Rugby Tackles Being A Sport

The atmosphere of the girls rugby team is one of camaraderie and school spirit, despite the fact that rugby is one of the two club sports not directly affiliated with T.C. sports. Rugby and ice hockey are the official T.C. club sports.

Crew, a former club sport, is now becoming a Virginia High School League (VHSL) sponsored sport due to the large participation.

Rugby is also witnessing a jump in participation numbers from previous years. As the participation in rugby increases, many players, coaches and supporters are wondering if or when rugby will become a VHSL sponsored sport.

The VHSL recognizes sports based on participation numbers and relevance in the community. The minimum participation number is 250 people, and the sport must also have written consent from its School Board to become a VHSL sport. As a VHSL sponsored sport certain guidelines must be met by all involved.

The players must uphold good sportsmanship and fulfill certain non-sports related duties in the community and at school.

Sports such as lacrosse, basketball, football, tennis, swim and dive, cross country, volleyball, golf, gymnastics, wrestling, indoor and outdoor track, baseball, field hockey, soccer, cheerleading and softball have fulfilled those requirements and are recognized by the VHSL. A VHSL sponsored sport receives funding from the state and the school to provide for transportation, practice space, equipment, and necessary services.

The regulations and participation requirements associated with the VHSL have led to the development of club sports, such as rugby. This year, the rugby players have expressed the desire to use the school trainer with the same rate of efficiency as the VHSL sponsored sports. Currently, their main source of aid is the school nurse.

“These kids love to tackle each other without any protection on and they get hurt. It’s a little bit too rough without proper protection,” said T.C. Williams School Nurse Nancy Runton.  However, both professional and amateur rugby is played without protective gear.

The players would also like to hear their accomplishments broadcast on the morning or afternoon announcements.

“I just want some respect from the school. They give us a hard time for no reason,” said senior rugby player, Marjorie Obeng.

The girls rugby team laments the fact that their hard work is not recognized by the school. Many members of the team have stated that they wish they had more privileges that club sports do not receive since they are not school sponsored.

“It’s kind of a pain just cause we don’t get the same benefits like buses and field guarantees,” said rugby coach Mike Colesanti.

Like any other sport, the players would also like to have student support at games encouraged by the administration.

“Rugby is a culture. We’re more about playing and understanding the game [and not just winning],” said Obeng.

In all sports at T.C., sportsmanship and team camaraderie is prevalent. The rugby team shares meals with their opponents after games and remembers to “leave it on the field,” said junior rugby player, Lauren Gustafason.

While rugby participation has spiked, Athletic Director Stephen Colantuoni has said that the qualifications for VHSL status are not a problem within T.C., but in the Virginia area. There are not enough rugby teams in the Patriot District to comprise a VHSL sponsored sport.

“It’s kind of like the economic world: supply and demand,” said Colantouni.

While the Patriot District may not have recognized rugby yet, the players only want to be recognized by the school.

“You can’t really label it [unless] you get to know it. It’s teamwork,” said Obeng. “It’s targeted towards being a team sport [and] everyone adds something.”

Lora Strum also contributed to this article.

Stricter Tardy Policy Rolls In Late

Tardy students now crowd the main entrance in the morning. All students arriving late in the morning must go to the welcome desk to receive a pass and a detention.

The administration has made it very clear that since September there has been a conscious effort to resolve tardy problems at T.C., and this is the reasoning behind the zero-tolerance tardy policy.

Principal Suzanne Maxey said that the day the policy began, she received emails from teachers thanking her for the tardy solution. “There’s a trail of straggling students,” said Maxey.

Since March 22, all late students serve an after-school detention in Mr. Earle’s classroom. Detention slips are handed out to each student a day before the detention is scheduled to be served.

“We thought [detentions] would be a more immediate consequence and also give us a better sense of which kids are having trouble getting here” said Principal of Pathways to Graduation, Mark Eisenhour. If students fail to attend their detentions, they are recommended for Saturday School. If they do not attend Saturday School, extensive measure are taken with their parents and counselor.

Students who seek to present themselves as someone other than who they are will not fool administrators. All students are supposed to carry ID cards on them at all times, and will be asked to present them at the welcome desk. Students without an ID card will be sent to the police office to have one made immediately. “I’m not letting our kids be late and suffer,” said Maxey.

