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New school year brings some changes

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

WILBRAHAM For some, this may be the last school year spent at Minnechaug Regional High School. For others, it may be the first year at a level of higher learning a step toward adulthood. Either way, freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors can expect a few changes come Aug. 29.

There will be a number of new faces in the administration and teaching staff this fall, as well as familiar faces in new positions. Kate Belsky, assistant to the superintendent, estimated that there will be 20 new teachers within the school district this year. At least six of those teachers will be working at Minnechaug. A new face -- Stephen Marino -- will be serving as part of the guidance team as well.

Associate Principal Bryan Lombardi resigned earlier this year. His position has been renamed as assistant principal and will be filled by John Derosia. Filling his former position as administrative assistant will be Nicole Smith, the current chair of the social studies department.

"[Derosia's] familiar with the duties of assistant principal, but this is the first time Smith will work in this capacity," M. Martin O'Shea, principal of Minnechaug, said. "Their duties include providing student support, safety, evaluating staff, managing the cafeteria, the parking lots and the building," he added.

In addition to new teachers, new classes are also available for students. In the English department, Survival Literature and War Literature are now available as electives, as is a theater workshop.

Acoustic Guitar II has been added to the fine arts program, allowing guitar students to continue their study at a more advanced level.

An AP Latin course has been developed for the upcoming school year. It will essentially be run as an independent study until enough students sign up for it to become its own section.

The history department is offering 20th Century Genocide and Ethnic Conflict this year for seniors who want to study non-Western history.

The math and science departments have also added a few new courses. Intermediate Probability and Statistics gives level 2 math students another option beyond Algebra 2, and AP Statistics is being developed for the 2008-09 school year. AP Chemistry will be available this fall.

O'Shea would also like sophomores and incoming freshmen to know that grade 10 students now need to pass the science MCAS test in order to graduate.

New technology is being integrated in Minnechaug to assist students in their learning endeavors. The media center has already received and installed two new computers. Soon, the center will also include new projection equipment and SMART Board technology.

SMART Boards uses a touch-sensitive display to connect to a computer and digital projector to show computer images. Teachers can then control computer applications directly from the display, write notes in digital ink and save their work to share later, according to the producers Web site (

"I'm not quite sure what will be up and running when the students arrive," O'Shea said, "but we'll definitely be adding more data and video projection equipment."

Another piece of new equipment at the school is a Lightning Prediction System installed by the Booster Club on the school's roof. To be used mainly by outdoor athletes, the system will blow a 15-second horn blast to signify that shelter should be sought immediately. Three five-second horn blasts mean the danger has passed.

All the hard work the students put in studying and playing sports should make them hungry. Julie Dougal, food services director, announced some changes in the cafeteria this fall. "We'll be offering 10-ounce cartons of milk this year, versus the eight-ounce cartons we've had in the past," Dougal said, "and we'll have a variety of different flavors available." The salad bar will continue throughout the year and the food services staff will try to provide a daily wrap special as well.

Students definitely won't want to miss lunch especially after learning about the new attendance policy. "The new policy reduces the number of days a student is allowed to be absent from a class before losing credit," O'Shea said. In the past, a student had to miss more than 14 classes; the new policy allows no more than 10 absences.

This focus on student responsibility has shifted to athletics as well. "The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletics Association changed their chemical health rule," O'Shea stated. In the past, students caught in possession of alcohol or drugs during their playing season were suspended. "Now, student-athletes are accountable from Aug. 20 through the end of the school year," O'Shea said. "The rule promotes making good decision making and a healthy lifestyle."

The first good decision the incoming class of 2011 can make? According to O'Shea, attending the Welcome Back Dance the evening of Aug. 27.

"It's fun and it really helps lessen anxieties," O'Shea said.