Examining academic rigor at the high school
By Clara Atwell, Editor-in-Chief, and Isabelle Spence, Associate Editor
History of academic success
The Vashon community has long valued education, supporting the school district through volunteering for organizations such as Partners in Education, Vashon PTSA, and the Vashon Schools Foundation. The community consistently votes “yes” on local levies, funding from which most notably helped pay for construction of the high school building and the new track and field.
This focus on education is reflected in the high school’s high graduation rate, which stands at 94 percent, compared to the state average of 87 percent, as well as above average standardized test scores. These factors ranked VHS at number 12 out of 315 public schools in the state by SchoolDigger.com — a website that evaluates schools based on students’ standardized test performance — for the 2017-2018 school year.
The school also ranks highly in comparison to state and global averages in AP test scores, which notably exceed standard in social science classes such as AP Human Geography and AP U.S. History, both of which are consistently offered. However, state test scores do fall behind state averages in many STEM-based classes that have been offered inconsistently, such as AP Chemistry and AP Computer Science.
The overall reputation of academic excellence at the high school has caused large numbers of commuter students from West Seattle and Port Orchard to attend Vashon schools.
“I came here because the middle school and high schools were lacking in my area, and [I] continued [to attend the Vashon schools] because I made great friends and built strong relationships with my teachers,” junior and West Seattle commuter Margot Armstrong said....Read More
Japanese program to be replaced with French
Eleanor Yarkin, Reporter
The Japanese program has been a key component of the high school since it began in the 1990s. Now, 30 years later, the administration has decided to end the program. Next year, French will be introduced, a class which the administration predicts will be easier to staff than Japanese.
“We’ve struggled filling vacancies in Japanese for a long time,” high school principal Danny Rock said.
Fred Harriman, the current Japanese teacher, submitted his resignation for the year this January, leaving the administration wondering if Japanese was a viable program that could continue to be offered at the high school.
“There was a good argument to make that we should have moved on last year and not had Japanese this year because we had tremendous difficulty finding applicants,” Rock said. “The long-term sustainability of Japanese has been tenuous for a while.”
Some students are disappointed in the decision to discontinue the program. It even prompted one student to create a petition.
“[The petition was] to have the school… keep looking for a teacher over the summer, so [when] we were to come back, they would be able to teach Japanese,” first-year Japanese student Colby Merrill said.
The petition Merrill created got over 150 signatures but failed to change the decision to discontinue Japanese. Current Japanese I students will have the option to take Japanese II as an independent study through an online course, which the school would pay for...Read More
New possible science and math courses announced
By Garrett Mueller, Business Editor
Each year, the high school adjusts its course offerings in order to have the classes serve a greater spectrum of student interests. Next year, several changes to the math and science courses will be made to accomplish this goal.
In the science category, Forensics is once again on the course list, and Introduction to Sports Medicine is being offered for the first time. The high school has also announced that AP Chemistry will be offered, potentially being taught by returning teacher, who took the 2018-2019 school year off for maternity leave.
Traditionally, AP Chemistry and AP Environmental Science have been alternately offered every year. This year, however, there are no AP science courses being offered, as AP Chemistry was taken from the list of offered courses for this year.
“I was disappointed when they dropped...Read More
Guitar-building elective integrates math into music and carpentry
By Savannah Butcher, Reporter
Often when math seems too complicated or frustrating, students ask, “When will I ever use this in real life?” Next year, a new elective, STEM Guitar Building, will aim to answer that very question. It will be taught by math teacher Andy Callender. During the course, students will become familiar with shop tools, build their own guitar, and apply mathematics throughout the whole process.
Last summer, Callender attended a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) Guitar Project conference through the National Science Foundation. Over the course of the conference, Callender constructed his own guitar, which he still has today...Read More
English curriculum to undergo changes
By Eric Ormseth, Reporter
Over the past few years, the high school English curriculum for juniors and seniors has consisted of multiple electives. The current program allows students the freedom of deciding what kind of English course suits them best.
However, this curriculum is set to change in the coming school year. The program will switch from the current elective system to a more homogenized system, comprised of one English class for each grade, similar to the freshman and sophomore English curricula.
“We are having a reduction in our staffing next year, which prompted us to rethink the upper-grade English,” English teacher Steven Floyd said. “Because of having [less] staff, we thought that we couldn’t sustain [the core elective system], so we’ve decided to shift back to the way it was before we made that change.”
Before the core electives system was introduced, the English curriculum was very similar to the curriculum that is coming next year, with one English class for each grade along with Advanced Placement options.
