All posts by Nick Shepard

Freshman Retreat Evokes Mixed Emotions

by Taylor Bailey – Staff Writer

The Freshman Retreat took place on Sept. 21 at Kentlake High School instead of Lake Retreat. The goal was for freshman to get to know each other, the staff, and the school. When students went to school that day, they first got into groups and took role. Freshman were then sent to the Preforming Arts Center for presentations on the Core values of a Falcon. They also listened to older student’s experiences at Kentlake. After that some students left to play games while the other students stayed and made a chant. Next, they had lunch and were sent back to the P.A.C. There they listened to more inspirational speeches and a pep rally. At the end, they were dismissed to go home. On their way out the got free shirts.

At first reactions to the retreat were mixed. Some freshman thought that the retreat was great, and some freshman thought it was terrible.

When asked if he enjoyed the retreat, Connor Runyon said, “No, all the games were just awkward ice breakers.” Then he said what was ironic was that, the day before the freshman retreat, Mrs. Pizzalato assured all freshmen that the games were not going to be just “ice breakers.” Pizzalato said, “I tried to warn everybody beforehand because I had talked to them in homeroom the day before and I told them the retreat is what you make of it.” While there were students who disliked the retreat, they did say that it had one redeeming quality: the free t-shirt.

Other students enjoyed the retreat. One of the main reasons student found the day enjoyable was because they liked their group members. Blue Woods said, “I enjoyed the retreat because I had fun with my friends and the leader was fun.” Additionally, Gavin Nicholson said, “Yes, [I had fun] because my group was really cool and made it fun.”

A big part of the freshman retreat is the games. Although all the games were popular, the one that everyone seems to love the most, was the sculpture building where students were supposed to choose a core value and represent it by building a sculpture. Students liked it because they had fun doing it with their friends, because they won, and because they thought it was funny. Adam Laws said, “My favorite event was the art activity because we made some cool artistic stuff with some junk.”

Another activity was the scavenger hunt which was an activity designed to help students know where things are located around the school. Gavin Nicholson said, “My favorite was the scavenger hunt because it was funny because of my teacher.” The gift activity was also one freshman liked. In the gift activity, freshman sat in a circle and nominated people to receive a gift, however, nobody knew what the gift was.

While students’ reactions were mixed, teachers thought the event was an overall success. Science teacher, Jessica Pizzalato said, “Actually, I thought it went really well, obviously it’s a loss to not be at Lake Retreat anymore, but having all the students in one day made it actually easier to feel like we could just go all out and have fun for one big day, rather than having it separated into two days.”

Spokane Devestated By School Shooting

by Nicholas Shepard – Web Editor

On September 13th, Caleb Sharpe came to school with two weapons, both of which belonged to his father and he had taken without permission; an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle and a .32-caliber handgun. Hi rampage that followed resulted in the death of one student and the non-fatal shooting of three others. Freeman High School, where he had just begun his sophomore year, is about ten miles southeast of Spokane.

Other students at Freeman High School told authorities that Sharpe had said he was “going to do something stupid and might get killed or sent to jail”. He had brought notes on various school shootings to school on previous occasions, and reportedly watched the documentary “Mind of a Rampage Killer”, about 10 times.

The victim of Sharpe’s attack, fellow student Sam Strahan, was shot first in the abdomen and then in the cheek, and there is evidence to suggest that Strahan was one of various specific targets Sharpe had in mind. Detectives found a yearbook while searching his home, in which 26 students’ photos, including Strahan’s, were marked with “X Kill”. Different notes Sharpe took were also found, which included statements such as “Killing is fun and I enjoy it,” “I am the one who deserves to live,”, and “I am smarter than the cops.”

Strahan had allegedly been friends with Sharpe in the past, but in recent years they had drifted apart. Sharpe’s intention, he told detectives, was to teach everyone a lesson about bullying and what it can do to a person. “Sharpe said the plan went exactly as intended,” as detectives wrote in court documents. As of now no evidence suggests that Sharpe was suicidal or intended to end his life after committing the shooting.

Witnesses reported that Strahan attempted to talk down Sharpe, which is when he began shooting. After Sharpe shot Strahan he fired into a group of girls, hurting three of them, before being overpowered by a janitor.

Drama Department Aims to ‘Pull It Off’

by Evan Williamson – Staff Writer

Daisy Pulls It Off Performance dates: Nov. 9, 10, 11 Nov. 16, 17, 18 Ticket Prices: $10 at the door $8 w/ ASB $8 senior citizens

While the budget cuts and new directors may be a challenge, the drama department will be performing Daisy Pulls It Off for this year’s first play.

