By Matt Johnson
In the wake of the recent school shooting in Nashville as well as National Youth Violence Prevention Week wrapping up, school security continues to be a source of concern.
As the one-year mark of the massacre in Uvalde, Texas, approaches, many changes have been made across America regarding school safety. Though Uvalde wasn’t the first school shooting in the country's history, it garnered increased support for gun control and new safety measures. Politicians in Congress debated what should be done following the death of 21 people, 19 of which were under the age of 12.
“We feel it is imperative to share with you that prioritizing school safety is not a responsive action to such tragedies,” read a recent statement sent out by Wall Superintendent of Schools Dr. Tracy Handerhan and Wall Township Chief of Police Sean O'Halloran. “Securing our schools is a 365-24-7 responsibility.”
At Wall High School, students and faculty have undergone ALICE training centered around what actions can be taken in regards to an active shooter in a school setting. Along with that, students have noticed more Wall Township Police officers around the building.
“We are way ahead of the game and everyone is doing a good job with this,” said Wall Township Board of Education member Kenneth Wondrack when asked about Wall Schools’ safety measures at a meeting.
The Wall Township School District has always had security measures to keep their students and staff safe from any harm. Every elementary school, the Intermediate School and the High School are staffed with security guards, equipped with surveillance cameras and more to ensure the protection of the people inside the buildings. Along with that, each school has “warm zones,” separate rooms in the front of the building people are screened in before they even enter the building.
Although the district did not make this a mandatory rule, some schools in New Jersey and across the country are only allowing see-through clear backpacks in school to ensure that nothing harmful can be brought in. Although it may seem like a valid solution to limit school shootings, experts say it won't do anything to prevent them from happening, but it is one possible solution.
Striking a balance, however, is difficult. Students should not feel unsafe in a school environment nor should it feel like a prison.
“Before 9/11, it was a nicer world,” said Wall High School Acting Principal Dr. Peter Righi, who was the Superintendent of the Rumson-Fair Haven School District prior to Sept. 11, 2001. “But after, there were huge changes in not only schools, but all across the country.”
There needs to be changes in order to prevent such horrific events, but where does it start? Politicians can't seem to agree on what must be done. While people feel their ego is more important than children’s safety, someone could be plotting to go into a school and cause serious harm. Something needs to be done, not just in Wall, but nationwide. Schools should all have the same requirements as their top priority is to keep children safe.
Every Wall school has at least two security guards in the building at all times and one at the front of the school at all times. Teachers and administrators are all required to be certified in school safety and that is a statewide law. Along with that, the ALICE training was reintroduced after a pandemic pause at all of the schools in the district. ALICE stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate, all actions students and staff might need to take in the presence of a threat. At the High School, Assistant Principal Kevin Davis and Security Guard Mike Textor are both certified to teach the ALICE training.
Wall High School and all of the schools in the district are also in close contact with the Wall Township Police Department in the event of an active shooter. Training has been in place regarding Wall Police so everyone is on the same page.
“We know where Wall PD will be in an active shooter situation,” said Mr. Textor, whose youngest child attends Wall schools, and added that the best thing people can do in those terrible situations is be “eyes and ears.” He explained how important the idea of hearing something and saying something is crucial in the possibility of an active shooter.
“At the end of last year, more security measures were added to every school,” Dr. Handerhan said.
Mr. Davis also stated that the High School is “ahead of the curve" and that “Other schools [districts] are playing catch-up.”
By Chris Dailey
The Wall Township School District has put forth a bond referendum that will be voted on Tues., Dec. 13.
“A referendum is a vote, and a bond referendum asks voters to approve funding through the sale of bonds. These bonds can provide the school district with up-front funding to make long-lasting improvements,” as described by Superintendent Dr. Tracy Handerhan, and Mr. Ralph Addonizio, President of the Board of Education, in a letter sent on the district’s website. “Property taxes are used to buy back those bonds, with interest.”
The referendum will potentially provide funding for new projects around Wall High School such as air conditioning and a new track as, currently, the track and field team can’t host home meets due to the condition of the track.
Dr. Handerhan has a background in track, having previously coached the sport at other schools, and is working hard to improve the conditions of the facility for the team as well as other sports teams alike who use it for workouts.
