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HHS Newsroom
March 7, 2008

Students React to CAPT

By Marcus Harun

Hamden High School sophomores are participating in the Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT), which began on Tuesday, and many say they are confident in their work thus far.

Sophomore Steve Gentile felt that “it was easy, but boring.” He said he had enough time to finish each of his tests with 10 minutes to spare. When asked how well he thought he did on the test, he responded, “I think I did pretty good.”

Jeffrey Huynh thought the tests were going well so far and “CAPT isn’t that hard.” He said he had a good amount of time to finish, but “they should have chose a better story.” Huynh is referring to the “response to literature” part of the exam.

Brad McRoberts had mixed feelings about the ongoing test. “Today terrific, but yesterday and the day before that not great at all. It’s not a good assessment of work,” he said. “The story was so bad, and the topic was terrible. I couldn't easily find words to describe it.”

Drew Vagnini said he did all right but didn’t have enough time on the essays.

“I always needed an extra two minutes or so just to finish my conclusion,” he said. Vagnini said he surprisingly liked the topics covered in the test, while most people said they didn’t.

Arif Yampolsky had a different experience. He described it as “a cow auditioning for ‘American Idol.’” He said he didn’t have enough time to finish most of the tests.

Adyin Hussein wasn’t too confident either; he felt he did “pretty bad. It was boring. I actually fell asleep during the essay.” He said he didn’t have enough time on the “response to literature” portion.

The overall reaction was “easy but boring” and eager to finish the tests. One more week to go.

Marcus Harun, 16, is a sophomore at Hamden High School. He runs his own 24-hour news station on his Web site www.24newsnow.com. Harun also hosts the “24 Evening News with Marcus Harun” Wednesdays at 7 p.m. on Channel 27. You can contact him at marcusharun@comcast.net.

November 18, 2007

The After Glo

Hamden Fire Marshal Brian Badamo said Sunday's fire at the Hamden Plaza started at Miami Glo (pictured above). Flames traveled to adjacent businesses, shutting down the strip. Cause of fire to be determined. Photo/Sharon Bass

By Marcus Harun

The Hamden Plaza on Dixwell Avenue was in flames Sunday morning. It started around 9:30, when the fire was called into the Fire Department. According to Fire Chief Dave Berardesca, when crews arrived the fire had spread to the ceiling of Miami Glo and were starting to spread to nearby businesses.

“We are investigating [where the fire started] right now; apparently it came from Miami Glo. That possibly may have been the origin,” said Berardesca. “But it did involve seven establishments plus the bowling alley.”

The owners of those eight establishments were on the scene asking questions about their businesses.

“They were still trying to clear the smoke,” said the owner of Johnson’s Bowling Academy. “Once they do that, then I can go in [to assess the damage]. We’ll just take it day by day and see what we have to do”

All the businesses from Panera Bread through Johnson’s Lanes were closed down. The main part of the damage reached from DiMatteo’s Pizza to Johnson’s Lanes. Firefighters went through each store to inspect the ceilings, pull some of them down and check for hotspots.

“They pulled down a lot of the drop ceiling, and the dining room carpet is all messed up and there is a lot of water damage,” said Andrew DiMatteo of the pizza eatery. “It will probably be at least a month [until the restaurant reopens]. It sucks.”

No one was injured in this morning’s blaze, and Chief Berardesca said the firefighters “did a great job stopping this fire.”

Click arrow to watch HDN reporter Marcus Harun's on-the-scene coverage of today's fire.

Marcus Harun, 15, is a sophomore at Hamden High School. He runs his own 24-hour news station on his Web site www.24newsnow.com. Harun also hosts the “24 Evening News with Marcus Harun” Wednesdays at 7 p.m. on Channel 27. You can contact him at marcusharun@comcast.net.

October 3, 2007

Students, Her No. 1 Priority

By Marcus Harun

The new superintendent had a hard first week, but calls it a “very good beginning.” In her first week, Fran Rabinowitz faced more than her share of difficult situations. But she handled them all very well. Last Thursday, Hamden High had its second bomb scare of the year, and Ms. Rabinowitz was on the scene and in charge.

“It was wonderful to have firsthand conversations with the chief of police. And I immediately met him at the school. We walked around the perimeter of the school,” she said.

The bomb scare was a hoax, but a huge interruption to the day. Ms. Rabinowitz made the correct decisions to keep the students safe. Throughout the chaos of the bomb scare, she made the effort to go out and meet the students of Hamden High, while they were evacuated to the bleachers.

“I had an hour with them, so I could walk up and down the bleachers,” Ms. Rabinowitz said. “It was great to talk to them and sit with them. I happened to be sitting with many seniors and they were telling me about their plans for college.”