Many students have expressed that if they must get a detention for being only a few minutes late, then they might as well skip the entire day. “I keep thinking that the first time should be a warning,” said junior Eugene Abbey.        The administration is adamant in its efforts to decrease the number of students not arriving to school on time. The administration believes that those who skip school instead of arriving on time or taking their consequence are not serious about their education. “We shouldn’t be running our school based on those kids,” said Maxey.

While many students are upset about the new consequences and tempted to skip, the tardy policy is not expected to go away any time soon. “It’s disappointing that [students] think [being late is okay], but its part of the problem of the culture of ‘I don’t care,’” said Fulton Vinson. “I think some of them are just talking, and the ones who really [skip], they would’ve done it regardless of the policy.”

A goal of the policy is to boost T.C.’s attendance rate and aid the efforts to make AYP (Annual Yearly Progress.). “One of the things we’re measured for on AYP is that 90 percent of the students participate in the test,” said Eisenhour. “Even one percent is a decent sized [number of tardy kids] with a school of 3,000.”

The administration also believes that the excuses given for being late are inadequate. Over-sleeping, missing the bus or simply arriving after the bell will no longer be accepted excuses, nor will notes from parents or guardians be accepted as excused tardies. Only court or doctor’s notes will be accepted as valid excused tardies. If students do not present a doctor’s note or a court note, they can have their parent or guardian call their Learning Community dean to discuss any possible problems.

Although the policy’s main objective is get students to school on time, it has another purpose. “Our overall goal is the change in the culture, change in behavior [and] setting the standard that you’ve got to get here on time,” said Eisenhour. “We don’t ever expect it will be perfect, but we’re always trying to make it better.”

Lora Strum also contributed to this article.

Scholarship Fund Gala Photos

Saturday April 30, 2011 the Alexandria Hilton Mark Center was filled with The
Scholarship Fund of Alexandria supporters and student performers attending the
Scholarship Gala. The cast of the T.C. William’s Drama Department’s Winter Production
of Rent performed “Seasons of Love” to a standing ovation. The Scholarship Gala raised
$365,000 dollars to help send T.C. Williams students to business and technical
schools. “It was amazing” said The Alexandria Scholarship Fund Executive Director,
Susan Yowell. “It was a 50,000 dollar performance” said Thomas A. Fullham Jr, Assistant Director of The
Scholarship Fund of Alexandria.
Lora Strum contributed to this post.
Takki Sidley’s Documentary Studies students seniors Corey Lorenz and Ieva Sopaite took the gala photos.

Mount Vernon PTA Raffling a Convertible

The MV PTA is raffling a VW convertible

Want a chance to win a convertible and to support the Mount Vernon Community School PTA? The MVCS PTA is raffling a 1986 VW Cabriolet convertible. The car is in great condition and has around 100,000 miles and five speed transmission. Only 500 tickets will be sold. Tickets are $10, with three for $25. Those interested have several opportunities to buy tickets. They can be purchased online at and on Saturday, April 16 and Saturday, April 23 from 2-4 p.m. at the Big Flea Shop and Drop on 719 N. Saint Asaph Street in Old Town. On Saturday, April 30 tickets will be sold until noon at the Mount Vernon Big Flea, taking place at the Mount Vernon Rec Center on 2701 Commonwealth Avenue, when the raffle drawing will take place. Ticket holders do not need to be present to win.

IB: Is it really better?

Theogony investigates: Is the IB program really superior to Advanced Placement program already in place at T.C.?

Although T.C. offers around two dozen Advanced Placement courses, it does not have an International Baccalaureate (IB) program. This could change.

Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) is working on implementing the Middle Years Program (MYP), a form of the IB program, for children between grades six and ten in Alexandria City Public Schools.

Benjamin Hammond, a T.C. Williams Minnie Howard Campus Social Studies teacher was on an exploratory committee two years ago that looked into MYP. “It’s a completely different framework,” said Hammond. “The whole idea is to try and think across curricula and think critically about the world.” Instead of having individual subjects taught to students, MYP blends classes. The idea of MYP is to incorporate all subjects together and have teachers across various areas of study co-plan instruction together.

Hammond said that while the current honors program offers more rigorous work, MYP focuses on having multiple ways to solve a problem.  Hammond was not sure if the IB program would come to T.C., although “there is no immediate plan to apply the diploma program in the near future,” said Jodie Peters IB/MYP Coordinator for ACPS.

