Vroonland’s View

Having travelled the globe, bringing education to students of all walks of life, he chose to come here. Former basketball coach, teacher, and child DSC00407adopted from foster care and poverty at the age of 10, superintendent Dr. David Vroonland chose to travel here from Frenship ISD in order to better impact students who come from hard backgrounds.

This man welcomes students into his office with a hearty “come on back,” as he did when Anthony Robles and I walked into his office to talk to him about such issues as dress code and future goals for the school district.

Sydney Smith: What are your goals this year as Superintendent?

Dr. David Vroonland: “I would’ve said it’s to learn about the district and try to understand the various areas I want to see improvement in and work with people towards that, and it still is. But I’ve also moved that to the pre-K through grade 2 initiative to get every child on grade-level reading by grade three. It’s an important effort because of the substantial risks children are put at if they aren’t on grade-level reading by grade three and so we are creating a city-wide effort to focus on this and we’re going to have to get– not literally, but figuratively– into people’s homes before their children ever enter our schools to get them reading with their children and playing games with their children so that they can be prepared when they come into the schools. Obviously, it’s also to improve everything about Mesquite. It’s already a wonderful district, but I don’t come in to manage things, I come to make things better and that’s why I get hired and get paid what I get paid, so I take that very seriously. We are going to be starting a strategic plan here in December and then in May with the community to look at strategically what we want a graduate to look like five years from now, and then what do we need to put in place to help a graduate be that profile.”

Smith: Do you have any specific goals for the high schools?

Vroonland: “One is to review the facilities and see how they work for 21st-century learning. I’m a bit concerned that they’re somewhat small spaces and not as up-to-date spaces as I would like to see. I think students need to learn in a very collaborative manner and I think they need to learn in a way that ensures they’re communicating their knowledge with each other and learning from each other as well as from the teacher, and learning from accessing resources online. I want to see more of that. I know our teachers would like to make that happen, but can it happen with the facilities the way they are? Mesquite High is going to be one of the schools on the top of my list for some work. I’m not really a big fan of portables, so we’re already removing them all from West Mesquite and looking at removing them our middle schools and then Mesquite high next, perhaps, and further down the road, with further bonds, looking at the elementary schools, which we really need to get to. The other thing that’s really on my heart is to provide students with an entrepreneurial, innovative experience in their area of passion. Because people own businesses and operate businesses, and you need to know what that looks like, and you need to know what innovation looks like in music. Really, by grouping you by endorsements and letting you discover through each other, through research, and through experiences what entrepreneurialism looks like in areas that you have a passion for.”

Smith: Does that mean we will see more endorsement-specific classes?

Vroonland: “The endorsements could be blended or they could be separate, that’s where it’s unique to every district. In my previous district, we were actually doing it through the speech classes, which was required, so we were bundling kids by endorsements in their speech class. So we were bringing in speakers and they did research based on their endorsement. So we didn’t need to create a different class, we were able to use that structure so that they could learn about marketing, they could learn about innovation, and then present their speeches around their area of interest instead of just a general speech. Because then you’re doing extensive research and the other kids are hearing you and it spurs what I call a ‘what-if’ thinking. I want my students to be ‘what-if’ thinkers.”

Anthony Robles: So you support the Endorsement program?

Vroonland: “Yes. I think it’s really important for students to get a feel for what they want by as early as the eighth grade. Not necessarily what job you want, but by looking at your various interests, what endorsement that puts you in, and then looking at career opportunities. I think we’ve been looking at it backwards, like asking an eighth grader what career they want to have. They might not know, and you might not know as a senior, and that’s okay, but it’s important to kind of have a general understanding of where your passions lie. For example, when I was young, I did know. I either wanted to be a lawyer, a minister, or an educator. Well, all three of those are in the public service sector. So I would have been in the public service sector, learning about various opportunities, and that leads you to learning different ways of thinking and different potential futures.”

Robles: Obviously, there’s been lots of speculation and controversy regarding dress code. Can you please clarify your view on it?  

