Month: February 2017

Winter Week 2016 Recap

Before the break, Lake Howell experienced its first ever winter week! Students bussed as the holiday spirit filled the air with the different themed days. The week was used to help raise various items to donate to our school’s food pantry.

The week kicked off with students wearing pajamas to school, while the entertainment for the night was a dodgeball tournament. That Tuesday was the Ghost of Holidays Past where students dressed up in decade theme clothing. Wednesday was Shweater Shwednesday, students wore their holiday sweaters to the school and were encouraged to wear them to the boys basketball game against Lake Nona as well. On Thursday students dressed up as different holiday characters or decorations to symbolize Holiday Madness. That same night to continue the madness the Polar Plunge Pool Party was held as a fundraiser for Prom 2017. To end the week in true floridan fashion, students dressed as tacky tourists to represent a floridian holiday and after school was the show in the snow where the movie elf was played in the auditorium.
Overall winter week was something new and interesting for Lake Howell and the food, toys, and money raised were used to help those in need to give back during the holidays.

By Julia Patittucci

Death Penalty Divided: Against

The death penalty has always been a contentious topic in America. The matter pertains to the ending of a life in order to punish the taking of a life. This debate has reached a particularly pressing crossroad. According to a 2016 Pew Research survey, support for the death penalty has fallen out of majority favor. Despite there still being more support than opposition, this new revelation impugns the fate of capital punishment in America. It brings into question the extent of the role the penalty should have, if any. The proper role of the penalty, however, is clear: zero role.  

In order to understand the current opposition to the penalty, former opposition must be studied first. The support for the death penalty—49 percent—is at the lowest in forty years, meaning that forty years ago support for the penalty lapsed. Both the practice and popularity of the penalty subsided in the years leading up to 1972, the year the Supreme Court decided the landmark case Furman v. Georgia. The case was dealing with a black man, Furman, who believed that his sentencing was racially biased. The Court agreed and struck all capital statutes across all nations, but did not outlaw the penalty itself. States revised their statutes and they were validated in the case Gregg v. Georgia in 1976. Because of the ostensibly infallible aura now encompassing the penalty after the racial bias issue was “solved,” the states were swift in use and the public passionate in support. Support dramatically rose in the 80’s and 90’s, peaking in the 1995, and the penalty cemented itself in the political realm. It was vigorously supported by both sides of the aisle, uniting George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton in the otherwise divisive 1992 election. However, the more recent elections have seen less adamance for the penalty. While 20 years ago it was that politicians either supported the penalty and were tough on crime or did not and were practically criminals themselves, tentativeness and outright rejection regarding the penalty is more acceptable today. The penalty is no longer a litmus test; it is no longer the manifestation of America’s resilience to crime. So, what has caused this sudden falling out between the public and the penalty? Well, it stems from the realization that the position held by advocates of the penalty has grown entirely indefensible.

A primary argument by penalty proponents is that the penalty effectively deters crime and incapacitates criminals. This, however, is not the case. Studies compiled and analyzed by Michael Radelet and Marian Borg, two sociological professors, show that at a certain point criminals do not feel more threatened by greater severity of a punishment. In essence, life imprisonment without parole—the alternative to the penalty—is just as deterring as a death sentence. Furthermore, the Death Penalty Information Center offers the opinions of criminologists, 88 percent of whom concur that the penalty does not affect homicide rates. In fact, the DPIC found that in the past thirty years, non-penalty states have had lower murder rates than death penalty states. As for incapacitation, while death does ultimately incapacitate a person’s ability to commit crimes, life imprisonment provides substantial incapacitation given that there is no legal means of reentering society. The illegal means, breaking out, is incredibly rare. To accommodate such a concern, these inmates would be placed under high supervision at maximum-security prisons.

Gregg v. Georgia was the supposed confirmation of the rectification of arbitrary sentencing in capital cases. But when America’s entire criminal justice system is being rebuked for injustice along racial lines, the argument cannot be made that its highest punishment is exempt. For executions of those convicted of interracial murders since 1976, 20 had black victims. For white victims, the number is 282. This whopping discrepancy illustrates the irrefutable presence of racial bias in capital sentencing. If our nation cannot ensure with invariable accuracy that bias and discrimination do not exist in its courts, those courts should not have the power to end the life of an American.