Co-Director, Alex Chopyak said, “Originally, we had another play chosen but due to the fact that we didn’t have enough men to audition we had to change the play kind of last minute.” Daisy Pulls It Off was eventually selected. “We had to pick a show that was cheap because of the budget,” says Co-Director, Sarah Wilson. “We had to choose something that we felt like would not be expensive, would be a lot of fun, and would use the most characters possible.” There’s a total of 35 students participating in the play, 20 of those acting and the other 15 doing tech on stage.

The play, Daisy Pulls It Off, is a British play written in 1983 by Denise Deegan. Set in 1927, the play is about a young girl named Daisy who comes from a family that is not as well off as one would hope. Everything changes for Daisy when she is accepted into an all-girls school on scholarship; the first girl ever to accomplish the feat. She struggles to fit in as she is victim to schoolgirl pranks from the wealthier girls.

This play worked out for the drama department’s challenges. It requires a large number of female characters and it’s not a musical. “I’m excited because our play is really jazzy. There’s a lot of fun stuff in it, like sneaking around. It’s pretty much Mean Girls but better,” says lead actress, Robyn Janssen. She’s playing the role of Daisy in the production. You may have seen Robyn in shows in the past. “Last year I played the mother in A Christmas Story, the musical, and then mother superior in Sister Act,” Robyn says. The department is looking forward to the production. “I just want them [the cast] to have fun and I want them to get to experience it,” says Chopyak, “I want them to just enjoy it because if they’re enjoying it then the audience will enjoy it as well.”

Along with some returning actors, there are some new faces in charge this year. Sarah Wilson is replacing Pam Cressey as the drama director. This isn’t the first time she’s gotten involved with drama. “Most of the time before I came to Kentlake I taught drama,” said Wilson, “I have a masters in Fine Arts in Acting and Directing. So, I’ve played on stages in Washington, D.C. I’ve acted a lot myself and I’ve also directed a lot of plays both in school and out of school.” “I think Mrs. Wilson has been doing a really great job. She’s taken over and done the staging while I focus more on the tech and we make a really good team,” said Co-Director Alex Chopyak. Chopyak is also new to the Kentlake stage. He also has directing experience as he has directed shows in college as well as done tech for shows during that time. Robyn Janssen said, “It’s nice to have two directors so we get two opinions. It’s different but I think our drama changed for the better.”

So, can they pull it off? Mrs. Wilson said, “Well we’re aiming for clean of course! I guess everyone will just have to come and see.”

Community Earthquake Preparedness

by Megan Monahan – Staff Writer

September 19, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit Mexico City claiming at least 200 lives and thousands of buildings damaged residents in the Pacific Northwest wonder what will happen when the “Big One” finally happens?

With the Mexico City earth quake leaving thousands displaced and an estimated 2 billion dollars in damage leaving the west coast wondering, “what will happen when the big one happens?” The West Coast has been hearing that they need to prepare for when the predicted 10.0-11.0 magnitude earthquake that will hit the West Coast in the next 20 years. More than 4.5 million people In Washington and Oregon will be impacted when the “Big One” hits. One of the greatest risks that come with earthquakes are buildings collapsing causing injuries, damage and sometimes death.

The earths outer layer is made up of giant tectonic plates that are always sliding past creating seismic activity. The Juan de Fuca plate that under the North American plate have been grinding against each other for eons and get stuck for 200-300 years at a time. Scientists say that Washington is 100-116 years overdue from another massive earthquake that will shake the region. In addition to this an underwater fault will break once the earthquake occurs possibly causing a tsunami that will wipe out the entire city of Seattle and hundreds of small seaside towns stretching from the Vancouver Islands to the Northern Coast of California.

Here is what to do to prepare for when the “Big One” occurs. Pay attention and learn from the Mason County Cascadia Rising Drills that happen yearly, where they have a mock tsunami and earthquake drill that helps them determine what works and what doesn’t in the case of an emergency. Create an emergency preparedness plan for your home, school and work. Make sure you identify the best places to seek shelter in your building such as, sturdy desks and tables, the frame of a strong interior door. In the event of an earthquake makes sure you stay away from all large furniture, mirrors, windows, kitchen cabinets and anything that won’t be stable during the quake. Make sure you teach everyone how to signal for help if they are trapped.

