News Around The District

  • Chinese New Year

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 2/11/2019 11:00:00 AM

    Third-graders celebrate the Chinese Lunar New YearChines food

    After studying China’s history, art and places of interest, Leandra Fulgione’s third-grade class enjoyed a repast of noodles, egg rolls and chicken and broccoli one afternoon.

    Feb. 5 was the start of the Chinese Lunar New Year for 2019 which

    corresponded perfectly with Ms. Fulgione’s unit on China. The students had learned about the country and wrote a rough draft of a persuasive piece on why people should visit there.

    As a way to celebrate the holiday, also known as Spring Festival, students were treated to Chinese fare to kick off the Chinese Year of the Pig.

    “We’re going to experiment with chopsticks,” Ms. Fulgione announced before her students were served.

    For many, it was the first time trying to use chopsticks. They gave it a valiant effort before switching to forks and spoons. Superintendent Marc Baiocco stopped in and impressed them with his masterful chopstick skills. He showed them how to hold the utensils properly and went around the room picking up objects such as napkins and pencils from the students desks.

    Student Keerthi Rajesh said she was interested to learn that during China is a dynasty and now knows all about its famous Forbidden City.

    Classmate Isabelle Dowd said she enjoyed trying the noodles and one day would like to visit the Great Wall.

    Students eating Throughout their study, students practiced Chinese calligraphy and learned about Chinese porcelain, including the intricate designs found on the pottery. They had an opportunity to draw their own designs on paper.

    “They now have an understanding of what it means to be global citizens,” Ms. Fulgione said.

    The festivities wrapped with students sitting on the classroom carpet and reading aloud their fortunes from the cookies that had come with their meal.


    Comments (-1)
  • TV comes to town

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 1/31/2019 2:10:00 PM

    Lights! Camera! Action: HBO films at AHHSRobert Pollok

    During a recent district holiday in January, while many students and staff may have slept in, Robert Pollok, Elmsford School’s Director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics, was up early and at work by 6 a.m. at Alexander Hamilton High School.

    There were, however, several people at AHHS but they were not students or teachers. Rather, they were directors, producers, make-up artists, costume designers, camera operators and sound engineers. A whole host of people who make television magic had descended on the school.

    The entourage was there to film a scene for the HBO series Divorce. The series, starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Thomas Haden Church, takes a comedic view of a couple’s long, drawn-out divorce.

    HBO has done some filming throughout Westchester County, especially in Tarrytown, and reached out to the Elmsford Union Free School District in March 2017 about filming in the high school gymnasium. They also asked if there was a staff member who could assist with some of the work.

    “There was an initial surprise with HBO selecting our school as a location for a new series,” Superintendent Dr. Marc Baiocco, who was serving as AHHS principal at the time, said. “But after further thought, I know that the unique character and warm feeling of our school made the building appealing to the network.”

    Dr. Baiocco said representatives from HBO met with school officials and community members to discuss the show, its filming process and to answer any questions.

    “During season 1, I was present for much of the filming,” Dr. Baiocco said. “The process was intriguing and the amount of staff required for film production was overwhelming. The HBO staff was incredibly welcoming and very respectful of our school.”

    Mr. Pollok was selected to work with the crew as a technical director. He was on set to assist with props and give the director feedback on any scenes depicting a basketball game to ensure they were realistic and authentic.

    “These workers are brilliant with lighting, sound, screenplay, production design,” he said. “However, they might lack specific knowledge necessary for a certain scene, in this case basketball. They ask for my input on anything that might make the viewer say ‘that's unrealistic’ or ‘that would never happen in real life!’”

    The experience was his first glimpse behind the scenes of a television production and it has been interesting to learn how things work.

    January 21 was his second time working on the set, although, Mr. Pollok said he has worked with HBO on a variety of tasks relating to filming at AHHS, including scheduling, providing tours, coordinating details and filing facility requests. He has learned quite a bit about the industry, including how it can take all day to film one scene, resulting in just minutes of material being used for the show.

    Mr. Pollok said filming day can be “overwhelming.”

    “As an outsider looking in, it seems very chaotic, but all these workers play necessary and crucial roles to make sure they have what they need to begin their next phase of post-production —visual editing, sound editing, special effects,” he said. “It's crazy to think that an all-day production results in a five-minute scene.”

