Ed News Online 
News and Information from the
Elmsford Union Free School District
Spring 2017

2017-18 BUDGET 

On April 5, the Elmsford Board of Education adopted the district's 2017-18 budget.
Trustees approved the proposed $34,147,076 financial plan, which promises to maintain fiscal responsibility by remaining within the 2017-18 tax cap.
In addition, the proposed budget supports 100 percent of the district's current student programming, including curricular and extra-curricular activities.
Some of the plan's meaningful goals as outlined in the district's financial plan titled,"2017-2018 Proposed Budget: A Pathway for Our Future," include enhancement of technology/computer science/STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) at the primary and elementary school levels, including increased STEM and MakerSpace opportunities for children to participate in hands-on learning experiences.
A special area course in Spanish at the elementary level has also been proposed, in addition to enhancements at the high school with the introduction of a full-time Physics/Science research teacher at AHHS.
While academic enhancements are important overall, the Board is also mindful of the social and emotional development of district students and as a result, this year's proposed budget includes an expansion of its Character Education & Leadership Development Plan.
"Despite the 'push and pull' of state aid, market cost increases, tax cap requirements, unfunded mandates and an aging infrastructure arising as yearly fiscal challenges," said Superintendent Dr. Joseph Ricca, "the Board of Education has nonetheless developed a budget proposal that meets the needs of the district and respects our community members while providing a high quality education for all of our children."
Residents can cast their vote May 16th at the Alice E. Grady Elementary School Music Room between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. For more detailed information on the budget plan, visit the district's website at www.eufsd.org.


Tenure recipients Director of Special Education & Pupil Personnel Services Jo-Anne Dobbins, pictured sixth from left, and special education teacher Lori Rescigno, beside her, pictured with the Board of Education and
district administrators.

At its May 3 board meeting, the Elmsford School District Board of Education granted tenure to Director of Special Education & Pupil Personnel Services Jo-Anne Dobbins and Carl L. Dixson Primary School special education teacher Lori Rescigno.
An Elmsford native, Dixson Principal Jeffrey Olender praised Ms. Rescigno for her dedication to the students in her care, saying that she had "truly embraced her job."
"Nobody cares for those students like she does," he added. "She is a true advocate for them."
In his remarks before recognizing Ms. Dobbins as a tenured employee, Superintendent Dr. Joseph Ricca referred to her years of experience dealing with "some of our neediest children."
"She is a tireless supporter of every single child, no matter their ability," he said.
Following the formal recognition ceremony, members of the Board, district administrators and staff who work with both employees posed for pictures and later celebrated with light refreshments.

Dr. Christopher H. Tienken

An advocacy seminar March 13 drew a sizeable crowd to the Alice E. Grady Elementary School cafeteria eager to hear what noted education expert Dr. Christopher H. Tienken had to say about the state of education in America today.
The associate professor who teaches education leadership, management and policy at Seton Hall University in New Jersey provided a one-hour presentation based on his new book, "Defying Standardization: Creating Curriculum for an Uncertain Future."
Dr. Tienken challenged the commonly repeated mantra that American schools are failing. He provided data from international tests, as well as indicators of economic strength, to show that U.S. public school achievement is at the top of the world when comparing "apples to apples" and that the U.S. is one of the most creative, innovative and entrepreneurial economies on the planet.  
For example, the U.S. produced the largest amount of high-scoring students on the PISA 2015 mathematics section, he said, and it also leads the world in Nobel prizes in the sciences. Sixty percent of all Nobel prize winners since 2003 have come from U.S. public schools, Dr. Tienken added. In addition, he said the U.S. ranks second in the world in creativity for people ages 25-45.  
"Dr. Tienken's research and reporting supports what we in the Elmsford UFSD truly believe," said Superintendent Dr. Joseph Ricca. "Our public schools support and serve all of our children and truly allow for amazing opportunities that are unique to the United States of America."
"Can we improve our practice? Of course. However, we must never lose sight of the power and value of a high quality public school education. With opportunity, support and an outstanding education, anything is possible," he added.
More information about Dr. Tienken's book can be found at www.christienken.com .


Speakers from Breaking the Cycle pose with some students from AHHS. From left in the front row: Randi Kelder, Ann Marie D'Alliso and Hashim Garrett. 

Students at Alexander Hamilton Jr./Sr. High School learned about the act of forgiveness during a special assembly scheduled for Leadership Day Feb. 17.
The event, which took place in the high school auditorium, included three speakers from Breaking the Cycle, an award-winning program that stresses honest communication and forgiveness as a way of resolving conflicts by incorporating the real-life experiences of people.
This is the second time the group has presented at the high school. The organization has traveled to schools across New York State and other parts of the United States in an effort to generate self-respect and respect for others, both keys to school safety. 

