May 1, 2020

News, tips and advice from Quill and Scroll

The Lede

What’s the fall semester look like?

By Nichole Shaw, Q&S Communications Director

If you’re like me, the stress of quarantine is probably getting to you. There’s a lot of unknowns while information is constantly pouring in from everywhere on the internet, TV, and radio. One that I’ve been particularly concerned with is whether or not school will be face-to-face again in the fall. For me, it’s looking alright as the University of Iowa tentatively says they’re planning to reconvene for face-to-face communication in the fall. I was curious as to what the situation looked like for everyone else though, because my timeline is flooded with people at their wit’s end—from the stress of virtual classes, internet access issues, isolation and increasingly difficult battles with mental health issues.

School is a precious place for some. For me, high school was the place where I could connect to the internet and get homework done. It was also the place for me to meet new people and see the faces of my peers in the hallways, lining up my schedule to meet with friends in the bathroom when we could. I was on the free-reduced lunch program, so it was also the place where I could get a good, nutritious meal without worrying about how much it cost. School was a place where I could be somebody else, somebody better by learning new things and creating new opportunities for myself. I know all of these testaments might not be relatable, but I’m sure at least one of then connected with you.

With the extraordinary coronavirus situation we’ve all been forced to endure in some aspect, the future seems really uncertain right now. As we look to the fall semester for school, it’s encouraging to see so many different models for what administrators and school personnel have come up with. In California, the Gov. Gavin Newsom said schools could open in a “physically restrained” way, come fall. Now that could mean a lot, but some of the options include splitting the school day into morning and afternoon shifts, as well as staggering lunch, gym, and recess, according to Politico California.

On the other hand, the coronavirus pandemic will severely stunt children’s learning, according to education leaders across the United States. As a result, they are taking unprecedented steps to help these students hopefully catch up. There’s a lot of ideas for what will and should happen, so stay updated by your local news outlet and/or publication, if possible.

“In Miami, school will extend into the summer and start earlier in the fall, at least for some students,” according to The Washington Post. “In Cleveland, schools may shrink the curriculum to cover only core subjects. In Columbia, Mo., this year’s lessons will be woven into next year’s. Some experts suggest holding back more kids, a controversial idea, while others propose a half-grade step-up for some students, an unconventional one. A national teachers union is proposing a massive national summer school program.”

It’s an overused statement right now, but these are difficult times and we must learn to navigate the new normal. As we start to think of big questions about our future, like what fall classes will look like for students, try and stay informed, reach out to your educational leaders, make your voice heard and find out how to get your essential resources.

There’s a lot to consider, but what’s been helping me is taking everything one day at a time. Going on afternoon walks with my dog (mask on!) has helped make me feel sane on days when everything gets to be a bit much. As stated in my column last week, please reach out if you have any stories you’d like to share about navigating this new space. I’d love to hear from you, whether it’s about your hopes and dreams for the fall semester, comfort essentials you’ve come to rely on during this quarantine and anything in between.

It’s An Honor

Scholarships! (Free Money)

Student Scholarships

Quill and Scroll members, as well as seniors, who earned a prize (including all honorable mentions) in Quill and Scroll contests over their high school careers are eligible to apply for student scholarships. The top prize this year is $1,500. You must plan to major in journalism or a related field in college. The application is free. Deadline is May 10.

Here’s a link where you can view videos about some past winners of the Q&S scholarships.

Deadlines coming

Q&S Student Advisory Board is June 1

Here’s your chance to take on an important leadership role and help make important contributions to a unified project released for nationwide engagement in the fall semester every year. To top it off, you’ll work directly with our director to help promote the ideas and importance of scholastic journalism. Plus, it looks great on a resume! The deadline this year is June 1, so mark your calendars. Apply here!

News Media Evaluation Service is June 15

Our annual News Media Evaluation Service is open for submissions! The News Media Evaluation resource has proven to be one of the most beneficial resources for scholastic journalists and their advisers, as winners receive constructive comments and suggestions for improvement from qualified evaluators. Judges will provide a thorough analysis and rating to schools, and the evaluation exercise and feedback are instructive and developmental.

