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    An Interview with Emily Himes, Student Vestry Senior Warden

    PTS Falconer Editor-In-Chief
    The Palmer Trinity community first heard about the school’s new student-run vestry last year, with Chaplin Mary Ellen Cassini at the helm of the effort. This year was the first that the vestry really began its work, with two student representatives from each grade. However, most students have no idea what a vestry is in an episcopal school setting, or what its impact will be on Palmer Trinity. In fact, student vestries are a long-standing tradition at Episcopal schools in North America and Great Britain.

     Emily Himes 16’, student head of the vestry, and whose official title is Senior Warden, tells me that Palmer’s vestry has a very specific role in the day to day school life of all members of Palmer Trinity. Students from every grade have monthly meetings to plan various chapels and convocations. Himes tells me that “Our main focus of the vestry is to live into the question: “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” This question, from the Episcopal Baptismal Covenant, is what the vestry seeks to answer to in the affirmative during every meeting and service they carry out. When asked about how the vestry planned chapels, Himes said that “most of the chapels are yearly occasions like 9/11 and Veterans Day, and when we plan chapels like those, we reach out to students and faculty to try and find a speaker or presenter. We make sure that the content would be a good choice for our school, and that people would want to hear that person.”

    In striving to “respect the dignity of every human being”, the vestry includes students from all different religions and walks of life. As a first in Palmer Trinity’s history, the vestry will be setting standards for years to come.  But why has the school never had one before? Himes says that when Chaplin Cassini came to Palmer Trinity, she noticed that the school needed to be doing more to engage students and give them a voice in the religious aspect of school life. So, along with the help of several others including Head of School Patrick Roberts and Emily Himes, she started Palmer Trinity’s first vestry.

    Emily believes that the two student representatives from each grade will be able to get a sense of what students like and don’t like, and will give their honest feedback as representatives of the student body’s voice. “Hopefully every vestry member can feel like they have a real input on what we decide.”



    Bringing a New Schedule to PTS

    With last year’s creation of the Daily Schedule Committee, many questions have arisen, and many students and teachers have offered their ideas on how the committee should approach the potential schedule change. The committee itself is comprised of teachers from all departments who are tasked with researching whether a change in class scheduling could lead to a better learning experience.

    Ashley Chapman, Head of the Upper School and a member of the Daily Schedule Committee, went into depth with me about all the difficulties and possibilities that a schedule change entails. The reason for the creation of the committee in early 2014 was to discuss whether the current schedule was answering all the needs of students and teachers. Chapman says that the committee has been guided by teacher input on how extra time for certain classes may be beneficial. He says there are two schools of thought: “One is the idea of block scheduling, where there would be 4 periods a day of 2 hours each. The other extreme is our current schedule, every class, every day.” The goal of the council is to hopefully find a happy medium between these two that can benefit everyone involved.

    Although some have thought that the possibility of a schedule change has come due to the school’s increased population in past years, it turns out that is not the case. Chapman explained how the current schedule, with 8 classes at 45 minutes each, could often cause the school day to seem rushed or pressurized. Chapman says that the school has had this specific schedule for “almost as long as I can remember.” He feels that block scheduling could create more time for advisories, chapels, and even clubs. Longer classes would also allow teachers to show a full movie in one sitting, give students more time for test-taking, and help science teachers both teach their lesson and then do a related lab, all in one block of time.

    One thing that everyone involved can agree on is that any type of schedule change will take work to smoothly implement. Some of the challenges that the committee will face is the placement of athletics, getting people to and from campus, and starting and ending times. Without a doubt, Chapman says, the committee will make at least one proposal to the administration. If and when it will be put into effect, however, is a different matter.  Chapman wishes to remind everyone that the committee is still in “exploratory stages”.

    For students, many of whom have never experienced anything other than Palmer Trinity’s schedule (outside of elementary school), the change will not be unexpected. Chapman hopes to begin gathering student input on possible changes soon. If a new schedule proposal does look strong enough for implementation, the school will first test the schedule over the course of a few days or even weeks. Chapman says that the trial run should help pick out some of the possible flaws and allow for necessary tweaks before the schedule is ready to be put to official use.

    One of the biggest concerns of a schedule change, especially if the school adopted much longer block-type periods, is the change in teaching strategy required. A major concern for the administration is that certain periods will result in students being taught the usual 45 minutes, and then finishing their homework for the second half of class. Chapman, along with many teachers, agrees that this would be an extremely ineffective use of teaching time. Teachers will be required to adapt their lesson plans in order to make full use of the longer periods. If done correctly, the new change can lead to an even better classroom experience for both the teacher and the student. Due to the intricate planning of such an immense school-wide change, we can expect that the change will have many more benefits than drawbacks.



    Robertson Takes Over As New Athletic Director


    The PTS community is proud to announce the hiring of a new Athletic Director for the 2014-2015 school year. Coach Ernest Robertson is no newcomer to the Athletic Department, having arrived in 2001, and has certainly climbed his way up the ladder.

    Born in Louisiana, Ernest Robertson played multiple sports throughout his youth. When asked about his early encounters with athletics he smiled:

     “Football was God out there; It was like religion.”