In 2008, it launched a chapter in the U.K.
The speakers included Ann Marie D'Aliso, who lost her 16-year-old son Pat to suicide in 2004, Randi Kelder, whose 24-year-old brother Ryan died in 2015 of drug addiction, and Hashim Garrett, a former gangster who now runs his own consulting company, Wisdom and Understanding.
"How did we not know that our son was hurting?" Ms. D'Aliso said, as she told the students about her son's gradual demise.
By all accounts, Pat D'Aliso was a talented and smart young man who seemed to have it all. It was only after his death that the D'Aliso family discovered he was suffering from clinical depression.
"If you have something going on and you feel like the pressures are too great, tell someone," she said. "It's not your job to take care of it."
Ms. D'Aliso said that all she wanted to do was to be a good mother. "I failed at the one thing I wanted to do and be," she added.
After the suicide, Ms. D'Aliso, who serves on the board of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said she felt tremendous guilt and had a hard time forgiving herself for what she believed was partially her fault.
"I knew nothing about suicide. I worried about everything else, but that wasn't in my thought process," she said, referring to the warning signs that she should have picked up on, but didn't.
In another heart-wrenching presentation, Randi Kelder spoke about the relationship she had with her older brother and how she got him into drugs, an activity that turned into a heroin addiction.
"That one bad decision we made led him to where he is now," said Ms. Kelder, who, like Ms. D'Aliso, felt incredible guilt when her brother passed away.
"I needed to learn how to forgive myself, and that's the whole idea of this assembly," she told the captivated audience.
"If you've done something that you regret, forgive yourself and forgive one another," she added.
Mr. Garrett was 15 when he was shot by a member of his own gang. Growing up in Brooklyn, Mr. Garrett said he wasn't always in trouble. By the sixth grade, however, problems at home led him to a gang and his eventual near-death experience.
"I went from being the lamb to the lion," he said, referring to the life he once led as a gangster. Mr. Garrett, the father of two children, recalled the moments after getting shot in the back with a submachine gun.
"I felt a kind of peace and tranquility that I had never felt before," he said. Luckily for him, he survived the devastating accident, which left him partially paralyzed. But his story is not about a boy who got shot, he noted. It's about a boy who went through something and came out the other end because of forgiveness, he said.
"Hating him hurts me; forgiving him helps me," Mr. Garrett said, referring to the shooter. "Forgiving myself is hard," he added.
Copies of the book, "Why Forgive?" by Johann Christoph Arnold, were also available at the talk. Mr. Arnold is an award-winning author who writes on marriage, parenting and end-of-life issues. His book includes a number of essays from people like the late New York City police detective Steven McDonald, Mr. Garrett, Ms. D'Aliso and others.

New inductees and returning members of Alice E. Grady's NEHS pictured with Grady Principal Douglas Doller along with ENL teacher and NEHS advisor Lucianna Alaimo. 

Teachers, administrators, school board members, parents and Elmsford Mayor Robert Williams turned out for the National Elementary Honor Society annual induction ceremony held at the Alice E. Grady Elementary School gymnasium on Feb. 15.
Nine new members were inducted to the prestigious group. They included fifth-graders Sherif Abdelaziz, Mark Cajamarca, Yuriy Kryvoruchko, Lauren Maresca, Digna Pintado and Saivikas Shivakumar.
The sixth-grade inductees included Carmen Bendezu, Jack Fox and Carissah Smith.
Returning NEHS members, who were also part of the ceremony, included Megha George, Jaidan Giglio, Keianna Lewis, Eric Lopez-Mendez, Helen Oliveros, Isaiah Trudeau and Kyra Ward.
Membership in the NEHS is considered one of the highest honors that an elementary school student can achieve. Inductees are selected based on their academic accomplishments and also on their personal responsibility, commitment to service and leadership qualities.
English as a New Language teacher Lucianna Alaimo serves as the chapter's advisor.
"Scholarship, leadership, responsibility and service are all traits that you possess," said Superintendent Dr. Joseph Ricca. 
"When you combine those character traits together, you can change the world. I have no doubt in my mind that if each and every one of you continue to put the effort and the attention that you've put into your studies and indeed throughout your lives, then each and every one of you can become leaders and make the world a better place."


There was lots of food, games and music at the Grady School's annual Winter Carnival in March. Here are some photos from the fun event. 

