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WITH THE departure of former principal Anthony Barbetta, new principal Rosemarie Jahoda has decided to begin her year with “a listening tour to gather information from students, staff and parents.” Over the past few weeks, she has set up meetings with components of the student body to try and familiarize herself with the school (including a lunch meeting with our editorial team). We commend these efforts and wish to help further the goals behind this listening tour by providing our thoughts about what a new leader of the building should know about our strengths and weaknesses.
There are endless things that make THHS so unique. Our small population minimizes the distance between students from other grades, the faculty, and the administration. A large school environment can be highly impersonal. The connections one makes here, however, establish permanent familiarity; those who graduate from THHS continue to reminisce about traditions like Founder’s Day, SING!, and FON. Within the school, the various clubs and teams likewise represent the diverse interests of students and perpetuate these connections. We believe that these aspects of THHS life, which go beyond the classroom, are as important to the education provided here as what goes on in the classroom.
That is not to say that what goes on in the classroom is lacking. The Election Simulation is a great example of what THHS classes can produce. It is another event that make us so distinctive, and shows that at our best, our classes can push us to do something beyond note-taking and test-taking. What you will see during the Simulation is that THHS welcomes political discussion and few other schools take politics and social issues into such intense consideration. The Simulation successfully allows students to weave in current issues beyond the classroom, creating an interactive platform for all. It is a model for the rest of the school.
In addition to the aforementioned, THHS prides itself in its partnership with Queens College. Students have full access to QC resources and seniors are allowed to take two electives per semester on campus. It is essential that we maintain this (and nurture it), as it is directly prepares students for college and gives them the opportunity for free credits.
We hope to foster all the above aspects that make us unique while constructively improving other areas of the school.
On that note, every fall, one of the main issues students face involves scheduling. We are looking into whether or not this year produced more problems for students than previous years (for a future article), but we know the student body feels strongly that the process needs improvement. Perhaps other schools like ours feature the same scene every September: a guidance office full of students desperate for schedule changes. This year, students hampered guidance to such an extent that they even had to close their offices momentarily.
Many seniors were highly unsatisfied with their schedules this year as the bridge year at QC posed a problem of dealing with two schedules and QC classes were built around THHS classes. The QC programmers efficiently dealt with certain issues, but they can only do so much within their limits. Since the two schedules are in sync, oftentimes this means that students must be placed into classes against their will solely to meet graduation requirements. Seniors wish to claim senior priority so that during their last year, they can take classes of their choosing in time for college applications.
On the whole, students feel that better communication would improve these issues. Many assume budget cuts produce scheduling issues, but it’s not clear to us how or why that happens. Some students would like, for example, to see more funding in the arts and music departments. In previous years, the band department has asked their students to contribute a set amount of money to assist in purchasing sheet music and paying for instrument repairs. Students must battle with old instruments and battered music stands and would like to see an upgrade. Most likely, however, each department has students who would like to see new and better equipment (and more). Transparency about what we can and cannot do because of budgetary limitations would help.
On a much larger scale, there have been other major issues where students feel in the dark and would prefer to have an administration that regularly shares key information with the community. It is not uncommon for students to see a number of key changes made without announcements that explain them. At this point, seniors in this school have seen three teachers removed from the building in four years. In the absence of official communications about such events, rumors run rampant, and regardless of what the reasons for these dismissals may be, students and parents have a right to know what is going on in their school. Moreover, students who have spoken up in these scenarios should know that the administration publicly supports their coming forward, which would assure other students that they can do the same if need be. It is a matter of both honesty and safety.
We are grateful for the opportunity to share these thoughts and believe this is a strong way for Mrs. Jahoda to handle this transition so promptly and dynamically. We hope to aid her in her efforts and encourage the rest of the student body to do the same.