Tag Archives: Sam Bianco

Mr. Sam Bianco takes on a new role at The Mount

Always considering himself a teacher first, this year, Mr. Sam Bianco added a new feather to his cap when he began the administrative role as Director of Student Life. I wanted to learn more about what this new role entailed, and give Mr. Bianco a chance to explain why he made the switch from Director of Students to this freshly carved-out job.

“Simply put, I really deal with anything that relates to Mount Saint Joe students that is not discipline or academics,” said Mr. Bianco. Specifically, the role involves student clubs and activities, as well as Spirit Week and school dances. He works with and supports the teachers and the students running the various clubs on campus. Mr. Bianco also talked about his plans to establish a Student Leadership Initiative. “I basically support students in any way I can.”

When the new role was announced back in April, I had assumed it was because of changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I learned that was not the case. “The position was actually in the works well before the pandemic. It’s actually a position that has been talked about for years and years, because the goal there in part was bringing on another administrator.” One purpose for having the new administrator is to have the person handling the student opportunities on the administrative team.

“My number one goal is that every student finds something outside of academics that brings meaning and fulfillment to them here at this school.”

Mr. Sam Bianco, Director of Student Life

I also reached out to Mr. George Andrews, President of Mount Saint Joseph High School, for his take on the development of the Director of Student Life role. “I think it came about organically,” he stated. “It seemed to rise from many people suggesting it at the same time. From faculty and students, to the principal’s cabinet and the administration. The Mount had the same administrative structure for more than two decades and even the board of directors asked about a new structure to better meet the needs of students in extracurricular activities.”

I asked Mr. Bianco about his transition from Director of Students to Director of Student Life. He told me that he thinks his gifts and talents are better suited for the new role, for he is typically a more upbeat person. As a student, it is clear to me that Mr. Bianco is well suited for this job.

Both Mr. Bianco and Mr. Andrews emphasized the importance of having a good experience on campus. They encourage us not to be the “8:00-2:30 student,” to get involved, and to participate in extracurriculars. The new Director of Student Life role was formed as a means to support students, as well as the clubs and activities, and to ensure that each student has a memorable experience at Mount Saint Joseph.

“My number one goal is that every student finds something outside of academics that brings meaning and fulfillment to them here at this school,” said Mr. Bianco. “This is more than just a place where you take classes, and as cliché as that sounds, there’s so much truth to that.”

Mr. Bianco said that after we students graduate we will not necessarily remember that one thing we learned in class, but rather the experiences we had, and that his job is to help us find those experiences. “I’m not the guy that provides those experiences per se, but I’m the guy that’s gonna help you find them. And that’s why I’m passionate about the job, because it is personal for me.”

While Mr. Bianco will always see himself as a teacher first, he is elated to pursue this new role. As the Director of Student Life he has made it his goal to make sure that every student finds something meaningful to them on campus. St. Joe will definitely be a better place for all students if they are able to find that meaningful activity that might stick with them for the rest of their lives.

Gabe Henstrand is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class.

Volleygaels comes up short in the MIAA Playoffs

The 2018 season has come and gone for the Mount Saint Joseph Volleyball team. The team had hopes of getting back to the championship for a second year in a row. As many recall, the Gaels lost to the Gilman Hounds last year in the championship game. Gilman won with a score of three sets to one, and the Gaels were out for revenge this season.

The Gaels started off with an outstanding record of five and one. The wins include sweeps over Curley, Boys Latin, Spalding, and Saint Pauls. The team also won a hard fought battle against a new-look John Carroll that is much better than in recent years. The Gaels single loss in the first six games came against rival Calvert Hall. It was the first game of the season and a battle the whole way. The Cardinals eventually prevailed, but the Gaels proved they could hang with a historically great team.

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Middle Hitter Bennett Carr (Senior) goes up for a powerful spike against Archbishop Curley.

This year is significantly different for MSJ than recent years because of the youth on the team. The Gaels have 5 seniors, 4 juniors, and 5 sophomores. That is something Head Coach Sam Bianco has never had before. Coach Bianco also attributed the team’s loss to Calvert Hall partly because of the youth and inexperience. Three out of the five sophomores are starters, and playing at the varsity level is something completely different for them. Coach Bianco likes to say that JV volleyball is for learning, while varsity is for competing. That is an excellent way to put it as most, if not all, freshman that tryout have never played the sport before. Everything from the tempo, intensity, and skill level is different on varsity.

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Middle Hitter Sean Carr and Setter Brennan Turner form an intimidating block as Defensive Specialist Chip Quinn gets in position for a dig.

