This year, McMahon welcomed Ms. Jacquelyn Aarons as the new freshman housemaster. Aarons started as an English teacher, then head of the English department and later became assistant principal at Norwalk High School.
Aarons has multiple degrees- her bachelors from the University of Connecticut, an administrative degree from Southern Connecticut State University and secondary education masters from the University of Bridgeport.
When asked why she wanted to become a housemaster, Aarons responded, “ I have always liked to work with kids.” She goes on to say, “high school is such a short period of time where there is a lot of things put on top of kids to do. You have to become an adult in four years.”
High school is a very stressful time for teens because they grow up and change so much. A recent NYU study found that nearly half (49%) of high school students surveyed reported feeling a great deal of stress on a daily basis and 31 percent reported feeling somewhat stressed.
She also really likes supporting teachers. She enjoys collaborating with them and finding different ways to make each lesson plan interesting but more importantly fun for the teachers and students. “I’m enjoying [McMahon] so far. It’s like where everything is the same but everything is different. Kids are the same, teachers are the same but the process is different so I have to relearn a lot of things. It’s like being a freshman. School is the same but it’s all different.”
When asked what she thinks students want to know, she replied, “kids all want to know that somebody is on their side… I do the discipline and all that kind of stuff but it’s a judgment-free zone. Let’s own it and then move forward. I think that’s what life’s about.” Aarons believes that everything is an opportunity to learn.
Aarons has also been very involved with band and color guard throughout her life. “My whole life I’ve been in marching band and color guard.” From teaching at Norwalk High and teaching other bandsmen, she shows her dedication to the activity. She currently teaches the winter guard group at Sacred Heart University. “That’s about all I have time for... It’s my passion, I love it. It was life-changing for me which is why I do it and just do something that they love and are passionate about and just run with it.”
She is also a judge for competitions. For many years, she was a participant, instructor or show designer. Aarons is still friends with people she has met through guard and has even worked with some of them.
Though Aarons has just begun her time at McMahon, she is a wonderful member of our Senator family. We cannot wait to have a great year.
Fatima Campos & Yanira Matute
PrideTime Reporter & Senior Editor
On October 17th, Stephanie Peckham, a teacher at McMahon, delivered the news to her Farm to Table class that the garden will be temporarily closed.
The news came after a team from UCONN visited the school to conduct tests and found an issue with the air intake just outside of Peckham’s classroom.
“They think, and nothing is definitive yet because they have not given us the final report, that there is air intake in Mrs. Peckham class. There's an air intake bringing air into the building and it's about 8-10 inches off the ground,” says Principal Hurwitz.
Air quality in the building is what the name itself implies. It is the air quality inside the building that can be affected, like Hurwitz says, “if people are out there [in the garden] and are kicking up dirt and dust.” Over time, the traffic in the garden and the kicking up of dirt will have an effect on the air systems.
When air quality in the building is poor, it causes individuals, not all, to develop issues with their health. Some teachers and students have developed allergy-like symptoms such as itchy eyes and coughing which led to the decision of calling in a team from UCONN to look at what was going on.
With reports yet needing to be finalized, the safest suggestion, for now, was to temporarily close the garden. Although Peckham loves the garden and feels that it is a great resource for the students in our school, the suggestion was taken because she didn’t want to continue seeing the health of her colleagues decline.
“As of right now, this is just a suggestion, and we’re all hoping it’s just temporarily. It’s sad because I have this beautiful class with all these great kids in it and we’ve worked really hard on our final projects and we’re not going to be able to do any of those things. It very disappointing, but I do understand. I obviously don't want to put any of my colleagues or students at risk and I want everyone to remain healthy,” says Peckham.
The final for the class revolved around creating a new idea that benefited the garden. With ideas ranging from creating a mini greenhouse to designing "uniforms" for those that use the garden, the project will have to be put on hold for now.
It’s evident that the garden closing will affect other garden activities and classes that use the space for their class lessons. “I'm not the only one that uses the space, a lot of the English and science teachers use it,” says Peckham.
Farm to Table, or Garden to Table, is a semester-long class that just started this year. The class focuses on talking about naturally grown food and food in general and has used the garden for class activities. The students have even started growing their own produce. Cami Minier (‘19) enjoys her time in the class, but she feels that having the garden close down takes away from the point of the class.
“Most of our classes, where we were most productive, were our outside classes and even Mrs. Peckham knew that. She always took us outside... It’s just a better environment outside than being inside all the time,” says Minier.
There are plans to move the garden to a different location for the time being. “We’ve talked about a few ideas like there's potential space right outside room 1990, it’s an idea that it's thrown around,” says Hurwitz.