“This would be great and, hopefully, bring more people to the track team,” said junior captain Matt Remishofski. “Our track program is in shambles, not too many people run track and the current condition of the track is a big reason as to why. If we get a new track, it would be good not only for the school, but the whole community.”
Apart from the air conditioning and track, the referendum will be used for many other capital projects around the school system to help keep it up-to-date. Those projects include updates to classrooms and bathrooms as well as the High School’s auditorium and roofing.
The referendum is being pursued now because the previous one, which was established in 1998, is nearly paid off.
“Another factor in the timing is debt pay-off,” Dr. Handerhan and Mr. Addonizo said in the letter. “Wall is finishing payments on the improvements that voters authorized in 1998. Renewing the current level of debt payments would continue the cycle of repairing, replacing, and renovating that keeps Wall’s schools maintained and Wall’s tax rate steady.”
If approved by the voters, the referendum’s projects will be completed by late 2025 or the summer of ‘26.
The referendum will have two questions. The first, which is targeted towards the replacement of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), and general improvements around the school, will have no tax increase and the second, mainly surrounding the sports facilities at the High School as well as asphalt upgrades at Allenwood School and West Belmar School, and window replacements at Wall Intermediate School.
All of this meaning the primary proposal, which will help complete repairs and renovations, will have no impact on an increase to taxes while the second proposal, which includes updates to athletic facilities and other building issues, will have an increase to the current taxes by around $5 a month.
“Current students can relate to the need to invest in facilities as they use them every day,” Dr. Handerhan wrote in an email response. “Some students may be interested in improving the facilities for younger siblings. Some students may look to return to Wall Twp. to raise their own families (time flies!). Some may want to support their alma mater.”
Some members of the senior class, who have already turned 18, are eligible to vote and outspoken about the topic.
“The referendum will be good for the town and I’ll be voting on Dec. 13,” said Wall senior Ally Cartinella. “I encouraged all my friends who are 18 to go out and vote because every vote matters.”
The referendum is currently being publicized by the board and district. Students and parents alike can read more about the referendum at wallpublicschools.org/vision.
By Chris Dailey
Wall High School was recently shocked and saddened to learn of the tragic passing of senior Shawn Erm.
Those who were friends with Shawn knew him as a race car enthusiast. He loved race car driving and was often found at the Wall Stadium Speedway, where he would both watch the professional drivers as well as race himself.
Shawn and his family all contributed to the annual Turkey Derby 48 race and were members of the Garden State Quarter Midget Racing Club (QMRC). Shawn’s mother, Lisa, is the current Race Director, and his father, Chris, is a board member.
Shawn volunteered for the race club and helped it navigate through COVID-19. He even ran several race day operations such as computer scoring, lineups, pregame music and drying the track.
This year’s Turkey Derby began Sat., Nov. 6, commemorating the life of the young man who was active at the race tracks.
“Back in my early years of elementary school, it was not as easy for me to make friends. As a result some days I would find myself sitting on the playground at recess by myself. Then I met Shawn,” said Wall senior Carl Parcesepe. “If he ever saw me by myself, he would come over to ask how my day was going and talk to me. These actions truly spoke to his character and personality. Over the years I did not talk to Shawn as much as I did in my elementary career, but we remained good acquaintances and he always left a positive impression on me. When I received word that he had passed, I was left in a state of shock, not truly believing it at first. It is truly heartbreaking that one of our own is no longer with us. However, his memory, and how he was a friend to me when no one else was, will always live with me.”
“He was always so incredibly generous, always put others first and would go out of his way to help his friends and family,” said another friend of Shawn’s and fellow senior Ryan Kotch. “Shawn had a contagious laugh that those who knew him will never forget.”
Many students are still struggling with the shock of the news and immense sadness as well. Everyone deals with grief differently and Wall High School has offered counseling available to anyone who needs someone to talk to as they navigate through their own grief. Please don’t hesitate to seek help if you feel you need it.
Visitation for Shawn was scheduled for Mon., Nov. 8, from 4-8 p.m. at O’Brien Funeral Home in Wall Township.