    Mr. Pollok said he prefers to leave the “stars” of the show to themselves so they can focus on their job.

    He did notice Parker during the lunch break and thought of letting her know how much he enjoyed her work in the 1992 romantic comedy Honeymoon in Vegas, but in the end opted to not speak to the actress.

    “I'm there to work and so are the stars,” Mr. Pollok said. “As with any job, I prefer to keep the most professional work environment possible.”

    However, he had an opportunity to work with actress Sterling Jerins, who plays Lila, the daughter of the divorcing couple played by Parker and Haden Church. The actress was in a basketball scene Mr. Pollok assisted with.

    “She is very nice and takes direction well — making my job a breeze,” Mr. Pollok said.

    His work on the show is different from his work in the school district. Mr. Pollok has served as a physical education teacher in Elmsford for 12 years and as the district’s director of health, physical education and athletics for 10 years.

    With his “day job,” Mr. Pollok is responsible for a broad range of things relating to the athletic and physical education department.

    During his free time, he has taken in a few episodes of the HBO show and has recognized some of the scenery in and around Westchester County.

    The fictitious family depicted in the show live in Hastings, however, much of the show is filmed in and around Tarrytown.

    “This is probably my favorite part about watching this series,” Mr. Pollok said. “I got a text message a couple of years ago from a colleague, a fellow Westchester athletic director, and he asked if the gym looked familiar.”

    The message inspired him and his fiancée to watch the series, which has completed two seasons and has been renewed for a third. Mr. Pollok is now all up to date with the show and looks forward to the next season.

    The superintendent agreed, he enjoyed seeing familiar places too.

    “I watched a few episodes and felt an immediate sense of pride when I recognized our school on television,” Dr. Baiocco said.

    Mr. Pollok has been asked to come back and work on more scenes in the future and he readily agreed.

    Comments (-1)
  • Wacky Game Day at Dixson

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 1/22/2019 10:05:00 AM

    Wacky Game Day

    Friday, January 18 was an Inauguration Day of sorts at the Carl L. Dixson Primary School.

    Students had fun playing “Move it, Move it,” a game they had voted to play back on Nov. 8. That election determined which games were to be played during the school’s Wacky Game Day.

    The event included parents and involved participation from everyone in attendance. There was a lot of moving going on as all ran around cones and had fun with hula hoops.

    The event corresponded with Funny Hat Day at the school, which only added to the fun with many people wearing big, small, sparkly and otherwise crazy hats.


    Comments (-1)
  • Bullying prevention presentation

    Posted by Alicia smith on 1/17/2019 2:25:00 PM

    Bullying prevention addressedAndrea Fallick makes a presentation

    It was a funny visual watching adults walk around the library holding a playing card to their head. What they could not see was the value of the card, which assigned the individual their status in a hypothetical social hierarchy in a school.

    The exercise demonstrated a common situation in the hallways and classrooms at schools throughout the country — there are individuals who have power over others, and its often not used in a positive manner.

    Andrea Fallik, Director for School Based Programs at Student Assistance Services, refers to those who reign at the top of the social sphere as Kings and Queens. These individuals have the power to hurt or use their status to protect others. They exist in every organization,  and a part of life is navigating through their behavior in order to create a positive, supportive environment for all.

    During a PTSA workshop held at Alexander Hamilton High School on January 15 for parents, “Bullying Prevention: What Parents Need to Know,” Ms. Fallick discussed the issue of bullying, addressing the who, how, why and what parents can do.

    “The whole idea of bullying prevention, I think of it as a storm,” Ms. Fallick said. “You hear ahead of time it’s coming, you get information and you prepare.”

    There are four factors that indicate bullying is taking place, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ms. Fallick said. They are: unwanted aggressive behavior with the intent to harm, embarrass or shame, behavior that is repeated, an imbalance of power and finally, the target cannot defend his or herself.

    The bullying can be verbal, physical or take place online on social media.

    “It means we must take all forms of mistreatment seriously,” said Ms. Fallick, who is a licensed clinical social worker.

    Parents have a role in addressing the issue by being the person a student can turn to when they feel overwhelmed or are being harassed.

    “Kids just need someone,” Ms. Fallick said.