Vroonland: “Dress code is simply not high on my priority list. It might be high on yours, and I respect that, and I’m always open to dialogue. I would hope that we are communicating the reason we have standardized dress to our students so they at least understand why we have that, and if we’re not, we need to. And if that doesn’t resonate any longer, there can always be a conversation, and it needs to be a civil conversation. But from my vantage point looking in, I see people that are dressed nicely, people who are representing their school, and when I walk onto that campus, I know who belongs, and I can instantly tell who doesn’t belong, unless they decide to dress apart. The other thing I see is that it seems to separate the stigmas of people who have money and those who don’t, and there’s real value in that. The obvious negative side to that is you lose a bit of individualism. So it becomes a balancing act of what is more important. So I see both sides of the argument, I’m not immune to both sides. I probably wouldn’t do much to change it. I just don’t see that as a factor that leads to anywhere positive. Now, if I were convinced otherwise– and not just me; the funny thing about dress code is that it’s not the superintendent’s decision by him or herself, it’s a decision made as a collective, as a community. It’s a decision made by the board of trustees– we might look at it. I’m not someone who just comes in and says ‘we’re doing this’ unless I’m just really not happy with something. It’s going to be more of a collaborative process and more of a discussion and I always like to make decisions from points of strength, not weakness. I don’t have strong feelings about it, it’s the furthest thing from the top of my list. I’m not getting into that conversation right now. I may someday, but not right now.

Something else I think you guys would be interested in is that we are starting, on November 9th, my first Superintendent Student Advisory Council. It consists of selected students– five seniors, five juniors, five sophomores– from every high school. They will come to meet with me. One of the neat things with this group of kids, and I haven’t met them yet, I didn’t pick them so I don’t know who they are, is they will be tasked with looking at the scope of the school experience and say ‘what can we do to make it better?’ They’re going to look at some of the challenges students face day to day, and I’m going to ask them to take that on and then design a solution that they will present to the Board of Trustees and then we will try to actually enact. That will be a neat way of students getting involved. I put this together in a previous district and I want to do that here as well, so I’m looking forward to it. That’ll be a great kickoff to something pretty special, and the interesting thing is, I don’t know where it will go.”

Smith: Why do you feel the connection you have with students of poverty is important enough to drive you to a new school district?

Vroonland: “Because of my backstory. I grew up in foster care. I was a child of a 17-year-old mom who had no husband and gave me to foster care and I ended up adopted at ten. I grew up in poverty, so I know what that looks like, I know what that feels like, and I know what it means to overcome adversity in the beginnings of life. Certainly, I was advantaged at age 10 in a way that I wasn’t before ten, but regardless, you have to have a certain level of grit and a certain level of determination to overcome those first starts. And in some ways, it might have been a harder first start to be transitioning through three different families before settling in with one real family, which is this weird last name. The other piece of that, though, is I’m passionate about what education can do for young people. And I know what it will allow for you. It’s more than just a career, than just a college. Our purpose is to help you be in control of your own freedoms and help you be a self-determinant adult who knows how to pursue their happiness. It’s not to make you wealthy, it’s not to make you go to college, or anything like that. Those may be important outcomes for you, but it’s to allow you a way to be that person who is in control of their freedoms, able to make decisions, not be under the control of someone else and to be able to pursue their happiness. That is very much the American Dream, it’s not about making more than your parent, that’s been distorted. Our American dream is about pursuing the things that will make you happy and, from a financial standpoint, making enough money that you’ll be happy doing what you’re doing. Not so much making tons of money. That may be an end result, but that’s not it. Public education is the single source solution for young people achieving that. The failure of public education means the failure of the American Dream in my estimation. That is devastating to young people, especially those who don’t come with economic means. We’ve seen that system before. If you remember your history, there has always been a ‘have’ and ‘have-not’ society, but what made the ‘haves’ significantly more powerful was education. And the ‘have-nots’ didn’t have it. Well, in America, we have created a system that allows those whose start in life wasn’t perfect to become of whatever means they want to become. So why do I want to be in a place that has high poverty levels? Because I believe I can impact that to a greater degree. That may be boastful, but that’s not about me being prideful, it’s more about humbly serving in the way that I believe I am designed to serve. I just think this is a wonderful opportunity. It’s a wonderful community. You probably don’t recognize it because you’re in it, but it’s an incredibly welcoming community. And I’ve got to tell you, students have been incredibly welcoming to me and my son. So I don’t know if you know that, but it’s been pretty unique in that respect. So it’s been a great transition.”

Smith: I saw in your biography that you taught in Japan. Can you tell us more about that experience?

