Flint Water Crisis

By Lucas Bell & Gigi Saadeldin

When the average American opens their tap, the water which comes out can be described as clean, refreshing, or clear; ever since April of 2014, the water in Flint has been anything but.

The first thing citizens of Flint noticed was the color, ranging from blues to brown. The second thing they noticed was the pungent odor.

In the mid 1980s, Flint fell into a deep economic depression after the closing of a General Motors plant, still affecting the city’s population today. In an attempt for the city to save money, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder changed Flint’s water source from treated Detroit Water and Sewerage (sourced from Lake Huron as well as the Detroit River) to the Flint River in order to save money. The corrosive river water caused lead from aging pipes to seep into the water supply – inducing extremely elevated levels of lead.

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A Helping Hand

A new link class where students assist other students will arrive a DHS next fall
By Joe Ramey

An all-in-one class is hard to find nowadays. A class that provides help for both sets of students, help for others, training, performing and of course counts as a class credit.

This class was created with the intent to provide a possible moral boost and a morale builder, and has the possibility to provide multiple advantages reasons to join for all parties.

The class is Peer to Peer, a class where a student follows around another Dexter High School student with special needs for one class period. They will help them with all of their needs including physical, social and mental. The students taking the class are their mentor for the hour and guide them on the right path with whatever they’re doing. They would be their “link.” Link refers to the connection between the special education student and the class by the students of the class. It sounds similar to SNAP club that already exists at DHS, but it has many differences along with academic advantages.

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High school discusses weighted grades

The Board of Education met and discussed proposed changes to the weighted grade system at the high school at its regularly-scheduled meeting on March 17. Although Dexter High School already has weighted grades for all Advanced Placement courses and International Baccalaureate Higher Level (HL) courses, the proposed change will branch out to include IB Standard Level (SL) courses as well.

IB HL classes span over the course of two years, whereas IB SL classes cover only one year. HL classes are thought to be more difficult than SL classes, but both levels are considered rigorous based on their external moderation.

During the 2012-2013 school year, a committee that included administrators, teachers and parents met to discuss the possibility of weighted grades at the high school.

“Once we decided that we would weigh grades at the high school, the next question needed to be: ‘What classes are we going to weigh?’” Principal Kit Moran said.

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Jennifer Driscoll replaces Jennifer Colby as the replacement media specialist

The Media Specialist position has been filled by a myriad of individuals this year.  After Linda Livingstone took an extended leave following family medical issues, Jennifer Colby took over the position.

Now, Jennifer Driscoll has been asked to fill Colby’s shoes after she decided to take a full-time media specialist job in Novi at Deerfield Elementary School.

Driscoll is not completely new to the job of media specialist, however.

“I have worked in the media centers all around the district for several years now, so I’m familiar with the systems and how libraries work,” Driscoll said.

Driscoll confirmed that the position is still a “temporary, substitute type of position.”  However, until Livingstone returns, Driscoll plans to be very proactive in the library.

“I’ve only just gotten started, so I’m just kind of seeing how things stand,” Driscoll said.

As her tenure continues, however, Driscoll said she plans to make changes that suit the students.

“I don’t have any specific plans quite yet for changes in the library, as I’ve only been here for a few days,” Driscoll said.  “If there are any changes that people would like to see I would be happy to hear them.”

Policymakers seek to eliminate summer break for Michigan students

The traditional three-month summer for Michigan schools may be nearing it’s end, as the state legislature and the governor want to give schools the ability to go to what they call a balanced schedule or what many people call year-round school.

Gov. Rick Snyder and many policymakers say such a change could help eventually lead to more college graduates. Principal Kit Moran has read such studies and said the research bears them out.

“Studies have shown, that students have a starting point at the beginning of each school year to which they steadily improve as the year goes on,” Principal Kit Moran said. “However during the 11 or 12 week summer, kids lose some of that brain power, since they aren’t reading or doing math problems.”

The year-round schools schedule would have the same number of school days as a traditional school year, however it would be stretched out across a 12-month period rather than the normal nine months.

“Schools that have tested going year round had a system of nine weeks on then three weeks off, so after each quarter, you would have essentially another Christmas break,” Moran said.

While there has also been talk of increasing the number of days Michigan students have to attend school, this discussion hasn’t really gone anywhere, mainly because of the money issue, according to Moran.

“There is always someone in Lansing that says kids need to go to school longer,” Moran said. “Gov. Engler, a few years back, his goal was to get the number of school days up to 210, instead of the 175 we have now. The only problem is, how are you going to fund seven more weeks of school, because that’s seven more weeks of buses and seven more weeks of paying teachers?”

And money isn’t the only problem with this plan according to Moran.

