• Research projects highlights historical event


    Sixth grade Pocantico Hills Central School District students recently completed a weeks-long research project and finished with a special presentation where they had an opportunity to share their work with classmates and family. Student presents


    Gathering in the school cafeteria, students set up their laptops and they displayed their writing and supporting materials, like posters, on tables. As guests came through, they answered questions and presented the slideshows they had created.

    The students had researched the Armenian Refugee crisis in the early part of the twentieth century.


    Students studied the humanitarian crisis, and their research led them to learn about what happened in its aftermath. Using primary sources, including letters and newspaper articles, students gained more extensive knowledge about events.


    The Armenian Genocide resulted in the estimated death of between 600,000 and more than a million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during World War I. The Near East Relief Foundation was established in 1915 to aid the humanitarian crisis suffered by the Armenian people.


    Teacher Laura Garrido explained that students visited the Rockefeller Archive Center in Sleepy Hollow where they learned more about the historical events they were studying about and had an opportunity to view primary resource materials including newspaper articles.


    The assignment, Ms. Garrido said, was to select one primary source material from the collection to learn as much as they could about the relief efforts. She explained students used Microsoft Sway, a computer program to create a simple presentation for their materials.


    “I think, as a group, they are interested in world news,” Ms. Garrido said of her students. “They were very interested in what happened to the Armenian people and were getting angry about it. This project is a great way to introduce them to issues beyond Pocantico.”


    “I was excited,” student Kaylee C. said of how she felt when she first heard about the project.


    As she began her research, she said she learned how the genocide was so severe and how few at the time would even talk about what was happening.


    “No one admitted it or did anything,” she said.


    Girl speaks with guests“The Near East Relief helped survivors,” Maeve G. said of some of the things she learned while doing research. “And they helped the children who survived learn life skills.”


    Maeve said she enjoyed visiting the archives and being able to see primary sources about the event.


    Student Leonell R. said he enjoyed viewing the materials as well and said listening to audio recordings from survivors was especially meaningful.


    “It was really cool listening to them,” he said.


    Marissa Vassari, Education Program Manager, Research and Engagement, at the RAC, said a project such as this is a great way to engage students in developing their literacy skills and help them understand why preserving records of all kinds, diaries, newspaper articles, posters are so important.


    “It also helps them to recognize credible information as they grow up in an age when they are constantly inundated with information,” Ms. Varssari said.


    Congratulations to 2024 TELL Award winners, Alana Winnick, and Marina Lombardo


    Two district staff members received awards from the Lower Hudson Regional Information Center for innovations in educational technology at a special ceremony on April 10. Two women holding awards


    Educational Technology Director Alana Winnick was honored with an Outstanding Innovative Leader Award and third grade teacher Marina Lombardo was a recipient of the Outstanding Innovative Teacher honor at this year’s TELL Awards. TELL stands for Transforming Education through Leadership and Learning. The event is presented by the LHRIC’s Technology Leadership Institute.


    TELL Awards are “bestowed upon districts and individuals nominated by their colleagues and peers for demonstrating innovation and best practices and having implemented systemic change in teaching and learning.”


    “I want to extend my heartfelt congratulations to Alana and Marina,” said Superintendent Rich Calkins. “They are both deserving of this honor and have integrated technology into our district and classrooms in unique and inspiring ways.”


    “Tonight, we are here to honor educators and leaders who have made significant strides in reshaping education throughout the integration of technology,” said Dr. Ellen McDonnell, LHRIC Executive Director at the ceremony. “It’s clear that these individuals will continue to lead the way towards a more innovative and inclusive educational landscape for generations to come.”


    During the special awards event, colleagues introduced the recipients and a video presentation played before recipients stepped to the stage to accept their award.


    Ms. Lombardo dedicated her TELL award to her students stating, “Over the years, I’ve been so fortunate to teach and learn from so many inspiring students, each bringing their unique passions, interests, assets, experiences, goals, wonders and curiosities into our classroom. This award truly belongs to them as they are the driving force behind my work.”


    Ms. Lombardo was nominated for the award by her colleague, Ms. Winnick.


    “Marina is a passionate educator who is committed to leveraging technology to enhance learning outcomes and prepare students for their future,” Ms. Winnick wrote in her nomination. “Her dedication to her students and her pursuit of professional growth make her an excellent candidate for the educational technology award.”


    The two have worked together to introduce Ms. Lombardo’s students to Artificial Intelligence, creating prompts for writing assignments and more.


    “Marina’s forward-thinking approach not only identified specific writing needs, but also bridged the gap between computational thinking practices and writing,” Ms. Winnick said of the project in her nomination form for Ms. Lombardo.


    “This pioneering experience laid the foundation for introducing AI as a purposeful tool in the classroom, setting the stage for further integration of technology in the district’s curriculum,” she said.


    In another project, Ms. Winnick explained how Ms. Lombardo created a TED talk unit in her lesson called “Let Me Tell You a Story,” which she said was “a culminating writing unit that highlighted narrative, informational, and persuasive writing. This project showcased Marina’s commitment to real-world applications of writing skills and her dedication to interdisciplinary learning.”


    In her own work, Ms. Winnick has overhauled the use of technology at Pocantico, beginning her career here during the pandemic, which required extensive, and fast, updating of technology that was suddenly being used in a new way. This included one-to-one devices for all staff and students, a flexible learning environment with two-in-one teacher devices, document cameras, interactive whiteboards with wireless touch displays, audio enhancement in classrooms, and more.


    Since then, she has increased innovative technologies including Artificial Intelligence and coding initiatives in grades 1-8, 3D printers, laser etchers, virtual reality, robotics, and more. She has made accessing instructional tools a breeze by implementing Classlink’s Single Sign On, Onesync, and OneRoster, which automates network account creation and access to instructional platforms and allows users to log into everything with a single click through a designated portal – making learning easily accessible to even our youngest learners. 


    She has also implemented digital hallway informational display boards, a data dashboard making data-informed decisions easier for our administration, and much more! Alana was instrumental in helping to create the Tech Titans, a group of middle school students who push into classrooms to assist younger students with programs such as coding and digital citizenship.


    “At Pocantico, we empower our teachers to become technology leaders,” Ms. Winnick said in her video. “You have experts in your own building; empower them. Have teachers and students teach each other and build a community where everyone is learning and growing from one other.”


    Personally, she continued her work by hosting a podcast and authoring a book, which has earned her recognition as a leader in the educational use of AI, in the state and beyond. Additionally, she serves as the Hudson Valley Director for the New York State Association for Computers and Technology (NYSCATE) and was recently awarded the Tech & Learning’s Innovative Tech Director Award for the Northeast, named Magic School’s AI Educator of the Year Finalist, and has been accepted into the EDSAFE AI’s Women in A.I. Fellow Program.


    In her acceptance speech, Alana thanked “the administration, staff, board of education, and community for fostering an environment that encourages innovation and growth.” She went on to say “None of it would be possible without your support. Your belief in me and your willingness to allow me to spread my wings have been instrumental in my journey. I am deeply grateful for the opportunities you have provided me and for the trust you have in me. It's an honor to work alongside each of you.”



    Where in the world …

    Pocantico Geography Bee to send five students to regional competition


    It was a crowded field at the 2024 National Geographic Geography Bee held earlier this month. Sixteen students in grades 5 through 8 participated in the competition testing their knowledge of geography. The field was narrowed down to five and a school champion was named. Students holding up signs


    As the contestants answered questions, they were cheered on by classmates in the auditorium. When all was said and done the top five students, Zoe A., Savannah D., Yusuf F., Matthias B. and Shreyan T. were named to the Pocantico team that will compete at the Tri-State Geo Competition to be held later this spring at the Hackley School. Yusuf was named the school champion.


    Eventually, there were two contestants left. They were tasked with answering the question “Which former Portuguese colony that borders the Democratic Republic of Congo, in South Africa is home to the Kahuzi-Biega National Park and is known for its rich wildlife and ecosystem?”


    Yusuf and Matthias both answered Angola, which was correct. They remained tied and another question was presented to them.


    Principal Adam Brown, who served as the events emcee, asked them “Which large Japanese island houses Tokyo and is the largest of the four main islands?”


    The audience remained quiet while the contestants wrote down their answers on a dry erase board.


    When they flipped their boards around for the judges to see, there was one correct answer revealed, “Honshu,” and Yusuf was victorious!


    Group of students with their arms around eachotherMr. Brown told the audience that he knew the two talented students at the end would do well, but he was getting nervous as he was running out of questions.


    Participating students took an online quiz to qualify for the Bee. The top 16 scorers were selected to compete. During the competition everyone was allowed one incorrect answer, a second incorrect response would cause them to be dismissed.


    Throughout the afternoon competitors were asked such questions as “How many countries are in the United Kingdom,” “What type of leaf is on the Canadian flag,” and “What country is home to the most islands?”


    Mr. Brown thanked all the students who participated and noted they “were already winners.”

    The tadpoles are here! The tadpoles are here!Group of students look at tadpoles in container

    Second graders will observe the amphibians before returning them to their natural habitat


    “Class pet! Class pet,” chanted the second graders in Nancy Occhicone’s class as a representative from the Teatown Lake Reservation Nature Preserve set up a special tank. This will be the temporary home of two large tadpoles.

    In a neighboring classroom, that of Katie Bryce, a similar set up was put in place.


    “I have never seen such large tadpoles,” marveled Ms. Bryce.


    The tanks, and their amphibian residents, are all part of the second graders study of the lifecycle of frogs.