DSC00405Vroonland: “I taught at a Japanese high school and I was also the head coach at that school. I taught literature and journalism. My wife was an Air Force psychologist, and so that took me to D.C. and Japan and Allen, and ultimately other directions. Teaching in Japan was a very unique experience, very unique from here. Students, frankly, study a lot more. After school, many of them go to what are called ‘cram schools,’ and spend two hours there studying English, especially, or math. Those are the two subjects they studied really hard because their scores get them into certain universities or even certain high schools. The school I taught at was Keimei Gakuen. Keimei was a private school and I want to say 60% of their kids were born and raised in Japan, 40% were almost entirely Japanese, and they were kiddos who had been born in Japan or born overseas but definitely lived overseas and were returning to Japan. One of the interesting things, kind of going back to our dress code conversation, one of the interesting things about these Japanese kiddos is that they were very homogeneous. Now, that may have changed since I left in 1995, but culturally, the corporate is very important, whereas in American culture, the individual is more important. And so these kiddos, when they came back from the United States or Great Britain or wherever they were coming back from, even though they looked Japanese, everybody could recognize that they weren’t Japanese. Now I don’t know how that happens because that doesn’t make any sense to me, but that is what was communicated to me. So our school was founded not only to help them learn Japanese and to help them maintain their English, but also to help them to become Japanese. It was like a cultural training center, if you well, to help the students understand what it means to be Japanese. I mean the girls there, still– you’ve probably seen Karate Kid 2, where the girl does the tea? Well, they learn that in high school. There are cultural elements in high school that are not done in the United States. They go to school a lot longer. Most high schools even have a culture festival there for a number of days where they celebrate culture. They show different parts of what is culturally Japanese. I had a great time there. Some of the kids signed a cup as a going away gift. I got a fan, I got pictures, I got a lot of things but I could only put out one. It was a great experience teaching and coaching there. I loved coaching basketball there, but there were some things different because obviously, I’m more of an American-style basketball coach and that didn’t always work well, when I yelled at officials, they just looked scared. They didn’t understand a word I was saying, so I had an interpreter on the bench and most of the time he apologized for my behavior, which wasn’t very nice. The food in Japan is unreal. It is so good. It really is good, it’s not what you think of, it’s not all raw fish. Ramen in Japan is like 20 times better than American ramen, it’s so good, I could eat it all day. And ramen shops there are like sweat shops, they’ve got steam going all the time and boiling noodles constantly, they’re usually really small, but the food is unreal. I like the Japanese people a great deal, they were really great, nice people, very friendly, you could travel anywhere you wanted. Occasionally Americans would visit, and if they had red hair color or blonde hair color, the Japanese people were just fascinated with it. My older son was born there, and he had blond hair and blue eyes. Literally, when he was a baby, we were getting paid around $150 an hour to have him pose for magazines. We took him one time out on a trip touring some Japanese sites and these high school students pulled up and mobbed us. It looked like Elvis Presley in the building. I wish I had my camera because there were about 150 girls just swarming around my wife and our older son just because he had blond hair and blue eyes. They would touch your hair on the train, so I would have to stand between them and Japanese men because obviously, it’s kind of creepy, but it’s not intended that way, they just can’t help themselves because it’s interesting. I loved being in Japan, it was a lot of fun, there were great people, and it was just a great place to teach.”

Smith: I also saw that you taught in Maryland. What was that like?

Vroonland: “I was at DeVout high school in Lanham, which is really close to the University of Maryland. That’s where I taught and coached and I was head track coach and varsity football coach there. I also taught government, Psychology, and I really liked my job there. It was very different from my first job. A lot of the kids I taught came from very tough backgrounds. They didn’t actually live in that neighborhood, they were bused to the school. They were from inside the beltway, which in the late 80s and early 90s was pretty tough sledding. But I loved the kids and frankly, I’ll say that the kids and I had a great relationship. I was only there for one year and they voted me Outstanding Teacher that one year I was there, and it was just a really neat time for me. I love D.C. If you’re a history person, it’s a great place to be. You can drive three hours either direction and see incredible things. That’s something I hope kids do when they get older. It doesn’t require as much money as you think, you can do it very cheap.”

Smith: Another thing myself and many other students have noticed is your Twitter page where you post about school events. Do you plan to expand your use of social media?

Vroonland: “Twitter is probably the extent of the social media for me. I’m trying to do more, but I don’t even know how to respond to people to be honest. People sometimes tweet at me and I don’t know what to do with that. One time I did, a young lady asked something and I responded and it went out to everybody, I think I did that wrong. That’s not what I meant to do. I just like to push out things that I think are really neat. Things that I see happening that I think are pretty cool, I like to put out.”

Robles: What is your plan for the Fine Arts program?

