Public school education offers the benefits, minus the cost of private school

By Marian Siljeholm

Each year thousands of Americans spend hours commuting and shell out thousands of dollars to ensure their children receive the best possible education at private institutions. And yet, in terms of test scores and college admissions, the discrepancy between public and private school students is marginal, if evident at all.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 11% of all K-12 students attend private schools, which make up about 25% of all American schools. According to the National Association of Independent Schools, the median tuition for private high schools in 2008-2009 was $17,441.

Clearly the sums being paid to private schools annually are staggering, but to what end?

One of the major arguments cited by private school advocates lies in college admission. Yet a 2007 study by the Center on Education Policy found that in comparing students of similar socioeconomic status, not only were achievement scores in reading, math, science and history the same, so was the likelihood and caliber of university attendance regardless of public or private school background.

While private school advocates often point to the administrative flexibility of being able to set individual hiring and firing practices as an advantage, Sarah Lubienski, a professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of Illinois College of Education, found evidence suggesting otherwise in 2009 studies which showed that public school students outperformed their private school peers, due to a “lack of private schools’ investment in the professional development of their teachers and attention to keeping their curriculum current.”    

The last popular argument cited by private school advocates is the perks in the form of expansive sports complexes and enriching after-school activities. Yet, public schools also offer extensive extracurricular programs such as band, chorus and theater as well as many sports, which are arguably more competitive as private schools typically pull from a smaller pool of athletes.

Manchester-Essex consistently outperforms most other public school and boasts class sizes and athletic facilities on par with many private schools, clearly making it unrepresentative of the nation’s public schools. That said, barring a learning disability for which specialized schools are additionally equipped to handle, the bottom line driving the quality of any education is the student involved.

So why not save your money for college, where even public schools come with a price tag.


Pasttime that once engaged, inspired now takes backseat to modern technology

Mark Twain once said, “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.”

A book, even a classic work, is only as powerful as the message it carries and the minds it impacts. And that message, with all its potential to transform and inspire, is useless if unheard. 

Today amid the constant distractions of cell phones, iPods, laptops, Kindles, and Facebook, more things that entice our attention than ever before, allocating time to sit down with a book has become a foreign idea, especially to teenagers.

The problem with this literary isolation is that it renders suddenly meaningless the words of authors whose writing once defined eras and changed history. Reading opens eyes to alternative worlds, be they fictitious or authentic, while simultaneously improving readers’ grammar, spelling, vocabulary and writing.

 That this generation is less literate than its predecessors is an absurd fact in a society in which books are more accessible than ever (one Kindle holds thousands of novels, newspapers and audiobooks, ready for perusal at the touch of a button).

Therefore, this paradox can only exist because technologies like Kindles are not promoting reading as much as they claim. After all, if the purpose is to read, why not simply buy the book, or get it from the local library? There, books are free and do not have to compete for your attention with thousands of apps, movies and unlimited Internet access.

 History department chair Daniel Jewett attests to this view, adding that the lack of reading is actually “less a generational problem than a societal one.”

Chemistry teacher Keith Gray blames the media for the growing illiteracy, saying, “The media has made it possible to get the same excitement from television in half the time as you’d need to read, taking away the allure reading once held.”

Regardless of age, the general consensus is the same: I don’t have the time.

The thing is, you have more time than you think. No one suggests you polish off Hemingway in a week, but by dedicating those moments before bed that are usually spent on Facebook or in the car when you would usually be texting, to reading, you might actually discover that reading can be fun. Who would have thought?

If nothing else, try these simple changes so that in your college interview you have something more erudite to say than “Twilight” when asked about your reading preferences, unless of course you know your interviewer is an avid team Edward member; in that case, go right ahead.


Incorrect trash disposal inhibits Green Team’s efforts

By Marian Siljeholm

Despite Green Team’s efforts, students’ inability to correctly separate lunch byproducts continues to undermine environmentally friendly initiatives in the middle and high schools.

According to faculty Green Team leader Eric Magers, since the installation of two Lucidomatic systems in the elementary schools, the machines have worked seamlessly to separate trash from reusable materials.

Only in the middle and high schools has rampant cross-contamination between recyclables, compost, and trash resulted in all items deposited in the Lucidomatic having to be thrown away, a problem that generates an extra 12 bags of trash per day, according to Magers.

After months of work creating a cafeteria waste system complete with descriptive pictures and clear instructions, Magers is frustrated by the students’ lack of respect for the system.

“The fact that the school has had to buy plastic silverware because students are not only throwing away their stuff in the wrong places but also throwing away silverware and trays highlights their lack of consideration both for the school and the environment as a whole,” he said.

