Hashtags and cilantro lime rice

Obsession. It runs rampant through the world of teenagers and trends. They become hooked, quickly, easily. From expanding social networks to popular restaurants, the obsessions continue to grow.

Chipotle
Senior Jen Bondie said she has been “obsessed” with Chipotle ever since the sixth grade.

“Starting in sixth grade my dad would take me to the Chipotle in Arborland and ever since I’ve loved it,” Bondie said. “There was a time in my life that I would go to Chipotle at least once a week.”

Continue reading “Hashtags and cilantro lime rice”

Filling with vapor

The vapor spiraled upward, dissipating into the air around him. He lifted the electronic cigarette, or e-cigarette, back up to his mouth, took another puff, then carefully tucked it back into his left front pants pocket. The bell rang and he walked back out of the bathroom. Back to high school. Back to class.

This senior, who agreed to be interviewed only if we didn’t use his name, said he has been using e-cigarettes for over five months.

“In my experience, e-cigarettes are a very relaxing practice,” he said. “They give me inner peace. Whenever I’m stressed out, they’re a great way for me to just chill.”

And this senior isn’t alone. E-cigarettes are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to cigarettes and other tobacco products.

“I probably take around 100 puffs every day,” a junior, who also consented to be interviewed only if we kept him anonymous, said.  “I’m addicted to nicotine. I’m not worried about being addicted. I know it’s not really harming me, and it makes me feel good.”

But the FDA has expressed interest in regulating e-cigarettes because of these health risks. The bureaucracy doesn’t share the junior’s opinion about the neutral health effects of e-cigarettes.

Their website warns that e-cigarettes “have not been fully studied so consumers currently don’t know how much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals are being inhaled during use.”

The reason the product hasn’t been examined with as much depth as similar products, like cigarettes, is because it’s relatively new, especially to the world of teenagers and school districts.

According to About.com, e-cigarettes were introduced into the modern world by Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik in 2004. In the 10 years the product has been commercially available, its popularity has significantly increased.

E-cigarette use more than doubled in high school and middle school students between 2011 and 2012, according to the CDC. The percentage of these students using them went from 4.7% in 2011 to 10% in 2012.

And the halls of DHS have just started to feel the effects of the newly popular products.

ìE-cigs hit the radar screen less than a month ago for us,î Principal Kit Moran said. ìThe e-cig thing is so far ahead of the law and the lawmakers that itís tough to pin it down. I think weíll get to the point that there will be a state law about it.î

But currently, thereís nothing in the parent-student handbook that specifically prohibits e-cigarette use.

ìRight now, we donít necessarily have a policy on it,î Moran said. ìWe are considering them to be like cigarettes right now, and weíre treating them as such. Different schools are doing different things. From my point of view, there are harmful chemicals in them.î

Whether or not the school is trying to prevent e-cigarette usage in the schools, students continue to use them. They do it on the sly, trying to avoid the watchful eyes of teachers, administrators and the occasional classmate.

Both the junior and senior interviewed said they frequently use their e-cigarettes in the school bathrooms, where the odorless vapor quickly disperses after each exhale, covering their tracks.

Steve, however, has ventured to take the practice one step further. He and several friends bring e-cigarettes to class and use them during the hour.

ìIíll use it in class if I get the chance to,î he said. ìBut Iím careful and I havenít been caught yet.î

Moran said there have only been a couple of incidents involving administrators catching students using e-cigarettes so far, and that it has been years since students have tried to smoke traditional cigarettes on school grounds.

He also said heís not sure, at this point, what direction e-cigarettes will take, because theyíre such a new problem. Right now, he is mainly concerned about the health risks.

ìThere is an addictive quality to those kinds of things,î he said. ìThereís no one time bad overuse, and nobody binge smokes, but we know thereís an addictive quality to it. So you start smoking, then you become addicted to the chemicals in it, and that creates a bad habit thatís detrimental to your health and your pocketbook.î

CVS recently announced that it was cutting out sales of all tobacco products at its stores, because they felt that a store promoting health shouldnít also sell products that can be extremely detrimental to health. However, they still donít sell e-cigarettes because theyíre waiting on guidance from the FDA, who is looking into regulating the products.