Having just completed her first week, she reflected on how helpful her staff has been. “People were just, on all levels -- central office, schools and community -- very welcoming.”

Her first priority and “most important action” of the week was not signing papers, getting paid or reading e-mails, Ms. Rabinowitz said. But to visit the schools. She said it will continue to be her high priority because she wants to be “out there” where real learning and real teaching are actually taking place.

“The assistant superintendents have just been phenomenally helpful to me. Mr. Hernandez and Dr. Bonner have been in my office from day one,” she said.

This is Ms. Rabinowitz’s first superintendent job but not her first administrative job. Prior to her becoming superintendent, she was associate commissioner of education at the state Department of Education in Hartford.

“Many things are still left to be done,” she said, pointing to communication and fine arts as topics to address in the next 30 days. She said she made sure all the parents voiced their concerns prior to her taking office, so she knew what to address in her first 30 days.

She enjoys her new office, which she said was repainted especially for her arrival.

Exclusive Interview with the New Super

High school reporter Marcus Harun chats with Fran Rabinowitz. Hit the arrow to sit in.

Marcus Harun, 15, is a sophomore at Hamden High School. He runs his own 24-hour news station on his Web site www.24newsnow.com. Harun also hosts the “24 Evening News with Marcus Harun” Wednesdays at 7 p.m. on Channel 27. You can contact him at marcusharun@comcast.net.

September 28, 2007

'No More Emotions'

By Marcus Harun

Just 13 days ago, Hamden High School had its first bomb scare of 2007. Yesterday was the second.

“Not again” students and teachers said when the fire alarm sounded around 9:15 a.m. Students were evacuated to the closest exit, following the fire drill procedure. As they exited, security guards pushed them to get far away from the building. That was the signal, as seen earlier this month, that the high school was experiencing a bomb threat, not fire drill.

At yesterday's scare. Photo/Marcus Harun

This bomb scare did seem to be more organized. Students from all sides of the school were asked to move to the football field, and then onto the bleachers.

This way, students were in a constrained area safely away from the school. The administrators were able to communicate with the students with the press-box microphone.

“I didn’t think anything of [the fire alarm sounding],” said sophomore Drew Vagnini. “It goes off so often, there are just no more emotions when it sounds anymore.”

That was the same reaction of many students. They said they figured it was either a bomb scare or a fire drill, and they weren’t afraid of either.

The students waited on the bleachers as approximately two periods passed by. Soon enough, the megaphones were calling for students, section by section, to move back into the school. They returned to their third-period class, where they were when the alarm sounded. They continued throughout the day as normal, going to fourth through eighth periods. All classes were trimmed by roughly 30 minutes, and sixth period was cut out.

HHS' Latest Bomb Scare

Click arrow for 24NEWSNOW.COM's report of yesterday's event.

Marcus Harun, 15, is a sophomore at Hamden High School. He runs his own 24-hour news station on his Web site www.24newsnow.com. Harun also hosts the “24 Evening News with Marcus Harun” Wednesdays at 7 p.m. on Channel 27. You can contact him at marcusharun@comcast.net.

September 26, 2007

5th-Period Brawl

By Marcus Harun

A student left school yesterday -- in handcuffs.

It all started in the cafeteria. At approximately 11:25 am, a fight broke out in the high school cafeteria.

During period five lunch, at least two students started an argument, which ended in violence.

“I heard these two kids were fighting, and another one or two kids jumped in because he was getting jumped,” said Eddie Genao, a sophomore who witnessed the fight.

When a fight occurs, many people run over to the scene to watch, while others stand up on their tables and watch from afar.

“Believe me, I was one of the people running over there,” said sophomore Andrew Grant. “I actually got up on the table” near where the kids were fighting.

Assistant principal Mr. DiBacco was patrolling the lunchroom at the time and there was at least one security guard already in the cafeteria. By the end of the fight, at least four security guards were swarming the area ordering students to sit down and stay back.

According to bystanders, a security guard was hit by one of the fighting students.
“I wanted to see what all the fuss was about,” said Andrew. Many other students did, too. It was the talk of the school for the remainder of the day.

Hamden police Capt. Ron Smith said yesterday he had no information on the incident.

Marcus Harun, 15, is a sophomore at Hamden High School. He runs his own 24-hour news station on his Web site www.24newsnow.com. Harun also hosts the “24 Evening News with Marcus Harun” Wednesdays at 7 p.m. on Channel 27. You can contact him at marcusharun@comcast.net.

September 14, 2007

Inside the ...

