Abnormal lack of snowfall dampens students’ morale

By Kendall McCormick

Independent Staff

Winter in New England is typically defined by one specific characteristic: snow. A New England winter without snow is like an oxymoron; it seems impossible. Unfortunately for students, this year has seemed to prove all previous stereotypes wrong.

The first brief flurry of snow in October seemed promising for a snowy winter. Yet December came and passed, and still not a single flake appeared.

For many, a snowless winter is not a problem but an advantage. A winter without snow prevents shoveling, slippery roads, dampness and other hassles that usually accompany snow. Lack of snow is less expensive, both for the government and the individual.

But can you really put a value on the feeling of waking up to a blanket of snow covering the treetops and glimmering in the sun?

In the long and cold New England winters, snow raises spirits and brings happiness. Even in high school the childhood feeling of excitement that arises from a new snow, for many, ceases to disappear.

Aside from snow, there remains very little to look forward to during the long, cold months following the holidays. The unbearable length of winter is made just a bit more bearable through the happiness that typically accompanies snow.

 Moreover, snow can be essential for recreation as well. Especially in the north, activities that require snow such as downhill skiing, snowboarding, and cross-country skiing are immensely popular.

A 2008 poll by the National Ski Areas Association found that there were 6.5 million skiers and 5.9 million snowboarders in the United States. Lack of snow not only loses business for mountains but also is unfortunate for those who have paid for season passes or just for those looking forward to occasionally taking part in these activities.

While the amount of snowfall each winter is not a factor anyone can change, a winter with a small amount of snow is certainly a disappointment for many.


Tennis courts to be built outside Memorial School

By Kendall McCormick

Independent Staff

Following years of controversy, three new tennis courts are due to be finished around the middle of May. The courts, which are being built directly in front of Manchester Memorial School, will be used for both the girls’ and boys’ tennis teams during their season and will additionally be open for recreational purposes.

Prior to the building of the courts, both tennis teams had to practice at the Manchester Athletic Club, which was a strain to the athletics department’s budget, according to athletic director Kelly Porcaro.

Porcaro thinks several benefits result from the new courts.

 “Obviously, in the MAC we don’t have to worry about weather, but when you go away, you’re not used to playing in the weather,” she said.

Porcaro also said the location is beneficial especially due to the fact that the two tennis courts behind the Memorial School can be utilized during the teams’ practices as well.

According to Spanish teacher and boys’ varsity tennis coach Robert Bilsbury, the three courts not only qualify both teams to host league matches but will be useful when it comes down to the state tournament as well. He said both tennis teams tend to get used to playing without weather, which poses a problem during the outdoor state tournament matches.

Bilsbury thinks that the courts will bring more support and spirit to both teams.

“Now that [the matches] will be on campus, it will be awesome to have lots of people at our home matches,” he said.

Additionally, the proximity of the courts to the school will make the state tournament more exciting for the students in general, he said.

While some support the building of the new courts, a few members of the tennis team would prefer to stay in the MAC.

Sophomore tennis player Michelle Fuca said, “I love playing indoors with no elements, and I feel like we play a lot better indoors.”

Fuca does agree the courts result in some benefits, however, such as being within walking distance so that more people will watch the matches.


Vietnam War veteran speaks at Veterans Day assembly

By Kendall McCormick

Learning Center assistant and Vietnam War veteran John Twombly spoke at the Veterans Day assembly Thursday, Nov. 3, of his experiences in combat.

At the assembly, Assistant Principal Paul Murphy, on behalf of the Massachusetts State Senate, awarded Twombly with a Certificate of Merit for being in education for 52 years. 

In the early 1960s, Twombly took a break from his job as a teacher and football coach for eight months to serve in Vietnam as a combat medic.

According to Murphy, he asked Twombly to speak because the school wanted someone with a military background who had not spoken at previous assemblies. Twombly was a good fit because he had served in Vietnam and was comfortable speaking to high school students.

This year’s assembly was the first time a faculty member had ever spoken at either a Veterans or Memorial Day assembly, according to Twombly.

He said he wrote his speech mainly based on personal experiences, but he wanted it to be informative as well.

“I wanted it to be more of a historical review; I wanted [the students] to understand the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day,” he said.

According to Twombly, Veterans Day is about the living veterans, whereas Memorial Day is to remember those who have passed away.

Murphy said Veterans Day is an important holiday to acknowledge as a school because the freedoms we experience each day are due to the people who have fought for them.

“Nov. 11 is a time that we can step back and acknowledge the veterans and all they did for us,” Murphy said.

Twombly said he wanted his speech to help students understand the meaning of brotherhood.

“In the military, it’s when you’re actually putting your life in someone else’s hands and he’s putting his life in your hands,” he said.

Twombly described his experience in Vietnam as “harrowing.” He said he did not want to get too close to his patients because of the tragic circumstances.

“I didn’t want to know their last names. I knew their first name, but once I knew their last name, I felt I was too close, and I didn’t like that,” he said.

Murphy said the speech appealed to the students and that Twombly spoke eloquently about his experience in service.

Sophomore Neil Henry said the speech was inspirational, especially the part where Twombly described giving his purple heart to a disobedient child on the plane coming back from service.  

Twombly said his overall experience in Vietnam gave him a better appreciation of life and of people and their personalities.


Teachers assigning homework over vacation is detrimental, unnecessary

By Kendall McCormick

Vacation is defined by www.dictionary.com as a period of rest or freedom from duty, business, etc. The fact that many teachers choose to assign homework over vacations contradicts this exact definition.

