JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR APPLICATION
Sarah Darby | Mill Valley High School | 2012 INQUIRING MIND & INVESTIGATIVE PERSISTENCE
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ENTRY MATERIALS AND LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION
PRINT STORY | Health care concerns influence reform ideas
PRINT STORY | Night custodians make up the late shift
MULTI-PLATFORM | Local ‘flying machine man’ sees Shawnee with an aerial view in his power parachute
MULTI-PLATFORM | Fire department adjusts to new fire chief and recovers from recent loss of fellow firefighter
WEBSITE | JagWire News Online work
MULTI-PLATFORM | Cyberbullying impacts students online
SOCIAL MEDIA | Twitter and Facebook work
MULTI-PLATFORM | Coaching evaluations under scrutiny
EXPERIENCE | Workshop and convention experiences
DESIGN | New version of Mark Twain’s classic novels remove offensive words
INTERNSHIP | Journalistic work for the city of Shawnee
LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION | assistant city manager Katie Killen
LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION | principal Tobie Waldeck
COURAGEOUS & RESPONSIBLE HANDLING OF SENSITIVE ISSUES
LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION | social studies teacher Jeff Wieland
LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION | journalism adviser Kathy Habiger
WEB EXCLUSIVE | Week one: The hacking horror
DESIGN | District expands security
DESIGN | Price of gas continues to rise
PRINT STORY | The elderly are too positive about my future
WEB VIDEO | Prom sponsor discusses new prom location
WEB EXCLUSIVE | Staff editorial: Decision needed student input
PRINT STORY | Pollution speeds process of global warming
PRINT WRITING | National legislation alters school lunches
WEB EXCLUSIVE | Homecoming parade to move to week night
PRINT STORY | Spending dilemma reaches school district
PRINT STORY | Repeal of ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ step forward
WEB EXCLUSIVE | Seminar changes to include early dismissal
PRINT STORY AND DESIGN | Debaters argue for the win and the award
PRINT WRITING | Funding structure changes elective classes
SKILLED & CREATIVE USE OF MEDIA
VARIETY OF JOURNALISTIC EXPERIENCES
20 21 22
SUSTAINED & COMMENDABLE WORK WITH COMMUNITY 35
MULTI-PLATFORM | Cuts to Youth Friends staffing alter program
MULTI-PLATFORM | Budget restrictions delay city road projects
MULTI-PLATFORM | Increase in class sizes anticipated next year
WEB EXCLUSIVE | New nutrition proposal presents opportunity
MULTI-PLATFORM | Changes alter football game entertainment
WEB EXCLUSIVE | Shawnee police chief discusses daily blog
MULTI-PLATFORM | Football team overshadows school activities
WEB EXCLUSIVE | Staffing cuts hurt remarkable program
WEB EXCLUSIVE | Students’ comment on football opinion column
WEB EXCLUSIVE | The saga of the ‘No four lane’ sign
MULTI-PLATFORM | Illegal usage of Adderall heightens with teens
WEB EXCLUSIVE | Council candidates discuss election race
WEB EXCLUSIVE | Employee beckons community enthusiasm
MULTI-PLATFORM | Lack of funds and innovation in school lead to a districtwide technological headache
WEB EXCLUSIVE | Staff editorial: Column sparks interaction
Self-analytical essay: Finding a voice We shall not cease from exploration,” poet T.S. Eliot writes in his poem “Four Quartets,” and I certainly did not in journalism, starting with a day my sophomore year when I walked up to the front door of an unsuspecting man in my city who happened to own a flying machine. “Can I ask you a few questions?” I asked the man. I ended up interviewing Power Parachute flyer Dave McKibben on several occasions, then watched him as he took flight in a field, growing smaller in the sky until he grew into a mere speck. Little did I know that question would begin my exploration of journalism and be the start of what would define my high school experience. In middle school and the beginning of high school I listened and stayed quiet at all of the right moments. I soon found my voice on the JagWire newspaper staff. The summer before my first year on staff as a sophomore, I attended a journalism workshop at the University of Kansas. In my design class at camp, I immediately became drawn to the electricity I felt coming from my journalism experiences. Even then I couldn’t have predicted the change that would come over me following that first year on staff. As a sophomore, I immediately began writing the “boring” news stories no one else wanted. I enjoyed the challenge of making a “boring” topic important to readers with extensive reporting and thoughtful quotes. I wanted to see if I could convey my passion for a topic to others. From the beginning, writing the news stories also led me to places beyond the four walls of my school. Nothing enthralled me more than meeting and dissecting people in an interview. Soon, I began designing pages and staying after school to work extra hours on my stories. I think my adviser recognized early on that I had found my niche. That November she offered me a $500 scholarship to attend the National Scholastic Press Association’s national journalism convention in Washington D.C.; I was the only newspaper staff member from Mill Valley High School to attend. At the convention in D.C., I specifically remember meeting a girl my age whose sister had met an incredible list of politicians, business people and even Presidents as a result of her involvement in journalism. That week, I also visited the Newseum in D.C., earned an honorable mention in my first Write Off competition and celebrated when my newspaper placed in the Best of Show competition. A combination of those excitements only further sparked my love for journalism. I saw journalism as a great way to connect with people’s emotions and thoughts. After all, people love to talk about themselves, and I continued to love listening. After attending so many interesting classes in D.C., I became certain of my passion for journalism. Following the convention, I co-wrote the winning story for the Statehouse Reporter for a Day competition. The contest involved traveling to Topeka to interview state legislators about shrinking budgets. I won $100 for the story I wrote following the experience. I continued to explore writing that year as I interviewed janitors, debaters and other sources in my city and at my school. That year I also placed in news writing at my first regional competition through the Kansas Scholastic Press Association. I continued to explore with even more vigor my junior year when I became news editor. The summer before that year, I again attended a summer workshop at KU about website development with the then current editor-in-chief. Together we launched JagWire News Online, the website equivalent of the JagWire. I attended another national journalism convention, where I again received an honorable mention in the newswriting Write Off competition. I also placed in the regional competition and at the state competition as well. For the most part though, I spent my time developing the website and managing the news section. By day, I directed the news section, checking with all of the staff members on my pages, designing a page in nearly every issue and writing investigative stories using district leaders, city government personnel and students as sources. I often stayed after school to exercise my duties as the unofficial web editor. I helped post web-exclusive stories and photos about every other week and spent the rest of my time posting content from our print issues. My blog, CityTalk, in which I provided commentary on happenings in my city, began that year as well. One of my blog posts received some of the website’s first comments after the Shawnee city police chief directed readers to my blog from his own website. I jumped up and down at the sight knowing that my work had been noticed outside of my school. I think my editor-in-chief recognized my enthusiasm and accomplishments and gradually eased me into the position of a sort of second editor-in-chief. That year, I refined my skills in writing, design and leadership and took risks in my work. I learned from my former editor and also began keeping tabs on things I wanted to improve upon in the future. When I became co-editor in chief my senior year, I had big dreams for the paper. At my third summer workshop at KU, I proposed my ideas to my co-editor, web editor and managing editors who attended the workshop with me. For the print edition, I wanted to utilize a smaller paper size to interact with the reader by creating a unique design for every section of the paper. Among my idea, was a page we named the FlipSide which, after some convincing, ran sideways with entertaining quick reads. I further proposed a column called Notables for our briefs page, a world news page and folios that were clean and similar to the style of the Kansas City Star. Additionally, I insisted on using libraries in our InDesign program for consistent designs, creating a list of sources already used in the paper to ensure sources were only used once and making uniform Gmail accounts for everyone to ensure readers could easily contact the staff. I further wanted to ensure that the quality of the content in the paper remained high. I challenged my staff to question every story being proposed for the paper to ensure every piece would interest and be important to students at my school. My co-editor in chief helped put my ideas into action and ran with my design ideas as well. For the website I had even bigger ideas. I didn’t want the website, JagWire News Online, to have “shoveled” content from
ENTRY MATERIALS our print edition. I knew the only way to do this would be to publish web exclusive content every day. I asked my web editor to assign staff members to a beat system that would allow us to meet this goal, and we have been successful. This year, around four stories are posted exclusively to the website every day, as opposed to one web exclusive story being posted every other week as had happened the previous year. I spent hundreds of hours preparing the site for the school year. I created an About tab with contact information and created a Calendar tab for which I put in every varsity sports game for the year. Additionally, I added a Yearbook tab and a Photo tab that used more difficult code to make photos appear in galleries. I also knew the website’s social media strategy had to change if it would be successful. I created a Twitter page (@mvjagwire) and a Facebook page (JagWire Newspaper) to be updated multiple times a week. I also tried to work more closely with my school’s Broadcast staff to post video to the website. I proposed live tweeting from major sports events like football games to form a strong reader following. After hanging hundreds of flyers around school and handing more out in the rain at a football game to promote the site, the Facebook page has 213 likes and the Twitter page has 390 followers. Additionally, I embedded a Facebook like button and live Twitter feed onto the website. Finally, I added ShareThis buttons to the bottom of every story to encourage readers to post website content on their own social media accounts. Statistics prove the success in my undertakings: From Feb. 15-March 15 last year, the website had 487 total visits, and 386 unique visitors, this year in the same time frame, the site had 4,725 total visits and 3,014 unique visitors. The website was also just recently named a 2012 NSPA Online Pacemaker Finalist, our staff’s first nomination, a result of hours of effort. I became most proud of my journalism work this year when I used my voice to enable the voices of others. Over 500 readers initially commented online on the opinion article I wrote in November entitled “Football team unfairly overshadows other school activities.” The widespread reaction had me excited to be a journalist. In another article, I enabled the voices of several coaches who found faults in the coaching evaluation process when I wrote “Coaching evaluations under scrutiny.” Although the article was controversial at the time, the superintendent at my school thanked my adviser and me for writing the story and spread his support of the article in the district. I spent probably 20 hours interviewing around 15 sources and compiling the story. By the time I wrote the article, I had long since abandoned any of my reservations from earlier years. Under my leadership, the JagWire had been completely revolutionized. My stories often tackled controversial topics and my extensive work for the website expanded readership. Most importantly, I enabled hundreds of voices at my school. Additionally, my desire to innovate challenged and set an example for the staff. Innovation continued just last week, when I edited the first video segment created exclusively by JagWire staff members. I have applied to the journalism programs at KU and the University of Missouri. I am also considering the University of Arkansas and the University of Florida and have applied to Stanford University, Duke University and Harvard College. Regardless of where I attend school, I hope to work on a student newspaper and continue to pursue a major in some sort of journalism-related field because I believe skills related to journalism are invaluable to any future pursuits. It has been through journalism that I have become a leader, freethinker, risk taker, writer and more authentic version of myself. Without finding a voice in journalism, I would have been afraid to speak my mind and pursue risks to the extent that I have. In a later line in “Four Quartets,” Eliot writes about knowledge as a journey. “And the end of all our exploring/Will be to arrive where we started/And know the place for the first time.” As I have progressed on the newspaper staff, the truth in Eliot’s words embody even further the experiences I have had with journalism. I used to say “their stories” to describe the words of everyone from my sources to my fellow staff members. But, as I examine the role journalistic stories have played in my life, I see the fault in this thinking. What we explore becomes what we are. Over the course of three years I have become a Power Parachute flyer, House Representative, firefighter, web editor, designer, leader, writer, reporter, videographer and social media expert among other labels. I have learned from sources’ stories and my own experiences and changed for the better because of them.
SKILLED & CREATIVE USE OF MEDIA
Seminar changes to include early dismissal Following staff discussion this summer, seminar has been moved to the end of the day in order to promote what the school calls positive behavior supports. Originally introduced last April, the idea to move seminar was examined and later formalized in a July presentation by principal Tobie Waldeck and agreed upon by smaller groups of teachers and administrators working with students for input. Administration hopes to reduce tardies and increase instructional time, in turn promoting positive student behavior, and the change in seminar time seemed a good option to help in those goals. To encourage unmotivated students and reward hardworking students, the changed seminar will also include the promise of an early dismissal for qualifying students. If a student meets certain attendance and grade criteria and has served any punishments such as detentions, he will have the opportunity to leave seminar early a certain number of times throughout each semester. The system is already in place at De Soto High School and some area schools. “All too often, we don’t recognize the good things people do,” associate principal Jennifer Smith said. “Also when you’re a student, the most important thing to you is your time and we can reward people now with time.” Early release dates will be determined by the administration and shared with students and staff soon. It has been determined that up to 12.5 hours of time or two full schools days could be awarded to eligible students and that there will not be an early release in the first week of school or shortened weeks. All parents must give permission for their student’s release and seminar teachers will be in charge of monitoring a student’s eligibility for a release. “The change was looking at what would best help our students,” Smith said. Athletes, as well as students, needing extra time to take tests after school were considered in making the change. Track coach Chris Dunback said many of his spring athletes missed five or six Blue days in the
track season last year due to early dismissal for meets. “The kids would say, ‘My gosh, I miss a lot of that class’ and they would have to go in before or after school to get help,” Dunback said. Junior track athlete Emily Brigham was one of those students. “French class was terrible [to miss] because you have to be there to learn it,” Brigham said. “I would go in two or three days of seminar trying to figure out what I needed to make up. It’s not like she could reteach it to you in five seconds.” Math teacher Laurie Deuschle saw the effects missing classes for sports had on athletes, as she had to alter her teaching style to accommodate for such students. “When they come in during seminar for me, I give them my notes and have them copy it down and then I have them ask questions, but I don’t really teach them,” Deuschle said. “For some students that’s OK and for some students, it’s like a foreign language on their own.” Some concern remains surrounding the new time. For students like senior Shannon McGraw, an end of the day seminar seems inconvenient. “Right after lunch and fifth block I feel like falling asleep while in the morning I feel productive and energetic,” McGraw said. “It’s a good idea for athletes, but what about everyone else? They’re going to sit there and tiddle around.” Deuschle has some similar concerns. “[My concern is] that they don’t come back after signing my pass because they already don’t come back,” Deuschle said. To monitor seminar attendance, administration seeks to limit travel periods to and from classes as well as time afforded for a student to go to the bathroom or to the water fountain. Overall, Deuschle sees the benefits of the changed seminar time. “Hopefully it will encourage more students if not all students to maintain grades C and above and not have discipline referrals,” Deuschle said. “And if they do have discipline referrals, to take care of them in a timely fashion.”
PUBLISHED AUG. 16, 2011 | This story ran as the first web exclusive on the JagWire’s website, (http://www. mvnews.org) in the 20112012 school year. I gathered information for the story by visiting school a couple of days before school started to interview sources. The content was then put on the website the day that school started to inform students of a change to our seminar period. In this way, our staff kick-started a year of online media usage.
JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR ENTRY | SARAH DARBY | 1
SKILLED & CREATIVE USE OF MEDIA
Homecoming parade moves to week night Safety concerns and difficulty managing a growing student body have prompted an administrative decision to move this year’s Homecoming parade from the traditional Friday afternoon to a week night. The administrative team, along with StuCo sponsor Erica Crist and school resource officer John Midiros, met in the weeks before school to determine the change. In addition to concern about the school’s size, issues with student behavior in previous years factored into the decision. Incidents including a Shawnee police officer being hit with candy by students and students sneaking an un-approved float into the parade last year contributed to a need for change, according to assistant principal Marilyn Chrisler. “That’s life sometimes. Some people spoil it for the group,” Chrisler said. “ … [But those incidents] were a factor but weren’t the main decision. With the size of the student body we didn’t feel 100 percent secure.” A final factor in the decision was a desire to develop the parade into a more community-oriented event. The parade will now lead into the traditional pep rally and bonfire at the stadium. The route will be moved off Monticello Road onto a residential road to keep traffic moving. No other details about the parade have been released. “I’m excited about it being on a Wednesday night … because it will be a community event,” Crist said. “So the people that want to be there will be there.” StuCo student body president Rachel Mills first found out about the decision in June, and wished students had been included in the decision-making process. “It’s not that I didn’t like having an involvement in it, I just wish they would have asked,” Mills said. “I wanted more of an opinion in it than making that decision.” Student input did not play a factor in the decision, according to Crist. “Honestly, it wasn’t really needed,” Crist said. “There’s nothing the students could say about it because the schools is just too big and the student’s can’t go back and change what happened at last year’s parade.” The time change will affect high school students as well as area elementary and middle schools whose students have traditionally watched the parade during the day. Prairie Ridge Elementary School principal Michelle Hite learned about the decision two weeks ago. In the past, the parade would start at the el-
ementary school with the students watching from the curb of the street. “I think participation is so embedded [in the community] that you’ll probably see a higher attendance from our school because parents will be there,” Hite said. “It’s going to also allow families to spend greater time together in that fashion.” Hite said she had heard safety concerns from other schools but that it had not previously affected Prairie Ridge. Hite has not told her students of the change but plans to announce the change through the school’s parent newsletter soon. “I think they’re [the students] going to be sad they don’t have a parade during the day like they know it, but I think they’ll be happy that it will be extended for them,” Hite said. Sophomore Emily Leonard attended the parade for the first time last year, and worries moving it will affect school spirit. “I’m annoyed. I liked missing school,” Leonard said. “It’s inconvenient it’s on a Wednesday night. The people that go will have lots of school spirit but the people that don’t go will kind of put a damper on it.” Despite some opinions like this, administration said they don’t want school spirit to be affected. “I hope it doesn’t have any effect [on school spirit],” Chrisler said. “I hope we’re still excited about that week. Nothing was taken away, it was just re-arranged in a different order and we may like it.” Mills worries the administration did not think about high school students enough in making the change. “I think it’s weird because when we’ve been talking about it, they’re more interested in getting the elementary students and parents involved than the high school students,” Mills said. “And we’re the most important.” What will fill the Friday on which the parade previously fell remains undetermined. Students and staff typically treated the day as a “fun day” while students decorated floats and attended a pep assembly. StuCo has started work on a proposal for the day, but nothing has been approved at this point. Some details concerning the new parade night are also still being finalized. As it stands, students will be decorating floats on their own time off school grounds. Other Homecoming details, including the time and date of the football game and dance, remain unchanged. What is your opinion on the Homecoming parade change? Comment on this story or tweet at @ mvjagwire to share your thoughts.
