All posts by Greg Keidel

Snow day? Who makes the call?

Here I am, watching the snow fall and checking my phone just waiting to see if we will have the day off or if school is delayed. Waiting. Waiting…Of course, I would love having a relaxing day off, but I never know what factors play into the decision besides if there was snow on the ground or not. Recently, I had the chance to sit down with our principal, Mr. David Norton, and talk about the protocol and procedure when it comes to delaying and closing school for inclement weather. During my freshman year, we followed Baltimore County for all weather related decisions. Keep in mind this included not only winter weather, but weather for all seasons, such as days where it may have been too hot for students to be in school without air conditioning. However, MSJ now makes weather related decisions independently after deliberation between a group of administration and faculty.

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When is snows, who makes the call? Students have been wondering that for a few years now, since MSJ became independent with inclement weather calls.
Mr. David L. Norton, The Principal of Mount Saint Joseph High School

Mr. Norton’s morning starts around 4:30 a.m. when he receives his first phone call with updates on what mother nature has brought us overnight and what we should be expecting further. Mr. Dan Peddicord, the Director of Facilities, is the first one to start checking any announcements from the counties and their weather conditions. He also finds out what the conditions on campus are like. When it comes to our campus conditions, MSJ used to be salted, plowed, and shoveled all by our own facilities staff, but that is now done by a private company. From there, Mr. Norton talks with other members of faculty and staff who are spread out across our area and ask them what the weather is doing there and what the roads are looking like. He also receives early notifications from Howard County through his wife, who works with HCPSS. Mr. Norton is responsible for making the decision on what the school day will be regarding students. Mr. Andrews makes the call for the rest of the staff and faculty.

During my interview with Mr. Norton I was surprised when he told me that, “for the most part we follow Baltimore County…we won’t go against that.” If you remember, however, a few weeks ago Baltimore County was initially delayed and then closed, yet we stayed open. Mr. Norton told me that he had already called for the two-hour delay and gave the okay for the busses to go out, which has to be done by 7:30 if we are already two hours late. This was followed by Baltimore County closing. Howard County remained open that day and Anne Arundel County had practically zero snow or ice at all. Those two counties account for about 50% of our student population, and Mr. Norton felt comfortable staying open. This was evidently the correct decision because only about 10% of students missed school that day and we saved a snow day.

Those two counties [Howard & Anne Arundel] account for about 50% of our student population.

If we don’t usually go against Baltimore County, why did we ever go independent? Some upperclassmen may remember two years ago we, and the county, closed for a snow day and our indoor track team was forced to miss championships in which they were favored to win. According to Baltimore County’s policy, if school is closed, all after-school activities are automatically cancelled. Being independent gives us the ability to reassess the situation closer to the evening and make our own call. Earlier this winter we got snow during the day while we were at school, and Mr. Norton made the decision to let us out at 12:30. Basketball was scheduled to play that night against Loyola for senior night. If we still followed BCPS, that game would’ve been automatically cancelled, but since we are now independent, it gave us the chance to see what conditions were like closer to game time and it was ultimately played.

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The statue of St. Joseph covered in snow during a recently delayed school day.

With that being said, in situations where a student or his parents feel as though it is unsafe to come to school when we have chosen to stay open, they have the ability to make the final decision, and Mr. Norton said, “I will support that. That is a safety decision, and we will honor that.”

Going independent also allows us to make decisions on our own regarding warm weather, as I previously said. Many schools in Baltimore County don’t have air conditioning, and before last school year, we didn’t either in St. Joseph’s Hall. All buildings are now air conditioned, and it would make no sense for us to follow BCPS on those warm weather days.

Lastly, I asked Mr. Norton if he enjoys his snow days. He responded with “I do, except for when we use up all of our snow days.” He mentioned that St. Joseph’s day will be the first day to be removed and Holy Thursday is most likely after that if we continue to use up snow days. Mr. Norton also wanted me to remind students that if we do have school and you’re driving in, please slow down. Just because we have school does not mean the roads are not wet or have patches of ice. Add time to your drive on delayed days. Slow down guys, take your time.

We’ll see you at school.

img_0387Greg Keidel is a senior and a member of The Quill.

