Volume 51, Issue 7                                                                                                               March 2017 

James M. Ryan, Ed. D.
Productive Partnerships
At PNW BOCES we pride ourselves on providing exceptional customer service, and there are many examples of how we accomplish this through a wide range of successful partnerships. Each partnership involves working collaboratively to plan and deliver programs that meet the needs of our students.

In our Special Education division, two examples that come to mind are our Falls Academy, located at Mahopac Falls Elementary School, and the Oasis program, housed in Walter Panas High School.  The Falls Academy provides a nurturing environment for students who have been challenged in traditional school settings.  The program opened its doors last year, and we are already seeing great success in terms of our students' academic and social/emotional development. The Falls Academy is built on a partnership between BOCES and the Mahopac Central School District, but students throughout our region attend the Academy, as well.

Our Oasis program is a collaborative initiative with the Lakeland Central School District. The program supports students in grades 9-12 with emotional or social issues that have interfered with their success in a typical high school setting.  The "school within a school" therapeutic program features a small student-to-staff ratio and individual and group counseling. Oasis is a wonderful example of a strong partnership with one of our component districts translating into success for students throughout our region.

Our OC 21 program represents the efforts of our Curriculum and Instruction division to work with our districts to offer unique on-line courses.  Students throughout the region study topics not available in their home districts, such as Anthropology or Sports Management, through a blended online/classroom experience. Working in tandem with instructional leaders from our area districts, our Curriculum and Instruction staff has created cutting-edge, innovative course offerings ... a highly effective partnership!

In an earlier article, we highlighted the exciting new culinary arts program at Tilly Foster Farm in Brewster. This new CTE offering has created a wonderful opportunity for us to partner with our component districts in an offsite facility, broadening options for our students, particularly those in our northern communities.

Again, providing exceptional customer service is central to our mission at PNW BOCES.  It is exemplified by innovative programs that have grown out of strong partnerships with our component districts.  We look to continue to follow this successful model of customer service and responsiveness as we work collaboratively with our competent district partners to meet the needs of our students.

Transitions Students Mark the 100th Day 
of School

Transitions teacher Lisa Giacomini-Essell and her students proudly display their 100 Day projects.

The 100th day of school is something students love to celebrate, and Lisa Giacomini-Essell's Transitions 3 students are no exception. 

"The students in my class are all very different, but they have one thing in common: their love for math and counting," said Lisa. "So this year I decided to allow them to explore their interests with a '100 Day' project. The assignment was to affix 100 of anything to a presentation poster, with the goal of reinforcing their counting skills."

The results were impressive in their execution and reflected each student's unique personality.  For example, Ryan, who loves "knock-knock" jokes, brought in a miniature door (complete with a knocker) covered in jokes. Fellow student Nick created a poster with 100 images of his favorite movies. "It was apparent that our students and their families put in a lot of time in putting these projects together, and the students were very proud of their work," said Lisa.

This was the first time a voluntary project like this had been assigned to the Transitions 3 students, and more than half opted to participate. "They were true representations of what each student really enjoys," said Lisa.

100 Day projects on display in Lisa Giacomini-Essell's Transitions classroom.

Science teacher Michele Lavarde works with Falls Academy students.

Falls Academy
Housed in the Mahopac Falls School, PNW BOCES' Falls Academy is a unique, collaborative partnership with the Mahopac Central School District. The program serves students in grades 6-8 who have struggled in the typical middle school setting, due to internalizing emotional issues including anxiety, depression, PTSD and school avoidance.
The Falls Academy redefines the middle school experience, with an innovative, engaging, project-based curriculum aligned to the NYSED Common Core Learning Standards. The atmosphere is more personal and relaxed, with the goal of getting students to enjoy coming to school.
All teachers are dually certified in both special education and their subject area, and staffing includes a full-time, on-site School Psychologist. Dialectical Behavior Therapy skills are both formally taught and integrated throughout  the school day through the STEPS- A (Skills Training for Emotional Problem Solving for Adolescents ) curriculum.
Falls Academy, which opened its doors in January 2016, is staffed for up to 32 students and looks to continue growing, as it meets the unique needs of students in our region.
"The continued success of The Falls Academy is the product of our collaborative partnership with the Mahopac Central School District in addition to the hard work of our students, and ongoing communication with their families," said Director of Special Education Shelley Fleischmann. "All of this is bolstered by our team of professional staff who are dedicated to providing an innovative middle school experience." 
PNW BOCES' Core Values
Staff Steps in to Help Student's Family During Crisis

A portion of the items collected by PNW BOCES staff for a Walden student whose family suffered a tragic house fire.

When tragedy strikes, you can depend on family to help. In January, when a Walden student lost his mother in a fatal house fire, PNW BOCES staff didn't hesitate to lend a hand, acting not only as educators or social workers, but also as family.

The fire took place in a multi-family residence in Peekskill and, in addition to losing his mother, Walden student Albert Sullivan also lost his home. As soon as Albert's teacher Justin Delgado and social worker Brandy Haight heard about the fire and realized it was their student's home, they raced to the scene to see what they could do to help.

"We located Albert and began using the strategies we use in school to keep him calm and focused," said Brandy. 

One of the most pressing needs was locating a replacement iPad.  "The iPad is a critical coping mechanism for Albert," said Justin.  He made a quick call to Education Technology Coordinator Jen Harriton-Wilson to see if she knew of a spare iPad that Albert could use. Less than an hour later, Jen's husband, Ray, showed up at the scene with Jen's personal iPad mini and offered it to Albert.

Brandy and Justin also purchased food and emergency clothing and supplies for Albert, his brother and father. "The family only had the clothing on their backs when they escaped the fire," said Justin.