“If I were to say, ‘Dexter is going to change to a year-round system. We’re going to be on nine weeks and off three, well, that’s good for student achievement, but what do we do about athletics,” he said. “Would that affect our testing in March? There are so many things that we structure around our school year, that it makes it difficult to make such a big change.”

Although year-round schooling or a balanced schedule may be gaining momentum in the state legislature, Moran doesn’t see this change coming to Dexter anytime soon.

“I can tell you this,” he said. “No student in the Dexter High School has to worry about going to school year round.”

You smell that?

A large chemical filtration system beneath the science classrooms, unknown to current administrators until January, has become clogged by an unknown substance.  The obstruction was first detected because of an odor produced by the chemical backup.

“I’m not quite sure why somebody didn’t know that,” Principal Kit Moran said.  “It’s amazing to me that nobody ever mentioned that.”

The tanks were installed 12 years ago during construction of the high school when Moran wasn’t principal.

The mechanism is made up of two large tanks connected by a tube.  Waste flows from the science room sinks into the first tank where its acidity is neutralized and any precipitates fall to the bottom and are pumped out.

The liquid is then pumped to the next tank through the tube where it is further neutralized.  The clog occurred in this tubing between the tanks.

Science teacher Beau Kimmey said the filtration system is mainly in place to neutralize acids disposed of in the science room sinks, “so you’re not dumping straight acid down into the sewage system.”

The obstruction hasn’t completely stopped drainage from the science rooms, but it has slowed the process dramatically.

He said, “The connection between the two tanks became partially clogged.  It still works, it’s just really slow.  It doesn’t flow as well as it should.”

Kimmey said the biggest trouble comes when multiple classrooms perform labs on the same day and the tanks get backed up.  This is when the tanks begin to smell.

No one is sure exactly what is causing the blockage, but Kimmey said it may be some sort of limestone formed by the water.

“Other than that,” he said, “who knows what kids dump down the sinks.”

He added that he believes the quality of the equipment may be to blame for the issue, because the school may have gone for the cheaper option.

“We’re kind of locked in by what taxpayers are willing to pay,” Kimmey said,  “and when you take the lowest bidder, you don’t always get the highest quality.”

Moran, however, strongly disagreed with Kimmey on that issue.

Moran said that given the fact that the system has been underground for 12 years without receiving any maintenance, it is surprising there haven’t been more problems.

“Is it one of those things that needs to be cleaned every once in a while,” he said, “or is it a quality issue? After a while you gotta put a new roof on your house. I would say, generally speaking, the school’s in good shape.  A lot of people think it’s a brand new building.”

The plan to fix the tanks is to investigate the problem and clean them out during spring break when students are gone.  Moran did add, however, that there are many possibilities for things to go wrong in the process.

He said, “Perfect world, they make it to spring break, and they fix it over spring break, and all is good.  However, it wouldn’t surprise me if it was harder to fix than expected.  This is like the car repair that you’ve never done before.”

Moran also said that there is a chance things get worse before spring break, and he said he told the science teachers, “To the best extent possible, be careful what you’re putting down there.  Every gallon that doesn’t go down there just keeps us in that much better shape.”

Still why did no one know about this container to begin with?  Moran said part of the issue may have been the revolving door of principals before he arrived–six principals in six years at one point–and that many fragments of information may have been lost in transition.

After the obstruction has been cleared, Moran said cleaning it out will be added to the annual checkups by the maintenance staff over the summer so this problem doesn’t occur again.

“At least we’ll know it’s there,” he said.

Still, with such a significant element to the proper function of our building going unnoticed for over a decade, one has to wonder what else might be lurking beneath our school.

International Baccalaureate program gives students a tougher challenge than previously imagined

As the class of 2014 approaches graduation, 16 seniors are left wondering if they will graduate with more than a high school diploma. These International Baccalaureate diploma candidates who are on track for an IB diploma have to wait until the end of July to find out if they qualified for the IB diploma.

Students striving for the full IB diploma have to write an extended essay, complete a Theory of Knowledge class which includes a TOK presentation and essay and complete a Creativity Action Service project on top of completing all their coursework requirements. Each IB class also requires an internal assessment and external assessment. The external assessment won’t take place until May, leaving those students waiting until the end of July for their results.

According to IB Coordinator Kimberley Lund this late deadline is not a big deal in the United States in terms of college admissions.

“Colleges make decisions based on the student’s good standing and predicted grades,” she said. “It is unheard of to have a students acceptance taken away because they did not receive the IB diploma.”

However this isn’t as uncommon in Europe.

“Getting the IB diploma would be a bigger deal if I was looking to go to college overseas” senior Tristin Rojeck said.  Rojeck is one of those 16 students waiting to find out if he will receive an IB diploma.

“I might be getting an IB diploma,” he said.  “But at this point I’m just looking to do well enough in math and English and maybe history to get college credit.”