Vroonland: “My plan is to keep growing them. They’re really great organizations and I’m really pleased to see how much the school district has invested in them. There have been districts who, due to financial problems, have just kind of let them slide. I’ve never done that, I’ve actually grown them. We actually put a band-only practice field at Friendship when I left and they’re pretty excited about that. And I think the more you grow extra-curricular and co-curricular programs, you find ways to connect the kids to things and help grow their curiosity about things that can be. I think that’s the thing for you guys with music. It’s not just about playing music, it’s about being a part of a group of people, it’s about learning to work in a team, it’s about learning to be disciplined about things, it’s learning to commit yourself to something bigger than just yourself. You can’t just be out there for yourself or it won’t work, you have to be part of the team. Those are important assets that young people take with them into the world when they graduate and help them be successful. Those are investments that won’t go away. I don’t know where the next rendition will be, I haven’t been around long enough to tell.

One of the things we were talking about the other day is our K-6 structure in our elementary schools, and one of the things we’re talking about is implementing a 6-8 structure across our schools We have it at some of our middle school campuses, but not all. It can advantage 6th graders by getting them more quickly attached to athletics, to band, to choir, even to some CT programs. There are some real advantages to that that we are looking at right now. That will help some of the arts programs to advance and excel because all of them are doing a really good job, but we want to see them really excel and get better. We always want to get better.”

House of Cardboard: PALS Hosts Creativity Challenge

A Cardboard Challenge will be hosted by teacher and PALS sponsor Kenneth Martin in the small gym on Oct 31 to fundraise for the Imagination Foundation and PALS. Admission is free for anyone who wishes to participate, but donations are encouraged.

“The biggest thing we need is just kids to come play,” Martin said. “I didn’t advertise that much last year because I thought we didn’t have enough cardboard and that we’d have a bunch of people show up but not enough materials, but the response last year was just overwhelming with how much stuff we got.”

Before the challenge, students and teachers are invited to donate cardboard, masking tape, and other possible building materials.

“This year, I’m expecting definitely way more cardboard; hopefully a lot more kids,” senior Emma Pirnar said. “We’re going to try different things, to make something new. I just hope a lot more people come and see how awesome it is and come make a lemonade stand or a car out of cardboard.”

Anyone who wishes to attend may do so, regardless of age or location.

“People just show up,” Martin said. “Last year there were kids from Pumpkin Fest at City Lake that just came across the street. Even kids from Royse City and Terrell came.”

Last year, PALS decided to host a cardboard challenge after Martin showed them the video “Caine’s Arcade,” a video about a boy named Caine who created his own arcade entirely out of cardboard, which inspired him to do something similar.

“I decided to do it because I feel that kids just don’t have the creative outlet in schools to just build something and create something out of whatever they want,” Martin said. “We’re so concerned with testing, and they don’t have a chance to really get out and create whatever they want.”

In addition to teaching those participating to be creative, Martin said the challenge will contribute to a good cause. Martin said he hopes some funds raised by donations will go towards PALS, but they will primarily go to the Imagination Foundation, an organization which promotes teaching creativity and problem-solving to kids and was inspired by Caine’s story.

“Caine’s story did inspire me because it showed you that you can do anything and you can make anything,” Pirnar said. “Even if you don’t have everything you think you need, you can just work with what you have.”

Caine did work with what he had. He was a ten-year-old boy whose dad worked at a junkyard while he played. He built an arcade and hoped for customers, but none came until filmmaker Nirvan Mullick discovered it while searching for a door handle. Mullick was inspired by Caine’s creativity, so he used social media to plan a flash-mob at the makeshift arcade and filmed a documentary of the process. He also started an online donation box to raise money for Caine’s college fund, and donations exceeded the $25,000 goal.

“Caine’s story inspired me because he just built that whole arcade even though people made fun of him, he still kept doing what he loved to do,” Martin said. “Plus, that whole story about that flash-mob coming together and people coming to play his games when he thought nobody really cared about him. And it’s kind of cheesy but I feel like that’s our job as teachers, to take kids that maybe feel like no adult ever notices them or thinks they have value and showing them ‘yes, you do have value even if you get made fun of.’”

Pirnar said that her advice to anyone attending this year’s cardboard challenge is to show the kids attending that they have value, because they will appreciate it.

“Last year, myself and some of the seniors made a maze which the little kids would crawl through which was pretty fun,” Pirnar said. “It was really hard to make, and after that we made a huge castle called the Castle of Awesomeness. The kids loved it. It was pretty cool.”

Martin said that building things may be hard because part of building something is not getting it right the first time, and that is a big lesson kids should take from the Cardboard Challenge.

“My whole philosophy of teaching is that [the problem is] we don’t allow kids to fail gracefully,” Martin said. “We don’t allow kids to fail and not blow up at them. Encouraging that you don’t have to be perfect to be successful and learning to tolerate disappointment and having to learn from your mistakes I think is something we don’t teach enough in school, which is why I’m so big on being okay with failure so long as you put in the effort and learn from your failure.”

