Declination release strong new album, Human Blood

The stage lights dim, the monitors hum and tension builds as Joe West prepares to take the stage. He tunes his guitar and checks over his setlist, as he has hundreds of times before. West has been at it for years now, playing rock/metal shows, self-recording and releasing albums under the project name “Declination.” However tonight is special. For the first time he will be playing songs of his newly released album “Human Blood.”

Following the lead of his first E.P. “Abyss” (2012), “Human Blood” contains brutal, invigorating riffs, with technical breakdowns and dark, disturbing lyrical imagery.

“He is definitely stepping his game up with this album,” senior Chris Richter said, “The overall production quality of this album is fantastic, from the song structure and transitions, right down to the album art.”

The first track of the album “Prelude” offers a ghoulish and completely unnerving monologue to set the theme for the rest of the album in its twisted and tortured nature. The lyrical content throughout the next 13 minutes that make up the rest of the album is a combination of harsh social commentary and almost maniacal fantasies.

“The album (to me at least), is a reflection of human life, nature, and habits,” West said.

As someone who is not generally a fan of thrash metal, I have been surprised by Declination time and time again. I’ve known West personally for several years and have had the privilege to watch him grow as an artist. The musicianship displayed on this album, (and in live performances), is phenomenal and inspiring. Even if you are not a fan of metal or rock in general, I would definitely give this album a listen.

The album can be streamed offline for free at here or purchased for a donation of a dollar or more.

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.”

You know what's awkward? The middle urinal

The middle urinal is so awkward.

Ever since childhood, it has been an unspoken law not to go in the middle urinal. Even if someone is in dire pain, most of the time he will wait, shaking in unspoken agony instead of going to the middle.

Every once in a while, while I’m in the bathroom either to the left or the right urinal, some weird freshman walks in and doesn’t know the unspoken law of the middle urinal.

When I’m finished and zipped up, I generally turn around with much anger and say, “Gosh how rude.”

It’s honestly really funny how some days I will go to the bathroom after lunch by the library and there will be a huge, backed-up line for the urinal. And when I finally get to the front, I realize this whole time no one was using two of the bathrooms because in those bathrooms there are two middle urinals instead of one.

Out of all the times I have gone to the bathroom since I have been in high school I have only witnessed three times where a kid has used the middle, and to be honest it freaked me out a little bit. I wasn’t prepared to go to the bathroom so close to another human being.

If you don’t know the unspoken law known by all men: don’t be that guy who goes in the middle.

Local car wash makes its return

When Dexter was hit by a tornado on March 12, 2012, hundreds of homes and businesses were left damaged, and the town was scarred by the disaster but ultimately thankful for minimal injuries and no casualties.

A little more than a year later, much of the damage has been restored as many businesses and families have gotten back on their feet. One of the testimonies to this recovery is the reconstruction of the village car wash.

At the corner of Second Street and Central Street, the Village Car Wash and Laundry owns three separate buildings, including a car wash, laundromat and a small management building. Each of these buildings together have served as a landmark in the Dexter area since 1970, the year that the company was founded.

Its long history, however, was threatened when the winds from the EF-3 tornado struck. During the windstorm, the car wash served as a protective hiding place for several stranded travelers, but the structure itself did not fare as well as its inhabitants.

According to owner Pete Caffrey, “The tornado descended upon (the car wash) and blew certain portions of the roof off and one of the walls caved in. All three of the buildings were totaled.”

Despite this natural disaster, Pete and his wife Cheryl did not lose hope in their business. Wanting to rebuild from the ground up, the Caffreys sought insurance to recover their losses.

“We wish they had (covered everything), but we had to fight them tooth and nail for them to cover about two thirds of the costs,” Pete said.

Now, as the business has been completely rebuilt and refurbished with new equipment, the owners have a great outlook on the business. The owners hope that this will lead to better business and said that the reconstruction is a symbol of the town’s recovery from the tornado that hit a little more than a year ago.“We’re definitely excited, it’s all brand new, easier to keep up,” Pete said. “The car wash has much better lighting, the equipment has all been revamped and is better for the customers to use.”

Returning to the top

They’ve been sixth in the state for two years running and the mens water polo team hopes to continue the tradition.

However, according to Assistant Coach Andrew Leonard, the loss of graduated players and the lack of a big senior class, the team’s position in the state will be more difficult to maintain.

Last year, co-captains Max Merriman and Michael Garcia brought the team to states with a win against the higher-ranked Skyline team.

This year, the varsity team consisted of seniors, juniors and sophomores; however, there are fewer seniors and only one junior. The rest of the team is made up of sophomores.

“Experience is the best teacher,” senior Max Korinek said. “That’s why we could struggle this year. It’s such a young team.”