These findings, these refutations to conventional arguments put forth by death penalty supporters, shed light and provide clarity for the dramatic decline in popular and political support and clamor. But to supplement these findings, to undeniably demonstrate the necessity of ending the penalty, capital punishment’s complete lack of economic sensibility must be looked at. The long trial process—added to the extensive appeals process—and cost of lethal injection have made the capital punishment unjustifiably costly across the country (millions are being spent per execution). The money used to execute could be put back into the community or put toward more effective law enforcement. In addition, the long process of sentencing and appeals found uniquely in capital punishment counters the conviction that the penalty provides closure to victim’s families. Continual exposure to a person guilty of committing an atrocity on a loved one does not so much provide closure as it does reopened wounds. Furthermore, lethal injection and the electric chair are imperfect methods of administering painless death. When veins are missed, the arm’s muscles are literally corroded. When the volts miscalculated, a man burned to death. These incidents surely contradict the Eighth Amendment of no cruel and unusual punishment.

Based on the absolute impractical, unrighteous, unconstitutional, unjust, and biased nature of the death penalty, the only reasonable role it should play in America is none. More and more Americans are beginning to see it. All civilized nations have seen it. The final entity deserving of capital punishment is the death penalty itself.

By Ryan Hill

To view the opposing article, click here.

Sources Below:

Pew Research Center. (2016, September 26). Support for Death Penalty Continues to Fall. Retrieved from


Death Penalty Information Center. (2016, November 9). Facts about the Death Penalty. Retrieved

Legal Information Institute. (n.d.). Death Penalty. Retrieved from

Radelet, M. L., & Borg, M. J. (2000). The Changing Nature of Death Penalty Debates. Annual Reviews of Sociology, 26, 43-61. Retrieved from

Dieter, R. C. (1994, Fall). Millions Misspent: What Politicians Don’t Say About the High Costs of the Death Penalty. Retrieved from

Virginia’s lethal injection costs set to skyrocket to $16.5k. (2016, September 30). Retrieved from

Shafdar, K. (2012). Legally Killing People Has Gotten A Lot More Expensive. Retrieved from

A Novel Idea


Across from the Casselberry Commons, with its comparatively grandiose Publix and the adjacent haughty Starbucks, hides a small bookshop, tucked away next to a hair salon in the Market Square Shopping Center. The sanctum lies behind its humble sign which reads, in large, dull red block letters, “Books.” The title does not fully capture what lies behind. Though, perhaps it does; books stand, stack, and splay across any horizontal surface that is not the floor. The certain controlled chaos of literature that seemingly only ever occurs in small-town novels about eccentric geniuses somehow finds itself in a serene environment that creates a mood only befitting under the circumstance of being surrounded by a small yet vast expanse of books. So there, standing proudly behind a pile of cookbooks and a display of current books that have been made into movies, is A Novel Idea’s current owner, Dede Baker.

Upon walking into the shop, Ms. Baker exclaimed in her own soft-spoken style of mellow excitement that some of her kids were graduates of Lake Howell High School. (It was previously scheduled, so she knew I would be interviewing her for the LHHS school newspaper.) “In fact, I think Mathew still has a swim record there,” Baker said as we delved deeper into the conversation. “He was on the swim team. He swam 500 FLY instead of Free; he was just being smart-alecky ’cause nobody else would do it.” She laughed almost deviously (but light-heartedly) at her son’s antics, and I laughed along as I pretended to know what “FLY” and “Free” meant. (As it turns out, according to, “FLY” is the nickname for “butterfly,” a competitive racing stroke, and “Free” is the nickname for “freestyle,” another kind of racing stroke in the sport of swimming.) In addition to Matthew, Baker has two other children. She explained that the pictures on the wall behind her included her children; the now fully-grown adults hold a great range of professions from a former Cirque du Soleil performer and a Sea World choreographer to an architect. The pictures of one of her children with an assortment of famous people were proudly displayed next to a picture of, wait for it, Ms. Dede Baker herself as a circus performer.

She told the story fondly. A friend of hers enjoyed looking up people’s histories, and the friend asked Baker if she could look up hers. After sharing the background of Baker’s family, the friend added that, while doing research, she had found a photo from LIFE Magazine in the Florida State University archives. The picture depicted a young Dede Baker atop the back of her partner in the foreground with several other performers holding a striking pose (they each balanced against different levels of some type of high-flying circus set) in the background. Baker had been in the circus for two years. “I had no brains at the time. I was like, ‘Why am I doing this? It’s so scary.'” She explained the time when LIFE Magazine came to the college. The photographer was picking out people to pose for the photo. “You and you and you and you and you,” she said, mimicking the photographer’s voice as she pointed at invisible people in the flashback. The people picked were told to go put on costumes, for they were going to be in the photo. The former circus performer divulged how disappointed she had been at the fact that she wouldn’t be featured in the picture at the time until, after the other girls were in place, the photographer told Baker and her partner to go over; they were going to be in the foreground. The memory captured as a photograph, still perfectly captured in black and white, showed Baker and her partner in the very front as featured performances in the article’s picture.