PUBLISHED SEPT. 2, 2011 | This piece is a second example of web-exclusive content. In this story, the copy ends by prompting the reader to either comment on the story or tweet their thoughts to our paper. The story sparked reader interaction, especially on Twitter. One student, @itsSyd_ tweeted, “just read @mvjagwire’s article about the hc parade, & i think its very stupid that theyre moving the parade. i think it will affect ... school spirit and it doesnt make sense for administration to make a decision without the students. i hope it will be fun. ...” We coupled the story with a poll about the changes to Homecoming to highlight the prominent story. A total of 203 people voted on the poll asking, “What do you think about the new changes to Homecoming week?” which was more than double the previous record number of poll votes on our website. An overwhelming 163 voters answered, “I don’t agree with the changes.”
JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR ENTRY | SARAH DARBY | 2
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Staff editorial: Decision needed student input In the last couple of weeks, the administration made the decision to move the Homecoming parade from a Friday during the day to a Wednesday night that would lead into a pep rally and bonfire. The decision was made primarily due to a growing student body but also because of incidents from last year’s parade and a desire to create a community event out of the parade. When the administration first began discussion about the parade move, they had the chance to include student input on the decision but chose not to. The administration failed to recognize how student input could have spurred additional ideas to create school spirit around the event and make the event more geared to the parade’s main audience: the student body. However, in their decision, the administration has instead excluded 1,100 people, who, with some convincing, may have supported their decision. Student exclusion extended to StuCo members, who, administration frequently call on for support of policy change. Again, the administration sent a very contradictory message to students in this decision. Even if their policy would not have changed and even if the input was only partly considered, for policy’s sake, the administration would have found a much more supportive student body if positive thoughts about the change could have started with StuCo. In making the decision, some items also seem to have not been considered. For example, moving the parade to the middle of the week could make for an imbalance in school spirit throughout
the week. Also, for some teachers, especially those teaching AP and honors courses, classes had already been planed around a Friday Homecoming parade and the change will ultimately interfere with plans. Finally, the administration failed to consider how to gain student support of the decision. Administration could have proposed an ultimatum for the parade to deal with behavior, communicated change more quickly and directly to students and again included student opinion. By excluding student input, students no longer have an incentive to put on a great event because their thoughts were not considered in the process. In a still open poll put on the JagWire’s website Friday, Sept. 2, asking students how they felt about the changes to Homecoming week, an overwhelming 76 percent of the voters said, “I don’t agree with the changes.” Reasons for this may have other causes, but lack of student input in the decision certainly has an effect on the statistic. We can respect the administration’s decision to keep students safe and to involve the community more. If a community event can be successfully created with a larger turnout of parents and younger kids, the parade attendance could gain some positive momentum. But, if students are the main audience of the parade, the administration has made a faulty move in the decision-making process and in lack of communication with students about the event that will leave students wondering if the parade remains for them or the community.
PUBLISHED SEPT. 8 2011 | Before initially writing this news story about the Homecoming change, I felt conflicted with the decision. Before I had reported on the change, I assumed the decision had been made exclusively by an administration that had overlooked student input. Upon further investigation, I found out the sponsor of Student Council, for which I was student body treasurer, had also been involved in the decision. It bothered me that an advocate for student voice had not demanded student input. This webexclusive staff editorial was also a direct reaction to the online poll results from the website’s, “What do you think about the new changes to Homecoming week?” poll. The JagWire staff and students did not agree with the decision so this editorial gave a voice to that disagreement. Beginning with this story, our staff used the website not only to publish stories on, but to influence change.
JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR ENTRY | SARAH DARBY | 3
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Week one: The hacking horror With the position of editors-in-chief comes a lot of responsibilities but also a lot of rewards. Readers do not often see what it is like to run a newspaper staff from behind the scenes. For our own entertainment and for the sake of our sanity, as well as the intent to show our readers another side of the newspaper, editors-in-chief Sarah Darby and Jill Applegate decided to write a blog from their points of view. Every week they will write about a specific event and share their thoughts and emotions on the happening: “The Hacking Horror” Sarah speaking: Over the summer, Jill and I started a Facebook page to keep our staff informed. On that same page we promoted our website and got a mysterious comment one day. A staff member had gotten a virus from our website! After talking to our tech guy about it, I was informed that we had been hacked and someone had put “malicious code” on the site. After all of our hard work, the word malicious scared me to death. I wondered how I would break the news to Jill…
Jill speaking: Thursday, Aug. 4, 8:47 a.m. I receive a text from Sarah. I figured she was just asking me about when I would be at the school to work on stuff for the paper. I open the text and my heart drops. “Hey, so Brandon wasn’t crazy when he said he got a virus. We got hacked and they put a malicious code on our site.” My first thought was something along the lines of: Oh, no! A Malicious Code (immediately the word ‘malicious’ became a type of hacking code, and in turn, a proper noun). It was only until I got to the school and saw Sarah that I found out she was merely being very descriptive with her adjectives. Thankfully, we were able to fix the site that weekend. But with that said, I think we both learned some valuable lessons that day. 1. We need to make our passwords a little harder to hack into, leading to passwords that look like something along the lines of 99dkjR399d8tdIsDeMJk. 2. To be a little more stingy with our adjectives. Lesson number one of being an editor-in-chief: check.
PUBLISHED AUG. 18, 2011| Over the summer, my co-editor and I discussed goals for this year’s paper. My goals primarily related to website development. I especially wanted to emphasize the use of blogs on the website. When the website first launched last year, we had a few blogs. To increase this, as editors, we encouraged students with unique interests to blog weekly, resulting in nearly 10 weekly blogs. “Letters from the editors,” a web exclusive, began as a way to give readers an inside look at the newspaper staff, and it grew into a fun and expressive medium for us as editors to express the craziness of each week.
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PUBLISHED DEC. 16, 2010 | My sophomore year I competed in the Kansas Scholastic Press Association regional competition in both headline design and news writing. I placed in news writing but received some disheartening feedback on my headline design. The judge had written, “ … awkward” on one designed headline. From then on, I didn’t believe I had a talent for design and was slightly discouraged when I kept getting design assignments. I remember spending every day after school for a week, trying to design this page. In the end, I asked the photographer of the page to get a photo of a newly installed camera with blurred students in the background to seem like an “eyes in the sky” idea. I also grouped the secondary coverage to make it reader-friendly. Ultimately, I was very proud of the design and last year I placed second at state for headline design, reflecting my drastically improved skills.
JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR ENTRY | SARAH DARBY | 5
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PUBLISHED APRIL 21, 2011 | My junior year, as news editor of the paper, I became fully aware of how boring news pages could be. When designing this page, I tried to think of a way to keep the readerâ€™s attention. By adding the timeline around the page, I hoped the reader would look at the timeline, headline and pictures and stay on the page to read the story. Seeing the rise of gas prices in a visual way was eye-opening for me as well.
JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR ENTRY | SARAH DARBY | 6
INQUIRING MIND & INVESTIGATIVE PERSISTENCE
A healthy dose of progress: Health care concerns influence reform ideas In one of his first acts as president, Barrack Obama has pushed for reform of a complicated and flawed health care system. The process has been confusing but the JagWire took a closer look at the current bills, both sides of the debate and why it is important to readers. Advances in congress History-making bill passes in the House In a whirl-wind vote Saturday, Nov. 7, the House of Representatives passed a health care reform bill. The bill, which needed 218 votes to pass, was insured by a final vote of 220-215. Obama celebrated its passage in a statement to CNN. “Opportunities like this come around maybe once in a generation,” Obama said. According to CNN, Democrats in the House revealed the $1.1 trillion bill on Wednesday, Oct. 28. The bill would guarantee health insurance to 96 percent of Americans, eliminate pre-exisiting health condition discrimination, offer a public health care option, and provide federal subsides to the uninsured. The bill would be paid for by new income taxes as well as cuts to federally funded Medicare and Medicaid programs. According to the Kansas City Star, all representatives from Kansas voted along party lines. Rep. Dennis Moore, a Democrat who represents areas including Johnson County, voted in favor of the bill. “I think it’s the right thing to do for our country,” Moore said in a Kansas City Star report. “We should have adopted a health care package 40 years ago.” For reform to move forward, the Senate must pass a bill and later all of Congress must approve one cohesive bill. Most agree health care is in need of reform, but disagree on how to improve the system. If both House and Senate can agree on a bill, ripples of health changes are sure to be felt in all areas of government. Current health care system High costs lead to flawed health insurance Health insurance first came to life around 1912, when former President Theodore Roosevelt, campaigned for health insurance, according to the New York Times. Now Americans are more dependent
on health insurance companies than ever before. The National Coalition on Health Care expects more than $2.5 trillion to be spent on health care this year. According to The Atlantic, the government already spends eight times more on health care than it does on education. Social Studies teacher Angie Dal Bello says the biggest problem with the system is that insurance companies run the industry. “Decisions about our health ... are being decided on money and what’s best for insurance companies, not what’s best for us,” Dal Bello said. CNN estimates that 47 million Americans are uninsured. Those uninsured pay for all medical expenses out of pocket while the insured pay a designated amount of money for a private insurance company to pay for a portion of their medical care. Social studies teacher Chris Dunback says concerns with the current system have led to reform. “It started with the belief that the price of health care is out of control,” Dunback said. “They’re trying to figure out why and what to do about it.” Health care’s affects on teens Reform from students’ perspectives Although health care isn’t of huge concern to many teens, ripples of a complicated health care system can be felt in many students’ lives. “My mom owns her own business and she can’t offer her employees health insurance,” junior Alexis Williams said. “If she was able to do that, it would take her business to the next level. We’ve had people quit because they knew without a plan, they wouldn’t be able to work for her anymore.” Williams has directly witnessed others struggling to pay for health care. “I have a brother who lives in Texas, and he sliced his foot open,” Williams said. “[He] got a bill for $500. I can’t even believe how it would affect someone who goes through child birth or has cancer,” Williams said. Junior Scott Weidner, a self proclaimed Republican, sees issues with the system. “The biggest problem is the fact that insurance companies aren’t regulated,” Weidner said. Although the two don’t agree on how to solve issues with health care, they both stress the importance of being aware. “The more you know about the subject, the more informed choice you can make,” Weidner said.
PUBLISHED NOV. 13, 2009| This print news story, written when I was a sophomore, was probably the first story I did extensive research for. Because the topic related to a national story, most of my time was spent gathering information from credible news sources to become expert enough on the topic myself to explain the subject in simple terms to high school students. In hindsight, the story should have been more objective and true to AP style; nevertheless, it established a standard of extensive research that I held myself to for future stories.
JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR ENTRY | SARAH DARBY | 7
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Night custodians make up the late shift Collecting trash, dust and dirt, a team of three full time custodians work from 2:30-11 p.m., to make the school spotless long after students are gone. “You really need to make good use of your time,” custodian Lyndie Willhite said. “I can’t just say ‘I’m not going to sweep the floors,’ I have to but I can choose when to do it.” Willhite describes her usual routine: trash collecting first, restroom cleaning, vacuuming and then sweeping and mopping. Every night she has eight hours to clean her hallway, second floor Awing. Once a week she plans time to do more deep cleaning, such as dusting the locker banks and mopping the floors. In addition to the cleaning that must be accomplished every night, the custodians often do things outside of their job description. Willhite scrapes anywhere from three to four pieces of gum a night off desks and chairs. When an occasional popcorn or glitter spill occurs, it falls back on the custodians to clean up. “Popcorn just goes everywhere and it multiples,” custodian David Spencer said. After cleaning for the school for three years, Willhite has more than her fair share of unusual stories. After continually plunging a toilet for a week, she discovered a cell phone shoved deep into a toilet. On another night, right before everyone was about to go home, a breathing sound came on over the school intercom. No one was in the building, and the source of the breathing noise remains a mystery. Willhite, who came to the district after working as a health aid, likes her job. “You make your job what you make it,” Willhite said. “You can either have a good time, or be depressed.” Custodians David Bowers and Spencer, and Phil Yantzi, who works at the school until 6:30
p.m., as well as Willhite, eat dinner together every night. They bring in homemade food almost every night and celebrate birthdays and special occasions between cleaning to create a positive work environment. Although this wasn’t his ideal job, Yantzi sees the positives in his work. “This wasn’t my dream job, but I want my kids and my grandkids to be in a safe environment,” Yantzi said. “It’s rewarding when you do a floor or something and you can see yourself in it.” Senior Ashley Bowman, who stays after school most nights, sees the work of the custodians. She asks for them to unlock doors for her from time to time. “I see them setting up and tearing down events that go on after school,” Bowman said. “I’d just like to thank them for doing their job and helping our school. They care about what’s going on and they care about me.” Some teachers also try to help the sometimes overburdened custodians. In order to shorten vacuuming time for the custodians, math teacher Laurie Deuschle makes sure to keep her classroom in good order. “We should all pick up after ourselves,” Deuschle said. “I really appreciate the work they do and them keeping the building looking as good as it does.” Lead custodian Carlos Espinoza, who works day shifts and manages five others, says on top of their usual duties, the custodians must prepare for and clean up excess trash. “Everything [students] throw down on the floor or any mess in the school, the custodians clean up,” Espinoza said. Student responsibility and respect goes a long way, according to Bowers. “We could all use a little respect,” Bowers said. “Not necessarily for us but for the building.”
PUBLISHED MARCH 11, 2010| It wasn’t until I stayed the length of an entire night shift (2:30-11 p.m.) with the janitors at my school that they truly opened up to me. A feature on school janitors seems to be a staple high school newspaper topic. My research and time with the janitors, however, made this print feature story a much more personal one for the reader and for me. Since writing the story I have become good friends with janitors David Bowers and Lyndie Willhite, and I am the only one among my friends who can name all of the remaining janitors.
JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR ENTRY | SARAH DARBY | 8
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Local ‘flying machine man’ sees Shawnee with an aerial view in his power parachute In an expanse of quiet farm fields off K-7 Highway, a sort of flying contraption roars down the runway of corn husks, creeping into the air before finally reaching the same level as the clouds and flocks of birds. That guy flies it. The one whose flying contraption can be seen above Shawnee on fair weather spring and summer days. The machine, called a Power Parachute, sends 61-year-old Oakmont subdivision resident Dave McKibben into the air on Sunday, April 18, this time with junior Jeremy Spalding in the passenger seat behind him. “[The flight] went fine,” McKibben said. “The weather was good, there was a light breeze and it was real smooth.” McKibben has been flying his Power Parachute, classified as an “Ultralight” machine, for seven years now. The machine, which resembles the frame of a racecar with a giant fan on the back of it and held up by a wing-shaped parachute, cost McKibben $11,000. The machine reaches around 32-34 miles per hour and can travel about four hours or 20 miles on a single tank of gas. McKibben keeps the machine outside of his house and flies about every other week. A love of flying and the outdoors led McKibben to buy the machine he has now. “When I was young, I was going to be a helicopter pilot,” McKibben said. “My goal in college was to be a second lieutenant in the Army. I had taken ground school but I never did join the Army.” His older brother, who was fighting in the Vietnam War at the time, told McKibben it was too dangerous to be a pilot in the war, and his father, who was against the war, told him he was too immature to go. “I thought the cheapest way to fly would be to join the Army,” McKibben said. Instead of flying, McKibben got married, had kids and started a landscaping company. Spalding, who has worked for McKibben since the end of his sophomore year, has flown with him one other time. “Dave is an individual,” Spalding said. “I wouldn’t call him crazy; I think he likes to have fun. He’s safe when he’s up there and he’s a good pilot.” Eventually, McKibben bought his flying machine and took training to receive the FFA license
required to use a flying vehicle independently. In training, McKibben said he was trained for problems like high winds, loss of power and other emergencies. “You don’t learn how to fly until you run into a problem and you have to fly the plane through that problem,” McKibben’s flying instructor Ernie Hillsman said. McKibben chose to buy the Power Parachute because it “takes the least amount of training and is the safest to fly.” While the machine is mostly for fun, McKibben takes aerial photos of some of his landscape company’s completed projects and posts them on his website. McKibben is also a member of the Missouri Ultralight Club, where members will often meet for breakfast and then participate in a “fly-in” where members will take off together, flying in formation in the sky. Craig Georing, a friend of McKibben’s who flies a single seated “PPG,” first met McKibben after spotting him in the air and later following him to his landing spot. He says flying is safer than most think. “My life means as much to me as anyone else’s,” Georing said. “It’s as safe as you make it.” With precautions in place, McKibben feels safe to fly. “I really don’t have a fear of heights,” McKibben said. “I am afraid of climbing trees and towers, but this machine doesn’t scare me because it’s pretty safe if you follow the rules.” For now, McKibben will continue to run his landscaping business while flying for fun. Once retired, he plans to buy a newer and faster machine called the S-trike and move to Jamaica where a friend of his runs a hotel resort. There he hopes to charge people for rides in his machine which is not allowed in the U.S. “It’s really good money,” McKibben said. “I want to fly people from the top of the mountain and back.” Until then McKibben will fly when the weather and the wind seems right. With inspiration from the movie “Out of Africa,” McKibben explains his love of flying. “I want to see what everything looks like from God’s point of view,” McKibben said.