There have been three tournaments so far this year, resulting in only three Dexter wins out of approximately 12 games. The team faced a state champ Rockford team, the state runners-up Huron and another top four-ranked team, Pioneer. All of these games resulted in losses.

The road to states will mean facing teams like Rockford, Huron and Pioneer again. While the the team had its first season win against Chelsea recently, they will have to play Saline and Ann Arbor Pioneer for district rankings.

After all the district games, if they place first or second, then they can advance to regionals against either Saline or Pioneer, which coach Leonard said could be difficult for the young team.

If this can be done, the water polo team will have to play state-ranked Ann Arbor Huron again, along with Ann Arbor Skyline and Okemos. But senior captain Andrew Watson said despite the rough schedule, the team will still enjoy the season.

He said, “It’ll be a tough season for us, but we’ll make the best of it and have a good time in and out of the water.”

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.”

Despite murderous rampages, GTA V is captivating

Upon its release Rockstar Games “Grand Theft Auto V” sales broke $800 million globally within 24 hours.

Divide that number by 60, the average price of the game, and you get the number of people who jumped at their first chance to virtually assume the role of a hardened gangster.

Virtual gangster and senior Tim Ewen said, “The whole GTA series makes up some of my favorite games. I really like the upgrades from IV to V.  The graphics are better and the gameplay is more intuitive.”

Countless people gave the game such great reviews that I had to give it a try for myself.

Upon putting the game into my console I was greeted by a hooker on the load screen, followed by flashing photos of sketchy looking people.  To some one not seasoned by the cold hard streets of GTA I, II, III, and IV, this might seem inappropriate or even offensive.  I wasn’t too surprised.

The game started with some captivating and high-action missions intended to give the player a feel for certain new controls and give a little back story.  After completing the setup to the story mode, I got to dig into what I really enjoy: wreaking havoc on the city of Los Santos.

I noticed while playing that the driving is a lot more sensitive than previous Grand Theft Auto games which gives you more control over the things you can do.

Like the previous games, there are five stars in the upper in right hand corner of the screen.  A star illuminates for every level of how wanted you are by law enforcement.  I started my rampage by stealing some cars and plowing down people.

The fuzz came after me with full force.  My streak ended in a bloody shoot out with the police.  It sounds terrible, but there is definitely an addictive element to this game.  The release of the game caused many absences in school for a day or two to come.

“I didn’t sleep any more than five hours for the first three days,” Ewen reported, “It’s too addicting.”  The game takes about three days to complete if you’re a go hard like Ewen.

The game play is captivating, and the story is great.  We all owe Rockstar Games a thank you, for once again allowing kids and young adults to let out their murderous rampages virtually. My overall rating:  five out of five.

Students wish they could go elsewhere for lunch

He would escape if he could, but he’s stuck there like he is every other day. Just dreaming of what it would be like if he were allowed to leave.

Chicken sandwich, some fries and a milk all make it onto the tray. Same options as every other day of the week.

Still thinking of all the other foods out there that he could have, junior Scott VandenHeuvel carries his food out to his table where he can sit and talk to his friends.

“There’s more stuff out in town than the school can provide,” Scott said. “The school needs more variety.”

One way to provide this variety would be to have an open-campus lunch. Supports say this system would allow students more options to choose what they want to eat and give them more freedom, but some feel the safety risks outweigh the benefits.

Math teacher Brian Baird said, “We have to be careful with protecting young adults. That’s our job: safety and security.”

There’s always the option on putting limits on who can leave, such as basing it off of grade point average, but for Baird it’s all or nothing.

“Teenagers don’t make the best decisions, even with a longer time frame. Ten percent would ruin it for the other 90 percent,” he said.

Baird also said when leaving the school, students are faced with the risks and pressures of drinking or smoking, car troubles and accidents.

“As a teacher I couldn’t live with that,” he said.

Senior Amelia Sadler agrees that an open-campus lunch would cause problems. But sshe sees it as more of an educational issue.

Sadler said, “I don’t think it’s a good idea at all. A longer lunch results in a longer school day, and it’s also environmentally negligent.”

Allowing students to go out for lunch, she said, would give them the opportunity to skip classes after. It’d be easy for a student to go out and not come back for the afternoon.

“A majority would not bother to get back in time,” she said.

But junior Brian Darr disagrees. “Eventually it wouldn’t be a problem,” he said.

But for Baird, the safety of students should be a priority in school along with their education. An open campus could jeopardize both of these.

“Maybe we have to offer more (food) options in the building,” he said.

But for Scott, it’d be easier to just go out into town for his lunch. But until then he’s stuck in the same lunch room every day knowing that there’s only so much the school can do.