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Timely news on school issues and events

Economy Hits McNamara

Photo illustration by Melissa August '09
Photo illustration by Melissa August '09

By Alex Vinci ’11
Staff Reporter

We hear it on the radios. We watch President Obama talk about it on the television. It is all about the one subject that terrifies every American — the economy. As teenagers, our first thought is to presume it’s being handled by someone else. We want to think it won’t affect us, and it’ll be over before we have to deal with it.

But it is here, and it is now. We have to take responsibility and realize that even from ages 14-18, the problems of our country are still our problems.  The economy is around us every day and it is here at McNamara.

“We can feel the impact on different levels here,” said Assistant Principal for Student Life, Victor Shin. “It’s reality. We need to be aware of future results.”

The crisis is hitting our McNamara homes and it’s hurting. Our parents are losing jobs.  They are suffering from pay cuts and are being forced to cut back on their hours.  Yet, they still have to manage to pay a $9700 tuition.  Peggy Ball in the Business Office noted that she is seeing families struggle when collection is due, and parents are paying around pay-days more often. They look for a relief but instead see a $600 increase in tuition next year to $10,300.

“There are not many days in the last month where I haven’t received a phone call from a parent that has lost a job or had their hours cut back,” stated President Heather Gossart. “We work hard to attempt to help families and help the students remain here.”

Unfortunately, the story has continued for some families by having to withdrawal their child from McNamara.  Let’s say they cannot keep up with the money and the student in result now has to attend a public school or be home schooled instead. “I have a friend that goes here that almost didn’t come back this year because of money, but her mom pulled through and paid,” said Chrstine Stubbs ’11.

As registrar, part of Karen Vinci’s job is to handle withdrawals.  So far this year there have been seven withdrawals.

“Sometimes the parents are very distraught and sometimes they’re very non-committal,” said Ms. Vinci as she described the atmosphere when a parent has to take out their child.

Along with the families that have been put in financial trouble, the school is trying to avoid from going there as well. Prices of anything and everything that we use and need at McNamara seem to be going up. However, the bills still need to be paid as well as the teachers.  The administration has been working to clean up the budgets as well as making budget cuts where they’re futile. Ms. Gossart called it the “underwear program,” meaning that they will take things from where people won’t see it.

Many big projects that Mrs. Gossart and the rest of the teachers and staff had been planning on have had to be put on hold.  They were looking to have the bleachers enclosed.  Also, they wanted to put in a HVAC system in the gym.  Both of these are now on hold for an undetermined time due to financial needs.  The only projects that were given the “ok” were those that are a necessity to safety. For example, lighting will be installed into the parking lots as well as improvements to the security gates.

Other schools around the Washington DC area are also fighting the economic crisis and many are having a worse time than we are. The administration all seemed to agree that we are better off than most. However, as other schools are unable to keep up, their teachers have been forced to take pay-cuts or pay freezes.  The common percent increase to a teacher’s salary is normally around 1-2%.  Fortunately, for our teachers, Ms. Ball confirmed that next year the salaries will increase.

However, the salaries are not the only thing changing next year.

“We are going to have to look toward the public schools more to fill part of our student population,” said Mr. Shin.  Susanne Mendiola, Administrative Assistant (Guidance), gathered an estimation from her records that currently, 143 students that attend McNamara came from a public school. Admissions Director Patricia Garber expressed that the admissions office looks for the most qualified students, not their financial situation. Unfortunately, the financial status of our future applicants could affect their decision in attending McNamara or not.

Along with the budget analysis, all of the departments have been cleaned up and some have had budget cuts.  Next year, to keep with the changes, some of the electives will be cut.  “Some won’t like it, unfortunately, but that’s the reality,” said Academic Dean Mindi DeDuclos.  “Unfortunately, a class that someone had been waiting to take since freshmen year may not be there for their senior year.” The reality is that to battle against the economy, cutting classes is necessary, and the administration believes that it’s smarter to take away from what is extra than from the essential college preparatory education.

Also, to help improve our financial stability, staff members have been helping out individually by helping save the school significant amounts of money.  Librarian Elizabeth Hill has discovered a new program that can do just that.  As of now, our school computers are subscribed to Proquest, a learning database.  But next year,  Ms. Hill has seen to it that we will switch to the MD Digital Library learning database.  This program is set up so that the more students are at the school, the less amount of money is paid.  Next year we will only have to pay $2000 with this new database saving McNamara $5,000.

Another interesting penny-saver was presented by Mr. Shin.  Next year we will also be switching our agenda books. They are slightly bigger but by no means a downgrade from this year’s model.  It will actually have some improvements made to it.  It will have the same resources as well as the school calendar will be incorporated into it.  (Calendars will still be available but sold instead for a fundraiser.)  Along with being a very useful aide to the students, these agenda books will also help McNamara save $4000.