“There have been a lot of teachers going and leaving,” English department head John Rees said. “We have fewer English teachers in the department than when we designed it.”
English teacher Steven Denlinger’s departure at the end of the year is a key factor. When he leaves, there will not be enough teachers to continue with the electives system. The administration believes reverting to a more traditional system is the best choice considering the circumstances...Read More
New York Narrative: A week in the City of Dreams
By Elizabeth Lande, Copy Editor
No matter how many stories you read or movies you watch about New York, nothing can truly prepare you for actually being there. It exceeds expectations, surpassing ones you didn’t know you had. And it does it all in a way that will make you say “only in New York.”
After months of fundraising for the Columbia Scholastic Press Association Conference, our troupe of journalists landed at JFK airport early on Monday, March 18. Through a maze of tunnels, trains, and traffic, we reached our Airbnb in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
After settling into the apartment, we caught the closest subway, bound for Manhattan. The grinding screech of metal, the rush of wind as trains barreled past, the stations’ tiled walls — all so familiar to New Yorkers — were novel to me...Read More
Students speak out on climate change
By Elizabeth Lande, Copy Editor
In recent years, scientists and climate activists have reported an increase in rates of global warming-related phenomenon, from rising temperatures and sea levels to deforestation and the negative effects of greenhouse gases. The battle has now turned political, with groups debating the best ways to solve such problems.
However, many young people believe that politicians aren’t doing nearly enough to address the issues. In response, youth across the globe have taken the problem into their own hands.
Sixteen-year-old Swedish climate change activist Great Thunberg is particularly well-known for her encouragement and organization of the global school climate strike held on Friday, March 15. Students from over 125 countries skipped school in hopes of prompting local, and national governments to begin taking direct action on climate change.
Vashon held a strike outside the VCA, but it was not directly connected to the schools. More students attended Seattle’s strike, held in Cal Anderson...Read More
NeighborCare has a wait list
Katherine Poston, Reporter & Designer
The Neighborcare clinic at the high school was established in 2017, providing free, anonymous healthcare to students. The services include crisis intervention, dental care, health education, mental health services, reproductive health, sports physicals, and vaccinations.
The clinic also offers assistance in mental health. However, due to an increase in demand, students were placed on a waitlist beginning in December. Two mental health therapists, Anna Waldman and Marci Napoli, are available to students. Both of them work part-time, meaning their time equates to one full-time mental health therapist.
Some accredit Neighborcare’s popularity to its confidentiality policy, allowing for anonymity of patients in addition to the free health care.
“The fact that it is free is really helpful to kids who could not pay for it, and I think it is a really nice support,” one anonymous student said.
Neighborcare health care manager Stephanie Keller emphasized that the clinic is mindful to ask about the severity of each student’s situation, so they can be sure to provide immediate care if needed. Patients who require urgent care are directed to Vashon Youth and Family Services (VYFS), located on the high school campus. Otherwise, students who sign up for mental health services are placed on the waitlist...Read More
High schoolers to showcase art
By Hannah Spranger, Reporter
For the month of May, Vashon Center for the Arts will be showing an exhibit full of vibrant and diverse works crafted from different mediums. The artists featured in the exhibit are comprised solely of VHS students. This collaboration occurs biennially and spans back multiple decades.
This is the first year that Kristen Dallum has been the art teacher during the exhibit...Read More
Rigor in classes should be held to higher standard
By the Editorial Board
Throughout the state of Washington, Vashon High School is well-known for its reputation as a competitive school, especially when it comes to getting into college. Our above-average state test scores speak for themselves: Vashon does an excellent job of teaching its students at a high level of education.
But in order to continue to help students get into colleges and prepare themselves for the world beyond, as well as maintain the competitive standard, the school needs to maintain a higher standard of rigor within all classes and give students better opportunities to control the level of difficulty they take on in their classes.
The high school’s teachers are a large part of the reason that our school achieves such high academic benchmarks. In general, teachers are engaged in the school community, have personal connections with students, and make themselves available to students after school or outside of class in order to help them complete make-up work or give extra help.
Still, despite the school’s plethora of dedicated teachers, some classes do not manage to meet high levels of rigor, so students fall behind, not understanding the material outlined in the course.
