OPINION: It is time for Verbum Dei to reconsider the Regular Schedule, and particularly, the benefits of earlier dismissal

Verbum Dei High School recently changed its class schedule to accommodate the First Semester Parent/Teacher Conferences, and the one-week shortened class schedule resonated with a positive reception from students.

The schedule sequence was Periods One and Two; break; Periods Three through Five; lunch, and concluded with Periods Six and Seven. Apart from having three consecutive periods in the middle of the day, another change for the schedule was the class length: instead of 55-minute duration, the classes were shortened to 50-minutes. The net result was a 2:35 P.M. dismissal, rather than the usual 3:25 P.M. dismissal.

It begs the question, if the VDHS administration can accommodate all seven periods and still dismiss students at 2:35 P.M. with the limited sacrifice of five minutes per class – which seems like a reasonable sacrifice – then why not institute that as the regular schedule throughout the year?

A little background offers perspective.  In the 2015-2016 school year, there were six periods with Homeroom at the beginning and end of regular schedule days with dismissal at 2:50 P.M.. At the start of the following school year, an extra period was added to the schedule, and many students did not embrace the idea.

“I was mad; the schedule was perfect the way it was,” commented senior Omar García on the addition of a seventh period. “If it isn’t broken there’s no need to fix it.”

The rationale for the expansion of the school day was the local lack of availability of supplemental SAT preparation opportunities.  Verb students were attending SAT prep courses at Watts Health Center, 10300 Compton Avenue, Los Angeles.

“As charter schools increased in the neighborhood,” explained Dr. Brandi Odom Lucas, Chief Academic Officer, “the number of our students [able] to get in there and thus have an SAT prep got lower.”

Verbum Dei administration sought to find a way to offer a free SAT preparation program for all Verbum Dei students, so it added an extra period dedicated to the Second Semester implementation of that program; as originally conceived this addition delayed dismissal schoolwide until 3:25 P.M.  As a consequence, the remaining grade levels have different accommodations for the seventh period in their school day: College Access Program for seniors, Homework; Enrichment; Reading; Organization (HERO) for sophomores and juniors in the First Semester, and Freshman Bridge for ninth grade.

The short-lived Parent/Teacher Conference schedule is a better solution to fit a seven-period class schedule into the regularly-scheduled school day.  Furthermore, the earlier dismissal allows more time for students to access their teachers’ office hours.

Verbum Dei High School teachers are contractually obligated to stay after school until 3:45 P.M.  Strictly speaking, that is a mere 20 minutes beyond the current dismissal. Although many Verb faculty members stay beyond their contractual obligations, teachers are permitted to leave campus at 3:45.

“In the past students just left,” said Odom about the prospect of students utilizing office hours. She mentioned the possibility of developing a “system to create to ensure that students are actually going to office hours.”

Odom did not necessarily rule out the idea of making the change of schedule if it were to benefit students with office hours.

“Maybe if there was a system, a shift among the students of really utilizing the help when they need it I would be more inclined to do that,” said Odom. “The students will have to show me that they go get the help when they need it.”

Although the Chief Academic Officer does have a valid point about students not going to office hours, teachers such as Timothy Moore, Mathematics Department Chair and teacher of various math classes, said that students regularly go to his office hours. Other teachers’ office hours are utilized by the student body as well.

“On average I have anywhere between 10 to 15 students coming into my office hours,” says Moore. “All students find office hours useful.”

Verb students do attend office hours, and they do find such additional help useful.  An impromptu, after-dismissal walk down the 200 Corridor will regularly reveal freshmen and sophomores students from Spanish teacher Jovanni Gonzalez’ classes getting help as well.

Not only will the dismissal at 2:35 extend the availability of office hours, but students will also be able to do homework in the additional, non-instructional time.

“There would be a lot more time to do the work they get, especially with seven classes,” said senior Christopher Poz.  Poz deals with transportation issues, and this decreases the time he has available to do homework once he arrives home.

