Creating “Just Lightning”
By: James Fitzpatrick
March 23rd, 2021
“Just Lightning” is a modernized parody of “Grease”, created by the theater group at Watertown High School over the past three months, who then recorded their production and made it accessible for everyone to view during the Pandemic, which many other high schools did not get to do this year. The lead performers include Jordan Elliott and Noah Ryan, who, along with Foster Evans Reese, directed the play. Some songs include “Lightning” and “Hybrid School Dropout”, both written by Jordan. Jordan also serves as the co-writer and editor.
Jordan stated how the pandemic created hardships for the actors, such as when “people had to quarantine, so they wouldn’t be able to make it to rehearsals.” He personally found it strange to not have a live audience to perform in front of. Despite these new conditions, the actors operated as a family, putting in immense creativity and effort to create this play.
Watertown High School is being a role model with theater right now, putting out any play at all, with Jordan stating, “I think [other schools] should try to do a virtual show because it was really a fun time; we all had fun, we all did good.” It is very important that the theater department is active right now as it provides students the opportunity to create and exert their passion in something outside of school. Jordan has a 10-year background in theater, doing plenty of shows outside of school along with every show for Watertown High School since he started attending. Although he is graduating this year, he is highly optimistic for the future of our school’s plays based on their past performances and those in “Just Lightning”.
You can watch the play here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QyagNR6ABPA.
The Present & Future with Dr. Villanueva
By: James Fitzpatrick
February 19th, 2021
Watertown’s new Superintendent, Dr. Villanueva, as of January 25th, is focused on making sure our schools operate as efficiently and unified as possible, encourages using positive thinking overall as well as using technology to the best of our abilities, to get schools working productively through this pandemic. Dr. Villanueva will be trying to visit all of the schools, at least twice a week, to ensure their efficiency is as strong as it can be. Going into the buildings themselves is, after all, the best way to get to know the faculty and students in a school system.
Dr. Villanueva began as a teacher and acting Principal, and then became an Executive Director for a K-12 university partnership at Columbia University called Studies in Educational Innovation. That led into her becoming a Principal in Danbury, and then the Humanity Supervisor at the Ridgefield Public Schools.
The world is unpredictable right now, but Watertown schools, as always, are acting with a plan. This district is thinking towards the future, such as how each grade at Swift Middle School will be brought back in separately for the beginning of March, and how the high school is rotating bringing students back with two different grades every week. Running a new district in the middle of the year may be challenging, but Dr. Villanueva is up for the challenge. She describes herself as “super-energetic”, and ready to take on any task. She noted, “Even though I’m jumping in mid-year… it’s also time for me to listen and to learn from what’s already happening so that I can mold into the practices that the district already does really well.”
Dr. Villanueva says Watertown schools maintain their sights on every student being a successful graduate, which is highly important. She values input from elementary, middle, and high school students equally, in order to improve the quality of life at Watertown schools. Dr Villanueva’s advice for students for their future is to “keep your chin up, no matter how hard this is. You have a number of people around you, even if it feels like there aren’t a lot of people around you, who will stand by you and hear your voice.” She encourages students to contact those around them because they can be there “just by the stroke of a key.”
Regarding technology, while all schools are using technology efficiently at this point, there are infinite possibilities of using it in a way to make school more engaging and interesting for students. Regardless of how invaluable the human interaction is in a school, Dr. Villanueva considers technology necessary these days. It would be a “different story” without Google Meets, Zoom, Google Classroom, and other digital forms of sharing and communication. She is proud of how Watertown schools have adapted to this newer style of learning, and while it isn’t ideal, she explained everyone is using what they have to the best of their ability. Welcome to the district, Dr. Villanueva!
