Year In Review
by Joe King
In September, principal Frank Haltiwanger closed the high school computer lab to prevent students from taking up the school’s limited bandwidth by playing games. The lab was reopened a week later in Town Meeting, but no computer gamers have been seen since. Possibly because they had grown used to the middle school lab by then.
School began amid rampant fears of swine flu, the H1N1 virus, and, for some especially paranoid parents, a horde of giant killer pigs rampaging through the hallways. Arlington County responded by encouraging students to wash their hands, because “giant killer pigs hate soap.”
Principal Frank Haltiwanger came under fire in October when he shut off the morning announcement music and banned the seniors from playing further music, explaining that the seniors’ chosen song, whose lyrics contained and in fact were comprised entirely of the word “sex”, had exceeded their yearly quota of Words You Wouldn’t Say if Grandma Was Around. The next day, the morning announcements consisted solely of a scathing rant by Frank, who exhorted the offending students to wash out their iPods with soap because “you shouldn’t be using those words around the poor, innocent sixth graders.” When VSS attempted to interview some innocent sixth graders on a school bus, they made no reply other than to scream obscenities out the bus windows at passerby on the sidewalk.
Making further progress on the swine flu front, Arlington County sent out forms which parents could fill out to have their students vaccinated. Parents quickly filled out the forms and looked forward to a day when their students could walk the halls of H-B without fear of being infected and spending a few days at home with a moderate fever.
Frank announced at Town Meeting that he planned to close the middle school lobby fish pond, explaining that he was unable to keep it open because of the senior class’s poor behavior. “They haven’t done anything yet,” he conceded, “but they’re up to something. I can see it in their eyes. Trust me, you all will thank me later, when their evil plans are foiled.”
In early November, the H-B seniors held their Fall Formal. Immediately after the Fall Formal, they began drafting a letter of apology for certain events that occurred at said Fall Formal, which included the burgeoning popularity of a dance called “the wheelbarrow” and a number of students whose blood-alcohol content was high enough to pose a significant risk of spontaneous combustion and cause several girls from Yorktown High School to leave the dance out of embarrassment and get drunk somewhere else. A massive town meeting convened to debate whether or not H-B should have further dances, and solicit suggestions for ways to keep the dances “appropriate”. Proposals included having police officers administer breathalyzer tests at the door, having parents chaperone the dances, and having trained giant killer pigs devour students who dance inappropriately. By an overwhelming margin, the students voted to purchase giant killer pigs and a trainer using Outside Teacher funds.
In other news, the promised swine flu vaccine still had not arrived. “Fighting a deadly and virulent disease like swine flu is just something you can’t rush,” said an Arlington County schools official. “We may need to take our time with this one.” In the meantime, so many juniors stayed home sick that teachers visited their houses to hold class and the healthy kids at school all got free blocks.
In December, students finally queued up to receive their swine flu shots. The day was punctuated by regular announcements from Mary McBride, who coordinated the event until principal Frank Haltiwanger banned her from the PA system for playing sexually explicit music. An emergency town meeting made a unanimous vote of 1 to 0 to reverse the decision, and she spent the rest of the day using the PA system to tell students about her cat, Othello Obama McBride, a 19-pound short-haired outdoor cat who hasn’t been eating all of his food recently, and that really worries her because he usually finishes off his entire bowl of dry kibble right away.
The first half of the school year came to an end on December 23, when Frank, in response to poor behavior by the senior class, closed the school.
In January, an emergency Town Meeting was planned to consider reopening the school in light of an apology letter made by the Senior class to the staff, but attendees instead spent the entire meeting discussing whether or not H-B was “alternative” enough. The Town meeting ran for over three hours and canceled the entire morning’s classes. Meanwhile, students at other Arlington County schools had class and learned things.
February was canceled by Frank after the seniors, in what he called “an extremely egregious lapse of judgment,” distributed approximately thirty-six inches of snow throughout Arlington County. “If the seniors cannot handle the privilege of February responsibly,” Frank explained to VSS, “they can’t be trusted with it”. An emergency Town Meeting was convened to determine whether or not February would be held in the future, and what measures could be taken to reduce the amount of snow involved, but attendance was low due to students and staff having to dig tunnels between their front doors and driveways.
March was dominated by Allocations, the sometimes divisive process by which the students and staff determine how to spend H-B’s budget over the next year. As H-B’s budget would be cut by 1.6 teacher positions this year, teachers worried that allocations could be especially confrontational. The first measure taken was the immediate firing of a random selection of teachers and staff whose names began with a “G” or “J”. Judy McKnight, Joan DeMoss, and Ginny Graham submitted “resignations” the day after the budget cuts were announced, citing the need to “spend more time with their families”. Staff members Jennifer Goen, Peggy Gaines, Kristale Grant, Kathy Gust, Stefan Green, Margaret Johnson, Valerie Johnston, Josh Patulski, Judy Pendergast, and Francisca Jorgensen were reportedly “very nervous” about their continued employment here at H-B Woodlawn. Even with these new measures, however, the school was surpassing its budget limit by 1.6, leading each department to brace for a sudden drop in funding. Staff and students urged cooperation in the face of these new cuts. “We need to remember to treat each other as human beings, and know that we all need to sacrifice to keep the school running,” said English teacher Kelli DuBose, before putting biology teacher Meghan French in a headlock and threatening to “bite her head off” over a .2 class slot.
April was dominated by the much-anticipated music trip, in which the high school band, chorus, and orchestra traveled three hours by bus to Philadelphia. Shortly after arriving, they were passed by the middle school band and chorus members who were going to Hershey Park.
Rather than play at a competition, as the music department has done in previous years, the various groups set up in a shopping mall and held a performance exclusively for other members of the music program, although a small number of shoppers managed to sneak in.
May saw the beginning of the all-grades show, one of the largest and most involved productions of the year at H-B Woodlawn. This year, drama director Anne Welles, after being unable to stage A Clockwork Orange due to technical difficulties, decided on an avant-garde interpretation of C.S. Lewis’ classic fantasy novel and obvious Christian allegory The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Welles’ adaptation moved the setting from the magical kingdom of Narnia to an alternate-universe San Francisco populated by anthropomorphic magical creatures, recast the White Witch as a racist real-estate executive with blackface-wearing henchmen who has ousted Mother Nature from the city, “re-interpreted” the sexuality of many of the characters, and added themes addressing controversial issues such as contraception and gender and racial identity.
At the end of May, Frank banned the entire senior class from the school for irresponsible behavior. However, this didn’t matter, as most of them were already gone.
H-B Woodlawn Class of 2010