Flash Features: news and student achievements

New Interim Supervisor for English and Social Studies Departments

Following the retirement of John Anagbo, the English and social studies departments have been left with an interim supervisor, Barbara O’Breza, who will maintain her position until the end of the year.

Having previously worked at PHS, O’Breza’s arrival provides familiarity and support to some of the staff. “Losing Mr. Anagbo so late in the year was very jarring for everybody, so it’s important to have someone we can trust to take us through to the end of the year,” said English teacher Barbara Coen. “Mrs. O’Breza is a person we can depend on … She is an amazing supervisor—she’s very efficient, [and] a model of professionalism.”

Despite changes, the social studies department does not foresee any disturbances in the dynamics of its work. “Our department is pretty solid and pretty culturally cohesive in terms of friendship … so I don’t see any great changes,” said social studies teacher Timothy Campbell. “[O’Breza is] familiar with the school, the culture, [and] all the teachers, so I don’t see any big changes. She’s experienced, [and] she’s very effective, in terms of administration and advocacy.”

The English department also continues to operate as normal. “We pride ourselves on consistency and performance and in just the general way things run,” Coen said. “The staff is very, very set and we are very, very close. We all work extremely well together. We are a family, so I don’t see anything changing any time soon.”

New Contemporary Economics class starting for 2016-2017 School year

Starting in the upcoming 2016–2017 school year, PHS will be offering a new class called Contemporary Economic Issues. Created by AP Economics teacher Lisa Bergman as the post-course to AP Microeconomics and AP Macroeconomics, the course will cover current events affecting the global and national economy. “[The class] will probably start off talking about the financial crisis,” Bergman said. “We’ll talk about what led to the recession, we’ll talk about mortgage backed securities—just a lot of [economic topics] we didn’t have the chance to talk about in the [AP class].”

Aiming to cap the course at around 20 students, Bergman hopes to keep the class exclusively for seniors and structure its learning around discussion-led seminars. “[The class] won’t be textbook driven … We’ll be using The Wall Street Journal on a regular basis, and … students will lead current event discussions,” Bergman said.

The class was originally inspired by students who approached Bergman seeking to continue to explore economics in an independent study. As such, the second semester of the class will be largely centered around research and individual projects. “My goal is to have students doing some research,” said Bergman. “It’s all about using that toolkit [students] developed in economics to help [them] understand some of the import issues [in the economy].”

Many current AP Economics students are excited for the opportunity to continue learning in this new context. “I’m looking forward to taking [the class] my senior year,” said Jason Li ’18, current AP Economics student. “This class [will] be really interesting because you get to apply the concepts that you learned in AP Macroeconomics and Microeconomics to the real world … It sounds really fun.”

Students push for Option II policy for varsity athletes

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Photo by Annie Kim

On January 25, Student Board of Education Liaisons Madi Norman ’16 and Nick Pibl ’16 submitted a report to the board asking for varsity athletes to be given the opportunity to opt out of physical education.  

“[The advocacy] is called Option II because students would be able to opt out of gym class if they were in a varsity sport and into a study hall,” said Norman. “We’ve been advocating for [The Board of Education] to launch an investigation into the possibility of making these adjustments as part of the strategic planning process.” The New Jersey Department of Education allows high schools to adopt Option II, which allows student to be exempt from physical education if they play on a school athletic team. The process to which Norman refers is a district-wide push led by a steering committee of parents, teachers, administrators, and community members in an effort to create positive change in the community.

The push for adoption of this policy began when Mark Petrovic ’16,  a varsity swimmer and soccer player, started exploring other high school systems, such as West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South and John P. Stevens High School in Edison. In an effort to introduce their programs to PHS, Petrovic met with Assistant Principal Jared Warren, Curriculum Supervisor Bonnie Lehet, Superintendent of Schools Steve Cochrane, and many other administrators. “[During junior year] I was really feeling stressed about time and I had to decide every night between sleeping and doing my homework … So I looked at [the policies of other schools] and found it was pretty reasonable,” said Petrovic. “I then brought it up by talking to all the administrators.”

The Student Liaisons hope the Board of Education will take on their advocacy as part of its overall goal for increased well-being. “Athletes are already getting the physical activity— which is the point of gym class—and they’re more burdened with after school practices, forcing them to stay up late,” Norman said. “We think this would contribute to the kind of wellness that the district is trying to achieve.”

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