Once they were back at PNW BOCES, both Brandy and Justin knew their colleagues would want to help the family get back on their feet. After reaching out to staff at Walden and the Local School Building Programs, and posting a call for help on their personal social media pages, they received an overwhelming response. 

"Donations just began pouring in," said Justin. "People donated so much clothing, we had to designate a room just to hold everything." The family was able to select exactly what they needed, and extra items were donated to Love in Action in Yorktown, a local charity providing assistance to those facing unforeseen life events. 

Additionally, with Albert's father's permission, Justin and Brandy created a GoFundMe page for the family to help them with relocation expenses.

Even after all of this, the PNW BOCES staff wanted to do something extra special for Albert. They knew he was an avid video game fan and had lost his favorite game system in the fire. At Jen's suggestion, Justin sent a letter to CDW-G, one of PNW BOCES' technology vendors, to inquire about possible discounts or the availability of a previously used system. Upon hearing of Albert's story, CDW-G shipped out a brand new game system for Albert, overnight.

The family is now in a new apartment, and Albert has resettled back into his school routines at Walden, where teachers and staff continue to provide ongoing support and comfort.

"Brandy and Justin took the initiative to help this student and his family, and the response on the part of the BOCES family was genuine and heartfelt," said Walden principal Mike Soul. Added Assistant Superintendent Lynn Allen, "This initiative is yet another shining example of our BOCES family's 'we can do that' attitude!"

According to Justin, Albert's father was overwhelmingly grateful for the support. "He told me that he never knew people could be so kind," said Justin. 
Customer Service Workshops for BOCES and District IT Staff

PNW BOCES is launching a series of customer service trainings for internal IT staff, as well as IT professionals in local districts. The workshops represent a partnership between IT and the Center for Educational Leadership and grew out of a need that was identified during regional IT Leadership Forum meetings.

A unique characteristic of the workshop will be its two-part format, according to Director of Information Technology Jamie Molina. "During the first workshop session, we will focus on customer service strategies for the IT professional," said Jamie. "Then, the group will have a month to put into practice what they've learned. We will reconvene a month later, when participants will have the opportunity to discuss what did or didn't work and refine their customer service strategies."

The workshops will be facilitated by Jeff Olefson of Staff Development Associates and will take place in late April.  Staff Development Associates is also presenting a Leadership Development workshop this month at PNW BOCES for supervisors and managers in the areas of facilities, food service and transportation.

"Customer service is the basis of everything we do," said Jamie. "An improved customer experience enables us to continue the commitment to our mission of service and innovation through partnership."
Virtual Suggestion Box
Please be reminded that you are welcome to share your ideas and suggestions  to boost morale and improve our collective work by using our virtual suggestion box. To access the box, go to the BOCES website at  http://www.pnwboces.org/
(click the employees tab and then suggestion box) or go directly to:

The virtual suggestion box is checked on a daily basis and all suggestions are carefully reviewed and considered. Suggestions of merit that are acted upon are highlighted in the BOCES Reporter.    
Thanks again to all those who have used the virtual suggestion box, and keep the new ideas coming! 

Why doesn't BOCES have a Solar Power initiative for the campus, with all of our open space and rooftops?

Response: We have held several meetings with solar power providers over the past two years and discovered that there are numerous rules and regulations regarding the leasing/purchasing of solar panels. Although we have not been able to negotiate an agreement with providers that protects our organization at this time, we are still actively looking to bring solar power to our campus.

Staff  Stuff
Dale Cassone, Teacher Aide, Blue Mountain Middle School 
(Hendrick Hudson School District)

Amy Jencik, Teacher, Walter Panas High School. 
Diane Brown, Teacher Aide, Blue Mountain Middle School 
(Hendrick Hudson School District). 
Dawn Bruzio, Office Assistant, School Services Building. 
Vanessa Orellana, Food Service Helper, Walden. 
Jeanne Wilson, Food Service Helper, Walden. 
Latoya Wilson, Food Service Helper, Walden. 

Oscar Agudelo, Stephanie Alter, Valencia Anderson, Linda Applebee-Brady, Shweta Bajpai, Roman Barabash, Suzanne Barnett, Scott Bartholdi, John Boniello, Melanie Burch, Virginia Carlotti, Stacey Chiarella, Thomas Colwell, Melissa Davis, Gricel DeCuffa, Michele DeMicco, Louise Dutra, Joseph Facchiano, Ahmed Gacem, Nicole Galderisi, Peter Garcia, Jennifer Harriton-Wilson, Patricia Herbold, Lucio Hurtado, Kenneth Kardon, Danielle Kaufman, Rose Anne Korsak, Debra Maiorano, Stella Marchionna, Mary Ellen Matranga, Diana McDonnell, Thomas Mekeel, Jr., Edward Miraglia, Linda Nelli, Andrew Niguidula, Jeffrey Nole, Maureen O'Shea, Jemale Palevic, John Paul Pegoli, Leo Penzine, Maria Pereira, Nancy Pisciotti, Marta Ramirez, Patti Slobogin, Michael Sowul, Christine Spano, Michael Tomaseski, Deirdre Toolan, Roberta Trotta, Alyson Trudeau, Christina Urbanski, Karen Velazquez, Carlo Vidrini, Regina Viggiano, Stephanie Wozniak and Christine Zullo.

     Visit our website at 

We hope you've enjoyed receiving the  BOCES Reporter  as an email newsletter. 
Our goal is to make the news and views of BOCES staff easily accessible to you.
Let us know what you think.  Suggestions and  comments are always welcome. 
Karen Hoffman, editor: 
BOCES Reporter: Karen Hoffman, Editor; Valerie Laudato, Graphic Designer