Student Perspectives on Summer Reading

Summer Reading is behind us. For some it had been lingering since June; for others, it was finished in June. This article looks at the students’ perspective on the summer reading program here at MSJ. Many students answered survey questions, and the results were split fifty-fifty between the students who enjoyed their summer reading experience and the students who disliked it.

A sample of the books used for the St. Joe Summer Reading Program. Students had a variety of responses related to the program and the books chosen.

Some students said they think summer reading is good because it keeps their brains from sleeping all summer. Many students said simply, “I enjoyed my summer reading.” Multiple kids pointed out that they like the wide variety of books to read saying, “It’s good because we are able to choose our own book.”  One student specifically said how he liked the open discussion format over writing a book report or answering questions. People even pointed out that the assignment is very manageable and gives the students plenty of time to read and prepare for discussion. In the discussion students wrote about the role of the student leaders, and one student said he would prefer more student leaders so there would be more questions and engagement. Out of the positive reviews, however, no students said the program was perfect and they all had ideas for change.

For the negative reviews many students were very frank and honest. A few kids used words like “useless” and “ineffective” with two kids calling it a “waste of time.” Multiple reviews stated that most kids just read the summary of their books and that even the teachers are aware of this and still pass students. Students claimed this creates the opposite effect of the goal of summer reading. “If a student can read a five paragraph summary and maybe a few bulleted special events and pass, why would he read a five hundred page book,” was a message that came out of the survey results.

One thing that came up over and over again while reading these reviews was that seemingly for every positive thing someone had to say, someone else thought that same reason was negative. For example some people said they liked the wide variety of books to choose from, but then others said they wished we had fewer books to choose from. Someone else even said he wished students could just choose any book at all. Another situation was a student saying they are “given plenty of time to read it during summer.” Two other students, however, claimed that they struggled to find time and read the books because they were busy with work or other events. Some students liked the format of open discussion and wouldn’t enjoy questions to answer or quizzes, but another contradicted and said, “I would change it by possibly having your English teacher testing you on it or having to do work on it.”

I interviewed Mr. Clay Bonham, Director of Campus Ministry, about his experience with leading summer reading sessions. “I’ve had some very good experiences and I’ve had some bad experiences,” said Mr. Bonham. He continued by saying that he thinks we as a school community need to continue to do the summer reading program, and while there are always students who don’t read the book, the benefits outweigh the negatives. He thinks that students need to take a more proactive approach to choosing books and suggesting alternatives as the student books are typically bigger draws.

A St. Joe junior, Ethan Hall, reading “The Canterbury Tales.”

One of the issues that Mr. Bonham discussed, that was echoed by student feedback, was the size of the group and the group dynamics. “I would say in groups with more than 20 it gets more difficult for everybody in the room…15-20 is probably the ideal size.” For Mr. Bonham it is very simple: “The sessions that have been good, I would estimate that 90% or so of the students read the book. The sessions that have been bad, not many of the guys read the book.” But he is unsure how to enforce the reading or methods to deal with students that haven’t read the book.

Both Mr. Bonham and the students in their responses made mention of the use of seniors as leaders. Mr. Bonham said that the senior leaders that he has had over the years were not exceptionally passionate about their book. “I’m sure there are senior leaders that are passionate about it and are great in the room, but that hasn’t been my experience,” stated Mr. Bonham. One student wished there were senior leaders in the room to help facilitate questions and discussions: “I felt we didn’t have enough questions so more than 1 senior leader would be good.” Another student wished that there was more interaction between the senior leader and the members of the group, while still other students stated that they enjoyed having a student leader that had previously read the book.

I don’t think there is any possible way to please everyone when it comes to summer reading. What one person sees as positive another will see as negative. One change in format suggested by a teacher was to allow every student to choose his own book and then randomly group kids together in groups, each student would tell the group about the book they read. Again I’m sure some people would  love this type of format and others will hate it. One thing you have to know in this world is that you can’t please everyone.

Fall Sports Pep Rally & Homecoming Preview

Enjoy pictures from the Fall Pep Rally and a preview of MSJ Homecoming 2016!

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Homecoming is always a busy day at The Mount. The soccer and football games bring a large crowd of students dressed in the theme and covered in face paint. This year there is even a post-soccer, pre-football tailgate, hopefully attracting an even larger crowd. However, no one comes for the food, or just for the purpose of playing dress up and painting your face. Students come to support for their fellow Mount classmates and to show their competitive spirit as our teams face their opponent. This year Soccer (11-2-2) will take on Eastern Tech (7-2). Football (6-1)  is facing Calvert Hall (5-3) in a pivotal MIAA match.