“That was kind of fun,” she added. “I got letters from people all over the country. Somebody from Australia!” She and I laughed together in the quiet book store at the hilarity of the random sequence of events. Barely audible instrumental music played in the background. (“I have a new toy. It’s called bluetooth. And I was like, ‘O.K. What’s bluetooth?’ I’m eighty-one.”)

In addition to traipsing around with the circus, Baker did actually take classes at Florida State University and graduate as well- 1951-1955. I asked what she majored in, and she smiled conspiringly. “I majored in art. My father didn’t care what I majored in just so long as I graduated.” The bookshop owner disclosed that when she said she wanted to be a librarian, the college told her that she needed to to take science classes, which she emphatically refused to take. “The first class I had, they started cutting up a cat, and I said, ‘O.K. I’m done. I think I’ll major in art.’ So I majored in art, and it was fun. I had no talent, but it was fun, and I graduated!”

After her somehow real compilation of college adventures that belonged in a multitude of sitcoms, before A Novel Idea, Ms. Baker worked as a bookkeeper for a number of places. She worked with a friend at a store and then an owner who owned a couple of stores. Afterwards, she bought A Novel Idea from a friend in 1993 (the friend had founded and owned it for a year and a half before she had to move and sold the store to Baker).
When she first owned the store, romance novels were the most popular, and were Baker’s personal favorite. (“They always have a happy ending.”) That and science fiction novels were top sellers. Now the people who usually stop by the bookshop are grade-school students and students from Full Sail University doing projects like movies and so on. Subsequently, she likes to keep a lot of the books that students usually come looking for, and they are almost always classics and therefore easy to find. To Kill a Mockingbird has been in particularly high demand recently. “Right now, I think it’s Winter Springs High School, is reading To Kill a Mockingbird, and I knew they were going to get it, so I got some in.” Popular books like Wicked and Brave New World, as well as of the famous current series like The Hunger Games, Twilight, Divergent, and Lord of the Rings, are kept in stock for chance that people often come in looking for those specific books. Additionally, Baker likes to follow any news that has to do with books. To Kill a Mockingbird has also become very useful as of late because it was found that Harper Lee had actually written another book about the same characters but then wrote the book we know today with the main character as a child. The first book is going to be coming out in hardcover, and the news has people racing to read To Kill a Mockingbird again. Baker has in turn made sure to keep that book in stock. Along with that she keeps any books that are being made into movies. For instance, right now, she has American Sniper on display on her counter because the movie has come out in theaters recently.

With all of the books that she managed to get a hold of, I asked where she got them all. She responded that a friend of hers, the one who found the circus picture, has a hobby of going out and finding books. Therefore, a mutualistic symbiotic relationship has been formed; Baker gives a list of the books she needs to her friend. Baker gets the books she needs. Her friend gets to find them through one of her favorite hobbies. Each person wins. Any other books are ordered new from the publisher, and some are even donated.
This diverse community creates one of Baker’s advantages over large chain bookstores. Since most of the material is used, an overwhelming majority of the books are sold at about half the price the book was originally, if not less. Even books that were ordered new are sold at 20% off what the book would be sold as at the larger bookstores, and books that are pre-ordered at A Novel Idea are sold for 25% off the publisher price. Baker doesn’t make as much money off of newer books, but with the discount of the books, those customers are hoped to be seen again out of a newfound favor of that store over others.
Really, the bookshop owner needs any leg-up on other stores that she can get, especially when even online stores like Amazon are tough competitors to the small bookshop in today’s world where people can buy books without stepping into a bookstore at all. Even so, the opportunity to own a bookstore is one too appealing to Baker to simply give up in a time of tough competition. When I asked her what she liked most about owning a bookshop, Baker responded, “Oh, I love it. I don’t mind being here at all. I mean, I live close by, and, you know, I don’t have anything else to do.” Chuckling, she continued, “I’ve been here twenty-one years. What would I do without it?” Though, really, any single person could also ask what the community would do without her and the comforting bookstore with the assortment of potted plants and towers of books upon books, and I do not think anyone would really want to imagine the answer.

The A Novel Idea Book Shop is located at 1436 State Road 436 in Casselberry at the corner of Semoran Boulevard and Howell Branch Road. For the phone number of the store and more information, visit the store’s Facebook page here.

By Jade Ammones

How Your Hair Has Grown

“Let’s talk about your hair and how its grown”

all the guts I let spill out of my teeth

all of the things I wish you didn’t know

the way you go through life, your sword unsheathed


About the way I wish I didn’t feel

about how we both know that you don’t care

Let’s talk about these wounds that just won’t heal

how we know we’re not getting anywhere
I’ll go to sleep and dream of better things

And I’ll wish I could stop dreaming of you

Let’s talk about your hair and it will sting

I’ll be numb, I will wish for something new


Please take it easy on me I am yours

But loving you, it really is a chore


By D.A.