Junior Jackie Rose, who has dedicated her Green Team Scholars project to this issue, articulated similar frustration. “It’s like students don’t care. They don’t understand how many other systems are dependent on the Lucidomatic,” she said.

Rose raises a relevant point; the Green Team is currently constructing an on-site compost system, an effort that will be rendered useless if the problem persists, as the compost will be unusable.

 In a school that has put as much time and money into being environmentally conscious as Manchester-Essex has, the idea that 12 bags of compostable and recyclable materials are being thrown away every day represents not only a waste of resources but also an unnecessary financial burden, as each trash bag costs $2 to dispose of.  

While this may seem like a negligible number, over the course of a school year it amounts to $4320 of taxpayers’ money wasted because students refuse to take the extra minute to dispose of their waste in the appropriate bins.


Gloucester Times writer draws unfair conclusions from MCAS scores

By Marian Siljeholm

Independent Editor

Since merging middle and high schools in 2000, Manchester and Essex students have worked cohesively despite living in two separate towns.  

Or so the students of the Manchester-Essex Regional School District thought. According to Gloucester Daily Times writer Stephanie Bergman however, such unity is not nearly as prevalent as students believe.

Bergman stated in her Sept. 27 article that discrepancies in MCAS scores revealed deeper social and academic gaps in the student body.

While the article raised some valid points regarding academics, the conclusion Bergman reached that “the gap between the scores underlines the occasional tensions between Essex and Manchester [students]” could not have been more false.

 Social Studies department chair Daniel Jewett has never felt a division between students based on hometown. “I have never been able to identify a student as from Manchester or Essex based on his or her classroom work,” he said.  

Senior and Essex resident Andrew Randall took offense to Bergman’s overblown claims, calling the author’s opinions “unjustifiable.” He wrote a letter to the Gloucester Daily Times editor in defense of the community he felt had been slighted by her statements.

“We treat the name Manchester-Essex as one word; we’re proud to be a district, and stick together as one in and outside the classroom,” Randall said.

Randall was not the only student offended by the assumptions. Senior Gina Caponigro agreed that the reporter had no right to jump to such extreme conclusions, saying, “If she really thought there was division within the students, she should have spoken to students instead of making a massive assumption based on something as unimportant as MCAS scores.”

Caponigro makes an excellent point; in the span of a high school student’s academic career MCAS scores count for very little. If any test scores are to be scrutinized, how about using a test that students actually prepare for and care about doing well on such as the SAT or ACT?

Somewhat ironically, collective outrage from students in response to the article’s outrageous claims, regardless of Manchester or Essex birthplace, has brought the student body together more than ever in the wake of the article’s publication.


New school year brings class additions, removals

Classes removed due to lack of interest to make room for new course offerings


By Marian Siljeholm 



For the new school year, some courses were removed to make way for new classes in nearly every department.

Due to budget allowances, science department chair Erica Everett is once again teaching AP Environmental Science, which was renewed after years of student interest.

Everett is excited about resuming the class. “In previous years, I would discourage students from signing up because I knew there wasn’t enough money for it, which was sad especially because the school building is such a wonderful example of environmentally friendly architecture,” she said.

In the technology department, after successfully applying for a $7,000 grant from the Spaulding Education Trust, physics teacher Steve Cogger was able to purchase the necessary equipment to begin Electronics, a semester based class, which will center around projects and hands-on labs to teach students about electronics from basic to embedded microcontroller levels.

“I was excited to take Electronics because I took Robotics last year and wanted to learn about the electrical side as well,” senior Eric Wright said.

The new Financial Algebra class, taught by DECA teacher Dean Martino, will incorporate geometry, Algebra I, and Algebra II skills to interpret and solve mathematical finance and business models including stocks, banking, debt and investments.

“I wanted to help kids learn how to not only solve the equation but also create an equation based on practical information,” he said.

Despite these additions, a few classes will not be returning this year. Morning gym, which was previously held before school, was removed due to lack of interest.

“It was impossible to follow the curriculum because of small class size. The students were not benefiting from the extensive PE curriculum,” physical education teacher M’Lena Gandolfi said.

History Through Film, a course created by social studies department chair Daniel Jewett and taught for seven years was replaced with honors psychology, taught by U.S. History and AP Psychology teacher Lauren Dubois,

“[The class originated from] interest in the course based on sign-ups for AP Psych in the past. The pace will be different, and we will eliminate a couple of the units. I am hoping it will be a very discussion and project-oriented class once we get things going,” Dubois said.


International Week informs students of foreign cultures

Since 1996, International Week has been a part of the middle and high school curriculum with the goal of broadening students’ understanding of other cultures.