Mr. Shin was very humble about his contribution and also made it clear that there was one thing he didn’t want to change next year.  This was our call to give back to the community. As  he said, “It is still important to give back, even more now because of the economy.  We will still run our food drive, blood drive, coin drive etc.  It is part of who we are as a school.”

Although the going can get rough for us, it can always be worse, and it is always worse for someone else. Therefore, we still need to work to help those that have it the worst.

It is important to be aware that the problems don’t just lie in the hands of the White House.  Mrs. Gossart believes that “We’re going to come out stronger from the experience.” We are being affected here at our school and in the homes of those we love.  But if we work to come up with solutions and not stand by idly to watch our peers suffer, we can come out of this widespread crisis stronger.

Make the Grade or Miss the Game

**Update DEC. 2009 — This story won Honorable Mention for Sports News or Feature Writing in the Maryland-District of Columbia Scholastic Press Association’s 2009 Individual Writing and Editing Contest Awards, Newspaper Division.


Joshua Crockett ’10

“You are academically ineligible.” Variations of this phrase are spoken all across the nation to very talented athletes. Countless seasons have been derailed by intricate players not meeting the expectations of the school’s academic standards.

In the past, those that couldn’t make the grade in private school resorted to continuing their careers in a less rigorous public school academic requirement. Now, due to the “no E” policy put in place by public school, there is no escaping fulfilling a certain requirement in order to enjoy the privilege of participating in extra curricular activities.

Ironically, private school standards have become easier to maintain academic eligibility. Many of the schools within the conference, including the Mustangs, allow up to two failing grades on the report card as long as the student’s GPA has met a certain standard. These college preparatory schools have come to realize that the pressures and abundance of responsibility placed on these students could be overwhelming and in turn cause slightly uncharacteristic, academic performance. However, they never lose sight of the first priority which is educating the mind. That is why an academic probation system is put in place. Regardless of how entertaining, and in some cases profitable, the success of the team could be for the school, there is an always present interest in being able to perform in the classroom. This interest is often forgotten by the fans that enjoy seeing their favorite high school athletes.

Student athlete Brandon Coleman ‘10 illustrates the struggle between the gymnasium and the classroom.

McNamara requires a 2.0 grade point average with no more than two failing grades. When a student has not met these requirements, they are prohibited from participating in practices and games for the next four weeks. If an individual’s grades have improved after the probational period, they are cleared to begin playing and practicing with the team.

What about those students that fail to meet the academic standards during playoffs? Principal Marco Clark says, “There are definitely exceptions. He or she has played the whole season long and it would really hurt the team.” However, these players are not off the hook that easy. They must display commitment to improving and maintaining their grades even after the season has come to an end.

All around the WCAC, the academic standards differ. Some have adopted the “no failing grades” policy similar to PG. public schools. Others have lowered the minimum grade point average for freshman and have made it easier for the students to raise their grades as they progress in years and academic maturity.

This raises the question, should freshmen be expected to perform at the same level as a senior? It is sure that everyone has experienced or is currently experiencing the huge change from high school to middle school. Freshman athletes usually have a tendency to lose sight of the goal, which is education. A junior or senior has experienced the pressures of a full season and know what they must do in order to remain available to their team mates.

With long days due to practices and away games, is there a realistic opportunity for student athletes to perform on and off the playing field? Men’s Head Varsity Basketball Coach, Marty Keithline says,”Time management is important.” When asked how academic probation alters his team’s chemistry, he said, “It doesn’t affect the kids that do their homework and study in study hall at all.” As a teacher and a Coach, he understands the importance of getting homework done. You wouldn’t find him making excuses for any player that falls below the school’s standards, saying bluntly, “This is a college preparatory high school, when work is given they [students] are expected to do it.”

Mr. Clark says, “I think there has to be an acceptable standard to enjoy the privileges of participating in extra curricular activities. The standard we have here at Bishop McNamara is [for the student athlete] acceptable, not perfect or great but acceptable.” Despite what many students feel, the teachers have an overwhelming amount of confidence in the academic capabilities here at McNamara. When I asked if he thought he would ever lower the standard, he says, “It is human nature to rise to the occasion. If we set the bar lower they will go lower.” He goes on to say, “If we raised the bar to a 2.5 GPA, I truly believe that our students will rise to the occasion.”

Sweeney Todd the Musical (Photos)

Photos by Grant Hill ’10 for The Stampede

See our Review of Sweeney Todd the Musical for the complete story.

The chorus from Sweeney Todd kills the audience with their powerful voices and outstanding energy.


PHOTO GALLERY. Click on image to see caption.  Scroll with arrow keys or mouse.


**Update DEC. 2009 — The lead photo in this series won Honorable Mention for Photography in the Maryland-District of Columbia Scholastic Press Association’s 2009 Individual Writing and Editing Contest Awards, Newspaper Division.