Tag Archives: Isaac Stein

Isaac Stein Sets The Criterion

With his University of Chicago classes starting much later than most other schools’ — this week — Isaac Stein might have spent the last month Snapchatting or sleeping in.

The 2012 Staples grad did neither. Instead, he sparked a journalistic renaissance in a Bridgeport high school.

Writing was always Isaac’s passion. As a senior writer and web editor-in-chief for the Staples school newspaper, Inklings, he fought student disenfranchisement, and crusaded for change on many fronts.

One memorable story exposed Matsu Sushi’s policy of tacking tips onto teenagers’ bills — without telling them ahead of time.

At Chicago, Isaac became news editor of The MaroonThis summer, back home, he worked at the Minuteman. Looking at public schools’ website, he noticed Central High School’s excellent online archives. One issue, from the 1990s, featured front-page stories on a Laotian student’s immigration issues and the AIDS Quilt exhibit.

But, Isaac learned, the Criterion had been defunct since 2001, when Central’s journalism class was cut.

Central High School in Bridgeport.

Central High School in Bridgeport.

Isaac is a firm believer in the power of high school journalism to give students a voice, and foster social justice. He met Central principal Eric Graf, who put him in touch with English department co-chair Joe Jeffery.

When school started, Isaac visited English classrooms (including that of Westporter Andy McConnell). He preached his vision of a new Criterion. 

Almost immediately, 30 teenagers showed up at twice-weekly meetings. Isaac taught them the basics. They took it from there.

The online paper — www.bptcriterion.com — has featured an op-ed piece on Ferguson, sexism and the appropriation of the word “ghetto.” It’s a lively, provocative paper. Isaac gives all the credit to the students — most of whom are just a couple of years younger than he.

Isaac Stein (left) and J.P. Rossi, Criterion's editor-in-chief.

Isaac Stein (left) and J.P. Rossi, Criterion’s editor-in-chief.

Isaac has been impressed with their talent, enthusiasm, and level of respect. He also bristles at stereotypes.

“Before I went in, people said, ‘Don’t go there. They’re a bunch of animals,'” he says.

“That’s not-so-veiled racism. And it’s very disturbing.”

Isaac loves his students’ creativity and intelligence, and the “raw people power” he sees. He’s disturbed at the obstacles they face. But he’s amazed, for example, that there is no centralized email system, making communication difficult.

When Isaac played basketball at Staples, he and his teammates had to pass through metal detectors at Central. That was the only contact he had with the school.

Now, he knows, students wait 40 minutes before class every day at those metal detectors. “That’s 3 1/2 hours a week of dead weight, lost time,” he says. “Staples has 12 doors, and everyone walks right through. I never thought about that.”

His young writers are already working on a news story and op-ed piece about that issue.

It will run without Isaac, however. He’s finally back at Chicago, ready to start classes.

But — hundreds of miles away — his legacy lives on. An editor-in chief has been chosen for the Criterion. A permanent advisor has been named.

And funds have been promised for the next 2 years.





A Sushi Tip

Discrimination is alive and well in Westport.

And apparently, it’s legal.

Matsu Sushi — one of Staples students’ favorite restaurants — tacks a tip onto the checks of teenagers.

Some of theirs, anyway.

Without telling them ahead of time.

Isaac Stein described the practice in yesterday’s student newspaper, Inklings.

“In the event that there is a group of teenagers at a table, the server and I will usually make the decision to add a 15 percent tip to their bill at the end of the meal,” the manager — who requested anonymity — told Isaac.

However, Staples senior Morgan Garrison was hit with a surprise 20 percent gratuity.

The manager told Isaac that the tip is “not applied to regular customers, or teenagers that the restaurant knows are going to leave an appropriate tip.”

Morgan called her tip “baffling, especially because we had waited for our food for close to an hour.”

The Matsu Sushi manager claims that before the policy was enacted, 30 to 40 percent of teenagers “would just walk out without tipping at all.”  Staples student Izzy Spada counters, “I was chased out the door of the restaurant for tipping somewhere between 13 and 15 percent.”

Some restaurants note their tipping policy on the menu.  Bobby Q’s, for example, says that parties of 8 or more will have 18 percent added to their bill.

Though Matsu Sushi seems applies its policy randomly — to only some teenagers — and does not disclose it beforehand, it may still be okay.

According to Isaac, lawyers for the website justanswer.com say that because no law prohibits discrimination based on age, the policy is “technically legal.”

(Federal Title VII, and Connecticut law, bar discrimination against anyone 40 or older.)

However, the lawyers say, it “appears to be very bad business.”


Though Matsu Sushi is popular with Staples students, it’s hardly the only restaurant in town.  It’s not even the only sushi spot.

Education takes many forms.  Staples students can learn a very good lesson — and teach one to restaurant owners — by eating summer rolls at a place that doesn’t try to roll them.