    The bullfrog tadpoles were brought to the classrooms by Associate Director of Education Programs Marie Roache from the Ossining based center. She spoke with each class about the guests that will be residing with them and who will be returned to the nature preserve ponds when the classes visit later in the spring.


    Ms. Roche discussed with each class how frogs are amphibians and how they eventually live in and out of the water.

    Students answered questions about what it means to be cold blooded, to undergo metamorphoses, what frogs eat and how it changes as they develop from tadpole to adult frog.


    “They have to keep their skin moist,” said one student.


    “They live on land and water,” noted another.


    Boys look inside fish tank“They lay their eggs in the water,” said another student.


    “You seem to know everything about frogs,” Ms. Roche told the students.


    The tanks include rocks and a bubbler. The classes will be responsible for feeding the tadpoles and changing the water, with the help of their teachers, of course.


    Ms. Roche had students stand up in front of the class holding photos of each stage of a frog’s life, from an egg to a froglet to an adult frog.


    Bullfrog tadpoles, Ms. Roche explained, remain in the tadpole stage for two years. Eventually their tails will be absorbed into the main part of their body, they will grow four legs and their gills will disappear as lungs develop.


    Joy Scantlebury recognized by industry group


    ENL teacher Joy Scantlebury lends a lot of support to her students and in return, she gets a lot of support from her peers.


    Recently she was named the Member of Month from the New York State Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, or NY TESOL. Woman standing in front of bulletin board


    “A classmate told me I had to be a member even before I finished grad school,” Ms. Scantlebury said. “It will guide you and be a great source of support,” she was told.


    Ms. Scantlebury said it was all true.


    “It keeps you current and shares best practices so we can provide the best instruction for ENL students,” she said.


    For years she has attended NY TESOL conferences, which she has been attending for 20 years, and returns to her work invigorated.


    In addition, she has sat in on webinars and has been part of special interest groups and has presented twice at the organization’s annual conference, including once with her colleague, third grade teacher Marina Lombardo.


    “It’s a pleasure to be a part of this organization,” she said. “It helps one grow as an educator.”


    She also appreciates the support she receives after meeting with fellow members.


    “You realize the questions you have and other people have the same questions,” Ms. Scantlebury said.


    She said too it’s helped her make friends among her colleagues and fellow teachers.


    “I am very proud to be a member because it’s a phenomenal organization,” she said. “I’m honored to receive this recognition from an organization I hold very dear to my heart. Whenever I am in a NY TESOL space, I feel like I am home.”


    Ms. Scantlebury has been serving as the ENL teacher at Pocantico for 16 years and said the number of students in the program has steadily increased.


    “We’re here to make sure our students are supported in learning English, but also maintain their native language,” she said. “It’s cultivating both languages.”


    April is National Bilingual/Multilingual Learner Advocacy Month.


    “It’s nice there is a month that celebrates this,” Ms. Scantlebury said. “There are so many studies that explain the importance and benefits of being multilingual.”


    Each Member of the Month is posted on the organization’s website. You can see the write up on Ms. Scantlebury at https://nystesol.org/memberofthemonth.php


    Young playwrights see their work come to life


    “The end!” announced the actress to thunderous applause. However, it might just be the beginning for some young playwrights.


    April 8, 2024 was a special day for third graders Ipsa V. and classmate Aiyden S., they had an opportunity to see the plays they wrote come to life thanks to ARC Stages in Pleasantville. Boy and girl sit on stage


    The entire third grade traveled to the theater where they were in for a theatrical surprise. The field trip was a culmination of a very special project. The class had just completed a unit on writing plays. Working with the theater group as part of its Vision and Voices Playwriting Program, students are introduced to the many elements of a play and work with theater staff over several months to write their own work. The finished plays are submitted to the theater and several are selected to be performed live.


    “I enjoyed it,” Ipsa said of learning how to write a play. “We got to use our imaginations.”


    Ipsa wrote “The Fantastic Friends Flying Quest,” which told the story of Lily, an owl, who was having trouble learning to fly until her friend, a mountain goat, helps her.


    “Mine is about ice melting” explained Aiden, about his play “Ice Melting,” which tells the story of an ice cube who is in trouble until a friend helps it out.


    “I got to use my mind,” Aiyden said. “I just enjoy making a play and making it funny.”


    The two were excited to see their work shown on stage.


    “Each year we do it a little different,” said teacher Marina Lombardo, adding that the unit has been part of her class for five years. “Last year we focused on Social Emotional Learning and had the whole class study that concept. This year students had agency to think of characters, setting and theme.”


    Her class, she said, is also working on writing computer code based on their plays so that each work will be turned into an animated show.


    “We’re taking it to another level,” Ms. Lombardo said.


    Ms. Lombardo said she hopes her students developed a better understanding of what it is like to write for others who may see their work performed or view it as a computer program.


    “Each year it gets better and stronger, the older kids reflect on it,” she said.


    The Vision and Voices program works with 12 local schools and includes second graders through high school aged students. The program incorporates visits to the schools, often performing for them, and also working with students in their classrooms to help them put their plays together. The student work is then celebrated with the Vision and Voices Playwriting Festival, where students see their work performed at the theater.


    The Pocantico students were joined by second graders from the Bedford Road School in Pleasantville to watch the student selected plays be performed.


    ARC Stages Artistic Director Stephanie Kovacs Cohen welcomed students as they arrived. While they waited for the performances to start, she and her staff played a game with students, where they pretended to be different characters who lived in outer space and had an opportunity to bring their characters to life on stage.


    She said that this year there were more than 500 plays submitted from the 12 schools the theater works with.


    “We celebrate every single playwright,” she said. “They were so fabulous,” she said of variety of shows that had been selected.



    Audio Enhancement system supports students and teachers


    Teachers have been using Audio Enhancement in their classrooms, a technology that benefits both their work and the student’s experience in the classroom.

    Teachers wear a microphone on a lanyard that amplifies their voices throughout the space. Students in turn, can use a handheld microphone that works in a similar manner. Woman at white board


    “Here at Pocantico we really wanted to move away from that teacher-centered classroom into more of a student-centered classroom, but in an environment like that there is a lot of noise,” Educational Technology Director and Data Protection Officer Alana Winnick explained in a video outlining how the audio system works.


    “Now with Audio Enhancement, the teacher does not need to strain their voice, audio is evenly distributed around the room,” Ms. Winnick continued. “And every child no matter where they are in the room can hear the audio at the same level.”


    The benefits are many, including better student understanding and an increase in confidence for English Language Learners who are now better able to listen to their teacher.


    In addition, the system offers enhanced security measures. Teachers can press buttons on their lanyard, which sends a signal to the office that they may need assistance. Teacher-activated cameras in the classroom allow administrators to see what is happening in the room and respond accordingly.


    The system also allows school officials to be able to send audio announcements to a specific classroom, or to a group of classrooms at the same time.


    “Research supports audio enhancement in terms of being a catalyst for greater student learning, of being a tool that not only helps teachers communicate but also relieves strain on their voice,” Superintendent Rich Calkins explains in the video. “When we showed our Board of Education what the Audio Enhancement solution was and what we were looking toward, they were awestruck.”


    To learn more, view the video on the district website, HERE.



    Musicians of all kinds selected for All County performances


    The weekend of March 9-10 was a busy one for a handful of singers and musicians at Pocantico Hills Central School. In all, a total of eight students performed in the 2024 All-County Chorus, Intermediate Chorus, Elementary Band, and Intermediate Band. Choir singing


    “It’s a good challenge for them,” Band Director Michael Murray said of the participants. “It’s something they will remember for the future. It’s also really good to meet kids from other schools with similar interests.”


    Representing Pocantico Hills were Milana G. and Esme I. who sang in the Elementary All-County Chorus, Savannah D., Emma K., and Yusuf F. who were part of the Intermediate All-County Chorus. The Elementary All-County Band included Keer W. and Peter S. while Harry W. participated in the Intermediate All-County Band.


    Participation in the annual concerts is dependent on a student’s NYSSMA score from the previous year and is something students decide to work on in addition to their typical course of study.


    The respective performances consisted of singing or playing multiple pieces and was an all-day experience for the concerts that were held at the Performing Arts center at New Rochelle High School.


    “It’s like the best players in the county and the music is good,” Harry, who plays clarinet, said, adding he hopes to join the band when he gets to high school.


    Boy playing clarinet“I think it’s great because if you are passionate about music, you get to sing,” Emma, who sings alto, said. “It’s fun to do.”


    Harry explained that students were given the music they would be performing two weeks prior to the concerts. He said the selections had variety from quick fast paced pieces to others that were more challenging.


    Peter, who plays percussion, said that is what makes the performances so exciting, that you don’t know exactly what the music will be until just before performance.


    “With the clarinet, it has a lot of keys, it looked hard,” Harry said as to why he chose to play that instrument. “I wanted to challenge myself.”


    Overall, the experience was enjoyable, Harry said, as everyone at the performances were great, he said, adding that it was also nice to be able to work with new conductors.


    “You also learn new techniques,” Emma said.



    Pocantico songbirds sing with special choir


    Sixth graders Jinna H., Milana G. and Esme I., are all used to singing in the music room and the auditorium at the Pocantico Hills Central School. Recently they had an opportunity to not only extend their repertoire of songs, but also where they performed. Students and teacher outside auditorium

    The three students were selected to participate and represent Westchester County in the American Choral Directors Association East Convention, in the Elementary Honor Choir, held earlier this month in Rhode Island. There they joined more than 100 middle school students from as far away as Maryland and throughout the northeast including New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania.


