Oak Hall Implements A.L.I.C.E. Training

Students, faculty training scheduled for 2020

By Aiden Wacksman

To prepare for what is known as an “active shooter” situation on the Oak Hall campus, the administrative body has implemented Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate (A.L.I.C.E.) training for students, faculty, and staff. While faculty and staff have participated in A.L.I.C.E. training for almost two years, students have not been introduced to it as of now. Sometime during the second semester of the 2019-20 school year, students will join faculty and staff while engaging in A.L.I.C.E. training for the first time.

A presentation by deputies Drew Davis and P.J. Mauldin explained that A.L.I.C.E. is defined as “a non-linear, decision-making process, which gives individual teachers [and] staff the power to make the best plan of action given their particular situation.” The deputies stated that “duck and cover” was proven to be an ineffective method during active shooter situations, exemplifying the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, which left 28 dead and two injured. They also emphasized how locked doors can be a game-changer in the unlikely situation a shooter enters a school building. “The great thing about A.L.I.C.E. is that faculty and staff can choose any one of the options and go with it,” Mauldin said.

According to David Jackson, Assistant Head of School, the idea of A.L.I.C.E. training was brought up one-and-a-half years ago. “We decided to implement A.L.I.C.E. training after reviewing security protocols,” he explained. Since school shootings have become more common in our society, Oak Hall decided to act by preparing teachers and staff for an active shooter situation. Now, the administration has decided that it’s time to get students involved.

“The most important thing we’re entrusted with every day as a school is ensuring the safety of our students, and it would be negligent of us to not engage them in this kind of training.”

David Jackson, Assistant Head of School

John Perlette, Upper School Head, noted that “Although the likelihood of this [active shooter] event is very small, having some level of preparation is important.” Perlette explained that he’s not sure how teachers or students will behave in an active shooter situation, but articulated that “In my opinion, the outcome will be better with training as opposed to an outcome without training.”

“I really appreciated the A.L.I.C.E. training for the teachers,” said Christine Gutierrez, Upper School math teacher. She explained that her A.L.I.C.E. training experience was very “intense and realistic,” and it taught her how to make a “mental map” of what to do in an active shooter situation. Gutierrez believes that a drill including both students and teachers could make A.L.I.C.E. training feel even more realistic. “When you hear the gun and smell the gunpowder, it’s definitely an experience to remember,” she said.  

Michelle Mills, Head of the Lower School, explained that A.L.I.C.E. training is very important and helpful. “It is important that teachers and students are equipped to make the right decisions in the event that an attack should occur,” she stated. Mills added that A.L.I.C.E. training is great because it provides Lower School students and teachers more options in an active shooter situation. “I think that more practice is important because we need the skills to become more effective and confident in case we ever have to use our training,” she said.

New MS Club Brings the Fun

During FLEX period on Thursdays, 10:03 a.m. until 11:33 a.m., Oak Hall’s Middle School students first meet in their advisory groups, then head off to participate in a club. Unlike the Upper School, Middle School students are required to join one of the numerous clubs that are offered. Game Board Club is one club students get to choose for FLEX.

Students from 6th through 8th grade enjoy Board Game Club

Melissa Armstrong, Middle School English teacher and Game Board Club sponsor, polled her students to get an idea as to what type of club Middle School students would be interested in. “Board Game club is a group of diverse students coming together to decompress, make new friends, and have fun together,” Armstrong said. “They also try out critical thinking strategies, compete, and laugh A LOT,” she continued.

With 25 students involved in the club, there are a lot of games to choose from

With 25 students in the club, from all three Middle School grade levels, students play games such as Bananagrams, Apples to Apples, Dos, and BUNCO!

Photos courtesy of Melissa Armstrong

Seniors Shine At Last Home Football Game

By Emily Youngblood

Friday, Oct. 25 was an exciting night for the Oak Hall football players and cheerleaders, as it was Senior Night. The senior football players include Stephen Kaleel, Mason McElroy, Collin Ponton, and Zhai Smith. The seniors on the cheerleading squad include Mason Johnson, Elizabeth Olcese, and Veronika Schmalfuss. 

The goal of Senior Night, “is to honor and recognize the senior players who have helped lay the foundation of our program,” said head football coach, RJ Fuhr. “This will be their last regular season home game, so we want to make it really special for them,” he continued. 