No Pass, No Play

The main focus of students in school is to pass the core subject classes in order to move up to the next grade level. The No Pass, No Play is a guideline followed by all UIL registered sports. This guideline keeps failing students from participating until they pass. The rule or guildline is so that students will understand that academics come before sports and other events.

 

Academic subject grades are essential to graduating and make up your GPA. You need a suitable average in order to graduate and you must pass all of your classes. Most colleges require a minimum GPA average to attend or enroll even if you are the poster boy or girl for their national sports division.

 

Although sports take up a lot of time and dedication, they are seasonal, and are only contribute percentage of a students grade point average. Core subjects are are a full year and need more dedication to studying. With the No Pass, No Play, it can help show that in order to be part of a team, students must prove their commitment to their academic goals. Therefore, it shows coaches and scouts from universities that they are focused on a “game” plan.

 

GPAs are what colleges look for in each student and a low GPA score can come between being accepted into a college or not. Although some sports players have made it a career, its not always a lifetime career. Unlike sports careers, an education will be there for a lifetime.  Players especially need a solid education to fall back on in case they get severely injured or become too old to play.

 

Scouts come to high schools often to judge students on their playing ability, but without the necessary GPA in place from a solid commitment to core subject grades a student can easily lose out on scholarship offers and acceptance to most colleges. Scholarships may use sports as a free ticket to a higher education and even a chance at a sports career, but those scholarships won’t be there for the taking without an acceptable GPA.

 

Putting grades before sports is a major commitment. Grades should come before sports because those grades are what scholarships and colleges depend on. In high school, it may be hard to understand that in order to have a good GPA, it takes a lot of effort, and you must be willing to put in in the classroom and put out on the field. If one cannot dedicate themselves to their grades now, it will be harder to do so in college.

 

Grades are a major priority. If a student can’t pass a class, they shouldn’t be able to play.

 

Every student focuses on passing classes in order to move on to the next grade level and participate in school activities. The No Pass, No Play keeps failing students from participating until they pass. This guideline makes school academic studies come before sports and other events.

 

During the sports season, athletes are focused on passing in order to play their sport. Here, at MHS we follow the No Pass, No Play guidelines. Meaning, if you don’t pass a class, you don’t play. Softball player, Kennedy Curry, has to follow these guidelines along with all of the other athletes.

 

“I think the ‘No Pass, No Play’ is good,” Kennedy said. “If you can’t keep up with your grades, you can’t keep up with your team.”

 

Although sometimes it may be thought of as unfair, the “No Pass, No Play” keeps academics first in the players mind. Maria Tovar, an honor student along with being a student athlete, said that her grades fluctuate during season. She also said that even though she may have to cram her schoolwork in between games, school still comes first.

 

“In a way it’s good because I consider school more important,” Maria said. “You should be focused on your grades over sports because it’s an activity. It should be second unless you are trying to pursue that sport.”

 

 

 

The many hats of Shelley Porterfield

A vast majority of students don’t think of teachers as having a life like they do. Most assume teachers do things like prepare for the school year and go to teacher training. However, no one thinks of their teacher as being a rock star.

Shelley Porterfield is a woman of many hats. She is a teacher and a lead singer in the rock band, Incognito, along with being a full time mother. She doesn’t spend her whole summer doing work for her school, but she spends it rocking out at her nightly gigs. And now that school has once again began, she has to juggle the double life of a teacher and rock star.

“I sing on the weekends as well as teach school during the week.” Porterfield said. “It’s pretty tough to balance both schedules, but I love doing both.”

Although she enjoys rocking out and teaching, she still makes time to do her main job; be a mother.

“My kids think it’s pretty cool that I’m in a band,” Porterfield said. “They have been to a few of our outdoor gigs and love them. My oldest has even sat in a few times. Being in a band has also helped me financially, especially when I was a single mom.”

Porterfield explained that although this is her dream, she didn’t plan on being in a band; it just happened.

“I have always been able to sing and just tried it for fun, not knowing it would lead to a full-time gig,” Porterfield said. “I also love the guys in Incognito like brothers.”

Although teaching is her career, being in a band is her passion.

“I feel you should always follow your dreams and your heart,” Porterfield said. ” You can do anything you set your mind to.”

 

 

INTERVIEW

Chaznee Wyrick: Do you have kids? i know this is kind of personal, but i was just asking for the next question.
Shelley Porterfield: Yes, I have 2 daughters. One is a freshman at A&M and the other is in 6th grade.