ACPS Executive Director of K-12 Educational Programs Margaret Walsh said that MYP is “in the consideration phase [but has not been] brought to kids yet.” Significant training is required, and can take a minimum of three years. Since December, 120 educators have been trained, and there are plans for more training over the summer.

“Each campus must have [a] certain number of teachers in each subject area trained,” said Walsh.  “MYP will be implemented next year [which] gives us time to implement and begin interdisciplinary units of study.” She mentioned one possible MYP course next year, Biotechnology and Forensics, which would combine science with career training. At some point, the T.C. Vision and Action Committee may recommend the diploma program.

Currently, MYP is in the proposed budget, which was approved in May. Walsh said the three main pillars of MYP include the IB learner profile, IB areas of interaction, and IB approaches to learning.

Many Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), including South Lakes High School and George C. Marshall High School have an IB diploma program.

Eston Melton is one of two IB coordinators for Marshall High School. “IB is an academically rigorous and internationally-minded curriculum intended to prepare young people to be responsible global citizens,” said Melton. Melton compared AP and IB, saying “[IB and AP] both offer intense academic rigor, preparing students for college-level expectations.” When it comes to college readiness, Melton said students cannot “go wrong” choosing IB over AP or vice versa. He did note some differences between AP and IB, saying that IB courses have a final at the end of the year, but these finals are usually “open-ended, essay-based exams [with] virtually no multiple choice anywhere.” While the final exam usually counts as 50 percent of the final score, this score is also influenced by other assessments.

The IB program gives students a chance to receive an IB diploma, which “calls upon students to challenge themselves in six core disciplines: their primary language, a second language, social studies, science, math and the arts,” said Melton.

Students who want to obtain an IB diploma must also write a 4,000-word independent research paper, complete over 150 service hours, and take a Theory of Knowledge course. This course is mostly a student-driven discussion related to issues of acquiring and acting upon knowledge. “The IB diploma challenges students beyond solely their academic pursuits,” said Melton.

He said that some students only take one or two IB classes instead of getting the IB diploma. “They might want to take only IB science classes because they’re definitely going to engineering school,” said Melton. “Receiving the full IB Diploma is pretty much the only way an American can be admitted to a European university.” He said that even a regular high school diploma with lots of AP credits is generally not considered acceptable for schools like Oxford or Cambridge.

Shruti Kupa, a freshman at Carnegie Mellon University attended South Lakes High School and is studying engineering and public policy. She said IB taught her “the caliber [her] work needs to be.” IB was challenging to Kupa, and even though she did not receive an IB Diploma, she completed all the work needed to do to obtain one and received many certificates.

T.C. Math Teacher Susan Kaput participated in an IB introductory workshop and said while she does not have preference between AP and IB, she thinks switching to IB would be expensive.

“Schools can follow the philosophy and pedagogy of IB without being an IB school,” said Kaput. “Alexandria is currently rewriting much of the curriculum under the guidance of John Brown and it appears to me that what [he] is proposing is in line with the objectives of the IB program. “ Kaput said it is important to note that there is a difference between taking IB courses and being in the diploma program. “Most schools do not have many students receiving an IB diploma, but rather taking courses much the same way they would take AP courses.” Kaput likes what she is hearing about MYP. “[It] focuses on reading, writing, and higher level thinking as well as student ownership for learning.”

Abby Reed, a junior at South Lakes High School is an IB diploma candidate. “[IB] is extremely difficult sometimes, but is still interesting because it challenges you in different ways,” said Reed. “We don’t learn the material [to] simply memorize facts; we seem to spend much more time on analysis.” Reed took AP government her sophomore year and noticed a  large difference between AP and IB tests. “The AP exam was a series of multiple choice questions, followed by essay questions,” said Reed. “However, on an IB test, there are more requirements than just regurgitating facts. IB essays require organization and style…the tests often require analysis of data, not stating this or that, rather why or why not.” Reed thought that the IB courses she took will help her in college with budgeting her time. She noted the IB diploma requires a lot of hard work in core classes, but also many Creativity, Action, and Service hours (CAS) and an arts aspect.

World Languages Chair Adam Levine said the IB program had a couple advantages over the AP program but said, “I’m not sure if it’s worth reconfiguring our entire program of studies to make it happen. We have a very strong AP program and I’d like to see that continue.”

