Tag: Sarah Paz

HCPSS’ New Color Code Notification System

Words: Sarah Paz

The Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) is instituting a new color code notification system for school closings. Designed to standardize how the school alerts parents, students, and teachers on emergency and scheduled closings, the system uses five colors to indicate whether HCPSS schools and administrative offices are operational. 

While green represents normal operations, red represents a total shutdown of schools and offices. Orange indicates only the closing of the schools, while administrative offices remain open with liberal leave for employees who can’t report in. Blue indicates schools open two hours late, and yellow means that schools dismiss early. The notification posted will always state the code color and the corresponding message, eliminating memorization of the codes. 

The new color system was put into place on December 1. The emergency notification sources remain the same with the exception of the discontinuation of notifications on HCPSS cable TV. HCPSS will post all status updates concerning whether its schools and offices are operative on a new website, where the new color code system will be used. The new website is https://status.hcpss.org/.

The site updates every day so any stakeholder can easily see if there has been a change in that day’s operating status,” remarked Emily Bahhar, HCPSS Coordinator of Multimedia Communications. 

The new color code system and website are intended to simplify communication of the operational status of HCPSS schools and administrative offices. Bahhar stated that “an analysis of the last five years of emergency notifications found 19 variations of operating statuses. The new system standardizes HCPSS operational status to five possibilities, helping to ensure staff, students, and families understand what a possible closure might entail.” 

Although the purpose of the color coding notification system is intended to clarify all operational statuses, some teachers, parents, and students believe that the development of it was unnecessary for informing the HCPSS community. 

Chad Hollwedel, Centennial physics teacher and a parent to a child who attends an HCPSS school, believes “that the new system does nothing to help… [him] understand beyond the words of the old system.” He believes that “the old system was sufficient.” 

While many students were unaware of the changes being made by Howard County, there are students who believe that the new color-coding system answers an unimportant problem in the communication of HCPSS.

Grace Chan, a Centennial junior, believes that “the color-code system is unnecessary for students.”

Despite these sentiments, the system is beneficial for employees at the HCPSS administrative offices. Holly Pascuillo, a Centennial English teacher, stated that even though “it is superfluous for me [as a teacher] because I receive text alerts, I believe the new coding system is necessary for members in the central office, for whom the situation is more unclear.” 

The previous system often sent obscure messages to administrative workers, so the new system aims to improve communication within the school system. 

Bahhar clarified, “in prior years, messaging to staff included only information for employees with union bargaining agreements and [created] a great deal of confusion for the remaining staff. The new system includes all employee groups, providing consistency and a clear direction for all staff. The language also was edited to be more clear and concise, and adheres to the negotiated bargaining agreements, where relevant.”

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Centennial Hits the Beach

Words: Sarah Paz

Photos: Melissa Notti & Zach Grable

On Tuesday, September 24, Centennial students celebrated Tropical Tuesday by wearing their favorite
Hawaiian shirts and lei-printed items. Tomorrow is USA day, where students will showcase their
national pride.

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Centennial Promotes Action Against Climate Change

Words: Sarah Paz

Photos: Eliza Andrew

On Friday, September 20, Centennial students walked out of their classes at the beginning of
third period to support the global climate change movement. About 200 students gathered
together outside the school and protested for 15 minutes.

To encourage fellow students to take action against global warming, the walkout was initiated
and run by the Young Democrats club. The leaders, Lexi Fang and Sonia Saini, spoke at the
beginning of the walkout urging listeners to take a pledge to do their part in saving the Earth.
They turned the microphone over to students who agreed with the club’s advocacy. The walkout
was successful as it gathered a community of environmentally conscious students to advocate
for their beliefs.

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Science Olympiad Team Goes to Nationals

Words: Sarah Paz

Centennial’s Science Olympiad team, affectionately called SciOly by its team members, traveled to the Science Olympiad National Tournament in Ithaca, winning 29th place.

Sophomore B-team member Shreya Vallimanalan said that the team placed 1st in the Environmental Chemistry Event at Cornell University.

“We also came in 12th in Chemistry Lab, 14th in Fermi Questions, 14th in Hovercraft, 16th in Astronomy, and 18th in Helicopters, ” she said. “We definitely view these achievements [as] successes. Every year, we strive to improve, so we will continue to work hard to prepare for next year’s competitions.”

Their success story began nine months ago in September. Even though the club allows anybody to participate, tryouts were held to be part of higher teams like the A-team who represented Centennial at the National Science Olympiad.

Just like any serious sports team, SciOly showed their dedication by practicing every week. At 2:15pm every Thursday, the team would hold weekly meetings beginning with announcements about the next competition. To practice and collaborate on projects, the team would break into the pairs they compete in at tournaments.

SciOly’s consistent determination won them first at the Maryland Science Olympiad which allowed them to qualify for the national tournament.

To celebrate the SciOly’s success at Nationals and a successful year together, the team gathered for a picnic on June 6.

The Science Olympiad team attributes some of their great successes throughout the season to Centennial biology teacher and team sponsor, Jason Piluk.

