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Tampa Bay Rays Begin Spring Training After Making Big Changes To Their Pitching Staff


Chris Archer and Rich Hill

With the end of the Super Bowl and the coming of spring, baseball fans nationwide are busting out their jerseys and ball caps awaiting the first pitch of the season, which is less than two months away.  The Major League Baseball Players Association rejected the MLB’s proposal to delay the season, seemingly securing an on-time first pitch on April 1 (knock on wood).

For those who managed to keep up with the Rays off season dealings, it would seem that there were more rumors than action. Headlines claimed the Rays were in the running for top free agent Trevor Bauer or might possibly trade fan favorite Kevin Kiermaier. Bauer ultimately signed with the World Series champions and the Rays’ center fielder and his $11.5 million contract remain a stable part of the Rays’ lineup.

The greatest hits came to Tampa Bay’s pitching staff, with free agent Charlie Morton signing with the Braves and Blake Snell being dealt to the Padres. By trading their two most expensive pitchers (set to make $8.7 million combined in 2021), the Rays have reallotted the money to former Ray Chris Archer (1 year, $6.5 million) and Mets’ veteran Michael Wacha (1 year, $3 million).

Archer, who was traded to the Pirates by the Rays in 2018 for Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows, and Shane Baz, is a familiar face in Tampa. Archer made his debut in 2012 and tossed a 4.46 ERA in his career with the Rays. After his second year with the Pirates, the right-hander had surgery to treat neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome on his right arm. The diagnosis sidelined him for the 2020 season, but, according to the Pirates’ initial report, he was projected to resume pitching in 2021.

While the Rays may have gambled with Archer’s injuries, if Archer does take the mound in 2021, he could earn a spot in the rotation or act as a bulk inning reliever. Archer’s return to Tampa Bay also boosts their fan base, which had grown doubtful of the Rays’ approach to pitching after their off-season trades.

“You guys see the smile on my face is as genuine and pure and sincere as it possibly can be,” Archer said in a video interview.

In December, the Rays also signed Mets right-hander Michael Wacha, who has a career ERA of 4.01 over his eight years in the majors. While his ERA might not be the best on the team (that’s still held by XXX), the Rays have gained a veteran of the game and a clubhouse leader. With stints in Saint Louis and New York, Wacha brings experience and the consequential knowledge that younger pitchers, like Josh Flemming and Shane McClanahan, may not have yet.

On Wednesday, a day before pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training in Port Charlotte, the Rays acquired two pitchers from the Red Sox: Chris Mazza and Jeffery Springs. Mazza has played 18 games in the Majors since his debut in 2019, bouncing between Fenway Park and the Red Sox affiliate in Pawtucket. Springs has served a similar sentence, playing just 59 major league games in three years and spending most of his time in the farm system.

Most recently Tampa Bay signed free agent southpaw Rich Hill, who has dealt with his share of injuries and will turn 41 before Opening Day. However, like Wacha, Hill brings experience playing with winning clubhouses, according to Rays Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations Erik Neander.

Pitchers and catchers reported on February 18 for their first bullpen sessions, receiving praise from Kevin Cash. They will be joined by  the rest of the team and begin their first team workouts on February 22, just 37 days before Opening Day against the Miami Marlins

About the Writer
Photo of Lily Belcher
Lily Belcher, Editor in Chief

Lily Belcher is a junior at Durant High School and is the Editor in Chief for the PawPrint. She is freelancing for the Osprey Observer this year and hopes...

Durant Unified Olympics Flag Football Scrimmage


Quarterback Joey Sarrica looked down the field to see all of his receivers covered and the opponent’s defensive line coming at him. After two pump fakes, Sarrica took off down the field, past the fifty, past the twenty five, and into the end zone for the yellow team’s third touchdown of the game, securing a 19-18 victory over the green team.

[While this game didn’t take place at Raymond James Stadium], the Durant High School Unified Olympics Flag Football Scrimmage Game capped off months of practice for the twenty Durant Special Olympics Athletes. Each year, Durant, a Special Olympics Unified Champion School, participates in the Special Olympics, but this year their tournament, which typically includes swim, track, and flag football, was cancelled because of Coronavirus restrictions.

The Durant Unified Olympics team is comprised of Exceptional Student Education learners and their Unified Partners, general education students who are part of the Durant’s Buddies Program. Durant’s exceptional students take classes like any other student, but receive more individualized help from their teachers, as explained by ESE teacher Mary Gill.

Durant’s Buddies Program merges the education of both groups of students. Through the program, the Buddies learn how to work with classmates with different abilities and the exceptional students have the opportunity to make friends and establish relationships with other students at Durant.

“[As a Unified Partner], you go to the events with [the exceptional students] and help them with the sporting rules and then you kind of encourage them to play the sport,” said Unified Partner Emaly Martinez.

During the game, families of the athletes and National Honor Society students cheered from the sidelines. Each National Honor Society member made a poster for each of the athletes to display while Durant’s principal Gary Graham and assistant principal Andrew Holzbog acted as the referees during the game, which ended in a yellow team victory.

About the Writer
Photo of Lily Belcher
Lily Belcher, Editor in Chief

Lily Belcher is a junior at Durant High School and is the Editor in Chief for the PawPrint. She is freelancing for the Osprey Observer this year and hopes...

Boyhood Dreams, A Never-Ending Passion For The Game


In 2017, four years removed from their last playoff appearance, Rays’ manager Kevin Cash selected an ebullient former outfielder to fill the void left by the loss of first base coach Rocco Baldelli. Osborne “Ozzie” Timmons was called up from his coaching position with the Durham Bulls to serve, not only as a spirited coach, but as a friend and role model to the young team Cash had assembled.    

“I’m a coach-player,” said Timmons in an interview before his debut as a Major League coach. “I feel like I’m still one of the guys, but I know when to separate it. I can go play cards with you, but I can yell at you three hours from now when you do something stupid in the game. I can separate the two.”   

Before rejoining his former team as a coach, the 6’2 right fielder played five years in the Majors, from 1995-2000, but, like many big leaguers, his days in baseball began in the little leagues, where he played with Durant High School’s principal, Gary Graham.    

“[Playing with Timmons] was two things. Number one, it was a lot of fun because he was always a fun person to be around, both on the field and especially off the field. He is the same as he is now even when he was a teenager and even younger. People gravitated towards him. But, the second thing that was the reason he was fun to play with on the field, was that we won a lot, whether it was little league, high school, or college.”   

Both Graham and Timmons went to Brandon High School and the University of Tampa, playing on their schools’ respective baseball teams until their graduation from the University of Tampa in 1991. While Graham pursued a career in education, Timmons signed his first baseball contract after being drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the fifth round of the 1991 draft.   

The personable coach served four years in the Minors, refining his hitting and defense in right field until his Major League debut in April of 1995, when he was walked by Cincinnati Reds pitcher Chuck McElroy with the bases loaded, earning him his first RBI as a major league batter.    

Timmons would play four seasons in the Majors before finding his way back to his hometown in 2000 when he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays. Timmons played in the outfield and pinch hit until his last game on October 1, 2000 with his final at bat coming in the tenth inning, resulting in a single that led to the Rays’ 3-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox.   

After a few years in the winter leagues, Timmons began his coaching career in Durham  before finally getting the call from Tropicana Field.   

“I’m excited for Ozzie to join our staff,” Cash had said. “He has a track record of connecting with hitters and providing high-quality coaching throughout his career.” 

Graham recalled Timmons’ optimism as early as little league, which has translated to his Major League coaching. Timmons says he keeps the Rays’ players positive throughout the game by “pump[ing] them up to keep them going” with his push up routine for example.   

It started on May 28, 2018, when the Rays were playing the Oakland Athletics and couldn’t knock in a run. Timmons jokingly said he would do pushups for each run the Rays scored. It wasn’t until the 13th inning of that game though that the Rays would score the first and only run of the game and Timmons would do his first set of ten pushups.    

Timmons said his greatest accomplishment as a coach has been watching the players he coached in the Rays’ farm system, such as Blake Snell and Kevin Kiermaier, move up the ranks from the Minors to the big leagues.   

“As a coach, [my goal is] just keeping the guys prepared. You try to learn all the new stuff that’s coming out, so you are always trying to study the other teams so that’s the main thing… My main goal [is] to, every year, get more knowledge, so I can have the guys prepared for when they step on the field.”   

During the offseason, he devotes his time to studying game strategies in order to relay the information to his players, but also uses the offseason to do yard work and ride his bike.  

Timmons is known to spend time in Tampa Bay schools, acting as a coach and mentor. Durant was fortunate enough to be part of his offseason stops last year. Durant students had the opportunity to meet Timmons, who offered advice for students, athletes, and major league hopefuls.  

The 50 year old amiable coach emphasizes the importance of staying healthy and in shape during the off season, something he reminds his players and young athletes of, saying, “Take care of your body, and your body will take care of you.”   

His genuine and lighthearted personality isn’t just reserved for the players on the field. Before games, he walks down the line of fans signing autographs and occasionally playing catch with young fans, proving his approachable and good nature. 

Timmons’ career as a ballplayer and coach is what brought him to his position with the Rays today, but his personality and dedication to the fans is what makes him one of the best and most memorable coaches the Rays have.    

Timmons will return to the diamond on February 27 as first base coach and assistant hitting coach when the Rays begin their Spring Training at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte to defend their American League Champion title.   





About the Writer
Photo of Lily Belcher
Lily Belcher, Editor in Chief

Lily Belcher is a junior at Durant High School and is the Editor in Chief for the PawPrint. She is freelancing for the Osprey Observer this year and hopes...

Sabrina Carpenter Releases A Song, Seemingly In Response to Olivia Rodrigo


After Olivia Rodrigo’s debut song “Driver’s License” broke countless records in its first days of streaming, fans took to TikTok sharing their theories on who the song was about.

Singer, song writer, and actress Sabrina Carpenter has seemingly responded to Olivia Rodrigo’s accusations that Carpenter and Bassett are dating with her new song “Skin”

The clear and direct response is apparent in the first verse. Rodrigo had written about a blonde girl that had stolen Bassett’s heart in her song “Driver’s License”. In a teaser posted on her Instagram, Rodrigo originally said “you’re probably with that brunette girl,” but changed it to blonde before the formal song release.

In “Skin,” Carpenter addressed the lyric with one of her own: “maybe blonde was the only rhyme.” Later in the song, she claimed that “Skin” is her telling her side of the story.

Carpenter’s song is just shy of a confirmation that Rodrigo’s “Driver’s License” is about her and further confirms Carpenter’s and Bassett’s relationship.

“You can try/to get under my, under my, under my skin/while he’s on mine,” Carpenter sang.

Carpenter is clearly trying to show that she is taking the high road, singing, “I just hope that one day/We both can laugh about it,” even though she is taking the opportunity to present her side of the story that “some people will believe.”

Carpenter, who had only been in the news for Mean Girl’s performance on Broadway recently, had been out of the immediate pop culture spotlight. However, with Rodrigo’s new song, the actress’ name had been in an increasing number of headlines.