The team was led by 5 seniors. Setter Brennan Turner, Middle Hitter Bennett Carr, Libero Bennett Kramer, Defensive Specialist Chip Quinn, and Right Side Hitter Ray Kovacsics. This group has been playing together for four years now and provided great wisdom, skill, and leadership to the team. The juniors include Outside Hitter Kyle Burke, Middle Hitter Gabe Rupert, Setter John Romiti, and Defensive Specialist Jason Kalinock. This is also a great group that brought some new faces to the team, as Kyle Burke was the only one on Varsity last year. The team has a group of very talented sophomores. This includes Defensive Specialist Deon Abellana, Libero Lucas Plumey, Outside Hitter Colin Chalk, Outside Hitter Reece Tydings, and Middle Hitter Sean Carr. Colin unfortunately had surgery on his foot before the season started and was out for the whole year, but they are all talented players that have bright futures in the program.

The second half of the season saw the Gaels produce sweeps against the likes of Curley, St. Pauls, and Spalding. The team also saw exciting wins against John Carroll and Boys Latin. The team experienced hard fought losses to MIAA Volleyball powerhouses Loyola, Gilman, and Calvert Hall, but senior night was an exception. You couldn’t ask for a better setting for a senior night game: it was a Friday, and a big student section fueled the intensity. The Gaels faced off against Gilman for the last time, and the two teams traded games back and forth which saw the match proceed into a decisive fifth set. The Volleygaels battled hard and ended up defeating the reigning champs, getting revenge from last year’s title game.

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Outside Hitter Kyle Burke (Junior) rises up for a kill against Archbishop Curley.

Heading into the playoffs as the fourth seed, the Gaels had a dominant showing against fifth seeded John Carroll and swept the Patriots to advance to the semi-finals in a highly anticipated match against Loyola. Unfortunately for the Gaels, they were swept in three competitive games that were decided by a couple of points each time. The team had an excellent year and is poised to be a contender for years coming, as the depth on the roster is unmatched by any other teams in the league. We thank the seniors for their hard work and excellent careers, and wish the team good luck as they begin their offseason.

Mr. Sam Bianco aims to bring consistency to rules enforcement

Consistency.

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.”

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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 ?

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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.”  

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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.

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Aidan van der Horst, Senior

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

Coach Sam Bianco Earns Win 100 During Varsity Volleyball Season

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St. Joe celebrates their semi-final win over Loyola.

Wow. Just one of many words that could be used to describe 2017 Varsity Volleyball season. It was filled with exciting matches, countless memories for the players and coaches, and a sensational playoff run. The Volleygaels recorded a regular season record of 11-5, including 3 straight wins to start off the season. The season was one to remember, with multiple milestones being reached and incredible matches thanks to the amazing support of the student section.  

Sam Bianco, the team’s head coach, gained the 100th win of his career in a 3-0 sweep of Archbishop Curley during the season. It was a memorable moment that not many coaches can experience. “This is my 12th year as the varsity head coach, so I have been around awhile,” said Coach Bianco. Coach Bianco also talked about the success of the program and the great players he has coached over the years who have enabled him to earn so many wins. Coaching and teaching in the classroom are so closely related for Coach Bianco, and he says that learning on the field or during a sport is just as important as what happens in the classroom. Coach Bianco stated that “high school sports gives us the opportunity to accomplish things as part of a team. Working and being part of a team in necessary because after high school, you will have to do that anyway.”

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Coach Sam Bianco ’01 celebrated his 100th win with a victor over Curley.

Coach Bianco knew that the 100th win was possible during the season, but he didn’t think about it differently than any other game during the season. For Coach Bianco, he realized that winning and playing sports is fleeting and won’t last forever, so for him it is important that his players learn lessons that they can carry beyond high school. Coach Bianco finished up by saying, “Make everything in your life mean something! The lessons that we take with us from high school sports are so valuable.”

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The Volleygaels, along with St. Joe supporters, celebrate a point during the semi-final match.

The team also witnessed outside hitter Will Targonski break the all-time record for career kills with 381! Memorable moments also include multiple comebacks, specifically senior night. The Volleygaels were playing Gilman and found themselves down 2-1 with the game on the line in the 4th set. They pulled away and ended up winning that set, sending the match to a 5th winner take all set. It was back and forth the whole set and MSJ survived several match points for Gilman. After barely staying alive, the Gaels pulled away and won 20-18, taking the match. Luke Williams had the game of his life: he was solid in the back row all night and had an incredible 5th set, which included a highlight play in which he had multiple game saving digs leading the team to victory.

