New concussion regulations impact athletes

Cam Winston went in for tackle against Fowlerville on Aug. 29.  After the play, a Fowlerville player hit Winston in the head, and Winston fell to the ground.  He laid there unconscious and knocked out for several minutes with a concussion.

“I felt confused and dizzy and had to remember what happened,” Winston said.

Concussions like the one Winston received can result in severe long term effects on a teen’s brain and affect their everyday life.

The Michigan Sports Concussion law enacted on June 30 requires all high school personnel involved in youth activity to take and complete an online concussion training program. The law also makes all athletes and their parents sign a waiver that lists all the symptoms and signs of concussions and requires all coaches to take an athlete out of physical activity if the athlete has a concussion or concussion-like symptoms.

By law, an athlete removed from physical activity must then must get a written statement from a doctor to be cleared to return to physical activity.

In addition, all Dexter athletes have to take a Sport Concussion Assessment before each season to see if they have a concussion.which allows head athletic trainer Leah Gagnon and the rest of the athletic department to evaluate a player’s status and symptoms.

“This allows us evaluate the player’s status,” Gagnon said.  “They have to answer a series a questions about their symptoms, and if they still experience symptoms of a concussion, they have to be monitored and evaluated by a doctor until cleared.”

Varsity football coach Ken Koenig said he puts a high priority on athlete safety but doesn’t think the law will necessarily help prevent concussions.

“You can’t legislate safety,” Koenig said. “It’s like wearing a seatbelt. The law requires you wear a seatbelt, but people are still not going to wear a seatbelt.”

But Gagnon said the the new law is a step in the right direction.

“I definitely thinks it’s important,” Gagnon said.  “For the last five years at least, I’ve required them to get a doctor’s notice anyways. It didn’t really change much of how we were managing it here, because we were already doing that. What it does help, is that it now gives me something where I can say, look it’s a (Michigan High School Athletic Association) regulation. It’s no longer me just making that decision.”

For Koenig, one of the most positive things the law does is raise student-athlete awareness of the symptoms and effects of concussions.

“Our kids are very aware about the symptoms of concussions,” Koenig said.  “They’re aware of it so much that they know what to look for and they know what to hide.”

This is something Gagnon notices to. While she said it’s good young athletes are more aware of concussion symptoms, this also means they are better at knowing how to cover up the symptoms too.

“More athletes are starting to know about concussions and the severity of it,” Gagnon said.  “It’s kind of a double-edge sword though. More kids are becoming educated on the severity of concussions,  but at the same time, for the kids that all they want to do is play, they are now better educated on what to hide.”

Despite the law and potential long-term physical effects, not all athletes are concerned about getting concussions.  Senior Freddy Burke has had 11 concussions and could be ruled out for the upcoming hockey season because of this.

But Burke still wants to play, even though he knows the potential for long-term damage.

“I really wanna play, but you gotta go out there and play,” Burke said.  “You can’t change your style of play because you’re afraid.”

Junior Michigan State wide receiver Keith Mumphery has the same sort of mindset. Despite receiving two concussions, he said he’s not going to change his style of play.

“You can’t go play this game (football) being worried of getting hit,” Mumphery said.  “You can’t go into the game with that kind of mindset.”

But Gagnon said these athletes really need to think about the long-term damage they could be doing to themselves including developing Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

CTE is a progressive degenerative disease that is an inflammation in the brain that can cause loss of train of thought, brain trauma, extreme anger and death.

And it’s the second hit an athlete takes after an initial concussion that can be the most dangerous and result in the most severe long-term effects.

“That first hit that he takes is when he is concussed, that’s when the brain is damaged,” Gagnon said.  “There’s more and more things showing that its really that second hit that can seriously alter a kids life from that point forward.”

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.”

 

 

Swoverland steps down

WHAT HAPPENED:

After a coaching career that spanned more than 20 years in Dexter, varsity basketball coach Randy Swoverland quit his coaching job on Monday, Oct. 28. He officially announced he was stepping down after a week of isolating himself from interactions with his students and players.

Swoverland declined to be interviewed about his resignation or the incident, but the following account was confirmed by multiple sources who were present at various times throughout the situation.

THE INITIAL INCIDENT:

Senior captain Derek Seidl had just finished stretching. Two days previously, he had gone home exhausted after a tough workout. Now, he knew that he was about to be doing heavy lifting. Then Swoverland told the team that they part of their workout that day would be running sprints.

But Seidl told Swoverland that sprints were a bad idea because the team had open gym that night.

“We finished up we were doing, then he came over and yelled at me,” Seidl said. “I deserved to be yelled at, though, for speaking out like that in front of everyone. He wasn’t happy about what I said. I thought it would be over after that day.”

THE RESULT:

Seidl and Swoverland have known each other for years. But in the days following the incident between the two, Seidl said Swoverland stopped talking to him both during basketball and during school, where Swoverland teaches Seidl’s gym class.

“I was more confused and unsure than anything,” Seidl said. “I didn’t really know what was going on. I could tell that something was wrong and assumed it had something to do with the incident. I didn’t think it was going to escalate like that.”