The potentially harmful effects of e-cigarettes are why they are only available to people who are at least 18 years old. But police deputy Jeremy Hilobuk said that this doesnít always stop minors from acquiring the illegal products.

ìItís not that often that we see fake IDs,î he said. ìI think maybe they get it through other means, whether it be a friend they know whoís older or stores that arenít checking IDs. Some of the stores get busy, and they forget to keep track of those kinds of things. Itís probably 50-50 for the entire county.î

And this is how the junior gets his hands on the products that he legally should not be able to buy.

ìIím friends with the guys who work at the store I buy stuff at,î the junior said. ìThey know me, and they let me buy it, even though Iím not 18.î

So Hilobuk and the Washtenaw County Sheriff Department are trying to prevent this kind of thing from happening by performing stings. They work with minors and have them try to buy tobacco or nicotine products from various businesses around the county. If the business is noncompliant, meaning it sells these things to the minors, then the police intervene and give the business a ticket. Hilobuk said the business then has to pay a fine thatís generally around $100.

ìDexter is pretty good,î he said. ìWe get good compliance around here. Itís when we head East to Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti and places over there that the compliance gets a little lower.î

If the business is noncompliant, then the Sheriff Department performs the same sting some time later to try to get compliance the next time.

ìItís really training them to remember to check IDs and keep things legal,î Hilobuk said.

Of course, there are exceptions. The senior we interviewed, for example, turned 18 since he started using e-cigs and tobacco products, but he also has a fake ID that he used when he was 17.

Neither person says he is nervous about the effect of e-cigarettes on his health. Both, similar to millions of high school students across the country, will continue to use the products and worry about his future later.

ìI like e-cigarettes. They give me a head rush,î the senior said. ìI donít consider myself addicted right now and Iím not really worried about becoming addicted, because theyíre just not that potent. I figure that I could use e-cigs for the rest of my life and not have a problem.î

Minimum wage change would affect students

Senior Abbi Kemperman works a part-time job at Classic Pizza.  In addition to the time she spends at school, equivalent to a full-time job in itself, she said she spends between 16 and 32 hours a week working to make money to pay for her car insurance, gas and other expenses.

“I have time to work, go to school, and do homework, but that’s about it,” Kemperman said.

Like many high school students, Kemperman makes minimum wage, currently $7.40 an hour.

Working three or four days in an average week, senior Peyton Chrisner earns only slightly more.

“I work between 10 and 20 hours a week and make $8 an hour,” she said.

Panera Bread, where Chrisner works, pays employees above minimum wage, but soon this salary may still be too low.

Following President Obama’s State of the Union address on Jan. 28, where he argued for an increase in the federal minimum wage, the debate regarding proposals to increase minimum wages, nationally and for each state, regained momentum.

Obama announced a plan to create an executive order that would increase the minimum wage for federally funded employees to $10.10.  He also urged Congress to raise the federal minimum wage for all employees, which is currently $7.25.  Tip wages, for workers who also receive tips, and wages for minors are allowed to be even lower.

“They’re allowed to not pay you minimum wage if you’re under 18,” Kemperman said.

Democrats in the Michigan legislature have proposed plans to increase Michigan minimum wages, but both federal and state congresses have disagreement as to whether raising minimum wage would help or harm the economy.

Politicians in favor of increasing minimum wage argue that those working for such wages do not make enough to support themselves and their families.  Thus, increasing minimum wage would decrease the number of people living in poverty and, as a result, help the economy.

In his state of the Union Address, Obama said, “Today, the federal minimum wage is worth about 20 percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan first stood here.  Tom Harkin and George Miller have a bill to fix that by lifting the minimum wage to $10.10.  This will help families.  It will give businesses customers with more money to spend.”