    Esme explained that she and her classmates had the three highest NYSSMA scores at their school, which enabled them to participate in the special event. In addition, students’ work was reviewed by a committee and letters of recommendation from their teacher and an adjudicator were submitted.  


    “It was really surprising,” she said of the selection to the choir. “For me personally, I’ve never been a part of a large singing group outside of my school.”


    “We also got to meet a couple of the composers of the pieces we sang,” Jinna said.


    Jinna noted that the group had the opportunity to practice with composer Francisco Nunez, who premiered his song “Space Hurricane” at the concert. The song incorporated five different languages including Spanish and Portuguese. Mr. Nunez lives upstate and was asked if he would visit their school, Jinna said.


    There was also a piece that included poems, and Jinna explained, as a certain line from the poem/song was sung, choir members were asked to stand up when they sang a line that had special meaning to them. By the end of the song, they said, the entire choir was standing.


    The event was held over the course of three days, and the students said they practiced for 16 hours, with a few breaks.


    “We had to learn all the pieces,” Milana said, adding that in the end they sang six songs.


    Music teacher Sheila DePaola sent a note to the three singers in which she congratulated them on their hard work.


    “Your concert was spectacular, and I was so impressed watching you model appropriate rehearsal behavior and make friends with other singers,” she wrote, noting that they were also recognized at a recent New York State Music Association's executive board meeting.


    Next year, the three said they hope to do well enough to attend the national event in Texas.



    Eighth grade art project on public display at the Creative Arts Center


    Guests visiting the David Rockefeller Creative Arts Center were in for a real treat when they had an opportunity to view the Eighth Grade Art & Textile Design Show on March 14. The artwork, consisting of paintings and aprons made by students, were hung throughout the gallery space. Group of paintings hanging in a gallery


    The work was part of a combined project with their art class and Family and Consumer Sciences course. After visiting the grounds of the Creative Arts Center, on the property of the Rockefeller estate, Kykuit, students were assigned to paint an inspirational vista that they saw there.


    For the aprons, students used fabric to not only design a functional article, but also one that represented the career they hoped to have in the future.


    Art teacher Jolene Morotti said after she and FACS teacher Alyson Morilla visited the new art gallery she developed the idea for the project.


    “Immediately I knew this could be the inspiration of the eighth-grade paintings,” Ms. Morotti said. “In September and November, we took the eighth-grade class over and they took photographs while they were there. Back in the classroom students viewed and edited their photographs as they wanted. Thinking about changing the season, time of day, background. They spent ten weeks from start to finish.”


    Throughout the galleries the artwork hung up for all to view and included a QR code which guests could scan to hear the artist discuss their painting.


    “I painted a wall of trees,” Aurora T. said in her audio message. “I chose a reference image because it looked nice to me.”


    Aurora, whose work was titled “The Wall from Kykuit,” said she’d like to continue doing art when she gets to high school.


    In her audio message Rhea N. said, “the reason I chose this photograph is because I liked the buildings’ colors and its multiple intricate layers and designs.” Her work was titled “Kykuit.”


    “I am always amazed at what students accomplish in my classroom,” Ms. Morotti said. “I am lucky that I get to see the starting point of an initial photograph, share ideas they have and see it take off from there.”


    The school arranged transportation for families to view the show and as they walked through the gallery space, there were several compliments given to the students’ work.


    “I’ve never done anything like this before,” student Emma K. said. “I thought it was fun.”


    She said when she saw the fountain on the grounds, she was inspired. In her painting, “Kykuit Water,” she transformed it to look like it was on a beach.


    Student Harland H. said he had to think about what he wanted to do, and in the end created a painting he called “The Valley.”


    “It’s pretty cool,” he said of the project.


    Aprons hung on a boardIn addition to the fine art on display, guests were able to watch a video that documented each stage of the process. It showcased students exploring the grounds, painting in the art classroom, as well as sewing in the FACS room.


    The video was created by 8th-grade student Gianna D. “It’s a cumulation of the entire journey,” said Educational Technology Director Alana Winnick, referring to the looping video during the exhibit. “It provides a holistic view of the entire project, allowing viewers to truly appreciate all of the work that went into it.”


    English teacher Andrew Irons facilitated a reflective writing assignment, which was later recorded for an immersive QR code experience. "It's important to create authentic learning opportunities and integrate technology into the existing curriculum," Ms. Winnick emphasized, highlighting the fusion of innovation with educational engagement.


    “I thought my painting wasn’t going to turn out good,” admitted Philip S., whose piece “Under the Moonlight,” was among those on display. But in the end, he said he thought it came out well.


    The Pocantico Center Manager, Elly Kelly, welcomed guests as they arrived.


    “It’s furthering our mission to become a creative art force,” she said of the center that opened 18 months ago. “We want to be a community resource for the schools.”


    “We were all so blown away seeing the space come alive,” she continued.


    Ms. Morotti received a kind note from Ms. Kelly who shared what some of her staff had said about the students’ work:


    “Just a quick note to let you know how much Linda and I enjoyed looking at the children’s art show at the DR Center when we stopped by to check on the orange trees. The cleaners were there, so we were lucky the studio was open, and we could see all the paintings. They are amazing! We listened to a few of the artist’s explanations, and we were so impressed. We wanted to spend more time enjoying them. If you have the opportunity, please let the teachers and students know what a pleasure it is for us to see the Gardens through their eyes.”


    Throughout the gallery space the students’ aprons were hung up on large display boards that also included their photo. The textile project had students learning how to create a flat sketch, cut patterns and use the classroom Bernina sewing machine.


    “I liked the process,” student Arielle B. said as she shyly stood by her apron while her mom took photos.


    Her apron, she said, depicted her interest in botany as it had green birds and flowers on it.


    As for her painting, “Rockefeller Greenery,” Arielle said painting is one of her hobbies and working on her piece was fun, although she admitted it was a bit nerve-wracking to have it on display for all to see.


    “I looked at the colors and realized those are my colors,” Arielle’s proud mom, Aliyah Simmons said when she saw her daughters’ apron.


    “I see as a family we connect in ways we didn’t even know,” she continued.


    Student Zoe A. said she has an interest in Greek mythology and incorporated that in her piece “Eclipse’s Embrace.” She incorporated her desire to be a biostatistician in her apron.


    “I love all kinds of sciences,” she said, noting how she embordered a purple double helix on her apron.


    “It’s great as a class we got to do this,” Zoe said. “We set an example.”

    Students take virtual trip to Mars with guest speaker


    Rocks on the planet Mars are sharp, so much so that they punctured holes in the wheels of the spacecraft that have landed there.


    It’s an interesting fact, one that engineers were not aware of even after having tested and retested the spacecrafts movement on Earth. Rocks on this planet have been worn smooth by the wind over the centuries, therefore keeping the wheels intact, a phenomenon that does not happen on Mars. Man on screen talking to students seated in an auditorium


    This is just one of many interesting details shared by Ben Thoma, a mechanical engineer who works at NASA. Mr. Thoma beamed in to the Pocantico auditorium with a group of fifth and sixth graders. He was virtually talking to students from his lab based in California.


    “We learn from everything we do,” he said.


    Mr. Thoma has learned a lot about Mars and is patiently waiting to learn more. For the past 25 years he has worked in the Jet Propulsion Lab, primarily on Mars missions. He has worked on both the Spirit and Opportunity Rovers, which were launched in 2003, on the Entry, Descent and Landing Team. He has also worked on the Curiosity Rover mission, which took place between 2005-2011, where he was the lead engineer for the descent phase of the mission, or what he called the “jet pack” that lowered the spacecraft onto the surface of the planet. In 2021, his work on the descent was also used for the Perseverance Rover. He is currently working on the team that will bring samples back from the red planet.


    “I still find it amazing we have these vehicles on planets, and they are taking pictures of them,” Mr. Thoma told students.


    Mr. Thoma, who is the uncle of a current student, was invited to speak to space enthusiasts after they had finished a unit on space, said science teacher James Cioffi.


    Using an animated graphic, Mr. Thoma shared how these amazing spacecrafts are launched from earth and how they make it to the surface of Mars.


    The rover, a robotic vehicle, is launched using a rocket and has several parts that help it get to its destination safely, including a heat shield, and mechanisms that assist it to land. It takes seven months for the spacecraft, traveling at 10,000 mph, to arrive in Mars’ atmosphere from Earth.”


    Once in the planet’s atmosphere, the descent will begin, a complicated process that ensures the rover lands on the surface safely and intact.


    Mr. Thoma explained that the spacecraft will slow down once it hits the atmosphere surrounding Mars to about 1,000 mph, at which time a parachute is deployed that will slow the spacecraft down further, to about 400 mph. It is at this point when the heatshield falls off and the “jet pack” fires up. The rover is then suspended above the planet’s surface and lowered on to it with the use of cables. Once securely on a solid surface, the cables release and the “jet pack,” is separated from the Rover.


    Students were also shown video footage of the Perseverance Rover that landed on the surface on February 18, 2021.


    Mr. Thoma said once the video showed the spacecraft landing a huge cheer went up in the NASA control room.


    “That was pretty cool for me to see the footage,” Mr. Thoma said.


    The Perseverance Rover is on the planet to collect rock samples that eventually will be returned to Earth.


    “We really want to know if there was ever life on Mars,” Mr. Thoma said.


    The samples that are retrieved are about the size of a piece of chalk, he said, and 30 samples will be taken, which will be packed up into a container about the size of a basketball.