Wyrick: How do you play the mother role along with being in a band?
Porterfield: My kids think it’s pretty cool that I’m in a band. They have been to a few of our outdoor gigs and love them. My oldest has even sat in a few times. Being in a band has also helped me financially, especially when I was a single mom. Now, it’s helping me put my daughter through college.

Wyrick: The website shows that you will have gigs during the school year, how will you juggle being mom, teacher, and rock star?
Porterfield: I sing on the weekends as well as teach school during the week. It’s pretty tough to balance both schedules, but I love doing both.

Wyrick: Who or what influenced you to join a band?
Porterfield: I have always been able to sing and just tried it for fun, not knowing it would lead to a full-time gig. I also love the guys in Incognito like brothers.

Wyrick: Would you recommend others to take on both roles?
Porterfield: Absolutely! I feel you should always follow your dreams and your heart. You can do anything you set your mind to.

43 Missing Students in Mexico

On September 26th, fifteen students were already dead, six people were shot to death, and 43 students disappeared without a trace. Even today, all but one student has yet to be found. A burned bone fragment was found and was identified to have the DNA of Alexander Mora Venacio.

Venacio’s parents have stated that as heart broken as they are, they will not sit and cry, but keep fighting until the other 42 students are found.

Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam says the police in Guerrero turned the students over to the Guerreros Unidos gang. The gang has claimed they “incinerated” the bodies of students and dumped their ashes into a river. According to Karam, the students, all male, were on a trip to Guerrero, Iguala to protest about the funds for their college.

It’s reported that Iguala Mayor Jose Luis Abarca had the police arrest the students and to hand them over to the drug gang. Abarca and his wife Maria de los Angeles Pineda were arrested after they were found hiding out in Mexico City, leading Karam to believe that the mayor must have something to do with the kidnapping of the students.

Members of the Guerrero have been interrogated  and interviewed and proclaim they they “wouldn’t call the police, ‘police’. I would call them Hit Men.” The members have named at least thirty police men as members of the Cartel.

In the last ten years alone, thousands upon thousands of citizens in mexico have disappeared, and hundreds have been murdered. The pain and struggles of the people had been collectively building up until now.

The situation in Mexico is bad, it always has been, and has only gotten worse. It seems like the missing students was the final straw, and the people of Mexico broke. Protests bursted through the contained, civilized walls and are fighting for answers and justice. The thousands of protesters refuse to give up hope on the students.

Teens, parents, kids, and adults all march the streets and roads of Mexico, crying out for their sons, friends and brothers. No answers have been given, but the people continue to hope for the return of the last 42 students.

A Change in Power: An interview with Mr. Samples

Story by Chaznee WyrickSamples

 

Our new head principal, Mr. Samples is from one of our very own high schools here in Mesquite, North Mesquite. He has an eye for academics and plans to bring a new light to it by  starting the school year with the future of students in mind. Here’s a Q and A with our new head principal.

Chaznee Wyrick: What schools did you attend?

Mr. Samples:  I went to Price elementary in Mesquite. I went to Vanston middle school and I went to North Mesquite

Wyrick: What college did you go to?

Mr. Samples: Ouachita Baptist University. I went there on a football scholarship. But, I graduated with my masters from Texas A&M Commerce.

Wyrick: What inspired you to be a principal?

Mr. Sample: I wanted to make a bigger impact outside of just my class room and I was also a coach. I thought I would have an opportunity to influence the masses a little better.

Wyrick: Besides being a coach, did you teach other subjects? If so, what did you teach?

Mr. Samples: Yes, I taught in social studies. I’ve taught world experience and world history.

Wyrick: How long did you teach?

Mr. Samples: I’ve had seven years as a teacher. I also coached for seven years.

Wyrick: How long have you been a principal?

Mr. Samples: This is my eleventh year as an administrator and my first year as a head principal. So, 10 years as an assistant principal and my first as a principal.

Wyrick: Where did you teach?

Mr. Samples: At Rockwall High School. I also coached at Cain middle school. And I was an AP in May Bank for a year.

Wyrick: What degree did you seek in college? Major? Minor?

Mr. Samples: My first two years were pre-med. I didn’t make enough time to spend in the lab so I didn’t have high enough grades to go to a medical school so I changed my major to history. I then majored in history and minored in social studies. Then, I got a Masters in Education and Administration.

Wyrick: What are your intentions for this year?

Mr. Samples: To challenge our students to take their academics seriously, to have a goal for themselves to look down the road as to where they want to be and also to create a passion and/or pride in our students that they go to Mesquite High school.