The team entered the playoffs with a home match against St. Pauls where they had an all-around great effort from all the players and ended up sweeping the Crusaders 3-0. The 4th seeded Gaels advanced to the semifinals and took on the top seeded Loyola Dons in what was arguably the best match of the season. The team started especially slow and found themselves in a 2-0 hole and on the verge of the the season being over if they lost the next set. It was a close 3rd set the whole way, as the two teams were trading points back and forth. The Gaels ended up winning 25-23 off a missed serve from the Dons. This win electrified the team and they easily handled Loyola in the 4th set, which led to a huge 5th that would decide the match. MSJ was up early, but the Dons came storming back and tied it. The team saw themselves up 14-13 with a chance to win the game on the next point. Middle hitter Patrick Connolly went up and spiked it straight down on the Dons’ side, and the Volleygaels were going to the championship for the first time since 2006.

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St. Joe Volleyball came up just short, losing to Gilman in the finals.

In the championship Mount Saint Joe squared off with Gilman yet again for a chance to win it all. The Gaels found themselves down 2-0 yet again and pulled away to win an exciting 3rd set keeping the season alive. The energy was through the roof as the student section filled up a whole section of the stands. In the 4th set, the Gaels fell apart early and couldn’t recover as Gilman ended up taking the set 25-15, resulting in a championship win for them. The team had an incredible run and solidified themselves as one of the best volleyball teams in recent memory. It was a great season, and the program can’t wait to try to redeem themselves next year.

Junior Ethan Hall also contributed to this article by interviewing Head Coach Sam Bianco.

A Season on the Bench: MSJ Volleyball

Our Varsity Volleyball team had a wild season. Last year’s starting lineup was almost fully made up of graduating seniors, so coming into this year, no one had any idea who would be the stars and who would be the supporters.

Our team this year was a very diverse group of kids, personality-wise. There were a lot of characters within this group of guys, notably those who spent most of their time on the bench. I myself was a member of the bench squad staring early in the season. Even with our diverse personalities, the team clicked almost instantly. The chemistry this year was really remarkable. Everyone on the team supported each other and came together for the love of the game.

We started off the season pretty rough with three losses in a row. Our team took a while to get used to each other and to develop a general style of play. An inexperienced setter, a rookie, and whole lot of second year players made for a difficult beginning. We were practicing and competing well, but we couldn’t seem to put it all together during the games. We hit an all-time low about halfway through the season with a record of 2-8.

The team got really hungry for a win at this point in the season. It was around this time when we started to really turn it on. We were playing for a playoff spot, and to do that we needed at least three more wins. When we played St. Paul’s for the second time, we were a whole different team. We really had grown as a squad and were ready to show it. We attained three glorious wins in a row, defeating St. Paul’s, John Carroll, and Archbishop Curley.

We then had to play St. Paul’s for a third time at the end of our regular season in a play-in game, which would decide whether or not we would make it to the playoffs. With the help of our rowdy student section and our even rowdier bench, we conquered St. Paul’s a final time. Unfortunately, after that we suffered a heart-breaking loss against Spalding, which ended our memorable season.

Coach Bianco is the most passionate volleyballer I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Once again I stood with Coach outside the cafeteria and asked my mentor a few questions. He said, “I expected us to make the playoffs. I expected us to compete at a high level. I think I also expected us to start a little slow, as we did. We had a lot of inexperience this year on the team, some younger players which typically we don’t see at the varsity level. But I think we met those expectations very well.”

Evan Flesher, nicknamed by Coach Davis as “Fleesher,” led the team in kills. Evan and I played our rookie years together back when we were sophomores on the J.V. team. Evan played club ball this past year and really improved for this season. He came out swinging and was one of our greatest threats all season long. I interviewed my good man about the team this past season, and he commented positively on their attitude, saying, “Nobody was really upset that they were on the bench or starting. They were just out there having fun, and that’s what every team needs.”

The bench was probably the most memorable part of this volleyball team. We really made a name for ourselves as the best bench in the league through our constant support and memorable victory dance moves. I had a chance to interview two fellow members of the bench squad: Matt Carr and Brian Gorman.
Carr explained, “We feasted off the crowd’s reactions. When we saw people laughing at us in the stands, we just kinda wanted to do more and just please the crowd, and that’s what we did.”

The team this year was indeed very special. It’s a team I’ll never forget being on. I hope MSJ volleyball can continue its rowdy legacy next year and maybe even get a better record than this year. Go Gaels.

Click Here For The Full “Benchwarmers” Interview