Students dress up in costume for the Pop-Up Culture event that was part of the high school's College Information Night. Pictured with the students is AHHS Principal Marc Baiocco, Superintendent Dr. Joseph Ricca, science teacher Tony Thompson and social studies teacher Al McCutchen.


The annual College Information Night held March 21 was a great success with Alexander Hamilton High School counselors Monica Ahern and Stephanie Luccioni providing approximately 75 parents with crucial information on the college selection process.
The event included information on applying to colleges as well as tips on securing financial aid and scholarships.
There was also a pop-up culture event to celebrate African-American History Month and the Women's Rights Movement. Special education teacher Cheryl Joseph coordinated that activity. 

Superintendent Dr. Joseph Ricca.

In a letter to parents earlier this spring to address the widespread fear and uncertainty among certain communities in Elmsford about immigration status, travel restrictions and the various ongoing conversations related to reported deportations that are taking place across the country, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Ricca reiterated the Elmsford Union Free School District's welcoming philosophy toward all students.
"The Elmsford UFSD remains completely committed to all of our children and their families," wrote Dr. Ricca. "Our community members know, and our Board of Education has been firm - there is no place for fear in Elmsford."
Dr. Ricca reiterated the district's commitment to educating its students.
"Each day, we are trusted with the health and wellbeing of our most precious community members. We take this responsibility as a solemn promise to educate, nurture and protect our children in all instances and at all times regardless of circumstance."
The superintendent told the community that he and other administrators had received questions related to federal law enforcement authorities being allowed access to children in their schools.
"Again, let me be clear - no child, will ever, ever be questioned or detained by a law enforcement official without the proper, court-ordered warrant. This simply will not happen. There will not be federal authorities visiting our campuses and there will not be access to our student records," he stated.
Dr. Ricca said that these were not new education policies in response to the current political climate, but time-tested policies predicated on New York State law.
He reassured parents that their children would be safe in the Elmsford UFSD schools.
"You can always be certain that we will protect each and every one of your children as if they were our own. This is what we believe and is part of what makes the Elmsford UFSD so special."


Grady Principal Douglas Doller pictured with, from left, Debbie Barbosa, third-grade teacher, Kemi Pogue, program director, Home Run Against Drugs, Homer, the program mascot, and third-grade teachers Mary Potenza, Davia Katsetos and  Mariana Ferreira. 
Third grade students at the Alice E. Grady Elementary School learned about living a healthy, drug-free lifestyle with the help of Kemi Pogue, program director for Home Run Against Drugs, as well as from Homer, the program's mascot, at a special March 22 event at the school. 
Grady students were the first in New York State to receive the important message and benefit from the special initiative, which was sponsored by the district, the Elmsford Rotary Club, Hope Haven Society for Children and Families, and Gullotta House, Inc.
The early intervention program promotes healthy lifestyle choices among the nation's youth by empowering them with the knowledge and self-esteem to prevent tobacco, alcohol and drug abuse. 
Students attended a 45-minute assembly where they learned about the negative effects that drugs and alcohol can have on them and how to make better, healthier choices. With the help of Homer, students learned the program's slogan: "Be a Slugger ... Hit a Home Run Against Drugs!" To help reinforce the program's message, each student received a personalized hard-cover book, "Homer and Me: A Day at the Ballpark."
"This is a wonderful program with an important message," said Grady Principal Doug Doller. "Our students were very excited by the program and engaged throughout the entire assembly. They especially loved meeting Homer and receiving a book where they and their friends were the main characters."
The book also promotes reading, explained Mr. Doller, because students see their names in print, which in turn encourages them to read with more excitement.
"The students at Grady were awesome," said Ms. Pogue. "Our program was a great fit for them, and I look forward to next year's event."  


Students at the Carl L. Dixson Primary School enjoyed a presentation from the Metro North Railroad's Office of System Safety recently.
The free community outreach program was provided to the school to teach children the importance of safety around railroad tracks and trains.
Safety Education Program Specialist Allison Lester covered three topics during the presentation. They included safety around grade crossings and the need for caution when gates are lowered, when warning lights are flashing and when the bell rings warning of a train's approach.
She also told students to be additionally cautious when riding trains, including watching one's step when entering and exiting trains, especially the wide gap that exists between Metro North trains and the station platform.
Trespassing on train tracks was another topic that Ms. Lester talked about. Not only is trespassing illegal, she said, but it is also extremely dangerous. Crossing the tracks at designated grade crossings is the right thing to do, she added.