Another thing to do in preparation for any natural disaster is learning basic CPR and first aid, and if you don’t know it, make sure that someone you are with does. Local Red Cross centers hold monthly classes along with having online courses. Decide a rallying point for all your family to meet at after the quake and immediate aftershocks have stopped. Learn also how to turn off all the utilities in your house, especially your gas line. Develop routes with several methods of getting home after the quake has happened because you never know when a quake can happen.

Make sure that you also have 7-10 days of food and water stored in a waterproof bin, also containing first aid supplies, batteries, flashlights, candles and matches. Other things that are useful in an emergency kit are, fire blankets, foldable rain ponchos and a CB radio that you can use to contact someone for help if you are trapped without power and cell service.

In the event of an earthquake at Kentlake students and staff “drop, cover, and hold” under desk. Once the shaking has stopped admin and security will assess the building for any structural damage. After that happens there will be an announcement for students and staff to go out to the football field just like we do during fire drills and follow all of the check-in protocols.

Maurer Hopeful as New Principal

by Madison Marko – Head Photographer

Heidi Mauer will start her first year as a high school principal. She will be returning to the high school level after seven years of being a principal at Cedar Heights Middle School. Prior to that, she was the assistant principal at Kentwood for seven years.

Mauer said, “I love working with high school kids. I was really excited about a potential opportunity to be able to work with them again. I love the types of conversations that I get to have with students, and the idea that they are on the verge of adulthood. Being able to support the transition into life outside of high school is special.”

So far, Mauer has only made one change. She altered a safety protocol relating to medical emergencies in the classroom. The old protocol stated that if an emergency were to arise, the teacher would have to call the main office, and then the main office would call 911. But, now teachers should call 911 directly and send a student runner down to the office so that the emergency response team can be brought to the room.

Other than that, Mauer said she does not plan on making many changes. She said, “Right now it is important for me to learn about the strengths of the school and how to build upon those strengths. There are a lot of great things happening here, and we are not a school that needs a principal to come in and make a bunch of changes. We need a principal that can come in and continue to support the growth and the excellence that is already happening.”

As for her personal plans and goals as principal, Mauer said, “It is very important to me that I am available to students. I am not a closed-door principal. I want to be out and about, and I want students to know who I am and feel comfortable coming to me and saying, ‘Mrs. Mauer, I need help with something.’ If I do not have the answer, I will hook them up with someone who does. I want to be accessible not just to students, but to parents and staff, too. I want to be responsive to the needs of our community.”

She does recognize that there will be challenges in her position. Mauer said, “When we have such a diverse community, with so many belief, value, and cultural systems, sometimes that can be challenging to navigate. I want to channel that in a way that it brings us together and does not push us apart. I think that that is going to be a challenge and be something that we, as a community, need to navigate together. I need to be thoughtful about how I lead and support our community in embracing the diversity that can define us in such a positive way.”

Mauer said, “I want to reiterate to students that it is important for me to know from them what is working at Kentlake and what they would like to see changed. I want to encourage students to be the change that they want to see. If you have concerns about things, come work with me and let’s figure out how we can empower the student voice to continue to grow what we are doing here at Kentlake.”

KEA Approves Two-Year Contract

by Megan Monahan – Staff Writer

The Kent Education Association, the union that represents educators in the Kent School District, recently approved a two-year contract August 29, two days before the school year began.

The contract includes the two-hour early release Wednesdays and a 2.3 percent cost-of-living increase that was approved by the state Legislature for the current 2017-2018 school year. The 2.3 percent cost-of-living increase helped with the grocery and gas price inflammation amongst other things. Due to the current budget crisis, additional pay was given by the district.

The contract is not the only significant change that will be happening in this school year. There are 55 unfulfilled teaching positions throughout the Kent School District that will not be filled throughout the year. Christie Padilla, KEA President, said, “the district is choosing not to fulfill teacher positions as a cost saving method. They’re hoping by raising class sizes and not hiring as many teachers this year that they’ll be able to save the money that they borrowed from the capital bond project.” Padilla emphasizes that, “It really feels like the teachers are taking the brunt of the budget deficit unfortunately.”

In addition to the 55-unfulfilled teaching position there are three administration positions at the district office that will not be fulfilled. The union feels the hiring ratio between administration and teachers is disproportionate. Padilla said, “Well, it is in our opinion that is does not equate. That the district chose to make cuts that would impact our students the most and did not make cuts where it would impact students the least.