PUBLISHED APRIL 29, 2010| After seeing a flying machine zooming through the skies above Shawnee, I wanted to find out the story. The answer for months was “no” from the staff that said since we didn’t know the man, we couldn’t write about him. Finally in April, I kept pushing and two of my fellow staff members found out the man’s address and knocked on his front door. I spent hours talking to the man on his front porch and watching the man take flight. I found out a student from my school often flew with the man, making a direct connection to my school. My favorite quote still remains from that story: “I want to see what everything looks like from God’s point of view,” Power Parachute flyer Dave McKibben said. This multi-platform feature story ran in print and online.
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Funding structure changes elective classes After four years in the making, career and technical education classes offered next year will change name and curriculum under a new Kansas State Department of Education career clusters and pathway model. If the changes are not made, the district stands to lose thousands in funding. The district uses roughly $200,000 in funding every year from KSDE, which pays primarily for teaching positions along with equipment expenses. To continue receiving funding, the district, along with all districts in the state, must restructure classes to fit the new career pathway and clusters model. The new model, classified by 16 career clusters which umbrella over pathways, or more occupationally specific classes, will change nearly every career and technical class, like technology and family and consumer science classes currently in place at high schools in the district. “[The new model] puts a focus for kids to say ‘I’m college bound or I’m not college bound,’” district coordinator of grants and high school programs Cindy Fouraker said. As part of a transition to the new model, the district began gradually introducing courses that comply with career pathway and clusters model specifications. Residential Carpentry I became the one and only class created under the new model. Over 100 students enrolled in the class, and they can potentially receive certification and college credit through Johnson County Community College. “I’m really glad we got this for students,” Residential Carpentry I teacher Arlan Vomhof said. “The most difficult thing for me is being told I have to teach from a specific book because I’ve never taught from a book before.” Senior Residential Carpentry I student Ryan Speer enjoys the class. “I like how it’s hands on work,” Speer said. “You’re mostly interacting with groups and working towards one goal, it’s fun.” Next year, the district will implement additional courses that fit the new model in the Human Services, Information Technology, Finance and Marketing clusters. Typical technology and family and consumer science classes will all be subject to change. “We are going away from computer classes and moving more towards computer skills and how to
implement them into a career field,” Fouraker said. Computer teacher Mark Chipman has only updated program software once for classes in his 11 years at the school, and knows the transition will be difficult. Next year, technology teachers will teach new classes. “The intent is good,” Chipman said. “The goal is to improve student ability to succeed in the work force and to succeed in college.” Vocational teachers like Chipman will be required to develop new curriculum for classes starting this spring and summer to prepare for the new classes offered next fall. Family and consumer science teachers Ellee Gray and Rebecca Caves will be teaching eight new classes next year. The only class that will be called by the same name will be Nutrition and Wellness, although its curriculum will be changed. “I’m really worried the kids aren’t going to know which classes to take because of the new structure,” Gray said. “We’re going to have to make sure the course guide breaks that down for students next year.” Gray also worries students will miss classes offered in the past. Fashion and Design, taught by Caves, remains one such unfunded class. The district may offer the class second semester even though it does not meet funding standards, but more likely the class will not be offered. To complete the model, Robin Harris, KSDE assistant director to career, standards and assessment services, said hundreds of teachers and administrators were asked for input. The model will standardize career and technical education but also allow for districts to customize the model to work best for them. “Everybody is in a different place for what they’re teaching,” Harris said. “Every district is at a different place than another. I hope the result will be personalized education.” Most changes in the district will come next year in the first major transition to the new model. Schools across the state must complete the transition to the new model by March 2013. Coordination between KSDE and districts throughout the state continues to make transition as smooth as possible. “For anybody, change is hard,” Fouraker said. “Even KSDE can’t foresee into the future.”
PUBLISHED NOV. 19, 2010| At face value, this print news story was simply about a changing funding model for classes but extensive interviews revealed a much more complicated relationship as a result of the changes. I played phone tag for about a week before I finally secured a phone interview with someone who worked for the Kansas State Department of Education. I then interviewed a number of teachers at my school. Many sources revealed worries about the changes that I would not have gotten without additional pursuit of information for the story. This year, our paper still reports on the effects of the changed funding model, all of it starting with this story.
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National legislation alters school lunches School lunch selection will drastically change next year following a proposal by the Department of Agriculture set to alter nutrition standards. Proposed on Friday, Jan. 14 as part of the Child Nutrition Bill, federal legislation will echo the Institute of Medicine’s 2009 guidelines for nutrition. Additional fruits, vegetables and grains must be implemented by 2012 and gradual sodium reductions through 2022 will reduce district sodium measures. To meet the first part of the regulations, the district will offer one cup of fruit and one cup of vegetables per day starting fall of next year to meet the first 2012 deadline. In addition, more dark green and orange vegetables and legumes will be served, while starchy vegetables will be cut back. Corn, along with potatoes and peas are considered starchy, just one concern of many for district director of student nutrition Julie McGrath, R.D. “Switching kids to a popular vegetable like corn, to a less popular vegetable like a legume, we’re concerned we’re going to be turning kids off,” McGrath said. For kitchen manager Jean Gile, student opinion remains of the highest concern. “My job is to make the food look and taste good.” Gile said. “ ... I want to serve you like I would serve my kids.” Even more drastic will be changes to sodium levels. By 2022, lunches for K-5 will be reduced to less than 640 mg from an average 1,377 mg. Lunches at the 6-8 level will be reduced from 1,520 mg to less than 710 mg and 9-12 lunches will go from 1,588 mg to less than 740 mg of sodium. This poses a dilemma for McGrath. “If we try to reduce the amount of sodium, and if all the other places students eat are not going to reduce theirs, people are still going to have that taste for higher levels of sodium,” McGrath said. Approximately 50 percent of current school lunches, based off current nutritional analysis from the district website, fail to meet proposed sodium guidelines. For example, a typical chicken on a bun meal, with 700 mg per patty, 190 mg per bun and 90 mg per milk carton, totals 980 mg of sodium, well over the new limit.
Freshman Madison Thomas eats lunch daily and doesn’t notice high sodium counts. “I don’t think it tastes too salty,” Thomas said. “It’s a good idea that they use [salt] to preserve the food, but at a certain point it’s just too much.” Also a challenge will be paying for food that will include fresh produce. In the past several years the district has decreased drink, chip, cookie, snack and ice cream sizes and introduced low fat milk. Since introducing fresh fruits every day but Monday, the school’s produce budget has spiked 50 percent. “These kinds of products are geared towards school lunch to be affordable,” McGrath said. “I want to serve a healthy lunch but it does come down to would a parent be willing to spend $4 a lunch if it came down to buying boneless breaded chicken.” High a la cart profit ratios help to supplement low school lunch costs. Because of the revenue they provide, a la cart will remain unchanged in future years. “If all we sold were lunches and no a la cart, we’d easily have to charge $4,” McGrath said. Junior Amanda Morgan believes students will like upcoming changes. “I feel like they’ll react positively because a lot of kids complain about how unhealthy what goes into it is and if they change it, it will be healthier, so I think it will be better,” Morgan said. Sophomore Alex Reeves, however, will continue to bring his lunch. “I probably wouldn’t [eat school food] because when you’re mass producing food, you can’t match the quality of what I can make at home,” Reeves said. McGrath thinks the changes are positive, but she and her staff are worried about student reaction like this. “They don’t want to spend all morning preparing something and have kids go ‘Oh gross,’” McGrath said. Gile shares similar thoughts. “They love chicken nuggets, maybe they’re not the best but who can afford grilled chicken?” Gile said.
PUBLISHED APRIL 21, 2011| I began writing this print news story already having an interest in school lunch legislation. The story primarily focused on the changes to lunch requirements, but I also wanted to explain how current school lunch meals compared to future legislation. I looked up every school lunch meal online and tallied the meals that would and wouldn’t meet future sodium level legislation. What my research revealed was that 50 percent of school meals would not meet future requirements. Although I wasn’t the designer, I also directed the photographer to get a unique close up shot of a student getting lunch and proposed a secondary element that presented the sodium counts in school food. I tallied all of the lunches that would not meet sodium restrictions in the future to find the statistics. After I wrote the article, I heard many students in the lunch line vocalizing their hesitation about choosing certain school food.
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Fire department adjusts to new fire chief and recovers from recent loss of fellow firefighter Empty shelves still fill the office of recently promoted acting fire chief John Mattox on Tuesday, Oct. 11. After 32 years on the job, Mattox became acting fire chief following former fire chief Jeff Hudson’s retirement in September. At 17, Mattox and five of his childhood friends joined the Edwardsville, Kan. department in 1986, where he eventually became assistant fire chief. Mattox then moved to Shawnee in 2001 and worked his way up through promotions to his current position. “I told myself this is a young person’s job and I didn’t want to be climbing on a fire truck when I’m 50 and I’ve met that goal, I’ll be 50 next week,” Mattox said. For Mattox, the job isn’t “work.” “We’re all just big kids because we like the big red trucks and the flashing lights,” Mattox said. As he finishes his sentence, a knock at the window makes him get up. He comes back carrying a plate of desserts. The reasoning for the food often brought weekly stays the same: just to say thanks. Four crews receive about 4,500 calls a year or 15 calls a day, responding in an average of four minutes and 21 seconds. Today, Mattox’s job involves management rather than calls but that has not removed him from the station atmosphere. Mattox sees a new shift arrive at the station at 7 a.m., not to leave for another 24 hours. Firefighters keep fire trucks clean and working, participate in job training, eat, work out and some even study for higher educational degrees all while they are oncall in the station. Battalion chief Mike Beatty, who also practically grew up in a fire station, has been exposed to wide variety of duties a firefighter experiences. “I don’t know if I’ve actually delivered a baby, but I’ve been right there,” Beatty said. “There’s been a lot of CPR where we’ve been pumping and they’ll wake up and say ‘What are you doing?’” As Beatty sits propped in a fire truck, the sound of the just-dispatched crew’s sirens and the sight of
smoke lingering in the distance remain as they go to fight a fire in Olathe. Every day, crews can expect fires, but May 22, 2010, stands out for Beatty. “We were here eating dinner and we had a house fire and we came back a couple of hours later without a guy,” Beatty, who was on-duty that night, said. “It was very somber.” That night, 33-year-old firefighter John Glaser died in the line of duty after he became separated from his crew and overcome with smoke in a structural fire. Glaser left behind his wife, 3-year-old son and 18-month-old daughter. Crews memorialize Glaser by keeping his picture in every station and by keeping his locker in tact. A memorial in front of the station has his name engraved on it. “He was a pretty quiet guy,” Beatty said. “Right now he’d be working out. He had a great sense of humor, and he got along with everybody.” Since Glaser’s death, updated technology has been added to better inform fire fighters. Firefighters further participate in routine drills and will talk to preschool and kindergartners in October to promote fire safety as part of National Fire Prevention Month. Minutes after the fire crew has been dispatched to Olathe, Mattox and Beatty walk outside the station to observe smoke from the fire wafting over the station. “That’s why we’re getting calls,” Mattox said. “Definitely wood, the shingles,” Beatty said. “It’s not grass, that would be brownish tannish,” Mattox said. Minutes later, the crew drives back to the station. The fire in Olathe has been left to other crews to manage. “Oy,” Beatty said, greeting them with one enthusiastic word as Mattox looks onward at just one of the crews now under his management. The smoke over the station gradually floats away into what is still left of the daylight, becoming just a part of the daily routine as it thins.
PUBLISHED OCT. 19, 2011| To profile my city’s new acting fire chief, I went with a photographer to the city’s main fire station. Over the course of the two hours we were there, the fire staff showed us everything from their rooms to their updated technology. While at the station, an alarm in the fire house went off, dispatching the fire crew to a parking garage fire nearby. The next week, I also went to a commemorative run for a firefighter lost in duty for more information on the man. I wrote about the run in my weekly blog about city happenings, CityTalk. I had trouble keeping the print story short and it ended up being one of the first we printed with a prompt to visit the website for more information creating a multi-platform news-feature story.
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Cyberbullying impacts students online Two incidents on social media sites have recently spurred cyberbullying claims after the sites made fun of students and talk of them spilled over to conversations at school. The anonymous user responsible for one such account, a Twitter account called @hater_quotez, deactivated the account on Friday, Jan. 13 after being up over winter break. The account targeted a handful of freshmen and eighth grade girls, with tweets bashing them on such topics such as their appearance, weight and personality. Freshman Hannah Phipps heard about the Twitter account through a friend. The comment about her said, “You’re such a b - - - - and you need plastic surgery and facial reconstruction.” “I definitely think cyberbullying is a show of a really insecure person because if they really had a problem with someone, they would be able to confront them,” Phipps said. Phipps said @hater_quotez tweeted 16 girls, saying things like they were ugly or needed to stop bleaching their hair. Another student, freshman Annie Crouch, tweeted the account back to stop after they tweeted that she wore too much makeup. “It’s just embarrassing to have your name put on there,” Crouch said. “People will notice if you wear too much makeup because it’s on there. … I stopped wearing so much makeup because I wondered if maybe I do.” Five girls reported the account to school resource officer John Midiros, yet cyberbullying differs from other forms of bullying in that in order to take legal action, Midiros must first determine that the incident takes place inside of school and causes a substantial disruption to the school day. The Twitter account fit neither requirement and, ultimately, the person responsible for the account took it down at their own discretion. According to both Midiros and principal Tobie Waldeck, the person behind @hater_quotes has not been caught and neither Midiros nor Waldeck are pursuing the account creator. “I’ve got so many policies, rules and Fourth Amendment rights I have to abide before I can take action, and it’s frustrating,” Midiros said. Although the school has limited ability to control bullying outside of school, threatening cyberbullying in any setting can become a felony offense. If someone threatens your life, you as an individual without the school’s help could go to the police. If the cyberbullying severely damages
your reputation and invades your personal life, you can sue the person responsible. Midiros has suggestions in dealing with this kind of bullying. “For evidentiary purposes, always save it,” Midiros said. “Don’t reply to it, don’t stoop to their level basically and do the same thing.” Waldeck said students could perceive the school as inactive towards cyberbullying . “ ... You have a cyberbullying incident taking place and news travels fast and people think it’s not being addressed when it actually is,” Waldeck said. “ ... We take all of these situations seriously and we want Mill Valley to be a place where students feel safe.” Another example, which many call the “roasted” page, began on Facebook and became a forum for harsh student comments. The page, which the school remains aware of but cannot shut down, stays intact with nearly 30 fans, down from a 130 fan high. The page features generally unflattering pictures tagged with the names of students. Despite these incidents, Midiros says he has dealt with less cyberbullying issues this year. Freshman Averie Niday became affected by the Twitter account after rumors spread she was behind the posts. Niday had never heard of the Twitter account before but had posted on the roasted Facebook page. Niday says both pages prove a similar idea. “It just shows people in these grades can be really cruel and not think for anybody else,” Niday said. The “roasted” page seems less harsh to Niday. “I didn’t find it that bad because they didn’t find people who didn’t know about it,” Niday said. Niday’s point shows how cyberbullying can sometimes be hard to define. Comments on the page seem to express the idea that bullying had not occurred. “It’s obvious people are a little too sensitive in this group. … ” one comment said. Despite legal action sometimes being tricky, Midiros emphasizes the importance of telling someone about your experience. “They’ve got to understand there is help out there. Their friends have to help the most,” Midiros said. “[But] as we live in this free speech nation, can we stop everything that everyone’s saying? ... We have to learn as a society how to deal with this stuff. ... There are mean people out there who thrive off of negative comments. It happens every day of our lives.”
PUBLISHED FEB. 3, 2012| The idea to write this story came as a direct result of a cyberbullying incident that had affected the student body at my school. Many rumors were spreading about the incidents, and our staff chose to clear them up by reporting on the topic. Interviews led me to find out how students had been affected by the incidents. I feel like the story was a strong voice on the dangers of cyberbullying. This piece ran as a multiplatform news story. In this story, the editorial board of my staff decided to run censored profanity in the story. In my time on staff, this story and one other contained such censored profanity. We ultimately decided that the cyberbullying would be most accurately conveyed by publishing an actual comment a student at my school had received. We did not make the decision lightly.