By Marian Siljeholm


  Since 1996, International Week has been a part of the middle and high school curriculum with the goal of broadening students’ understanding of other cultures.

  This year, China, Ireland, and Cambodia, and the Dominican Republic, among others, were included in he curriculum.

  In coordination with other language department staff, department head Michelle Magana oversaw the planning and speaker assignments for the week, which incorporated new additions of Guatemala, Liberia, and China.

  “It’s been great having student help as well,” Spanish teacher Robert Bilsbury said. “Freshman Charlie Hoff was instrumental in helping with technical aspects.”  

  Among the speakers were Martha Cox, who presented about Spain, Tom Paradis (Dominican Republic), Greg Caroll (Liberia), and Tamera Burns (Egypt).                                                                                                                                           

  Student speakers included seniors Olivia Peterson and Ben White, who spoke about their trip to Ireland, and junior Anny Carr, who presented on Spain.

  Bilsbury especially enjoyed the China presentation, which Kevin Heffernan, freshman Anna Heffernan’s dad, presented. He felt the presentation was both “informational” and “innovative” regarding the rapidly growing nation.

  The kitchen staff also played a role, offering meals planned to match each day’s theme.

  Conceptually, the idea originated under former department head Dr. Nicole Sherf, in an effort to incorporate community into the language department.

  Junior Haley Woodman said the International Week assemblies were beneficial.

  “The assemblies are a nice break from regular class,” junior Haley Woodman said. “The week gives a new perspective and teaches us to not define another country or culture by our own capitalistic standards.”

  The themes for the week depend largely on speaker availability and the cafeteria’s capabilities. This year, Bilsbury was especially pleased with the efforts saying, “The foreign language department is so happy about how well the cafeteria does; they go all out and it’s really amazing.”

  Speakers are all voluntary, mostly responding to the school’s online advertisement.

   Next year, the Rotary Club will sponsor foreign high school exchange students as speakers.


NAHS students reach out to Japanese citizens

In wake of the destruction the 23-foot tsunami and 9.0 Richter scale earthquake caused, National Art Honor Society members decided to raise money for the devastated residents of Northeastern Japan by selling cards.

By Marian Siljehom


  In wake of the destruction the 23-foot tsunami and 9.0 Richter scale earthquake caused, National Art Honor Society members decided to raise money for the devastated residents of Northeastern Japan by selling cards.

  Currently the death toll stands at 10,102, with 17,053 still missing, Of the homes still standing, 4.4 million do not have electricity or access to clean water   

  Despite this destruction, Japan is no stranger to earthquakes. For centuries the island nation has suffered the consequences of residing directly on top of the junction of three major tectonic plates.

  After the 1923 earthquake, which destroyed 570,000 homes and lives as a result of insufficient building practices, the Japanese began instituting stringent building regulations, which saved thousands in the recent disaster according to Japanese authorities. 

  In addition to destroying several villages, the tsunami’s path covered a region that is home to several active nuclear power plants. At Fukushima, one of the three reactors at the Tokyo Electric Power Company plant failed to complete the necessary self-cooling process.

  Faced with the possibility of nuclear meltdown and further irrevocable environmental damage, the Japanese government has sent workers to attempt to pump water into the reactors to cool them long enough fix the damage.

  With each day the environmental cost rises as radioactive toxic wastewater from this cooling process is constantly being released, poisoning the scarce available drinking water.

  These nuclear risks, combined with devastation from the quake and tsunami, have made Japan an obvious target for aid.

  In terms of assistance, Japan’s situation is unique in that the amount and type of aid needed is a complex and debatable issue. Officials want to avoid a situation similar to Haiti’s in which donations piled up, creating the need for a massive task force to sort and distribute goods.

  In light of the devastation, members of the NAHS decided to take action. “We wanted to find a way to help those in need while involving art, because NAHS is an art based group,” senor member Alyssa Fabyan said.

  At a recent meeting, the members each designed their own card to represent Japan. Members then sold hundreds cards during the school day.

  Not only has the initiative raised over $300 for Japan, but the cards have “raised awareness by having those who purchased them wear them around on their clothing or backpacks,” Fabyan said.


Indoor track team faces final meet after season of much individual growth

After months of persistence the indoor track and field team has reached the final stretch of its first season with much individual triumph, progress, and a few wins against established Cape Ann League teams, according to coach John Barbour.

By Marian Siljeholm


  After months of persistence the indoor track and field team has reached the final stretch of its first season with much individual triumph, progress, and a few wins against established Cape Ann League teams, according to coach John Barbour.

  The wins were “unexpected,” said Barbour. “[They are] a first-year team and the Cape Ann League’s smallest, competing in a sport where numerical depth is everything.”