The 2016-2017 school year was not the first year that the district ended in debt, and it isn’t the first-time teachers are speaking up about it. “Teachers met with Dr. Watts and the chief financial officer with the district almost monthly,” said Padilla, “and we showed them that their ending fund balance, which is the district savings account was being depleted and that they were overspending.” Even though the union forecasted the budget deficit, the district believed that their forecasting’s were accurate and didn’t listen to them, inflating the budget deficit we have now.

Rocky Start with Early Release Lunches

by Josh Manning – Staff Writer

It is safe to say that most of the students were not expecting lunches to be a problem for early release days, even after learning they would be scheduled at the end of the day. Most juniors and seniors were just expecting to leave campus during lunch and essentially get another 30 minutes knocked off an early release day. However, it was not nearly as easy as we were imagining.

Unfortunately, in addition to having all 3 lunches combined into one (which was a disaster waiting to happen), there were multiple security guards waiting for us just outside the courtyard. They greeted us with disappointing messages of how off-campus passes are not in effect until October and how school is still technically in session and we couldn’t leave.

Let us look at this issue from the perspective of the student. Sixth period ends and the students promptly must rush down to the commons if they want any chance of getting lunch since the lines are abnormally long. After they receive their lunch, they usually will not have any room in the commons so they are forced to eat in the courtyard or on the ground. If they manage to finish their food early they won’t be allowed to leave, even though all the instruction has been completed for that school day and they have nothing else to do.

Clearly this is an issue that was handled extremely poorly by the staff. It was forcing the students into uncomfortable situations and chaos was rampant. It was unnecessary to keep juniors and seniors on campus when they have off-campus passes. It should be treated as a normal lunch, in which people with off-campus passes can go eat somewhere else, or in this case go home because there are no more classes for the day.

Overall it was a situation in which I had to ask myself, “What did they think would happen?” Having all 3 lunches combined into one at the end of the school day in a school with over twelve hundred students is never a good idea. It led to several students lying about being in Green River to have an excuse to leave campus.

My point is that students should not be forced to stay at school for 30 minutes longer than necessary if they are not doing anything productive and no instruction is being conducted. It was a waste of time and could have been easily avoided had we just had two lunches or not had lunch on that day.

Seniors Take Issue with Yearbook Photos

IMAG0482by Nick Shepard – Web Editor

There’s a tradition here at Kentlake, one among many, and one that students look forward to from the moment they walk into the gym for pictures freshman year, where they see some senior with wacky hair and thick eyeliner in line with their friends. They can’t wait for the time three years in the future when they’ll be getting professional senior photos done, and thus do not have to care about what’s going on their ID as it isn’t going in the yearbook.

This tradition was violated.

There are also rights guaranteed under the First Amendment to the US Constitution, rights which were upheld during the 1969 Supreme Court decision Tinker v. Des Moines. The justices spoke 7-2 that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate”; as long as the student is not causing a disruption or harming other students, teachers, or school property, they cannot be forced to act or look a certain way.

Those rights were violated.

I was one of many students who, upon entering the gym for photos, was ordered to change how I look to conform to a certain image the school had chosen – I was ordered to immediately remove the black lipstick I was wearing; a fellow senior, Trenton Curtis, was ordered to remove the fishing hat he had decided to wear that day. Please note that it is school policy that hats may be worn, again as long as they are no distraction.

The First Amendment is what guarantees us our freedom of speech – if something doesn’t sit well with a student, they can talk about it. If they support a certain political candidate or public figure, then they can wear a shirt supporting that person. The point is you are not only allowed but are encouraged to express yourselves in these ways, so why can’t we do so in a way that will affect even less people than the other ways?

The point is, there’s a word for those in charge who force certain opinions or actions upon their subordinates. The most infamous example took place about 80 years ago – there are parts of the world where you can still see them.

They’re called fascists.

No, they didn’t threaten bodily harm. They threatened the very fabric of our society – our sacred principle of freedom of expression and speech, the solid foundation for our constitutional democracy. Without it we are sheep. We go with the flow and conform to the status quo. Anyone can talk big and encourage individuality and independence, but if they don’t lead by example then why bother? What I glean from the school’s actions is that everyone must be the same, like me.

There can be no expression.

There can be no freedom.

Islamophobia still Present in America Today

by Harris Yun – Staff Writer

America is no stranger to prejudice. Ever since the conception of our country there has always been a group of people that gets oppressed and hated, for no reason other than the idea that they challenge the status quo. As a Muslim myself, you can believe me when I say that these days, that group is Muslims, and it is just as damaging to the country as when that group was African-Americans.