Rojeck already got his acceptance letter to Michigan State, and it won’t be taken away if he fails to receive an IB diploma.

Although a student’s acceptance may not be at risk over the IB diploma other factors are.

“Not getting the IB diploma can affect how much money colleges offer in scholarships” Lund said.

While all the colleges Rojeck was looking into offered scholarships independent from the IB diploma, some schools, Michigan Technological University for example, offer scholarships specifically to IB diploma recipients.

According to both Rojeck and Lund even more overseas colleges make a bigger deal over the IB diploma.

“It really is a somewhat prestigious thing to do,” Rojeck said.  “It’s a step above a high school diploma because it requires more work in regards to the extended essay and CSA.”

And this extra work is well worth it for Rojeck who said that the IB program has helped him prepare for college and given him a strong work ethic that will lead him to be successful in life regardless if he ends up with or without an IB diploma.

“Theres no real way to know right now if all my hard work was worth it,” Rojeck said.  “I’m happy that I stuck with the program and I’ll let you know in a year.”

Ocean Bowl squad heads to national tournament in Seattle

The dull hum of the buzzers drones as 10 high school students conjure oceanic knowledge accumulated after hours of poring over books, maps, graphs, bills, virtually anything ocean related.

This is Ocean Bowl.

Or at least it is for the DHS National Ocean Science Bowl team, which is gearing up for the national competition in Seattle, Wash. after leveling Greenhills, the defending national champions, 83-21 in the regional final on Saturday, Feb. 1 at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment building.

Senior Captain Graham Northrup along with juniors Noah Knoerl-Morrill, Alex Smearage and sophomores Will Wendorf and Ryan McGinnis nabbed Dexter’s ninth regional victory in 15 years of competition.

Adviser and science teacher  Cheryl Wells said she felt satisfied with the victory but denied any personal vendetta against Greenhills.

“No, I don’t know who told you that,” she said. “I actually have known this coach for many years, and he’s a great guy.”

But she did say she could see how other teams might misinterpret her and her team’s determination at regionals as hostility.

“What I do is when we get to regionals, my team stays focused, we’re not real friendly and we really get into that competitive mindset,” she said.

Part of Dexter’s prolonged success comes from Wells’ choice to remain vague about her success when other teams ask.

“They’ll ask me things like, ‘How does your team does so well every year?’  And I’ll say things like, ‘Oh I feed them every day after school.’”

But all jokes aside, Wells and her team train hard every year to maintain their reputation as one of the top ocean bowl teams in the region.

Wells went on, “But I don’t say, ‘Oh, well you’ve got to start practicing months in advance, and on snow days you have to go to Foggy Bottom and study, like we do.  And you have to have a book cart full of books on a wide range of subjects, and you have to do your homework at night.  And you have to be well-read.  These kids read everything–the geology, geography, the history, the marine law, the chemistry, the physics, the biology, and they’ve got to know all of it.”

Dexter has participated in the National Ocean Science Bowl under Wells’ supervision since the organization started in 1998, and its team won regionals that first year and has been to eight national competitions.

Attending the first competition sounded an alarm for Wells.

“It alerted me to the fact that we don’t live on a beach, or see a tide every day.  As a Great Lakes state, we didn’t really have the familiarity with the ocean as a lot of the coastal teams did,” she said.

To compensate, Wells said she makes sure the team is prepared for success.

According to Wendorf, “She usually reads questions and then has presentations that she’ll read off to us.  And she’ll organize the team and tell us what to read, stuff like that.”

Dexter’s team remains busy with preparing nationals.

“We’re going to keep working and studying hard on a broad range of topics,” Wells said.  “Nautical knots, reading nautical flags, nautical bell time, nautical talk, parts of a ship. It’s a wide range.”

The plethora of topics covered enticed sophomore Ryan McGinnis to join the team.  He says that participation in ocean bowl as a sophomore will have long term benefits.

“There’s a lot of information we cover that I wouldn’t come across anywhere else,” he said. “And also it’s great from a college perspective, because I want to go into oceanography. It’s invaluable because we’re going to nationals, and there will be college staff scouting out potential recruits, so it’s a really great college and beyond opportunity.”

Though the team is excited to compete at the national competition, they have already accomplished their season’s objective, according to Northrup.

“This year the goal was to win regionals,” he said.  “Anything more is just icing on the cake.”

Bus driver, lunchroom staff member self-publishes books through Amazon

Though he is known to most of his co-workers and friends as Daniel Joseph Slabaugh (Joe for short), this food and nutrition worker and bus driver has an alter ego, Boris Copper, who has written three books, all self-published through Amazon.

Slabaugh started writing in 2008 and finished his two-part series, “Jacobs Bondage” and “Jacobs Exile,” in 2009.  He sent his manuscripts to several publishers and although, according to Slabaugh, they showed interest, none took the books on.