    In order to ensure their son and daughter will ask a parent for help, Ms. Fallick said it starts with a conversation, a simple discussion about their day. Parents will not be surprised if their child is not interested in having any kind of dialogue, beyond, “yes,” “no,” or “nothing.” Ms. Fallick said the best way to get teens to talk is to share what is going on in their lives. If you want to know how your child’s day went, talk to them about how your day went and share both the positive and negative aspects.

    On a positive note, research has shown children are willing to speak up, Ms. Fallick said.

    “The communication piece is so important,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Marc Baiocco said.

    Having said that, Ms. Fallick shared a list of reasons why children do not come forward and share when they are being bullied. Among the reasons listed are a child does not recognize the behavior as bullying, they don’t want to appear weak, they fear retaliation, they don’t know how to talk about what is happening, or they are embarrassed and may be concerned about how their family will react.

    “In general, we want to be compassionate and understanding,” Ms. Fallick said.

    There are strategies that a child who is being bullied can use. They include telling the person to stop, telling a friend, walking away, telling themselves it is not their fault or telling an adult. Others will pretend they are not bothered by it, do nothing, make a joke about it or plan to get back at the person who bullied them.

    If a parent still cannot get through to their child and is not being told information that indicates there is a problem, and parents have the sense something is going on, they should speak to the school to address any issue to find out how their child is doing — do they eat lunch with a friend, or are they playing with friends at recess?

    Bullies tend to fall into two categories, those who are troubled and lash out at others and those who are looking to have power over others.

    Research has shown that when the individual being bullied does not have their issue addressed, the emotional results resemble that of someone who experienced a trauma, Ms. Fallick said. The effects of being bullied can lead to low self-esteem, higher rates of depression and anxiety and absences from school.

    Those who are being bullied need assistance and understanding too.

    “Without intervention they can also experience depression,” Ms. Fallick said. “I really think we need to embrace these kids, use it as an opportunity to put them on another pathway.”

    When discussing bullying the issue of bystanders is often brought into the conversation. A bystander is someone who intervenes when they notice someone being bullied.

    “They are involved,” Ms. Fallick said. “More kids are bystanders, about 85 percent. They are effective.”

    Ultimately, Ms. Fallick said, families need to keep the lines of communication open and support their child.

    It is important to let your child know you understand them, allow them the opportunity to explain what is happening, tell them that what is happening to them is not right, ask them how they feel about what is going on and try to understand what effect the bullying is having on your child.



    Comments (-1)
  • Transition Talk

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 1/16/2019 1:45:00 PM

    Alumni discuss the change from high school to college

    Be sure to buy a pair of flip-flops for the showers.

    Don’t apply the day of the deadline.

    Use your student discount freely.

    This was just some of the practical advice offered by members of a panel of Alexander Hamilton High School alumni. The group was visiting their former school on January 8, to talk to juniors and seniors about transitioning from high school to college. They shared their thoughts on their new social life, being away from home and the expectations for their classes.

    Several alumni offered encouragement about the upcoming transition, letting the audience know when they become college freshman they may feel overwhelmed with the changes. However, they will not the only ones who will feel that way as it is a common phenomenon among first-year students.

    “People are also going through the same things you are,” Stephen Semidey, a sophomore at Fordham University, said. “Don’t be afraid to talk to people about how bad it is.”

    As freshman they may be away from home for the first time, and are tossed together with people they don’t know. Alumni panel They will have a new course load, a totally different schedule from what they are used to and may second-guess their decision to attend this particular college.

    All is not lost, the college students assured.

    Majors can be changed, transferring to another school is an option, and it is fine to not know right now what you want to be when you grow up.

    Several on the panel have changed their major.

    Neasha Shuler, a junior at Howard University, planned on studying sports medicine and is now a film student.

    “After I changed my major I started to feel better and so much more comfortable at my school,” she said.

    Mr. Semidey changed his major twice. He planned to study psychology, then decided international studies might suit him better, until he decided political science was a better fit.

    “You have until the end of your sophomore year to declare a major,” he said.

    “It can be overwhelming,” Cassandra Praino, a political science major at American University, said. “Don’t worry if you change your major. It’s not a big deal if you don’t know what you want to do.”

    Frank Zambrano, a sophomore music major at Mercy College, is in the process of transferring to Westchester Community College. He assured students there is nothing wrong with finding the best place for them. A different school might be a better geographic fit or have more to offer for their major.

    Ultimately, the students said, college is about making decisions for yourself and balancing the opportunities offered.