But what goes into Senior Night? “We announce them with their parents and read off their senior questionnaire that they filled out, and give the mom’s flowers,” Fuhr explained. The seniors walk on the field with their parents and other family members, as they get this special moment to be recognized as individuals.


Fun facts about Zhai Smith:
– Football Jersey: #23
– He has been playing football for two years, both years he has been at Oak Hall.
– Memorable moments: Going out to eat after the games and the jokes during workouts
– Possibility of playing football in college? “Maybe!”
– What has football taught you? “If you put your mind and passion in it, you can do anything.”

Fun facts about Stephen Kaleel:
– Football Jersey: #56
– He has been at Oak Hall since first grade, and has played football since seventh grade.
– Possibility of playing football in college? “Maybe!”
– What has football taught you? “To work as a team.”

Fun facts about Collin Ponton:
– Football Jersey: #44
– Like Zhai, Collin has been playing football for two years, both years he has been at Oak Hall.
– Memorable moments: Homecoming
– What has football taught you? “Teamwork and putting effort into everything.”

Fun facts about Mason McElroy:
– Football Jersey: #8
– Mason is a lifer of Oak Hall (“lifer” is a student that has attended OHS consecutively since kindergarten) and started in pre-k. He has been playing football since third grade.
– What has football taught you? “To face adversity.”

Fun facts about Veronika Schmalfuss:
– Like Mason, Veronika is a lifer, and has been at Oak Hall since she was three.
– She has been cheering since her sophomore year
– Memorable moments: “When I broke my nose on Mary Madelyn’s face; every choreography session that we’ve ever had is so fun; I love the people and I love our coaches!”
– Possibility of cheering in college? “Yes! I really want to!”
– What has cheerleading taught you? “It taught me more about working together with other people, to come together for a common goal, and also that being positive and encouraging others to do what they love really does actually help them.”

Fun facts about Mason Johnson:
– Mason has been an Eagle since the fifth grade, and has been a cheerleader since the sixth grade.
– Memorable moments: “Definitely our competitive team last year that finished fourth at regionals and seventh at state. We all dedicated so much time and energy into that team, to see it all pay off was wonderful!”
– Possibility of cheering in college? “I will try out to cheer at Wake Forest.”
– What has cheerleading taught you? “Cheerleading has taught be the value of time management, teamwork, and family. The girls on my team mean the world to me and I am incredibly grateful that I had this opportunity to cheer with them.”

Fun facts about Elizabeth Olcese:
– Elizabeth has attended Oak Hall since her freshman year, and is in her second year of cheer.
– Memorable moments: “Making All-American at UCA camp this summer.”
– Possibility of cheering in college? “It depends on the school.”
– What has cheerleading taught you? “Cheer has taught me a lot about teamwork and how it feels to have people depend on you.”

Congratulations to all our seniors on a fantastic season!

Photos courtesy of SWI Photography

A to Z With Evie

By Shailey Klein

Oak Hall Senior Diver Evie Kelly placed second in the district at last weeks postseason meet, with a score of 400.45. Yesterday, the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) released the selection sheets for the regional meets, listing Kelly as the fifth seed in Class 1A Region 1.

Here is A to Z with our girl Evie!

Area diver you enjoy watching? I really enjoy watching a lot of my teammates, especially Kaylee Rowe and Sara Warm, because she’s amazing.

Best pre-meet meal? It kind of depends, I really like to eat chocolate chip pancakes in the morning, so that’s probably a good one. But, if the meet is super early, something more light, maybe just like a bagel.

Coach’s best words of advice? Make the dive.

Dessert? Ice Cream

Entertaining practice? There’s been a lot of entertaining practices. I can’t think of a specific one but any [practice] with Kaylee (Rowe) and Natalie (Saliwanchik) and the whole dive squad together is always a fun time.

Favorite diving moment? After the meet is over and we’re all happy together and Kaylee makes up a cheer and we all jump off the board together, it’s just really fun.

Goals for postseason? I’m going to be competing with my club and be practicing year-round so my goal is to just keep getting new dives and improving.

Helpful tips to keeping composure on meet day? Just be chill and don’t worry too much. It’s just a meet, so it’s not too big of a deal.