Whatever happened to vacations being a time of rest, a week when students do not have to think about anything school related? Don’t we deserve that after all? Students work for hours every single day, both in school and out of school. Even weekends no longer provide a break.

Moreover, many students participate in extracurricular activities after school such as sports and clubs as well. Maintaining good health is a difficult feat for students with so much going on in their lives.

According to the American Psychological Association, “Insufficient sleep has also been shown to cause difficulties in school, including disciplinary problems, sleepiness in class, and poor concentration.”

One of the only opportunities for students to catch up on their rest is during vacations. Vacation is supposed to serve this very purpose by relieving stress while allowing students to catch up on their sleep.

  When teachers assign homework over vacations, students no longer have this period of rest from school that is so necessary to their health.

Furthermore, many families plan trips and family events during vacations. Having to do homework over vacation takes away from the time students can spend with their families.

Homework over vacation is unnecessary as well. Although some teachers feel that students need homework to keep them refreshed on the topic, or to keep on track with the curriculum, those few days gained during vacation make little difference in the long run.

Without homework, students will be more focused when they get back to school, allowing for more productivity after vacation.

Assigning homework over vacations is unnecessary and does not allow students the break from school that is so necessary for maintaining both their physical and mental health.


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.


Volunteering locally is more beneficial than helping abroad

By Kendall McCormick

Independent Staff

How far does a high school student have to travel in order to help out a community and gain a cultural experience? Contrary to common belief, the answer to that question is not far at all. Students do not need to spend thousands of dollars going abroad to volunteer when there are plenty of adequate opportunities practically in our backyards.

More and more students are spending large amounts of money on trips to foreign places to complete community service hours while many organizations right here on the North Shore are in need of help.

Assisting with community service abroad is like supporting international businesses before supporting our own country’s businesses. Shouldn’t students be supporting and assisting local organizations before those of another country?

Towns around Manchester and Essex offer a multitude of opportunities for students to volunteer. Organizations range from hospitals such as Addison Gilbert Hospital, to nursery schools such as Magic Years, to food pantries such as Beverly Bootstraps.

With so many opportunities for local community service, why are so many students choosing to travel abroad to complete their community service hours?

Of course it would be more fun to travel to a new place and spend time with friends while experiencing a new culture. When it comes down to the community service, however, the only difference between local and abroad is a large sum of money, money that could be directly put towards the organizations and people that need the help.

Almost any kind of community service a student could want can be found around here, giving students options without having to spend the amount of money necessary to go abroad for community service.

Volunteering locally is more beneficial not only for the students but for the local organizations as well. Before investing thousands of dollars into travelling abroad for community service, students should consider their options around here.


World Challenge: Students gain liberty, experience culture

Courtesy of Rachel Daley



By Kendall McCormick



Eighteen students and three adult chaperones explored the mountainous regions of Ecuador through a World Challenge expedition this summer.  

The trip, which began in early July, lasted approximately one month. Eric Magers, the Green Team advisor, guided the journey with Audra Young, who works with World Challenge, and Josh Pinstein, a recent UMass graduate.

Throughout the expedition, the students completed a series of different phases including acclimatization, the main trekking phase, community service projects, and rest and reflection.

Before leaving they needed to raise money.

“The fundraising was tough at some points because we were always nervous about getting the right amount of money,” sophomore Sean Gutierrez said.

When July 3 arrived, however, they had reached their financial goal and were ready to head out into the South American terrain.

Magers said the students immediately took on the leadership role, while the adults took a backseat role. “The entire expedition was theirs. They got to do or not do whatever they wanted to,” he said.

During the expedition, participants took part in a variety of different activities ranging from horseback riding, to hiking up a volcano, to volunteering at a school.

According to Magers, as their community service project, the students painted a school for the native children. Sophomore Sarah Lewiecki said the community service project taught them to appreciate the things they had at home.

The students returned as changed people, according to Magers. “It was great to see them interacting and learning about this culture that is the majority of the world,” he said.

“I thought it was an eye-opener to see the differences,” Gutierrez said.

Sophomore Elizabeth Warren said since they’ve returned from the trip, the students have been much more thankful for what they have at home.


Special education department welcomes new staff member

By Fiona Davis


  New special education teacher Joe Kwiatek joined the staff this year as part of the new co-teaching model and student services department, becoming the third Kwiatek brother on the high school staff.

  Kwiatek attended Beverly High School and graduated in 2006. He then went on to receive his bachelor’s degree at UMass Lowell, where he graduated in 2010.

  Kwiatek is not new to the school district.

  “I’ve actually worked here for seven years during the summer with the facilities department, and last year I worked in Brookline at an adolescent psychiatric ward,” he said.

  Kwiatek’s brothers Stephen and John work as the district’s network administrator and network technician.

  Kwiatek will take on several new roles at the school, according to Louise Vose, special education chairperson.

  “There are actually three components to his job: he is a special education liaison, he is a special education co-teacher, and he is a special education resource room support staff member,” Vose said.

  Kwiatek is currently co-teaching a geometry class with Rick Brown two blocks a day.

  “We haven’t really progressed to the point where we want to be at the end of the year, but we are getting there, so I’m optimistic,” Kwiatek said of his co-teaching experience.

  According to director of student services Allison Collins, Kwiatek is a helpful new colleague for both teachers and students.

  “I think that he is a great, young, new teacher, who has a lot of positive energy and is very eager to learn. I see him as somebody who connects well with students and teachers, and I think he is a very positive addition to the staff,” Collins said.