“You’re putting me in the spotlight/but I’ve been under it my whole life,” Carpenter sang referencing her early fame on Girl Meets World.

Since the song has not been followed by a direct confirmation about the Disney love triangle, Carpenter’s new song could simply be a reminder to block out inevitable hate.

About the Writer
Photo of Lily Belcher
Lily Belcher, Editor in Chief

Lily Belcher is a junior at Durant High School and is the Editor in Chief for the PawPrint. She is freelancing for the Osprey Observer this year and hopes...

Why The Heartbreaking Loss Of Blake Snell Might Be A Good Choice For The Rays

Why The Heartbreaking Loss Of Blake Snell Might Be A Good Choice For The Rays

On December 28, Rays fan woke up to the notification that pitching star Blake Snell would no longer be part of the Rays’ pitching rotation. The southpaw, who had been with the Rays since his major league debut in 2016, was traded to the San Diego Padres for two right handed pitchers, Luis Patino and Cole Wilcox, and two catchers, Francisco Mejia and Blake Hunt.

While the trade of their ace felt like betrayal to Tampa Bay fans, the loss of a fan favorite is not a new situation, as the Rays are notorious for their heartbreaking trades (remember when they traded Chris Archer to the Pirates in 2018?) While fans in Tampa Bay may feel blindsided by the trade (which is exacerbated by the loss of Charlie Morton) there may be a glimmer of hope when looking at the players obtained in the trade.

It’s no secret that the Rays are desperate for a catcher. They lost Michael Perez at the end of the season, forcing them to sign Mike Zunino, whose 2020 season batting average was a disappointing .147 (for those discounting the abbreviated 60 game season, his 2018 and 2019 batting averages were .201 and .165 respectively). The trade with the Padres gives the Rays two catchers, one prospect and one big-leaguer.

The Rays acquired 22 year old prospect Blake Hunt in the trade, who may provide the Rays versatility on the field with minor league experience behind the plate and as a first baseman. Since Hunt has only played in single A, he may serve his 2021 season in the minors, but gives the Rays the option of another catcher if Zunino faces injuries or slumps during the season.

Francisco Mejia, a top prospect in 2018, had an impressive rookie season the following year, boasting a .265 batting average over his 79 games, but his 2020 campaign was cut short by a hand contusion and slump, allowing him only 17 games to post a .322 OPS. Despite his slow start in the majors, Mejia is predicted to bat .236 in Tampa Bay during the 2021 season (Baseball Reference’s projections for Mike Zunino have him falling short of the Mendoza line once again, with a projected .194 average).

Without Charlie Morton and Blake Snell on the mound, the Rays hand the ball to Tyler Glasnow and Yonny Chirinos, who spent his 2020 season on the injured list. With only two starters filling the spots on the rotation, the Rays will turn to their unconventional bullpen and opener days if they fail to find consistent hurlers to take the mound.

With this trade, the Rays may look to employ Luis Patino to fill middle innings. Patino tossed a 5.19 ERA throughout his limited pitching time during his 2020 rookie season, but gave up only three homeruns over 17.1 innings.

The fourth player acquired in the Snell trade is right hander Cole Wilcox, who played for the NCAA Georgia Bulldogs. Wilcox was signed as San Diego’s third round draft pick this year and, according to evaluators, has a promising slider that may earn him a spot in the Major League’s bullpen. However, Rays fans may have to wait for Wilcox’s debut until the 21 year old works his way up the minor leagues.

Although the San Diego Padres have added an experienced pitcher to their ranks, the addition of Snell comes at a cost. Snell is set to earn $10.5 million in the 2021 season despite his rapid slump since 2018 (In 2018, he had 21 wins and an ERA below 2.00, but struggled to find half the number of wins in the 2019 and 2020 seasons combined and doubled his ERA), which increases to $13 million and $16 million for his final two years before free agency. And the Rays are known for holding one of the lowest payrolls in baseball.

“[The trade of Snell] takes a meaningful piece away from our 21 club, but the return itself, the proximity of two of the four players in this deal, gives us a lot of confidence along with the talent we have in house and the amount of time we have this winter that we’re going to be really good this year,” assured Erik Neander.

About the Writer
Photo of Lily Belcher
Lily Belcher, Editor in Chief

Lily Belcher is a junior at Durant High School and is the Editor in Chief for the PawPrint. She is freelancing for the Osprey Observer this year and hopes...

Sophomore Maggie Lauber Dominates On Durant’s Basketball Court

Two weeks ago, sophomore Maggie Lauber, starting point guard against Leto High School, dominated on the court with an impressive 24-point game and five steals. After being named player of the game by Coach Al Mitchell, Lauber approached her next game against Leonard High School hoping to continue her exceptional performance-and she did. In last week’s game, she scored 28 points with three steals earning her the title of player of the game in two consecutive weeks. 

Despite only being a sophomore, Lauber has become co-captain of the varsity team through her “dominant play,” according to Mitchell. While her stand out performance may have won her the title, her dedication and devotion to basketball is apparent by the level of skill she portrays on the court. 

Lauber has been playing basketball with her father since she was in first grade, but it was not until middle school that she became serious about her sport.  After playing three years in middle school at Boca Raton, Lauber and her family moved to Plant City, where she enrolled in Durant.  

Hoping to continue as an athlete and basketball point guard and shooting guard, Lauber tried out for Durant’s Lady Cougars’ basketball team and made the varsity team as a freshman. 

“it was really fun. I was really excited. At first, I was really nervous, but once I got to know the team and everything it felt really nice. It was like a second family, said Lauber  

Lauber’s athleticism and passion for the game immediately caught Coach Al Mitchell’s eye. 

“She is quick, she is explosive, she’s very athletic [and] a gifted basketball player because of her athleticism. She works hard [and] is very dedicated. And she is also very skilled, she has worked hard and you can tell in her level of skill that she is able to play at,” Mitchell said about Lauber. 

Since her freshman year, Lauber and Mitchell have developed a strong player-coach bond, which has allowed them to communicate with simple looks from Coach Mitchell directing Lauber during the game. The non-verbal understanding allows Mitchell to advise the best play from the sidelines and their mutual trust allows Mitchell to correct Lauber to make her a better player. 

“I trust anything that he tells me because he’s right about it…I know he is,” said Lauber. “I trust what he says because he’s a really good coach.” 

Lauber’s performance and success on the court is a testament to the importance of player-coach bonds. Through Mitchell’s coaching and dedication to his players, Lauber has developed and refined her skills as an athlete, making her an invaluable part of the Lady Cougar Basketball team. 

About the Writer
Photo of Lily Belcher
Lily Belcher, Editor in Chief

Lily Belcher is a junior at Durant High School and is the Editor in Chief for the PawPrint. She is freelancing for the Osprey Observer this year and hopes...

Longtime Jeopardy Host Alex Trebek Dies At 80 After Battling Pancreatic Cancer

TV KNOWLEDGE FOR 1000: He was the greatest gameshow host of all time. ANSWER: Who was Alex Trebek?


On Sunday, November 8, longtime TV host Alex Trebek died from Pancreatic Cancer at 80 years old surrounded by his family and friends.

He was diagnosed with stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer in March of 2019 and began treatment quickly after. Despite the grueling chemotherapy treatments and adverse effects, including depression and immense pain, Trebek continued to host Jeopardy as he had for 36 years. In March of 2020, he surpassed the one year survival rate of 18%, which he said he was “very happy” to pass.

“He was someone you could count on to entertain you every weekday, even when his health barely allowed it,” said former Jeopardy contestant James Holzhauer. “Anyone wishing to honor Alex’s memory should consider a donation to his favorite charity, World Vision.”

Within hours of his death, tributes to Trebek poured out from fans and contestants of Jeopardy on Twitter.

“It was one of the great privileges of my life to spend time with this courageous man while he fought the battle of his life,” tweeted Holzhauer.

It was one of the great privileges of my life to spend time with this courageous man while he fought the battle of his life”

— James Holzhauer

Trebek began his career as a radio host for CBC, hosting quiz and game shows in Canada. Upon moving to America, he continued as a gameshow host with NBC before landing a job as the host of Jeopardy in 1984, earning him multiple Emmy’s for Outstanding Game Show Host and the most nominations (31) for the category. Trebek hosted over 8200 episodes of the gameshow, the most of a TV game show host according to Sony Pictures.

On Jeopardy, Trebek became known for his humor and quick wit, but contestants knew him for his caring and dedicated personality.

“Alex wasn’t just the best ever at what he did. He was also a lovely and deeply decent man, and I’m grateful for every minute I got to spend with him,” said Ken Jennings, who holds the record for longest winning streak on Jeopardy.

Trebek’s last day in the studio was October 29 and his final episode as Jeopardy’s host will air on December 25. Sony Pictures has not announced plans for a new host.


About the Writer
Photo of Lily Belcher
Lily Belcher, Editor in Chief

Lily Belcher is a junior at Durant High School and is the Editor in Chief for the PawPrint. She is freelancing for the Osprey Observer this year and hopes...

New Teacher Lisa Demontmollin Q&A

Lisa Demontmollin is Durant High School’s new reading teacher. This is her first year at Durant, but she has lived and taught in Florida her whole life, including teaching in the Hillsborough County School System for 12 years.

What other schools have you worked at?

I started out at Randall and Rodgers my first few years in the county when I was tenured. And I’ve always been in middle school, so this is my second year in high school, but its really the same. There isn’t too much different except the kids are a little more independent.

Do you prefer teaching high school over middle school?

I do now, yes. Now that I’ve done it I do. I love it

Why did you choose to work at Durant?

My husband grew up around this area and I’ve heard so many wonderful things about Durant and I felt like this was my home calling for me, so I took the opportunity, saw it come up, and this is definitely where I want to stay.

What are your hobbies outside of work?

So, I have a few: landscaping, housebuilding, construction. We’ve been doing a lot of remodeling and scrapbooking, I’ve done that for years. I do some really intricate designs. I used to get paid for it years ago.

Do you do the landscaping and construction for other people?

More for us, but I think that, if I had been in the field when I was younger, I would be doing it now because I love doing it.

What is the hardest part about your job?

Being honest, I tried to connect with the students a lot and its really hard for me and the students to make changes and grow so sometimes hearing that advice or trying to make those changes is difficult because it isn’t always accepted. When the kids are here, I feel like I’m mom number two, so it’s really hard to connect to all of the kids when I have like 130 … I would really like to spend more time with them and there isn’t that much time when you have big classes, so that my biggest concern.

Would you prefer to teach smaller classes?

Yes, yes I would.

Did you teach smaller classes in middle school?

I have but its been years since they let us do the smaller classes. I’m used to having at least 25 kids or more. So, if it happens, its usually because it’s a third or fourth period in middle of the day and that’s the only time I really get the small groups. But, the kids need more of that one on one time in the reading classes I teach because I have lower level readers and they really benefit from that extra time

What is the best part about your job?