For instance, in contrast with previous classes, the class of 2020 was never required to read the works of Shakespeare in Freshman English, due to a change in the course content. In this case, the teacher did not stick to the previous year’s curriculum, and the class was not able to reach its full potential as a result...Read More
Teens react to legislation raising tobacco-purchasing age to 21
By Joseph LaVigueur, Reporter
For the past several years, an epidemic of underage use of tobacco products and vapes has swept the nation. In 2018, a Monitoring the Future survey found that 37.3 percent of 12th graders reported “vaping” in the past 12 months.
In response, as of Wednesday, March 27, Washington joined eight other states in raising the age to purchase tobacco and vapor products to 21 through House Bill 1074.
Support for the bill comes mainly from those who desire to decrease student access to tobacco and vapor products. The belief is that because 18 year olds are still in high school, they would be able to pass on these products to younger students. Support also comes from the increased risk of addiction and side effects as a result of using these products, due to teens’ still-developing brains. According to the Truth Initiative — a non-profit looking to spread awareness of the risks of tobacco use — most smokers start before the age of 26, and the younger a smoker starts, the more likely they are to become addicted.
The bill passed overwhelmingly in both the state House of Representatives...Read More
Schools should require bilingual certification for children
Katherine Poston, Reporter
Learning a foreign language is an invaluable part of a child’s education. The new connections that result from learning a language can make students smarter and promote improved mental health. However, these benefits often fail to reach American audiences, due to a lack of prioritization of teaching languages in America.
The United States public school system needs to reshape the way it educates students in a foreign language in order to give its students a stronger foundation for the rest of their lives.
Across America, many high school students are required to take a foreign language, depending on the school district where they attend.
However, a large portion of these students do not actually become fluent in the language they take. Less than one fourth of students in America are studying a foreign language, and only 20 percent know a foreign language. If they do, it is often due to previous outside experience speaking the language, such as through living in a foreign country, taking language classes before high school, or living in a family with a second language...Read More
Bowden brothers to embark on West coast tour
Eleanor Yarkin, Reporter
Senior Frosty Bowden can be seen around the high school with his shoulder-length black hair, ripped black jeans and hints of humor on his face. He and his brother sophomore Jacob Bowden have become well-known throughout the high school for their popular and energized performances at Open Mics. The Bowdens’ band, “20 Eyes,” has played gigs at many local venues and are now looking beyond the island’s limits.
"20 Eyes" is a punk rock band, with Frosty Bowden playing bass and singing, and Jacob Bowden on the drums. With support from their father, the brothers are looking for new venues in which to perform.
“My dad has connections in Oregon and knows people all throughout Washington,” Frosty Bowden said. “We’re trying to set up a West Coast tour.”
The band recently played their first off-island show at the Plaid Pig, a bar in Tacoma.
“[Our gig] was on a Tuesday at a bar in the middle of nowhere, so we’ve had better shows than that, but it was fun to get some exposure off-island,” Frosty Bowden said...Read More
Well-known actress Jena Malone relocates to the island
By Halle Wyatt, Reporter
A newcomer to the island, actress Jena Malone is known around the world for her roles as Johanna Mason in Catching Fire and Lydia Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. Now on a local scale, she hopes to become well-known for her other creative passions, such as experimental music performances and flower shop photography shows.
Malone first began making music at the age of 21 with a group of friends in New York. Later on, she wrote and produced two albums under the name “Jena Malone and Her Bloodstains.”
Two years later, she met classical pianist Lem Jay Ignacio while looking for a bandmate to collaborate with.
“It’s a unique relationship when you can freestyle with someone because you have to be so vulnerable and raw and really trust each other to kind of play and be free,” Malone said. “I’ve never really met any other musician where I felt like we were so aligned.”...Read More
If the world ended tomorrow, how would you spend today?
Elliot Eades: “I would skydive without a parachute.”
Sam Zeigler: “One gigantic party with all my friends and family, and I would eat only my favorite foods — not a single cauliflower, only buttermilk pancakes, steak, and pasta.”
Jackie Merrill takes over as office manager
By Mari Kanagy, Co-Content Editor
After 12 years of working in the high school office, office manager Susan Bakker has retired, leaving Jackie Merrill to fill the position. Merrill’s new managerial position continues her extensive involvement with the island.
The application process started in November. Two months later, three applicants were interviewed by a six-person panel and tested on their spreadsheet and layout design capabilities. Merrill believes her previous involvement in Vashon schools gave her a competitive advantage in the application process.
“I was always passionate about school,” Merrill said. “I was on the PTSA for six years and was very involved that way, as well as doing staff appreciations and different fundraising events, from auctions to a harvest party. It has kind of led me … to where I am right now.”