“I’m not very into marketing,” Slabaugh said.  “So I decided to not pursue it any further.”

Instead, Slabaugh turned to self-publishing. Amazon advertises its independent publishing as allowing authors to own the copyrights to their works, publish easily and distribute globally.

Through this service Slabaugh was able to print both “Jacobs Bondage” and “Jacobs Exile.”  Both books take place in 1763 and follow the story of a young Jewish boy who is kidnapped, brought to Philadelphia, and sold into indentured servitude.  After 21 years he manages to escape and make a life for himself and find love.

Slabaugh said he doesn’t know how many copies of “Jacobs Bondage” and “Jacobs Exile” have been sold and doesn’t really care.

“For me it was never about selling books,” he said.  “I just wanted to see them in print.”

One of Slabaugh’s co workers, para-professional Carol Bogdanski, read Slabaugh’s books and really liked them.

“I normally don’t read those types of books (historical fiction). I’m more into romance books,” she said.  “But I really liked them and thought they were very exciting.”

Bogdanski, knowing Slaubaugh from work as what she described as just the “average Joe,” was pleasantly surprised to find out he successfully published three books.

Slaubaugh has thus since become an inspiration for Bogdanski, shedding his “average Joe” title to prove he was more than meets the eye.

“I never thought a regular person like me or Joe could write a book,” Bogdanski said.  “And now knowing that Joe has, made me realize so could I if I wanted too.”

Sharrar promoted to new position

When new Superintendent Chris Timmis was hired on June 12, he said he saw changes right away that he wanted to make in the district administrative structure.

And with an announcement on Dec. 3 that Assistant Principal Mollie Sharrar would be accepting a new position as the Executive Director of Instruction and Strategic Initiatives, Timmis started the first of these changes.

After working as an assistant principal split between the high school and Mill Creek middle school from 2006 to 2007, Sharrar became the principal at Creekside Intermediate school. She worked there full time until 2010, at which time she returned to the high school to once again be an assistant principal.

Throughout her time at the high school, Sharrar has seen her fair share of changes, one of them being the implementation of the International Baccalaureate curriculum.

Timmis said he noticed a conflict in the district between supporters of an Advanced Placement curriculum and those who supported the International Baccalaureate curriculum. But in his view, there really shouldn’t be a conflict.

“The way I see it, they’re all smart kids,” Timmis said. “There isn’t a program that works for all students because everyone learns differently, so why not figure out a way to make them both work.”

Such debate between supporters of AP and IB was just one of the factors that has lead Timmis to begin putting together a district instructional support team that he wanted Sharrar to lead.

“There’s nothing more important that we do than teach,” Timmis said. “And right now, we don’t have anyone in charge of that. The whole concept is to have a team that will lead what we do in terms of teaching. There’ll be a team to oversee and manage new initiatives to make sure we get them done.”

Sharrar was on a short list of people Timmis said he considered for the position. He said he met with her to discuss some of the details and sent her a proposal. After he worked with Sharrar to tweak the proposal a bit, he appointed her to the position.

“I looked for strong leaders in key roles,” Timmis said. “I had no need to look outside the district, since we already had her here. Now, I’m most looking forward to putting this instructional support team model into place.”

What most often ends up happening in a school district is that a principal doesn’t necessarily have control of making the changes they want to make happen, happen, Timmis said. His plan is to set up a team so Dexter has the people in place to implement new curriculum, changes and ideas, and implement them well.

But as Sharrar’s influence in the district expands, it means changes for the high school’s administration.

Sharrar, who was in charge of testing at the high school, was part of a three-person team that also included Principal Kit Moran and the other assistant principal, Ken Koenig. And Moran said he’s going to miss Sharrar immensely.

“I have the best team of people on the planet,” Moran said. “We all know each other’s strengths and weaknesses really well. We all kind of do our own thing, so it’s really the three of us in charge, collaborating.”

Moran also said he enjoys working with Sharrar, and has worked with her for five years, so filling her shoes would be no easy task.

“Our new job is to find someone with the skills (Sharrar) has,” Moran said. “Someone who will fit into the team just as she did.”

And find someone they did.

On Jan. 20, the board of education approved former high school teacher consultant Karen Walls as the new assistant principal.

Walls was among 160 applicants for the position and was called back for two rounds of interviews.

“We’re all looking forward to working with her,” Moran said. “Her energy and enthusiasm is fantastic. And so is her knowledge of special education students.”

Although she won’t be moving very far within the building, Walls is just as excited about the new position.

“What was so enticing about this is that as an administrator, I will still stay connected with kids,” Walls said. “I’m not far removed from any of the staff, and I’m looking forward to being able to have a really positive influence. I’m really so thankful to transition with Sharrar, but I know I have big shoes to fill.”