A very big story this year at MSJ has been the soccer team, which is currently ranked by Max Preps at 2nd in the State and 138th in the Country. The team was previously ranked 18th in the country, but suffered a tough loss to Archbishop Curley, followed by a closely fought tie which ended at 1-1 to Gilman, this past Wednesday. I spoke with one of the team’s captains, Kenny Crist, about this and he said “we as a team need to look at those games and learn from our mistakes.” He also mentioned that he thinks those games will help fuel the team throughout the rest of the season. One question that came to my mind when looking at the team’s schedule this week was the fact that they are playing 4 pm game this Friday and then coming home the next morning and playing a game. Does the team have the endurance and energy to do that? Well Crist assured me that playing in front of a crowd, which the team doesn’t get to do very often, “will fire us (the team) up” and he says that the team has “a deep bench and that means plenty of substitutes. I don’t think energy will be an issue because everyone gets pumped for Hoco (homecoming) no matter who we are playing.” As a spectator I go to homecoming expecting an exciting game, and this year’s Homecoming soccer game should prove to be an exciting match with the Gaels trying to right themselves heading into the home stretch of the season.

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The Homecoming Football game is always just as exciting as the soccer game. In the recent years the Gaels haven’t seen their best performances. They are 2-4 since 2010 on homecoming. However, now in his second year as Varsity Head Coach, Rich Holzer doesn’t plan on that happening. The Gaels have only seen one winning record in five years before Coach Holzer arrived, bringing his new and fresh offense with him. His west-coast-style offense has been just the thing St. Joe needed. Christian Carter, the starting quarterback at MSJ, is third in the state in total yards, with 1857 yards this season. This is Carter’s first year being the pilot of the MSJ offense, but that is no challenge to him. Last season, Carter watched Bryan Costabile, who finished his 2015 campaign with 3249 total yards. Carter may be new to the starting roll on Varsity, but he did lead the JV Gaels in 2014 to an undefeated season and JV MIAA Championship.

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Carter is also surrounded by an array of targets and strong running game. Junior Gary Agurs Jr leads the MIAA with 447 yards receiving and Senior Ari Weems is right behind him at 415 yards. In fact, the Gaels hold the top 4 spots in receiving in the MIAA. The other two spots are held by Junior Matt McDonald who has 413 yards and Junior Keshawn Hailey who has 351 yards. Junior Sam James is second in the league in rushing with 642 yards averaging 6.2 yards per carry. All around the MSJ offense is capable of completely dominating. If you stop the pass, the team will run and if you stop the run, they will pass. All this is a testament to the new offense brought by Coach Rich Holzer and his staff. However, it isn’t just about the offense. The defense is also extremely impressive.

The team has allowed only 78 points all season, averaging 11 points per game. The team has posted three shutouts and can hopefully produce another this Homecoming weekend. I got a chance to talk with Junior linebacker Ryan Gorman about this weekend. I asked him if this game means more to the team because it is Homecoming and Ryan’s responded by saying, “every game from now on is as important as the other. We need to be 1-0 at the end of the week.” This philosophy has been a point of emphasis for Coach Holzer this season. I also asked Ryan what the players were looking forward to, and he told me “We’re really looking forward to Saturday. Anytime we get to compete and get better we love it, especially on Homecoming.” He then later added that, “we have to come out and play to our full potential and start off strong.” Calvert Hall, however, is no push over, having put up tough performances in two of their three losses. The team only lost to Riverdale Baptist by one point and by two scores against a very good St. Francis team.

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After speaking with players from both teams, I’m very excited for this week’s Homecoming games. Please come out and support both teams Saturday. The Soccer game is at 11 am and Football is at 2 pm. Also feel free to go to the Homecoming Tailgate which is 5$ for admission and 15$ for food. Saturday’s theme is Jersey, so wear any jersey you have and come support your Gaels.

All photos taken by Quill staff members Joe Carrigan and Nick Viennas.

Evacuated from El Salvador: Getting to know Ms. Mary Wittelsberger

This year at the Mount, as is usually the case, there are a group of new teachers, and to learn more about them The Quill set out to interview all of the teachers new to the school this year. My interview was with Ms. Mary Wittelsberger, a new Spanish teacher who teaches Spanish I, Spanish II, Honors Spanish II, and Spanish III.

