All posts by Aidan van der Horst

Mr. Sam Bianco aims to bring consistency to rules enforcement


Consistency is the most important aspect in maintaining, reinforcing, and writing any policy, as explained by Mr. Bianco. As most returning students may have noticed, the atmosphere regarding discipline has felt undoubtedly different; and the root of this feeling is the significant change in consistency. With the introduction of our newest Director Of Students, Mr. Samuel Bianco, the student handbook has been refreshed for the betterment of everyone on campus. Mr. Bianco has stated that with his introduction to this new position, he fully intends to take the name of his position and to apply it to his work. “As Director of Students I plan to assist the students in any way possible; whether it be the little things like helping a student get into a locker that doesn’t work or working with them when they are struggling….and even dealing with big things that happen throughout the week.” With this personal assistance, Mr. Bianco plans to make the discipline, and environment, at MSJ a “consistent and fair place to provide every student with a similar and great experience.”

After 12 years in the classroom, Mr. Bianco is hard at work in his new position as Director of Students.

However, with these changes to consistency, came changes to how the handbook is read and responded to. When asked about the most basic rule changes, Mr Bianco responded with,  “The rules themselves have not changed, but rather the rules have been rewritten in a way that they are easier to understand.” Now what does this mean exactly ?

Mr. Bianco’s edited versions of the Mount Book. Here is a comparison between 2017-2018 student handbook (marked) and the current student handbook (bottom).

Well, when the handbook from this year (2018-2019) is compared to the handbooks of years past, one would see that the rules have been rewritten in a way that allows readers to understand the specifics of each rule. Mr. Bianco stated in our interview that this was done with the best interest of the students in mind, as well as the community formed by and with MSJ.

These changes have brought along quite a few opinions both from teachers and students. For instance, when I asked what senior Mark Ramsey. thought about these new changes he stated that, “It’s a lot more strict than before when I was a freshman, the rules were a lot less enforced upon students. The rules were more so emphasized, and I believe that the upperclassmen are actually used to that lack of enforcement.” As expected with all changes, those who have experienced the rules from years prior, some people will always disagree with certain aspects. Furthermore, with the changes to the rules, it has become apparent among the upperclassmen that enforcement and consistency has become a significant, and important, priority in the discipline system. For example: in the quote from Mark, he stated that the rules didn’t seem as strict as they are now and thus it can be seen that the change in consistency has undoubtedly started working to the favor of the discipline system.  

But, as to be expected of the students, (who are the ones directly affected by the changes) a majority of them dislike the “new” policy on cell phones. However, the students who gave their official opinions on the new changes have unanimously agreed that these changes are understandably important and indeed have a positive impact.”I understand why Mr. Bianco made the ‘no phones period’ rule because they are distracting to the students.” -senior Christian Avara.  Ms. Gallagher stated in her opinion that, from a teacher’s perspective, she found the “new” phone policy incredibly helpful, “I think that the cell phone policy is great. It helps previously distracted students focus on what they’re doing in school while removing their worry for what is happening outside of school and about their phones themselves.”  

While you may see St. Joe students on their iPads during the day, you shouldn’t see them on their phones, which are not allowed to be out and visible during the school day.

But what is this “new” phone policy? For one, it’s not as new as most of the campus might believe. To the alumni, teachers, and upperclassmen, the “new” cell phone policy isn’t necessarily new, but rather is being enforced much better than before. Before the dawn of the iPads, introduced with the current senior class (2019), the cell phone policy had remained as it does now; no phones are to be used on campus during the school day. However, this rule was alleviated when the iPads came into the classrooms to allow students who were not in possession of the iPads to participate in class activities, but the phones were still not to be used outside of the classroom. But why does this year seem different from the rest, if the rule has not changed? Well, since every grade at MSJ now has an iPad, the exceptionalism for upperclassmen has been removed to allow for more consistency in enforcing this rule. And for further clarification, Mr. Greg McDivitt, Director of Studies, expressed, “In practice, the application of the ‘no cell phone’ rule to include the Counseling Center, Cafeteria, Library, and Campus Ministry is a tangible, easily recognized, difference that all students are experiencing.  I believe that consistency across all campus spaces during the school day helps enforcement of the rule everywhere.”  When asked about this change, Mrs. Abdo voiced her opinion stating that, “While I understand that students are upset, the cell phone rule is helpful but it should also be understood that it wasn’t correctly applied; but was still present. Enduring personal relationships has been a Xaverian value and less technology is consistent with simplicity and discipline in dress and workplace. I think the “new” cell phone policy can help us be more consistent with the Xaverian values like: Simplicity, Humility, and Trust (in the regard to cheating).”

Despite the significant contrast in opinions regarding the new rules, most (if not all) can agree that the enforcement of these rules will help in one way or another. The proposition that these rules will bring a new sense of consistency, aside from important, will be a helpful change to the atmosphere here on campus. Even though the adjustment period may be a learning curve for some, a detriment (superficially) to others, the consistency in discipline is proposed to improve life on campus in its own time; and these changes have already made their own significant impact. From where we are now, we can see that these changes are already making their way into the blood of student activity; and that this entry is already helping MSJ students acquire the professionalism that they are renowned for.