By: Anjeza Skudrinja
January 11th, 2021
Teachers and students are saddened by the loss of a great member of Watertown High School. On November 29th, Watertown High School junior, Kaytlynn Schaefer, passed away. On December 8, WHS held a ¨Wear Purple Day¨ and faculty and students changed their backgrounds of their remote learning Google Meets to ¨purple clouds¨ to honor her. Purple was her favorite color and the color used to represent epilepsy. She was a strong advocate for epilepsy awareness. The community came together to support Kaitlynn's family by participating in a Go Fund Me page to donate for the funeral. Dr. Ramos, the superintendent stated in an email ¨Kaytlynn was a kind, caring, and compassionate young woman with a superb sense of style and a fun, witty sense of humor.¨
Kaytlynn Schaefer was an amazing girl who was friendly, loving, hardworking, and strong. She made an impact on the students she met and teachers who were given the opportunity to work with her. To those of us who didn't get the amazing opportunity of getting to know her, we can learn a lot about her through her legacy. Kaytlynn was epileptic but didn't let epilepsy control her life. She didn't use excuses, and despite her struggles, she continued to want to help people. Her helpfulness should encourage others to help out in the community a lot more. Kaytlynn was a part of a school club called Best Buddies where students with disabilities matched with students without disabilities at school, which she thoroughly enjoyed, and wanted to work in the medical field to continue to help people.
Ms. Wolf, SRBI coordinator and Best Buddies Co Advisor at Watertown High School states, ¨the Best Buddies club is where students with disabilities matched with students without disabilities.¨ Kaytlynn was involved in the Best Buddies club at Watertown to participate in helping other students out. Ms, Santopietro says she loved Best Buddies and was really good with the kids she worked with. Kids got together and played games, had an outdoor halloween party, monthly meetings, and built friendships. The superintendent stated, ¨Kaytlynn excelled at making her fellow Best Buddies members feel included, cared for, and valued by the high school community.¨
Ms. Santopietro, paraprofessional at Watertown High School helped out Kaytlynn during class times and with catching her up on assignments. Kaytlynn and Ms. Santopietro had an amazing bond and got along really well. Ms. Santopietro says, ¨For the three months I knew her, I feel like I wanted to stay with her longer.¨ Ms. Santopietro says, “She was a fighter and didn't care who knew if there was something wrong with her. It made her a stronger person. Stronger than she thought and knew she was. She never felt different and didn't want to be treated differently.”
Kaytlynn loved to read and spent a lot of time in the library helping other kids as Ms. Lewis Media Specialist at Watertown High School states, ¨She was a bold personality and very helpful. She was the first kid in the library asking if she could help and was always very considerate. Always had a smile on her face. Very avid reader, enjoyed the space and spent a lot of time in the library.¨
Ms. Lavallee, a science teacher at Watertown High School, had Kaytlynn in her Anatomy and Physiology class. She states, ¨Kaytlynn knew that Anatomy and Physiology was tough but wanted to keep digging. She didn't want excuses, to quit, or to make it easier.¨ Ms. Lavallee also learned from Kaytlynn that, ¨Sometimes people let conditions define themselves, use it as an excuse. She never looked for or wanted that to be her excuse. She would say she was struggling and wanted to keep going. She taught me that we all have something- some people are more visual and prominent and maybe it shouldn't define what we can or can't do.¨
WHS Clubs on Adapting to the Pandemic
By: James Fitzpatrick
December 6th, 2020
The National Honor Society, Interact Club, and the Sexuality and Gender Association, along with many other clubs and organizations at WHS have had to adapt to the ongoing pandemic. The main consensus is that it’s not easy changing such integral aspects of their clubs like communication methods with their peers and others, but their passion to pursue their missions are unaffected.
The National Honor Society’s advisor, Mrs. Sales, made it evident that the pandemic is undoubtedly having an impact on groups that have always been focused on bringing people together. Large gatherings are out of the question right now, unfortunately, ruining the chance of collaborations with groups like the Red Cross, but one-on-one situations are different. Peer tutoring was described by Mrs. Sales as, “very helpful to students who need review of classwork”, and this help provided by the NHS is more necessary than ever, considering the challenges that come with online learning.