Administration believes that each special schedule has its inherent benefits: the Liturgy schedule allows for the celebration of schoolwide masses; the Monday schedule affords time for faculty and staff meetings; the Friday schedule offers students time for participation in clubs (which contributes to the strength of students’ college applications); occasional Speaker and Rally schedules contribute to school spirit and provide for shared experiences.

A Regular Schedule dismissal at 2:35 P.M. has its benefits as well and would allow students and parents beneficial options: it would allow students to seek assistance from extended office hours; it would allow parents the opportunity to schedule late-afternoon conferences; it would permit students to get an on-campus, after school start on homework, or it would permit students to arrive home earlier, providing the dedication of more at-home time for schoolwork.

It is time to reconsider the Regular Schedule, and particularly, the 3:25 P.M. dismissal.

 

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Basketball season holds promise for players and coaching staff

By Khalid Nelms, Staff Writer

With the season opener for Verbum Dei basketball nearing, there is excitement building for the team to display its senior talent. The first varsity game of the season is set for November 14, 2018, against Bellflower High School in the VDHS gym at 7:30 P.M.

“I am a little nervous, with coming back from football, but I think we’ll do good,” said senior Khyree Dodson, a returning player who played football this year before preparing for basketball.

“Our rival is Pius Matthias,” commented Head Coach Ken Stevenson.  “They are in our conference, and our goal this season is to win all games in our conference because we want to finish 1st or 2nd.”  The conference games within Verb’s league are highly competitive, said Stevenson; however, the players look forward to the season and the opportunity to play.

“Mary Starr is a game I’m looking forward to,” said Dodson.  “They are the best team in our league [; since we are] going in with a new coach, I feel pretty good about it.”

Others on the basketball team are looking toward new heights and are really excited about the upcoming game and season.  All the seniors from last season are returning and will be joined by promising junior players.  Ironically, the varsity squad is composed of equal representation of three grade levels: four seniors, four juniors, and four sophomores.

Justin Muojekwu feels confident that his team will carry through with the win because of the progression they made over the past year. In fact, Muojekwu wants to win every single game by a margin of 10 points.

“A personal goal is to work hard, be a leader and get my teammates better over the course of the season”, says senior William Torres.

As it has done for years, the team will also be playing in a Christmas Tournament in December.

 

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Verb X-country to run Division 5 CIF on 11/10 in Riverside

By Joshua Papaqui, Staff Writer

The Verbum Dei Cross Country team finished in 2nd place overall in the Santa Fe League, thereby qualifying the team for the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Preliminary Round run on Saturday, November 10, 2018, at the Riverside Cross Country Course located at 1011 North Orange Street, Riverside, at 9:00 A.M.  Verbum Dei’s team has been put in Division 5 for the race based on the school’s enrollment. The Verb team will have a tough race since Division 5 includes fast runners who run the course within 14 minutes.

“Coach Finn,” wrote Athletic Director Ken Stevenson of the coach in an email notification,  “You have done a marvelous job with your team this season, and all of us are proud of you and the entire team.”

Head coach Mashanda Finn has much confidence in her runners and has been proud of the team’s accomplishments in general throughout the whole season.

“We’re going to go out there and give it our best, and even if we don’t make it to the next run, the fact that these runners have made it to CIF is an accomplishment in itself,” said Finn.  “Not everyone can say they made it to CIF.”

“Even if we don’t win, I’m just happy that I beat my personal time in the last race and hope to do the same this race,” said sophomore Geovanny Martineza.

Riverside Cross Country Course

1011 North Orange Street, Riverside

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Democracy in action: student poll workers assist voters, 11/6

By Christopher Poz, Profiles/Features Editor

On Mid-term Election Day November 6, 2018, students from the Honors Economics class worked in various polling places in Los Angeles County from 6:00 A.M. to 8:00 P.M.

Senior students Hector Arrieta, Joshua Aguilar, Oscar Herrera, and Christopher Poz worked at precincts closest to their homes.  Some locations were only a couple minutes away and others were within walking distance.  Students had received required training in advance of Election Day.  Each student earned $140 ($40 for his attendance at the training and $100 for his work on election day).