    For Jaylaniece Colbert, a sophomore at SUNY Cobleskill, college meant developing a personal sense of time management, which was a big adjustment, but an important part of succeeding in college.

    “The biggest difference, I’d say, between high school and college is time,” Ms. Colbert said. “You have to be mindful of time management.”

    Emily Baca, a freshman at Cornell University, explained how assignments are given out months in advance and it is up to the student to get the work done. There are far fewer weekly assignments like there had been in high school.

    Stopping in to talk with your professor during their office hours can only be helpful alumni said. With such large class sizes, it is good to have face time with your teacher, Ms. Praino said. In addition, professors may not be as lenient about when assignments are turned in than high school teachers had been.

    Other differences the college students shared included how scheduling is different. Classes are held morning, noon and night. They are larger, often with hundreds of people in them, and despite the workload and the number of classes you may take, you can have a lot of free time too.

    College offers a host of positive benefits, including being a time of personal growth.

    “I’m two hours away from home, I can do whatever I want,” Jen Vargas, a student at the University of Connecticut, said.

    There is also the opportunity to meet new people and be introduced to new ideas.

    “It opens up your world a lot, you meet so many people,” Ms. Shuler said.

    Ms. Vargas said she had never been away from her family before heading off to college and she surprised herself by how easy it was for her to feel comfortable being away.

    As the juniors ease into the college application process, suggestions from the panel included do not be afraid to apply to many schools, pay attention to deadlines and keep copies all the paper work involved.

    Mr. Semidey said he wished he had applied to more schools.

    “I applied to five and expected to get into two or three,” he said.

    “Everything happens for a reason,” Ms. Shuler said. “Whatever works for you, works for you. Don’t be discouraged by not getting into a school.”

    Mr. Zambrano said he was planning on attending the University of New Haven but was encouraged to apply to other schools. He ended up at Mercy College.

    “Leave your options wide open,” he suggested.

    Options can be attending a CUNY or SUNY school or opting to commute rather than live on campus.

    Many suggested too that students go on college tours. While they can glean much from an open house, a tour offers more insight into campus life and the vibe at the school.

    “I looked at the University of Vermont, and I didn’t fit in with the people,” Ms. Vargas said after attending an open house.

    Ms. Nair had a similar experience. She was considering SUNY Oneonta, but when she visited the campus, she said she felt awkward. When she toured CUNY Hunter College, she appreciated that school’s “energy and vibe.”

    Mr. Semiday said he was excited about Harvard University until he took a tour there and realized it was not a good fit for him.

    “It did help me to see Fordham was the school I wanted to go to,” he said.

    “They helped narrow the schools I did not want to go to,” Ms. Praino said of college tours. “I think it’s worth it” to take the time to visit.

    The panel consisted of students who live on campus and others who commute, two options the juniors and seniors will have to consider.

    Ms. Nair, a commuter, said she is barely ever home in Elmsford nowadays. She takes the train into New York City and from there her school is two subway stops away.

    Speaking with students The panel shared too the plethora of options for students to join clubs, choirs, bands and even pledge to a fraternity or sorority. There is also the option to travel abroad.

    Ms. Nair took a summer course in Spain to brush up on her Spanish.

    “It was the best experience I’ve ever had,” she said. During her month long adventure, she went to her classes and visited sites too.

    The panel also answered questions from audience members who were interested in knowing what it was like attending college in New York City, what the rigor of being in the honors program was like, how a work-study program worked, and the all-important is the food good?

    AHHS Guidance Counselor Monica Ahern said she keeps in touch with graduates and invites them in during their break between semesters.

    She tries to have a diverse panel of students who attend different types of schools and are in different grade levels.

    The program is helpful to both juniors and seniors. The younger students, Ms. Ahern said, learn about the application process while seniors get a sense of the changes they can expect in their education.

    “It’s a good point in the year to ease the minds of seniors,” Ms. Ahern said. “And it can spark the interest for juniors.”

    Comments (-1)
  • Visitors to Grady

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 1/14/2019 3:15:00 PM

    Fun with new friends

    Grady hosts students from Tappan Hill

    When gym teachers get out the hula hoops children know they are in for a good time, and students at the Alice E. Grady Elementary School were not End of visit cheer disappointed when the brightly colored hoops made an appearance.

    On this morning there was not only hoop fun, but another group of students joined them, and proved the old adage “the more the merrier.”