    “It will be put in the tip of a rocket, which will be launched. A third spacecraft will grab the “basketball” and put it in a return vehicle that will deliver the samples back to Earth,” Mr. Thoma said.


    Students had an opportunity to ask questions.


    One curious student wanted to know if NASA was planning on investigating other planets.


    According to Mr. Thoma, the answer is yes, and currently they have their sites on Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter.


    “We have other spacecraft that have gone to Jupiter,” he said, “We are really interested in going to other places in the solar system. The big thing is looking for water. Wherever there is water, there is life.”


    Europa, Mr. Thoma explained, is an icy moon and there are plans to dig through the ice in the search for liquid water. He noted too how Mars was once full of water and something happened, and they want to know what it was that took place to cause the water to disappear.


    The next step would be to one day send humans to these planets too, Mr. Thoma responded to another question.


    “We are now developing technology to go back to the Moon to eventually send people to other places,” Mr. Thoma said, although the prospect would be very expensive considering the necessities that would be required to equip a person for such a long mission.


    When asked if AI technology is used with the rovers, Mr. Thoma explained that it is not, but the spacecraft are equipped with Autonomous Driving technology. Engineers on Earth can send a signal to the vehicle, for example a target to move to, and the Rover will determine the best path to get to that point.


    “It takes 10 minutes for a signal to get from Earth to Mars,” he said.


    Another student was interested in learning about Olympus Mons, the tallest peak on Mars, which is even higher than Mt. Everest.


    “It is absolutely ginormous,” Mr. Thoma said, as he showed photos of this landmark on Mars.


    Broadway performer in the spotlight at Pocantico

    Just as the middle school students at Pocantico Hills Central School District begin to prepare for the spring musical, “Guys and Dolls, Jr.,” actress Patti Murin, who was a guest at a recent assembly for middle school students, told them that was one of the first shows she was in while in high school, where she was cast as one of the Hot Box Girls. Woman speaking into mircophone


    She said from that time on, she pursued acting, whatever role she could get throughout high school, community theater productions and she went on to study musical theater at Syracuse University. Her talent, and tenacity, eventually landed her on Broadway, where she was part of the original cast of “Frozen,” in the role of “Anna.”


    She has also appeared as “Gelinda” in the touring production of “Wicked,” and starred in the short-lived production of “Lysistrata Jones,” and roller-skated her way through “Xanadu.” She also had a recurring role as Dr. Nina Shore on the television series “Chicago Med” and has had several roles in Hallmark channel movies.


    “I just really loved doing it,” Ms. Murin said of acting. “I really liked being on the stage. When I went to college, I couldn’t think of anything else I wanted to do.”


    Her favorite roles, she said, are those that allow her to show off her sense of humor and make the audience laugh.


    “I like being funny and I like characters who are funny,” Ms. Murin said.


    It’s one of the many things she loved about the character of “Anna,” because it allowed her to be funny. And it allowed her to sing one of her favorite songs, “First Time Forever,” in “Frozen,” “Anna” sings it while surrounded by the entire cast.


    “It’s one of those big moments,” she said.


    While Ms. Murin has had her time in the spotlight, she shared how being a successful actor has its challenges.


    First the audition process can be challenging, between preparing material for it, preparing more material if you are called back and the anxiety of waiting to find out if you got the role.


    Once cast in a role, Ms. Murin said the days can be long. Broadway shows begin with workshop related rehearsals which can run between four to five weeks from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. six days a week. Once in the theater there are two to three weeks of tech, when the stage is prepared with lights, costumes, and any technical aspects that make the show magic are worked on and perfected. Previews last about four weeks and allow the performers to go through the show with an audience and any changes are noted and become part of the production.

    “Then you open the show, usually you do eight shows, six days a week,” she said. “It’s tough, but that’s the dream.”


    These days she balances her work with that of her actor husband, Colin Donnell, and their two children. It helps, she said, to have a partner who understands the ups and downs that come with working as an actor.


    Ms. Murin said that for all the shows she was involved in while a student in high school in Hopewell Junction, where she grew up, she was never cast in the lead.


    “Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get the lead roles,” she told the aspiring actors in the audience. “You can’t have a musical without everyone else up there. Most of us on Broadway were not in the leads, we just keep doing it because we love it.”


    She also noted that having a career as an actor can be inconsistent. You never know what roles or jobs will come your way and when one show ends, there might not be another one right away or a show could end unexpectedly.


    “It’s really inconsistent, you really have to love it to do it as a job,” she said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever retire, actors can be of all ages.”


    Another piece of advice she shared was to be nice to everyone they meet and work with, from the costumers and make-up artists to those who work in the theater but may not be onstage.

    “Be interested in every aspect of the show,” she said. “Learn as much as you can about the other jobs. It truly takes a huge village.”


    Ms. Murin's visit was sponsored by the Pocantico HillsSchool Foundation, which provided through funding from an arts grant.

    Student shares cultural holiday with her class


    Earlier in the day when Marina Lombardo’s students were at lunch, they were introduced to some Lunar New Year traditions from China. Parent volunteers shared temporary tattoos, handmade bookmarks and stickers and there was even a dragon parade. Lunch on this day consisted of Chinese flavors, including General Tso’s and a Chicken and Rice Bowl. Girl presents


    Later, once settled back in their classroom, the students were in for a surprise when their classmate Ruishan J., who was born in China, made a presentation where she explained how and why the Chinese celebrate the Lunar New Year.


    Dressed in a stunning red dress, the color of prosperity, according to Chinese tradition, Ruishan shared a Power Point presentation she had made. Each slide depicted how she and her family celebrate the holiday. One showed her and her siblings dressed in traditional clothing.


    “We clean the house, wear red clothes and feast on dumplings, rice balls, and spring rolls,” Ruishan said.


    She went on to share that in another tradition, family members give one another red envelopes often filled with money. The holiday is also celebrated with the launching of fireworks and lanterns are lit and sent into the night sky.


    Ruishan also shared the legend of how the holiday began. She said many years ago a lion-like monster named Nian was attacking villages and one day a house in a village that was being threatened caught on fire. The fire frightened Nian away, and that is why, today, it is a tradition to wear red and light lanterns, the color and “fire” from the light sources keeps the monster away.


    Each year, Ruishan explained, is assigned an animal. Last year, she said, was the Year of the Rabbit, and 2024 is the Year of the Dragon. Assigning an animal to a year comes from another legend, in which a god hosted a race among the animals, the animals who came in the first 12 spots then became the zodiac symbols for the year. The animals rotate from year to year, among them are a pig, dog, rooster, monkey, goat, horse, snake, dragon, rabbit, tiger, ox, and rat.


    After answering some questions Ruishan passed out beautifully decorated red envelopes to her classmates and each received a special red bracelet.

    “How do you say, ‘thank you,’ in Chinese,” a student asked?


    Everyone is a storyteller! Just ask author Jason Edwards


    Children’s author Jason Edwards, an experienced writer, has several stories he has written under his belt, among them the Will Allen and the Chronicles of the Monster Detective Agency series. He has won numerous awards for his work including the LitPick Top Choice Book Review Award and the Mom's Choice Award for Family Friendly Media Award. With all this personal experience as an author, Mr. Edwards insists that anyone and everyone can be and is a storyteller too. Man with microphone speaking with child


    To prove his point, during a recent visit to Pocantico, Mr. Edwards met with elementary students and had them help him craft a story in what he calls a “storyplay.” Using the standard story elements of character, setting and plot, together with the students they created a silly, mysterious story all with an important lesson. Students helped him create a character, develop a conflict, resolution and moral.


    “All of you are great authors, some of you just don’t know it yet,” he told the students.


    Regarding character development, Mr. Edwards showed a few recognizable fictional and real characters on a screen. Among them were Big Bird, Wonder Woman, Abraham Lincoln, Dora the Explorer, and more. The students were able to recognize most of them because, as they told the author, they were familiar with the characters looks and behavior, including the things they have in common as well as noticeable differences.


    “It’s those differences that make the characters who they are,” Mr. Edwards said.

    He then flashed on the screen photos of various places including a beach, baseball field, cave, and a haunted house, these all relate to the setting, or where the story takes place.


    “Characters make your story, but you have to put them in a place,” he said.


    As he asked students what they should include in their story, they all agreed a monster was important, a main character, who they decided would be a little boy and a place, which just happened to be a haunted house. This, of course, all helped set up the conflict — a monster shows up, the little boy is scared, but no one the boy asks for help believes the monster is real, and eventually he is able to overcome his fear with some help.


    “I may be small, and scared, but inside I am bigger than 20 of you!” the little boy learns and uses as a mantra to make the scary monsters seem less of a big deal.


    The boy making this announcement caused the monster to say “eep,” a far cry from the scary roar it had been using to frighten him. Eventually, as the boy kept repeating the mantra, the monster ran and hid in the closet.

    Man standing in front of screen“The end!!!” shouted the students.


    As the students helped the story develop, Mr. Edwards would ask them questions. The boy was going through a typical day, waking up, getting ready for school, and returning home. That’s when the monsters show up. He asked students what they do first thing in the morning (get out of bed, brush their teeth), what items they would need throughout the day (a backpack for school) and tools that could help fend off the monster (a sword?)


    “You were all great story tellers,” Mr. Edwards told them.

    One Poco Night celebrates cultural pride


    A couple of young girls dancing on stageAs someone who still performs the dance herself, Shalini Verma felt a rush of pride watching her daughter, a third-grade student at Pocantico Hills, demonstrate Kathak, an ancient Indian classical dance form. When her daughter’s routine was finished, her mother immediately tried to hug her off-stage, but first had to wade through the handful of well-wishing friends who had arrived first.