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Coaching evaluations under scrutiny Recent allegations and events surrounding head volleyball coach Kim Service have called into question how the district evaluates its coaches. According to Service, official parent complaints were filed against her for the first time in 10 years of coaching at the school as a result of a tournament at McPherson High School played on the day of the Homecoming dance. One parent, Service said, initially complained about the tournament to School Board president Tammy Thomas who then asked district athletic director Roland Van Whye to cancel the tournament. According to Service, she and Van Whye agreed to not cancel the tournament. In the days leading up to the tournament, according to Service, Thomas called the McPherson tournament director, claimed she was Service and attempted to pull the school team from the tournament before admitting her true identity. The tournament director denied comment on the incident. Thomas would not comment on the incident or issues relating to the tournament but released a statement. “I am aware of the claims being made by a school district employee,” Thomas’ statement reads. “The allegations have no basis in truth and are rooted in questionable intentions. I will vigorously defend myself and my integrity and will continue to focus on my role as a Board member in providing outstanding educational experiences for all students of the district.” Service filed a False Impersonation complaint against Thomas with the Shawnee police department on Friday, Feb. 3 after she felt the issue had not been appropriately addressed by the district. The sergeant in charge of the case submitted a report to the prosecutors’ office, who felt the facts of the case didn’t meet the criteria for a crime. Following the agreement to not cancel the tournament, Service felt she had made compromises with the girls, like leaving a day later for the tournament and allowing parents to take girls home from the tournament, and that the tournament was a non-issue. That was until the district said players would be allowed to miss the tournament without any consequences. “At the time, I was obviously not very happy with the decision,” Service said. “I felt like it undermined my authority as a coach…I was not able to give input into the decision that was made…I was told about the compromise the day my athletic director was going to tell the seniors about the decision.” Ultimately, five varsity players and four JV players attended the tournament. Service awarded provisional varsity letters to the JV players and gave T-shirts she had paid for to those who played at the tournament. One additional parent complained about the incident. “The district considered that insubordination…That by giving a provisional letter to those girls who did play, that I was being insubordinate to those five girls who didn’t play,” Service said. Following the incident, Service said nearly
every negative aspect of her evaluation surrounded the tournament. Service says she has made three attempts to meet with the district athletic director and superintendent, but those requests were denied. Service also attempted to contact Thomas and was met with no reply. To Service, her evaluation and the district’s handling of the tournament was discriminatory against her as a female coach, coaching a female sport. In her evaluation, Service says she was told by the district that she was too competitive and should pick players who wanted to play for fun. In the aftermath of the incidents, Service is exploring filing a complaint against the district for violating the Equal Opportunity Act which addresses discrimination issues. One parent who complained about Service declined to comment for this story and said they could not think of any other parent who would be willing to comment based on the sensitive nature of the topic and pending complaints. The district evaluation process, in writing, measures head coaches on several categories. Based on a blank copy released by Service, the evaluation categories score coaches on administrative duties, organization of personnel, care and maintenance of equipment, coaching performance, relationship with student athletes, professional conduct and communication with parents, staff and community. Coaches are then rated satisfactory, needs improvement in selected areas or unsatisfactory. According to a district statement, the evaluation document is the same for all head coaches and created every year by the district athletic director. “Our process for evaluating coaches is aimed at assessing qualities, knowledge and performance that, when properly balanced and applied, result in successful leadership of and for the program,” the statement said. “…The instrument used to evaluate head coaches is designed to reflect the essential skills, knowledge and leadership attributes necessary to positively and productively guide the program and the student athletes that participate in it. Specific indicators are measured by rankings on a likert scale.” Some coaches have noted inconsistencies in this instrument, however. According to Service, on Wednesday, Aug. 10, a general presentation was given about the evaluation process. On Friday, Oct. 7, all head coaches met again as part of a monthly head coaches’ meeting about the evaluation process where she was given a blank print copy of an evaluation. Then, on Monday, Nov. 14, Service says coaches were called in again and were told the previous version of the evaluation was inaccurate and given a new copy. According to Service, the new evaluation was similar but more extensive than the initial evaluation. Service likened the change to being told a test CONTINUED ON PAGE 16
PUBLISHED MARCH 2, 2012| This story originally only addressed the state of the head volleyball coach’s job. However, as I conducted research, multiple coaches expressed concerns with the coaching evaluation process, sparking more investigation. I spent about 20 hours on the story and purchased my first police report. The week the story came out, my adviser received an email that questioned my research and claimed the story defamed board president Tammy Thomas. My adviser answered the email standing by the careful research I did in the story. Also in response, the superintendent of my school personally told my adviser and me that he supported the article, emailed every board member proclaiming his support and called basketball coach Justin Bogart to thank him for speaking on the record. This multi-platform news story has also received more than 1,300 views online.
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INQUIRING MIND & INVESTIGATIVE PERSISTENCE would cover five objectives but in actuality being tested on 10 when her final evaluation took place on Monday, Dec. 12. For example, she was graded poorly on not having practice plans with a written time schedule, but was not aware the plans would be part of the evaluation until three weeks after her season. One coach, who wished to remain anonymous, also felt frustrated, when the opinion of senior athletes on head coaches was unexpectedly included as part of the overall evaluation. “You’re getting evaluated by all seniors, even the ones not on varsity,” the coach said. “Given that they don’t work directly with varsity coaches, is that fair to have them evaluate varsity coaches?” What the evaluation process doesn’t mention is the influence parent and Board member complaints have in an evaluation. According to the district statement regarding the evaluation process, there is no specific protocol for parent complaints, but a hierarchy is encouraged. “From time to time, parents and students may have concerns regarding academic or athletic matters,” the district statement reads. “While there is no specific protocol in place for managing matters of this kind, school officials always encourage students and parents to address concerns at the lowest possible level.” School Board vice president Tim Blankenship said he couldn’t speak for other Boards members, but handles parent complaints using a hierarchy. “I can only say what I do in those cases,” Blankenship said. “I’d recommend parents talk to their principal first, for all comments, it’s always best to follow the guidelines of working with your principal first.” In practice, however, parent complaints and Board member action following those complaints has negatively impacted coaches, according to one anonymous coach. Two years ago, a parent complained about the coach to the district athletic director who sent it back to the coach. The coach, athletic director and parent all met and reached a resolution. Today, the coach said that same chain of command would not be followed if a parent complaint were received and that the School Board exercises excessive power over coaches and programs in the district. “If the Board has a positive opinion of you, you’re going to get exactly what you want,” the coach said. “If they don’t, you’re going to get nothing.” The coach went on to explain the long term effect of this environment. “I think that, with the direction we’re going in this district, we’re going to lose some great coaches,” the coach said. A second coach who wishes to remain anonymous also finds fault in the handling of parent complaints. The coach’s program was investigated after one parent complained about the program. The coach said they don’t believe one or two parent complaints justify an investigation and that complaints are handled poorly in the district depending on who parents complain to. “If parents come to our principal or athletic director, I think it’s handled in the right way,” the coach said. “There are parents that skip things and go straight to Board members and it’s not handled in the right way because information is skipped or left out, misinterpreted, not communicated. Programs get investigated for wrongdoings that they’re not even aware have been brought up.”
According to the source, other districts handle complaints differently. “Other districts or coaches that I know, it is stifled,” the coach said. “It is asked, ‘Have you talked to the AD [athletic director]?’ And if the answer is no, then they are asked to talk to the principal and talk to the AD. There is a chain of command.” Two years ago, boys basketball coach Justin Bogart, who has coached at the school for 12 years, had to defend himself in front of the School Board after one or two parents complained about him. In recent years, he says the Board has expanded its reach. “Coaches also want to work in an environment where the Board has empowered the administration in the evaluation of coaches,” Bogart said. “It’s my feeling that Board members have been more active in the evaluation process within the last few years.” Bogart questions this heightened role and says he would not still be the coach had he not defended himself. “My question would be, why do we have administration, why do we hire an athletic director?…Why would we not want to hire, encourage and train an athletic director if Board Members want to take those responsibilities for themselves? One analogy would be, why do you have managers at stores to hire or fire employees if the owner does it himself?” Bogart said. Senior soccer player Rayanna Gossett said athletes, rather than parents, should be proactive in dealing with a coaching issue. “I feel like since we’re in high school now, the parent should stay out of the coaching relationship and that it should strictly just be [between the] player and coach,” Gossett said. “…[Parent complaints] bring more conflict because now there are a total of three or four people communicating instead of just the coach and player.” Head girls basketball coach John McFall, who has coached at the school for two years, has not dealt with any parent or Board scrutiny while in the district. McFall says the number of parent complaints that justify a program investigation cannot be quantified. “If I’m doing something really bad, then it doesn’t take 10, it’s all relative to what it is,” McFall said. “But hopefully the AD and principal realize that not every parent is going to be happy.” Service has begun to schedule and plan for the volleyball season next year with some delay following her negative evaluation. However, she feels her coaching position remains uncertain and has begun distributing her resume and seeking available jobs so she can coach next year, although she hopes to remain at the school. The district will not comment on Service’s status as head coach. “I have invested 20 years of my life into this sport and 13 years coaching,” Service said. “To have that taken away, especially because one or two parents complained to a Board president who is their friend, that would be a rather unfortunate turn of events.” Service seeks to defend herself and other coaches. “I feel it is my obligation to coaches and future coaches to stand up for what is right because if I’ve lost my position as head coach, all I have left is to stand up for what is right,” Service said. “I feel confident in speaking on my position because I don’t have anything to hide in what is going on. It’s important for people to not make assumptions about what is going on, and to get both sides of the story.”
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PUBLISHED FEB. 4 2011 | When I was first thinking of a design for this page, I questioned what censorship of the book in question would actually look like. Eventually, I decided that if I wondered this, surely others did as well, so I asked the photographer to cross out words on a page of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” that could be censored in future editions. The visual censorship of a page in the book effectively made the topic more tangible and also helped to contrast the book banning policy within my school district. The rest of the design seemed to form around the main element of the censored page.
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COURAGEOUS & RESPONSIBLE HANDLING OF SENSITIVE ISSUES
Cuts to Youth Friends staffing alter program The district has cut the position of Youth Friends coordinator due to lack of district funding, after three years and 600 volunteers. Started with the help of a grant from the Kauffman Foundation, a chapter of the program began in 2007. Renee Hultgren became the district coordinator and, according to Youth Friends Central, the central office of the program, ran the fastest growing chapter in the Kansas City area. “The program is designed to provide caring adult mentors for students, so the district coordinator reaches out to the community to find caring adults to connect with students,” Hultgren said. In total, $4 million in cuts have been made within the district since March 2009. Without continued funding of the grant, which ended this year, the district cut staffing of the Youth Friends program, notably Hultgren’s position. District director of administrator service and community relations Alvie Cater says the district did not anticipate the current state of the program. “When we launched Youth Friends, we didn’t know this would happen,” Cater said. “You hope to have the resources available to absorb this funding, but we didn’t.” Under normal circumstances, without the coordinator position, a chapter of the program could not exist, but Youth Friends Central has allowed the district to continue the program without a coordinator this year. School counselors have been asked to facilitate the program and coordinate individual adults coming to mentor students at their specific schools. “If you don’t set it up yourself, the program is gone,” Youth Friend volunteer and former teacher Gail Berman said. Berman, who has a Youth Friend at Mill Creek Middle School and has been meeting with sophomore Abi Stoner since her freshman year, set up meetings with Stoner again on her own. In years past, Hultgren would have actively contacted her and tracked her progress. With counselors coordinating the program this year, some worry less attention will be given to coordinating the program. “Counselors already have so much on their plate it will be hard for them to keep the program running and the most important part of my job was providing customer service to volunteers,” Hultgren said. Community service teacher Cory Wurtz who worked with Hultgren in the past to get background checks and training by Hultgren for his students, now trains students himself. “Some people are calling it ‘youth buddies,’” Wurtz said. “It’s a federally funded program and our grant has run out. We call it Youth Friends because that’s what we are familiar with. I call them mentors.” The number of students Wurtz has serving as mentors remains around 40, about what it was last year. However, more students work in a classroom to tutor students, rather than a one-to-one relationship between one mentor and one student.
“It is not as effective,” Wurtz said. “It’s definitely not as close of a relationship as the Youth Friends program provides; it used to provide something other than school assistance.” Out of nine of the adult mentors who came to Mill Valley High School last year, all have returned to mentor. Stoner remains one of the students set up with a mentor. “I really like it because I get someone else I can talk to and I know she’s always there for me,” Stoner said. The story has not been the same at all district schools. In an email inquiry, Starside Elementary School counselor Paula Henderson said out of 15 adult volunteers from last year, one returned. At Lexington Trails Middle School, 28 adult volunteers and no student volunteers have returned compared to 38 adult volunteers and five student volunteers from last year. “Now our Youth Friend program will not continue to grow,” LTMS counselor Angie Russell said via email. “Our staff cares for our students but cannot always fit the one-on-one extra time into their busy daily schedules.” The district does not take cuts to the program lightly. The district sought to primarily cut programs not directly affecting the classroom first. “The first priority was to protect the classroom,” Cater said. “We looked at everything around the classroom to protect teaching jobs and direct resources to students.” Unfortunately, without a coordinator, it will be difficult for the program to grow. Cater said 100 percent of the program volunteers were recruited by Hultgren. No new Youth Friends, with the exception of Wurtz’s student mentors and special coordination with Cater, will be able to join the program. Although the district offered Hultgren a para position, Hultgren never received a formal request to continue work with the Youth Friends program. The offer did not financially make sense for her. “I miss seeing the kids change because of the adults I’ve matched with them,” Hultgren said. “It was just disappointing to have such a successful program and help so many kids and then say, ‘We don’t have the money.’ It would be different if we weren’t successful. There are so many more kids that still need [Youth Friends] and there’s no way for them to get them.” Although the program will continue next year, without funding for a coordinator position, the program cannot continue under the Youth Friends name and grow. In the meantime, Hultgren searches for jobs and continues to meet with a Youth Friend who she mentored at Riverview Elementary and has followed to Monticello Trails Middle School. This week, they are playing Fantasy Football. “I can’t give up on my kids,” Hultgren said. “Even though I’m not the coordinator, I believe in the program so I still want to give them my friendship.”
PUBLISHED OCT. 10, 2010| I don’t think my school district planned to publicly talk about staffing cuts to the Youth Friends program when I first contacted district personnel about my story. I had volunteered for the program for two years as the youngest mentor in the program. I proposed to write about the cuts after seeing the program coordinator Renee Hultgren announce at a Youth Friends banquet that her position had been cut. Hultgren was visibly upset. My interviews revealed the rather abrupt end to the program and the almost immediate effects of cuts to the program’s staffing. Hultgren’s did not regain her position, but still, I told her story. This ran as a multi-platform news story.
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Increase in class sizes anticipated next year As the general trend for class sizes increases for next year, many teachers and students are somewhat concerned, while building principals remain positive in the district’s efforts to keep class sizes manageable. This year, according to the core department chairs, English classes average about 26 students per class, science classes average in the upper 20s, social studies average around 23 per class and math class average 22 to 24. All core department chairs see class sizes going up in the future. Social studies teacher Chris Dunback has seen his class sizes rise from the mid 20s to the upper 20s in the last five years. Dunback’s classes range from 21 students to his largest class of 28 students, which remains as one of the largest core classes in the school. “Teachers are required to teach all students and some students require accommodations,” Dunback said. “It’s not unusual for one-third of the students to need more help, one-third to need less help and one-third to be OK. The larger the class, the more diverse needs there are.” De Soto High School principal David Morford said teacher adaptability influences their ability to handle larger class sizes. “We have good teachers who are going to give effort whatever class size is,” Morford said. Next year, Mill Valley High School will hire at least one new teacher in the drafting department and possibly one teacher in the social studies department. Morford has also requested additional teachers at DHS. District director of administrative services and community relations Alvie Cater said teachers are having to be maximized in the district. “Public schools must find ways to be more efficient and at the same time continue offering outstanding educational opportunities for students,” Cater said via e-mail. “As such, we have to find new ways to maximize our staffing patterns across all grade levels. Obviously, one area to research is class size and how best to use our talented teachers and support staff.” Even with up to two new teachers at MVHS, next year presents unique challenges, including a large incoming freshman class. Principal Tobie Waldeck remains unconcerned at this time about class sizes and cannot predict class trends or numbers.
“I’m positive because we always try to do what’s right for kids,” Waldeck said. “I do feel like if we’re going to have a problem, we have to get the numbers, see the problem, and work through what we need to do from there.” Art teacher Jodi Ellis, worries about class sizes as art teachers like Jerry Howard teach non-art department classes next year. She sees class sizes of around 25. Even this year, in Ellis’ Painting classes, easels can no longer be used due to overcrowding. “It’s just a challenge I think in giving enough attention to each student,” Ellis said. “When classes were smaller, I wasn’t quite as exhausted at the end of the day.” Junior Emily Adams, who is in Ellis’ Blue four Painting class, says they don’t use easels in class but she doesn’t notice too much of a change, except in Ellis’ reaction to the increase in class sizes. “We did a still life with Tempera paints and we all had to use the personal boards you clip things into,” Adams said. “She’s pretty good at handling it, she gets a little more stressed out than she did before though.” Districts across the state are all being affected as the state budget allotted for education continues to drop, many are even in a hiring freeze. The De Soto School District cut $4 million in budget since March 2009 and added two to three additional students per class but has not resorted to a hiring freeze. “We are bracing for additional reductions in funding from the state of Kansas,” Cater said. “We want to protect class size as much as possible, but will have to look at all grade levels and see if there are additional ways for us to be more efficient.” Despite decreasing budget, growth could benefit the district. “The big thing we’re having going for us has been the growth,” Morford said. “New students don’t necessarily mean new money or an increase in money but they can make up some of the difference in what money has been lost.” Although class sizes are generally increasing, not all class numbers will rise and not all staff and students are concerned. Principals remain confident in future numbers and the scheduling process. “I haven’t really seen a big negative impact,” Morford said. “We hire good teachers. A good teacher is adaptable.”
PUBLISHED MARCH 10, 2011| My principal would not discuss the topic of class sizes for two weeks while I began interviews for this story. The principal at the other high school in my district scheduled an interview at his school with me, but there was a slow response at my own school. Finally, my principal scheduled an interview with me after talking with district personnel. Eventually I interviewed him and my story ran that month, however, the incident became one of many in which delayed administrative response stagnated my reporting. I made sure to interview a variety of sources in case my principal continued to delay speaking with me. This ran as a multplatform story.