Interact Club has been able to maintain its high spirits and big activities despite facing the lack of cohesion between its club members and the community that it usually can have. Club advisor Mr. Kuegler and club leader Anna Dost discussed their current projects such as the town food drive and the school cleanup and that they are being done in a, “COVID-friendly” fashion this year. Based on their potential future collaborations with Relay for Life and Anna’s optimistic attitude of a vaccine for COVID-19 sooner rather than later, Interact Club has a good future ahead of them. In terms of the role they have as a club, they are proud of, “creating a positive working environment” for those around them, and their morals and ideals have maintained the same importance they always have, playing a large role in our community. They are always accepting new members and input from anyone throughout the year; here is their Google Classroom code if you are interested: ikqmalm.
The Sexuality and Gender Association detailed how they are handling these tough times. Club advisor Mrs. Pettinato as well as club leaders Alexa O’Brien and Greyson Grenier commented on how there are more people participating than ever, and it makes it so, “not one person is towering over” in discussions through means of Google Meets. Greyson specifically mentioned how Google Meets makes communicating within the club the, “most chaotic it’s ever been”. They have been able to stay positive as well, with Alexa believing the pandemic, “will get better someday”, and the hope of the turmoil of this pandemic subsiding is also there. In terms of online gatherings, Mrs. Pettinato said, “We try to take part in that stuff as much as we can”. Regardless of the pandemic, SAGA’s role in giving people a group to be a part of is more important than ever. A more accepting social climate is vital in today’s day in age; SAGA provides a group accepting of anyone, and strives for change in our modern society. The Google Classroom code is also available here for anyone interested: lurrqew.
Watertown High School Mascot
By: Anjeza Skudrinja
December 1st, 2020
To some a mascot may just be a character but others believe it is the core of the school and community. On November 17, 2020, Watertown High Schools’ members such as the Watertown Board of Education, community members, parents, WHS students, staff members and administrators had a discussion about changing the WHS mascot. Each person had 3 minutes to speak their opinion and side.
George Welsh is a human rights attorney with Connecticut's Mission on Human Rights and Opportunity. He and the CHRO members have put lots of thought into the WHS mascot and have come to the conclusion that, ¨The use of Native names and imagery is no longer tenable in the state of Connecticut.¨ Having a Native mascot lowers Native students’ self esteem when they are compared to students who don't go to school with an Indian mascot. This shows the effect that a Native mascot has on the Native students at the school; not only are Native students affected but non Native students as well. George Welshe shares that evidence has shown that, ¨Students have a low opinion of Native people and knew little accurate information about tribal histories.¨ This showed how students are getting the wrong interpretations with the mascot.
Kelly Lambert is a lifelong Watertown resident, WHS graduate, mom of a 2020 graduate, and has twins attending Polk school. She shares her opinion on why she believes the mascot is unfair. To express the sensitivity of the topic she says, ¨They are a living thriving race not a symbol of the past. Would we use any other race as a high school mascot? Does it create an environment of acceptance or equality or align with our public schools current core value? What impact does it have on all our students?¨ This shows how people have to put into perspective their own race and how they would feel if it was made fun of by students of different races and being dressed up as for school events. Colleen Murphy WHS class of 2009 graduate and founder of ¨town mag.co¨ states, ¨A mascot can play an integral role in your school´s spirit department but they aren't just for sports. Your mascot provides a common label for all students, alumni and faculty. It creates a sense of belonging¨. This shows the two views, some believe it is best for educational purposes and some believe that there is a better way to present WHS.
Christine Faressa, mother of a WHS student, took a different approach to the discussion and shared her beliefs on why we should keep the WHS mascot. She shares how she doesn't consider the mascot a mascot, but a logo. She states, ¨I'm not sure why we are calling it a mascot because we do not have any caricatures running up and down the field. It's simply a logo that is used on some of our imagery.¨ She sees the WHS mascot as a great learning opportunity about the rich culture of Native Americans for the youth and all people in the community. WHS class of 2011 graduate Ellie Miske states, ¨We can see that the goal of everyone involved is to respect Native Americans and Native American culture unfortunately we do not believe the Board of Ed or WHS can ensure that respect or honor through a Native American mascot.¨ This shows her beliefs are that it does not ensure respect.