By Marcus Harun

It wasn’t just another fire drill today at Hamden High School. The fire alarm was signaling an evacuation for a bomb threat. At approximately 8:40 a.m., students, teachers and staff were made to leave the building.

The students on the A-wing (front side of the building) moved towards Chili’s and Dixwell Avenue. The B-wing (Merritt Parkway side) was instructed to move back to the fence as far as possible. The C-wing (back of the school) was moved to the football field. On the D-wing (Chili’s side), students were told to move up against the fence. So students were spread in a large rectangle around the rectangular school.

“As soon as they told us to move all the way back to the fence, I knew something was wrong,” said Dan Seresin, a 10th-grader.

Soon after, the students on the backfield climbed up the bleachers to the skating rink parking lot. When buses started rolling into the lot, students clapped and cheered thinking they would be going home.

“We’re going home!” yelled a student. Mr. Harrison, a teacher nearby, said not to spread that rumor. When Mr. Harrison asked the student who his source was, he said, “A guy down there.”

“Don’t spread it because I would know before you know. And I don’t know,” said Mr. Harrison.

Everyone knew something was up. No one was sure what, but they were all on their cell phones trying to find out. “We are on the news,” said one student. “My mom saw Hamden High School on Channel 8.” The student went on to say that there was “something like a bomb threat.”

“I will check CNN and ABC on my phone,” said another student.

On the Merritt Parkway side, where I was located, there was not much chaos. I would describe it as an absence of communication. All the administrators have walkie-talkie radios. But there are only four administrators and they seemed to be rotating. That left some sides without administrators at times.

“We are going up to the rink” to get on the buses, said Ms. Forcucci, a health teacher from the B-wing. But that information was incorrect. The students from her wing weren’t going to the rink. They were staying up against the fence where they were evacuated to.

Buses soon rolled into the B-wing side. About two buses at a time arrived, every five minutes. Students filed in quickly and the excess was turned away, stepping off the bus onto the “unsafe” school grounds.

After many rounds of buses, all the students were picked up.

“We thought to hold up signs saying ‘No Passports’ to make them think we were protesting,” a student said. He was referring to the newly implemented hallway passes at the high school. The passport idea has not gotten great reviews from students.

Well, once all the students were safely away from the school, we saw state police and detective cars in the high school driveway. There was also a fire truck parked at Chili’s.

The next question was, “Where are we going?” Students were told they were heading to the middle school. But which one? The old or new? Teachers and staff did not know which one as they were boarding the bus. We wound up at the new middle school.

Students were also wondering, “What do we do there? Can we get out? What if I have to go to the bathroom?” Teachers again did not know.

A few buses did let students off to roam the small grassy area in front of the school but students on most buses were not allowed to exit. The bus doors only opened when an administrator came by to search for students whose parents had arrived to take them home.

On certain buses student were allowed to get off to use the lavatory. But that was not the case on all buses. On the bus I was on, no one was allowed to exit.

The long wait inside the bus was hot, stuffy and boring. The students on my bus got so fed up at one point that they decided to bust to the front to get out. The teachers couldn’t stop them and the bus was soon empty. Within one minute, administrators passed by instructing us to get back on as we would be leaving soon. We did not leave for another 20 to 30 minutes. The administrators just wanted to keep us on the bus.

At about 11:30 a.m., the buses headed back to the high school. We were directed either to the auditorium or gymnasium.

After more than 45 minutes, the students decided to amuse themselves by getting the crowd to clap. Others booed for excitement. While the teachers had nothing for the students to do or any new information about what had happened, they scolded the students for making noise.

After a while, Dr. Messiah, an assistant principal, came on the microphone to let us know what was going on. We were not heading home like most hoped. We were heading to our second-period classes, which normally start at 8:20 a.m. That was where most of our belongings were. We waited there for about 40 minutes. At 12:20 p.m., classes resumed as normal. Students then headed to periods seven and eight.

At 1:25 p.m., Mr. Highsmith, the principal, made a school-wide broadcast summarizing the morning’s event.

“Everything is safe. We are all safe now,” said Mr. Highsmith. He went on to say state and Hamden police worked together to search for a bomb. He said a threat was called into the school at about 8:30 a.m.

“I don’t think it went well at all,” said Brad McRoberts, a sophomore. He said when he had to evacuate the school he was making up a lab, which he missed on Wednesday because of a fire drill. So this distraction had set him back even more.

When asked if the proper procedures were followed today, Mr. DiBacco, another assistant principal, said he was getting debriefed after school and would not comment. Laidlaw Transit, which supplies the bus service, refused to comment when I called.

In all, three hours and 50 minutes of class time was missed.