Ms. Wittelsberger, teaching a group of students the basics of lacrosse.

This is Ms. Wittelsberger’s first year formally teaching. I say formally because she spent two years with the Peace Corps in El Salvador. While in El Salvador she taught a wide variety of subjects, English, Sports, Art, and self-esteem; this was decided based on what the community wanted to learn. These classes were taught in a school, and assigned to the teacher. Ms. Wittelsberger had already known Spanish because she majored it in college, she also minored in Greek, but now says she doesn’t remember much of the Greek. While in El Salvador, her group was evacuated three months early due to a rise in homicides and gang violence in the area. You can read more about Ms. Wittelsberger’s time in El Salvador in her article published in The Huffington Post, El Salvador Made Me a Better Person. Unfortunately, I Had to Be Evacuated

Ms. Wittelsberger has always been a Maryland native, she grew up in Baltimore County and attended Hereford High School. Before her time in El Salvador, Ms. Wittelsberger was quite the student-athlete. She was an Under Armour All-American athlete in women’s lacrosse. She was First Team All-County in 2004, and in 2007, she was named to Inside Lacrosse’s Top 25 players. From there she went to play Division I Lacrosse at Georgetown University. She wasn’t just a lacrosse player though, she also played field hockey, where she was a two-time All-Baltimore County First Team athlete and helped lead Hereford to the 2006 state championship.

Prior to coming to Mount Saint Joe, Ms. Wittelberger served as a Peace Corp volunteer, working in El Salvador.

Now that we know about Ms. Wittelsberger, let’s talk about how she got to the Mount. After leaving the Peace Corps, she says she was attracted to the Mount because of our beliefs and characteristics, saying “I believe in the charisms of the Mount. I think the work that the teachers do here is incredible, I think it is meaningful, impactful. I think the students have an incredible chance to grow here.” A Catholic, Ms. Wittelsberger says “I think that I fit right in with the Xaverian values.” She still wants to make a difference like she did in El Salvador and feels like she can do the same here at MSJ. She says so far she loves being at the Mount and has enjoyed being with the students.

Ms. Wittelsberger’s introduction to the Mount is very similar to the Freshmen Orientation. She met with the department and administration, had professional days, learned the rules, and became accustomed to the school. She says everyone has been extremely supportive at St. Joe. She also mentioned that she feels right at home the Mount’s all-male student atmosphere because she grew up with two brothers. Speaking about the St. Joe environment, “I can handle it.”

The 2015-2016 MSJ Basketball Season in Review

Junior Darryl Morsell in action against St. Frances in the MIAA Championship. Photo Copyright of Justin Sharpe.

Co-Authored by Greg Keidel ’19 and Christopher Flynn ’19

As spring sports begin and final cuts are being made, we look back at this year’s basketball season.

The Gaels were led by seniors Pierre Johnson, Randy Miller, and Miles Wilson; juniors Justice Kendall, Darryl Morsell, and Nigel Jackson; and sophomore Jalen Smith. The team finished 31-5 and won the BCL regular season championship.

There are many ways to describe this season, but when we talked to Coach Clatchey he said this season was “very successful.” Even after finishing last season “on a down note,” as he called it, this season was a “redemption” season.

Senior Pierre Johnson in the MIAA Semi-Final against Glenelg Country School. Photo Copyright of Justin Sharpe.

To review:

  • The season started with two road wins and a hard loss by double digits to St. Frances at home.
  • The team dug deep and won six straight with a big road win at John Carroll and another at the Iolani Classic in Hawaii.
  • They fell then to Lone Peak, who rank 29th in the country, by only one point (47-46).
  • Again though, the team persevered and won fifteen games straight, including victories over St. Frances, Goretti, and Glenelg Country in that run.
  • Then, with four games left in the season, they fell to Glenelg Country. As usual though, the Gaels came back and six days later beat Glenelg Country.
  • The Gaels faced St. Frances in the MIAA A Conference Championship, where they lost, even though they gave great effort (75-67).
  • In the BCL tournament, the team easily passed Loyola (59-44) and Calvert Hall (93-51). They advanced to face John Carroll. Sadly, John Carroll’s Immanuel Quickley hit a 3-point shot with 1.8 seconds left, leaving the Gaels one final opportunity to get a shot off, but it was slightly to the right and missed. This heartbreaking loss gave the Gaels their 5th loss of season (51-50).