Aidan van der Horst, Senior

Aidan van der Horst is a senior and a member of the Multimedia Journalism class.

Highlighting Student Achievement in the Arts

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Fine Arts week has just concluded. This, for students of Saint Joe, marks the beginning of the end of the school year and the opportunity to see new expressions of emotions. The crown jewel of Fine Arts Week is inarguably The Art Show. Student art is used to decorate the second floor of Xavier Hall and the main entrance of the building. The art created by students throughout the year is presented at this gala. With many beautiful pieces of art, one would be hard-pressed to not find something they like.

IMG_1921I spoke with the newest member of the Art Department, Ms. Bastidas, and asked her what new projects she implemented into her classes. Ms. Bastidas explained that she introduced several different pieces seen very rarely in the shows of the past; she brought in weaving, charcoal portraits, mask building, soapstone carvings, still lives, and much more. Ms. Bastidas explained how she wanted the art created by students to express their emotions through their pieces and to learn more about symbolism as they incorporated it firsthand. Many of her fundamental students, as well as her advanced students, were able to show their rising talents by touching the canvas with their imagination–and brush of course.

The AP Studio Art students are renowned for creating some of the best art in the show, and the best art by these students is being displayed in the center of the studio on the second floor of Xavier Hall with even more work being placed in the showcase next to the front doors. The art coming from these students is quite diverse as well. Some of these students took to inspirations one would not expect to see in a high school show. One student, Aaron, had several paintings within the show that expressed the second side of life here within Baltimore City; these pieces show the disparity of living within the underdeveloped areas and the impact it has the young men and women’s social standing. To quote Aaron, “My inspiration are the daily struggles that I experience and visualize with my brothers of the Baltimore streets. The conflicts of the denomination of lower class African American population should not be overlooked!” (Born Dead & The Temptation)

“My inspiration are the daily struggles that I experience and visualize with my brothers of the Baltimore streets. The conflicts of the denomination of lower class African American population should not be overlooked!”

As shown through our past art shows, inspiration can come from anything. Joseph R, a senior, stated that his inspiration came from not only the pieces of art his teachers have created, but the relationships he has with those around him. Joseph also explained how his pieces don’t require the inspiration from a person but rather, “the way the paint interacts with the canvas leads me to the next step in the process.”  Another student, Alex F, explained that sometimes you don’t need inspiration from the environment but just from how you feel. For example, two of his pieces displayed in the show were labeled after emotions and depicted them as such through the alteration and destruction of the canvases. To quote him, “Art is the greatest escape from reality.” This is a great way to teach the significance of art and why the young men of Mount Saint Joseph should involve themselves with the wonderful experiences of art.

Ms. Bastidas: Drawn to Baltimore’s Community of Artists

Ms. Jessica Bastidas is originally from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

With a new year starting at MSJ, the newest additions to the MSJ community arrive. Since several teachers unfortunately left, St. Joe had to accommodate for the incoming class of 2021. With several new teachers joining the faculty family, each has his or her own creative flair to add to this community.

When talking about creativity, most people tend to think about art. Our newest addition to the art department, Ms. Bastidas, brings her own creative flair to the department and to her classes. Ms. Bastidas is from Bethlehem, PA, and came to the city of Baltimore to pursue her degree in art and teaching. After interning under Mr. Bieniek and seeing the strong community of the school as well as the individual talent of the students, Ms. B knew that MSJ is where she wanted to teach. She hopes to be able to have a positive impact on students and their ability to express themselves through art. Her main goal is to help students get out of the “MSJ bubble,” to have them explore new forms of art and, if possible, to show them galleries and let them experience the world of art. Ms. B has also stated her love for the Catholic ideals, Xaverian values, the creativity of the students, and the school’s individuality as a whole, which make MSJ what it is.

Ms. Bastidas says one of her main goals is to help students get out of the “MSJ Bubble.”

Ms. B isn’t just teaching here at MSJ: she also teaches two summer classes at the Baum School and the Banana Factory in PA. While Ms. Bastidas isn’t teaching, she travels around the world learning new types of art styles and forms from diverse communities. Ms. Bastidas learned and loved the way in which communities around the world create art that is dear to them even though they have limited resources. This is one of the many reasons as to why Ms. Bastidas loves the great city of Baltimore: “I love the community of artists, it doesn’t feel pressured and is supportive to new and rising artists. It’s not as competitive as let’s say, NYC. There are a lot of opportunities for community artwork.”

We welcome one of the newest teachers here at MSJ and the creative flair she’ll bring to our community.



F/S Football Shuts Out Kent Island 32-0

On Wednesday, October 7 at Plevyak Field, the MSJ Fresh/Soph Football used a combination of a potent offense and a stifling defense to shut out Kent Island 32-0.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Their next game is Wednesday, October 14 against rival Archbishop Spalding. In the first meeting between the two teams, Spalding won 14-0, on September 23.

Come out on Wednesday to support the Fresh/Soph Football team as they continue their MIAA schedule.

All photos and videos taken by Aidan van der Horst, Quill Photographer & Videographer.