So Seidl went to his dad, Matt Seidl, Swoverland’s friend and former assistant coach. Matt texted Swoverland to set up a meeting to talk about what was going on. But according to Matt, Swoverland didn’t answer the text in 24 hours, so Matt went to the next level.

“I went to Bavineau and Moran, just moving up the chain of command,” Matt said. “I didn’t ask for him to be fired, I didn’t ask for him to resign, I just wanted to bring attention to what I thought was not the right way to be treating kids.”

After the meeting, Derek said that his interactions with Swoverland beginning to return to normal. Then, all of a sudden, Swoverland called a team meeting, where he promptly told the team he was quitting, then left.

Swoverland mentioned the incident between he and Derek, and said that due to the circumstances, he was no longer able to coach the team.

“I think it was something that built up and this was just the last straw,” Matt said. “He was looking for a reason. I wish he would have took ownership of that instead of implying that it was one person or one thing, but so be it. Under stress people do weird things.”

Swoverland talked to Derek one-on-one the next day.

“Essentially, he felt like the team wasn’t buying in to what he was doing,” Derek said. “He thought that the incident between him and I was a sign that he was losing the team. The incident was the tipping point, because he didn’t know how the team was supposed to buy in if the captain wasn’t.”

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT:

With no coach, going into the final two weeks before tryouts, the boys basketball team was facing a serious problem.

“I think it’s difficult to lose a coach, especially so soon before a season,” Athletic Director Mike Bavineau said. “I feel confident that we’ll be able to put a qualified coach in place to be able to help the boys basketball program. You obviously want to keep some continuity, something that the boys are comfortable with.”

Any time a coach quits or resigns, the Athletic Department is required to post the position first to members of the Dexter Education Association, the teachers’ union. In this case, the request was submitted on a shortened deadline because of how soon the season is approaching.

“We weren’t really looking for an interview process,” Bavineau said. “After posting internally to see if any DEA members were interested in the job, we decided that (former JV coach) Tim Fortescue would be able to fill the role.”

Fortescue was offered the job as interim varsity coach Oct. 29, after Bavineau met with him to talk about planning for the season. Bavineau said he wanted to keep Fortescue informed as the situation developed.

“Based on what I saw last year, Fortescue is very good at managing team chemistry,” Bavineau said. “He knows what each player’s skills and strengths are, and he uses them to their full potential. He’s good at defining roles on the team.”

Fortescue said his goal is for his players to work hard and enjoy doing it.

“As a coach, I try to bring a lot of positive energy to my players each day,” he said. “I want the team to work hard, set goals, and enjoy the experience of high school basketball.”

And Derek, though initially surprised by Swoverland resigning, is hopeful about the coming season.

“I completely respect Swoverland’s decision and am not mad at him at all for it,” Derek said, “but I’m excited for the upcoming season with Fortescue taking over. It’ll be new and different. It’ll be challenging, but in the end I think it will be fun and we can have a successful season.”

Weight room remodeled to the tune of $140 thousand

Using $120,000 in bond money and $20,000 from the Athletic Booster Club of Dexter, a $140,000 weight room remodelling had begun at Dexter High School.

“I think it was long overdue,” ABCD member Brad Hochrein said. “The size of our old weight room compared to the other schools in our district showed that we needed to expand it.”

The new weight room now includes all-new equipment including medicine balls, squat racks and enhanced air compression machines, which use compressed air in place of metal free-weights.

The renovation is an attempt to make the weight room more all-purpose, according to Athletic Director Mike Bavineau.

“The coaches and I got together, and the weight room was more of a football-type weight room,” Bavineau said. “So we wanted to make a more wide variety weight room for all sports.”

Hochrein also said the weight room needs to take in to account all sports in Dexter, not just football.

“Many sports require training in the offseason so that when the season comes, the players can perform,” Hochrein said.

But physical education teacher and former football coach Tom Barbieri–who bases a lot of class time around the weight room–said while he appreciates the changes, he wishes he was consulted more about how the new room would work.

“We have a lot more room, so it changes the class a little bit, but we will be all right,” Barbieri said. “My teaching station was being changed, and I had little input into the decision. I would have liked to have more input into the decision, but I’m OK with the changes.”

Bavineau, however, said he wanted to focus more on the athletic aspect of the new weight room and that he did talk to the gym teachers before the remodeling began.

“We wanted to focus more on the athletic approach when making the new weight room,” he said.

And Hochrein agrees with Bavineau’s approach. To him, the weight room needs to be something all sports programs and all students can benefit from.

He said, “Certainly there has been a good direction that sports programs have been taking in efforts to improve all the sports in the district.”

Murals cause controversy

Senior Maitreya Menge stood in the hall, paintbrush in hand.  She got ready to pour herself out, expressing the subjects nearest to her heart.  With the first stroke of her paint brush, Menge started a conflict that she couldn’t have seen coming.

“I was told to paint a mural that meant something to me, something that I cared about, and that’s just what I did,” Menge said.

