Each year, the members of Ashley Linda’s journalism class at Haldane High School publish a newspaper, The Blue Print. With support from the Haldane School Foundation, The Current is working with the students to share their reporting with the community. Selections from the two most recent issues appear below.
Faculty Advisor: Ms. Linda
Senior Editor: Eloise Pearsall
Reporters: William Busselle, Anotonio Cardoso, Julian Constantine, Henry Foley-Hedlund, Shep Macinnes, Milla Maxwell, Corinna Mueller, Kayla Ruggiero, Dashiell Santelmann, Ivan Sicilliano, Ty Villella, Lincoln Wayland
Haldane Welcomes Back Students, But Not Phones
By Will Busselle
As we re-acclimate back into the school year, there is one popular student fixation that we are trying to rid our classrooms of: obsessive phone use.
At the beginning of the 2023-24 school year, each classroom was equipped with a phone holder — a series of little pockets made out of cloth and plastic, hung on walls or behind doors.
The rule is that your phone must remain in a pocket for the duration of the class period, unless told otherwise by the teacher. Some teachers have been using these items for a while now, so the phone holders have gotten some clever nicknames such as the No-Cell Motel” or “Phone Jail.” With the schoolwide adoption of these phone holders, we sought out to answer one question: why?
We reached out to Mr. Sassano, teacher and chair of the math department, who was an early adopter of the phone holder system. “I found that it keeps people more focused in class,” he said. “It takes away a lot of the temptation.”
“I don’t really have a feeling one way or the another” commented physics teacher Mr. Lynch, but he understands why this policy has been put into place. “A student has to pay attention.” He added: “If a device goes off, you’re naturally prone to look at it. I try to treat students as college students. But if you don’t have the self-control and pull it out, I will enforce it.”
The policy is, in part, an effort to help create a better learning environment for all students. “We have a population of students that really struggle with distraction and attention,” stated Principal Julia Sniffen.
A factor that played a role in developing the new phone policy in the high school was data from student surveys. According to Mrs. Sniffen, when looking at responses about attention and distraction she noticed, “that data was not great.” She admitted: “We don’t have solid evidence that phones are one of the things that are distracting [students] from engagement, but we would like to change a variable to see if maybe it is in fact the phones.
“I will tell you, anecdotally, in talking to teachers, they have seen a change,” she recounted. “I wish we did it a couple of years ago.”
Jonah Mangan, a sophomore, believes that issues around attention stem from elsewhere, stating: “I disagree with it strongly. The teachers are just not engaging enough.”
Senior Vanja Booth believes students “need to develop some discipline” on their own. “Just put it in your bag.”
Mrs. Sniffen claims that ninth graders “were the most vocal.” According to the freshmen I interviewed, phones had to stay in their lockers in middle school for the duration of the day and this policy was well enforced by the principal. Freshman Graham Weppler said “it’s better [than the middle school] but it’s a little annoying that we have to hang our phones up.”
Haldane’s Debate Club Hones Skills
By Corinna Mueller
The Haldane Debate Club, comprised of 13 high school students, had a busy fall.
On Oct. 27, the club hosted a scrimmage against Poughkeepsie, where two topics were debated: (1) The driving age should be raised in New York to 18, and (2) There should be a mandatory national civil service program requiring 90 consecutive days of civil service from all Americans between ages 18 and 26.
Helena Kottman, a senior at Haldane and club president, said that Poughkeepsie “had one fantastic team of seniors, and the rest were less experienced but very enthusiastic. There was a great atmosphere of camaraderie and support.
“The less experienced debaters said they were glad to get to debate against more practiced debaters because they had a role model and goal to work toward. The more seasoned students were also supportive and encouraging, so I think everyone went home feeling grateful that they came.”
Scrimmages typically last for an hour. Once the topic is revealed, the debaters find out who they will be opposing, which adult will judge their debate, and if they are debating in favor of the topic or not in favor.
The two teams and their adult are then sent to a classroom and sit next to each other, facing the opposing team. The adult is sitting in the middle, usually connecting the line between the two teams. After they are situated, sometimes pizza is brought in. When it is everyone’s turn to speak, they stand in the front of the room with their speech and state their case.
Haldane A, with senior Gabriel Lunin-Pack, junior Keira Shanahan and freshman Lincoln Wayland, were the “winners” in that they were the only team to win both debates.