However, Natalie Park, owner of Coffee House Creamery on Jackson Road, does not think this sudden change would be a realistic option for small businesses.

“It would not jump to $10.10 right away.  No business would survive it,” Park said.  “You can’t raise any price (including wages) 40 percent.”

Only recently-hired workers at Coffee House Creamery work for minimum wage. Still, Park said an increase in minimum wage would also require her to make other changes in her business beyond wages.

According to Park, increased wages also mean that employers have to pay increased taxes and insurance.  These changes could force her to change her policy of increasing employee salaries based on their length of employment.  Park would also have to raise prices.

While she opposes a dramatic change, Park is not completely against the idea of slightly increasing minimum wage.

“I don’t think it’s terrible,” she said, “but it could be very dangerous.”

Primarily, the movement to increase minimum wage is targeted to aid adults working full time.  The intent is to help families living in poverty, but teenagers could still see changes in their earnings as a result.  Chrisner, however, does not object to her current salary.

“I don’t really mind (the current minimum wage) because I use the money for car insurance but don’t have major bills or adult expenses,” she said.

Despite this, both Kemperman and Chrisner agree that an increase in the minimum wage would be beneficial. Kemperman, for example, said she could use the extra money to buy extra things that she would like.

“Three quarters of my pay checks go to gas, so I’d have more money for other things that aren’t gas,” she said.

For Chrisner, the changes would be different.  She said that she spends all of her earnings, but a higher minimum wage would let her put some of her paycheck away for a rainy day.

“I would actually consider saving some (if I made more),” she said. “I know I should be saving for college.”

An increase in minimum wage would similarly benefit senior Collin Ullmann, who works at McDonald’s.

“It would make college a lot easier,” he said.  “(With current wages) I would have to work 50 hours a week over the summer to make the money I need.”

UFOs? Whoa! (with video)

“Domed,” “oval-shaped,” “quilted surface,” “lights in the center and on each end,” “fantastic speeds,” “sharp turns,” “dive and climb,” “great maneuverability.” These are some of the words used to describe an unidentified object seen by dozens of witnesses including law enforcement on March 20, 1966 in Dexter.

That night, on Frank Mannor’s McGuinnes Road farm in northwest Dexter, in the midst of hundreds of UFO sightings in Michigan at the time, Mannor, his family and dozens of other witnesses said they saw a domed, oval-shaped object with a quilted surface actually land in a nearby swamp. According  to these witnesses, the object had lights in the center and on each end.

According to then-40-year-old Mannor, he and his 18-year-old son Ronald followed the UFO into a swampy area, but as they came closer, it slowly rose up, moved right above their heads and quickly disappeared into the night.

Just after, two officers who had not arrived on scene yet, Stanley McFadden and David Fitzpatrick, saw an object that matched the same description over Mast and North Territorial Roads in Dexter. They said it looked to be about the size of a small house, and they had never seen those types of movements on any air craft as it hovered quickly disappeared into the night moments later.

Dexter resident Louie Ceriani has lived in Dexter since 1928 and recalled the incident as exciting. He said it sparked a lot of intrigue in most citizens whether they believed in UFO’s or not.

“The excitement of all of this caused people for miles around to look skyward looking and hoping to see a UFO,” Ceriani said. “Some said they saw one but never told the press but only to their friends and that was with a smile.”

Jim Koch was a junior at Dexter High School at the time and said he felt the collective excitement that was going around town at the time.

“I remember it was a big deal at the time,” Koch said. “I was in high school at the time, and one of our favorite activities to get out of the house was to go look for UFOs.  We would cruise around the back roads and do what high school kids at the time did.”

In fact, Ceriani said people came from miles around to check out Mannor’s farm because the case got so big.

“Even professors came to Frank’s farm,” he said. “Of course, they knew better: that Frank was just making it up. But Frank stuck to his word saying he did see a UFO. The more intelligent people thought maybe Frank was a little tithed, not well-educated. The press even took pictures of Frank and his house.”