    It was a special day at the school when Southern Westchester BOCES students from the Tappan Hill School in Tarrytown made their way to Grady in early January, joining Rachel Newman’s special needs class for a morning of fun. It was the first time the school hosted a joint class.

    Following the introductions, students enjoyed a game of Musical Hoops, where they took turns walking, running, galloping and marching around the gym while music played. Each time the music stopped, there was a scramble, and lots of giggles, to find the nearest hoop and get a toe inside. The game became trickier as after each round a hoop was taken away.

    After a brief break, it was time to tackle the jump rope.

    Tappan students visit Grady Each end of the rope was held by a gym teacher — Drew  Watson from Grady and Diane Storm from Tappan Hill. The two made the rope squiggle on the ground as students jumped over it. They then waved the rope in the air for students to go under. The students also had an opportunity for some good old-fashioned jump roping too.

    “We are excited to be able to offer the opportunity for BOCES students to visit a public school and for our students to interact with another group,” Grady teacher Rachel Newman said.

    “That went great,” she said at the end of the class.

    “I think this was such a perfect fit,” Adriane Lomupo, a special needs teacher from Tappan Hill School, said. “Our kids get to interact with other kids. It’s a great opportunity for them to be exposed to and practice the skills we work on. I think this is good for all of them. They feel very comfortable.”

    There were four students from Tappan Hill on the visit, who joined six from Grady.

    When all the fun was over, the students, their teachers and aides gathered in the center of the gym in a tight circle. They put one fist into a tight bunch before raising their arms in the air accompanied by a cheer.

    “It’s always nice to make new friends,” Mr. Watson said.

    “What a wonderful class,” Ms. Storm said before departing.

    Comments (-1)
  • Dixson students work together

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 12/21/2018 9:00:00 AM

    Do you want to build a snowman? Yes!

    You don’t have to ask students at the Carl L. Dixson Primary school twice if they want to build a snowman, because the answer will always be yes.

    On Friday, Dec. 7, they had an opportunity to do just that.

    Filing into the gym, which had been equipped with tables, kindergarten and first-grade students were paired together and instructed to let their imaginations go as they designed a snowman together.

    Partners worked together As music wafted through the room and a rolling slide show of famous snowmen played, there was lots of crayons and glue being dispensed in order for students to get to work.

    Principal Jeffrey Olender said the project was developed to promote interaction between the grade levels.

    “You can make the snowman that comes to your mind,” he told the students as they got started. “I can’t wait to see your amazing snowmen.”

    With that, students then descended on the piles of paper, boxes of crayons and scissors as they gathered the supplies they would need.

    “It’s more organic,” Mr. Olender said of having the grades work on a project together.

    “I am so excited to do something a little new at Dixson,” Mr. Oldender said of this first ever event.

    Students were instructed to discuss with their partner the elements they would like to include as they compiled their character.

    First grader Kaylin Howie, said her favorite part of her design was “getting to draw the little stars,” that surrounded her snowman.

    One snow lady had beautiful, long eyelashes, another a long nose. Some wore hats and scarves, while others went for a bareheaded look.Boys show off their work

    Lori Farrell has been working with her students on elements of winter which included information and reading about snowmen.

    “It was collaborative because we got to incorporate literature into a STEM, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, activity” Ms. Farrell said. “It’s just a fun activity.”

    “I thought it was amazing,” first grade teacher Courtney Velardo said. “As a teacher we are always giving every direction. This is an opportunity for the kids to think on their own. It’s interesting to see what they are making. It is a time for them to show us what they can do.”

    Students look at their work

    Comments (-1)
  • District holiday concerts

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 12/19/2018 3:30:00 PM

    Concerts spread holiday cheer

    ‘Tis the season for students in the Elmsford Union Free School District to showcase their talents with a series of holiday concerts.

    Musicians and singers at Alice E. Grady Elementary School kicked off the festivities on Dec. 11, with the band and choir singing some holiday tunes. That same evening, the community enjoyed a districtwide concert with much music and song.

    On Dec. 19, students at the Carl L. Dixson Primary School entertained an audience of family and friends with their annual Holiday Show.

    Grady holiday concert

    District holiday concert

    Dixson holiday show

    Comments (-1)
  • Reading is more fun with a buddy

    Posted by Alicia B. Smith on 12/17/2018 2:45:00 PM

    Lions, unicorns and monkeys, oh my!