Marcus Harun, 15, is a sophomore at Hamden High School. He runs his own 24-hour news station on his Web site www.24newsnow.com. Harun also hosts the “24 Evening News with Marcus Harun” Wednesdays at 7 p.m. on Channel 27. You can contact him at marcusharun@comcast.net.

September 12, 2007

Rabinowitz Ushered In

By Marcus Harun

Last night, Frances M. Rabinowitz was selected to be the new superintendent of Hamden Public Schools, in an almost unanimous vote (one abstention).

“The 24th can’t come soon enough,” said Rabinowitz. “I am pleased and honored to be the new superintendent.”

She is going to take office on Sept. 24, taking over for the interim superintendent, Herb Pandiscio. Mr. Pandiscio has been Hamden’s acting superintendent since May 31. The Board plans to keep Mr. Pandiscio for a transitional period until mid-October.

“Welcome aboard,” was heard from many board members before the vote took place.

“I remember a teacher in North Branford saying, ‘Wow you scored,’ and I believe that,” said Board member Ms. Lynn Campo.

“Parents, PTA members and members of the public sent many e-mails telling us, ‘Don’t let her go, she is a great candidate,’” said Board Chair Michael D'Agostino.

Well, Hamden didn’t let her go. She signed her approximate $160,000 contract Tuesday night.

Stay tuned to 24NewsNow.com and HamdenDailyNews.com for further reports later this week.

Rabinowitz Gets Top School Job

Click arrow to watch parts of last night's Board of Education meeting. -- Marcus Harun

Marcus Harun, 15, is a sophomore at Hamden High School. He runs his own 24-hour news station on his Web site www.24newsnow.com. Harun also hosts the “24 Evening News with Marcus Harun” Wednesdays at 7 p.m. on Channel 27. You can contact him at marcusharun@comcast.net.

August 27, 2007

Washburn House Gets New Leader

New assistant principal DiBacco gets ready for the school year. Photo/Marcus Harun

By Marcus Harun

Meriden native and car-lover Joseph DiBacco says he is ready for students' questions. DiBacco is the new assistant principal for the Washburn House at Hamden High School.

During the first weeks of school, many students get lost and ask administrators for directions. “I could do the lay of the land,” said DiBacco. “I have walked around the school many times. They can ask me where room numbers are. [But] ask me who is in the room [and] that may be a different story.”

He majored in elementary and special education at Boston College and has a master’s in learning disabilities from Southern Connecticut State University. DiBacco also has a combined six-year from SCSU in collaboration consultation and education leadership, and is now working on the final stages of his educational doctorate. He has taken classes for superintendent certification, and even plans to get business and law degrees.

“You never know, superintendents need to be well versed in a lot of things that are happening,” said DiBacco.

A sneak peek at the "24 Evening News with Marcus Harun" interview with the new assistant high school principal. -- Marcus Harun

Before he came to Hamden, he was a special education teacher in Meriden, and was an adjunct professor at SCSU. He was even an acting assistant principal at Meriden’s Platt High School, where he was once a student.

“It is very weird to be on the same side of the desk as [my old teachers] because I used to be on the other side of the desk. It was very interesting,” said DiBacco. He just bought and still lives in the same house where he was born and raised.

Some specific events and people changed his life forever. Growing up, he said, he wanted to be a contractor, but his high school experience changed that. “After going to high school, I worked with a lot of special ed students and I found I made a lot of change and helped out a lot of kids,” DiBacco said. “And I was like, ‘You know what? I could really do this.’”

He said he had two main role models: Dr. Brucker and Dr. Madonia. “I hang on every word that they say to me. They have been very influential and they have been right often, and a lot of times I don't want to admit it,” said DiBacco.

He has been in the school every day for at least six hours since he started on July 2. He said he is very picky about the administrative jobs he’d take, and Hamden looked like a great place for him.

“Upon consulting both of my mentors, they said this is a very good place to be. This is a team I wanted to be a part of,” he said.

DiBacco is a firm believer in public education. “There are four kids in my family and all four kids went to public high school, and all four went to very good universities. As long as you put in the effort, you will get out exactly what you put in.”

When not at school, he enjoys Matchbox cars, weightlifting, reading and sports. He plans to attend a lot of sports and after-school events to meet more of the students.

But the new high school administrator said there is one thing that makes him mad, and that’s “when students lie” to him. As long as you come in politely and tell the truth, you are good to go!

Marcus Harun, 15, is a sophomore at Hamden High School. He runs his own 24-hour news station on his Web site www.24newsnow.com. Harun also hosts the “24 Evening News with Marcus Harun” Wednesdays at 7 p.m. on Channel 27. You can contact him at marcusharun@comcast.net.


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