    She said the success of her daughter’s routine was an achievement of its own; however, seeing her embrace and share her culture and traditions only enhanced it.


    “It can be easy to pick up what you see around you and your culture can get lost,” said Ms. Verma, who is originally from India. “But this event helps them to build that confidence to be proud of where you come from.”


    The Vermas were one of many families who shared in this mission of One Poco Night, which was hosted by the Pocantico Hills Central School District for the fifth time on Thursday, January 25. Hundreds of students, parents, teachers and administrators participated in the annual event, which began with performances and demonstrations in the school auditorium and continued in the gym. The space was filled with dozens of tables that featured foods and fun crafts that celebrated different cultures around the world.

    A young child dancing on stage

     “One Poco Night is one of the most special nights of the year for Pocantico,” said Principal Adam Brown, who arrived with an empty stomach and sampled many different offerings. “Because we are so diverse — our families come from over 80 different countries, speak dozens of languages, and have so many of their own cultural roots to share — tonight is a night when people can come together and celebrate each other through food, through dance, through traditions. It’s a night of joy and togetherness for our school.”


    One Poco Night began as an initiative to celebrate the school’s rich diversity and its footprint only continues to expand, as was evident at this year’s event. Music teacher Sheila DePaola, who helped Mr. Brown organize the night and served as the emcee in the auditorium, said students at every age from PreK through sixth grade participated.


    “The parents spent a lot of time together with their kids working on these performances,” Ms. DePaola said. “This is probably the most acts we’ve ever had perform.”


    Spectators in the standing-room-only auditorium saw seven different performances in all, plus a fashion show with various forms of attire that represented different cultures. The acts celebrated Arabic, Dominican, Indian, Italian, and Chinese cultures. The finale featured sixth-grader Claire W., who performed on the guzheng, a classical Chinese harp.


    Third-grader Clara M. danced Tarantella alongside her sister, Enza, a first-grade student, to honor their grandmother, who is from Italy.


    “That’s important to me,” Clara said. “I wanted to do it because I can represent my culture. That makes me feel good and feel proud.”


    That sense of cultural pride has become the overriding mission of One Poco Night. It has given students and their families the opportunity to share more of themselves with the community.


    A person standing next to a group of children “I think there can be a lot of pressure for people to leave their cultural roots behind and assimilate while losing your identity,” Mr. Brown said. “We, here, feel the opposite is important. We want you to hold tight to your identity, celebrate it, share it, perform, and be proud of it.”

    Students take control—Don’t worry, they’re learning to code!


    The scenario was the challenge to navigate a blue monster through a room to reach the candy prize. Without the assistance of the fourth-grade students at the controls, the monster would have been stuck not going anywhere.


    Thanks to the help of Lower Hudson Regional Information Center (LHRIC) Senior Facilitator Kelly Nocca and Facilitator Tara Finneran, students learned how to make the monster move and have fun doing it! Students and woman gathered around computer


    Ms. Nocca and Ms. Finneran spend two days per month visiting the Pocantico Hills Central School, where they plan alongside teachers and then push into their first through eighth-grade classrooms to support teachers and students in coding, or computer programming. The students use Tynker, a simple, easy-to-learn coding platform. In elementary classrooms, the assignment was to use block-based coding to give the character, or as referred to in Tynker, the actor, step-by-step instructions to navigate the room and meet the objective — getting the candy!


    “They are learning foundational concepts,” Ms. Finneran said, adding that middle school students are using Python, a more advanced text-based, but still easy-to-use coding language.


    Educational Technology Director Alana Winnick explained that LHRIC staff will be visiting the school twice a month to train teachers on coding, so they feel comfortable instructing their students. The LHRIC is a division of Southern Westchester BOCES. They also work with students to introduce them to basic coding concepts and help them get used to the terms and technology used in coding.

    The initiative also helps support the school’s Extended Learning Opportunity’s Coding Club, led by Marina Lombardo, which meets once a week after school and has proven to be one of the most popular programs for students.


    Ms. Winnick explained that New York State has developed new computer science and digital fluency standards that have been put into effect.


    “We are in a period of adoption right now,” she said. “We noticed the largest gap within the coding standard, prompting our efforts to integrate it across all grade levels.


    "We're taking proactive steps; that's where it all began," Ms. Winnick said, adding the district’s board has also been very supportive. "There's a sense of excitement from everyone involved."


    Additionally, Ms. Winnick explained that coding will be integrated into the existing fifth through seventh-grade technology rotation schedule. This setup allows students to benefit from a semester dedicated to focused technology instruction.

    In the elementary grades, she said, the instruction will be built into the curriculum to provide students with some exposure to technology and coding.


    “An eighth grader has already expressed interest in taking a coding class when they get to high school next year,” Ms. Winnick said.


    “It’s just fun to learn,” William D., a fourth grader in Dawn Lebenson’s class, said of coding as he manipulated the blue actor around the virtual room.


    “You are given these little challenges,” Ms. Finneran told students, noting how they were supposed to figure out the appropriate code to have the actor walk and jump around obstacles.


    Tynker has both text-based and block-based coding. In the block-based format, students drag instruction blocks, such as “walk” or “jump” and then stack the blocks on top of one another. They can view the main page to see if their instructions were correct in getting the actor to do what they wanted it to do.


    “I like it because it’s fun and you get to learn skills about it,” student Emilia P. said of coding. “It’s fun because you get to program it. You have to be really specific.”


    In Amie Doane’s fourth grade class, Ms. Nocca assisted students who ran across an issue — they could not get their actors to walk the correct number of steps before jumping over a blue block. She explained how in some instances they had to use “if” statements in their code, as in, “if” this happens, then “do” this.


    “We are going to stop and think about what we need to do,” Ms. Nocca instructed students, who suggested a sequence of instructions like “walk,” “walk,” “walk,” “jump,” hoping it would get the actor to move the appropriate number of steps before jumping over a block.


    “We’re debugging,” a student noted, sharing the technical term coders use when they troubleshoot an issue.


    As the class watched Ms. Nocca’s actor walk to and then hop over several blue blocks and finally eat the candy, another student exclaimed, “We did it!”


    Checkmates, instructors guide students around the chess board


    On Jan. 12, instructors Harold Scott and Abby Marshall moved around the school like pieces on a chess board. They also brought with them their knowledge of the game and were excited to share what they know with the next generation.  Man watching as kids play chess


    The chess enthusiasts were there to help the elementary students learn more about the game, in the first of many visits that will take place in the upcoming weeks. The two have become part of the school community and have been visiting for the past five years.


    “You want to protect the center of the board,” Mr. Scott reminded a group of third graders.


    After students correctly answered some of his questions, Mr. Scott told him how impressed they were with how much they know about the game.


    “The important thing is to play a lot of chess so you will become better,” he said.


    And that’s just what students did. They broke into pairs, set up their game pieces, and were soon engaged in the strategic game.


    Mr. Scott himself began playing at a young age, learning from his father and sister. By the age of 10 he was playing in chess tournaments and for the last several years has been teaching others the game. He has even co-wrote a book on the topic, “Winning the World Open.”


    “I learned so much from it,” Mr. Harold said of the game. “I used some of it in the business world. You learn how to make better decisions and it helps develop a growth mindset.”

    For fifth graders Dax O. and Eric L., who took a moment to pause their game, they said they liked chess because it’s fun and it makes them think.


    “I like how you are always thinking about strategy all the time,” Eric said.


    Woman talking to kids playing chessBoth students are in the after-school chess club that meets once a week and has a waiting list as it filled up so quickly.


    “I like it just for the fun,” Dax said.


    The two were among a group who had just heard from Ms. Marshall, a winning chess champ who has travelled to China and twice to Turkey to compete in tournaments.


    She had introduced the fifth graders to the concept of a Double Check, a strategy she called “a powerful tool.”


    “It’s a checkmate in two different ways,” Ms. Marshall said, as she showed on a hanging board how it could be done. It’s something she has used in her own games and a move that helped her win a state tournament.


    She said using this tool in games might result in a player losing a piece to their opponent, but they ultimately win because there is a second check that is there.


    Ms. Marshall said she was introduced to the game in Kindergarten.


    “I loved the deeper levels of knowing the game, and it’s fun,” she said of what kept her playing.


    She said she enjoys teaching children how to play the game because they can learn so much from it, including how to think critically, how to be competitive and how to win well.


    Are you ready? Camp Poco will be here before you know it


    That’s right, Camp Poco, now in its 68th year, will be here before campers know it and there is nothing better to help get over the winter doldrums’ than thinking about jumping into the Pocantico Hills pool or enjoying the fun at the Camp Fair. Three kids standing by pool ladder


    Camp Co-Director Kerry Papa guarantees campers will have fun when the six-week summer program starts on July 1.


    “Whether you are new to camp or are back for a tenth season, we are all looking forward to camp,” Ms. Papa said, noting her countdown to camp calendar on this day indicated there were 160 days left to the start of the summer fun. (Even less now!)


    She joked that in the camping world in which she is enmeshed, they have a saying and hashtag, #tenfortwo, meaning camp directors spend ten months planning for two months of activities.

    “But” she said, “all that planning is what makes those two months so memorable and amazing.”


    The energy and excitement for camp at Pocantico begins to build at the start of the new year among both campers and camp staff alike.


    “Everyone involved in the camp,” Ms. Papa said, “is a family and they share that excitement, and it is the thing that makes the camp such an amazing experience for all involved.”