Due to the various, alleged UFO sightings in Michigan at the time, the Dexter case attracted national attention as Project Blue Book, set up by the U.S. Air Force, sent Dr. J. Allen Hynek to investigate the sighting reports.

At first, Hynek agreed that there was something going on in the Michigan skies. But after he consulted with Blue Book headquarters, he changed his mind, and said that the sightings were nothing more than swamp gas.

“Marsh gas usually has no smell but sounds like the small popping explosions similar to a gas burner igniting,” Hynek said in 1966. “The gas forms from decomposition of vegetation. It seems likely that as the present spring thaws came, the gases methane, hydrogen sulfide and phosphine, resulting from decomposition of organic materials, were released.”

With Hynek’s conclusion, the case was closed. Project Blue Book, headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, was terminated Dec. 17, 1969. Of a total of 12,618 sightings reported to Project Blue Book, 701 remained “unidentified.”

Then-Sherrif Douglas J. Harvey was angry at the time due to Hynek’s conclusion. He had spent time in army bases in the swamps of Lousiana during World War 2 and claimed he had seen plenty of swamp gas before.

“That’s a pretty weak theory,” Harvey said. “I’ve seen plenty of swamp gas and this wasn’t it. We saw what we saw, all right.”

WISD program provides life skills training

It’s 12:45 in the afternoon. Hundreds of students flock out of the lunch room, heading to their fourth hour classes. The cacophony of teenage voices fades away and silence floods the air.

However, a handful of students remain in the lunch room. These are the students enrolled in the Washtenaw Intermediate School District classroom for students with moderate cognitive impairment at DHS, and they are at their next activity: lunch room cleanup.

Four days a week, after C lunch, students from this classroom aid in stacking chairs and cleaning up the lunch room. While some believe that these students are unjustly forced to work, the purpose of this activity, according to teacher, Liz Shields, is to prepare the students for life after high school.

“Part of our curriculum for this class is to learn life skills,” she said. “And working a job is a life skill.”

Just as DHS students are enrolled in two semester classes, these students practice cleaning throughout the entirety of the school year. “Learning job skills is an ongoing thing, because a lot of them will start with needing a lot of help from us as their job coach, but then by the end of the year, they’re more independent with it,” Shields said.

Special education teaching assistant Richard Korth shares a similar view.

“Everyone has to learn their job and figure out how to do it,” he said. “If you don’t do your job for a while, you get out of the routine and you have to relearn your work.”

While parents reserve the right to opt their child out of this activity, said Shields, none have ever done so. “All the parents understand that having a job and learning how to do a job is part of our curriculum and part of what the kids are going to need after they leave DHS.”

However, the life skills in the curriculum practiced in this classroom aren’t limited to stacking chairs and washing tables; the program also emcompasses a myriad variety of other pivotal tasks.

“We also do all kinds of other life skills things like cooking and laundry and hygiene because those things are all part of our curriculum,” Shields said. “Getting down there and doing that works gives them job experience that will help them for the future.”

Sip or slurp?

She lay twitching in her bed.  Her eyes wide open and no amount of counting sheep could reverse the damage done by the several cups of coffee she had downed earlier.

Last week senior Laura Stanton drank so much coffee she wasn’t able to sleep.

In the past few years more and more teens are buying and drinking coffee. Some believe this is due to teens wanting to look older, more mature, and “cooler.”  While others, like senior Louis Kurcz, claim it just tastes good.

Kurcz has fallen into a habit of drinking coffee daily.  Occasionally treating himself to a frozen caramel latte of some sort but usually sticking to regular coffee  with milk from his “BUNN” commercial grade coffee machine at home.

It wasn’t until several years ago that coffee grew popular among a younger crowd.  Now, companies like Starbucks owe a lot of their success to social media sites like Instagram and Twitter.  Not only are teens posting pictures of their frappes, lattes, mochas, or whatever drink suits their fancy, providing companies with free advertising, but when other teens see their friends drinking a certain drink they will want to try it too.