Levine said he has seen some schools with both an AP and an IB program, but is a bit skeptical of this approach. “We need to be careful not to become a jack of all trades, but a master of none.”

Levine said that if T.C. were to add an IB program, he thought most teachers would adjust fine, but the problem would be with some students, since IB schools require two years of a world language to graduate. He also thought it would be a challenge financially. “In order to go IB, we would need to retrain the entire T.C. staff, and that [would] cost lots of money!”

Levine seemed to side with Melton saying that IB programs are more accepted internationally at major universities in Europe, and he added that AP courses are more widely accepted by the American University system.

South Lakes Principal Bruce Butler thinks the IB program has transformed South Lakes. “We are now an academic destination. Each and every year, the percentage of kids stepping into honors and IB classes has risen.” Butler said that there were 236 IB diploma candidates in the 11th and 12th grade classes. He compared someone with an IB diploma to someone taking six AP classes for both junior and senior year.

Butler said that although AP classes are challenging and require a great deal from students, “If I were to open a school myself, I would want it to be an IB school. Year after year our graduates speak about their preparation for university work [and] the work I see each day [from students] is very humbling…the depth of the students’ work and thinking is amazing.”

Consultant: Students Prefer to be Seen as Lazy

Please note that this picture was not staged and was taken during an actual class. Some faces have been blurred to protect the identity of those not completely asleep.

Also written by Lora Strum

“People would rather be perceived as lazy than stupid,” said Achievement Gap Initiative Director, Dr. Ron Ferguson. At a meeting with the T.C. Vision and Action Committee Tuesday, November 23, the Tripod Project survey was discussed. The survey questions were built around concepts such as student engagement and class structure, and asked students of various races and sexes who have A-D averages if they are accused of being “too serious about school.”

The data showed that across all races and sexes, students with A averages feel as if they need to hide how serious they are about school. More than 60 percent of black females with A averages feel pressured to disguise how serious they are about school, as do more than 50 percent of black males with the same grade point average. Females of all races who have a D average also feel pressured to hide how serious they are about school, and their data even surpasses C students. Over 40 percent of black and white males with D averages get accused of being too serious about school, while less than 35 percent of black and white females feel that pressure. Hispanic data for both sexes was the same, with D averages surpassing C averages, and A averages as the highest.

Junior, Franz  Vosseler of the T.C. Vision and Action Committee attended the Tripod Survey results meeting. “I thought the meeting was a good way to touch base with Dr. Ferguson about the past Tripod survey.” Vosseler also thought the survey could use more T.C. centric questions. “[It] needs questions like ‘Do you feel safe in the hallways’ or ‘how are your reading and math grades,” said Vosseler. “Questions like ‘does your classroom feel like a happy family’ just don’t apply to us.” Vosseler was surprised that Dr. Ferguson did not know about T.C.’s persistently lowest achieving label. “The fact that he didn’t know what PLA was, was so surprising…that’s the whole reason we took the Tripod survey.”  Vosseler agreed with Dr. Ferguson when he said that people would rather be perceived as lazy than stupid. “That was his best point of the meeting. The label of being lazy is considered cooler than being stupid. ”

The survey questions help evaluate a teacher based on the Seven C’s, which are caring, control, clarify, challenge, captivate, confer, and consolidate. The Seven C’s predict student engagement, goal setting behavior, and connect with some students hiding effort more than others, according to Dr. Ferguson. Dr. Ferguson is one of the many outside consultants working on the T.C. transformation.

Survey data has been released, and teachers are beginning to receive individual data. Dr. Ferguson said that the survey is in its tenth generation and it is tweaked yearly.Teachers also took a survey which showed that, “only 12 percent of teachers always ask for feedback consistently,” and these teachers, “consistently ranked higher on the Seven C’s” said Dr. Ferguson. He believes that the survey will give students who struggle academically, “a stake in the school.”

According to Dr. Ferguson, the survey had some opened ended questions regarding what students did to be liked by peers, and many responses were negative and destructive. He said students pretend not to care in order to fit in. “Cool [to kids] would be what parents and teachers want but kids do negative things to be cool.”