Poz worked with three other adult poll workers and one student worker at his local precinct.  His responsibilities included taking care of the voters’ ballots and making sure they were accounted for.  He also helped first-time voters and others with no experience with the voting machinery.  Later on Election Day, he worked on the master list that detailed the names of voters who were registered to vote in his assigned precinct.

“In my experience of doing the name checking, it was very stressful, especially when the busy hours between six and seven kicked in,” said Herrera.  “It was hard looking for every last name quickly enough before people start to get upset for not working fast enough and accurately.”

The voter turnout for Poz’ location was nearly 500 people.  The number of voters present in the polling place varied throughout the day, but Poz’ location definitely was more bustling in the evening.

“It was very constant; there was no time when there was no one there,” Herrera said about his polling place.  I always had something to do. I also saw our democracy in play.”

“I can say that it was quite an experience working at the polls, but it felt like a very long day,” reflected Poz.  “My day ended at around 10:00 P.M., and I was very tired.”

“I am glad I worked there, for the experience was great,” added Poz.

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Eagles baseball team regroups for another season of promise

By Hector Arrieta, Editor in Chief

“For it’s one – two – three strikes, you’re out at the old ball game,” goes the 1908 song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” by Albert Von Tilzer. Baseball, often referred to as America’s pastime, is known for the sounds of cracking bats, for the thump from the catcher’s glove, and for the spitting of sunflower seeds, the expectoration of the brown effluvia of chewing tobacco, and popping of bubblegum bubbles.  The sights and sounds of the game, minus the chewing tobacco, return for a second season after baseball was reinstated at Verbum Dei High School.

Verbum Dei’s baseball team returns this upcoming season seeking to build upon the
previous season.

“I think the one thing that needs to be improved upon from last season would be
communication,” says senior Ozzie Estrada, a returning player. “Communication is
always needed in a team and can help us win games.”

At the conclusion of the 2018 season, the Eagles finished with a record of 2-8
under the tenure of Head Coach Pete Morado. Considering the last season
was the school’s first season after an eight-year hiatus of the program, the team
demonstrates the potential to be contenders within the Santa Fe League. This
notion is especially fortified by last year’s squad’s closing victory against Bosco Tech
High School which knocked the Tigers from playoff contention.

“It was our playoff game,” said Morado during an October practice.

Despite a brief pause in the team’s practices due to health concerns for Coach Morado,
the team is currently conditioning for the upcoming season. Returning players like Estrada seem to look forward to what’s to come.

“This season I’m looking forward to playing games and winning them,” said Estrada.  “We
are a new team, and I am excited to be back on the field again with my Verb brothers.”

 

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Mission Advancement’s Adopt a Student Meet and Greet event fosters student/benefactor relationships, giving, and gratitude

By Gerardo Leon and George Rosales, Staff Writers

A Meet and Greet was hosted by the VDHS Mission Advancement department on  November 7, 2018.  Students met their matched donors from the Adopt a Student program. This program allows for benefactors to financially support the school for the benefit of an individual student; however, there are donors who have “adopted” more than one student.

During the event, Dr. Brandi Odom Lucas, Chief Academic Officer of Verbum Dei High School, spoke to select students and donors.  Student Khalid Nelms spoke of his gratitude for what he has been able to experience at Verb,  detailed the growth that has taken place since his arrival at the school,  and expressed his appreciation for the help that he has received throughout his time at VDHS.

“There were about 30 sponsors and donors, and 20 of our students,” said Michelle Cordova, Mission Advancement Assistant.  “And so, there was a meal after school in which they will had the chance to meet and talk.”  Select students had built up anticipation for the event and its goals of fostering recognition of the beneficiaries of donors’ financial support.

“I was looking forward to this event because it gave me time to catch up, and to be able to tell them a bit of my experience at Verbum Dei,” said Nelms, a senior at Verbum Dei, elaborating in his expectations for the event.

Each year, each student of Verbum Dei High School drafts a personal letter to a supporter in his English class.  In the freshman year, each student introduces himself by relating his family situation, educational background, interests and involvements, and personal, spiritual, and/or academic goals.  The letters drafted by sophomores, juniors, and seniors detail accomplishments, extracurricular activities, and goals as a means of updating benefactors on their educational progress.