Another scrimmage was scheduled at Poughkeepsie with Haldane, Poughkeepsie, Arlington, Newburgh and Red Hook. The two topics were: (1) The U.S. should implement a carbon tax on corporations at the same tax rate as the European Union to help combat climate change, and (2) Child labor laws should be loosened.
Kottman reflected: “We have debated a lot with Poughkeepsie and Arlington, but we don’t get to see Red Hook and Newburgh as much, so it should be fun to debate against some new competition. Although it would be nice if Haldane won something, I will consider the scrimmage a win if we get to learn something new from other teams, and step out of our comfort zones a little to have interesting conversations with other bright students.”
Gotta Get Goats…?
By Will Busselle and Henry Foley-Hedlund
Baa! is a noise that Haldane High School students may soon get used to.
The Habitat Revival Club is seeking funding from the Haldane School Foundation to keep several on campus beginning in the spring. The proposal has the goats stay in a fenced space behind the high school next to the parking lot. The job of the goats would be to clear brush from the land and eat invasive species.
The effort to bring in goats is being led by Sofia Kelly, who serves as founder and president of the Habitat Revival Club, which was started last year. According to Kelly, the idea came from maintenance director Adam MacNeil.
“The goats would be lent by Green Goats Rhinebeck, a farm dedicated to lending goats to remove unwanted invasive species from public land,” stated Kelly. “They are trained and have been used to remove invasives from places like Bard College, the Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic in Hyde Park, and multiple schools across the East Coast. The goats are incredibly friendly, interactive creatures, and some goats have even been used as therapy creatures.”
Why goats? Goats will eat all sorts of plants, and even tree bark. Instead of clearing the land by hand, the goats can slowly remove brush while feeding themselves. According to the American Goat Federation, goats can access areas that may be difficult to reach for humans in a diverse range of landscapes.
The AGF also states that the environmental impact of using goats to clear land is far better than using popular alternatives such as chemicals, machinery and controlled fires. Even the waste produced by the goats benefits the landscape because it helps fertilize the soil.
The use of goats to clear land has faced controversy though. According to the Detroit Free Press, in 2017, the American Federation for State, County, and Municipal Employees filed a grievance against Western Michigan University for its use of goats. The AFSCME argued that the goats had taken jobs away from union workers who were laid off.
We went to the hallways to interview students and staff to get an understanding of how they felt about the idea. Students and staff expressed a range of opinions.
“I think it is dangerous to have goats,” said senior Lola Mahoney. “Students who respect goats will be nice to them but those who don’t respect teachers may not respect goats.”
Senior Ryan Van Tassel feels differently and supports the idea, “Goats are a great idea” he explained. “It would be fun; they are better than humans.”
Sophomore Jenny Knox stated she was worried about the smell but said she “would try and pet the goats.”
Haldane Students Visit Correctional Facility
By Eloise Pearsall
On Oct. 25, Haldane’s criminology class visited Green Haven Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison in Stormville. The sociology class will visit the prison, as they do annually, in April.
Haldane students have been attending trips to Green Haven for several years. They are given the opportunity to tour the prison and hear various stories from inmates, some of whom were open about their experiences.
Green Haven Correctional Facility opened in 1941 and covers 925 acres, holding more than 1,800 inmates, in addition to 750 workers (550 who are correctional officers). Green Haven initiated the Program for a Calculated Transition (PACT) in 1978, which is an “inmate-run social, education, and philanthropic organization that sponsors educational programs as a way to strengthen members’ ties to the communities they come from,” according to Yale Law School.
“The guards we talked to were friendly and although the prisoners were intimidating at first, they became less scary,” said Finola Kiter. “I was surprised by a specific prisoner who was trying to reduce his sentence. He claimed he was unfairly sentenced and wanted reparations.”
Students were prohibited from wearing green (as the prisoners at Green Haven wear green), wearing jewelry, or bringing personal belongings like phones or water bottles.
These rules were carefully followed, especially after hearing about the lockdown that occurred at the prison in early October, before Haldane’s trip.
Jacqueline Muth expressed that although it was “extremely terrifying at first,” she was glad that she attended and would recommend it to anybody who has the chance.
Behind The Story
News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.