Mary Zabarowski, a former WHS student states, ¨We can no longer pretend that the use of an Indian mascot is a symbol of respect. During my time at Watertown High School, between the years of 2013-2017, the Indian mascot was almost nowhere to be seen. Sports apparel simply read Watertown and at games and pep rallies we would chant town instead of Indians. This was because we were all aware of the underlying negative associations that our mascot had and the potential harmful effects that its continued display has had on an entire race of people.¨ Colleen Murphy also a former WHS student states, ¨There is a need amongst the Watertown High School community for a real mascot to rally around and to be proud of and that's understandable. The reason a local high school chooses a mascot is to bring the community together and to make students and teachers proud and to answer the question who are we. The Indian mascot does not answer this question nor does it bring the community together to make students, teachers, alumni or community members proud.¨ This shows how even former students sense that there should be a change in the WHS mascot for the sake of the community, school, and students’ growth.
Closing out the discussion Kelly Lambert shares how she wants a new mascot that the entire community can be proud of and brings everyone together. Ellie Misk states, stating this is an opportunity for the community to come together and pick something to be proud of. Class of 2009 WHS graduate and current senior art director working in advertising industry in Wilton CT, Matthew Scully is willing to help WHS out to create a, ¨Cool brand identity for the school and its athletic department merging the community's differences and rebuilding a stronger vision.¨ This is a great opportunity for WHS to have a unique mascot. Colleen Murphy shares the extent of what good a new mascot would bring for WHS; she says how students should show school pride without limitations to a costume mascot. This shows once again that a new mascot will bring the community together and make everyone in their community proud. The people who attended the meeting made very valuable contributions to whether or not the WHS mascot should remain. Components like racism, history, and education are considered during this time of making the final decisions for WHS mascot. The people who volunteered to speak their mind played a great role in bringing important factors to the table and standing up for their beliefs and what's best for the community. What are your thoughts on the Indians as WHS mascot, should it be changed or left alone?
The Capstone Project
By: Anjeza Skudrinja
December 2nd, 2020
The Capstone Project is a project all seniors must complete in order to receive the Capstone credit, required for graduation. This project tests students' ability to manage time, research, communicate your project to peers, and establish a network of connections.
The unexpected turn last March caused seniors last year to present what they had so far or be creative finishing up sooner and without all the pieces they may have planned for. That is why this year Capstone Projects should not include events like tournaments, clinics, or shadowing because of the COVID requirements right now. This will assure that seniors are able to finish. Having an event or shadowing can be an addition to your project but not the main idea in case social gatherings are not allowed when the time comes.
WHS teacher Ms. Bellemare’s favorite Capstones last year was completed by Hannah Jack, a former WHS senior who made a handicap accessible outdoor classroom. Ms Bellemare states, ¨It personified everything a Capstone should be, she worked hard, she had many people involved, and it meant a lot to her.¨ This shows that the Capstone Project isn't like the other work we do; it's entirely designed by seniors and what they like.
Compared to past years, Ms. Bellemare shares that this year has been the year where she has seen many unique hobbies. She believes that quarantine has given students the opportunity to, ¨Gain new hobbies and learn more about themselves.¨ She also states ¨People are excited to show off their new hobbies.¨ Some projects she has heard of thus far have been, ¨Building computers, learning family recipes, and one student is recording herself and friends reading children books to show to kids.¨ This shows how the Capstone project gives seniors the opportunity to do something they enjoy and help out the community.
This year, Capstone Projects are still required to be completed by all seniors. If seniors are having trouble they can ask Ms. Bellemare, WHS teacher Ms. Lewis, and their classmates to help them with ideas. Seniors should also try to get in contact with Ms. Bellemare or Ms. Lewis for help because they should have planned their idea out and started working on the project. Right now students should have already had their capstones approved and working on completing it. Seniors should expect to present Capstone projects to SSP on dedicated days in late May-April, and Ms. Bellemare is hoping that's still the plan in the upcoming months.