Getting to see all the smiling faces everyday… I like to hear what they are going through in their daily lives. I’m watching them grow everyday especially from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. You see this huge transition and I love that, its definitely my favorite part.


About the Writer
Photo of Lily Belcher
Lily Belcher, Editor in Chief

Lily Belcher is a junior at Durant High School and is the Editor in Chief for the PawPrint. She is freelancing for the Osprey Observer this year and hopes...

Republican Incumbent Nominee Donald Trump’s Policies And Campaign Promises

After creating a business empire and becoming a television star on his TV show The Apprentice, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States in 2016. Throughout his four years of presidency, President Trump improved the Stock Market greatly, redefined America’s relationship with Iran, and changed the way the US trades with foreign nations.


After the Coronavirus began spreading rapidly into the US, President Trump was forced to shutdown much of the nation, but received backlash because he hesitated to do so early on.

While this shutdown was a hard hit to the economy, President Trump claimed, “We’ve made every decision correctly” because the large number of cases and deaths fell.


The economy has been one of President Trump’s focuses throughout his term, especially during the Coronavirus Pandemic when he worked with Congress to pass stimulus checks to motivate people to put their money back in the economy.

“Biggest and Best in the History of our Country,” President Trump tweeted about the country’s GDP number. “Next year will be FANTASTIC!!!”

Under the leadership of President Trump, unemployment rates have dropped to 3.5% since he was first elected in 2016 due to the growth in American jobs. While President Trump claimed he would support an increase in federal minimum wage, which would be the first federal increase since 2009, he opposed legislation to do so and failed to conclusively state his position.

Foreign Affairs

As Chief Diplomat, President Trump began his term by pulling the US out of multiple partnerships and trade agreements and, most notably, revised NAFTA to bring more jobs to the US. He met with Putin amid rumors of Russia’s interference with the election and visited Kim Jung-un to cease the nuclear threats from both sides. President Trump also conducted successful attacks on two radical Islamic leaders that have threatened the safety of both American and foreign citizens, including Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.


Although he has accomplished much for the country, he could be considered one of the most controversial presidents. Early into his political career, he took on the left-leaning media sources, calling their reports “fake news.” His frustration with the media has been apparent since his initial campaign in 2016 and continued throughout his term as he used his personal Twitter account to report accurate information about his accomplishments and political events.

The use of his personal accounts irritated many reporters because, since he was not using the official POTUS account, he could block “fake news” sites and journalists. Many have criticized him for not being politically correct and blunt on his Twitter account when dealing with foreign affairs and nationwide protests while some have criticized him for using a social media site for his announcements in general.

He also utilizes his Twitter account to campaign, promoting videos and other posts from politicians that have supported him. While many of his tweets are centered on promoting his own campaign, President Trump has taken the opportunity to attack Democratic Nominee Joe Biden.

“If you vote for Biden, your kids will not be in school, there will be no graduations, no weddings, no Thanksgiving, no Christmas, and no Fourth of July!” he threatened.

Now serving as the incumbent in the 2020 election, President Trump promises to “Keep America Great.” He has hosted multiple rallies despite the looming threat of the Coronavirus to drum up support from essential swing states. While these rallies may present the potential for mass spread of the Virus, President Trump used the opportunity to voice his beliefs and arguments as to why he should be reelected in 2020.


About the Writer
Photo of Lily Belcher
Lily Belcher, Editor in Chief

Lily Belcher is a junior at Durant High School and is the Editor in Chief for the PawPrint. She is freelancing for the Osprey Observer this year and hopes...

Jennifer Hayes Q&A

Jennifer Hayes is Durant’s new Algebra and Geometry teacher. Hayes taught at Mulrennan Middle School for fifteen years prior to transferring to Durant, but has worked in a number of middle schools, as a music, history, and AVID teacher. She transferred to Durant, not only because she wanted to teach at a high school level, but because of the impression she has of Durant. 


Why did you want to teach at Durant? 

I’ve been wanting [to teach] high school for a little while and with the whole Corona thing and everything being kind of all weird and changing and being home anyway, I figured it was a good time to apply. But a lot of my students from Mulrennan come here so I’m familiar with the student population. Durant is a very good school, they have a great graduation rate, and, you know, as an AVID teacher I kept track of a lot of the data. So, I just felt like it was a great place to be. I also heard they have a lot of school spirit here and the teachers are all very cohesive, good relationships with the kids, and that’s what I want. I want like a family type place to work. 


Where do you sing? 

I just retired last year. I worked for 20 years at the Air Force Base Chapel as their music canter, so I’ve literally spent about one year not doing that anymore…I like karaoke, but I don’t really [sing] for a job anymore; I just sing for fun. 


What is your favorite song? 

Knock on Wood by Amy Steward. 


What is the hardest part about your job? 

This year, there’s a lot of hard things. This year, wearing a mask all day is hard, balancing Canvas is hard. But, I mean, I love teaching, so teaching itself isn’t hard. I guess just managing everything sometimes can be hard…Sometimes kid’s behaviors, but this year my kids are very good, so I’m feeling a little blessed this year. 


What is the best part about your job? 

The best part of my job is making connections with the kids. You know, there’s a few kids that I’ve had that I’m still in contact with and now they’re grown and living their lives, and I love to see that. 

About the Writer
Photo of Lily Belcher
Lily Belcher, Editor in Chief

Lily Belcher is a junior at Durant High School and is the Editor in Chief for the PawPrint. She is freelancing for the Osprey Observer this year and hopes...

A Look At The First Presidential Debate

It’s no surprise that Tuesday night’s debate was filled with jabs, name calling, and interrupting from both Former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump. Covering the pressing topics in the news, Biden and Trump took turns interrupting the other’s two-minute allotments and talking around the original subject. Now this is no new issue, however, it led to a lot of personal jabs, including Trump’s bashing of Joe Biden’s second son, Hunter Biden, and eventually an enraged “shut up” used by Joe Biden.

The debate’s first question asked each nominee’s opinion on whether or not President Trump has the right to nominate a Supreme Court Justice. Following Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, President Trump nominated Federal Appeals Judge Amy Coney Barret, which Trump argued he had the right to all four years to make decisions as President.

Biden contrasted, saying, “The election has already started…we should wait and see what the outcome of this election is.”  

Senators are delaying the vote on Trump’s nomination using a filibuster, blocking any decision from being made. Biden refused to provide an answer as to whether he would support the filibuster or not but told the American people to go out and vote to change the conditions in the Senate.

Moving on from the heated topic of Supreme Court nominations, the candidates then discussed the health care plans presented by each of the opposing sides. Standard ideas, such as universal healthcare and protecting those with preexisting conditions, were debated. Trump explained how he overturned the Obamacare mandate planned to cut drug prices by 80%-90% and offer a public option for health care by ending private insurance and creating a government take-over of healthcare. Biden said those that do not have enough money for Medicaid would be automatically enrolled in the public option.

The discussion took a quick turn, to arguing about Trump being a liar. “The fact is that everything he’s saying so far is a lie. I’m not here to call out his lies, everybody knows he’s a liar,” said Biden, resulting in a seemingly endless back and forth by both parties. 

The bickering continued into the next question regarding  how to handle the Coronavirus. Both sides have disagreed on mask mandates and the rate at which business are reopening. Trump displayed his mask and explained that he only wears the mask when necessary, whereas Biden wears his all the time. 

Quoting the CDC, Biden said, “If we just wore masks between now and January, we would probably save [100,000 lives].”

The candidates’ views on economic recovery can be described as V shaped (Trump) and K shaped (Biden). According to Biden, the difference between the two plans is that millionaires and billionaires during the Covid crisis have done very well because of the tax proposal and Trump’s focus on the market. He argued that “you can’t fix the economy until you fix the Covid crisis.”

As the economy took a drop in the second quarter, President Trump has been focused on improving the economic state of the country, passing stimulus checks to motivate consumers to make more purchases and pay taxes on those purchases to put money back in the national economy.

The candidates then discussed a series of topics in the news cycle, including racism and climate change.

With the social unrest following the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, racial equality and protection was brought up in the later half of the debate. Trump responded, saying, “I want to see peace.” 

When talking about climate change, Trump explains how he’s for clear water and air without destroying businesses and that, as far as the forest fires in California go, there was a need for more forest management to remove the dry tinder fueling the fires. All in all, Trump’s goal is to have a balance between the economy and climate change efforts. Biden chimed in talking about the Biden plan, which he had originally, mistakenly called the “Green New Deal”.

Biden plans to put into place the Administration Recovery Act to instill cheaper energy price, promote the use of electric vehicles by adding 500 new charging stations throughout the country, weatherize four million buildings to reduce carbon emissions, all to create new jobs and support the environment. He also plans to rejoin the Paris Accord and work together with the rest of the world to supply a $2 billion check to the people cutting down the Amazon Rainforest in hopes of making them stop

At the end of the debate, Trump and Biden discussed election integrity regarding the mail in ballots. Biden seemed unconcerned about any fraudulent activities regarding the ballots and reminded the American citizens to vote and to vote responsibly so each vote would count. Whereas Trump countered stating why mail in ballots are unreliable and subject to fraud, but neither side presented a safe alternative for voting in the midst of the Coronavirus.

While the debate was heated and neither candidate ever had the chance at two uninterrupted minutes, the nominees will each have two more debates to fully lay out their plans if they are elected president and illustrate their future plans for America.

About the Writers
Photo of Lily Belcher
Lily Belcher, Editor in Chief

Lily Belcher is a junior at Durant High School and is the Editor in Chief for the PawPrint. She is freelancing for the Osprey Observer this year and hopes...

Photo of Rachel Hesse
Rachel Hesse, Managing Editor

Rachel Hesse is a senior at Durant High School and the Managing Editor for the PawPrint Newspaper. Although new to the PawPrint this year, Rachel has been...

Potential Changes To Durant’s Teaching Staff

For many schools, teachers and students are just getting used to balancing online and physical students. But as schedules are finally resolved, Durant may have to make more changes to their teaching staff. 

Due to the Coronavirus, people have been shopping less. Fewer purchases mean less tax revenue for the county and Hillsborough County Public Schools pays their teachers through the tax revenue, meaning the county is now $50 million in debt.  

Durant Chemistry teacher Jeffrey Henning explained the staff meeting regarding how this affects Durant.  

“What [teachers] were told was that [the Hillsborough County Public School System] has told us there’s a budget crisis, which makes sense. A lot of businesses have been closed up for six months. Our paychecks, our money, comes from tax revenue. We’re going to have to move teachers around. Now, what that means is teachers still have a contract with Hillsborough county, we still have a job… its just not where [we] wanted.” 

Schools, such as Durant, also have fewer students attending physical school (Durant is currently at 60% capacity) and consequently need fewer teachers because of the county’s new student-teacher allotment plan.  

“Some of our newer district staff members have determined that we are over allocated, so they’re using the new model to determine how many instructional staff you should have based on your enrollment,” said Principal Gary Graham. 

In the following weeks, schools that have too many teachers than needed will send teachers into “the pool.” These teachers will still have a job because they are employed by Hillsborough County, but will be moved to a different school as needed.  