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Changes alter football game entertainment Football on Friday nights look a little different this year after changes prompted by the parent-led Booster Club, football team and Blue Crew first came into effect at the football team’s first home game against Bonner Springs High School on Friday, Sept. 2. Football players ran onto the field to “Enter Sandman” exiting from a new addition to the field: a new inflated jaguar head and tunnel. Head football coach Joel Applebee first approached the Booster Club about the possibility of the tunnel. The addition will be paid for completely by private sponsorships. “We wanted to go with a jaguar head instead of a football so it can be used at other games,” Booster Club member Hope Windmiller said. Junior wide receiver Alec Donn likes the addition of the tunnel and jaguar head. “I feel like it’s intimidating for the other teams to see,” Donn said. “I just think it’s more exciting for the fans and team spirit.” Another major change involves additions to the sound system and music played at the games. This year, the school updated the outdoor stereo system by adding an iPod cord for music to be played. The football team has used the sound system so far to play new recorded music including a jaguar growl at kickoffs and big plays, and the playing of a clip from the song “Hell’s Bells” at defensive plays. Although the recorded music should play only during third quarters and moments like at kickoffs when the band previously has not played, band teacher Debra Steiner says coordination will take work. “It’s fine, it’s just different and any time you
change anything it’s just hard to get on the same page,” Steiner said. “There’s a couple times like, ‘Oh, I guess I can’t play.’” Drill captain Austin Gebhardt has mixed feelings about the changes. “That’s cool to pump your team up but why are we here if we have to wait for you to stop playing “Crazy Train?” Gebhardt said. “Why would you waste the time and resources playing music over and over again?” Applebee believes the change to the music will be. “The change is adding to what the band does,” Applebee said. “There is zero change to what the band is doing. We love the band. We appreciate all the efforts they put out and the music they play.” However, sideline dances have been cut short following the change in music, according to dance team member Josie Hanson. “The only thing we do on the sidelines is dance to the band music and we hardly got to,” Hanson said. “Normally, [the band] does the fight song after every touchdown, but now it has only been at the beginning and end [of the game].” A final change began with the revitalization of Blue Crew with a goal to get all students involved with the club. “I haven’t been interested [in past years], junior year has kind of motivated me to go to more games,” junior Hailey Vorbeck said. Regardless of differing opinions on the changes, game attendance has gone up around 25 percent according to estimates by Windmiller. Fans can expect to see all of the changes in effect through the season and maybe more faces in the crowd.
PUBLISHED OCT. 19, 2011| This story began as a response to rumors circulating around my school that the band would not be allowed to play at football games. My interviews immediately proved this to be false, but revealed conflicting information. In reality, the school’s band teacher felt the band had been slighted by changes, yet the football staff insisted the changes would not affect band playing time. Off the record, sources told me of statements made by football coaches asserting the superiority of the team over other school activities. Ultimately though, I could only print comments said on the record and be as unbiased as possible. My best sources for the story became students. I spent one football game asking students in the crowd what they thought of the changes. This ran as a multi-platform news story.
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Football team overshadows school activities In recent weeks, rumors surrounding special privileges afforded to the football team have filled the whispered conversations I have overheard in the hallways. Although many of these ramblings are inaccurate, even lies tend to reflect some truth. At every high school, football seems to be inevitably favored in many respects simply because it usually makes the most money and draws the largest crowds. However, in the last year, many decisions and events have favored the football team. Starting at the beginning of the year, the football team seemed to command the high school stage when it presented a proposal to play recorded music in favor of traditional band songs during the games. Although the recorded music played sparingly and band input weighed into the decision to some degree, the music suggestion came from football team staff, and without a doubt, cut down on band playing time. This left many in the band feeling as if they weren’t equal partners in creating the Friday night football experience. The inflatable jaguar head became another new addition to the football field. The jaguar head creates a spirited environment at the football games. When first introduced, the Booster Club defended the purchase (paid for completely by sponsors) by saying it could be used at other school events. It is great that the Booster Club originally intended for this to be true, however, the football team has run through the jaguar head at every event it has been used at. This seems like a case of actions conflicting intentions. Although the jaguar head should not make an appearance at every sporting event, it has seemed unfairly exclusive to football. In staff number, the football team also seems skewed. The district has no set number for the number of athletes a team must have in order to gain more coaching staff, although the higher risk the sport, the larger the staff is. Most athletic teams have sufficient staff, including the football team which has a total of eight coaches for 92 players, or a 1:12 ratio. On the other hand, there are over 60 students in the largest choir class and 90 students in the largest band class. Both classes are taught by one teacher who “coaches” alone. The district should be consistent with its policies and give all activities proper staff numbers. When the football team earned an exclusive featured segment for the KCTV5 Cool School event, designed to spotlight non-athletic clubs, the team again seemed to be favored. Under such short notice of the event, the school used the itinerary of De Soto High School, featured last year on KCTV5. At DHS, one segment featured multiple athletic teams that read to elementary school children. At Mill Valley High School, the football team was the only team that participated in such work,
so the school chose to feature the team. Although it is understandable to look to DHS to some extent, did administration not consider how the decision could appear to favor the football team? Other groups serve the community far more consistently than the football team. For example, NHS tutors two times a week and could have been included in a segment as well, especially for a program that again was supposed to feature only nonathletic clubs. Additionally, football players were allowed to arrive at the Cool School event at 6:15 a.m., an hour and 15 minutes after the rest of the students had to arrive. Administration gave the football team the option to arrive later because they had a game that night. However, the cross country team competed at state the next day, and, according to coaching staff, did not know of the possibility of allowing athletes to arrive later to school. Comparing importance of sports here can be difficult, but it certainly seems like a team that was competing at state should have been clearly informed of the same opportunity as a team still competing in the regular season had been offered. The message sent was that the team still expects school support at the football games, but that the football team itself can’t wake up early to support the school. Necessary to note are the many false rumors about the team. For example, some have said the football staff set the date of Homecoming this year. This false assumption and further extreme rumors have only added fuel to the fire. In fact, almost every grievance listed above could have been eliminated if administration and the football team had worked together to relay information about decisions concerning the team effectively to students and staff members who have since spread inaccurate information. Unfortunately, some members of the football team, by virtue of comments made to other students and reported to me on numerous occasions, seem to be sending a cocky attitude to their peers. It might be time for an ego check in order to gain more school support. These types of comments negate the many positive things the team, its coaches and players do for the school. I just hope a few inaccuracies and unfair proposals will not destroy the reputation of a program that has the potential to only create positive school spirit. I also hope the football team will be able to recognize their boundaries more accurately in the future. Administration must also examine its decisions carefully to make sure all groups at our school, regardless if they bring in the most revenue, crowd or neither at all, are treated as fairly as possible.
PUBLISHED NOV. 15, 2011| After having reported on a number of football teamrelated decisions, I began to consider writing an opinion column about the unfair dominance of football at my school. I wanted to avoid the cliché of bagging on a prominent football team, so instead I turned to sources to find factual information on which to base my opinions. Although I didn’t quote anyone for the story, I interviewed seven sources, including one of my school’s assistant principals and my principal. They both told me that they would prefer I not write the article and that it would be divisive. I took these comments into consideration and stayed grateful no threat of censorship existed. However, other sources showed me I wasn’t the only one in my school questioning the football team. This ran as a multi-platform opinion story.
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PUBLISHED OCT. 19, 2011| A couple of hours after we posted this column online, a football player at my school printed off copies of the article and handed them out at lunch. Later that night, my web editor and I filtered over 250 comments for the website until midnight. The next day I left for the national journalism convention in Minneapolis. By that evening, nearly 500 people commented on the web-exclusive opinion story and the website had over 4,000 unique page views over two days, up from 150 views from the days before. Friends still in Kansas told me that many teachers used the article as a class discussion topic. My name was all over Facebook and Twitter and a few students even joked about flipping my car. The second day in Minneapolis, while at the Mall of America, my journalism adviser called me saying our principal wanted us to shut down the comments on our website. At the time, our website did not have a comments policy. A parent had threatened to withdraw their student from school and the principal felt the entire situation was causing a substantial disruption in the school day as a result of parent phone calls and discussion in the halls. My adviser and I decided to temporarily disable all comments. My staff couldnâ€™t even attempt to re-filter comments according to a new comment policy. Eventually, about 250 comments were reapproved. Some comments accused me of ignorance and some praised me. I had struck a nerve. My voice enabled hundreds of voices.
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Illegal usage of Adderall heightens with teens According to a JagWire poll, 17 percent of the student body has taken non-prescribed Adderall, a drug commonly used to treat attention deficit disorders, a sign of the drug’s growing popularity. One student, who asked not to use his name, took Adderall last year hoping for help to study and to take finals. “It doesn’t do anything physically, it’s mental,” he said. “I guess that what makes it different from other drugs is it makes you focus.” Avner Stern, psychologist at Behavioral Health Specialists in Overland Park, specializes in evaluating patients with attention deficit disorders and determining if medication will be beneficial. Stern says Adderall will help anyone focus, making it extremely popular. “If you put Adderall in the water supply, [everyone would] concentrate better,” Stern said. “Adderall works with everybody, that’s why everyone wants this medication.” Stern estimates that 25 percent of first-time patients he sees are college or high school students who don’t have the disorder but, after taking a friend’s Adderall, want their own prescription. “People have trouble concentrating for lots of reasons … that doesn’t mean they have attention deficit, they think it’s going to be the big cure-all,” Stern said. Stern said a number of factors contribute to an accurate diagnosis of the disorder. Stern looks at long-standing symptoms, patient history and a patient’s reaction to psychological testing, such as, lack of self-control or impulsiveness to diagnose patients. The ease of accessibility of Adderall makes it appealing to many students, especially after they’ve heard about its positive effects. “I’d heard a lot of good things about it,” a female student who wished to remain anonymous said about the drug. “[The first time I used it], I took it on a day I didn’t really have anything to do, because I’m careful about the drugs I take.” The same student said, depending on the dosage, a pill of Adderall can cost anywhere from $1 to $5 and are easy to obtain as many people have prescriptions. She said the drug helped her focus and retain more information. “I wasn’t stressed out at all,” she said. “I was pretty carefree. I was able to work for a long time without losing focus.” Selling Adderall also became more common as demand increased. Another anonymous student began selling Adderall after she was diagnosed with A.D.D. last year. She also tried friends’ Adderall, prompting her to seek out a prescription. Doctors first prescribed her a low dose of the medication, but when she started taking a stronger dose last year, she began selling her extra pills. “I enjoy it so I want others to enjoy it, and I can also make a little money” she said. “I’m totally safe. I’m a safe person. I don’t sell cocaine or weed, I just
smoke it. I just flip pills, just one or two pills.” She said she also sells for fun and for the thrill. In a typical week, she sells to five people, usually dealing outside of school grounds. She has even sold to friends’ parents. “I definitely look at it as a business deal,” she said. “I don’t mix personal with business even though my personal life is my business. You have to know that line or that’s when you get caught.” Recently, she has started to sell less often. “I’m trying to die it down because I have a job now but it’s hard because people keep asking me for it. These kids out here just want to try drugs. People should thank drug dealers, they risk a lot. You can’t just go to the f - - - ing QuikTrip.” Legal consequences for possession of Adderall are steep because it falls in the same category as narcotic possession, such as cocaine and heroin. Selling Adderall as an adult by school grounds results in around 49 months in jail, according to school resource officer John Midiros. “It falls under possession of narcotics, and if you’re in possession, it’s against the law,” Midiros said. “Chemistry-wise, it’s not good either. Reactions in the nurse’s office are often explained because nonprescribed Adderall was mixed with a prescribed drug it shouldn’t have been.” Stern says another young people also take Adderall for weight loss because patients prescribed Adderall often experience appetite loss. Stern also stated irritability as a side effect. The unnamed male source took Adderall during finals week last year but then didn’t take it again because of the side effects. “It made me nauseous and gave me a headache so I didn’t crave it anymore,” he said. Even though the unnamed female user said she had a positive experience with the drug for the most part, she did experience some negative side effects, something that has not discouraged her from taking Adderall on a fairly regular basis. “I had a really bad headache,” she said. “I didn’t eat the entire day. The idea of food just made me so put off. I felt like I didn’t have a stomach at all.” The unnamed male source said Adderall use will decrease. “I think it’s definitely a fad,” he said. “That’s what happens with drugs on the market, they get popular, then fade and then something else will become more popular.” Stern, on the other hand, said he doesn’t believe the drug will fade away. “As we become a more competitive society … you’ll continue to see Adderall abuse,” Stern said. “People really feel to succeed they need an edge, and some people feel Adderall can give them the edge.”
PUBLISHED NOV. 15, 2011| This article ran in the same issue as my football opinion article. I proposed the story as our double-page feature. If anything, I thought this article would inspire community uproar. A poll for the story found that 17 percent of students had taken non-prescribed Adderall. My co-writer discouraged me from pursuing an interview with an Adderall dealer at my school but I insisted on interviewing the anonymous source and further discovered the ease with which students could get Adderall at my school. We ran altered profanity in a quote from that dealer that I felt evoked how the dealer justified selling Adderall. I also interviewed the psychologist and the male anonymous source for the story. The story became an interesting argument for taking Adderall in order to achieve. This ran as a multiplatform feature story.
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Lack of funds and innovation in school lead to a distict-wide technological headache Schools throughout the district currently face issues with aging technology. Due to a limited district technology budget, schools such as Mize Elementary School, began to seek outside sources to fund technology updates. Most schools, though, are simply making due. Mize recently applied for two grants hoping to win enough money to purchase Eno Boards for every classroom, along with additional technology. On Wednesday, Nov. 30, the school won $50,000 for being one of 10 schools with the top number of votes in the Pepsi Refresh Everything Grant. The winners of the second grant, Clorox Power a Bright Future, will be announced on Friday, Dec. 23. The school is on track to win $25,000. The school currently has two of the interactive white boards but hopes to expand the number. “With the budget being the way it is, when we started meeting last year … they [the district] were excited about what we wanted to do but they didn’t have the money for it.” Mize principal Lori Bradley said. At Mize, some of the oldest computers are eight years old, making grants more necessary. “Unfortunately because we have some of the older laptops in the district, many of them don’t work right now,” Bradley said. This year, the district began examining technology investment and staffing issues. “Currently, the district has been going through analysis of our technology operation and our Board of Education’s going to be looking at that soon deciding what is the best way to manage our technology services moving forward not only from a cost perspective but what’s best for kids,” director of administrative services and communications Alvie Cater said. The district budgets $700,000-$900,000 per year to keep technology updated. However, a majority of that money goes to staffing and licensing. To keep costs low, the district has primarily purchased refurbished machines. “ … We’ve been forced to try to find ways to be more efficient,” Cater said. “What can we do to get the best technology in the hands of kids wisely and also do it in a way that’s efficient?” Lack of funding has affected technology updates as well as caused recent staff cuts. Only four technicians currently work in the district. The two technicians based at Mill Valley High School service the high school, Monticello Trails Middle School and five elementary schools. In comparison, the district used to have a technician working at every school. The district also does not currently have a director of technology after the former director resigned earlier this year. Issues following the resignation have included problems with the district server, the Citrix Portal. “You know as well as I do, [the Portal] has been down a lot lately. That’s because of the turn over issues,” board member Randy Johnson said. Additionally, communication has been prob-
lematic, as staff can only contact district technicians via email work order. Technicians receive 80-100 work orders per week and cannot handle the volume. In August, the district purchased 420 laptops to replace one third of the machines in the district. Some schools have also received refurbished machines. However, effects of older technology are still being felt throughout the district. At Lexington Trails Middle School, computers are almost nine years old. At De Soto High School, laptops are six to seven years old. English teacher Lindsey Prewitt has felt the effects of aging technology in her classes. To secure the newest laptops at the school, Prewitt arrives early to reserve the laptop cart she feels work best. According to Prewitt, usually six to eight laptops from a cart will be out for repair and another five will not turn on, won’t let students log in or the batteries will die quickly. “That puts teachers in a difficult position, because if your lesson relies on technology, what are you going to do when you get that cart and it doesn’t have enough working computers?” Prewitt said. Despite receiving ample amount of new studio equipment last year, the Broadcast classes still have challenges. The computers available to Broadcast students are not designed to edit HD video. “It would be nice, you know, if in a couple years, we got some Mac computers or even computers that are meant specifically for video editing instead of the ones we have now,” Broadcast teacher Cindy Swartz said. “I’m hopeful.” According to Swartz, Broadcast students often complain about technology issues. Junior Avery Laluk said current technology remains outdated. “When we went to competition, everyone had Macs and we had our Dells,” Laluk said. “Technology is advancing ... With the computers the way they are now, we just can’t keep up with it.” Other league schools have regular technology updates. In the Tonganoxie and Piper school districts, technology is on a four-year rotation. The Piper district has technology such as interactive whiteboards and iPads. Due to cost, the De Soto school district does not replace technology on a rotational basis. Many school districts, including Olathe schools, propose bond issues every few years to fund technology. The Blue Valley School District hopes to pass a bond for new technology next year. In the De Soto school district, the technology bond was in 2002. Staff stays hopeful for the future of technology, although they recognize the current issues. “I think where we used to be a leader in technology in Johnson County,” Bradley said. “Now, we’re falling behind.”
PUBLISHED DEC. 15, 2011| I suggested this story after a district elementary school had pursued outside funding sources for better technology at their school. I first ran into trouble when school technology technicians refused to talk to me until a superior approved the interview. My co-writer, tried to interview that superior, and received no response from the district. When it became clear interviews would be difficult, I emailed every principal in the school district about technology at their school and many surrounding schools’ technology directors for more information. On the day we sent our paper to press, we secured an interview with a district spokesman. This ran as a multi-platform newsfeature story.