    This year Camp Poco will run from July 1 through Aug. 9. There is already a plethora of activities that will be returning, including athletics, court sports, arts and crafts, hiking and wilderness activities, aquatics, and games like Gaga and 9 Square. There are also the special events that have been put on the calendar, such as Jersey Day, Crazy Hat Day, Crazy Sock Day, Tie Dye Day, Halloween in July, camp outs, Color Wars, and field trips. Not to mention a Ninja obstacle course, Day Rock, and a visit from the Bubble Bus.


    Group of people“We bring our campers out into the world on field trips, for activities and events,” Ms. Papa said. “There are day hikes and field trips to local museums. We will be visiting the Liberty Science Center, which is new this year.”


    “All year you hear about it,” Ms. Papa said as she overhears students talk about their camp experience or their excitement to getting back to it.


    Campers also have an opportunity to make new friends as non-resident students also can attend and join the fun.

    “They make new friends, it expands the community,” Ms. Papa said.


    “We couldn’t do this without the support of our board and administration,” Ms. Papa continued.


    Demand for the camp has increased in the past few years and a decision was made to offer an Early Bird Registration just for those who live in the school district. Residents will have an opportunity to register beginning on Monday, February 5, starting at 7 a.m. An Open Registration period for others will begin on Monday, February 26, also beginning at 7 a.m. Registration for both groups is done online only at pocanticohills.org.


    “We encourage anyone who wants to attend to sign up as soon as the window opens,” Ms. Papa said. “As groups fill, we will establish a waiting list. Last summer camp was filled to capacity, and we want everyone who wants to come to camp to be here.”


    And for those who are wondering, the color of this year’s T-shirt will be . . . you’ll have to wait and see!

    Learning is for everybody

    New CAP program offers adults learning opportunities


    It’s never too late to learn something new and the Pocantico Hills Community Adult Program, or CAP, hopes that its community members never stop learning. People playing Pickleball indoors


    This winter the school is offering special learning programs for adults to expand its outreach to community members and utilize the facilities as well as local instructors.


    “The goal is to partner with community instructors to offer programs that continue education and create lifelong learning opportunities,” Assistant Superintendent Mike Vanyo said, adding that the new program has two categories: Personal Enrichment and Workforce/Information for Life Training. 


    The program originally started with the pool and was expanded to include community use of the tennis courts.


    “As we moved through this natural progression, the Board of Education is in the process of making this one of the Board Goals for 2023-24,” Mr. Vanyo said.


    The vision to expand continued, he said, especially with the new Capital Project-Phase II project under way. This project will provide a community fitness center and an expansion of the recreation area between the fitness center and the pool. This space will offer families an opportunity to gather around picnic tables and be under cover from the sun or rain.


    “We are so excited to offer our community the opportunity to take advantage of our special campus,” Superintendent Rich Calkins said. “The new CAP program is an amazing way to offer continued learning opportunities for adults and is a wonderful way to give back to those who have long supported us here at Pocantico. We hope we have developed a list of courses that will be of interest and look forward to expanding them in the future.”


    CAP kicked off with a six-week Pickleball program with a certified instructor. The program, held on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the school gym, had more than 30 participants.


    “The demand for this program was very high so we are looking to see if we can continue the program with further sessions later this winter and then eventually moving outside with a program on our tennis courts,” Mr. Vanyo said.

    Next up was an adult cooking program l
    ed by local chef and restaurant owner, Clyde Ripka, that ran on Wednesdays beginning Jan. 10. Each week covered a different culinary topic including using and caring for knives, making soups, handling seafood and more.


    Each course is held for a nominal fee for both residents and non-residents.


    “We will eventually develop a calendar and catalog with the offerings online,” Mr. Vanyo said.  “We will provide an electronic signup through our website and other school sites.”


    Although future courses are in the process of being planned Mr. Vanyo said that some ideas that are being considered consist of:


    • Personal Enrichment
      • Fitness Programs (Pickleball, Volleyball, Soccer, Trail Hikes)
      • Cooking Program
      • Driver Training
      • Scuba Diving Certification
      • Arts & Crafts (Example – Flyfishing Basics:  How to Tie a Fly-Fishing Line)
      • Music (Guitar Lessons, Singing Groups)
      • Photography
      • Tours and Trips
    • Workforce/Information for Life Training (Examples)
      • Entrepreneurship
      • Car Care Basics and Maintenance
      • Microsoft Excel Course
      • Landscaping and Gardening Tips and Tricks
      • Personal Finance and Retirement Planning
      • Technology:  Building a Website and Podcast
      • Notary Courses
      • Language Course


    Sixth grade chorus rocked around Radio City Music Hall


    “Please welcome the sixth-grade chorus from Pocantico Hills in Sleepy Hollow, New York” a voice said. With that announcement, and a nod from music teacher and chorus director Sheila DePaola, the group of sixth grade singers began their performance. On the stage. At Radio City Music Hall. Group sings on stage


    This amazing experience began last year after Ms. DePaola learned from a former student that their college group was performing as part of the music hall’s Sounds of the Season program.


    After conducting some research Ms. DePaola submitted an application.


    “Within a few hours a representative had schedule a phone conference to go through details and request performance recordings of our groups,” Ms. DePaola said.


    She was also informed about the restrictions — the group had to be 50 or less, perform completely a capella and start to finish could be no more than five minutes.


    With the superintendent’s approval, Ms. DePaola scheduled a group of 50 to perform on Dec. 14, 2023.


    “It was easy to support such an opportunity for our students,” Superintendent Rich Calkins said. “We love to not only share the talented work of our teachers and students, but we also strive to give our students unique opportunities. And singing on the stage at Radio City Music Hall certainly qualifieds.”


    “The representative highlighted how impressed their office was with our fifth and sixth grade spring performance and I solidified that the rising sixth graders would participate in this experience,” the music teacher said.


    “This was really exhilarating,” Ms. DePaola said of the busy day.  “The students were not only honored but humble as soon as we announced this was happening in September.  They took their practice seriously.  They motivated and supported one another in rehearsal and online in our Microsoft Team.”


    Last year the group consisted of 35 students and had grown to 41 in the fall.


    “Traveling to NYC with 41 kids on a school bus seemed outrageous and yet insanely cool,” Ms. DePaola said. “Band teacher Mike Murray and the sixth-grade teacher team was wonderful in supporting this endeavor.”


    The group also had support from those who traveled with them to keep an eye on everything and even the kitchen staff at the school packed bagged lunches.


    “The entire day was interesting to observe. We had kids tear up walking around the [Rockefeller] tree and standing on the steps of St. Patrick's Cathedral,” Ms. DePaola said.  “Seeing their faces as they entered the theater to line up was beautiful and honestly, I just found so much joy watching the videos and looking at pictures of them on stage.  It's hard to absorb everything going on as it's happening especially in a venue of that size, but they were wonderful and rose to the occasion.”


    Ms. DePaola is also grateful to the parents who from the first were behind the students and offering positive support.


    “We are truly a unique and special school community and that's what ensures these types of experiences can happen for our kids,” she said.

    Community reminded about internet safety


    Anything and everything can be found online, a place that can also be informative, fun, and well, frankly dangerous.


    Recently representatives from the Westchester County District Attorney’s office visited Pocantico to discuss with both parents and students the importance of being diligent and staying safe online. Woman talking to crowd in auditorium


    Assistant District Attorney Lauren Forbes, an internet safety coordinator with the DA’s office, first met with parents, along with Det. Ben Spindler from the Mount Pleasant Police Department, one evening to discuss how they can play an active role in keeping their children safe while online. Later in the week another representative met with middle school students to go over similar material in an age-appropriate way.


    As part of her job Ms. Forbes, who is part of the DA’s Crimes Against Children Task Force, said she spends an extraordinary amount of time online constantly looking for crimes against children. While she is surfing the net as part of her job, she is not alone in the extraordinary amount of time spent online.


    “I basically live on the internet,” she said, telling the parents their children do too.


    While various platforms, like Facebook, Snapchat and Google are required to disclose a safety tip line available to users, there are still many instances that slip through the cracks leading to the exploitation of children.


    In some instances, Ms. Forbes said, it is the children themselves committing the crime without even know they are doing so. She cited a case in the county in which two young girls shared a video of themselves performing a sex act, and the video came from the same IP address. Disseminating a video with sexual content, regardless of age, is illegal and neither of the girls were aware of that before they shared the video.


    Although her office is likely to only prosecute adults for such crimes, she did warn parents that minors could have to deal with a criminal issue in family or juvenile court.


    “In New York state there is no law against cyber bullying,” Ms. Forbes said, rather, the state uses existing laws and applies them to crimes that take place on the internet. She said that every device has data which in the eyes of the law is considered paper and can be used as evidence.


    Statutes relating to forgery, criminal possession of a forged instrument, for example fake email or social media accounts, can be used for such crimes. Other statutes that may apply are aggravated harassment.

    “In New York there is a statute that says a person cannot write or say something that the recipient feels for their personal safety, household or property,” Ms. Forbes said.


    One of the things many kids like to do is message their friends. Parents can help their child stay out of trouble by talking to their children about context.

    “Before all the digital items we had in-person conversations where we could hear the inflection in someone’s voice,” Ms. Forbes said, that helped with understanding.


    “We have to remind kids to read what they write before posting and to consider it carefully before they hit send,” she said because it may be interpreted by the receiver as being bullying.