The decision of which teachers to cut will be a difficult one. Graham and other administrators will look at a number of factors to determine a teacher’s future at Durant. The first thing they will look at is which classes or programs are under supported, meaning they do not have enough students to warrant a teacher or class period that could be filled by other students in another class. Then, they will consider the teacher’s scores, which are based off student pass rate and test scores, and, finally, they will look at seniority. 

Teachers that are new this year or last year do not have a teacher evaluation score. Graham explained that the rule of thumb is no score equals low score, meaning some of Durant’s new teachers could be the first to be transferred to the pool. 

If Durant cannot cut their payroll by transferring a certain number of teaching units, the next resort will be to cut support personnel, such as lunchroom staff and bus drivers. 

However, the decision of which teachers to transfer, if any, has not been made yet and Durant has been fortunate to have a few vacant teaching positions. If teachers do have to transfer to another school, Graham said “the hope is the following spring moving into the next fall, those teachers could come back.”  

While this is a stressful time for both administrators and teachers, the decisions have not been made. The only thing students and teachers can do is to be flexible with potential schedule changes and understand that the decisions are being made based on what is best for everyone in the school system. 


About the Writer
Photo of Lily Belcher
Lily Belcher, Editor in Chief

Lily Belcher is a junior at Durant High School and is the Editor in Chief for the PawPrint. She is freelancing for the Osprey Observer this year and hopes...

Kerry McHugh Q&A

Mr. Kerry McHugh is one of the fifteen new teachers at Durant High School this year. McHugh has worked for the Hillsborough County Public School System for 20 years and will begin his first year at Durant as the AP and Regular World History teacher for e-learners. 


Why are you doing e-learning?

I’m doing e-learning because both my husband & I have underlying health issues that can become severely compromised with Covid.  


Has the e-learning teaching process been difficult?

E-learning has been incredibly difficult for students, parents and teachers alike.  Trying to learn many different learning platforms and dealing with a number of technological issues for both myself and my students has been a daily challenge. 


What are some of your favorite things to do outside of work?

My favorite things to do outside of work are reading, online gaming, baking & all night binge watching sessions with my son.


Why did you choose to work at Durant?

A friend spoke highly of the quality of leadership and impressive standards at Durant.  He also told me what a great social studies department they have.  It is also closer to me home.


What is the hardest part about your job?

The hardest part of my job is sometimes watching kids throw away opportunities given to them because they aren’t mature enough yet to understand how they are hurting themselves.  No matter how rich, powerful, or tough you are, time is undefeated, so never waste it.  


What is the best part about your job?

The best part is watch my kids grow up, become stronger, more confident & successful at skills they never thought they would be able to come close to doing.  I love the comradery and fun we create in AP world classes to deal with the demands of the course.

About the Writer
Photo of Lily Belcher
Lily Belcher, Editor in Chief

Lily Belcher is a junior at Durant High School and is the Editor in Chief for the PawPrint. She is freelancing for the Osprey Observer this year and hopes...

Durant Football Players Forced To Quarantine


After a 13-10 loss last Friday to the Newsome Wolves, more unfortunate news was delivered to the Durant Cougars.

Over the weekend, multiple starters from Newsome tested positive for Covid-19. Durant’s seven offensive starters, who came in direct contact with Newsome’s players, were forced to quarantine after Coach Michael Gottman received a call from Principal Gary Graham informing Gottman of the situation.

The seven players that came in contact with the Newsome’s players were instructed to quarantine for two weeks, in ordinance with Hillsborough County guidelines, and attend school through e-learning, which Gottman said was going well.

Due to the student athletes required to quarantine, Durant’s game against Bloomingdale, originally scheduled for September 17, was moved to the Cougars’ by-week on October 9. While Gottman expressed his concerns regarding his starting lineup, he was optimistic of the situation, referencing the backup lineup that will now have the chance to start the next game

“I do like the fact that we are getting seven other people prepared to play, [but we are] definitely going to miss the seven offensive starters, because of quarantine, but there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s kind of the hand that we’re dealt, and we’re going to play the cards and try to win a football game Friday night,” said Gottman.

Gottman assumed Durant’s football team would have to deal with exposure to the Coronavirus at some point but did not realize it would be the first week. The team had been taking safety precautions during practice, such as social distancing and wiping equipment with a cleaning solution after workouts.

Durant and Newsome are not the first high school teams to be quarantined because of a potential Coronavirus outbreak. Jefferson and Hillsborough High Schools’ football teams were forced to miss opening night, as a number of players had tested positive.

Despite the four teams already impacted by the virus, District Spokesperson Erin Maloney said it is still important for the teams to play. The emotional and social benefits from high school sports are vital to success both inside and outside the classroom setting.

“School is about much more than just going into classrooms and getting good grades. There’s a social, emotional aspect as well,” said Maloney.

The Cougars will face East Bay at Durant on September 25 for the second game of the season.



About the Writer
Photo of Lily Belcher
Lily Belcher, Editor in Chief

Lily Belcher is a junior at Durant High School and is the Editor in Chief for the PawPrint. She is freelancing for the Osprey Observer this year and hopes...

Mason Gourley Feature

Mason Gourley has written for the Durant PawPrint since his sophomore year when English teacher Jennifer Kious saw his potential as a writer and a journalist. 

From the beginning of his time as a staff writer for the PawPrint, Gourley has taken a unique approach to his weekly web posts. Partnering with fellow staff writer Nick Travis, Gourley started a YouTube channel to post entertaining school announcements for Durant students and staff.

“We felt that we can express ourselves more through videos, like visually, so people can actually see what we’re doing rather than just reading something in quotations,” Gourley said. 

Gourley’s YouTube videos have given him the unique opportunity to refine his interviewing skills and broadcast reporting skills and given the PawPrint the option to expand to a multimedia format.

When he is not working on homework or articles for the PawPrint, Gourley plays baseball at the Bloomingdale Sports Complex and mountain bikes at Alafia State Park. He enjoys writing articles about his passions and showing Pawprint readers the details of the activities he enjoys.

While he is considering journalism as a career, Gourley would be interested in joining the Coast Guard. But, the PawPrint is giving him the opportunity to discover his talents in a communications job.

About the Writer
Photo of Lily Belcher
Lily Belcher, Editor in Chief

Lily Belcher is a junior at Durant High School and is the Editor in Chief for the PawPrint. She is freelancing for the Osprey Observer this year and hopes...

Taylor Swift Feuds with Big Machine Label Group

Swift's struggle with Big Machine continues amidst the pandemic.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Swift’s struggle with Big Machine continues amidst the pandemic.

Ten months after a very public social media feud, Taylor Swift is begging fans not to buy her new album- Live From Clear Channel Stripped 2008-a recording of her 2008 live radio performance.  Swift claims the album is being released by Big Machine Label Group without her consent and is “just another case of shameless greed in the time of Coronavirus.”

In the Instagram story, Swift claims entertainment executive Scott “Scooter” Braun is broke after buying Big Machine Records which gave him control of her previous masters- a collection of over 90 of her hits. 

“It looks to me like Scooter Braun and his financial backers, 23 Capital, Alex Soros and the Soros family, and the Carlyle Group have seen the latest balance sheets and realized that paying $300 million for my music wasn’t exactly a wise choice and they need money,” she said in the post.

The music mayhem began in June of 2019 when Braun and his group bought Big Machine Label Group from Scott Borchetta, who signed Swift at the start of her career when she was 15.  Braun already owned the music from Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, and Kanye West (West and Tay-Tay have had an equally public singer’s spat for the last 11 years).  She has accused Braun of backing her social media “bullies,” such as Bieber and West, causing her hostility towards the sale. 

The record deal row continued into the winter when Swift was nominated for Artist of the Decade by the American Music Academy.  Her performance on the nationally televised awards program was set to include the songs she had written over the last ten years, such as Shake It Off and Love Story.  Braun, however, argued she could not do so, at least, not without permission from the Big Machine Label Group. 

After Swift used her fan base, dubbed “Swifties,” to beg Braun to let her perform her own music, Braun gave into the demands of the social media protest and allowed Swift to perform her hits at the awards show.

Braun said, after the concession, that he would not participate in the social media drama but posted his response on Instagram later that day.  In the lengthy Instagram post, Braun urged Swift to meet with him so he could talk to her personally.  He referenced death threats he and his family have received since their spat made headlines and said he never intended to make her feel “cornered or bullied.” 

Swift seemed to address the spat with Braun when she opened with her new single “The Man,” wearing a t-shirt with the titles of her albums now owned by Braun.  While she did not directly mention Braun, like Taylor’s refrains, the message was loud and clear- she and Braun were never ever getting back together.

The singers’ squabble prompted other celebrities to take sides, but the alliances were predictable.  Swift’s best friend Selena Gomez and other supporters, such as Halsey, publicly declared their allegiance to Miss Americana, while Braun’s clients, such as Kanye West, sided with the entertainment executive.

Since the sale to Braun, Swift, whose deal with Big Machine expired, has signed with Universal Music Group/Republic, who says she will own the rights to all her future masters recorded with them.  However, the April 2020 release of the radio performance proves the pop singer has no control over her original masters and will be forced to fight with Braun if she hopes to ever control them again.

About the Writer
Photo of Lily Belcher
Lily Belcher, Editor in Chief

Lily Belcher is a junior at Durant High School and is the Editor in Chief for the PawPrint. She is freelancing for the Osprey Observer this year and hopes...

News Updates Besides COVID-19

Beloved country singer Kenny Rogers sadly passed away of natural causes at 81 years old.

Wade Payne, Associated Press

Beloved country singer Kenny Rogers sadly passed away of natural causes at 81 years old.


Country Music star Kenny Rogers died on March 20th in his home in Sandy Springs, Georgia.  Known for blurring the line between country and pop music, Rogers’ music career lasted 60 years beginning with his 1957 single “That Crazy Feeling.”  Rogers spent the early years of his career in a jazz band and later a folk music band, but his solo career took off in 1978 with “Lucille,” winning him the first of four Grammy Awards.  Rogers released his last song, “Once Again Its Christmas,” in 2015 and went on his final tour in three days later, visiting only five cities.

Rogers was briefly hospitalized in May of 2019 for dehydration, but afterwards said he planned on “sticking around through the years to come.”  However, Rogers passed under the care of hospice from natural causes according to a family spokesman.

Celebrities took to the internet mourning the death of the county legend, including Dolly Parton, who sang the hit duet “Islands in the Stream” with Rogers. “I love Kenny with all my heart.  My heart is broken,” she said.

Sarah Trahern, chief executive officer of the Country Music Association, spoke of his fame, saying, “He was a global superstar who helped introduce country music to audiences around the world.”

The Gambler is survived by his wife, children, grandchildren, siblings, nieces, and nephews.


Future NFL Hall of Famer Tom Brady, 42, signed a two-year contract worthy of up to $59 million with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the 2020 season on March 20th.  After spending his first 20 years with the New England Patriots and earning six Superbowl rings, Brady comes to the Bucs “excited, humbled, and hungry,” per his official announcement of the deal on Instagram.  