With no definitive answer and tests left to conduct, the team from UCONN will be back. For now, Hurwitz has taken measures to ensure that those in the building are safe.
Spirit Week and Homecoming is all about celebrating your colors, pride and amazing memories to hold on to. All around the world they use celebration in many different ways, like in India, they have festivals with lights and having children participating in activities to keep their enthusiasm. In Colombia, they decorate chairs with flowers all over and put them on their back for the meaning of celebration. But in McMahon, we celebrate by Spirit Week.
Some people don't like celebrating this special week. Others think they feel more comfortable dressing in their own style and not going out their “comfort zone” just because school is suggesting it. Spirit week is supposed to be a memorable week, but likewise, Camila Rojas as a junior has a different opinion, she says “ Since Spirit Week isn't something I typically enjoy, I’d prefer having memories of events that I actually do enjoy. Dressing up like everyone else for a week doesn't seem that memorable to me.”
In September 2018, Freshman received Chromebooks through the One to One Chromebook Program. The opinions on the chromebooks vary from a Freshman who just has entered Brien Mcmahon, to a Senior who has witnessed many changes in the Brien Mcmahon community
This decision was made by the district, to give Freshman the opportunity to learn through a safe system in and outside of school. The goal of this program is that everyone in the school will have one, since the Chromebook program will be passed on to future Freshman.
“It is beneficial because during class, when the teachers ask you to work on an assignment, you can just take out your chromebook.” said Clarissa Garcia (‘22). It was a very thorough plan made by the district; Garcia sees it as an opportunity to help her stay on track as well as staying organized.
Not only is the chromebook for their education, but it also puts their sense of responsibility to the test. If the chromebook is stolen, broken, or lost the student must report it and pay a replacement fee. Students are expected to bring their chromebook everyday to school.
“Sometimes you are not allowed to use it in class, but overall it does help, especially because I know Freshman who don’t have access to a computer at home,” said Garcia (‘22).
Although, this opportunity was given to specifically Freshman, some upperclassmen may wonder why they weren't given the same opportunity. Considering the fact that we have a lot of things to focus on, like our Current academics, and possibly our future endeavors.
“When I seen my little brother bring the chromebook home, I was a little affected by it. I feel like this opportunity would have benefited Seniors. If we had the chromebooks, I feel that our workload would not have to be crammed within one school day. Some kids I know don’t have computer access so it can make things hard on them,” said Anaelle Benjamin (‘19).
The date is Wednesday, October 10. Students at Brien McMahon arrive to school at 7:30 a.m., as per usual. However, October 10th is not a normal day. Freshmen, sophomores, and juniors are taking a critical standardized test, known as the PSAT.
Administered by the College Board, a “non-profit” educational organization, the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) loomed large over the students at school.
According to the College Board website, the PSAT contains “a Reading Test, a Writing and Language Test, and a Math Test.” The recently revamped test also does not penalize students for getting an incorrect answer, as they only offer points for correct answers.
Many students do not realize the large effort that goes into the execution of such a complicated exam like the PSAT. English teacher Dani Brown was in charge of organizing the test schoolwide at McMahon. She explained the process of organizing such a large-scale exam.
“We put in a request over the summer for how many kids we have to test. But then… probably a month out, we get the information from downtown about who is required to test, and that’s when we start prepping here.”
Mrs. Brown noted that the school communicated with the College Board “A lot, to make sure that students are getting the [testing] accommodations they are required to get, and that we have proper materials… we call them once or twice a week I’d say.”
Some people have taken issue with the importance of performing well on the Board’s various exams in order to get into college, as well as the College Board itself. The PSAT itself serves as a sort of a prelude to the SAT, an exam of critical importance to prospect universities.
The Huffington Post noted in 2013 that “research has indicated that a student’s SAT scores are not a particularly good predictor of college success”, while others criticize the exams for a racial or cultural bias.
Max Parizot, a junior, had an issue with the material on the test itself. He told me recently that “All of the questions are over worded, and if they were less wordy, I can guarantee everybody’s score would increase. That’s because most of the time used during the test [by students] are used reading the questions rather than answering the questions”.
Regardless of your stance on the College Board, they undoubtedly play an undeniable role in education at McMahon, and by an extension, the United States of America.
At PSAT day at BMHS, Mrs. Brown described that the College Board did not play a major role “In organizing, on a school level, not much. They’d give us some guidelines for what has to happen. Their job really is just to get us the materials and tell us who has been approved for [testing] accommodations, and after that, it is entirely done in-house.”
PSAT/NMSQT scores are set to release in Connecticut on December 11.
Juuling is something that has taken up a strong name for itself in today’s world. Teens and adults are using them everywhere you go.