However, according to Kurcz, Stanton and junior Sarah Stone this marketing strategy isn’t the main reason teenagers are flocking to the caffeinated beverage.  Coffee has been proven to wake you up and then keep you up.

Kurcz along with Stanton and Stone believe this is what makes it a late night study session necessity.

“After we stay up late studying it’s really our best option,” Stone said.

The amount of activities students have to accomplish on a daily basis also makes coffee a helpful tool.

“With everything we have to get done in one day between sports, work, and homework it helps to be able to have a boost in the morning and focus later,” Kurcz said.

Although the energy that results from drinking coffee is a positive thing, there are some negative factors that come with drinking a cup of joe.  According to Dr. Michelle Rabideau from Dexter Family Medicine coffee can disrupt teens’ sleep cycles leading to poor moods and aggression.  Large amounts of caffeine may also negatively affect brain development in the teen years.

Stanton and Stone also said that drinking coffee consistently for a long period of time would ruin their teeth, while Kurcz claimed it made him feel shaky.

Going through coffee withdrawal can also have some negative effects on the body.  The most common being headaches, changes in mood, depression, inability to concentrate and irritability.

Stone, Stanton and Kurcz unanimously agreed that while not drinking coffee for a day or week after consistently drinking it would leave them grumpy and tired; however, once the initial withdrawal is over, extended breaks from the drink would have little to no effect.

“I wouldn’t want to go without it,” Stanton said.  “But if I had to I could.”

Regardless why teen interest in coffee has recently spiked, according to Stanton, Stone, and Kurcz that taste of coffee alone being why, the drink itself has become quite popular. And whether or not the negative side effects of coffee are too drastic is for the individual to decide.

While Rabideau warns of the negative repercussions she also states that small doses (about 5-6 oz of coffee) a day would do little to no harm.

And as for Kurcz, he claims “there are much worse things than drinking coffee every morning.”

 

Dreadstrong campaign hopes to provide community identity

The Purpose of “Dread Strong”

New Superintendent Chris Timmis said he didn’t want to wait to settle in. He didn’t want to take a year or two to figure out the system to see if he liked where he had ended up. Instead he decided it was time to take charge and make a change by kicking off a district-wide marketing campaign using one central theme: “Dread Strong.”

He said the goal of the campaign is to get the community involved with the schools and give them an opportunity to recognize excellence in Dexter.

“You need to have some kind of common brand that everyone understands, something to draw people back in and celebrate what is really great about where they live and where they go to school,” Timmis said.

And he said a brand like Dread Strong offers Dexter a chance to grow into one of the best school districts in the state and even the nation.

“We’re really good right now,” Timmis said, “but we have so much potential, and we can do some incredible things for students and for the community. In order to do that you need some kind of theme to work around, something that’s common.”

Right now, in the early stages of the campaign, Dread Strong consists of a variety of methods of spreading the message, including yard signs and a Facebook page. These media are used to give a slogan to the community and instill a sense of pride.

“We have those things, but it can’t be hidden,” Timmis said. “It can’t just be on T-shirts. It can’t just be when students walk in the building. It should be out there, so that people it every neighborhood can say, ‘We feel a lot of pride in our school, and we want to make sure everybody knows.’ ”

But social media is where Timmis believes Dread Strong will really take off. “The Facebook presence gives us the opportunity to just celebrate good things,” he said.

“It’s not necessarily the school’s site,” he said. “It engages alumni, and it engages community members. It focuses on one common experience that everybody has: they all went to Dexter schools.”

While Dread Strong has been built from scratch this year, Timmis said it can grow into something much more significant within our district in the coming years.

He said, “We’re gonna build a strategic plan over the next few months that’ll talk about what we’re gonna look like as a school district in the next 5-10 years, and it will be trying to really become one of the best school districts in the country.”