Brady has made nine Superbowl appearances, but joins the Bucs, who currently have the second-longest active playoff drought and only one Superbowl win.  The Buccaneers are looking forward an added spark of the leadership as well as the postseason experience Brady can bring to the team. Following the signing, Bucs second year head coach Bruce Arians said, “Tom is the most successful quarterback in the history, but what makes special is his ability to make those around him better.”

Tampa fans have high hopes going into the 2020 season while Boston fans mourn the loss of their football star.  Codey Winters, a Buccaneers fan commented on the Twitter announcement, saying “This is the start of something special.”  Jeff Fuller, a Patriots fan, commented, saying, “From Pats fan to Bucs fan, you guys are getting the hardest working and greatest QB ever.”


President Trump signed legislation creating the US Space Force December 20th, 2019, thus creating the sixth branch of US armed forces.  The Space Force is the first addition to the Armed Forces since 1947, when President Truman created the Air Force.  The Space Force will maintain US dominance in space by collecting information and relaying communications around the world.  

On March 26th, the first national security mission of the USSF launched the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite (AEHF) from Port Canaveral.  A representative for Lockheed Martin, the contractor for the AEHF satellite, released a statement saying, “The Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) system provides vastly improved global, survivable, protected communications capabilities for strategic command and tactical warfighters operating on ground, sea and air platforms. The jam-resistant system also serves international partners including Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.”  

After a short delay Thursday afternoon due to a misreading of the hydraulic equipment, the rocket was launched with the satellite from the east coast of Florida.  The information that will be communicated from the satellite should last beyond 2030, according to Lieutenant General John F Thompson, Commander of the Space and Missiles Systems Centre in California.  


Although Disney has closed its doors to humans in the wake of the Coronavirus, they are still welcoming new animal guests to their parks.  Disney’s Animal Kingdom recently welcomed a female young porcupine and zebra foal to the park, making the announcement on their Instagram page.  

The baby porcupine, or porcupette, was born on February 25th to mother Peri.  Peri was featured during her pregnancy with vet Natalie Mylniczenko on the “One Day at Disney” documentary on Disney+.  The prehensile tail porcupette will become part of the Species Survival Plan, a plan to preserve threatened or endangered species.  The Disney veterinary team tested her small, red quills to determine her gender. Peri and her mother are staying at Animal Kingdom’s Conservation Station.

Just after the birth of the young porcupine, Disney’s zebra mother, Heidi, welcomed her first offspring.  The zebra foal is yet to be named, but, according to reports, is strong and healthy. The 65-pound filly was standing within a half hour of being born.  Mark Penning, the Vice President of Animals, Science, and Environment at Disney’s parks, said the foal will take the next few weeks to bond with her mother.  The baby will have the chance to memorize her mother’s scent and unique markings before being introduced to the Kilimanjaro Safari’s Savannah.  

About the Writer
Photo of Lily Belcher
Lily Belcher, Editor in Chief

Lily Belcher is a junior at Durant High School and is the Editor in Chief for the PawPrint. She is freelancing for the Osprey Observer this year and hopes...

Understanding and Actions Against COVID-19

In addition to the information provided here, visist the FDA or CDC websites for helpful information on how to protect against COVID-19.

Courtesy of the FDA

In addition to the information provided here, visist the FDA or CDC websites for helpful information on how to protect against COVID-19.

In Wuhan, China in December of 2019, a patient reported to the local hospital with pneumonia like symptoms.  By December 29th, Hubei, China reported four similar cases of “pneumonia of unknown etiology” and Chinese authorities notified the World Health Organization that a new strain of the coronavirus was rapidly spreading throughout the region.

Named for its crown-like shape, the Coronavirus is a common virus first identified in the 1960’s that causes flu-like symptoms.  The deadly strand of the novel Coronavirus causes a disease, named “COVID-19,” that is spreading across the globe is simply a more resilient and dangerous strand, spreading and evolving similarly to how the influenza virus changes each year (requiring a new flu shot to be administered annually). 

Doctors around the world went to work to identify the origin of the outbreak, naming snakes and bats as the possible culprit. The virus began to spread internationally, first into Japan then the Koreas, and took its first life mid-January, just a few weeks after being first identified.

On January 21st, Washington state confirmed the United States’ first case of the Coronavirus in a man who had recently traveled to Wuhan and the second American case appeared three days later in Chicago.  

With the number of infected rising, China prepared to build new hospitals dedicated to the care and quarantine of COVID-19 patients, the US joined Japan in evacuating their citizens from Wuhan and suspended travel to and from China.   The rest of the world soon followed suit, attempting to isolate themselves from the rapidly spreading disease.  

Despite measures taken to isolate this modern-day plague, the Coronavirus quickly spread to every continent except Antarctica.   Deaths began to mount in Washington state where, 21% of the nearly 40 deaths were over 80 years of age. The virus was proving to largely affect those with compromised immune systems and underlying diseases.

Cases quickly spread across the US, from California to Chicago and eastward to New York.  While the US has already reported its first intranational spread, the East Coast’s first case of the Coronavirus appeared on March 1st in Hillsborough County Florida from tourist returning from a trip to Italy.

Hillsborough County public schools informed parents of measures that would be taken to protect the health of its students and teachers via email and schools installed hand sanitizing stations at school entrances and bus ramps along with encouraging students to wash their hands frequently.  Additionally, schools began to limit large school assemblies and encourage students and teachers who feel sick to stay home.  

Durant canceled Friday’s pre-Spring Break pep rally, following this advisory and, Friday evening, the Hillsborough County School Board announced students would not be returning to their campus’ until March 30th.  Many teachers and students were prepared for the extension of Spring Break, encouraging students to take their workbooks home and check Edsby for updates. 

The Hillsborough County announcement provided a link for online teaching resources so teachers can resume lessons on Mach 23rd, when students were originally supposed to return to school.  Durant, along with other Hillsborough County schools, will be using the extra week to clean the campuses and attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.  

About the Writer
Photo of Lily Belcher
Lily Belcher, Editor in Chief

Lily Belcher is a junior at Durant High School and is the Editor in Chief for the PawPrint. She is freelancing for the Osprey Observer this year and hopes...

PETA Wants to Replace Punxsutawney Phil

After 133 years of Punxsutawney redicting the seasonal change, PETA wants to replace the groundhog with artificial inteligence.

Gene J. Puskar

After 133 years of Punxsutawney redicting the seasonal change, PETA wants to replace the groundhog with artificial inteligence.

Okay campers, rise and shine and don’t forget your booties because PETA is at it again demanding retirement of America’s favorite rodent prognosticator, Punxsutawney Phil. The seemingly immortal groundhog has been predicting the seasons and the onset of spring since 1887, but, according to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, now is the time to retire Pennsylvania’s most famous groundhog. 

The PETA organization is set on banning animals from every aspect of American entertainment, dinner plates, and cable weather services and has recently suggested replacing the seer with an artificial intelligence weather woodland badger who will be more accurate in predicting the changing of the seasons. 

PETA’s demand to The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club came less than a week before the 2020 Groundhog’s Day, but their effort was too little too late as Phil woke to the sounds of more than 20,000 cold Americans demanding a weather prediction from the large weather wise woodchuck.  Not to mention the thousands that receive text message alerts in regards to Phil’s prediction or stream the event to household TVs and phones. But as Phil Connors, a reporter for WPBH-TV Pittsburgh noted, “Television really fails to capture the true excitement of a large squirrel predicting the weather.”

PETA’s Ingrid Newkirk’s request said being around the thicket of climate enthusiasts causes these poor creatures “great stress,” explaining the effects the tradition has on the sages’ mental health. 

PETA’s concern for animals’ mental health shouldn’t stop with the greenhouse guru of gophers. What about the number of times we’ve sent dogs to retrieve a neon green ball only to repeatedly toss it away from them again and again.  

PETA should be demanding an end to a classic game of fetch with man’s best friend. What about giving the number of times we’ve drugged our feline friends with every kitty’s favorite herbal opioid? Then again, PETA is against pet ownership all together, calling the domestication of our furry friends “an abysmal situation.”

Perhaps, Phil should be replaced with a robot as PETA is suggesting. If sports team mascots can no longer be real animals, such as the University of Georgia’ Uga the bulldog, let’s just replace Phil with a college student in an oversized animal costume with a weather app on his iPhone.

Chick-fil-A can’t use real cows and have turned to illustrations of the iconic illiterate cows. Let’s just make a cartoon prognosticator see his shadow.   Disney can’t use real bouncing tigers to portray the best friend of crop top wearing bear, let’s just replace the ridiculous tradition with an animated weather profit extraordinary. 

The Groundhog Club’s President has said he hasn’t read PETA’s letter, telling the Punxsutawney Spirit, a Pennsylvania publication, Phil “lives better than the average child in Western Pennsylvania.”  He explains that the people don’t want to see an animatronic, but a live climate celebrity.

The change won’t come anytime soon, however. Punxsutawney has no immediate plans to replace Phil, so the absurd and terribly inaccurate climate custom will continue on.

About the Writer
Photo of Lily Belcher
Lily Belcher, Editor in Chief

Lily Belcher is a junior at Durant High School and is the Editor in Chief for the PawPrint. She is freelancing for the Osprey Observer this year and hopes...

Aladdin The Musical comes to Tampa

Aladdin the musical is a Braoday musical that tours the world, showcasing their talent acoss the globe.

Aladdin the musical is a Braoday musical that tours the world, showcasing their talent acoss the globe.

The iconic 1992 Disney classic, Aladdin, became an on-stage production to bring the mystical city of Agrabar to audiences across the country in 2011.  In December, the 2019 Aladdin Tour brought the story of a “street rat’s” efforts to win Princess Jasmine’s heart to Morsani Hall in Tampa’s Straz Center.  

The magical experience began at the doors when guests were met by enthusiastic greeters to be directed to their seats and to various locations inside the center for commemorative pictures.  The adaptation included 11 more songs than the original Tim Rice animated screenplay.

The new songs developed Aladdin’s character, played by Jonah Ho’okano, and motivation to become more than a “street rat” in a rendition of “Proud of Your Boy” which Aladdin emotionally dedicated to his mother. The emotional new songs not only gave the actors more solos but provided insight and back story of the characters that the animated version did not.  

Kaenaon Alani Kekoa’s powerful, yet fluid voice filled the stage in her first song as Jasmine with “These Palace Walls.”  While her solos stood out, her voice was overshadowed and lost in her duets with childhood friend Ho’okano, whose seven years of experience showed in his flawless performance. 

The on-stage adaptation included three friends for Aladdin to fill in for Abu, Aladdin’s monkey sidekick in the animated movie.  However, Babkak (Zach Bencal), Omar (Ben Chavez), and Kassim (Colt Prattes) were irrelevant and seemed to be randomly tossed in throughout the duration of the play.  Prattes’s emphatic voice, however, emerged in his solos of the songs the trio sang and saved the scenes the friends were in, but their roles seemed incongruous and mistimed to the storyline.

