You look like you’ve seen a ghost…or perhaps a Spirit

The resurrection of one of RV’s oldest organizations

Hamilton Scudder, Editor in Chief

Is it a zombie? Is it a vampire? Is it Lobsterfest back at Red Lobster for a limited time only? It’s something much more paranormal than even that: a ghost, more specifically…a spirit. After years of dormancy, the Holly Spirit has been resurrected and is officially publishing again online.

After Holly Spirit adviser Sarah Sherman’s feverish effort to train her staff and much anticipation from the RV administration, the school newspaper that has survived generations is entering a new age of journalism, with a large, invigorated staff.

“I’ve been really excited about this, just ‘cause a school without a newspaper is missing something,” said William Connolly, former adviser of the Holly Spirit and current Director of Curriculum and Instruction at RV.

Connolly left RV and the Holly Spirit in 2007 as a teacher, returning in 2015 in an administrative position. During the interval when he was gone, however, the Holly Spirit experienced drastic budget cuts, which forced it to cut back production.

“With the budget cuts of [the] 2009-2010 school year and the number of paper copies students threw on the ground, as well as [copies] left in the Holly Spirit cases around the building, we lost the funds from the district and had to resort to an online platform,” said Mary Ellen Panter, English teacher at RV who began running the Holly Spirit shortly after Connolly’s departure. “Students were not interested in reading a paper copy because of the advancements in technology, so digital it was. We created a blog but that failed to gain readership. Then we designed a PDF copy and linked it to the school website.”

Due to a combination of students being unwilling to write, other students uninterested in reading, teachers’ lack of enthusiasm about running a club that was failing and an administration that didn’t actively encourage the organization, the Holly Spirit seemed destined to collapse, and after some time, it did.

There was once a time, however, when the Holly Spirit was an integral part of the school culture. “It was such a fabric here at RV,” said Principal Joseph Martin. “You knew at this point of the month it was coming out…you knew it was coming, you looked forward to it.”

The newspaper was incredibly well-received in its heyday in the 90’s; according to Connolly, some days the lunch room would go almost silent because students were so engrossed in reading the paper.

It was not only important for readers of the paper, but for those who were writers. “For me, high school was hard, beyond high school itself being super hard, my personal life was super hard,” said Julie Becker, English teacher at RV and former writer for the Spirit, who in fact wrote for Connolly. “Having a space where it wasn’t so rigid…and kind of just being able to get out of the ‘have-to-do’s’ [and] being able to focus on things that were important to me” was something that she found to be an important part of her life.

The paper offers a large platform for students to express themselves and their opinions in a public and open capacity, which is something that the RV administrators find important. 

“[The school newspaper] is one of the premier extracurricular settings,” said Martin. “So I love it as another opportunity for students to express their opinions.”

With the full support of RV administration and RV teachers, the paper’s first publication cycle has officially begun, with its first article being published to the site on Thursday. This officially continues a publication that has been running on and off since the 1930’s; the oldest physical copy found thus far is dated 1936, however Connolly said that he found a reference to the Spirit in the 1934 yearbook. It is likely even older than that, however, with Connolly saying “[the yearbook] did not make it sound like the paper had just started” and that he remembers copies from the 1920’s, but those copies are nowhere to be found.

The paper, while small in range, never constricted itself in its range of topics, big or small. In a 1938 issue, it debated whether the US would go to war or not, three years before the attack on Pearl Harbor. In 1981 it reported on President Reagan being shot, and in 1996 it reported on a record-breaking number of tardies at RV. Whether local or national, the Spirit always reported on topics that its writers found important.

Those who remember or were a part of the Spirit not only approve of, but are enthusiastic about Sherman’s advisership. “I really think having someone consistent in charge who is not self-interested, who is much more interested in giving [students] a voice and raising you up, I think that’s huge,” said Becker.

Sherman started the approval process in 2019 to re-establish the Spirit and began organizing and training her staff in September of this year, with most staff members taking the corresponding Journalism course, which she also teaches, at some point in the school year.

“In this day and age, journalism is more important than ever,” said Sherman. “Newspapers do more than report on what’s happening at school. They teach research, help students engage with their community, give them a voice, and force them to seek truth. We need that here at RV.”

Ever since their first all-staff meeting in September, Sherman has spent hours with her staff working to get the site up and articles published. After a successful practice publication cycle, the staff began writing the first set of articles, which are now officially published on the site.

“It kind of pained me when there wasn’t anything going on,” said Connolly. “For many, the return of the Holly Spirit is something that they have hoped for and looked forward to for some time, and with a staff that has officially begun publishing, they can rest assured that the school is a little more complete.” As Connolly said, “I just think that a school without a newspaper is missing something.”