Individual data released to teachers contained the number of students who took the survey as well as the demographic. The data comes with instructions on how to best read the data. Questions on the survey are grouped into categories and subcategories. Example categories are “trust” and “feeling on safety and teaching practices.” Subcategories include “peer help, teasing, student behavior, and attendance and punctuality,” as well as “teacher confers, teacher consolidates, and teacher captivates.” In their individual data, teachers can look at each question and see what percent of students selected each option. The question, “My teacher asks questions to be sure we are following along when s/he is teaching.” An anonymous teacher’s data shows that 30 percent of students in the surveyed class believe this to be totally true, 60 percent believe it to be mostly true, five percent believe it to be somewhat true, and five percent believe it to be totally untrue.  This teacher’s  sample size was 20 students; each student’s response is five percent of the data.

Back to School Assembly

Sophomores had an assembly about how they can ensure their academic success.

“Excellent nowadays means you’re excellent in all your programs with all your students…and you’ve got to do your part,” said Principal Suzanne Maxey during the sophomore assembly. Assemblies were held for sophomores and juniors on September 8, and for seniors on September 9. Themes of respect, dignity, fairness, success and improvement dominated the assembly.

Maxey began the program by explaining the new administrative structure. The Executive Associate Principals are Steve Colantuoni, Mark Eisenhower, Peter Balas and Tammy Ignacio. Colantuoni manages athletics and student activities; Eisenhower is in charge of Pathways to Graduation; Balas deals with curriculum and instruction and Ignacio oversees the T.C. Williams Minnie Howard Campus.

Maxey also introduced the academic principals, who deal with instruction and teaching. Kathy Taylor is the academic principal for Learning Community 10, Pierrette Hall for Learning Community 11 and Shawn Thorpe for Learning Community 12. In addition, Maxey presented the academic deans in charge of student affairs. They are Michael Diggins for Learning Community 10, Bill McGreevy for Learning Community 11 and Kennetra Wood for Learning Community 12.

To ensure academic success, school rules will be strictly enforced. Hall sweeps will be every day, every period, and if someone is caught in the hall they must report to their learning community to get a pass. The first offense will result in a warning, the second a call home and a third in a detention. The dress code will also be consistently implemented. “This is your place of work,” said Diggins. “Gentleman, we want you to pull your pants up.” Diggins also said that for ladies, the fingertip rule will be enforced. No hats are allowed except for religious purposes. “We will enforce [the dress code] immediately,” Diggins said.

“You know how to act like ladies and gentlemen…treat me the way I’m gonna treat you,” Maxey said in regard to respect. Non-negotiable policies were also laid out. There is an automatic 10 day suspension and recommendation for expulsion if anyone violates zero-tolerance offenses. These offenses include threats or assaults to administrators, use or possession of illegal substances, gang activity or bringing weapons to school. “Keep unpleasantness out of school,” said Maxey. “You have a principal who is a maniac about fighting. Do not fight in this school.”

“Everyday [when] we come here, we come here to learn,” Diggins said. Diggins and the other academic deans and counselors explained the new expectations of the student body. Diggins emphasized that students, “own their education,” and encouraged them to always do their best. To help them do that, he encouraged use of Blackboard Academic Suite to check class announcements and communicate with teachers. Diggins also recommended that students e-mail teachers when they have questions, or are struggling in a class. Students should also be in every class, every day and turn in all assignments. If any assignments are missed, the work is required to be made up. “The consequence of not doing your work is doing your work,” Diggins said.

To help students do that, T.C. has implemented many new student aid programs. Each grade has four counselors, and every counselor is assigned 175 students. Each counselor will follow his or her students academic records throughout their high school experience. Students and counselors will work with each other to form individual academic success plans that will reflect the student’s future goals. “[Each counselor gets] to work one on one [with each student] for their future,” Learning Community 10 counselor Dee Marrara said. As well as future success, T.C. is also working towards academic achievement during high school. The Math and Writing Center, located in what was formerly the quiet dining area of the cafeteria, provides help in math and writing to students who need it. The Math and Writing Center is opened before school, during lunch and after school. A Wednesday tutoring program will occur every week in place of first period. During this period, students will be provided time to study with teachers and students who can help them. Students are also welcome to attend Saturday School sessions for remedial help. Students and parents can monitor progress online with Alexandria Access which posts grades. “The most important thing that goes on in this school is instruction,” Maxey said.

Lora Strum contributed to this article.