Korie Lee Blossey, who played Genie, and Ho’okano had indisputable chemistry.  Their dialogue seemed genuine and flowed naturally as their jokes bounced off each other, like a veteran comedy team.  In one of his scenes with Genie, Ho’okano broke character and laughed at a few of Genie’s jokes before regaining his composure.  The natural friendship between the actors made Aladdin’s scenes with Genie the best part of the play.  

Iago (Reggie De Leon), Jafar’s sidekick, was overly dramatic and his performance took away from what should have been more serious scenes.  His part, like Aladdin’s friends, could have been left out of the show entirely. Genie begged for applause and laughs at the beginning by trying to rally the crowd, seemingly sitting on their hands, after some of his jokes didn’t land.  Although his performance was not comparable to Robin William’s (but then again, whose could be?), he played the part well and tied the scenes together seamlessly.

The sets designed for the play were terribly underdone.  The marketplace was far too simple and the small ensemble didn’t compensate for the lacking backdrop.  The same was true for the scenes in the palace.  

     The palace should have been elegant, as it was the palace of a sultan, but instead was disappointing and simple.  By comparison, however, the scene in the Cave of Wonders was exaggerated, a stark contrast to the rest of the play.  The Cave of Wonders shouldn’t have been the scene to have the large set since it was only used for one scene. The simple sets allowed the elegant and colorful costumes to stand out but was ultimately disappointing.

Nichole Sullivan saw the performance for the second time on December 26th and said, “I like it better than the first time I saw it…I saw it the first time and I think I expected it to be amazing, but I was a little disappointed.”  She said her expectations were lower this time, which made this performance more enjoyable.

“The tour will be coming to a close in April, and the reason being is that this show itself is just too big to fit other stages,” said Matthew Watson, a member of the orchestra.  Michelle West, an ensemble member of the production, explained that the show can only fit a few stages which limits the tour to a few cities in the country. 

Overall, the Broadway adaptation of Aladdin, in true Disney fashion, fulfilled all expectations, providing a unique on-stage Disney experience for Aladdin and Disney fans.

About the Writer
Photo of Lily Belcher
Lily Belcher, Editor in Chief

Lily Belcher is a junior at Durant High School and is the Editor in Chief for the PawPrint. She is freelancing for the Osprey Observer this year and hopes...

Sports legend Kobe Bryant Passes Away

Much of society took to the Internet to pay their respects to Kobe Bryant, as well as to mourn the other crash victims. This tragedy impacted far more people than just NBA fans.


Much of society took to the Internet to pay their respects to Kobe Bryant, as well as to mourn the other crash victims. This tragedy impacted far more people than just NBA fans.

Basketball legend Kobe Bryant, 41, and his daughter, Gianna, 13, were confirmed dead in a helicopter crash Sunday afternoon.  The fiery crash took place over Calabasas, California killing all eight passengers and the pilot aboard the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter.  

The helicopter crashed far from homes or roadways, but the brush fire, ignited as a result of the crash, delayed first-responders arrival at the crash site.  

Bryant played for the Los Angeles Lakers for his entire 20 year professional basketball career, retiring in 2016 as a basketball legend.  He was a five time NBA champion, two time NBA Finals MVP, and 18 consecutive NBA All-Star.  

Bryant was active on Instagram congratulating Lebron James on surpassing him for third on NBA’s all time scoring list just 15 hours before the crash.  It would be his last social media post.  

Bryant followed in his father’s, Joe “JellyBean” Bryant’s, footsteps.  Kobe Bryant lived with his two sisters and parents in Italy while his father played in the Italian league in 1984 after his career in the NBA and was active in soccer and basketball from an early age.  

When his family moved to Philadelphia in 1991, Bryant joined Lower Merion High School’s basketball team, leading the Aces to four state championships.  Bryant was drafted as the 13th overall draft pick to the Charlotte Hornets, but was quickly traded to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Bryant teamed up with Shaquille O’Neal in 1996 and won the next three NBA Championships in ’96, ’97, and ‘98.  Two years into his NBA Career with the Lakers, he was voted onto the 1998 All-Star team, becoming the youngest NBA All-Star at just 19 years of age.  After O’Neal left the Lakers in 2004, the shooting guard continued to shine, leading the league in scoring in 2006 and 2007.  

In 2008, Bryant played along side basketball stars Kevin Durant and Lebron James in the 2008 and 2010 Olympics, winning two gold medals for the US.  The Lakers won the next two NBA Championships in 2009 and 2010, the most recent NBA title for the team.  

Bryant’s final years of his professional career were plagued with injuries, including tearing his achilles in 2013, but he didn’t walk off the court immediately after the injury.  He finished the play, taking and making two free throw shots before retiring to the locker room. Tim S. Grover, Bryant’s long-time sports doctor, outlined Bryant’s resilience, especially during his 2013 games, in his novel “Relentless.”    

Bryant’s final injury came in January of 2015 when he tore his rotator cuff.  Nine months later, he announced he would retire at the end of the 2015 season.  After his retirement, Adam Silver, NBA Commissioner said, “Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in the history of our game.”  

Bryant wrote a short poem entitled “Dear Basketball” at the end of his career, which was turned into a movie of the same title.  The Disney produced movie went on to win an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 2018.

Bryant partnered with After-School All-Stars, a non-profit after school program for kids and ran a summer school camp for young, aspiring basketball players after his retirement.

His second daughter, Gianna, was following in her father and grandfather’s footsteps with hopes to be in the WNBA.  Bryant proudly coached his daughter and her AAU teammates in California and was reportedly on his way to a travel ball game.

Bryant was as inspirational off the court as his play was on the court.  His death reverberated across the country and tributes flooded social media for the father of four.  The game will miss him, but, as he said in “Dear Basketball,” “its time to say goodbye.”

Gianna and Kobe Bryant are survived by his wife Vanessa Bryant and their three other daughters, Natalia, Bianka, and Capri. 

About the Contributor
Photo of Lily Belcher
Lily Belcher, Editor in Chief

Lily Belcher is a junior at Durant High School and is the Editor in Chief for the PawPrint. She is freelancing for the Osprey Observer this year and hopes...

Continous conflict between Iran and the United States


Mani Mehrabi

As he U.S. and Iran continue to fight, they will inevitably end in an intensive battle, leading to a multitude of casualties.

On December 27, 2019, Nawres Hamid, an Iraqi-American contractor, was killed in a rocket attack on a US military base in Iraq while working as a translator for US troops.  The US blamed Iran for the fatal attack that killed the father of two from California and resulted in injuries to other US troops.

In retaliation, the US launched “precision defensive strikes,” as they were described by the US Department of Defense, in areas of Iraq and Syria killing 25 Iranian backed militias.  Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said this strike was to warn Iran that the US would not sit idly by while Iran attacked the US or its allies, echoing former National Security Advisor John Bolton.  Bolton previously had said, “any attack on United States interests or those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force” foreshadowing the efforts taken to squash the violent attacks from Iran.

This strike was met with threats of retaliation from the Iranian government the following day.

Militia backed protests ensued in Iraq and dozens stormed the US embassy in Baghdad.  Although there were no fatalities, President Trump tweeted, “[Iran] will be held fully responsible” for the storming of the US embassy.

On January 2, President Trump ordered a drone strike near Baghdad’s International Airport which targeted and killed a known terrorist, General Qasem Soleimani of the Iraqi Republican Guard.

The Pentagon said in a statement, “General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more…”  

President Trump ordered the attack based on intelligence that placed Soleimani at the airport while planning extensive terrorist attacks against US interests.  Presidents Obama and Bush used military forces against known US threats, such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda respectively, based on similar intelligence gathered. While Congresses since the 1973 War Powers Resolution’s inception have argued such use of the military isn’t Constitutional, no Congress has done more than pass resolutions condemning the use of such force.

Six days later, Iran launched 16 ballistic missiles on US forces.  President Trump said, “No Americans were harmed,” but recent reports have refuted this assessment. 

Eleven service members were reportedly brought to hospitals in Kuwait and Germany with concussion symptoms. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said, “[The attack] was a blow to the U.S image as a superpower.” 

 This was seemingly a veiled threat of the power Iran holds over the U.S., but no counter strike has been conducted against Iran.

These recent events have merely added onto the preexisting conflicts between the US and the country formerly known as Persia before the 1950s. Prior to 1953, US-Iran relations were beneficial to both countries; the US provided military resources to Iran, who supplied oil and natural goods to the US.  

The strained relationship is a result of a series of diplomatic missteps and post WW2 alliances.  The US and Britain supported the overthrow of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh and replaced the Iranian leader with the Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.  Essentially, the US replaced the leader the Iranian people chose with the leader America wanted. The total disregard for the will and culture of the Iranian people laid the foundation for a lasting conflict.

The US also sided against Iran in the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980’s.  Iran fought back by taking a number of US hostages and bombing US ally ships.  These events have built the wall higher and solidified the wedge between the two countries.  

Since 1953, the US has failed to acknowledge the Iranian government’s rich culture and the US’s ignorance has become more prominent throughout generations.  One CIA agent has even been quoted asking about the Iranian religious leader saying, “What is an Ayatollah?”  

If the US’s own intelligence agents do not know the title of the Iranian leader, how can they decide what is best for Iran?  The combination of America’s painful ignorance and forcing themselves into a foreign country’s domestic affairs has proved the US is pressing its boot on the neck of the Iranian government.  

However, the US has been trying for years to deescalate the situation with Iran.  American diplomats have tried to use diplomacy or nonviolent sanctions to control the situation with Iran, but Iranian officials have continued to resort to violent measures to demand respect from the US.  The Iranian out-dated negotiation tactics of Iran cannot be changed by the US or any external force. But the US does have a responsibility to protect its citizens and foreign interests. So, until Iran recognizes the benefits of peaceful negotiation, the US will continue to fight fire with fire to protect its people and allies.

About the Writer
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Lily Belcher, Editor in Chief

Lily Belcher is a junior at Durant High School and is the Editor in Chief for the PawPrint. She is freelancing for the Osprey Observer this year and hopes...

Durant Theatre Company shines with Brainstorm


The entire theatre company poses proudly with the trophy representing their Superior for Brainstorm.

Before Thanksgiving Break, the Durant Theatre Company performed “Brainstorm: A Journey Inside the Teenage Mind” for Durant students, family, and faculty.

“Brainstorm”, a one act play, was written by Mr. Arment and his students, making the show personal and unique to Durant’s production.  Sydni Burge, a sophomore and actress for the Durant Theatre Company, said, “Every production of “Brainstorm” is different, because we play ourselves and our parents.  Everyone has a unique relationship with their parents and the show highlights that.”

The script, originally formulated by Ned Glasier, allows the school using the idea to fill in their own characters, based off the students of their drama club, and personalize it with interesting facts about their unique cast.  Mr. Arment commented on the development of the script, saying, “We had to do a lot of initial work on the background of each of the cast members. We really had to dive in through worksheets and conversations and collaboration to discover what has gone on in the lives of these kids.”