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Staff editorial: Column sparks interaction Nearly 500 readers commented on the opinion column, “Football team unfairly overshadows other school activities” on Tuesday, Nov. 15, within two days of the column first being posted online. In two days, unique page views spiked to around 1,800 on Tuesday, Nov. 15 and 2,000 Wednesday, Nov. 16, up from around 120 views on Monday, Nov. 14, the day before. What started as an opinion column quickly became an online forum for discussion, unprecedented for a website that had a previous comment record of around 10 comments. Student participation with the website has never been higher, but as comments on that story began to flood in, the JagWire staff quickly realized a comment policy seemed necessary to maintain a progressive discussion board for the column. Until the staff established that policy, all comments were temporarily held from display on the site. In journalism, balancing what can legally be published with what should be published can be difficult. Initially, all comments were posted quickly simply because of the overwhelming amount of feedback. No comment policy was in place and to keep up with reader interest, staff members stayed up nearly all night to approve almost every comment, from nearly all sources. At the beginning, most comments were productive, thoughtful and mature. As the days progressed, however, and the post became a source for pent-up emotion, many comments began to dabble in areas of speech that journalists must handle carefully. Profanity, personal attacks and anonymous sources filled the comments section and student discussion began seeping into the school day causing disruptions for teachers and administrators. Suddenly, the journalism department walked a fine line of freedom of the press. Many of the online comments would not have been published in print
according to staff policies. In order to uphold the integrity of the program, the staff quickly realized the necessity of holding the website to the same standards as the print edition. The week after, on Monday, Nov. 21, all comments were refiltered and approved according to the new comment policy that appears at the bottom of every online post. Comments with profanity, libel, foul language, personal attacks and anonymous sources or sources without a verifiable email address were not approved. Roughly half of all comments upheld the standards of this new policy. Inevitably, questions relating to this policy will come up and the article itself has been openly challenged in various types of discussion. Some have said the article was divisive and should not have been published. Journalists do not always make friends. But, in regards to student press rights, Kansas Senate Bill 62 affords students the rights as professionals and states, “These rights include, but are not limited to, all First Amendment rights, including rights of freedom of speech and the press, insofar as published items may not contain libelous, slanderous or obscene statements, may not cause a substantial disruption to normal school activity.” This bill summarizes both freedom of student press and its limitations. Both aspects of the law were taken into account when printing the column and later creating the comment policy. Additionally, the JagWire seeks to serve as a voice for the student body. Certainly student reaction to the column seem to support the notion that students’ voices are being heard, whether the opinion column reached unanimous agreement or not. In addition to comments on the story, feedback can be sent via email to jagwirenewspaper@gmail. com or hand-delivered to the journalism room, C101. We want to continue to hear from you.
PUBLISHED DEC. 2, 2011| Although I’m certain this web-exclusive staff editorial didn’t cause as much discussion as the first article it was inspired by, I felt it was important to explain the changes to comment posting following my opinion column about football preferential treatment. One of the most significant effects of my column was reader interaction. This article explained the impact of that and more.
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Debaters argue for the win and the award The Silver 5 Debate class listened intently as senior Katie Filina and junior Ross Platt prepared to debate in class on Tuesday, Dec. 1. The mood became light hearted as students encouraged and taunted the team before they debated against senior Colby Brim and sophomore Josh Duden. Platt, who started debate as a freshman, and Filina, who started as a sophomore, have grown into a strong team during their three years together. “We really compliment each other’s styles,” Platt said. This year, they have taken first place in three out of the five tournaments they attended. They have also earned several “perfect debate,” where a pair wins every round and earn the highest speaker rankings possible. Their success has helped them, along with juniors Sam Ellis and Scott Weidner, qualify for state on Jan. 22-23. According to Debate teacher Jeanette Hardesty, the program has been doing especially well this year. Teams have taken home a total of four first place trophies, two second place trophies and countless medals. “I’m really proud of my kids because we can compete with 6A schools and beat them,” Hardesty said. “We are becoming a respected Debate squad in the circuit.” Filina and Platt’s in class debate lasted around 90 minutes, although time restrictions cut the debate short. They argued negative, meaning they attempted to counter the arguments made by the opposing team of Brim and Duden. This year’s resolution, whether or not the federal government should substantially increase social services for persons living in poverty in the United States, seems timely, according to Hardesty. “This year’s resolution is good because we consider the domestic economy in the current recession,” Hardesty said. “The challenge is how do we solve it?” Duden and Brim suggested providing jobs, childcare and MedicAid for those living in poverty to solve for the resolution. They sought to convince the room of their plan’s necessity. Platt spoke after Brim’s first constructive speech, speaking counter arguments for his team. In his speech he presented evidence to support his argument against Brim and Duden’s plan. “I’m better at speaking to the judge than reading evidence [so Ross is the first speaker],” Filina said.
To improve their speaking abilities, students taking Debate practice in class and attend scheduled debate tournaments on weekends. To win, teams must be able to prove to the judge of the round why they are right. Filina said she and Platt spent a major part of the first quarter researching in class, in addition to spending three hours before a tournament collecting data. Filina and Platt enjoy the hard work that their Debate class requires of them. “[I like] the amount of skill level it requires,” Platt said. “It is definitely much more rigorous than other things I’ve been exposed to.” Filina says Debate gave her confidence. “What I like most is the confident feeling of talking to the judge and the feeling of convincing someone you are right when you may or may not be,” Filina said. Towards the middle of the debate, Filina presented her first speech, the second negative constructive. Her passion became evident, as her voice rose and she tried to persuade the room against Duden and Brim’s plan. “To some people, it’s just a class, and you have to go to the tournaments,” Filina said. “I just really love it.” This year will be Platt and Filina’s last together. Filina will attend the University of Kansas next fall and Platt will complete his high school debate career with a new partner. “It is going to be a hard transition for me,” Platt said. “It will take me a little while to get used to not having [Filina] there.’ Filina will walk away from debate with good memories and strong speaking skills. “I’ll always remember Ross, and I’ll remember the fun stuff we’ve done,” Filina said. “Making cases, organizing the box, just silly things.” After both affirmative and negative teams made their final statements and arguments to the room full of advanced debaters, the round was put to a vote. The majority of students voted in favor of the affirmative team, Brim and Duden. Even though Filina and Platt hate losing, they realize they can’t always win. “It all depends on the preference of the students,” Filina said. “The student that voted against us preferred a different debate style than what we have.”
PUBLISHED DEC. 11, 2009| Although I spent much of my time writing news articles for the JagWire, I also wrote many features like this print feature story. I focused the story on just one team of debaters, attempting to explain debate in the process. Many of my news stories consist of adult sources; this story took me back again to students. I also designed this page. It was interesting to have more freedom than normal in what I wanted to accomplish. I came up with a simple, yet fitting design for a news page. I afforded ample space for pictures and secondary coverage. As I did on most every page I worked on, I led organization of getting photos and secondary information. I prided myself on encouraging all those working with me to put in as much effort as possible to produce a great page. I believe I first learned how to use grids working on this design. Hooray!
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Spending dilemma reaches school district Call it the trickle down effect. The state’s budget crisis finally made its way into everyday school life this semester. Now students, teachers, district officials and state legislators must deal with the consequences. The recession has resulted in limited state funding, forcing cuts throughout the state. Under legal obligation, the state must fund schools while at the same time keeping a balanced budget for all state funded programs. According to the Kansas City Star, roughly $170 million have been cut from the state’s public education budget this year in order to help balance the budget. Sen. Anthony Hensley, a Democrat of Topeka, desires more funding for education. “K-12 education cannot sustain any further cuts,” Hensley said. “We are going to do everything we can to make sure that doesn’t happen.” District director of budget and finance Ken Larsen estimates that $4 million has been cut from the district budget this school year. Roughly 80 percent of district funding must be used for payroll, forcing cuts to be made to the remaining 20 percent of funds which includes classroom and extra curricular funds. Rep. Anthony Brown, a Republican of Eudora, believes the state rightfully made cuts to education. “The problem is that funding K-12 education is over 60 percent of the [state] budget,” Brown said. “It’s more of a spending issue than a revenue problem. We have been misspending for the past five years.” The effects of cuts to education are just starting to be felt at building levels across the district. In previous years, teachers received a certain amount of money per year to spend on classroom items. Starting second semester, teachers must now seek approval from principal Dr. Joe Novak, who was asked by the district to cut 60 percent of this year’s remaining building funds. “We’ve cut the autonomy out of it,” Novak said. “I’ve made it clear to make sure we have the money we need, but now teachers can only ask for the things they absolutely need.” Commitments that have already been made to clubs, sports and teachers concerning money will be honored. In the future, staff will find it harder to receive money for things that are not deemed absolutely necessity. For band teacher Debra Steiner, the budget cuts are starting to add up. “I tried to stretch music as much as I could,” Steiner said. “With us growing, I’m going to need more instruments, but I’m trying to make things work.” Librarian Andy Shelly has had to “put off” replacing worn books and has also refrained from buying new fiction books. Although teachers shouldered the largest hit, students are beginning to feel subtle impacts as well. “We don’t get to go on field trips,” junior Angela Chu said. “We used to go take a field trip ev-
ery year to a French restaurant.” In the future the cuts could start to affect students more drastically. “We haven’t felt those earthquake tremors yet because people have done a good job of spreading out the money so it’s not affecting students,” Novak said. Future legislation and budget cuts will determine how severely students could be affected in the upcoming years. According to Hensley, an additional $187 million cut from education has been proposed for next year. Larsen says the district could lose an additional $2.2 million, although nothing has been determined at this time. In order to make up for reduced funds, the district seeks new ways to save more and generate funding. “With declining state revenue, public schools must find ways to become more efficient, and essentially do more with less without sacrificing the quality our parents and students have come to expect,” district director of community relations Alvie Cater said via email. Cater said the district will evaluate staff work hours, explore early retirement incentives and look at possible staff reductions. Summer school staffing, curriculum, facility, teacher conference registration, substitutes, travel, utility use and an increase of student enrollment fees are all ways the district will consider to save money. The school will look at athletic and extra-curricular activities as a place to possibly have cuts. “Unless things get better, there will only be varsity, junior varsity and freshman level [teams],” Novak said. Cuts will likely affect all school programs in some way, shape or form. “Hopefully this gets fixed in future years,” Chu said. “If not, students won’t be able to learn to their potential.” Legislators will continue to examine ways to make up for the deficit during the current session, which ends in April. Hensley reports a higher tax on tobacco, a so-called sin tax, could be one way the legislature will generate money. Hensley said that the state will examine taxexempt organizations such as churches, and look at charging temporary income taxes or refining the process for tax exemption in order to generate more income. Other ideas include a raise in sales tax, as well as locking in money during times of high state revenue in order to have more money when revenue stays down. Regardless of the solution and facing declining revenues, legislators will have their work cut out for them. Although schools could face challenges in the future, the district does its best to stay positive. “Something good always comes out of a challenge like this,” Novak said. “We are practicing more conservative use of resources so that there may be less waste. Let us all work together in the best interest of our purpose, which is to provide the very best we can each and every day.”
PUBLISHED FEB. 5, 2010| I co-wrote this print story as part of the Statehouse Reporter for a Day competition sponsored by Kansas Families for Education and the Kansas Scholastic Press Association. My adviser drove my co-writer and me to Topeka for a day to interview government sources about budget cuts. The interviews were my first with state legislators and also proved somewhat difficult. When I stated to Rep. Anthony Brown that my school’s former principal had been asked to cut 60 percent of remaining building funds for the year due to the state’s budget cuts, he outright disagreed with me and told me that statistic was not possible. The story ended up winning the contest out of 14 teams. I received $100, as did my co-writer. The story can be found on KFEF’s website here: http:// fundourpublicschools.com/ index.php?page=foundation
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Pollution speeds process of global warming Global warming, an increase in the average temperature of the earth’s atmosphere, makes sense to me. Normally, the greenhouse effect traps some heat and gases in the earth’s atmosphere while releasing others; however, an excess amount of gases like carbon dioxide have flawed the system. What goes around comes around and when we pollute our air, we suffer the consequences. We cannot expect to release harmful gases from our cars, factories and homes without negative effects. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, coal-burning power plants in America release 2.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year. Cars add another 1.5 billion tons to air. Methane gas from decomposition and animals are 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide and increasing rapidly. Nitrogen used in fertilizers remains at dangerously high levels. Despite the evidence, a divide between the beliefs of scientists and the public exists. According to a study released by The PEW Research Center for People and the Press in 2009, scientists and the public differ most on their opinions of global warming. According to the study, 70 percent of scientists state global warming as a very serious problem, compared to 47 percent of the public. An overwhelming 84 percent of scientists say global warming results from human activity, while just 49 percent of the public say the same thing. Clearly, the public does not fully understand the conclusions scientists have been making about global warming for years. Confusion in the media and a lack of attention to the growing issue of global warming has led to a
lack of belief in an issue future generations will face. The constant tugof-war between global warming advocates and those who want to disprove it make it difficult and confusing to form an opinion on global warming. No matter what you believe, concern yourself with and advocate for clean energy for the sake of our planet. According to the Department of Energy, in 2008, 86 percent of the energy consumption in the U.S. was derived from fossil fuels, and only 7.3 percent from renewable energy. What are we thinking? What happened to the push to “go green” or invest in new energy? During times of distress, such as the great rise in gas prices in 2007, you could not go a day without hearing about the need for cleaner and cheaper energy. Three years later, gas prices have more or less settled down and “bigger” issues like the economy and health care have overshadowed the energy crisis. In celebration of Earth Day on April 22, remember this, start recycling or plant a tree. Both are a good place to start. Regardless of your opinion on global warming, believe in cleaning up the Earth. Believe in something and advocate for something so that we can save our earth sooner rather than later.
PUBLISHED APRIL 9, 2010| This opinion column ran next to an opposing column on a double-page spread. This print opinion story became one of my more developed early opinion pieces. I loved being able to write about a topic I believed in so strongly.
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The elderly are too positive about my future Despite the occasional old man and the lingering smell of vitamins, V-8 juice and urine, I have loved working as a waitress at a retirement home. Unfortunately, all of the elderly I am surrounded by there have messed with my sense of self-motivation. I am a minority at my job because of my age and it constantly places me in a battle between my own college reality and the nostalgia of the way college and growing up used to be for the majority of the residents I serve. The number of times I have been told by such sweet faces, “Honey, you don’t have to think about it,” or “You’ve got plenty of time left,” is astounding. Despite the positive energy, little time remains to decide where I’m going to college. Over spring break I visited the University of Arkansas and felt bombarded with “Save the dates” for deadlines at their college. Applications open this summer and
ACT test dates for this year end in June. My college reality will not afford me more time. I have studied for the ACT, researched colleges and planned my own visits. My proactive self knows college decision in front of me will not get any easier by not thinking about it. However, after being told over and over again by people made honest by their age that things are fine, I easily to slip into “forget my future, live in the present, mode.” I find it easier to smile and nod and believe everything to be in front of me than to prod into the plethora of real advice Betty might have. Even then, I am uncertain if I can yell loud enough for her to hear me. Since that would take extra effort, I have set a new approach from here on out. At work I will stay on neutral subjects: grocery shopping, jewelry compliments and the occasional war story are A-OK. But college though, I’ll stay away from that slippery slope. I won’t risk my sanity or theirs.
PUBLISHED APRIL 21, 2011| Columns like this one are again why I enjoy journalism so much. I can’t think of many places where my offbeat thoughts about the elderly would be valued. I wrote this print column about a topic I had experienced personally. Because of that, I believe the topic became easier for readers to connect with.
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Repeal of ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ step forward After 18 long years in place, “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” the policy banning gays from serving openly in the military, ended on Tuesday, Sept. 20. Since 1993, when the policy first began under the Clinton administration, the policy has been one of discrimination. Over the course of its time in place, 14,346 service members have been discharged from the military for violating the policy, according to the Wall Street Journal. Although some believe homosexuality to be immoral (I won’t get into the debate on that), allowing such view points to create job discrimination and risk public safety by releasing valuable military members because of their sexual orientation made the policy one based on irrational morality-based fears. For example, in 2009, 428 service people were honorably discharged from the military according to the Washington Post. According to the same source, those discharges included, “eight linguists, 20 infantrymen, 16 medical aides and one member of the Army’s special forces, positions considered “mission critical” by the Government Accountability Office.” Again when one considers that these valuable military members were discharged from their high level positions because of being openly gay, the fallacy of the policy seems even more evident. Not only was the policy mindless, but it was unfair. The policy, while in effect, made a mistake of
association that all too often affects homosexuals. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” made homosexuality and job misconduct one in the same. Now, if every one of the 14,346 policy violator’s had participated in some sort of job misconduct such as sexual harassment, the military had every right to question the standing of these people as they would if any heterosexual person had committed the same thing. However, questioning the integrity of those willing to serve the country because of sexual orientation alone dishonors such heroes active in our everyday communities. When a person risks his life for the sake of our country, we should thank him, not judge him. For the Obama administration, the push of the repeal of the policy through Congress should be a platform for praise. Since the ban was lifted, 2.3 million service members have gone through hour-long training to teach appropriate workplace conduct following the decision. Now whether or not these short training sessions will benefit a military that has often seemed unsure of homosexual service people working for the country, remains undetermined. However, little steps like these prove that equal opportunities will only continue to develop in the future. Now if only people would stop equating “gay” with “stupid,” the world would be right.
PUBLISHED OCT. 19, 2011| I believe many students get the majority of their printed news from our paper. Even those who don’t can benefit from a student’s perspective on national topics that seem distant. I spent a lot of time researching this topic to formulate a well-stated opinion. For that, I believe this print opinion story to be one of my stronger opinion pieces.