 

 

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Seniors enjoy divided class retreats to Joshua Tree National Park and to Camp Wrightwood in the San Gabriel Mountains

Thirty-eight days shy of 40 – Verbum Dei seniors, staff, and faculty retreated to Joshua Tree National Park for a desert camping and hiking experience on October 28-29, 2018 – Images by John Stradley, Present Dei Online News Source Moderator

By Khalid Nelms, Staff Writer and Nathaniel Zelata, Photo Editor

On October 28, 2018, the Verbum Dei Senior Class along with accompanying faculty and staff chaperones met at the Verb at 8 A.M. and quickly departed to two first-of-format  overnight senior class retreats in two dramatically different locations: Camp Wrightwood  in the pine forest of the San Gabriel Mountains and Cottonwood Campground in the arid expanse of Joshua Tree National Park.

These senior retreats were different from years prior.  Campus Ministry devised these  experiences as a follow-up to the first-ever junior Kairos retreat last year.  Organizers decided to split the class to have two distinctly different retreat experiences.  The Joshua Tree National Park retreat was envisioned as a hiking/camping opportunity, while the Call to Holiness Retreat in Wrightwood was to be a more traditional, sleep-in-the-comfort-of-a-cabin retreat experience.

The environment of Joshua Tree National Park is filled with rocky outcroppings, cactus and scrub, and desert landscapes.  The National Park is located in the Palm Desert near Palm Springs, California.  At a much higher elevation, Camp Wrightwood presented an environment quite similar to Camp Pondo, where the annual Kairos retreat has been held  for a number of years.

“This year’s senior retreat really helped me finish establishing the bonds that I created from last year’s Kairos retreat, and I feel it was a huge success” said Gerardo Leon, who attended the Call to Holiness retreat.  Looking to bond over previous experiences was the informal motto for the mountain retreat.

“I had a great experience at the Call to Holiness retreat, and I was able to not only strengthen bonds from last year, but also create more during the retreat as well”, said chaperone and Math Department Chair Claude Moore.  These retreats were the first attended by some new additions to the Verb family.

“This is was my first retreat here at Verb, and it was a great experience,” said Allison Kennedy, Fine Arts teacher.  “I appreciated how I was able to share my story without anyone judging me for it.”

During the Joshua Tree Retreat hike, students along with teachers reflected on what it means to sacrifice, to have faith in God’s unconditional love, and to be tempted. At points during the students’ and teachers’ hike, brief talks were given and analogies were made to the walk in the desert that Jesus endured for 40 days.

Students housed their belongings and slept in dome tents in group camping sites at the Cottonwood Campground in the National Park.

After a mass at sunset and a dinner of fire-roasted hot dogs, the night fell and an infinite sky of stars became was revealed. The  sight of constellations – not visible in the urban light wash of the city – left students feeling amazement and awe. Fr. George Teodoro, SJ, conducted an informal stargazing session while identifying various constellations, the planet Mars, and other celestial features.  Students enjoyed smores as they relaxed in the early evening.

“I liked being out in nature, and I enjoyed the quiet and the night sky,” said Osvaldo Estrada.  “The landscape of the hike was great also.”  Estrada said the retreat provided reflection in a unique atmosphere and that it offered time to sort through emotions while hiking.  Other seniors felt good about how the retreat went and were blessed by the opportunity to leave the confines of the city.

Faith-based retreats such as these are part of each student’s experience from freshman year forward, but this retreat was the last of its kind for the Class of 2019. The success and impact of Kairos contributed to the pressures organizers felt that these retreats have a similar impact.

Both retreats were organized by the Campus Ministry team.  Last year, EJ Vieyra and Karen Chambers polled the seniors on their preferred retreat experience; sight unseen, the seniors chose between the two offerings.

 

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VDHS houses to show their “can-do” attitude of generosity

By Alejandro Aquino, Staff Writer

As Thanksgiving Day approaches, students, faculty, and staff, and their respective houses at Verbum Dei High School are gathering non-perishable food items for families in need.