By Zach Lichter
The 2020-21 school year was an impressive one for Mrs. Jill Alexander.
A nine-year veteran of Wall High School, she was named the 2021 Monmouth Arts Education Awards outstanding educator in visual arts, capping a year in which she has closed deals to create illustrations for a pair of forthcoming children’s books and became the first teacher ever inducted into the Wall National Honor Society. Not a bad year after she had to delay travel abroad, her other passion, due to the pandemic.
“I am so proud,” Wall Principal Ms. Rose Sirchio said in an email announcing the Monmouth Arts Education Awards, which honors individuals and organizations within Monmouth County that continue to inspire young artists in the community.
“What I enjoy most about being Mrs. Alexander’s student... is all of the fun we have together when we are in her classroom,” said Wall senior Karlie Sambade. “There is never a dull moment, she makes it a positive experience for each and every one of her students.
In her acceptance video for the Monmouth Arts Education Awards, Mrs. Alexander thanked her husband John as well as her late mother, her colleagues and Ms. Sirchio for their support and dedication to the art program. She also talked about the impact that her students made on her.
On April 26, Mrs. Alexander gave a speech at this year’s NHS induction explaining what her goal is for her students and how she demonstrates the four pillars of NHS.
“My first thought was ‘how did I get this?’” Mrs. Alexander said. “I learned that several students had nominated me in 2019. This was a pleasant surprise. I was very excited that I could share what the tenets meant to me.”
Growing up, Mrs. Alexander spent most of her childhood fascinated with art. She enjoyed the process of making art and spent a lot of time practicing, copying and imitating what she thought was good drawing and painting.
Mrs. Alexander went to The College of New Jersey but majored in business. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in marketing and a minor in fine art. For her, studying art at TCNJ was an afterthought. She felt like her abilities weren't strong enough and said she didn't know how she would feel making a living studying art. It wasn’t until she met a college professor during the second semester of her junior year who encouraged her, along with a little motivation from her mother to apply to some prestigious art schools. She applied to the School of the Visual Arts and finished with a master's degree in fine arts. Two years later, she ended up getting her teaching license.
Mrs. Alexander said she never thought she would teach art. She feels like it is the perfect way to share her love of it with young people. A 1999 graduate Wall High School herself, she says that Mrs. Mychelle Kendrick and the late Mr. Joe Eichnger are sources of inspiration. Her other inspiration comes from traveling the world and she tries to apply what she sees from her journeys to her teaching style and when she is creating her artwork. Mrs. Alexander and her husband travel internationally each year. Among some of the exotic places she’s visited are Cuba, Morocco and Egypt. They were supposed to go to India last summer for four weeks.
“Mrs. Alexander travels the world and one thing that makes her teaching unique is the way she uses her travel to create her artwork,” Sambade said. “The outside world has influenced her teaching style in so many ways. The way she uses what she has seen in the outside world in her classroom is what makes her teaching so unique.”
Mrs. Alexander teaches Advanced Placement 2-dimensional art/drawing, materials & techniques, digital illustration and art experience. She also runs the art club. Sambade has had Mrs. Alexander, as her art teacher for three years and will be studying art education at TCNJ in the fall where she will look to follow in her footsteps. She cites Mrs. Alexander as the reason she hopes to become an art teacher.
“She teaches with so much passion and it comes from her heart,” Sambade said. “She is the perfect example of what every teacher should be. She goes above and beyond each and every day to make her classroom an exceptional learning environment. The art room is my favorite place to be.”
Mrs. Alexander said that her mission as a teacher is for her students to apply what they learn to important life lessons in the classroom. She also wants to help them with their problem-solving skills by avoiding artistic obstacles during the creation process. She notes that half of her AP students study at the college level.
Currently, Mrs. Alexander has been creating illustrations for two children's books with two different authors and a publisher. One is a Christmas book which will be released in the fall just in time for the holiday season and be sold nationwide with a heavy market presence in New York City, especially in boutiques around Rockefeller Center. The second book will be released in Spring 2022.
“I hope that young kids will feel the magic that I did when I used to watch animated films and read children's books as a child,” Mrs. Alexander said.