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Prom sponsor discusses new prom location *Prom will be held at Club 1000 this year instead of the Civic Center. Prom sponsor Jodi Ellis explains the change of venue. Where has prom previously been held? Prom has previously been held at the Civic Center, the Shawnee Civic Center. What happened this year that prompted the prom location change? Well actually there was just a conflict and the only date available was, I believe, April 7, which turned out to be the Saturday before Easter which of course we couldn’t hold prom then so we were in a predicament, trying to find a location. One weekend I just spent about three hours online emailing people looking for a venue that would house enough students and that’s kind of where I was at. I was having some trouble because there were some really cool places out there but when you’re talking 450 to 500 students then your possibilities were limited. And then on Sunday, a gentleman from Club 1000 actually called me and he actually had a date in April which would have been the next weekend after April and while it was a much more expensive venture, he was giving us a deal, so I felt that was positive. Plus, it was going to be a venue that would really excite the students. Can you describe Club 1000? I have not personally been there as of yet, I have just taken a virtual tour. So anyone can get on the Internet and do that and see the photo gallery. But, it’s basically downtown, the front of the building is big windows, the space that we’re at is the
Club 1000 level which houses the most amount of people. It has wood floors, white columns, little white lights around the ceiling, big windows at one whole wall so you can outlook the downtown area. People have weddings there, it’s absolutely gorgeous, so I think the kids are going to be excited. How do you expect student reaction to be? I expect students to be so excited when they find out we are actually having prom at a place that is actually meant to house a prom. So I think students are going to be really excited. Now, the price will increase by $5 for everyone, even seniors who paid last year will have to pay a $5 up charge, but I think kids are going to be fine with spending that. If you consider that some kids spent $50 each to come to the Civic Center, they’re not going to have a problem spending $55 to come to Club 1000, I don’t think. I think they’ll be very excited.
PUBLISHED JAN. 20, 2012| To publish video on the website, we had always used content from MVTV, our school’s Broadcast class. The class, however, does not affiliate with the Newspaper and Yearbook programs, and we often found it difficult to get them to create web exclusive content for us. Both classes also faced technology issues. This semester, I helped to push for our staff to re-examine how we were publishing multimedia. In midJanuary we realized two of the journalism cameras could take video and immediately decided to test shooting and editing video ourselves and it worked! I edited this video which ran on our website as the first video the Newspaper staff had created independently. In the first week, Monday, Jan. 16 - Friday, Jan. 20, three videos were created by the Newspaper staff. We now plan to shoot content every week. I have also presented a proposal to the Broadcast classes encouraging them to create more video as well. The website now has a tab renamed Multimedia and rightfully so.
Do you expect there to be a change in the number of tickets purchased? I believe, for those kids that were teetering, when they find out there’s going to be a new venue and where it’s going to be, I think they’ll want to check it out, I really do. I think there will be a little bit more, as far as that goes, I don’t really know numbers with the class size, I believe that the senior class size is a little bit smaller, but I still anticipate those kids who didn’t know if it was worth spending that money, I think they will feel it’s definitely worth spending it. *Story has been condensed
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LAUNCHED FALL 2010 | Since JagWire News Online launched two years ago, I have spent hundreds of hours on it, trying to constantly come up with new things to improve the site. This year, under my direct leadership, our staff went from posting web exclusive content every couple of weeks to posting several items every day using the beat system I proposed. This year, among other changes, the website added the “Sports Center” tab I pushed for that allows us to keep schedules, add scores and post player profiles. We nearly doubled the number of blogs on the site, added a “photos” tab and added a “yearbook” tab. The site’s banner was completely redesigned, along with the general organization of the categories on the website’s homepage. Additionally, the new “about” tab gives specific information about our staff as well as detailed contact information and an archive of stories by author. Also new are the Gmail accounts every staff member has under my direction so that staff may be easily contacted. This year, I also added a “Follow us” widget, Twitter feed widget, Facebook like widget and sharing footers at the bottom of every story. Our paper’s Twitter and Facebook pages were also created under my leadership. This month last year, the site had 487 total visits; this year, the month’s visits total was 4,725. All of the hard work led to an over 800 percent increase in readership this year. Additionally, the site was one of two websites in the state to be named a 2012 NSPA Online Pacemaker Finalist.
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LAUNCHED FALL 2011 | Before this year, our website did not have a Facebook or a Twitter page. It became clear to me that the only way to encourage student interaction with the website would be to integrate information into the places where students already spend time on the Web. Over the summer I contemplated the best ways to use social media sites. I saw other websites covering games live, but technology in our journalism room could not support video. Instead, I decided we should use our Twitter page to tweet live from school events. The web editor and a few other staff members tweeted at every football game and every boys basketball game so far. This semester, daily tweets are now being put out on Twitter to further encourage student interaction. Over this year, I helped create and hang posters around our school advertising the paperâ€™s Facebook and Twitter page. I update the Facebook page multiple times a week with links to our website. Furthermore, I enabled a plug-in on the website with simple code called ShareThis that links readers to our Facebook, Twitter and RSS feed as well as our schoolâ€™s broadcast website. Additionally, I embedded live Twitter into the homepage as well as sharing links in the footers of stories. Our Facebook page, JagWire Newspaper, has 213 likes and our Twitter, @mvjagwire has 390 followers.
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Journalism accomplishments and awards NEWSPAPER LEADERSHIP (Grades 10, 11, 12) Led 30 staff members to produce eight print editions and daily web content for the JagWire, an award-winning news magazine and 2012 NSPA Online Pacemaker Finalist; consistently rated All-American and All-Kansas Reporter (10), news editor (11), editor-in-chief (12)
AWARDS Awarded $500 scholarship towards the National Scholastic Press Association/Journalism Education Association national journalism convention in Washington D.C. (Grade 10) Only journalism staff member at school to receive award Honorable mention in review writing at NSPA/JEA convention in the national Write Off contest in Washington D.C. (Grade 10) Co-wrote winning print story for Kansas Scholastic Press Association Statehouse Reporter for a Day competition out of 14 submitted stories (Grade 10) Awarded $100 Third place in news writing at KSPA regional journalism competition (Grade 10) Honorable mention in news writing in the national Write Off contest at NSPA/JEA journalism convention in Kansas City (Grade 11) Honorable mention in informative news/feature writing at the Journalism Educators of Metropolitan Kansas City journalism competition (Grade 11) Second place in news writing and honorable mention in headline writing in KSPA regional journalism competition (Grade 11) Second place in headline writing at KSPA state journalism competition (Grade 11) Winner of the Sarah Ellen Campbell Award, a $200 scholarship towards the University of Kansas's summer journalism workshop (Grade 11) Superior rating in news writing in the national Write Off contest at NSPA/JEA journalism convention in Minneapolis (Grade 12) Third place in headline writing in KSPA regional journalism competition (Grade 12)
PARTICIPATED 2009-2012 | I began attending journalism workshops and conventions the summer before my sophomore year. After that, I continually sought out experiences that would satisfy my desire to become a better journalist. I learned skills beyond writing, such as design skills and online skills through the workshops I attended. I was honored when my adviser offered me a $500 scholarship to attended the national journalism convention in Washington D.C. the fall of my sophomore year. I attended a fall convention every year following where I only became further excited by journalism. My adviser’s commitment to journalistic endeavors continually gave me the opportunity to attend Kansas workshops, national conventions and state and regional competitions. I learned new ideas at every occasion that only continued to attract me to journalism. Most importantly, the experiences taught me that journalism can always be exciting.
EXPERIENCE Attended the University of Kansas Journalism Institute summer journalism workshops including a design, convergence and editorial leadership workshop (Grades 9,10,11) Attended JEA Fall National Journalism Convention in Washington D.C., Kansas City, Minneapolis and Seattle (Grades 10, 11, 12) Attended KSPA fall journalism conference at KU (Grades 10, 11, 12) Competed in KSPA regional journalism competition (Grades 10, 11, 12) Competed in KSPA state journalism competition (Grade 10, 11, 12) JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR ENTRY | SARAH DARBY | 33
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Excerpt from multi-family apartment complex recycling information pamphlet Why should your business start a recycling program? Business- Current studies indicate that potential apartment renters are interested in environmentally-friendly practices. In a May 2009 study by www. apartments.com, 63.9% of renters said they sought out apartment communities that offered environmentally-friendly amenities and complexes that helped conserve and maintain the environment. Additionally, when asked: “Would you rent from an apartment community that does not offer environmentally-friendly amenities and help to conserve and maintain the environment?” only 26.6% of those surveyed answered “yes,” while 56.9% answered “maybe.” Your business could also see long-term volume reducing and cost-saving benefits as a result of a recycling program addition. Many commercial recycling haulers can help you get a handle on how to balance your trash
Service- Recycling is something that is becoming more and more accepted as a norm. This is evident with the Shawnee Mission School District, Johnson County’s new residential solid waste code, Your new service will be reflective of similar services offered commercially in the area. To ensure your business is keeping up with modern expectations, consider offering a recycling program at your apartment complex. Community- Kansas City Metro area citizens are particularly interested in recycling. According to a 2008 study of Kansas City Metro area residents by Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), 96% of residents said recycling was either very important or somewhat important to them. The number rose 3% from 2005. Additionally, environmental benefits that come from recycling will only help better the community. Recycling reduces waste, pollution and can make an impact on your local city.
PUBLISHED SENIOR YEAR| By the time I started my internship with the city of Shawnee this year, I had already interviewed a number of city staff members for various news stories and for my online blog CityTalk. I went to the city offices every Wednesday from 3:30-5 p.m. and during that time had the opportunity to get to know city workers better and expand my journalistic work into different mediums. For several months I worked on creating a pamphlet to encourage recycling in multifamily apartment complexes. I gathered online research and information provided to me by the city to create an eight-page written guide on multi-family recycling. I also wrote a couple of small pieces for the city’s newsletter, CityLine, including the piece called “Trash and Recycling Reminders.” Throughout the many city meetings I attended, I further used journalistic skills by asking questions about city programs or policies, although this time I wasn’t writing down any notes. The internship proved to me how invaluable strong writing skills are within any career.
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Budget restrictions delay city road projects Funding for road projects has been reduced to $1 million, down from $10 million a year in times of greater prosperity. Now neighborhood projects have been delayed and even maintenance has been reduced. What budget restriction means to you: Beginning in 2007, city manager Carol Gonzales says budget constraints started affecting the city. Today, the city operates on a $57 million budget, about the same as it was in 2006. As a result of budget constraints, no new road projects are on the city’s Capitol Improvement Program or CIP, which stays updated every year outlining six years into the future. Senior project engineer Paul Lindstrom said the Monticello Road south of Shawnee Mission Parkway project was the biggest projected delayed by the city. The project, delayed in summer 2009, was planned to expand to a three-lane road with bikes lanes making it the width of a standard four-lane road. To date, over $3 million of an estimated $15 million total cost has been spent on the project. Expansion of the road was discussed to ensure sufficient traffic flow in the future. “If it’s going to need to be a four-lane some day, we’re going to do it now,” Gonzales said of the decision surrounding the project. Since beginning construction, two houses were bought by the city and $2 million was spent on temporary easements, which allow the city to work on a resident’s property, and right of way agreements, which purchase land the future road will occupy. An eight inch gas pipeline as well as the hilly landscape of the road presented unique problems to road construction. Monticello Road south resident Bob Hamlett had approximately 2,500 square feet of property bought by the city in both temporary easements and right of way agreements. “Some improvements are necessary because this road is far too narrow but a wide double lane would have served the same purpose and preserved the front yard property area,” Hamlett said. “The steps they’ve taken now can best be described as destruction.” Construction of the road placed two-thirds of Hamlett’s driveway in limbo, and resulted in the removal of five trees on his property. Temporary installment of telephone poles and guy-wires has also resulted after beginning the project. Temporary easements like the one on the Hamlett’s property expired in 2010. Postponement means that the money on the temporary easements will have to be spent again when construction resumes sometime in the future. City council member Michelle Distler, who was the only city council member to vote against the project from the beginning, says signs of economic downturn were evident when project construction began.
“We saw that the economy and budget was going that way,” Distler said. “I was thinking ‘Why are we even looking at that?’ We’ve spent $3.5 million and we got a road in a worse condition than when we started.” “We just don’t have any major street plans in the six-year plan,” Gonzales said. “We can’t take on that and have money to pay for basic services, everything has slowed down.” Although Monticello Road south was the most significant and costly project postponed by the city, a widespread delay of other projects has become a reality. Monticello Road north of Shawnee Mission Parkway has also been indefinitely postponed. The design for the road would cost the city $250,000 and included a turn lane north of the high school and a widening on the bridge by Monticello Trails Middle School. The project was postponed in 2009. Expansion of Johnson Drive to Midland Drive, Shawnee Mission Parkway to Pflumm Road, Woodland Road south to 83rd Street and street improvements and redesigns of Midland Drive and Claire and Gleason Roads are all similar area projects that have been taken off the Capitol Improvement Plan. Lindstrom worries that postponement will halt development in the city. “A lot of developers won’t be doing improvement until we get those streets in,” Lindstrom said. “Infrastructure goes bad and it’s hard to catch up on streets that haven’t had maintenance. We are going to play catch up.” In addition to forcing project delays, budget constraints have impacted road maintenance and repair. In times of better economic outlook, the city devoted $5 million to road repair. In 2011, the city committed $750,000 to the same cause. To rank necessary repairs, the city ranks roads on a one to 10 basis, one being the worst and 10 being the best. Gonzales says roads only ranked at a 6 or below are being addressed rather than roads ranked at a 7 or 8. “We’re just trying to do the best we can with what’s coming in,” Gonzales said. “Our goal is to have a small government and do what we can for a while.” In addition to many delayed projects, a few major projects are also coming to a close in 2011. The K-7 Highway interchange, for which the city paid $450,000 out of $26 million to fund, has a completion date in August 2011 and Silverheel Road, off Johnson Drive, near the K-7 Highway construction received roundabouts connecting the surrounding area. Gonzales hopes the budget won’t hurt the community. “My desire is for it to be a high quality and wonderful place to be and you don’t want to see your community deteriorate,” Gonzales said.
PUBLISHED FEB. 4, 2011| This article was one of the first stories I wrote in which I established a professional relationship with city personnel. To obtain information on city road project delays, I interviewed the city manager (who I now work under as an intern), several city council members and a Shawnee resident on the topic. I sent the story to people in the city and saw my writing at work in the community. This ran as a multi-platform news story.
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New nutrition proposal presents opportunity It was only a matter of time before stricter cafeteria restrictions made their way to the district. Following the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, a new U.S. Department of Agriculture proposal to tighten cafeteria food restrictions will be implemented in the 2012-2013 school year. The proposed legislation marks a much-needed change for school districts nationwide but a disconcerting exposure of how far the district remains from meeting new standards. According to the Shawnee Dispatch, proposed legislation includes weekly servings of dark greens, orange vegetables and legumes, daily fruit servings, limits on starch, more whole grain-rich foods and most notable, drastic cuts to sodium levels. To meet new restrictions, many district meals will need to cut sodium levels in half to meet the proposal. â€œThe final 10-year target for breakfast would be a cap of 430 milligrams of sodium for elementary students, 470 milligrams for middle school students and 500 milligrams for high school students. For lunch the current limit of 1,377 in elementary schools would be reduced to 640 in 10 years. The middle school limit of 1,520 would be reduced to 710 and the high school limit of 1,588 would drop to 740 in 10 years,â€? the Shawnee Dispatch reports. The statistics say it all. The cuts that will be necessary to meet new guidelines are almost overwhelming. Granted, 10 years seems a generous amount of time to implement new guidelines. However, to continue to be an outstanding district across the board in the future, merely meeting these restrictions within the time constriction may not be enough. In the past, the district has introduced more fruits and whole-grain buns, limited desserts and removed whole and 2 percent milks. Now the district should take new regulations in stride to meet new restrictions. If the district wants to send a message on the importance of health to students, it must be consistent and determined to make school meals healthier. When approaching new restrictions, the district should consider the message it sends students.
Currently, the district sends some disconcerting messages. Unhealthy food options like Pizza Hut and Mr. Goodcents can be found in a la cart every day across from a wilted and less than appetizing salad bar. Meals across the district are in many cases more than double the new restriction levels. To continue to be at the forefront of districts in the nation, our administration must seize this opportunity to meet new restrictions. In adjusting meals to meet restrictions, the district should meet demands farther into the future; instead of cutting sodium levels to 740 milligrams in high schools, the district should consider setting their standard even lower and complete requirements sooner than necessary. Although a la cart options reap profit for the school, fast food cannot remain in the cafeteria if the district wishes to send a message of nutrition to students. In meeting new guidelines, the district should also begin to think of fresh fruit and vegetable options to encourage student purchases of previously unfamiliar foods. The district should also consider implementing the proposed changes in full before the 10 year deadline approaches. The deadline skips over a whole generation of graduating students who will miss out on healthy eating options in the school cafeteria. These 10 years seem drawn out and unnecessary. The new proposed legislation undoubtedly exposes some big questions of district obligations of health; however, in meeting the new legislation, the district has an extraordinary opportunity. I hope the district goes beyond legislation to ensure more than the minimum nutrition required for students nationwide. Cafeteria workers take extraordinary pride in serving students and the district has done a good job of meeting nutrition challenges in the past. If the district makes it a priority to exceed expectations in meeting this challenge, students and staff will benefit from quick action and the district will continue to continue its positive reputation in the future.
PUBLISHED APRIL 1, 2011| This web-exclusive blog was one of the first I wrote for my CityTalk blog. The blog started off as almost an opinion column on anything affecting my community. This blog in particular also served as commentary on a news story I had written about the same topic. I had a strong opinion on the topic so I hoped to further community awareness of the topic. Since my interviews with the district nutrition staff, the staff still occasionally emails me for input on school lunch and tweets at @mvjagwire.