Interesting thing about you away from diving? I really like turtles; I’ve liked them my whole life.

Joker on the team? Kaylee (Rowe), for sure.

Keys to success in diving? Stay tight, have good form, don’t be afraid to try new dives.

Least favorite dive? I don’t like my back dive, because I’m not very good at it. It’s not my best one.

Music you listen to? I listen to all different kinds of music. I like chill, happy music.

Netflix or Hulu? Netflix

Other sports? I used to do gymnastics. I did competitive gymnastics for 11 years of my life and then I switched from gymnastics to diving.

Preparations for a big meet include? Staying focused at practice before the meet, having your goals in mind in the weeks leading up to the meet.

Question you would ask your future self? What should I do? What college should I go to?

Relaxing part of your day? I really like coming home after school and after practice, taking a shower, listening to music, and then once I’m done with my homework I can just relax and sit on the couch.

Superstitions? I’m not really very superstitious, but sometimes I have certain little things, like when I did gymnastics, I would wear the same socks everyday for meet day. For diving, this isn’t really a superstition, but it’s something that I do. We have our little “shammies”, which are towels that we dry off with. I’m just really particular about being dried off and I always like to have my shammy with me as like a comfort blanket.

TV show? The Office

Underrated pet? I have a cat and a dog and I feel like a lot of the time dogs get more credit—I love my dog, but sometimes my cat doesn’t get as much credit. But, I love my cat too! 

Vacation spot? The Bahamas

What does it mean to you to be an Eagle? To be an Eagle means having a really nice community with a lot of school spirit.

X-rays? I’ve had a lot of x-rays. When I was in fifth grade, I broke my wrist, and then from the time I broke it until eighth grade I had to go back once a month and get x-rays on it and then in eighth grade I had to have surgery on it. So, I’ve had a lot of x-rays.

Your impact to the younger athletes on the team? Hopefully, my impact is good. I try to be really supportive and encourage people to keep going. It will be sad to leave the younger teammates on our team because I’ll miss competing with them.

Zoo animal? Turtles are my favorite animal but I guess they have tortoises in a zoo. I also really like giraffes in the zoo.

Good luck at regionals!

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Ugur Baslanti

By Jasmine Chen

Oak Hall’s Upper School welcomed another new face this year. Dr. Ugur Baslanti has joined the Upper School mathematics department and is teaching Algebra I, Geometry, and Geometry Honors. Having worked at public schools and charter schools, Baslanti finds teaching at Oak Hall quite different from his past experiences. “I like the school culture, students are respectful…administration is very supportive, and things are more flexible compared to the public schools where I worked at,” Baslanti said.

As a passionate teacher with various ideas, Baslanti had been searching to find a place where he could “be [him]self as a teacher…put in all [his] passions for teaching, help other people, and work on [his] projects”. He knows that coming to Oak Hall was the right decision because this is the working environment he has always wanted to be in.

Growing up in Turkey, Baslanti received a high level of academic achievement by his own country’s standards. He received a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry Education and a master’s degree in Secondary School Science and Mathematics Education at Bogazici University in Istanbul. He decided to come to the United States 17 years ago to pursue a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction at the University of Florida due to his need for new challenges. In addition, although he thinks that many educational ideas worldwide were created in the states, he knew that the American educational system also needed improvement in certain aspects. “I wanted to see both the theory and practice in place, what are the things that work, what are the things that don’t work,” Baslanti explained.

While still in college in his homeland, Baslanti got a job offer as a part-time teaching and research assistant at a private educational institution. Over the years, Baslanti has taught mathematics, physics, chemistry, and methods courses in education. “When I got accepted for the Ph.D. program at the University of Florida, the School of Teaching and Learning offered me a full scholarship, so I didn’t have to pay any tuition, which was great, and they paid me a salary on top of it…I was working as a teaching assistant and research assistant,” Baslanti said. Apart from teaching academic subjects, after graduating from the University of Florida, he worked as a school administrator and college counselor. “Now as a teacher, I can combine all those skills,” Baslanti noted. 

In his spare time, Baslanti likes to write daily-life blogs, solve challenging math problems, and play soccer and basketball. In addition, he also does part-time work for Duke University as a STEM academic coordinator for its online program. “We are designing and teaching college level classes for high school and middle school students,” Baslanti explained.