All Verbum Dei High School students, parents, and staff are welcome to donate to the food drive between October 16 to November 15, 2018. A houses competition with take place in conjunction with the food drive; the school houses are challenging their respective members to donate their non-perishable food items in the name of their house.  The winning house will receive a pizza party.

Mu will turn in its food in Room 206, Alpha in Room 402, Gamma in Room 101, Iota  in Room 301, and Sigma in Room 202.

Non-perishable foods include all canned goods and dry goods such as cereal, pasta, beans, rice, and dry packaged mixes.  Students should refrain from bringing fresh produce or anything that requires refrigeration.

Ultimately, the Grant A.M.E congregation, located at 10435 S Central Avenue, Los Angeles, will distribute the donated foodstuffs.

“We(campus ministry team) reached out to Grant A.M.E and the JEDIS made a video and signs to spread the news,” said Molly Fruland, Jesuit volunteer.

 

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VDHS soccer teams to begin season at Bosco Tech High School with new mindset and strategies and one concern

By Rafael Villalobos, Staff Writer

The Verbum Dei soccer teams will play their first away games on November 16, 2018, against Don Bosco Tech at Don Bosco Tech High School, 1151 San Gabriel Blvd, Rosemead; Junior Varsity will play at 1:30 P.M. and Varsity will take the field at 3:00 P.M.

“This will be a very competitive game,” said Oscar Rosa, head coach. Although Verbum Dei has lost two years in a row against the infamous Bosco Tech merely by one point, Rosa said, Verb should put up a good fight and prevail not only in this game but in the season.

The Verb soccer team is entering the season with intentions of winning the Santa Fe League championship and playing beyond the second round of playoffs. The devastating lost in the second round of playoffs last year and the year prior have forced the players to change not only their mindset but their formation from a defensive 4-4-2 diamond to an offensive 3-2-3-2.

Although Verbum Dei’s intentions are to secure the game, the complications of only having one goalkeeper leaves the team concerned for its future.  Jonathan Ayala, the returning Junior Varsity goalie, now has the responsibility of stepping up to the net and performing to his fullest potential; however, returning senior Ricardo Guevara seems to be optimistic about the situation.

“It will be our first game of the preseason, so it will be a learning experience for the whole team that we should not depend on a goalkeeper to stop every shot the other team takes,” said Guevara.  “We all have to do our part and work as a unit. It all starts with communication. As for the JV team, they will have to find somebody who will step up and fill-in that position Jonathan once played. Overall, I have a good feeling about this game coming up and the season we are about to begin.”

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Saint Mary’s Academy to celebrate All Saints Day liturgy at Verb

By George Rosales, Staff Writer

All Saints Day, November 1st, is annually recognized as a Holy Day of Obligation within the Catholic Church, and, this year, as on other occasions, students from Inglewood’s Saint Mary’s Academy will attend the liturgical celebration as guests of Verbum Dei High School.  Saint Mary’s Academy is VDHS’s sister school, located approximately 30 minutes from the Watts campus.

The adult Campus Ministry team and the JEDIS (Jesuit-Educated Disciples in Service) will assist in the planning of the liturgy.  As Fr. George Teodoro will preside over the mass and not play with the praise band, the faculty/staff/student group will feature Emilio Tello, a special guest guitarist and vocalist.

The idea of the shared liturgy started when Dr. Brandi Odom and Mary Rose Batungbacal, respective principals of VDHS and SMA, discussed the upcoming Holy Day of Obligation.  November 1, schedule-wise, was an opportune day for both schools. From that conversation, planning for the liturgy and subsequent activities began under the supervision of Karen Chambers, Director of Campus Ministry.

The reason that the event is to be held is because it is the Holy Day of obligation, and with it also being an important day for the Jesuit Schools, it was a wonderful day to have two schools celebrate as one.

The event will be held in the VDHS gym.  The senior students will be at their Corporate Work Study Program job sites, so there will be adequate space to seat SMA’s four grade levels along with the remaining three on-campus grade levels from Verbum Dei High School.

Following the mass, a social hour is to be held to provide Verbum Dei and Saint Mary’s students the opportunity to converse, to create friendship, and to strengthen the bonds between the two schools.

 

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