Murals have lined the walls of the school for years.  They are created as a part of the “Drawing and Painting” class taught by art teacher Autumn Campbell.  Student artists like Menge take this as an opportunity to share their artwork in a public space with the rest of the school.

Before the designs are finalized and painted, they are sent to Principal Kit Moran, who ultimately approves or denies them.  Moran said he has not turned down a single mural idea.

“As long as the content doesn’t make a personal attack on a certain group or student or causes a disturbance to the school day, then I generally will allow it,” he said.

But sometimes self-expression, though deemed not offensive by administration, can cause problems with the beliefs of other students or faculty.

But with thousands of students passing through the school each year, it’s inevitable that some controversial mural ideas would collide with the views and beliefs of certain students, even if they are principal-approved.

Last year, Menge themed her murals around the subject of transgenderism.

“It’s really the idea that most people don’t recognize the struggles of transgenderism,” Menge said.

Her mural features characters with word bubbles surrounding their heads containing words such as “who,” “him,” “she,” “it” and “her,” etc.–making a statement about the characters’ sexuality.

But almost as soon as these murals appeared a concerned student contacted Principal Kit Moran, outraged.  This student agreed to be interviewed for the story only if The Squall didn’t use her name.

“It is my personal belief that the mural showing a transgender’s struggle is not appropriate for the walls of our school,” she said. “In general, I enjoy the art murals in the school. However, I believe that they should not have any subject matter that promotes certain views one way or another.”

She said that although she knows public schools aren’t allowed to promote religious beliefs, she thinks that schools also shouldn’t be able to promote ideas that oppose these religious beliefs either.

But for Menge, the murals weren’t about promoting a certain idea. Instead, she was focused on educating people.

“I did not foresee people being upset about the mural,” she said. “I’m not trying to influence anyone to think a certain way, but rather to shed light on a subject that is generally ignored.”

Several meetings were held between the concerned student and Moran, but in the end, Moran made the decision to leave the murals up.

“The student has a right to express themselves,” Moran said. “All murals are signed and dated. The content does not necessarily express the school’s views, but rather the views of the artist. We have to learn to respect that other people have different views and opinions.”

 

Bump, set, sign

Before hitting the court, all players in the volleyball program have to sign a social media contract prohibiting them from posting hurtful comments about the team, fellow players and opponents.

The contract is a replica of the contract the University of Michigan uses for its women’s volleyball team.

“At the old school I coached, people would write untrue things about their teammates to get them kicked off,” Days said. “I just don’t want to see that again. I wanted to put guidelines in place for the team to follow.”

Day is helping her athletes prepare for the future by teaching them to respect the permanency and prominence of social media. Volleyball player August Bishop recognizes the benefits.

“I actually like the idea behind the contract,” she said. “Our whole team supported it.”

Social media contracts such as these aren’t uncommon in high school sports due to the increasing prominence of social media in high school life.

Head varsity football coach Ken Koenig gave his team distinct rules to follow throughout the season. Positive or negative, every electronic comment toward the Dexter football program had to be posted only on the Dexter Football Touchdown Club Facebook page.

If a player violates this social media restriction, he is suspended for a game.

“If you’re going to say it, it should be something that can be read by everybody,” Koenig said.

He said he wants his team to make their decisions based on the acronym C.H.I.P.: Character, Honor, Integrity, and Pride.

“CHIP is the filter that our guys should run their ideas through,” he said.

But there are some sports teams that don’t feel social media poses a significant threat.

The women’s varsity basketball team doesn’t have a social media contract in effect. According to Assistant Coach Lauren Thompson, the coaching staff doesn’t think such a contract is necessary.

“We feel like our players respect our wishes on social media,” she said. “We think that they do a pretty good job of representing us in the right way. We have a good relationship with our players, and we trust them. They understand the expectations we have for them.”

However, even with its positive attitude, the basketball team isn’t immune to social networking scandals.

“We’ve had to not start players before,” Thompson said. “We don’t have any tolerance for any kind of negative social media stuff about our team or our opponents. Part of being a part of our program is to have high standards for ourselves, and they understand that we carry ourselves a certain way.”

Despite not having a concrete social media contract in place, basketball players still face consequences for any inappropriate social networking. Thompson encourages her girls to act respectably.

“We try to keep things as positive as we can,” she said. “Obviously we can’t control what our girls tweet and facebook about, but we want them to be as positive about us and our opponents as we can. If we see something that’s negative that they’re Tweeting or Facebooking, there are definite team consequences.”

Social media didn’t used to exist. Now its role in sports is rapidly increasing, with athletes constantly having to keep emotions under control in their social lives.

Dexter High School Athletic Director, Mike Bavineau, fears that students use social media without considering the repracautions of their posts. Bavineau believes putting guidelines in place is a smart way to get athletes in the habit of thinking before posting.

“My biggest priority is to educate kids on what they need to know and how social media will impact them eventually. As for contracts, I think the coach has to lay the expectations down for each of their individual teams and how they want their programs to run, so if they decide that they want their teams to have a contract, I support that,” Bavineau said.

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.”