  Despite its small size, the team was recently recognized by the MIAA, when numerous runners qualified for the Division 4 State meet while at a recent meet against Triton and Pentucket in North Andover.

  Barbour is proud of his team and the milestones made in this initial season, saying recent meets in particular have “stretched the Hornets runners to new levels.”

  Size has also not stopped the team from setting new time records; senior captain two-miler Olivia Dumont stands with an unbeaten time in the school of 12:28.1, and junior Sophia Mastendino and junior co-captain Anya Ciarametaro set new school records in the 300 meters and 55 meters.

  Junior runner Kathleyn Carr said the team has a good skill balance. “We are all very individual. [Seniors] Haig and Cole Caviston provide middle distance experience, while [freshman] Mia Rodier and [sophomore] Maddi Bistrong bolster the girls’ sprint records,” she said.

  Despite the school’s lack of proper practice equipment, Barbour said junior Amanda Gilson and sophomore Jacob Martz are improving fast in the high jump while boys’ 300-meters sprinter juniors Joe O’Neil and Frank Davis and sophomore Brian Gibson have surprised many competitors in the Cape Ann League.

  The team will compete in their final competition on Tues., Feb. 8, for the first time in the CAL Championships at the Roxbury’s Reggie Lewis Center track.


Simple, easy holiday diet tricks

With the average Thanksgiving dinner containing over 2000 calories, this festive holiday poses an annual challenge to Americans watching their waistlines.

By Marian Siljeholm


  With the average Thanksgiving dinner containing over 2000 calories, this festive holiday poses an annual challenge to Americans watching their waistlines.

  What few know is that Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be a diet-buster. By following some easy guidelines and altering a few ingredients, this meal can be both delicious and nutritious.

  Healthy eating begins with breakfast, which should not be skipped.  Eating light meals beforehand will prevent gorging on high-calorie foods when dinner is finally served.

  Stay hydrated. On holidays this is especially important as thirst can often be confused for hunger.

  As far Steamed vegetables are high in fiber and low in calories; however, be aware of butter or oil, which can add hundreds of calories.

As far as dinner, not all main courses are stuffed with fat, Turkey is a good protein source, but opt for white meat over dark, do without the heavy gravy, and try to avoid the skin, which has the highest fat concentration of any part of the meat.

  Despite potatoes’ bad reputation, these vegetables, filled with vitamin C and fiber, can be a healthy and filling as long as they are served un-mashed and without high fat toppings such as butter or sour cream.

  Cranberry sauce can also be healthy, as long as it’s not the store-bought, canned type usually served, in which the added sugars amount to 418 calories per cup.

  As a final staple of the Thanksgiving meal, instead of traditional bread based stuffing, try a seasoning or lighter vinegar dressing to reduce carbohydrates.

  When it comes to side dishes, portion control is everything as well as avoiding fried and creamy dishes.

  Finally, to cut calories at dessert, use variations on traditional treats. Instead of pumpkin pie, make individual pumpkin custard cups and apple crisp instead of apple pie as this will eliminate the high-fat crust.


Meteorology club utilizes new technology, re-vamps efforts to recruit new members

With the installation of necessary sensors and with software programs complete, the Meteorology Club has reactivated this year with new members and goals.

By Marian Siljeholm


  With the installation of necessary sensors and with software programs complete, the Meteorology Club has reactivated this year with new members and goals.

  Chemistry teacher Keith Gray will again head the club, with a slightly new attention to student members’ visions and interests regarding the curriculum.

  Members will use textbooks and Internet resources such as “Achieve,” a software system working alongside Weatherbug, to store real time data about local weather patterns and trends on Cape Ann through linear data sets.

  Using some of the school’s cameras, which are also shared by WBZ’s televised weather reports, the group can watch real time weather systems playing out.

  Along with the new technology, the club’s focus has also shifted. “The main idea will be to educate everyone on what it takes to predict weather in the short-term as well as building skills for longer term forecasting and an understanding of atmospheric dynamics, more than just what the weather channel can teach,” Gray said.

  Following the initial meeting, Gray is most excited about the amount of interest in the program, which will be meeting every Wednesday after school.

  “I’m most thrilled by the number of new students wanting to be involved, it contributes to the fun of the program,” he said.

  Junior Jas Davis, a member of the club, said, “The hype has been unreal. I’m so stoked to be in the club with Mr. Gray. Hopefully, we will get information on the latest swells.”

  Gray hopes the club will promote an awareness regarding local weather for older and younger students alike. “I would like to have students start a bulletin board with information and current data as well as bring what we know to elementary schools to supplement the units already taught there,” he said.