The play explained the teenage mind to the audience through comical and interactive scenes.  “Brainstorm” portrayed each student’s fears of growing up and the struggles they face as a teenager, such as those that come with homework, chores, and extracurriculars, all while trying to maintain healthy relationships with their parents.

Jordan Maddock, a stagehand for “Brainstorm”, said, “The [on stage] survey [with the cast] shows how the teenage brain functions.” It also showed how many of the cast’s teenagers struggle with the challenges that come with being a young adult.

Each student had the opportunity to portray one of their parents, resulting in laughs from the audience, but also showing how teenagers view their parents.  Isabelle Hoofnagle, an actress for the Durant Theatre Company, said, “[The portrayal] actually took a fair bit of preparation too. I had to watch my dad and study his mannerisms and his voice.”

Burge said, “Our portrayals of our parents are a way to lighten up the show, but also to say things we’ve never gotten to say [about our parents] before.”

The cast then played Never Have I Ever with the audience to show them that they are just like the cast of teenagers.  Never Have I Ever also allowed the adults in the gallery to remember parts of their teenage years and reminded them of the similar struggles they faced.

The show concluded with the cast showing letters they had written to their parents on poster boards.  Mr. Arment said, “The cast was coming from a place of such honesty and bravery that it really just set the play apart from other plays that I have done.”

On December 4, the Durant Theatre company took their One-Act to the District 9 One-Act Festival at USF.  The cast performed a revised version of “Brainstorm” in order to fit the 40-minute time limit. The Durant Theatre Company received a “Superior”, the highest score achievable.  “Brainstorm” proved to be another successful production of the Durant Theatre Company.

About the Writer
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Lily Belcher, Editor in Chief

Lily Belcher is a junior at Durant High School and is the Editor in Chief for the PawPrint. She is freelancing for the Osprey Observer this year and hopes...

Swinging for the fences: 2019 Rays season Overview


The Rays celebrate their valiant efforts throughout the eason.

The 2019 MLB season found the Rays in a familiar spot: a few new faces, a few returning players, and fewer fans in the stands in St. Pete’s Tropicana Field. Little did 2019 AL Manager of the Year Kevin Cash know that 2019 would be the first time the 22-year-old Rays would make it to the postseason since 2013.

The Rays season began on an optimistic note with a series win against eventual 2019 World Series runner up, the Houston Astros.  However, a rash of injuries swept through the Rays’ clubhouse mid-April, sending Blake Snell (fractured right toe), Austin Meadows (right thumb sprain), Joey Wendle (hamstring sprain), fan-favorite Ji-Man Choi (calf tightness), and veteran Matt Duffy (pulled hamstring) to the Injured List (IL). Surprisingly, Kevin Kiermaier, known for his extended annual stints on the IL, avoided getting injured, but did miss games in the middle of the season with a variety of injuries. The Rays ended April with a 19-12 record, including a sweep against the Red Sox.

The Rays won 16 of their 27 games in May, including two series against the New York Yankees and a series against the Cleveland Indians.  Riley Brown, a sophomore at Durant High School, says that the Yankees were the toughest opponent for the Rays to face this year, alluding to the few games the Rays won against their division opponents.  Tampa Bay also led sweeps against cross-state rivals, the Miami Marlins, and international opponents, the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Rays avoided their common summer slump, winning more than half of their games in June.  However, behind the scenes, Rays’ ownership was exploring a future deal with Montreal (who lost their MLB Franchise when the Expos became the current Washington Nationals), due to low profit from low attendance at Tropicana Field.  Stadium deal rumors, such as this, have become a common headline in Tampa for many years, so much that Rays’ fans are accustomed to the threats to draw baseball away from the west coast of Florida.  The rumors have yet to amount to any action.

Grant Greenwell, a sophomore at Durant says “[the Rays] are probably gonna move pretty soon or are gonna be a two-city team at least.”  Rays fans have mixed opinions on the matter.  Austin Haley, a Durant Chemistry teacher, says that he hopes the rumors will result in reopening talks to keep the Rays in Florida, but at a better location.  However, the Rays need a lot more than a few passionate fans to keep them in Tampa Bay.

Despite the stadium drama, Rays’ players remained focused on the game and managed to get three players elected to the AL All-Star game on July 9: utility player, Brandon Lowe, Charlie Morton, and rookie sensation, Austin Meadows.  Lowe and Morton were unable to play in the game due to an injury and the pitching schedule, but Meadows represented the Ray, entering the game in the 4th inning playing outfield for three innings and an at bat.

Facing the second half of the season, the Rays had one thing in mind: the playoffs.  Rays ended July playing the Red Sox for the fourth time in 2019.  Tampa Bay swept the Olde Towne Team at Fenway Park in four games, leading them into August on another high note, being the first team to win eight games at Boston in one season since 1966.  Catcher Travis D’Arnaud had an outstanding July, batting .304 and hitting 25 RBIs.

With a pitching staff largely on the IL, the Rays managed an impressive performance in the post season push.  The Rays relied on an innovative pitching approach with an “opener”, but without many of their starters, their approach was limited.  The offense managed to drive the Rays to 17 wins in 27 games.  Rays’ shortstop Willy Adames continued his stellar sophomore year, hitting .304 with 28 hits.

Rays’ fans, players, and coaches were watching the Wild Card standings, knowing their performance in September would control their post season fate.  Their pitchers were finally getting healthy and batters were swinging for the fences.  September began by completing a sweep against the Cleveland Indians, followed by 15 more wins.  Left fielder Tommy Pham closed out the season setting five 2019 team records, including 25 stolen bases and 33 doubles.  The last win in the regular season came against the Toronto Blue Jays on September 27.  Not only did the Rays beat the Blue Jays 6-2, they clinched one of the two Wild Card spots, followed by an extensive champagne celebration in Toronto’s visitor’s locker room.  The Rays would be playing in October for the first time since 2013.

Austin Haley, “[the Rays’] run differential was great this year,” and contributes that to their offensive success.  Throughout regular season, the Rays were only outscored in the month of August and outscored opponents 796-656 overall.

The Rays faced the Oakland Athletics in the Wild Card game on October 2nd, sending Charlie Morton to lead the defense for the first five innings, but they didn’t have to rely on their pitching and defense alone.  Yandy Diaz, returning third baseman, had an excellent performance hitting two back to back homers.  Avisail Garcia and Tommy Pham contributed to the offensive assault leading the Rays to a 5-1 victory over the Athletics, taking them to the American League Divisional Series.

After one day off, the Rays flew to Houston for the first two games of the series.  Rays fans weren’t giving up hope, even after dropping the first two games to Houston, being outscored 9-3.  Back on their home turf, the Rays challenged the Astros in a spectacular offensive show.  Kevin Kiermaier, who had had a rather quiet bat in the regular season, matched Altuve’s solo homerun with a three-run homer in the bottom of the second.  Aces Ji-Man Choi, Austin Meadows, Tommy Pham, Brandon Lowe, and Willy Adames contributed seven more runs bring the final score to 10-3.  The Rays were making a comeback.

The fourth game was just as exciting for Rays’ fans.  Justin Verlander would be pitching on three days’ rest for the first time in his career-a major mistake by Astro’s management.  Started by Diego Castillo, the Rays pitched a shutout through eight innings spoiled by a solo homerun by Houston catcher Robinson Chirinos.

Unfortunately, a sharp eye from the Astros’ dug out ended the Rays’ post season battle.  The Astros decoded Tyler Glasnow’s pitching positions, allowing them to read the pitch before it was thrown.  The Astros’ beat the Rays 6-1 in the decisive game 5 of the ALDS.  The Rays would be heading home after an impressive and unexpected fight with the Houston Astros.

Nevertheless, the Rays saw their regular and post season performance as a team victory.  In an interview with ABC, Eric Sogard voiced his praise for the 2019 Rays saying, “I think we surprised a lot of people. We believed in ourselves the whole way, we believed we could have done it. We went up against the best team, we gave them a fight in five games.”

The Rays performance this year was not about winning the World Series; it was about perseverance, fighting, and impressing every baseball fan.

About the Writer
Photo of Lily Belcher
Lily Belcher, Editor in Chief

Lily Belcher is a junior at Durant High School and is the Editor in Chief for the PawPrint. She is freelancing for the Osprey Observer this year and hopes...

Durant Journalism Succeeds at FSPA


Majortity of the Pawprint staff gathers to celebrate their victories.

Durant’s Journalism Program found great success at the 2019 Fall Florida Scholastic Press Association Conference.  Over 800 students attended the conference at USF on November 1st.  Three students from Durant’s newspaper and yearbook classes won on the spot contest awards in the district and four won in the state of Florida for their articles written in various categories. Durant’s Newspaper teacher, Mrs. Kious, also won Teacher of the Year in District 4.

Mrs. Kious, who has grown the PawPrint from seven students to 15 in the span of four years, won teacher of the year throughout Hillsborough, Polk, Sumter, Citrus, Hernando, and Pinellas county.  Mrs. Stone, Durant’s yearbook teacher, nominated her co-worker for the award at FSPA because of the success the PawPrint has had under Mrs. Kious. Mrs. Stone said, “Mrs. Kious has … revitalized the newspaper program… she, like, threw herself into it.” 

She attributed the success of the PawPrint’s web presence and stronger, motivated writers originating from the newspaper program to Mrs. Kious and said she is “a good teacher and deserves recognition.”

Durant Pride Yearbook
Mrs. Kious shares words of wisdom with Web Editor Angelique Robinson, Business Manager Jordan Dabbourand Staff Writer Nick Travis as they enjoy lunch at FSPA.

Mrs. Kious will be entered for teacher of the year in the state of Florida and is very deserving of the honor.  

Many of the PawPrint’s staff writers won awards for FSPA’s Fall Digital Contests in various categories as well.  Students who won digital contests placed in the top 10% of winners in the entire state of Florida.

David Fackson, a junior who joined PawPrint this year, wrote an article about the Tampa Bay Rays’ 2019 season for the Sports Feature category.  Despite not being able to make it to the conference, his article won in Florida. “It was nice to feel, nice to see,” he said about winning at FSPA. 

He also said he had never won something like this, and the award confirmed that he was on the right track with his writing as a journalist.

Lily Belcher, a sophomore, also placed in the state for a Sports Feature on Kevin Cash, thanks to help from Mrs. Kious and Jennifer Dages, the Editor-in-Chief of Writing for the PawPrint. 

Marina Hawkins and Adamari Jaimez won in Academic Photography with their photos of a Durant’s chemistry teacher, Mr. Haley, conducting an experiment during class.  Marina is the Social Media Coordinator for the PawPrint and said, “It feels good to know I could put that on my college resume or applications.”

Adamari is a junior who is considering a career in Photo-journalism.  She said that winning at FSPA has motivated her to work harder in journalism and consider Photo-journalism as a potential job in the future.  

