Thursday, October 4, 2018

E-Cigarettes - "Vaping"

An “Epidemic”

The head of the Food and Drug Administration has termed it an “epidemic” (Fox, 2018). According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 16.2% of high school seniors in the United States use e-cigarettes, and incredibly, 9.5% of 8th graders use e-cigarettes. Moreover, the same study shows that 30.7% of teens who “vape” (as smoking e-cigarettes is commonly known) start smoking traditional cigarettes within 6 months of starting the use of e-cigarettes (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2016).

The Health Effects

Amazingly, the majority of teens seem to believe that inhaling a foreign substance has no negative impact on their health. In fact, the same study cited above notes that 66% of teens believe that e-cigarettes are comprised of  “just flavoring,” and 13% “don’t know” what is in their vape. Another study showed that 6 in 10 students surveyed believed that vaping caused little or no harm to their health, as long as they are not using every day (Know the Risks, 2018). Of course, it IS true that  there are no long-term trials on such a relatively new product. What we do know, however, is frightening enough. Almost all e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is one of the most highly addictive chemicals on earth. Nicotine has been shown to be particularly damaging to the teenage brain (Know the Risks, 2018). According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of the U.S Surgeon General, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Youth and young adults are also uniquely at risk for long-term, long-lasting effects of exposing their developing brains to nicotine. These risks include nicotine addiction, mood disorders, and permanent lowering of impulse control. Nicotine also changes the way synapses are formed, which can harm the parts of the brain that control attention and learning  (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2016).

Additionally, there are any number of other pernicious compounds in e-cigarette mixtures. One study carried out by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health looked at 51 different liquid flavors commonly sold in the United States and in 47 of them, they found three different chemicals (diacetyl, acetoin and 2,3-pentanedione) that are linked to serious respiratory disease (Allen et al., 2015). Besides nicotine and the chemicals mentioned above, “vape juice” has been shown to contain heavy metals (i.e., nickel, tin, and lead), organic compounds (such as benzene, which is found in car exhaust), and other ultra-fine particles that lodge in the users’ lungs.

Marketing and Sales

The e-cigarette industry denies that they are marketing their products to children and teens, yet colorful packaging and flavors such as “Bubble Pop,” “Strawberry Cotton Candy,” “Sour Gummy Worms,” and “Peanut Butter Cup” have an undeniable appeal to youth who might otherwise never consider using a tobacco product.

"Juul Device" 
Frighteningly, one of the most popular e-cigarette delivery systems is “Juul.” A single Juul cartridge contains as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes. The Juul apparatus, itself, is small, and to the casual observer, looks like a USB thumb drive. In fact, Juul is charged through a computer’s USB port. The Juul liquid can be odorless, and its use is often  unnoticed by others.

I went online and found that I could acquire a Juul “starter kit” for $49.99, plus free shipping. My kit would include a Juul device, a USB charging dock, and four cartridges which come in “Virginia Tobacco, Mint, Crème, and Mango” flavors. All I needed was a credit card and to “verify” that I was 21. The official Juul website also has a handy-dandy map app where I can find the Juul retailer that is closest to my home. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but “Vape Shops” have become ubiquitous here in Dothan.

 What H.A. is Doing

We are having a speaker, Dr. Michael Ramsey, come and hold a parent night on the issue. Our counselors and advisors are discussing vaping with our students. We already have surveillance cameras throughout the school, but we are currently investigating installing censors in our rest rooms. Recently, we limited student access to the parking lot during the day. Furthmore, you should know that we reserve to right to search our students, their cars, or their lockers if we have reasonable suspicion that he or she has e-cigarettes or other tobacco products in his or her possession. We trust you will understand that our sole goal is to keep your children safe. At the very least, we must ensure that we do not have drugs, alcohol, or tobacco on this campus.

What You Can Do As A Parent

Talk to your children about the dangers of vaping, but also, don’t be naïve. Realize that even the best kids succumb to peer pressure, and the adolescent brain is WIRED to take risks and act impulsively. If you believe your child would never lie to you, you are living in a fantasy world. I often joke that I know my own children are lying to me “because their lips are moving”! I think I have good kids, but I’ve been working with teens for thirty years, and I know with certainty that my children will lie to me – especially when the stakes are high.

In any case, if the research is correct (and I believe it is), and if the rumors are true, we already have a number of students in our community using e-cigarettes, and some are probably addicted. We can work to make this campus safe, but that doesn’t mean that our kids won’t vape once they leave this campus.