When we asked about the seniors in key roles leaving this year, Coach said, “We have a good nucleus coming back,” and mentioned the 31-0 JV team who has possible players moving up and helping fill those roles.

Senior Miles Wilson during a match against Calvert Hall. Photo Copyright, Justin Sharpe.

We asked Coach Clatchey if there were any moments from this season that would stick with him forever. He said the trip to Hawaii in general will stick with everyone. About the team though, he said the character of the team was something he was proud of, as well as the fact that they never lost two games in a row. When asked about this season and if there were any regrets, Coach Clatchey expressed disappointment in losing the championships, but no regrets.

Losing both the MIAA championship as well as the BCL should not describe the Gaels’ season though. The Gaels were still very impressive this season with their 31-5 record. Getting to the championships was high on their list of goals to accomplish, and they did that this year. Next year they will take it a step further, winning both the MIAA and BCL Championship.

Playing in the Alhambra Tournament on March 10-12, Mount Saint Joseph started with a loss, but finished strong, beating St. Frances 65-60 and nationally-ranked Gonzaga 63-62 with a buzzer beater by Pierre Johnson.

As Coach Clatchey said earlier, “We are accustomed to competing and winning championships,” we asked how the team plans to bounce back strong for next year. He said that the players just need to get better and be committed to improving their skills, hopefully with the “understanding that it’s a team game. It’s a process, and competing and winning championships are an expectation here.”


Senior Miles Wilson in action against St. Frances in the MIAA Championship. Photo Copyright of Justin Sharpe.


The iPad Experience: A Quarter of Learning

1118151033Written and reported by freshmen students Cole Baker, Christopher Flynn and Greg Keidel.

The first quarter of this year has included some trial and error with the new Freshman iPads. The iPads are used during class for a range of things from notes to textbooks to assignments and essays. At the end of the first quarter, the freshmen have had different things to say about the iPads and we wanted to see what some of their thoughts were. We interviewed multiple freshmen to see what they think and maybe some of the things they would have changed. Here are some of the thoughts of our fellow classmates:

Dom Troisi:

Do you like the iPads, why or why not?

I like the iPads because it is easier to write papers and the new technology keeps us up to date.

Why do you think some teachers may not like the iPads?

Some teachers may not like it because of the games.

Camden Flater:

What are some advantages and disadvantages of the iPads?

Some advantages are that the iPads run faster and some disadvantages are that they die (battery depletion).

What’s your opinion on the keyboards and cases?

I like keyboards, but haven’t liked the cases because they break easily.

Brad Howell:

What’s been your favorite part and least favorite part about the iPads?

My favorite part is the electronic textbooks and my least favorite part is no games.

Do you like electronic notes or handwritten notes?

I like electronic notes because they are easier to remember.

Gage Bangert:

Are you more organized with the iPads?

I’m very organized. With the iPads I can organize my notes.  The iPad is also only one thing to carry.

Justin Looney:

Do you like the iPads?

I do. The iPads are great when it comes to taking notes. It’s very easy to go and study your materials for test. The electronic notes are easier to keep organized.

Maliq Richardson:

If you could say one thing about the iPads what would it be?

They are amazing.

The iPads seem to be liked mostly by the freshmen, but we have noticed some disadvantages to the iPads. At times, they disrupt the learning of students, with many students playing games in the classroom and not focusing on their work. They are paying too much attention to the games rather than learning what the teacher is trying to teach. As Tyler Nimorwicz said “The iPads have gotten my friends in trouble in class, and the teacher has given them JUG before.”


Even though there is the opportunity that games will get some classmates off track, the iPads have been a great tool for helping the freshmen out with their education. Besides the few technical difficulties we all have had here and there, things seem to be going smoothly. Personally, we like the iPads because of all the information at our fingertips. It also contains most of our homework which is a good thing because if we have our iPads, we have our homework as well as our textbooks. Hopefully, when the class of 2020 comes into school next year, all of the issues of this year will be in the past and the students will be focused on using the devices to learn in, and out, of the classroom. We think most of the current freshmen are happy to have them.