Wyrick: What do you want to change or add to Mesquite High school as being the new head principal?

Mr. Samples: I want a greater focus on academics and challenge each student to at least take  one AP class or one dual credit or college class.

Wyrick: Is there anything that you’ve noticed over the past years that you would like to change?

Mr. Samples: School spirit has always been a big impact. I think when people are excited about what they’re involved in, whether it be UIL, academics, band or choir. The school gets excited about the different things that are going on.

Wyrick: What do you expect from the students of MHS this year?

Mr. Samples: For them not to ever be satisfied with mediocre. I want them to give their best effort in everything that they do so at the end of the day, they are satisfied with whatever the product is. And, at the end of their high school career, they feel like they are prepared to go to college.

Wyrick: What led you to teaching and becoming a principal?

Mr. Samples: My sister was in education before I was, about 2 years before. I saw how much she loved going to work. I felt like I would feel fulfilled each and every day by making an impact on at least one student. So, maybe changing the life of somebody in a different direction as to where they may have gone. If it was wrong to try and steer them in the right way.

Wyrick: What do you think you should do in your position?

Mr. Samples: I think I should challenge teachers to push students to their limits. Besides just challenging our students, but challenge the teachers to have those same expectations.  We have a campus of roughly 200 teachers so energizing the teacher to feel like they can push forward whenever things are not going in the right direction.

It would appear that bringing back student pride and encouraging teachers to challenge students to go beyond mediocre are on the forefront of this years new head principal’s agenda. It seems that 2015 will be the year for Mesquite High to embrace the tradition and pride  of being a “Skeeter”.

Meeting Grover

Dr. Dennis Grover is one of the new administrators we have welcomed to Mesquite High this year. Having graduated with his doctorate from Texas A & M Commerce, Dr. Grover is a man who has adorned many hats in the teaching field.  Dr. Grover has taught special ed in math, been a councilor at Agnew Middle School, an assistant principal at McDonald and Vanston Middle School, and has finally arrived to our revamped campus. With a wife and two kids, Dr. Grover does all he can with his new extended family here at Mesquite High. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dr. Grover, and discussed how his time here has been.

 

Izaak Lux: How has MHS treated you so far?
Dr. Grover: It’s been good. I’ve enjoyed working with the outstanding group of Senior Leaders. I’ve mostly been trying to get to know some of the students and teachers.

Lux: What have you enjoyed about MHS?

Grover: I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with the people I used to teach with; I’ve enjoyed building relationships with some of the students and Senior Leaders. You definitely get see the amount of maturity the kids have gone through over the last 9 years. They all grow up and become people you can really connect with.

Lux: Have you run into any obstacles?

Grover: Nothing big has really come up. The only thing really is that this is my first year working attendance and I have to learn all the different things that go into presiding over attendance and enrollment verification.

Lux: What responsibilities come with being the head of attendance?

Grover: I’m the guy that files the truancy cases when someone collects too many unexcused absences. I’m also the one who has to go to court in those cases, so I have talk to the student, parent and judge to figure out what to do.

Lux: Has there been anyone who has shown a lot of support or been a great advisor to you?           Grover: The Senior Leaders and their sponsors have really embraced me and kept me involved with the on goings here. But mostly everyone has been very forthcoming and inviting since I’ve been here.

Lux: What are you expecting from this school year?  

Grover: I’m looking forward to seeing ALL of the senior class graduate and to be a part of that; making sure they can be successful and hopefully helping all the underclassmen get to see that the end is near- their hard work for the past 12 or so years in finally coming to an end. Mainly, I look forward to helping anyone I can this year.

Lux: Is there anything you wish to tell the students at MHS?

Grover: Remember to have pride in your school. The building is just a building, but the school is made up of the students and staff. So be proud of who you are and where you go to school- be proud to be a Skeeter.

New country, new year

Story by Chaznee Wyrick

 

“Texan people aren’t all as crazy as everyone thinks,” Charlotte Schmideur, junior, said.

Texan high school is stereo typed as kids riding horses to school wearing plaid and jeans, but Schmideur soon realized that wasn’t entirely true.

Typical American high school is generally thought to be filled with bells, electives and tests, but it is much more than that for Schmideur. Her school year consisted of completely new people in a whole new country and new memories.

Schmideur is a foreign exchange student from Germany and stayed for the 13-14 school year. Schmideur is going back to Germany after this school year.IMG_0003 2

With the 2013-2014 year coming to an end, every student has their favorite event that sticks out to them. For Schmideur, her favorite events revolved around the fine arts department.