     After receiving a scholarship to play football at Southern University, he realized football was no longer his passion.

    “I ended up playing basketball for 2 seasons, and then I realized my talents were not good enough to put me in the NBA….and so then I got into coaching.”

    He started off his career coaching basketball at Louisiana State University. From there he stemmed off to coach 3 other high schools until finding his way to Miami and landing a job at Palmer Trinity School.

    “I came in 2001 as an assistant varsity basketball coach and 3 years later I was promoted to head coach.”

    That was the first year the boys varsity basketball team made it to the final 4 in the school’s history. A couple of years later, Coach Robertson was promoted to chair of the department, assistant athletic director, and has finally arrived as Head Athletic Director for Palmer Trinity School.

    “This is the job I always wanted, I was just going to wait patiently until it became available, because that was my ultimate goal—To be an Athletic Director.”

    Coach Robertson has been hard at work since receiving the position and has made multiple improvements within the department.

    “We have upgraded the gym, we’ve added new storage facilities, a new multi-purpose room, boys and girls locker rooms and bathrooms have been upgraded, and we built and new fitness facility.”

    Coach Robertson would like to let the Palmer Trinity community know:

    “I am very happy that Palmer has always been kind to me and my family, thankful for the opportunity to serve as athletic director, and I’m thankful for the opportunity they have given me to grow professionally and personally.”


    New School Year Brings New Policies and New Technology

    By Philip McMichael ‘16 MANAGING EDITOR


    Many changes have occurred over the summer here at Palmer Trinity.  Returning students were greeted with an array of new facilities, renovations, and new faculty members. Although these modifications to the school environment may not necessarily effect all of us, there are two changes this year which will: the new PlusPortals system and important adjustments to some of the policies in the handbook.

    Director of Technology Gus Sabogal said there was a variety of reasons for the switch from the old Edline system to the new PlusPortals. “We wanted to have a system that would be compatible with all the databases in the school,” he said. “We were lacking that. We were also looking for a system that would be the same as those used by other schools and universities, so that our students will be prepared once they move on.”

     Sabogal also said that the new website allows for unlimited storage space, which will turn out to be quite useful for teachers who need to upload many documents for their classes. He also mentioned how Edline had an old-fashioned 90’s look which “everybody is walking away from”.

    Parents especially will see the system’s new benefits right away, with PlusPortals’ ability to show one packaged report card with all of a student’s grades, instead of having each grade separated by course in the different sections of the old site.

    Sabogal said that feedback from the student body and the parents has been mostly positive.

    Mike Pena, the school’s web and content manager, agrees with Sabogal. “The new system is much more modern, and we did the switchover to create one place where users can go to find everything they need, a hub for students, parents, and faculty.”

    In the student body, there are mixed feelings about the new system.

    “The new software is very confusing. Many of the files for homework are under different sections” said Parissa Evans ’18.

    Kelly Malloy ’15 prefers the new system, saying that she likes the fact that PlusPortals allows for a live gradebook, which teachers can update whenever they wish.

    Both Pena and Sabogal say that the new system is just a matter of getting used to, and that all the minor “hiccups” have been expected.

    In years before, the attendance policy located in the handbook has permitted 10 absences from a class per semester. Once 10 absences were exceeded, the Division Head and the Dean of Students would meet with the student to decide whether the student would be failed in the class for that semester.

    The rules for what constituted as an exemption from being marked as absent were extremely broad, so much so that even though numbers of students surpassed the 10 absences mark, none suffered the required punishment. Some students who we spoke with were completely unaware that there even was a serious punishment for absences, due to the punishment rarely, if ever, being applied.

    This year, however, the school has decided to change the policy so that now 10 absences in a class results in a letter grade drop in that class.

    Brook Bodie, the Dean of the Upper School, explains that the new policy is more lenient, and says that “there is no such thing as excused and unexcused absences. However if the absences are E.D’s or school related activities, then those will be looked upon in a more positive light when the student is doing the appeal process.”

    Mr. Chapman says that the old policy was changed because “it left too much control in the hands of people outside the classroom. The old policy came to the point last year where it really wasn’t doing what it should have been.”

    He says that the problems with the previous policy became clear when there was a heightened number of absences last year than in years prior.

    This year also brings the addition of grade postings every Friday. The change is likely to help parents and students manage their grades with greater ease. There is now less chance of there being unexpected shock at the sights of grades which have the ability to fluctuate greatly within the course of 3-4 weeks.

    Mr. Chapman says that the more frequent grade postings are the result of requests by both parents and students. “It is probably helping the middle school more, because we are trying to encourage the upper school to be a little more responsible, but I certainly don’t think it should hurt anyone.” he adds. 

    Matias Luehring ’16 says he likes the new grade posting frequency. “It’s helpful, and it’s good when I want to know my grades and I don’t have to wait a long time for them.”

    Others, like Capucine Libessart ’17, are less positive about the new system. “It’s not something I like, and now my parents can see my grades more often, which I think is unnecessary”


    LIVE: Graduation, Class of 2014

    Enjoy live coverage of Saturday's graduation at 10:00 a.m.