Judge’s comment: “The Crier is solidly issue-based, providing a great service for helping students make sense of the world. You show a great deal of compassion for your fellow students and a great deal of courage in addressing tough issues like consent.”

This is the best critique (in terms of specific things to work on and suggestions to keep on going) that my students have ever gotten, ever. My staff is STILL benefiting from that critique. It’s shaped much of our philosophy in coverage and some of design for this year! So, thank you so so much.

— Sarah-Anne Lanman, “The Crier” Adviser, Munster High School

To enter, high schools and junior highs may enter their multimedia news operations, newspapers, news magazines and/or online news sites until June 15, 2020.

We want to help make this process as easy as possible for you and still provide valuable services to those who enter. Thus, PDFs of print publications may be submitted because of the extraordinary situation we’re all experiencing right now. Find further instructions on how to enter and details here.

Simplified orders

Help honor your seniors in this odd year

For the most part, Quill and Scroll has moved off campus, but we go in every few days to fulfill and ship orders for induction materials and other Quill and Scroll swag.

We published this update earlier this week. It includes a simplified order form for schools and advisers willing to pay via credit card, and an offer to host an online induction ceremony for your students.

We can ship to the school or to an adviser’s home, if needed.

And even though you may be delaying your induction until July or August, you can still nominate students for membership now.

A reminder about cords

Students MUST HAVE BEEN OR WILL BE INDUCTED into the Society to earn the honor to wear an Honor Cord (GHC) or Honor Cord with Insignia (GCI). If you order cords for non-members, please choose the Non-Member Cord Option (NCD).

Quill and Scroll exists because of the special unifying bond brought about by membership and the lasting legacy of the induction ceremony.

And, as always, feel free to email [email protected] if you have any questions.


Check out all of our contest winners from this year

In these extraordinary times, we’ve decided to make public the full slideshow of the top three places in each category of our 2020 Writing, Photo and Multimedia Contest and our 2019 Yearbook Excellence Contest.

Here is the slideshow of the recently completed WPM Contest.

Here is the slideshow of the 2019 Yearbook Excellence Contest.

Enjoy and use as you see fit.

What’s Hot?

Amazon, Walmart, FedEx, Target, Instacart and Whole Foods workers strike over coronavirus working conditions

Today, an unprecedented coalition of Amazon, Walmart, FedEx, Target, Instacart and Whole Foods workers are going on strike to protest the working conditions they’ve been subjected to under the coronavirus. Profits for companies have skyrocketed with their status as “essential” businesses, however the workers claim this has come at the cost of their safety and health.

The protest spans at least half a dozen states, as this unprecedented coalition of workers call in sick or walk out on their lunch breaks. Read more about the strike here.

New Megan Thee Stallion ‘Savage’ remix, featuring Beyoncé

A surprise “Savage” remix was released from Megan Thee Stallion and Beyoncé on Wednesday, April 29. Within a few hours, it became the most trended video on YouTube and still holds that place (as of when I checked it last at 2:06 a.m.). It’s a remix of the song that’s gone viral in TikTok videos, spurring TikTokers to create new dance challenges to it, keeping themselves entertained at home.

And the best part about the remix, other than Beyoncé of course, is that all proceeds will go to non-profit organization Bread of Life, to help give COVID-19 relief and aid in the mission to end homelessness and improve the quality of life of those in need.

Read more about it here.

‘Parks and Recreation’ Reunion Special

“Parks and Recreation”released their reunion special last night, April 30, to help COVID-19 relief efforts. Aired by NBC, the episode has been praised by fans and reviewers alike, as they commented on the stellar comedy zingers that flew from one character to another through their Zoom screens.

To read more about the actual episode (with some spoilers!), click here.

Just a Thought

“It’s only a puff piece if you let it be”

By Jeff Browne, Q&S Executive Director

SPOILER ALERT: This review contains information about the plot of “Bad Education” (but the story happened 16 years ago, so you can Google it, no problem).