“My experience was really good because I’ve made so many good friends here,”Schmideur said. “But my favorite memories were definitely show circle from the musical and theater and choir banquet.”

After visiting MHS, Schmideur said that there are somethings different between MHS and her highschool back in Germany. One difference being the amount of sports and extra ciricular activities.

“Back in Germany, there’s not that much extra curicular stuff,” Schmideur said. “Like, if you play soccer you have to find an actual soccer club where you can go to it and it’s not school organized.”

Most teenagers go back home and tell of their adventures and memories of their trip somewhere new, but Schmideur said that when she goes back home she will tell her friends how she learned about her skills. With the wrap of this school year, Schmideur will be taking home many memories from her junior school year here at MHS.

“What I’ll take back home is the experience that you might have powers that you don’t know of, like, you are stronger than you think you are,” Schmideur said. ” Most people here don’t realize how good they are and I didn’t realize what good parts i had until i came here.”

Baskets, Bunnies and Eggs, Oh My

The smell of flowers and freshly mowed lawns is the beginning of our senses telling us that spring is in the air.

Easter eggs // Ostereier

Easter eggs // Ostereier (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another reminder that spring is around is the holiday known as Easter.  The smell of  boiled eggs fill household kitchens, and bowls of colored dye line their counters.

Laughter and chatter fill the house. Children running and playing, while parents and relatives are cooking to prepare for the renowned holiday.

Easter is a time for celebration, when families come together to form memories and to honor the day, most Christens believe, is when Jesus Christ rose from the grave.

For junior, Peyton Adams, that’s exactly how she spent her holiday. When asked why she celebrated Adams replied with “religion”. A big part of Easter to some people is their belief that it’s the day Jesus rose from the tomb which he was buried in, after dying for our sins. To those Christians it is a celebration of thanks. It is also for family.

“We celebrate differently each year,” Adams said.

The most popular and widely known way to celebrate Easter is an egg hunt. Dying boiled eggs and hiding them for children to find, although it seems astray from the point of Easter its works and almost everyone does it.

Ask any adult today what they remember most about Easter when they were young and you will hear “Easter egg hunts.”  Cookouts,  games, reuniting with family, and for some a church service included,  the celebration is endless.

For Adams’ its “the food, candy and celebrating Jesus.”

 

 

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Creepy stories for a dark night

Slenderman, Jeff the Killer, Smile dog, Ben Drowned, Eyeless Jack, Rake.creepypasta_ocs__we_are_the_proxies_by_blazexdx-d6d6m1i

These names might seem familiar and to those that recognize them know that they are from famous stories known as Creepypasta’s. In short, a creepypasta is a short, fictional story that is posted on the Internet that is designed to unnerve and shock the reader. A few of these creepypasta’s were made into video games, the most renowned being the Slenderman games, where the gamer has to go around collecting pages while at the same time avoiding Slenderman, a tall figure dressed in a black suit with a white face, no facial features and tentacle arms sprouting from his back.

Creepypasta’s can be written by anyone and are posted everywhere. A You-tuber that goes by the name of Mr. Creepy-pasta makes a lot of videos where he reads creepypasta’s he found on the Internet. He has, at the moment, about 423,530 subscribers. If creepypasta is typed in the Google search engine, multiple links pop up, all leading to creepypasta stories written by people just like us. Surprisingly, not very many people know of or have read creepypasta’s. Those that have and know creepypasta’s have different opinions about it.

“[A creepypasta is] story that inspires an eerie sense. It gives you the possibility that something like that exists. [It] invokes ones imaginations.

” My favorite creepypasta is BEN Drowned.” senior Jacob Simpson, said.

BEN Drowned, or Haunted Majora’s Mask, is a well-known creepypasta created by Alex Hall, also known as “Jadusable”. The story revolves around a Majora’s Mask cartridge that is haunted by the ghost of a boy named Ben.

Simpson was also asked a few more questions, including if he had written a creepypasta himself and he answered no. However, he did mention Slenderman when asked what he thought is the most famous of the creepypasta’s. He was then asked if he would want to be in a creepypasta and if so, which one would it be. “God no! They’re all horror stories and it wouldn’t end well for me.” Simpson said.

The final question asked to Simpson was if he believed there were any creepypasta’s good enough to be made into movies. “Yes, the Russian Sleep Experiment, Jeff the Killer and Abandoned by Disney.”

There are many categories of horror; movies, thrillers. Creepypasta’s are an entertaining way of giving voice to our worst fears and making us think,  Can this actually happen?

These stories are not for everyone but of all the people questioned those that have read them said they enjoyed them and will continue to read them.