    “Kids are being barraged, bullied 24/7. It’s constant,” Ms. Forbes continued. “Kids think it’s funny unless they are the recipient.”


    Parents can also stress to their child that they should not, under any circumstances, share their passwords with anyone, Ms. Forbes noted. She said kids tend to be trusting and share their passwords with friends, only to have their relationship sour, and the passwords used to log in to platforms for the purpose to harass under a different name.


    “The only people who should have the passwords are parents,” she said.

    They should also not be sharing personal information, such as what school they attend or where they live, to anyone online. While gaming and using other platforms children could easily be talking to someone and they have no idea who that person is. The individual can easily make up an identity for themselves that has nothing to do with their reality. For example, an older man claiming to be a teenager.


    This works both ways. While an unknown person may misidentify themselves to others, many children are often doing the same thing when they download an app and agree that they are older than they are.


    “Every child knows they have to be 13 to be on these apps,” Ms. Forbes said. “Companies are required by federal law to make sure users are 13 or over. We try to impress on them that you had to lie get on these apps, and others do the same and many not be who they say they are.”


    Ms. Forbes also suggested parents remind their children about the dangers of swatting—when a 911 call is made but there is no real emergency. Safety officials are under the impression there is a danger and respond accordingly only to find out it was a hoax. Meanwhile, the emergency responders have wasted time and may be unavailable should an actual emergency take place.


    “It’s such a serious offense,” Ms. Forbes said of swatting, “that the feds are looking to make it a federal crime.”


    Then there is the issue of different challenges that are made online, the most common being Tik Tok challenges, many of which promote criminal behavior like vandalism or assault.


    “Ask your kids what it is about Tik Tok or videos they watch that they find intriguing,” Ms. Forbes suggested. “The kids may not be inspired to do the challenges themselves, they know its criminal, but by watching these types of videos they get more and more views. It’s encouraging this behavior.”


    Then there is the whole unimaginable issue of sexual exploitation that can happen online.


    “It’s the most common crime we see,” Ms. Forbes said, explaining that having conversations with other minors or adults that is of a sexual nature, is the definition of sexual exploitation. This can mean sharing sexplicit photos.


    “It doesn’t even have to be them engaging in an actual sex act,” Ms. Forbes said.


    She explained that the government considers these images as contraband, it is illegal for individuals, outside of law enforcement, to possess these images.


    When it comes to talking to their children about this difficult topic, Ms. Forbes said a good reminder for parents is to tell their children that anything on their body that can be covered up while wearing a bathing suit, is something that should never be photographed.


    “Having and sharing these images are an offense and you can go to prison and be put on the sex offender registration list,” Ms. Forbes said. “We have referred children to the family court justice system.”


    Sexual extortion is increasingly becoming more common, especially among boys who may be receiving messages from someone they think is a girl their age asking for explicit photos. The person asking may suggest they move to a different platform to discuss further. If the boy complies, suddenly they may be asked for money for the images not to be shared.


    Many of the offenders who are seeking out these boys are not in the U.S., Ms. Forbes said, often they are located on the west coast of Africa.


    Det. Spindler advised parents to learn what apps their child is using and to learn as much about how it operates as possible. Too often, he said, parents simply don’t know how apps work.


    He also suggested parents, like they do with other important topics, continue to have an open dialogue with their child about internet safety. It is not enough, he said, to have a one and done conversation.


    “Give them the information so they can make good decisions,” he said.


    Also, learn who their child is talking to online. He gave the example of a local case in which a minor was buying drugs online, and never once met the seller. The drugs were dropped off at an agreed upon location, and all they had to do was go pick them up while the money was also transferred online. The deal was made using chat features on an app and no face-to-face contact was necessary.


    Not knowing who you are interacting with online is the new stranger danger, Ms. Forbes said.


    Parents can monitor what their children do online, and they can also have a detox where all devices are unplugged, including those of the adults for a certain amount of time. Another suggestion was for parents to be the keepers of all passwords and they should never allow their child to have the password to the App Store.


    Parents can also use a feature in the App Store where any purchase or download of an app must be approved by an adult.


    “You can’t let your children go online and not know where they are going,” Ms. Forbes said. “The biggest thing is having a super, honest discussion.”


    Woman talking to students in an auditoriumTwo days later Assistant District Attorney Jill Oziemblewski visited the school to talk to middle school students. She covered many of the same topics as her colleague and offered reassurance to students that if they pay attention to who they are talking to online they will be able to stay safe and keep out of trouble.


    “The main take away is if things happen online that make you uncomfortable, don’t keep it to yourself,” she said. “Go to a parent or guardian or trusted adult.”


    She reminded students that what goes online, stays online. They might think just because they deleted it from their profile or from the app, it is gone for good, but there is always a digital footprint.

    “Things never go away,” she said.


    Students may also be under the impression that they have all encompassing freedom of speech rights. However, as Ms. Oziemblewski reminded them, speech is limited under certain circumstances, and this holds true for anything online. For instance, if one was to post something that makes someone feel threatened or the message conveys a threat to do harm, that is not considered free speech.


    “The thing is, kids your age see things as a joke or as fun, but they are incredibly serious,” Principal Adam Brown emphasized. “You can find yourself or your family in trouble.”


    The principal encouraged students to be diligent and realize that not everyone they interact with online is who they think they are.


    “You can’t afford to make mistakes online,” Mr. Brown said. “People are very good at convincing others of something that is not there.”


    This applies to responding to requests online, bullying someone online or engaging in a criminal act after being prompted to do so online, such as participating in a social media challenge.


    “You have your whole life ahead of you,” Ms. Oziemblewski told students. “And you don’t want to do something that will follow you.”

    Golden Guests visit Pocantico for a special day of memories


    In an event that was part school reunion and part neighborhood block party, a group of former teachers, members of the community and others gathered in the library. Group seated around table


    The “Golden Guests” were invited to the school to enjoy a concert, brunch and take a tour.

    Many were familiar with the school, as they or their children attended classes here back in the day. For others, it was a return to “home,” a place they had worked for many years.


    “It’s a tradition we’ve had for years,” PTA Co-Secretary Evelyn Shaul explained, adding that the event was founded by her mother, former Poco first grade teacher Nancy Shaul. The special event has been on hiatus these past few years due to circumstances surrounding COVID and Ms. Shaul said it was time to bring it back.


    As guests entered the library, many greeted each other with big hugs and excitement at seeing one another again.


    The group eventually visited the auditorium where they enjoyed a chorus performance by third and fourth graders.


    “You are here to enjoy these fabulous kids,” Principal Adam Brown said in his greeting. “Our kids are just as wonderful as they’ve always been.”


    “I have to see how its changed, it’s a must,” guest Lucille Losapio, whose children attended the school, said of being a part of the day. “It brings back so many memories.”


    Being back in the school brought tears to the eyes of Michele Iaconi, who has had family in the school district for 40 years, including her children and now grandchildren.


    “We’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” she said, adding that her grandchildren are now in sixth and eighth grades at the school. “It’s so special seeing them enjoy everything just like my children did.”


    Former physical education teacher Bobbie McCann had a 50-year career with the school. She first came to Pocantico as a student teacher and continued as a substitute before joining the staff full time.


    Ms. Shaul remembers fondly Ms. McCann and recalled special projects she had her students do, including making wallets, being assigned special jobs and participating in the American Heart Association’s Jump for the Heart fundraiser.


    “It was so special,” Ms. Shaul said of the activities of her former teacher.


    On this day, Peggy Reardon returned to the school, a place where she worked as a Spanish teacher from 1987 to 2003.


    She said she misses the teachers she worked with the most along with offering a foreign language to young students.


    “To teach kids a foreign language this young was fantastic,” she said.


    Ruth Weyland, an art teacher at the school for 36 years, recalled that when she started teaching at the school in 1973, they had just completed the wing where the library is now.


    “It’s so different,” she said of the school. “It’s great.”


    Ms. Weyland recalled how she and Ms. McCann teamed up to put on a school play.

    “The auditorium was so different,” she said. “It’s great to come back, it’s different, but the same. I feel like its home when I come back.”


    Alyson Morilla awarded Hero in Education honor
    Family and Consumer Sciences teacher Alyson Morilla has been awarded as a Hero in Education by Senator Shelley B. Mayer and the Westchester-East Putnam PTA! Group seated at table

    At the award ceremony, Ms. Morilla was described as someone who exemplifies the epitome of a Hero in Education due to her extraordinary dedication and innovative teaching methods.

    As Pocantico’s Family and Consumer Science teacher within the diverse district spanning from 3-year-olds to 8th graders, her impact is profound. Ms. Morilla’s approach goes beyond conventional teaching by integrating practical lessons on nutrition, health, mental wellness, gardening, business, etiquette, and life skills, tailoring her curriculum to each student’s needs. Her unique approach combines various subjects in projects, such as merging sewing with script writing, fostering creativity and skill development simultaneously. She prioritizes personalized and positive support, aiding those who require extra assistance, and she invites industry professionals to inspire her students – showing them the unlimited opportunities in the world.

    Her exceptional care and commitment to her students create an environment where every individual feels seen, supported, and encouraged to reach their fullest potential – making her the outstanding Hero in Education that she is.


    Chess is the name of the game in new club


    A Friday afternoon at Pocantico Hills School finds the library covered with chess boards. Players are sitting at tables or have found a place on the floor.Boy and Girl play chess 


    Despite there being more than 40 elementary students in the room, once the game pieces are set, the room goes silent, and play is underway.