As the 2020-21 school year comes to an end, Mrs. Alexander looks to continue to touch more lives and inspire people to pursue a career in art. She hopes to provide comfort and a feeling of accomplishment wherever her students’ lives take them.
By Zach Lichter
The novel coronavirus has, obviously, dominated the news for the last 18 months since it began spreading. With that has come the loss of 3.3 million lives, 580,000+ of which have died in the United States.
Those statistics are abstract until you find out your family members have COVID-19.
On Jan. 3, my maternal Grandpa Lolo, a doctor, tested positive. His condition would soon deteriorate to the point he was hospitalized and placed on a ventilator. He died a week later.
When my grandpa was in the hospital, I had a feeling he wasn’t going to make it because he was so unresponsive. It was really painful to see him on the ventilator via FaceTime two days before he passed away and my family in their most difficult moments. My grandma also contracted the virus and was discharged from the hospital the same day her husband died. My aunt tested positive after his funeral and needed to be hospitalized as well.
My grandma and aunt survived but to have three relatives get the virus and suffer such serious cases is hard to imagine.
After my grandpa’s funeral, I decided that I wanted to get the vaccine. My mom, who works in the case management department at Monmouth Medical Center, was able to squeeze me in April 7 thanks to a former coworker. I ended up getting the Pfizer vaccine and my arm was sore the next day. When I came home from Monmouth Medical Center, I decided to announce my vaccination on Facebook and Instagram and dedicate it to my grandfather. I feel like I did my part by protecting others as well as myself. I received my second dose April 28 and am now fully vaccinated.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about a third of American adults are fully vaccinated and a little under half have received at least one dose. As of early April, anyone over the age of 16 is eligible to be vaccinated and they can go online and book an appointment.
Some people are nervous about getting vaccinated. They think something might happen to them and they don’t know how their body is going to react to it. Other people want to get the vaccine so they can protect others and themselves.
“I got the vaccine because I work at a health care center and it was a requirement,” said Wall High School senior Hunter Pappas. “I was not nervous getting the vaccine. It was like getting the flu shot, nice and easy.”
Like me, Pappas received the Pfizer vaccine and he said he hopes things get back to normal. Depending on the person, some people may experience side effects from their first or second dosage. They can include headache, tiredness, fever, nausea and muscle pain. The side effects are normal and many doctors say that they let people know the vaccine is working. Some people may not even react at all.
“The only reaction I had from the vaccine was a slight headache from the first shot, but the second shot I didn’t feel a thing,” Pappas said.
For people looking forward to the day when things will go back to normal, getting vaccinated is a start and will help protect yourself and others from COVID. Everyone should do their part by going online and looking for a vaccination appointment. Let’s all get vaccinated so everyone can be together sooner.
By Matt Johnson
The events of Jan. 6, 2021, have drawn comparisons to the attack on Pearl Harbor, which the 32nd President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, described as “a date which will live in infamy.''
Before all of America's eyes hundreds of protestors stormed into the U.S. Capitol, destroying windows and assaulting police officers. The actions resulted in the loss of five lives, including a member of the Capitol Police.
For the first time since the War of 1812, the U.S. Capitol fell under siege Jan. 6. The event led to 26,000 National Guard troops being stationed there until Inauguration Day due to the fear of another attack.
And with President Joe Biden preparing to address a joint session of Congress tonight, the Capitol is once again on high alert.
As many politicians spoke out about the events that unfolded at the Capitol Jan. 6, all their feelings about it were relatively the same regardless of party.
“January 6, 2021, was a dark day in American history and will live on in infamy,” former Democratic presidential candidate and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey responded in an email request for comment. “Incited by the former president of the United States, our Capitol was attacked by a violent mob seeking to overturn the results of our election. They failed, but in the days and months ahead we must work to hold those responsible accountable as we work to repair our democracy.”
“I unequivocally condemn the assault on Capitol Hill, and those who committed the vandalism and crimes should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” longtime Republican Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey said in a statement released by his office. “Special thanks to the Capitol Police for their brave and decisive action to mitigate and then end [the] crisis. There needs to be good enforcement of those who did this so it has a chilling effect on future acts like this.”
