

By Sofia del Valle

Independent Staff

Most love stories depict what has over time become a predictable and formulaic plot, but “Blue Valentine,” directed by Derek Cianfrance, is not a typical romantic flick.

Starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, the film beautifully portrays the broken relationship between Dean Pereira and Cindy Heller, two working class city natives. Scenes in the film, which runs just under two hours, switch between past and present, showing the couple so in love at first, then transitioning to a two-day long falling out that leaves their relationship hanging by a thread.

The background story takes place in an industrial area of New York City, which plays into the theme of a tough relationship. Multiple times in the film, the scenery shows a bridge or an urban sunset and is very intriguing from an aesthetic point of view.

In “Blue Valentine” Gosling and Williams have the challenge of portraying both quirky and passionate teenagers, as well as married adults who are weary and depressed. Watching the contrasting personas throughout the film makes it emotional because one can’t help but want to sit them down and work them through their struggles.

As a viewer, having no control over the outcome is tormenting. The character of Cindy is especially irritating to follow because of her lack of effort in trying to maintain the couple’s relationship. 

Because of the idea of shattered love portrayed in the film, some intense and graphic scenes are difficult to watch. The cinematography, though, is incredible. The quality appears slightly blurry and discolored like old Polaroid photographs. Partnered with a score written by the Brooklyn band Grizzly Bear, along some songs written by Gosling himself, the combination creates an “indie” and darker feel to “Blue Valentine”.

The dialogue in the film is very real. It’s raw and explicit but fitting. Some scenes were even improvised between Gosling and Williams. Though the lines aren’t always glossy and romantic, the scenes are believable. Listening to the characters talk in a familiar way make them relatable.  

What sets “Blue Valentine” apart from other love stories is that it lacks a happy ending. The credits begin on a dreadful note, and leaves viewers wanting more closure to the plot. Though what happens afterward is not shown, one can imagine that Dean and Cindy later meet and talk about their life together. Viewers are still left with a sliver of hope. 





Creative Writing class colaborates with art classes


By Emily Arntsen
Independent Staff
Illustrated by Zack Trembowicz. Written by Drew Pellegrini
By Emily Arntsen

 Creative Writing teacher Gloria Tanner and Art Foundations and Portfolio teacher Marion Powers recently united to mix words with pictures.            

“We wanted to find a way to combine the visual arts with creative writing and work together,” Powers said.

After brainstorming ways to connect the two forms of art, Tanner and Powers decided to give pieces of writing from Tanner’s class to the Portfolio and Art Foundations students to illustrate.

Tanner collected her students’ favorite piece of writing, without the students’ names on them, and gave the pieces   to Powers who read them aloud to her classes.

Paige Zaval, sophomore Portfolio student, said, “I could have done a lot of different things because the assignment left a lot of room for creativity.”

Because the art students didn’t know who the author of the short story or poem they were illustrating was, or what the author’s focus was, they based their illustrations only on interpretation.

“Their first reaction was to put too much into the picture and illustrate the whole story or poem. Then we talked about how they should focus on the most important aspect of the piece,” Powers said.

Powers gave the art students the freedom to choose which piece of writing they wanted to illustrate, and to use any medium.

Sophomore Portfolio student Sarah Lewiecki said she liked that she got to interpret other students’ art and make it her own. 

Once Tanner gets the pieces back from the art students, she hopes to display them somewhere around the school.

Powers and Tanner hope to do other collaborative pieces in the future. Their next idea for an assignment is the reverse. Creative Writing students will write about illustrations that the art students make.


Direct Marketing Association International Conference provides new opportunity for students

Courtesy Tierney McTiernan

By Carolyn Heslop

Independent Staff

For the first time in MERHS DECA history, students attended the Direct Marketing Association International Conference that was held from October 2-5 at the Boston Convention Center.

According to DECA teacher Dean Martino, the DMA is the world’s largest association of professionals in direct marketing.

Martino said that the students had the privilege of attending 108 unique presentations, which included speakers such as Larry Kimmel, the director of DMA; Dan Kathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A; and  Biz Stone, the founder of Twitter.

“DMA provided the opportunity for Manchester-Essex students to sit in with business professionals of the world,” Martino said.

Senior Olivia Prentiss, who went on the trip, said that a main focus of the conference was the social media and how it is an important aspect of the business world.

“We were able to learn so many different things because the conference was on so many different aspects of business,” Prentiss said.

Last spring, Martino started a dialogue with DMA’s public relations department, suggesting that they would benefit from reaching down to American high schools and giving students the opportunity to integrate their curriculum into a real life event.

Martino said that because of this dialogue, he was able to get 10 tickets to the DMAs, each valuing approximately $3,600. Juniors Tierney McTiernan, Jackie Rose, Olivia Mastendino, Megan Jones and seniors Prentiss, Kelly Dodge, Jennifer Gallagher, Chloe Gothie, and Eliza Rohner attended the conference.

The trip was a good experience for the students because it involved real-life situations that will be beneficial in the DECA role plays, according to Mastendino.

Martino said that the trip was immeasurable as far as a learning opportunity and clearly rose to the level of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a high school student.


Biology teacher builds vivarium for hands-on learning

Caroline Wood Photo

By Caroline Wood

Independent Editor

Anole Lizards, Fire-bellied Toads, and one Mini Lop-Eared Rabbit named Mimsy are all part of biology teacher Maria Burgess’ growing vivarium.

A vivarium is an enclosed place for keeping animals and plants kept for observation or research.  The purpose of having a vivarium is to help students learn about different factors in biology such as dietary needs and effects of abiotic factors with real examples according to Burgess.

“We are slowly trying to establish a vivarium in the science department,” Burgess said. “We started with animals because they take longer, and we are establishing plants within the different settings.”

“What we have so far are two different ecosystems where we control the environmental situations,” Burgess said. “We are able to simulate the sun using spotlights, the rain by using a spray bottle of water, and real soil by using substrate true to the ecosystem; if something dies, we leave it to decompose just like it would in nature.”

The students maintain and preserve the cages, according to sophomore Sophia Guerriero. “I love having Mimsy in class, not only to play with, but we also are able to learn about him with firsthand experience,” she said.

Senior and anatomy student Melanie Tognazzi does not utilize the vivarium as much as biology students do; however, she said she learns better with a real-life example.

“The vivarium is helpful to all students, especially those in need of a visual example,” Tognazzi said. “It really helps apply what you learn in the classroom to the outside world.”

Burgess wishes to continue building the vivarium and she hopes to go to Spaulding Trust for some grant money.

“Right now, I buy the animals and equipment for the vivarium myself and just make a list of the things I need to be reimbursed for,” she said.

Burgess is looking to acquire a tarantula spider and animals for a saltwater ecosystem.

“I hope to get animals that are not traditional, such as sea anemones, because some kids have never seen animals like that,” Burgess said.

The students are learning a great deal about how attentive they have to be to take care of these animals, according to Burgess.

“All of my classes enjoy taking care of the animals in the vivarium and it is neat to see the students experience them firsthand,” Burgess said.