    The club had been in existence prior to the COVID-19 lockdowns and is now experiencing a resurgence. Club advisor, fourth grade teacher Amie Doane, was shocked when so many students signed up for the after-school club and said there is even a waiting list for more students to join.


    “It’s an amazing turnout,” she said. “They are so interested and so into it.”


    A casual player herself, Ms. Doane said each week she teaches club members a new move using a mat with flat pieces that is hung up on a holder so everyone can see it. She then then lets them have time to play the game and practice.

    On a recent afternoon she shared with them what she called was a “bad move,” known among players as the “Scholar’s Mate,” which is used to get to a checkmate situation using four moves with the white queen and bishop. The “Fools Mate,” is a move used to counter it.


    “I love chess,” fourth grader Khali S. said as to why he joined the club.


    “It’s interesting,” classmate Michael G. said of the game. “All the pieces have different types of abilities.”


    Sixth grader Milana G. said she wanted to learn more about the game so she can play with her chess loving family.


    “I like when you play you have to think a lot about the moves you make,” she said about the game. “It’s like a puzzle.”


    Ms. Doane is hoping to eventually host a tournament for the club members to participate in.


    “It’s wonderful to offer it and give the kids the opportunity, they love it,” Ms. Doane said.



    A little help from friends, Regeneron assists with campus beautification


    Many hands make light work they say, and on Oct. 25 it proved more than true. Man works on buildin greenhouse


    Volunteers from Regeneron, the Tarrytown-based pharmaceutical company, visited the Pocantico campus to lend a hand with some special projects as part of the companies Day of Doing Good, which over the course of several weeks mobilizes 6,000 volunteers around the world.


    Working in groups, several volunteers helped to construct a small greenhouse, another planted daffodil and tulip bulbs and a third helped with putting the butterfly garden to bed for the winter.


    “We are excited to help today,” project manager Lea Maney, an associate scientist at Regeneron said.


    This was her second year as a project leader and Ms. Maney said that volunteers help with dozens of projects at schools in different communities.


    “I feel like we are out impacting local communities,” she said.


    Family and Consumer Science teacher Alyson Morilla was happy to have the help in what is a busy time of year for her, the students, and maintenance staff at the school.


    Ms. Morilla said the partnership with Regeneron is wonderful as the company has been very supportive of the school and several students have parents who work there.


    Between the greenhouse, bulb planting and butterfly garden work, Ms. Morilla said the team of volunteers are helping to beautify the campus and are doing work that would have been done by the already busy maintenance crew at the school.


    The greenhouse, located near the pool, will be used by The Garden Harvest Club to grow seedlings in the spring. And everyone will get to enjoy the daffodil and tulip blooms in the spring, not to mention how much the butterflies will enjoy their special space too.


    “We are so grateful,” she said of the help from the volunteers.

    Literacy Night puts focus on the fun of reading


    There was so much to do during the Pocantico Hills Literacy Night, it was tough to decide where to start. Visit the Scholastic Book Fair first, or wait until later? Or play a learning game that is so fun kids don’t realize how it impacts their reading skills?


    There was only one way to find out. Try them all! Group in classroom


    That is exactly what students and their parents did during Literacy Night, held on Oct. 25.


    Principal Adam Brown welcomed families and shared this reminder,

    “reading for 20 minutes with your child you are exposing them to millions of words over the course of four years. All you do at home is truly valuable and will be reflected in the classroom.”


    Mr. Brown explained that as students’ progress through the grades they advance through the ELA standards. Younger readers, he said, first learn to identify main topics in what they are reading and grow to identify themes and analyzing text.


    Parents can be helpful in student reading growth and performance by reading to their child or children and encouraging independent reading.


    Throughout the evening students, along with their parents, visited their classrooms where teachers shared with them how they teach students reading skills and vocabulary. It’s not all rote learning, but often incorporates fun activities that keep students engaged. Activities that can easily be replicated at home.


    Speech Therapist Kathryn Palmesi explained that she uses a program called Story Champs which helps students develop narrative and storytelling skills.


    Icons that are displayed identify parts of a story — character, setting, problem, attempt, ending and end feeling. As the students become more familiar with the story, they are able to identify each part without the hint from the icons and even be able to retell the story on their own.


    “They then can apply it to their own stories and use it for components in factual stories,” Ms. Palmesi said.


    Kindergarten teacher Nancy Occhicone showed parents how she uses “Fundation Scramble” to help her students learn vocabulary and spelling skills.


    Using tiles, Ms. Occhicone spells out the word “fundation.” Students then use that as a bases to add tiles to spell out new words.


    Fourth grade teacher Amie Doane played a version of “Jeopardy,” where students were divided into teams. They selected a dollar amount from categories such as “sounds,” “prefixes,” “roots” and “syllables,” and could only earn points by answering correctly.


    Other games presented by teachers including students using two letters to build new word and a type of “Battleship” game that pertained to words on a board.


    And if families missed the book fair at the beginning of the even, they had time to check it out before going home!

    Soups on! Harvest soup tradition is served up with garden ingredients


    There’s nothing like a hot bowl of soup on a cool fall day, and students at Pocantico Hills School have a tradition of enjoying the warmth of a homemade bowl. What makes it even more special, is that the delicious vegetables used in the soup are grown and harvested on campus as part of the school’s Growing and Gardening program.Group serving soup


    “The students really enjoy the whole process from beginning to end product,” said Cook Manager Kristin Ripka.


    Each year the garden is tended by maintenance staff throughout the summer. The garden typically grows carrots, onions, celery, garlic, fresh herbs, Swiss chard, butternut squash, assorted beans and tomatoes.


    Within a few weeks of the start of a new school year, students are invited to the garden to help harvest. The vegetables are brought to the kitchen where they are cleaned and chopped and made into a delicious soup for the entire school community to enjoy.


    “We love cooking for the students and staff and are glad to be part of these Pocantico traditions,” Ms. Ripka said of herself and her staff.


    Celebrating with song Woman sings with two children

    What a treat! Latin Grammy Nominee Flor Bromley returned to Poco on Sept. 29, having last visited in 2019! Ms. Bromley shared a high energy show in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. Students sang, clapped and danced along with her as she sang some of her original works and a few Latin favorites!

    Annual Swan Lake Walk raises funds, brings students close to nature


    As students crowded shoulder-to-shoulder around the table at each station, the exhibitors asked them questions.


    “Do owls have fur or feathers?”


    “What comes from different types of trees?”


    “What animal native to the area would have a larger skull than a coyote or a wolf?” Man holding owl


    For each question at Rockefeller State Park, the students appeared to respond with 10 more. There were the serious ones, like, “Was that the shell from a real turtle?” There were also the not-so-serious: “Do you have any diamonds?”


    From looking at geodes to comparing different trees, the annual Pocantico Hills Swan Lake Walk, held on Oct. 5, provided students, from Pre-K to eighth grade, an opportunity for hands-on experiential learning in nature — all in a trip that is so close to home.


    “I think it’s a unique opportunity for our kids at Pocantico,” said school librarian Kerry Papa, who circled Swan Lake with a group of second graders. “We are surrounded right here by all of these terrific resources. It can be easy sometimes to forget about that.”


    The students seemed equally grateful for the trip, which is supported by the Pocantico Hills School Foundation. The education excursion doubles as a fundraiser for the organization, which raises money for a specific cause that can benefit the school each year. This year’s initiative centers around providing mental health and wellness opportunities.


    Children walking on cinder pathThe Swan Lake Walk featured five stations this year. One new addition commissioned by the Foundation was a falconer, who showed students different falcons and owls at close range.


    All told, approximately 325 students were present for the experience, one Ms. Papa said is “steeped in tradition” in the district.


    “They are so inquisitive,” Ms. Papa added. “On a day like this there may be something we look at as an everyday occurrence. But when you bring them outside, it all becomes an adventure.”

    A new year gets under way in Pocantico Hills

    Following a busy summer of preparation, students arrive to a warm welcome 

    kids walking from buses into schoolBuses rolled in on Tuesday morning, and students dressed in their back-to-school best hopped off, many sporting new backpacks or a fresh haircut, eager to take on the new school year.

    For all the excitement of opening day, Pocantico Hills Central School hasn’t been exactly quiet these last few months. Besides the summer camp, July and August are a time for preparation, from physical facilities like the installation of rooftop solar panels, to teacher workshops and curriculum work. Teachers and staff have been busy in these hallways and classrooms, readying for excellence in 2023-24.

    “We believe in our people, and they believe so much in what we’re doing,” Superintendent Rich Calkins said during conference day workshops leading up to the start of classes. “Our job as educators is to support and to empower them; the better they do, the greater the success of our students!”

    two children hold hands

    The district’s message for parents is one of excitement about seeing students return to what is an amazing academic environment. Mr. Calkins lauded the “Herculean efforts over the summer” to prepare for opening day and credited the Board of Education for many health and safety updates made to school facilities since last school year. The PTA and Education Foundation have provided tremendous support to the district as well, he said.

    girl walks from bus smiling

    Pocantico Hills teachers are excited to continue many of the curricular initiatives that have been pursued systematically over the last four years. Most recently the focus has been on reading. 

    “This year we are continuing to expand that,” the superintendent said. “We’re tackling the writing process in the same fashion, with everybody being trained in the same methodology. A huge shout out to our entire team for their work on this!”

    In addition, the Leadership Team has worked hard to ensure returning students have all the resources and support they need. Community members are encouraged to share feedback on ways the district can continue to improve.

    “Thank you to the community for the tremendous support that you provide,”Mr. Calkins said. “Together we can, and are, doing great things.”