The PawPrint also saw success in the On-the-Spot Contests at FSPA.  Mattie Powers, who also joined PawPrint this year and hopes to eventually work in broadcast journalism, won third place in the News Anchor Challenge.  She had ten minutes to memorize the story and report it as a news anchor would. Mattie also takes TV Production at Durant and is working on her articles for the winter edition of the PawPrint.  Mattie said “Winning at FSPA meant the world to me because it really confirmed what I wanted to do as a career, which is to be a news anchor.”

Durant Pride Yearbook
The staff begins to brainstorm their ideas for their on the spot contests.

Two students from Durant’s yearbook won an architectural on-the-spot photography contest.  Javier Lopez and Merrick Wigington featured photos of architectural aspects of the USF Marshall Center.  

FSPA has provided many journalism students with validation for their dreams of becoming a journalist.  It gave potential journalists the opportunity to improve their writing, interviewing, and broadcasting skills.  It allowed staff writers to explore different types of journalism and to discover their journalistic passions.  

About the Writer
Photo of Lily Belcher
Lily Belcher, Editor in Chief

Lily Belcher is a junior at Durant High School and is the Editor in Chief for the PawPrint. She is freelancing for the Osprey Observer this year and hopes...

Armwood High School students create English Language Learners Bill

The English Language Learners Bill is an effort by Armwood High School seniors to ensure equality between native and non-native English speakers when taking English Graduation Tests.

The English Language Learners Bill is an effort by Armwood High School seniors to ensure equality between native and non-native English speakers when taking English Graduation Tests.

Two-term Florida Republican Representative Kevin Ambler originally began the county wide “Ought to Be A Law” competition to encourage students to propose bills to congress.  Fifteen years later, Kevin Ambler is out of office, but Armwood High School civics teacher, Tony Pirotta, and his students kept it going.

Senior Maria Medina noticed one of her fellow classmates, who transferred to Hillsborough County’s Armwood High School after moving from Cuba, struggling with English.  Her classmate was passing all her other classes with flying colors, except for English.  English Graduation Tests assume the test taker understands the language fluently.  The student has already completed the English Language Learner’s program (a program designed to teach non-native speakers English), but those classes, crammed into 4-7 years, cannot teach the entirety of the English language.  The fine-tuning that comes in high school level English classes can’t be understood by students who are still struggling to learn the complicated components of the English language.  Therefore, understanding English on the level they are expected to understand for English tests is nearly impossible-which is where Pirotta’s student’s bill comes in.

House Bill 143/ Senate Bill 376, the most recent bills originating from Tony Pirotta’s civics club, “exempts certain English Language Learners from specified graduation requirement[s].”  In this case, the graduation requirement would be English Graduation Tests.  Both bills have been referred to their respective house’s “PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee” on September 23 and hope to be approved by July 1, 2020.

In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times, senior Haley Manigold says “We believe that every student deserves an equal opportunity.  If you take a test and you can’t understand it, then the test is not effectively showing what you know.”

Similar bills have been introduced by Democratic Senator Annette Taddeo and Democratic Representative Cindy Polo (HB 1213/SB 1590).  These bills state that non-native English speakers should be able to take tests required for graduation in their native language.

Many students have joined Pirotta’s it “Ought to Be A Law Club” to help their fellow classmates who are challenged by the English requirement.  Zachary Mills, a member of the club says, “I just want to be part of the group that makes things better.”

With the help of their teacher, the members of the club have communicated with Democratic Florida Representative Susan Valdes, who has assisted the students in getting the bill into its respective committee and onto the Senate and House floor.  The English Language Learners bill will increase graduation rates for non-native English-speaking students and will promote fair high school testing for students of all nationalities.  Haley Manigold and a few of her classmates hope to travel to Tallahassee to lobby the bill in Congress for the 2020 Legislative Session, which begins January 14.

About the Writer
Photo of Lily Belcher
Lily Belcher, Editor in Chief

Lily Belcher is a junior at Durant High School and is the Editor in Chief for the PawPrint. She is freelancing for the Osprey Observer this year and hopes...

Florida students try to petition school after Halloween


The petion ultimately gained about 70,000 signatures.

The Hillsborough County School Board has responded to a petition created online by students regarding school on the day after Halloween, November 1st

Students from Hillsborough, Polk, and Pasco county each began a petition on proposing that students should not have to go to school after Halloween and a night of Trick-or-Treating. The Hillsborough county petition has nearly 60,000 signatures to, as the petition states, “Get no school after [H]alloween so we can turn up with our homies.”

The Polk County petition, begun by Moises Rodriguez, had more formal phrasing, explaining that holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving each have weeks off, and asking for one day off for Halloween isn’t too much to ask. 

Ja-Leo Boswell, a sophomore at Durant who signed the petition said, “Nobody’s gonna be feeling good cause they eat a lot of candy or are gonna get themselves sick or are gonna party and stay up late until like 3 o’clock in the morning.”

Many students agreed with Boswell explaining they can’t function at school if they are “hung over on candy.”  Another student signed the petition because the school board has already cancelled early release days for the rest of the first semester due to Hurricane Dorian. 

Emily Daugherty commented in favor of the petition saying, “I’m signing this petition because I believe that Halloween is a night to live it up! And how we gonna do that when we have school the next day and homework to do that night also[?] This petition is great [because] I really think that we should have the day after Halloween off!”

However, the school boards from each county have responded to the student led petitions.  

The post from the Polk County School Board reads “We respect the spirit of grassroots activism behind the petition…Unfortunately, our yearly school calendar is set well in advance, and barring an emergency, we cannot close schools on short notice.”  

Christine Lybbert, one of the Spanish teachers at Durant, says the school board’s response was “absolutely” appropriate because of the required time students need to come to school. 

The school board responded to another student comment claiming that students will be sick from eating candy saying, “Our school nurses will be ready to assist you with any candy-related ailments when you return… on Friday.”

Principle Gary Graham says he does not support the petition but says “I don’t think [the petition] was inappropriate. I think there is a form for student voice all the time.”

Mrs. Lybbert agreed with Mr. Graham, saying “We have a right to ask. I learned a long time ago that if you never ask the answer is always going to be no.”

The students’ efforts are applauded, however, some issues-such as school attendance-are not negotiable. But, echoing Mrs. Lybbert’s take on the matter, it never hurts to ask.

About the Contributor
Photo of Lily Belcher
Lily Belcher, Editor in Chief

Lily Belcher is a junior at Durant High School and is the Editor in Chief for the PawPrint. She is freelancing for the Osprey Observer this year and hopes...

Revelations about the death of Tyler Skaggs


Jeff Gross

Pitcher Tyler Skaggs of the Los Angeles Angels, tragically passed in July, yet more details are being revealed about the circumstances now.

The tragic loss of Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs has affected baseball players and fans across Major League Baseball since his premature death in July.  Recently, however, new information regarding his death has surfaced.

Skaggs was found unresponsive, just three days after his last outing, in his Texas hotel on July 1st early in the day.  The LA Coroner’s toxicology report showed the Angel’s pitcher had overdosed on a lethal combination of oxycodone, fentanyl, and alcohol.  MLB teams paid tribute to the ace pitcher with #45 patches and field decorations through the All-Star Break.

Skaggs’ family hired Attorney Rustin Hardin to investigate the circumstances surrounding his death.  The investigation brought shocking information to the forefront of baseball news. Eric Kay, a PR manager for the Angels, had reportedly been supplying Skaggs with oxycodone, a pain killer, for years.  Kay claimed that Skaggs had been using and abusing the drug during his pitching career despite MLB’s ban on such drugs. He further explained that Skaggs would purchase the drugs for the two of them to use and produced text messages to corroborate his story.  

Kay alleged that the Angels’ Vice President of Communication, Tim Mead, knew of Skaggs’ drug use, although Mead has denied those allegations.  Kay’s admission to supplying Skaggs with illegal narcotics will likely lead to him facing criminal charges.  

Skaggs’ team could potentially face charges as well.  Since his death occurred during a work trip, which he would not otherwise be on if not for his job as a pitcher, the Angels are implicated in his death.  

The Angels released a statement saying that “[They] maintain a strict, zero tolerance policy regarding the illicit use of drugs for both players and staff.”  They explained to reporters and those concerned with Skaggs’ death that they could not have monitored Skaggs or his relationships with employees.  

MLB does conduct random drug tests, but it is impossible to test every major league player.  They are also not able to test players for drugs unless they have reasonable cause. Since no one on the team had reason to believe Skaggs was using drugs, he was not tested.  However, in light of his death, Tony Clark, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association said, “It is appropriate and important to reexamine all of our drug protocols relating to education, treatment and prevention.” 

Despite the emotional distress of the loss of Tyler Skaggs to his family, to the Angels, and to the sports world, perhaps his death will lead to a renewed effort to rid baseball and all professional sports of the scourge that is drug abuse.

About the Contributor
Photo of Lily Belcher
Lily Belcher, Editor in Chief

Lily Belcher is a junior at Durant High School and is the Editor in Chief for the PawPrint. She is freelancing for the Osprey Observer this year and hopes...

John Bolton’s disagreements with President Trump lead to termination

Trump (left) and Bolton (right) had opposing views on most issues.

Getty Images

Trump (left) and Bolton (right) had opposing views on most issues.

September 10 brought an end to John Bolton’s two-year tenure with the Trump administration. The third National Security Advisor since 2016 has been known to disagree with President Trump over a variety of diplomatic issues.

In May of 2018, President Trump withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Deal, against the advice of Bolton. The deal was made in 2015 under the Obama administration and Bolton had been on record advocating for the United States’ presence in the negotiation.

President Trump also butted heads with Bolton in January of 2019. Turkish president, Tayyip Erdogan, refused to meet with Bolton to discuss U.S. troops in Syria. The meeting ended with both Bolton and the Turkish President angered with the conditions of the deal.

On May 26, Bolton condemned North Korea’s missile tests, noting how the tests violated the
resolution made by the United Nations Security Council. President Trump later tweeted about the missile
tests, noting how “some” of his administration were “disturbed”, but said that the missile launches did not
bother him. Many assumed this tweet was to made to undermine Bolton’s previous remarks.

In June, President Trump called off a last minute military strike in Iran that Bolton had supported
and in the following week, Bolton did not accompany President Trump and his delegation in the historic
North Korean summit with Kim Jong Un.

President Trump spoke with NBC that month and called Bolton a “hawk” and said he did not agree with many of his decisions.Last week, which turned out to be the last week of Bolton’s time in the White House, Bolton opposed President Trump’s controversial plan to meet with Taliban and Afghan leaders at Camp David.

President Trump and Bolton continue their disagreements even after Bolton left the White House.
Bolton claims that he had tendered his resignation, however President Trump tweeted that he “informed John Bolton…that his services were no longer needed at the White House.”

He referenced that he and Bolton had had many disagreements, but was thankful for Bolton’s service to the White House. Bolton was succeeded by Charles Kupperman who will be the new acting National Security Adviser.

About the Contributor
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Lily Belcher, Editor in Chief

Lily Belcher is a junior at Durant High School and is the Editor in Chief for the PawPrint. She is freelancing for the Osprey Observer this year and hopes...

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