Prior to accepting her position at the high school, Merrill coached the high school girls softball team. She was also previously employed as a manager at Island Lumber, where she worked for six years.
“In my former job, I did a lot of accounting work and managing, so [I was] managing people and working with numbers,” Merrill said. “That’s really fitting for what I’m doing now.”...Read More
Arts & Entertainment
Local artist Steffon Moody find a life making art
By Catherine Brown, Reporter & Designer
Since moving to the island 32 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri, local artist Steffon Moody has made a life out of his art. From living in Europe to teaching at Digipen Institute of Technology Moody has grown and transformed his art.
After graduating from Washington University in St. Louis, Moody decided to travel to Europe for a few months. He spent much of his time visiting art museums, but eventually wanted to leave. “I just got sick of [the art],” Moody said. “I just became a hippy and got a van.”
When Moody got to Vashon, he found a “cheap” beach cabin on the south end of Tahlequah. Moody spent his Saturdays beading jewelry at the farmers market, trying to support himself financially. Unlike many, he decided to continue to do art rather than spending his time “as a robot.”
“I couldn’t make all my living from [art], so I had to be a carpenter,” Moody said.
Moody took on various jobs around the island — he fixed small parts of houses, performed at small gigs, and made art by commision.
“[It] gets tiring trying to pretend you’re good at something completely new each month,” Moody said. “I was in that cycle for almost 20 years!” In 2012 Moody started working at DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond, hired by fellow teacher Bill Jarcho to start teaching in the Fine Arts program...Read More
“Us” Review: Peele nails the art of high-quality film
Aidan Janssen, Reporter & Designer
With a strong use of narrative and characters, “Us” raises the bar for the psychological thriller genre.
Directed by Jordan Peele, known for his comedy series “Key & Peele” and award-winning film “Get Out,” “Us” tells the story of the Wilson family, following Adelaide (Lupita Nyong'o), Gabe (Winston Duke), Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph), and Jason (Evan Alex) Wilson as they go on summer vacation to the California coast.
However, in typical horror and thriller movie fashion, something is amiss. Everyone on the coast finds themselves being hunted down by their own doppelgangers, a group called the Tethered. It is the Wilsons’ main goal to escape and find safety...Read More
Original Works annual production features high school artists
By Hannah Spranger, Reporter
Through a wealth of carefully choreographed dances, Vashon Center for the Arts explored numerous questions and emotions in its Original Works production. The show took place at Katherine L. White Hall, the beautiful 300 seat theatre. Many of the pieces focused on mature topics, hoping to raise awareness and initiate change.
Original Works is an annual dance production comprised of separate pieces, each one organized and choreographed independently by professionals or the dancers themselves. Unlike a more standard dance performance, Original Works focuses more on individual stories within single dances. This year, the performances took place from March 22 - 24.
Original Works used to be a part of Vashon Center for the Arts’ (VCA) spring production, but it eventually grew popular enough to become its own show. Since its inception, Original Works has branched away from the spring show’s classic ballet — the show now features other styles of dance, including hip hop, tap, and jazz...Read More
Competitive coaching advances softball player Rachael Freebourn
By Klara Plenk, Reporter
Since sophomore Rachael Freebourn started playing softball five years ago, it has become more than just a sport for her. Freebourn hopes to play softball in college, and is actively pursuing her goal every year.
“[Softball is] excitement, the feeling, competing with your friends on the field,” Freebourn said. “It’s up and down, a rollercoaster: you cry sometimes, you are sad and upset, but [it] makes me happy.”...Read More
Track team hosts meets at new facilities
By Joseph Lavigueur
It’s track and field season, and for the first time in more than 15 years, the high school team is able to host meets due to their brand-new facilities. Last year, local levies raised enough money for a new track and field. The facilities were opened for official use during football season and have been used for practices and games by the school soccer, cheer, and cross country teams. Youth club sports utilize the facilities as well, but this spring marks the first time that the new track has had dedicated use.
The team is excited to show off the new facilities.
“We have one of the best facilities in the state, and I'm honored and excited to be able to showcase it in our meets,” varsity coach Rob Kearns said.
It’s not just the coach who shares this sentiment — athletes are equally enthused about competing in the new stadium.
“It will be fun to have people from the high school who don’t do track and field watching us,” senior team member Alexander Lee said.
Junior Evan Stephanick spoke to how much he already enjoys the new track.
“I love having home meets,” Stephanick said. “They make it a little less stressful because we aren’t traveling, and more of our friends can come watch.”...Read More