“It’s only a puff piece if you let it be a puff piece.” — Hugh Jackman as Frank Tassone in the HBO movie “Bad Education”

That was advice Roslyn (N.Y.) school Superintendent Frank Tassone supposedly gave to a student reporter in 2002 assigned to cover a story about a proposed skywalk at the wealthy public high school on Long Island, just 20 miles away from Manhattan.

If you have an HBO subscription, I’d suggest watching “Bad Education” for lots of reasons, including the acting, script, dramatic tension and — not least of all — the heroine of the story is the same high school journalist who eventually turned Tassone’s advice into a story that began to unravel an $11 million fraud perpetrated on the district by Tassone and his assistant, Pam Gluckin.

Of course, as in so many cinematic interpretations of real-life stories, the filmmakers took some license with the truth and portrayed the student’s role differently than it played out in real life. But the simple facts remain:

  • Two school officials bled the district of millions of dollars.
  • A student journalist helped uncover the fraud and her reporting helped lead to their arrest, conviction and incarceration.

Back in 2004, when the story broke, Rebekah Rombom wrote in the New York Times about how she broke the story for the Hilltop Beacon at Roslyn High, a Quill and Scroll school since 1947, where she was a co-editor her senior year.

Here are some basic differences between the movie and Rombom’s account.


In the HBO film, it’s 2002, and the student journalist (Rachel Bhargava, a junior) simply wants to do a basic story about the skywalk project, but is encouraged by the superintendent to challenge herself.

“It’s only a puff piece if you let it be a puff piece,” Tassone tells her.

Bhargava then asks Gluckin for documentation of bids for the skywalk project and is handed the keys to a storage room full of official records. She writes a story with the documentation but is told by her editor that the story isn’t appropriate for 15-year olds, so he tarts it up and publishes a puff piece under her byline.

Later, when Bhargava (played by Geraldine Viswanathan) senses something nefarious is at hand — the purchase of a pizza oven that never showed up at the school — she again is given the keys to the record vault. That’s where she finds a trove of unaccounted for expenditures.

She teams with her father, a sympathetic figure who got caught up in an insider stock-trading scandal, to track down the bogus expenses, including nearly $1 million that went to Tassone’s life partner.

The story Bhargava writes details Tassone’s questionable expenses and leads to an emergency school board meeting and eventually to police involvement, arrests, lawyers, judges, convictions and jail time for both Tassone and Gluckin.


It’s 2004, and Rombom and her co-editor-in-chief, Sam Floam, are both given tips about the firing of Gluckin two years previous. They try to ask for interviews and do some basic open-records requests, but they get nowhere.

Then they attend a school board meeting at which the topic is Gluckin’s dismissal and allegations in the letter that Tassone was in on the spree and that it accounted for more than the original $250,000 that Gluckin was accused of stealing from the school district. Tassone denied the allegations.

Rombom and Floam felt they were at a dead end, but they were encouraged by their adviser to keep reporting and to publish the story about Gluckin’s crimes, which they did, omitting Gluckin’s name.

“We were a newspaper, he told us, and it was our responsibility to report the news. We decided to do just that,” Rombom wrote.

The story had been reviewed by the principal and another administrator before it was published.

Tassone was sentenced to 4-12 years, but was released in 2010 and receives a $174,000 annual pension from the state of New York.


  • Big news outlets don’t always get the biggest stories, and that’s more true now than it was in 2004. High school journalists have an obligation to hold their officials to account. If you’re uncomfortable doing that, engage a professional journalist in the hunt.
  • Anonymous tipsters are only as good as the real and true documentation they can provide to back up their accusations.
  • Advisers are your best friends. They’re full of sage wisdom and advice.
  • Always look at the real story behind Hollywood’s interpretation of history. There are some great story possibilities in a regular feature in which you fact-check movies.

NOTE: HBO Now has a free 7-day streaming trial if you want to watch “Bad Education” and see a positive, if slightly altered, interpretation of scholastic journalism.