Search your children’s belongings, and help them understand, as children in our charge, there IS NO SUCH THING as a right to privacy. When my own offspring are gone and paying their own bills, they can have their privacy. For now, I will search their cell phones, their car, and their bedroom. If they don’t like me searching their phones and cars, I will take their phone and car away. If they don’t want me to search their bedrooms, I’ll take the hinges off their door. I will do this because I love them and I want them safe, and because I understand that good kids make bad decisions.  I am not their friend, and I sure as heck don’t want them to think I am cool.

In Conclusion…

One of the beautiful things about living in Dothan and being at Houston Academy is that we are an incredibly close-knit community. Let’s talk about this epidemic, and let’s not get offended if someone tells us of rumors that our child might be vaping, drinking, or doing drugs. We are a family, and we can work together as a family to keep our children safe.

Works Cited

Fox, M. (2018, September 12). NBC News. Retrieved from NBC
Joseph G. Allen , Skye S. Flanigan , Mallory LeBlanc , Jose Vallarino , Piers MacNaughton , James H. Stewart , and David C. Christiani . (2015, December 12). Flavoring Chemicals in E-Cigarettes: Diacetyl, 2,3-Pentanedione, and Acetoin in a Sample of 51 Products, Including Fruit-, Candy-, and Cocktail-Flavored E-Cigarettes. Environmental Health Perspectives, 124, 733-739.
Know the Risks, E-cigarettes & Young People. (2018). Retrieved October 2018, from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016, February). Retrieved from

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Introducing Our New Faculty and Staff - 2018

Happy New Year! We are off to an exciting start at Houston Academy, and with our #HAfirstday in the rearview mirror, I wanted to take the time to introduce you to our new faculty and staff.

Marc Edge
 The first person I want to acknowledge is Marc Edge, to whom I introduced our community at the end of last year. Marc will be our Athletic Director this year, as well as an assistant football coach and head golf coach. Unfortunately, Marc will not be joining us for at least another week, as he has recently been dealing with a health issue. Please keep Marc in your daily prayers - it’s been a rough start to the year for Marc. I think you’re going to love him, and we are hopeful for a speedy recovery.

Eddie Brundidge

Eddie Brundidge will be teaching Physical Education in the Lower School and will serve as an assistant football coach.  He has a B.S.  from Troy University where he played football, and he is coming to us from T.R. Miller High School in Brewton. Eddie is married to Sybil and has two Daughters, Leah and Moriah. In his spare time he enjoys hunting and fishing. Eddie says he became a teacher because of the inspiration provided by his own high school teachers and his high school football coach, in particular.

Cassie Carmody
Cassie Carmody will be teaching 7th and 8th grade science. She has a B.S. in Education from Saint Joseph’s College of Maine. She and Her husband, T.J., have two children at HA – Ashlinn, who is in the 7th grade, and Tommy, who is in the 1st grade. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, reading, baking, sewing, and watching her children play sports. She became a teacher because of her belief that “each learner is different and needs to be provided different ways to learn.” She enjoys finding "what works" and helping each child master every concept she teaches. She chose to come to HA because of what she saw the faculty do for her own children – how her children became successful and learned the value hard-work. She also felt that the faculty and staff was extremely welcoming.

Cory Hooks

Corey Hooks is joining our maintenance staff. Corey comes to us after being the maintenance man for a hotel. He brings a lot to the proverbial table in terms of skills. You’ll notice very quickly that he’s an excellent painter, but he’s also skilled in a wide variety of areas. He and his wife, Jessie, have a one year old (almost two year-old) boy, Ellic Alexander Randol Hooks. In his spare time, he enjoys video games, target shooting, and restoring and improving his truck.

Justin Horner

Justin Horner will serve in our technology department. Justin has received his associate degree in computer program and is currently in his last few semesters towards earning his bachelor’s in computer programing at Troy. For the last two years, he has worked at Geek Squad, and he has also worked as a tech support specialist at the University of Alabama. Justin is a Houston Academy graduate from the class of 2009, and his sister, Sara Skaggs also graduated from HA. Justin enjoys gaming, school, soccer, and anything at the beach. Justin got into technology because of the computer courses he took from Mrs. Woodcock. Computers became his passion, and he has been doing it every sense.

Jessica Jordan

Jessica Jordan will be working in our extended day program. She has a B.S. in Elementary Education from Troy-Dothan, and she has taught every grade from K5-6th, as well as working with adult students trying to earn their GED. She is married to her high school sweetheart, Ryan, who is the Music Minister at Samson Baptist. They have three children, Jayleigh, who is 10, Jude, who is 8, and Jameson, who is 2. Teaching runs in Jessica’s family – her grandmother, three aunts, and there cousins all or were teachers. She first realized she wanted to be a teacher when she was a child teaching her cousins a new game she had invented. Nothing makes her more proud than helping  others understand things for the first time. She says she came to HA because of the “reputation of the school and because of her desire to be a part of a real team.”