Although, how many have taken a moment to notice the flavor? It’s as if they’re marketing directly to children.
An anonymous student smoker says, “I think it’s just a way of targeting kids to expand their industry. Obviously, it being illegal slows down the spread, but one negligent parent can expose a whole classroom full of teens to a lifetime of nicotine addiction”.
“Neither of them [cigarettes and juuls] are healthy especially because juuls seem so harmless that more and more teenagers are getting addicted All this flavorings and chemicals and then to say it's healthier is dangerous,” says health teacher, Tory Sullivan. Why else would they create something like Fruity Pebbles flavor, a children's cereal?
Eventually, it became a normality and since then it has been smoked in different ways. Whether it be a cigar, a cigarette, a vape, or even a blunt (Blunts are rolled with tobacco paper).
“The thing is, a teen can't smoke a cigarette in class, but they smoke the juuls all the time,” says Tory Sullivan. Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States. This is about one in five deaths. Juuling is now 68% of the $2 billion e-cigarette business, thanks to all of the teenagers now buying them.
An anonymous student, a former smoker, who’s tried both juuling and smoking cigarettes, says, “Don’t huff and puff or you’ll blow your whole life down”.
“Vapes are more accessible than cigarettes. it’s just a bad mix, although it may not have as many unhealthy chemicals in it, making it more dangerous,” said Sullivan.
Smoking causes about 90% (or 9 out of 10) of all lung cancer deaths. Every student in this school has, at least once, walked into the bathroom and seen someone juuling. We all know which bathrooms to avoid or go to and the times kids are most likely to go do it.
Kids will even sneak juuls into class and Juul in their sleeves. It’s not as noticeable to take a few hits of a vape in class when the teacher looks away. It’s become overly accessible to teenagers, making it not only easier to become addicted to, but also to make a quick profit by selling pods.
An anonymous source adds, “I think that, had I not quit, I wouldn’t have lived past 30. I’m generally happier now and can maintain a stable relationship now.”
When it comes to peer pressure some kids will try to pressure you into smoking while other will just accept the fact that you may not want to Juul with them.
An anonymous student says, “Most of my friends know I don’t Juul/smoke anymore or are just really good about understanding that it’s not fun for me.”
An anonymous quote, “it's not cool to juul in school”.
On October 2nd, during second period, the school store had officially opened for business, but it’s closure the following day led many Senators to wonder; what happened?
“The school store has always been a fundraiser for the senior class, but the money gets distributed among all the classes. There is an account that's the class account in student activities that the money is used to purchase the food … and offset the cost of prom.” said Brien McMahon Principal, Scott Hurwitz.
There is a lot that goes into running a business like a school store, including restocking inventory control, record-keeping, purchasing, accounting, and supervising the students. But, there are also restrictions. It can only be open during certain times and must follow the Connecticut Health and Food laws which states restrictions on types of food and ingredients (including fat and sugar) that can be sold.
After a time of debating how and when the school store would open, the entrepreneurship class opened it for business. “My plan when I had asked is that we have a class in this building called entrepreneurship [which is] about running a business, so I had suggested that instead of just doing book learning about entrepreneurship and taking a test … To have students, in addition to learning, … actually be running a business (the school store) and learn about things like hiring constraints, when you can be open, what you can sell, budgeting, learn about pricing and those things.” added Hurwitz.
Fatima Campos, a senior who is a part of the entrepreneurship class, spoke about how they prepared for the opening. “We came up with the ideas, we did an outline to what we were going to sell, and what responsibility each person had. Each week we would rotate, but since we only lasted for a day it didn't work out… sadly.” The class had planned to have five different small businesses (phone accessories, holiday promotion, apparel, video games, movies, and food.)
She went on to explain the second day when Mr. Scalise told them they wouldn't be going to the school store anymore. “People had brought in chips, crackers, sodas; my group brought in Takis. A lot of people were upset because they had already bought items.” When they got to class they found that Mr. Scalise had uploaded something to Google Classroom. The assignment asked if the school store is ethical or unethical.
Since the closure of the store, the class has talked about how a business works and how businesses can be successful and how they can fail.
The question to be asked is “Is there a future for the school store?’
When asked, Hurwitz responded “Something I lost in translation was students started selling their own stuff and making personal profit. So I still believe the school store should be open but not for individual students to make profit for themselves.” Campos went on say said “I think (we should reopen), but we should get a fundraiser to save money to buy the items instead of us personally going to the store to buy the items… with our own money.” Scalise also said that he “think[s] we should have a school store... I think it should be a student-centered operation.”
Though there may not be a school store today, the Senators still have hope for the future.