As far as what defines a terrific school district, he says doesn’t know exactly what it would look like. However, he said Dread Strong gives the district the chance to find out by opening the conversation to everyone.

“It won’t be what I think,” Timmis said. “It’s what the community thinks. DreadStrong opens the doors.”

The Growth of “Dread Strong”

While Timmis said he plans for Dread Strong to grow into a much wider scope and purpose than it currently possesses, athletic director Michael Bavineau said he didn’t see it has already exceeded his original expectations.

The idea began as a simple way to unify the athletic department and create a common mindsight. “We were trying to create this new culture and this new identity,” Bavineau said.

After the process began, Bavineau said it simply kept moving forward. He said, “We got the new logo and just thought, ‘OK, where do we go from here?’”

“We wanted a new slogan,” Bavineau said. “Something that could capture who we are not only as an athletic department but as student-athletes and as kids in our school. Michigan has ‘Go Blue’ and Alabama has ‘Roll Tide,’ so what’s Dexter?”

Bavineau thought about having a standard, common phrase like “Go Dreads.” But when he thought of Dread Strong, he immediately fell in love with it. “Dread Strong sounds like something you’d want to be a part of,” he said.

Dread Strong seems to Bavineau like something the entire district could build around. “It’s a way for the community, the school, the students, regardless of age or grade, it’s something they can be a part of,” he said. “I hope it becomes sort of like a sense of pride.”

The Community Perspective

Bavineau and Timmis both have high ambitions for the Dread Strong campaign. But what does the community think? Doug Smith, the initial designer of the Dread Strong logo, has been following the operation since its beginning.

In addition to simply making the logo, Smith is a DHS graduate of 1990, has two children in the Dexter school system, and is very involved with many community organizations and programs. He said he has supported Dread Strong since it began and likes the direction it’s going in.

“You can have parents, alumni, businesses and anyone else who loves Dexter Schools all showing their support together,” Smith said.

Like many Dexter residents, the most visibly apparent component for Smith has been the arrival of Dread Strong yard signs. Smith said, “I know there’s always been a tradition of yard signs for certain sports, but having one sign and one campaign that everyone can be involved in is a big plus.”

“It’s great to drive around town or out of town in any direction and even when you get a couple miles away, you’ll still see a Dread Strong sign by someone’s driveway,” Smith said. “It just makes you think that it’s everywhere, and that’s pretty awesome.”

While Smith does appreciate the yard signs, he said he doesn’t believe they, or the Dread Strong program as a whole, are the end of Timmis’ plans to improve the school district.

“I know Superintendent Timmis has a lot of really great ideas and a focus on community support for our schools,” Smith said. “I think the Dread Strong campaign is just the start of some really cool stuff. I’m proud to be a Dexter alum and I’m proud to be a part of this.”

 

 

Scheduling problems lead to angry students

Senior Margaret Bussineau wanted to take Humanities. And she wanted to take IB French as well. But because Humanities is only offered during a first and second hour block and because IB French is only offered first hour, Bussineau had to settle with a Upper Class Seminar, or UCS, an English class for juniors and seniors.

Like many students, Bussineau is the victim of a master schedule that leaves teachers, students, counselors and administrators stressed and often hampers students who want to take multiple, academically-challenging courses.

“I really don’t enjoy my (UCS) class,” Bussineau said. “It seems like a huge academic step down from AP English, but it was the only class that would fit. So basically, I am stuck having a class I don’t really want.”

So who’s at fault for what appears to be an issue year after year?

Bussineau said not to blame her counselor, Craig Rafail.

“Mr. Rafail could only do so much,” she said. “It wasn’t up to him to change the periods certain classes are offered.”

In addition, Dexter High School’s student-to-counselor ratio of more than students to one counselor is far above the state standard which is 1-to-250, a ratio suggested by the Michigan School Counseling Association. Administrators say this imbalance cannot be fixed because of budget restraints. For comparison, Ann Arbor Pioneer averaged 275 students per counselor for the 2012-2013.