Rachel Kurtz

Rachel Kurtz will be teaching part-time in our art department, helping out in Middle School, where our demand for the visual arts has grown significantly. Rachel is a graduate of Auburn University where she majored in Art. Her background includes broad use of multiple mediums including paint, wood, glass, drawing, crafts, and ceramics. She has served as the art teacher at Abbeville Christian academy and Pike Liberal Arts School. Additionally, she is the owner and art instructor for Southern Strokes Art, providing private art lesson as well as creating commissioned works for customers. We are very excited for what she will bring to our students.

Robert Pedroza 

Robert Pedroza is also new in our maintenance department. Previously, Robert worked for the City of Enterprise, for Shaw in Ft. Rucker, as a translator for the Ozark and Enterprise police and the Dale Medical center, and he has also been a restaurant manager for multiple locations of Old Mexico. His hobbies include painting, drawing, restoring old trucks, traveling, carpentry, coach and playing soccer, and working with the Boy Scouts. He and his wife of 25 years (Lisa) live in Ozark with their four children: America Gabrielle, Robert Noah James, Emilee Elisa Isabella and Savannah Audrey.

Melissa Sanera
Melissa Sanera will be teaching World History II in the 9th grade and Psychology to 11th and 12th graders. She has an B.A. in Economics from Arizona State University and an M.A. in Secondary Education from the University of Phoenix. Previously, she taught World History at D.A. Smith Middle School and has been a substitute teacher at HA. Melissa is a certified Yoga Instructor who loves to travel, read, sing, and listen to podcasts. Her husband, Matt, is an air force pilot, and she has two children at HA: Eli, who is in the 10th grade and Amie, who is in the 8th grade. Melissa discovered her love for teaching, to begin with, by teaching yoga. In her own words, she “loves inspiring young people to develop a passion for history and civics and help them make connections of things they learn in the classroom to their everyday lives.” She decided to teach at HA because she loves the family atmosphere and the culture of the school. Having lived abroad, herself, she is particularly excited about HA’s mission to developing global awareness in the students.

Carly Williams will be working in Extended Day and Coaching our JV volleyball team. She comes to us from Emmanuel Christian where she was a PE teacher and coach. She holds an associate degree from Enterprise State, but is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in education. Carly’s and her husband, Don, have two children. Don, Jr., is a junior at Houston Academy. She has a daughter, who she home schools, but Carly hopes to bring her to HA next year. Carly maintains that her children would say her “chief hoppy is laundry”! In actuality, she enjoys coaching, gardening, decorating, traveling, and watching any sport in which her children are involved. Carly sought out HA for her son because she wanted the higher level of education that HA provides. She grew up in Dothan and graduated from Dothan High, but she a strong believer in Houston Academy.

Jack Whigham

Jack Whigham will be teaching 7th grade Pre-algebra and Honors Geometry. Additionally, he will serve as Head Wrestling Coach, Associate Athletic Director, and Assistant Football Coach. Jack is a Graduate of Auburn University with a B.S. in Secondary Math Education. Jack has spent 27 years in public education, most recently at Opp High School, where he was head football coach, athletic director, and teacher of everything from pre-Algebra to Honors Geometry. He has three children who will all be involved in HA. His son, Peyton, is a student at Troy University, and he is an assistant coach on our football staff. His other two sons, Cade and Brady, will be joining us in the 9th and 7th grades, respectively. In his spare time, Jack enjoys sports, fishing, cards, and church activities. He became a teacher in order to be a positive influence on children. He truly believes that teaching is a God-ordained calling, and he feels that he is following that calling.

Carol Wright
Carol Wright will be teaching Honors and CP Algebra II, Algebra III, and will be serving as our Camp Rock sponsor. She studied Business Administration and Mathematics Education at Troy University and earned an M.A. in Educational Leadership from Auburn University. She recently retired from Dothan High School. She has two sons, Colby and Baily, both of whom graduated from Houston Academy. She enjoys reading, going to the beach, and “binge watching everything!” She was called to teach after originally thinking she wanted to be a part of the business world. Her sister encouraged her to become a math teacher, and after observing several math teachers, herself, she decided that was her life’s calling. She decided to come to HA because of her children’s’ experience at HA as students from 4P to 12th grade, and she is excited to be involved with the HA family in a different way.

I am truly thrilled at the caliber people who have chosen to join the HA family this year. Please make them all feel welcome!

Go Raiders!

Dr. Scott Phillipps