“Despite its many flaws, the U.S. Congress continues to be a marketplace of ideas and differing opinions,” Smith added. “(It) requires robust debate and genuine respect for one another even -- and especially -- when there is fundamental disagreement.”
That both Booker, a Democrat, and Smith, a Republic, denounced the storming of the Capitol in the strongest of terms speaks to the violation that occurred Jan. 6 and the need to come together in its wake. Both parties have been open about the event and agree that it was a terrible day which will forever be remembered for the wrong reasons.
The events of Jan. 6 show the division in the United States. Americans need to learn how to look at each other with respect and decency regardless of political beliefs, race, gender and so on. What people believe in should not stand in their way of a nation of peace.
By Matt Johnson
Attention former Kmart shoppers: your blue light specials are turning into red bullseyes!
Target is taking over the vacant Wall Township Kmart, expanding the store into a 91,000-square-foot spot, just the latest change to the area as the ShopRite moves across the intersection of Route 35 and 18th Avenue to a much-larger building left by Foodtown and Dunkin’ Donuts is constructing a state-of-the-art store next to Five Guys to replace its Foodtown Plaza location.
The construction will save many Wall residents the trip to Ocean Township for Target or Neptune for Shoprite and boost the local economy. With it will come job opportunities for township residents and students who lost them during the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing economic downturn. Target and Shoprite will upgrade the existing spots into so-called “mega stores,” meaning they will have more products than many other stores around.
“I think it's a good idea, so I don't have to drive out to [Ocean] all the time,” said Wall High School senior Hellen Schlosky. “And Target always has some clothes that I like to buy."
Target signed a lease in Wall toward the end of the summer. Attempts to reach out to the Target Corporation went unanswered, but the store is believed to open in 2021.
The new Shoprite will have a number of Wall residents applying for jobs there, like Wall sophomore Dylan Itri, who already works at the Shoprite store on Route 34 in Manasquan.
“Well, I really just needed to make some money so I thought the best place to go would be the one that can't be closed because of COVID-19,” he said.
There are some, however, who are concerned about a potential rise in traffic in an already-busy part of town. As it is, Route 35 in Wall is known to have traffic back up. Will these stores create more traffic?
According to 94.3 The Point, "It is exciting to have Wall turn into such an exciting shopping location, but it is seriously dangerous to get across the highway at spots."
All in all, the opening of these two mega stores should have a great impact on Wall's economy and help out unemployed people as the pandemic ends.
By Zach Lichter
For those who will cast a ballot for the first time ever this November, this is probably not the way they thought it would happen.
The 2020 election will be unlike any other in the nation’s history mainly because the American people will be voting in the middle of a pandemic. The 2020 presidential election is one of the biggest in our lifetime. President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden are finishing up their campaigns for the White House and soon the voters will decide. The coronavirus, racial inequality, crime, the economy, healthcare, the Supreme Court and foreign policy are all at stake in this election, among other things.
The biggest thing that is on American people’s minds is getting out to vote. And then there’s the lack of experience but eagerness of first-time voters.
“I’m excited to vote because as an American citizen I have the right to vote and I decide who I vote for,” said Wall High School junior Steven Stansfield, 18.
This election will mainly be conducted by mail-in ballots in the state of New Jersey, as in many states. Voting by mail is considered a better alternative for people who don’t feel safe going to polling places Nov. 3.
“I felt more comfortable doing the mail-in ballot because I feel that there is less exposure and I feel safe doing it by mail,” said Wall senior Karlie Sambade, also 18. “Plus I want to keep my family safe."
If you plan on voting by mail, you can drop off your ballot at the Wall Township Municipal Building. All registered voters should have already received a ballot in the mail. If your ballot has been misplaced, damaged or you have not received it, you can contact the Monmouth County Clerk’s Office at (732) 431-7790 or visit www.monouthcountyvotes.com to receive a replacement ballot.
For people who feel more comfortable voting in person, the Glendola Fire House, the Municipal Building and the South Wall Fire House Ballroom will all be open Nov. 3 from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Voters with disabilities will be allowed to use the voting machines on Election Day. All other voters will be given provisional paper ballots if they decide to vote in person. Those ballots will be counted last after all the mail-in ballots are tallied.
“I would rather do in-person voting for future elections,” Sambade said.