“We’re understaffed,” Rafail said. “We need more time to commit to each individual student. It’s safe to say we get frustrated, but we get through it.”

In order to get more time, Rafail said, the counselors need to get the master schedule sooner. But the counselors aren’t in charge of actually making the schedule. They often don’t get their students’ schedules until after school is out, and as they are not contracted to work during the summer.

“Most schools get a master schedule in March and then have time to work with the students and their schedules,” counselor Kristie Doyle said.

So how does the scheduling process work? According to multiple interviews with multiple sources, the master schedule is headed by Assistant Principal Ken Koenig who solicits help from volunteering teachers Ryan Baese, Debora Marsh and David Teddy.

Baese specifically joined the process to meet requirements for graduate school  where he is getting his Masters in educational administration. Baese said that he would like to continue being a part of the master scheduling process in the future.

The process begins in January after students request their desired classes in PowerSchool in December. With this information, 96 percent of students’ choices are satisfied in the first draft of the master schedule Koenig said. He also said that the process for creating the schedule each year has been made easier with the use of new technology such as PowerScheduler.

However, after these numbers come out, the scheduling process is generally stalled as projections for teachers as well as the budget for the next year aren’t released until the spring. As budget numbers are released and teacher retirements are announced, this affects the numbers of classes offered. Based on this information schedule has to be modified again.

Because budget and retirement information came so late last school year, that made this year’s schedule particularly difficult to make, according to Dexter Education Association President Joe Romeo.

“Part of the problem came from the fact that Mr. Moran was told late that he would have fewer teachers, so the schedules had to be adjusted again,” Romeo said. “The class lists are supposed to be available the third Friday in May, but they were not this year.”

This meant that some classes with up to 70 students, were not identified in time for adjustments in the schedule to be made in the spring. This lead to some teachers not getting their actual schedule until the Tuesday or Wednesday before the first week of school. This created some unhappy teachers.

“If a teacher’s schedule is not the same in the fall as he thought it would be, the teacher might have wasted time preparing for a course he won’t teach, or he might not be prepared for a class he is going to teach. Neither of these options are any good,” Romeo said.

According to Koenig, a large part of the difficulty with scheduling is all of the classes that DHS offers. Koenig said offering a large number of classes creates more student choice which creates more potential for classes to conflict by being offered during the same hour.

“The more classes we can offer within our teaching flexibility, the more possibility for conflict,” he said.

“That’s what kids don’t get,” counselor Kristy Doyle said, “every class is not offered every hour.”

However, some of the conflict also comes from the students themselves according to Doyle. Doyle said students often sign up for classes based on what classes their friends are in or what teachers are “cool” or based on classes they think they should take rather than ones they are interested in.

“Kids have to make better, more informed decisions based on their capability,” she said. “Kids have to learn how to work with different people and different teachers. You won’t get to pick your professor. It’s the real world; you have to learn how to deal with that.”

As an example, Doyle said many students in January sign up for difficult classes like AP Language and AP Literature; however, when the school year comes around, they realize that they do not actually want to be in that class or maybe they didn’t complete their summer homework. She said these last-minute decisions are part of the reason that the counseling office is so busy at the start of the school year.

Regardless of a student’s reason for being in the counseling office for a messed up schedule, Koenig and the counselors agree that they’d rather have students in class.

“We don’t like having you stuck in the counseling office. It’s crappy,” Koenig said.

Though counselors, teachers and administrators said that the scheduling process has been chaotic for over seven years, new Superintendent Chris Timmis hopes to see changes in the future.

“I understand the reasons for the delays this year, and Mr. Moran and I have talked about timelines,” Timmis said. “The ability to build the schedule as well as get schedules to students is contingent on information regarding staffing, which comes from the superintendent and Board of Education, being available in February and March.”

And even though some teachers interviewed suggested that the schedule be changed so student choice not drive the schedule, Timmis said he doesn’t agree.