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Shawnee police chief discusses daily blog Last week on Tuesday, March 22, Larry Larimore became Shawnee’s chief police officer following former chief police officer Jim Morgan’s retirement. Starting his first day, Larimore writes a daily blog called “A Few Good Words” in which he showcases the day-to-day work of Shawnee police officers. I had a chance to talk to Larimore about the Shawnee police department, the future of his blog and social media strategy: How long have you been a police officer for? I’ve been a police officer for 25 years and I was a deputy officer under Chief Morgan. How did you become a police officer? I started off as a paramedic in Shawnee with MedAct for seven years. My mom was a nurse so I wanted to get into some type of medical service … I also really liked the TV show “Emergency.” It was made up stories but it had all the equipment they were using and it seemed interesting to me. I kind of liked the idea of being a paramedic. … I got to know a lot of reserved police officers [at the Quivira Road police station] in 1985 and I got hired here [in Shawnee] in 1987. How does being Shawnee’s police chief differ from other positions you have held? Being chief is definitely being representative for the police department in more of an external environment. I deal with legislation and community issues. Deputy police officer is operational and deals with the day-to-day. The chief of police is responsible for the big picture. What have been some recent successes in the police department? Here in Shawnee we have hot spot policing which is where you put cops where crime has historically happened and it is time and location based. [For example] the 75th Street corridor from Switzer Street to Quivira Road historically has higher levels of crime and traffic crashes. We began the program last year called “data driven approaches to crime and traffic safety.” We take that data of what time crime occurs and send staff officers there during the day at those times. In the last six months, we were able to drop what we call stranger crimes 37 percent. The vision is you want to put cops where crime is occurring. Where did you get the idea to start a blog? Chief Charlie Clark before Chief Jim Morgan started a blog to track motorcycle trips. He was a big motorcycle rider. He would blog every day where they had been and what they had done.
Also, a police chief in Lincoln, Neb. has a blog that’s very interesting to read. I also told the city manager that if I became chief, I would have a blog … We have a goal in the city to become more involved with the city’s social media strategy. How often do you blog? I’m trying to do it daily, Monday through Friday. I’m four days into it. I have to write one today and I have no idea what I’m going to talk about. I kind of promised in the first blog that I would write about a variety of things. … I’m definitely getting geared up on how I’m going to do that. What are some challenges in writing the blog? I’ve got to be real careful in not disclosing criminal history information because everyone is innocent until proven guilty. I’ll never use names or locations. What do you hope to talk about in your blog? I think most information people hear in the police department has a negative side, where we have to do the job because somebody’s done something wrong. They do so many good things people don’t hear about and I want to bring that into it; not just criminal stuff but community service too. For example, we had a police officer who played football, he’s a huge guy … he decided he would do something nice for the kids at Children’s Mercy South on Christmas morning. He and one of the sergeants delivered presents to the kids on Christmas morning. That’s not stuff you are going to hear about in a regular media outlet. How important should social media be in public works departments like a police department? Social media is the most used form of communication now. It’s only harder as days go by to capture that audience. We are going to need to be involved in the media. The safety of the community is a partnership. Everyone needs to be involved with both police and citizens. What are your goals for the blog in the future? I hope that we can create a dialogue. I hope there are comments people make that I can respond to, that it’s not just all one-way communication and just for me it’s a way to showcase the police department. It’s fun too. I enjoy writing more than public speaking. …
PUBLISHED MARCH 29, 2011| After I interviewed police chief Larry Larimore about his new daily blog on his police duties, I was pleasantly surprised when Larimore blogged about me on his blogspot. You can find the link here: http://shawneepd. blogspot.com/2011/03/ bailed-out-by-fellow-blogger. html in which Larimore insists I bailed him out that day. A few hours later, I noticed that several Shawnee residents had commented on my web-exclusive blog. They were the first comments I had ever gotten. I was jumping up and down with excitement that day. Now when I attend a city council meeting on occasion or am working in City Hall, I occasionally see and interact with Larimore, along with fire chief John Mattox, public works director Ron Freyermuth, city clerk Keith Campbell, business liaison Eric Ely, assistant city manager Katie Killen and many others, all of whom I have interacted with for newspaper or internship endeavors.
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Staffing cuts hurt remarkable program For the last two years, I had the great pleasure of volunteering for the Youth Friends program. The program was first introduced to me by a teacher as a community service opportunity that I would enjoy. That first year, in 2008, I worked with a several students struggling in reading at Prairie Ridge Elementary School. That summer, I received recognition as the youngest volunteer in the Youth Friends program out of around 600 volunteers throughout the years. My sophomore year, I went to Clear Creek Elementary every Thursday to work with a student who had moved to the district that year and told me, as innocently as a young child will, that he missed his old friends. The following summer, I attended the banquet again and received a thank you card that told the story of “The Starfish.” The story went something like this: “A man walked up a shore littered with thousands of starfish beached and dying after a storm. A young man was picking them up and flinging them back into the ocean. ‘Why do you bother?,’ the first man scoffed. ‘You’re not saving enough to make a difference.’ The young man picked up another starfish and sent it spinning back into the water. ‘It made a difference for that one,’ he said.” Inside the note my youth friend wrote as only a young child could, “Thank you for plaing with me this year and I realy had fun.” At the end of the same banquet, program coordinator Renee Hultgren, in tears, accepted a flower bouquet after the announcement of the district’s cutting of her position. The grant that started the Youth Friends program in the district ran out this school year and funding for Hultgren’s position was cut. The district saved $51,000 in total staffing costs and hundreds of Youth Friend volunteers were left without a coordinator. This year, for a combination of reasons, I have not continued to be a Youth Friend. It may have something to do with the fact that I was not contacted by anyone, encouraging me and matching me with a child to mentor, or it could have been that it seemed difficult to continue to mentor with a new Youth Friend. Mainly, in my situation, time obligations made me weary of my ability to commit to mentoring a child this year.
Through the decision to not return as a Youth Friend, I can’t help but feel guilty. The friend I referred to the program last year is not continuing with the program either. The two other people I suggested start with the program will not have the opportunity this year. The Youth Friends program will naturally phase out within the district. If branches of the program were traced, one ends with me. I can’t help but think that I am the end of a great program; an enthusiastic and successful coordinator’s work and the end of what could have been hope in another child’s life. All of the knowledge in the world can only be great if you have motivation to use it. The Youth Friends program can be a hope to any child. Some assume that only unstable children benefit from a mentor, but statistics prove better performance from any mentored child. Personal experience of a child’s face lighting up or an innocent thank you has shown me the unmatched benefit that a mentoring relationship has on a young life. It remains undetermined if the Youth Friends program will be revitalized through the reestablishment of a coordinating position in the future. Hultgren recruited 100 percent of Youth Friend volunteers in the district. Current volunteers can be moderately organized through school counselors and staff but the program, which is already in limbo, will not continue if the re-establishment of the coordinating position does not become a priority. Money seems tight across the state and across the nation, but programs like Youth Friends teach emotional and social lessons that cannot be found in a book. Real lessons of success and motivation come from the quality of the relationships we have with the people around us. Our school district has an obligation to students and the community to financially support programs like Youth Friends. If money remains the issue, our district should reconsider how financially unbalanced programs in the district have become. No educational or athletic program can match the impact a safe and nurturing mentoring relationship can have on any child with all of the knowledge but no motivation to use it.
PUBLISHED DEC. 10, 2010| This web-exclusive opinion piece followed a news story I wrote on the same topic. Because the topic was so personal and important to me, I didn’t feel I could convey the importance of the Youth Friends program in an objective news story. I had tears in my eyes while writing the piece. I wanted as many people as possible to be aware of the demise of such a remarkable program.
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The saga of the ‘No four lane’ sign For at least a few years now, a sign reading “No Four Lane” has been pushed into the ground outside of my front yard. Created by my father, the sign protested the expansion of Monticello Road, the road I live on, by the city of Shawnee. When first proposed, a four-lane expansion became a topic of discussion only to later be designed as a three-lane road with bike lanes. Since then, the project has been delayed due to budget, but still my father’s sign has remained, often, in-turn, connecting me with it. On more than one occasion, rather most occasions, I have described my house as the one with the “No Four Lane” sign out front. Occasionally, the sign will also come up in conversation, typically spurring an “Oh, really” or “You’re that house?” from various people. I never expected the sign to come up in conversation during my internship though. Last week, while working on projects for the city, council member Michael (Mickey) Sandifer, strolled into the room I was working in and small talk ensued. Sandifer asked me the general area I lived at, inquiring to see if he represented my dis-
trict. I began with describing my house’s general location but as the questions became more specific, I knew what was coming. “And what’s your last name?” Sandifer asked. As soon as I said Darby, I knew I had been discovered. My father had been an active participant in discussions about the project a couple years ago. With his active participation and sign, I knew he had become infamous in the city. Sandifer instantly made the connection and told me how nice my father was, easing my worries quickly. I proceeded to tell Sandifer that last weekend my father actually took down the sign. My dad jokingly told me that now that I sort of worked for the city the sign did not seem appropriate. I lightly mentioned the new sign that had replaced the old one. A sign that reads “Give Peace a Chance,” now decorates our front lawn. We may not be the “No Four Lane” house any more, but I’m sure I will still be recognized for the even more colorful saying that now displays for all to see. I may now be associated with strange signs at City Hall, but at least I’m memorable.
PUBLISHED OCT. 27, 2011| I became widely recognized as Shawnee’s intern after much of the city staff came to the realization that I was the daughter of someone I’m sure they all noted as a crazy person years before. Although at first I was weary of such an association, I came to embrace it for the easy connections I gained from the label. By the time I had written this webexclusive blog in particular, several city staff members had already told me that they read my blog every week. I think I had always written as if an audience read my work, but now I actually had one.
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Council candidates discuss election race *On Tuesday, Jan. 10, Dylan McAfee filed to run against incumbent city council member Mickey Sandifer to represent Ward four. I live in Ward four and wanted to get a feel for the candidates. I talked with both candidates about their campaign and city goals, McAfee over the phone and Sandifer in person. Here is a condensed version of the interviews: Dylan McAfee How old are you? I’m 21. How difficult do you think it will be to beat the incumbent? I think it will definitely be difficult. I’ve got some obstacles to overcome. For one, my age, but I’ve got a good team behind me. … I’m going to stick to my values and I think my values and principles will set me apart. What made you want to run for city council? It was several things. First thing is, since I got out of high school, I started paying more attention to politics, at least national politics. … My pastor encouraged me like most of the congregation to get involved. And then I was hearing some of the things that were going on [in the city] and I didn’t want anyone to run uncontended. What would you do differently than your incumbent? I think mostly I just would vote based on common sense. When we don’t have the money to build something I’m not going to vote on it. When people show up in large number to protest, I’m going to listen to them … I’m not going to assume I know better than my constituents. And I’ll be fiscally responsible. How does Shawnee compare to its sister cities? Are there any places we are falling behind? We’re not as economically competitive as we could be. We don’t set it up for businesses to want to come in. There’s all these regulations … Over regulation that discourages business, certain taxes. You look at strip malls and buildings on Shawnee Mission Parkway and Quivira Road, there’s no reason those should be empty. … Making sure there’s not so much regulation … A business is going to vote with their feet, if they don’t like it here, they’re going to go somewhere else … [we need to] treat them well and make sure they want to stay. If you could narrow down to three things what you’d like to see changed what would they be? First, I’d want to see city council minutes re-instated … they’re loosing accountability. I’d like to see a smaller city council salary. I’d like to see city council go to less out of city meetings … we have
good enough video chatting. I’d like to see less regulation, lower taxes for business so they want to stay here. Mickey Sandifer How old are you? 56. I’ve lived in Shawnee for 50 years. How long have you been a city council member? Since 2004. I was a planning commissioner for two years before that, and I was on the Parks and Recreation Board for two years before that. And I started getting involved in Shawnee events … in’99. What did you want to change or maintain in the city when you were first elected? I didn’t come in with an agenda. I came in to represent the people in our ward because I didn’t feel they were represented properly. I feel my vote is whatever the people want even if I don’t agree and that’s the way it should be. Have you achieved those goals? I would say I’ve had disagreements, constructive disagreements with other city council members, and we’ve come to a compromise on the problem and gotten along. I believe I’ve been successful in achieving endeavors in my Ward and I feel I’ve been constructive as a liaison to the constituents in my community. Why are you choosing to run again? I think we’re doing such a good job this year and the city is maintaining its own in a very poor economy, and I’d like to be a part of continuing this. What is your platform for this year’s election? That we have not raised taxes in the last couple of years, and we do not intend to for some time. And we need to live within our means and do more with less and that’s what the city has been doing for the last couple of years very successfully.
PUBLISHED JAN. 26, 2012| I have always had an interest in city happenings. After I started my internship I could act even more on these interests and make connections to city personnel. I decided to interview the two candidates for city council in the Ward in which I live as election season drew closer. The race ended up being more interesting than I thought. The contrasting dynamic between the very young council candidate and the older incumbent sparked my interest to write this web-exclusive blog. I hope to make a well educated vote following the interviews and also hopefully inform a few others along the way. I liked interviewing the candidates so much, that I decided to continue interviewing candidates in the other wards. The interviews will run as a series on my blog.
What makes you a better candidate than your challenger? I’ve lived in the city for 50 years. I’ve made connections to thousands of people and I believe I’ve worked well for them … And I have a little more feeling in the game since I’m a home owner. I have a little more feeling for property taxes and I love the city. I’d say I spend 35-40 hours a week involved in city activities. Is there anything else you would like to say? This is the first year at the city we’ve been able to put $1 million in roads in five years. We haven’t raised taxes and sales taxes are down. The city is doing more with less and I’ve been honored to be a part of that. *This story has been condensed
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Employee beckons community enthusiasm In the course of less than half an hour, nine cars honk at the man holding a cardboard guitar sporting advertisement for Little Caesar’s Pizza on the corner of Quivira Road and Shawnee Mission Parkway. Dressed in a long, black trench coat, sporting the letters “WWJD,” on its back, a cowboy hat and cowboy boots, the man lightly pretends to strum the cardboard with ear buds separating him from the cars and noise around him. “I have to say it means, ‘What Would Justin Do,’” 24-year-old Justin Tripp said of the letters on his jacket. “They don’t want anything religious.” As he continues to strum and mouth the words to a country song under his breath, a truck driver takes a second glance at him as he drives through the intersection and a car full of teenagers stops at the red light and turns up the music, pretending to sing to the man. Tripp has been what is called a shaker boarder for Little Caesar’s for almost four years now. Six days-a-week for three hours a shift, Tripp strives to entertain drivers and bring business to Little Caesar’s. “What you’re supposed to do is hold a sign,” Tripp said. “I don’t hold a sign. I dance with a sign which makes it out of the ordinary.” After graduating from Turner High School in 2007, Tripp decided not to attend college and work instead. He applied at Little Caeser’s and became hired on the spot. Tripp worked inside the pizza shop for two months before he began to work as a shaker boarder. “College didn’t run in my family and for me graduating high school was big,” Tripp said. “I’d rather work than go to college and have the state or someone else pay for what I can’t afford.” Despite being an entertainer at work, Tripp describes himself as shy outside of the job. Tripp said he hardly talks at the church he regularly attends. “My family says I’m a little weird,” Tripp said. “I’m shy when it comes to my church and I hardly talk. I usually just talk to my family.” His coworkers, on the other hand, disagree. “He’s regular Justin [outside of work], he’s just himself: silly,” Little Caesar’s employee Bryan Berthold said. “He talks like no other … I think he’s the best type of person.” With the job comes interesting reactions from people driving by. Tripp has been flipped off, mooned and even paintballed. “I brush it off,” Tripp said. “I don’t really care what people think of me. I’m here to entertain kids and get them to come inside with their parents.” Tripp’s strong desire to connect with kids spurs
from a separation from his own child. Tripp hasn’t seen his son, two-year-old Hayden, since Hayden’s birth mother took him away at five months old. Tripp hasn’t seen him since. “Whenever I first did this, it was to entertain,” Tripp said. “I wanted to make it OK. Then I did it for my son to see me with face paint on and laugh a little. Now, I just do it for me to show that I still have what I did as a little kid and just be entertaining.” The Kansas City Chiefs held a tryout to find the next KC Wolf football mascot the week of Hayden’s birth. Tripp wanted to try out but he put his son first. “I didn’t show up to it because my son was born that week and I didn’t want to do it,” Tripp said. “[In the future], I would do it in a heartbeat.” Tripp recently applied to become what he calls a “buddy” for young kids in Shawnee area schools. He will act as a mentor for children, even when his own remains out of his reach. “I’m trying to fight it [my son being gone], but right now I can’t afford a lawyer,” Tripp said. For the time being, Tripp establishes community recognition. At Walmart, shoppers constantly recognize him. People who regularly drive past him will honk at him with every passing. His clothing even reflects his desire to establish himself as part of the community. He dresses as a cowboy to make a historical statement. “Because Shawnee used to have cowboys running through here [I dress this way],” Tripp said. “I don’t consider myself a cowboy, but I do consider myself family to Shawnee.” Little Caesar’s employee Andy Medina sees the impact Tripp has on customers. “He doesn’t influence us, he influences the customers out there,” Medina said. “Him wearing that board makes people want to get pizza.” Medina said Tripp often gets hugs from customers and got a $30 tip last week. “It’s weird, but it’s awesome,” Medina said. Tripp sees himself in the position long into the future. He says he would do the job until he’s 90. “Who wouldn’t want to work in a place where you can act five years old, just dancing around and enjoying yourself?” Tripp said. And Tripp continues to dance, rain or shine. He waves at a honking car as he describes recent restrictions on his job depending on weather. He only hopes the rules will be lenient. “This past year there became a new rule. They don’t want me outside in the rain,” Tripp said. “I’m just hoping they’ll let me out in snow because I just want to build a snowman.”
PUBLISHED DEC. 15, 2011| I was inspired to write this web-exclusive feature story after seeing the subject almost every week as I drove around Shawnee. The man was such a staple of the community that I wanted to find out more about him. I stood on the corner of Quivira Road and Shawnee Mission Parkway for about an hour in 30 degree weather to get the story. At the very end, the man told me about his son being taken away from him and the effect the experience had on his job. I also later emailed a link to the story to the man and he said the story made him cry. I knew, instantly, that I had made a human connection.
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Published on Nov 21, 2012