This 2020 presidential election will be one we will never forget. It could change the way we vote in the future and pave the way to see more people vote by mail for elections to come.
By Ryan Sy
Each person has their own taste in music and style, however, one Wall High School alumna’s knack for music has propelled her to a Guild of Music Supervisors award for one television show she works on.
Jen Malone, a 1994 Wall High School graduate, is continuing to make her mark in television and film. She has worked on many different television shows such as FX’s “Atlanta,” which was created by and stars Donald Glover, also known as by his musical alias Childish Gambino. In February, however, Malone won an award from the Guild for Music Supervisors in the category of Best Music Supervision for a Television Drama. The show she is the music supervisor for that won the award is HBO’s teenage drama “Euphoria,” headlined by former Disney star Zendaya, who plays MJ in the “Spider-Man” film series and appeared in the movie “The Greatest Showman.”
“Zendaya is one of the kindest, professional, talented actresses I have ever worked with,” Malone said. “She comes with focus, yet a sense of humor and warmth to the set. Playing a character like Rue is not easy, but she nails it!”
Malone does not just work in television. She also has worked on movies which include “Creed II,” which is a spinoff sequel to the “Rocky” movies, which she partnered with Michael B. Jordan of “Black Panther” fame.
Currently, Malone is working on several new projects which include season 2 of “Euphoria,” season 3 of “Atlanta,” “King of Staten Island,” which stars comedian Pete Davidson, who is famous for his work on Saturday Night Live, AMC’s newest show “Dispatches From Elsewhere,” which features Jason Segal, one of the stars of “How I Met Your Mother,” and a new Amazon show called “The Wilds.” Malone continues to make a name for herself out in Hollywood after sitting in the same desks and walking through the halls that current Wall students roam today.
“It is incredible for all my hard work to be recognized by my peers for the award,” Malone added. “I’m so grateful to be able to work on such amazing projects that value music and are truly up for anything.”
“I was not aware! That’s really cool,” said Wall senior Nicole Pinnella, who exercises her musical talent for the songwriting club, and also hopes to make a career of it. She is also in the middle of a statewide contest for writing songs about drug use. “I plan to attend Elizabethtown College next year to study Musical Therapy. Musical Therapy uses music to help people who have disabilities, such as autism, dementia, and PTSD. I’m very excited to keep music in my life!”
By Ryan Sy
The streets of Wall Township might not paved with gold, but a former Wall Township Public Schools’ student who grew up on them helped to land some Oscar gold on Sun., Feb. 24.
Sean McDermott did the set design for “Skin,” which won for being the best live-action short film.
McDermott graduated Old Mill Elementary School and Wall Intermediate before going onto Christian Brothers Academy for high school. He was a Wall resident until the fall of 2016 when he moved to Los Angeles.
“It so happened that I was working on that set or that shoot and it is a cool little thing, my little claim to fame and it looks good on my IMDb profile,” McDermott said.
McDermott’s involvement in an Oscar-winning film extends a notable streak over the past two years when former Wall students have been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and an Emmy Award.
“That is an incredible honor for a film and its cast and crew, and a very hard feat to achieve. I am so proud of him,” said Wall High School graduate Ryan Hutchins, a former classmate of McDermott at the Intermediate School and a director working in LA. “Sean and I go back to when we were both at the Intermediate School. We both had a passion for film and so we became great friends and started making videos to put on YouTube together.”
McDermott and Hutchins both went to film school together before they ended up in LA. They also work together for AwesomenessTV on a bunch of different projects.
“Skin” tackles the tough topic of racism in America. McDermott worked on the set in a key role in keeping all of the props together and making sure they were clean and in pristine condition so they were able to be used during filming. Having clean and intact props is important because the budget for the film might be small and cannot afford to buy more props if something gets damaged.
“My job was to maintain props and, specifically, what the actors handle, things like a gun, paper, pens and whatever they touch, I make sure they get organized and do not get lost,” McDermott said.
The success of “Skin,” and McDermott’s contribution toward it has helped them earn much-deserved attention.
“Most things you work on out here you do not see most of the stuff that you do,” he said. “I only saw the movie once because they did a special screening for the cast and their families.”