“I believe the high school schedule needs to be designed around student interests,” he said.

And despite the chaos and lines in the counseling office at the end of the year, Bussineau said she understand each counselor trying to schedule 400 kids is a monumental task.

“Even though I had a lot of scheduling conflicts this year, I have a lot of appreciation for what the counselors do for us,” Bussineau said. “It can’t be easy.”

Sophomore with Down syndrome named class homecoming queen

Meet sophomore homecoming queen Alana Schwartz.  She is 17 years old and a sophomore.  She has Down syndrome, a mild case, which means that while she has a learning disability, she doesn’t have any of the heart problems associated with the condition.

One day Alana was sitting in front of sophomore Sam Bremmer on the bus.  Alana was singing and having fun as usual.

“I wondered how she would react if she were homecoming queen,” Bremmer said.

This is why Bremmer decided to do something special for Alana.

Bremmer emailed student council adviser Al Snider in August to make sure Alana would be on the ballot when it came time to vote for homecoming court in the fall.

“She emailed me basically saying, ‘I know homecoming is usually a popularity contest, but I think it should be more than that,’” Snider said.

Once school started, Snider met with Bremmer and told her that Alana would have to receive votes in order to be on court, like any other student.

According to Snider, Bremmer said, “Well, what can I do to make that happen?”

Snider and Bremmer started brainstorming until Bremmer came up with the idea of making a Facebook page.  Not long after its creation on Sept. 10, over 700 Facebook users were invited to the “Alana Schwartz For Homecoming Queen” Facebook page.

Diana Schwartz, Alana’s mother, first found out about the campaign when she saw the posts on Facebook.

“At first I thought, ‘No, it can’t be.  Is this a joke or something?’ But then I kept reading and realized it was real.  It brought tears to my eyes.”

A few weeks later, the balloting began.

Within the sophomore class, there were 12 groups of 20 ballots.

“Typically, a person gets three or four votes, within a group of 20,” Snider said.  “Alana was getting 13, 14, 15 votes out of a group of 20.”

According to Snider, Alana received about 250 votes out of 300 sophomores.

When Diana heard about her daughter’s victory she was ecstatic.

“It’s very touching that the school, and the sophomore class especially, wanted to do this for Alana,” Diana said.  “It just really touched our hearts.”

Alana remained unaware of Bremmer’s campaigning until the day court was announced.

“It was really hard to keep this from Alana,” Diana said with a laugh.  “It was really hard to pretend that nothing had happened, but we did it somehow.”

On Friday Sept. 27, the administration, Alana’s mom and sister came with Snider to see Alana’s reaction when he told her that she had been voted homecoming queen of the sophomore class.

Snider explained to Alana what she would have to do the week of homecoming as queen, including walking at halftime of the football game and riding in a car in the parade.

“The whole time she was very receptive to it.  She didn’t overreact,” Snider said.

“Until I walked away,” he added with a grin.

Once Alana turned around, she was so excited she jumped into her mom’s arms.

“It was a very special and touching moment,” Diana said.

Bremmer said she was “blown away” when Snider told her the news.

“I started crying when I heard, and then Mr. Snider pulled me out of class to tell me, and I started crying again,” Bremmer said.  “I was just so excited. I couldn’t even think straight.”

At the homecoming football game, it was Bremmer who escorted Alana, sophomore homecoming queen.

“This has been a very happy, positive experience,” said Diana.  “Because of her special needs, we didn’t think anything like this could have happened to Alana.”

This event has brought significant media attention to Dexter.  In the week following Alana’s victory, the story was covered by publications such as The Dexter Leader and mlive.com.

According to Diana, this can be a learning opportunity for those who have made fun of kids with special needs in the past.

“This will teach young people that kids with special needs have feelings too, and they need to experience the good things in life,” Diana said.  “These kids don’t get opportunities like this very often, and when they do, it’s a very special occasion.”