“Mr. Piluk, our coach, has greatly helped and supported our team… the Science Olympiad Club would not run as smoothly as it does with his guidance. He provides us with a lot of support and encourages our passions for STEM,” Vallimanalan said.

Regarding his role as the team’s sponsor, Piluk stated, “I pretty much make sure the club exists, is registered with the state and national program, provide a workspace for the team, confirm team rosters, facilitate travel to and from various competitions… and cheer them on.”

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Brandon Du and Krystal Wu play with the Columbia Orchestra

Words: Sarah Paz

On Saturday, May 18, Centennial freshmen Brandon Du and Krystal Wu, winners of the Columbia Orchestra Young Artist Competition, played with the Columbia Orchestra and vocalist Kelli Young at the Jim Rouse Theatre. Wu played the clarinet while Du played the violin.

Du, who has previously played in the Baltimore Symphony Youth Orchestra and the National Chambers, said, “the performance went well… Overall, I think the concert was very well organized and all the soloists were amazing, of course.”

The concert, called The Rite of Spring, featured “Symphony No. 2” by Carlos Chávez, “Sensemayá” by Silvestre Revueltas, “The Rite of Spring” by Igor Stravinsky, and “Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5” by Heitor Villa-Lobos.

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SGA Elections Results are Announced

Words: Sarah Paz

The students of Centennial voted for their local student government association (SGA) and Student Member of the Board on Wednesday, April 24. The voting window ended Friday, April 26 in which 75 percent of students from grades 9 to 11 voted.

On Thursday, April 25, the Howard County Association of Student Councils announced that Reservoir junior Allison Alston won the position of Student Member of the Board for the 2019-20 school year.

On Friday, April 26, the Centennial Student Community page released an announcement stating for each position where there are two candidates, the candidates would share the positions.

Students raised concerns about the results of the election to media specialist Michelle Van Gieson, saying that they couldn’t vote or complete their ballot due to technology issues.

“Some students alerted the folks in charge of the SGA of this issue, so we knew these missing votes were not all intentional,” said principal Cynthia Dillon.

During the voting window, the internet network faced issues, resulting in 85 students not fully completing their ballot. Some students were unable to vote for certain positions which led administrators such as Van Gieson and Dillon to believe the technology issues affected the credibility of the election.

“At that time, out of the 926 ballots cast (including 85 incomplete ballots), one race had a single vote difference, one race had a 5-vote difference and one race had a less than 30-vote difference,” Van Gieson remarked in an email interview. “When Mrs. Dillon and I looked at the incomplete ballots Friday after school, just completing those ballots could change the outcome of the election of all 3 races in either direction.”

Knowing that those few ballots could change the course of the election, the administration considered a new plan of action.

“Some of the options [Dillon] suggested were to re-open the voting window and to ask the 85 students with incomplete ballots if they wanted to complete their ballot,” Van Gieson explained.

In response, she reopened the ballots temporarily, extending the voting window from Monday, April 29, to Wednesday, May 1 at 12:16pm. Twelve additional students voted.

“By Wednesday, 5/1, when the ballot closed again, the margins for the two very close races had widened by a few votes and the third race’s margin had gotten smaller,” said Van Gieson.

The 85 students who left an option blank were contacted by Mrs. Van Gieson to determine whether they left the option blank due to technology problems or they intentionally didn’t cast a vote. The administration allowed the students to cast a vote on a paper ballot.

To determine the winners of this election, the school decided to follow the guidelines issued in the Maryland Association of Student Councils, which states that the candidate has to win by 50 percent and an additional vote.

On the afternoon of May 1, after a week of waiting, the final results of the Centennial SGA Election were revealed. Christopher Lidard was elected to the position of president, Anika Huang was elected as vice president, Ally Paik was elected as corresponding secretary and Cissy Wang was elected as recording secretary.

These results remain uncontested. Some results of the election such as vote counts aren’t typically released as public knowledge.

“Unlike what happens in the ‘real world,’ we don’t typically announce the tally of school elections such as this one. The reasons for this have to do with the social [or] emotional impact these results could have on our young people… You are putting yourself out there and essentially asking your peers to tell you how they feel about your abilities or you as a person,” Dillon said.

“The SGA is vital for fostering student participation and student voice within the school experience,” she concluded. “As we look forward to next year and years to come, it’s important we work to ensure all student groups are represented and that our SGA is a vibrant and integral part of the fabric of our school culture.”

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Centennial Students Show Off Their Team Spirit on Jersey Day

Words: Sarah Paz

Photos: Noorie Kazmi

On Wednesday, April 24, Centennial students demonstrated their team spirit by wearing their favorite sports team jersey. Many proud students wore their Ravens jerseys or their Centennial sports team apparel.

Students can look forward to celebrating Decades Day tomorrow. Seniors will wear 70’s clothing, juniors will don 80’s clothing, sophomores will dress up in 90’s clothing and freshmen will go back to the fashions of the early 2000’s.

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