Post-9/11, Muslim discrimination was at an all time high, but over the past decade, it has slowly been ebbing away. However, in the past year, a huge resurgence can be seen. Thanks to things like the recent travel ban, which aimed to prevent people from mostly Muslim countries from traveling into America, or President Trump’s actively hostile stance towards Islam, America is slowly working itself back into a frenzy of Islamophobia and all the horrible things that happen as a result.

No matter where you look, there is rampant prejudice against Muslims. Online, you just have to look at any news article that even mentions them, and you’ll see hundreds of comments raving about Muslims and how they need to be ‘dealt with’ – for example, on articles about the recent bombing of a mosque in Minnesota you can find comments in the vein of “I hope it was full of Muslim trash” and “Burn em ALL!!!!!!”

This hate is not just confined to the internet. All over the US, Islamophobia has led to thousands of people protesting the spread of Islam, even in places as liberal as Seattle; several demonstrations at mosques in the past three months turned violent, forcing police officers to use pepper spray to break up the crowds. They cite the reason that they “don’t want America to be taken over by Sharia law”, but that is not what most American Muslims want, either. Most are refugees from the turmoil in the Middle East, escaping the so-called ‘Sharia law’ implemented by ISIL and other similar groups – the last thing they want is for it to come to America, the land where anyone can do anything. The real reason they protest is because they want somebody to blame, some group they can point their fingers at and say ‘Look at them – they’re the problem.’ Even here, in the Kentlake area, when my family members go out with their hijab on they get strange looks filled with suspicion and fear, and once we even got outright told that we do not belong here, that ‘our people’ are the reason America is facing all the problems it is today.

However, wherever there is hatred, there are people fighting against it. The vocal minority, however vocal they may be, will always be a minority. A few outspoken critics should not, can not, be taken as representative of America as a whole. If you are truly an American, you will understand that Americans come from many diverse backgrounds, and trying to exclude a group of people just because they have differing religious beliefs is not just rude, it’s downright unpatriotic. Represent our country, stand in the face of prejudice, and support your Muslim countrymen and women.

Budget Cuts Cause Concerns

by Fiona Higgins – Opinion Editor

It has only been about a week since school started, and already the mess that the administration has gotten us in is plain to see. Class sizes have increased, teachers are short on materials, and cut corners are everywhere.

These are only a few signs that have occurred from the Kent School District’s budget freeze and budget cut.

In the Kent School District 2016-2017 fiscal year, which ended on the first day of school, the district accrued a 6.9 billion dollar shortfall. According to the Seattle Times, KSD’s new budget “is roughly $452 million and includes a reduction in staff positions and operating costs totaling about $4 million.” In addition, there are currently 55 job openings in the district. Due to a hiring freeze, they will not be filled. Individual schools are reallocating their funds, and many of them are directing them away from the arts programs and more towards STEM and sports programs, leaving them with even less of a budget than before. The difference between the district’s Fine Arts fund has dropped from about 82,500 dollars to roughly 32,000 dollars, according to the budget report published on the Kent School District’s website. The effects are immediately clear in several places; Mill Creek Middle School, for example, ahd their budget for their orchestra class cut by 40%.

Though this sudden budget issue is a shock to many parents and students, the administration was not surprised. Christie Padilla, the Kent Education Association President, said “It was our position that if you do not change your spending trajectory, you will end up in the red… They continued their spending trajectory, so here we are, in the red.”

The Kent School District administration got us into this unfortunate mess, and there does not seem to be a lot we can do now to get us out of it. Currently, district leaders have approved two loans; one for $10 million and one for $15 million. Both loans have moved from the capital-project fund to its general fund, which lets the districts use the money however they want. Regrettably, it was not enough, and the fiscal year still ended with a negative fund balance, much to everyone’s dismay.

The question is, what was our administration thinking when this catastrophe ended up happening? Clearly, as Christie Padilla pointed out, this was a predicted outcome of the district’s spending habits. As well as this, now that we are in this mess, what are they going to do about it? The admin in charge of managing the budget has not been fired, and it has become a little hard to watch the whole cabinet sitting in their white castle while we are being squeezed into classes to fit all of us around the lack of teachers. How are students supposed to focus in an environment like this? Class sizes have been gradually increasing over the years, and no one has ever thought it was a good idea. It is hard to tell what the thought process was. But now that we are here, the only thing we can do is to raise our voices as one and make sure this does not happen again.