AHHS students, from left, Lily Tom, Chelsea Luctama, Lauren Williams and Gabrielle Mason work on a project during the Design and Build STEAM Challenge.


Two 9th and 10th grade teams from Alexander Hamilton High School competed in the April 1 SWBOCES First Annual Design and Build STEAM Challenge and came away with several prizes.
The two-hour event was open to students in school districts throughout Westchester. The Elmsford and Edgemont school districts participated in the two-hour event, which was held at the BOCES Center for Career Services in Valhalla.
Students from the design teams were chosen from the Robotics I class. Instructor Hector Hernandez explained that the teams had the option to choose from four different challenges, each having its own special instructions for completion. The final instructions were made available to the students once they showed up at the competition.
Each group was also expected to give a three-minute presentation before a panel of judges, explaining their design and defending their conclusions.
One team comprised of all girls. They included Chelsea Lutama, Gabriel Mason, Lily Tom and Lauren Williams, who chose the Rube Goldberg Challenge. Mr. Hernandez said they were required to assemble a contraption that had to go through nine movements before setting off the "that was easy button" at the end. They had 90 minutes to complete it as well as demonstrating how they went through the engineering process steps to get there.
"They really made it look easy," said Mr. Hernandez, referring to the engineering process that was involved, setting the ball in motion and getting it to work on the first attempt.
The other team included Savallya Boyini, Joseph Delgado and Dennis Rambaran, who chose the Design and Build Challenge.
Certificates were handed out after the competition and on May 4, BOCES Supervisor Orande Daring and BOCES Pre-Engineering instructor Leticia Noce presented the students with their medals.

Students pose in caps and gowns at White Plains Hospital.

A group of students from Alexander Hamilton High School had the opportunity to get a close-up look at the fascinating world of robotic-assisted surgical procedures during a visit to White Plains Hospital in March.
The seminar allowed students to see surgical procedures in state-of-the-art operating rooms at the hospital, where doctors use patient-centered technology, such as the da Vinci Xi surgical system, to carry out robotic surgery on patients.

Some of the Seussical cast paid a visit to the Gray School to read to the younger students.  

There was a lot of excitement across the district prior to the high school's debut of "Seussical The Musical" on March 10th and 11th, but at the Grady and Dixson schools, there was a particular interest in the performance given students' love of Dr. Seuss and his many books.
Senior Craig Rowe and eighth-grader Alexia Autera read "The Butter Battle Book" to a group of students. Down the hall, other AHHS students were reading "Bartholomew and Oobleck."
Others were in various classrooms around the building, also reading to the children.
Eager to hear more about the musical, the Grady students asked a lot of questions about the musical.
"You can expect a lot of rhyming," said one performer. "Everything is singing and there is also lots of dancing. It's a great family show."
Various hands-on activities were also incorporated into the visit. In Debbie Barbosa's third-grade classroom, students had fun making Ooblecks of their own by mixing together cornstarch, water and blue food coloring. Special education students from Mary Ellen Pickens' class were also involved in the activity.
Students in Mrs. Barbosa's class make their own Oobleck.
The high school students also visited the Dixson school, 
delighting students with their reading of books like, "Are You 
Dixson students listen attentively as a Seussical actor reads to them
My Mother?" Other books that they read included "The Shape of Me and Other Stuff" and "I Can Read with My Eyes Shut."

The cast of Seussical The Musical


The Alexander Hamilton Jr./Sr. High School Drama Club held its spring musical March 10th and 11th in the high school auditorium. Titled, "Seussical The Musical," the show is based on the stories of Dr. Seuss, primarily his books "Horton Hears a Who!," "Horton Hatches the Egg" and "Miss Gertrude McFuzz." Here are some shots from the well-attended event. 


The Alice E. Grady Elementary School community, including teachers, administrators and parents were thoroughly entertained March 2 when the school's drama club performed "Annie Jr."
The beloved show was done to perfection by a very talented cast, which included Michelle Samayoa as Annie, Christopher Harper as Daddy Warbucks, Julian Alexis as Lt. Ward and Adrian Ramos as Mr. Bundles/FDR, among other talented performers.
"Annie Jr." is a musical licensed by Music Theatre International's Broadway Junior collection and is a shortened version of the original. 


Various crafts and traditional food from different cultures was on display at the district's annual International Night held Feb. 10 in the Alexander Hamilton High School cafeteria. Students dressed in traditional costumes performed a variety of dances representing countries like the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Ireland, Puerto Rico and Peru, among others. 

Here are some images from the event.