    There was a small menagerie of plush friends at the Carl L. Dixson Primary School on Dec. 12 and they had a very important job to do.Girl and dad stuffing bear

    These adorable animals were created to encourage families to read together. They also served as a pal for students to share their reading adventures with.

    Students and their families were able to purchase a special friend ahead of time. During Build a Reading Buddy Night the young readers received their reading buddy. The gym was set up with a variety of stations where students could stuff their body to whatever fluffiness they preferred, give their buddy a pretend bath and adorn them in a t-shirt. There was even a station where students could select a touch of magic, a heart shaped pendant with words of encouragement written on it that was placed inside their buddy by the school principal and superintendent. When all of that was accomplished, families gathered to enjoy a few minutes of reading time with their Reading Buddy.

    The event is a component of the districts Elmsford Basics initiative. The program encourages families to read. Seen as a way for students to practice literacy skills, families can read a book together and point out pictures and words in the book as they read. This also allows the young reader and listener the opportunity to ask and answer questions about the story. Students can also discuss the book with their family members by retelling the story in their own words.

    Reading with a buddy “They like reading, and now they have a little buddy to read with,” said parent Danielle Howie, who was there with her children and a nephew.

    Her daughter, Kaylin, had selected a unicorn as her reading buddy, which she named Rainbow.

    “We love coming to this event,” said Lori Farrell, a Dixson teacher, who brought her niece. “I think it’s a wonderful thing.”

    Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Marc Baiocco, said the program was created to encourage families to read and has become one of the district’s most popular events.


    Comments (-1)
  • Lockdown drill helps district plan for an emergency

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 12/10/2018 2:05:00 PM

    Superintendent Dr. Baiocco speaks with members of the EPD. Standing in the hallway outside of his office, Principal Jeffrey Olender tapped an app on his cell phone, triggering an announcement to come over the PA system that the emergency lockdown drill was to begin.
    Within seconds, all the classroom doors were shut, lights turned off and the Carl L. Dixson Primary School was silent.

    It was an eerie sensation when suddenly there was no one in the hallways, singing in music class or discussing a lesson with their teacher — just total silence.

    The silence continued as the principal, superintendent of schools and members of the Elmsford Police Department did a thorough check of the building, knocking on classroom doors and looking in the bathrooms.

    “You can hear a pin drop,” commented Superintendent Dr. Marc Baiocco.

    “These kids are always good,” Police Commissioner Frank Rescigno said.

    A similar scenario played out at both the Alice E. Grady Elementary School and Alexander Hamilton Junior/Senior High School as the district participated in an emergency lockdown drill on Dec. 4. The school community had received a letter ahead of time from the superintendent that the drill was to take place.

    “As you know, preparation is key to safety and we are committed to ensuring the health and well-being of all or our students and staff in all situations,” the letter said.

    “The purpose of the drill is to really test our practices, our hardware and building resources,” the superintendent said before the drill began.

    “We are constantly looking to improve,” he continued. “It’s just an unfortunate but necessary practice.”

    At Grady, the last noise to be heard when the lockdown was announced was a teacher inquiring if there was anyone in the bathrooms before total silence reigned there as well.

    Minutes before, there had been a line of students having fun at the school’s Holiday Boutique sale, and suddenly they “disappeared.” A peek into a classroom showed a dark room with seemingly no one in it and books left on desks.

    Again, the classrooms were checked one by one and notes taken on any suggestions for staff.

    One of the officers assisting noted that even the lunch staff had participated and were nowhere to be found.

    “This was good,” Dr. Baiocco said of the effort at Grady.

    “It gets better every year,” Commissioner Rescigno said.

    Entering AHHS through a side door the entourage of police and school administrators prompted a look of surprise Principal Joseph Engelhardt check a room on one student’s face, which soon relaxed when offered a “good morning” by one of the EPD members.

    Like at the other schools, an announcement was made and after a brief bustle of keys rattling and doors being shut, all went silent there too.

    “I also like to check the nooks and crannies,” Mr. Engelhardt said as he peeked into a stairwell during his check of classroom doors.

    “A diversion,” he concluded when he found one door unlocked but no students or staff inside the classroom.

    “Good stuff,” Dr. Baiocco said when the team regrouped after the check and the lockdown ended.

    The district-coordinated drills like this one take place twice a year and individual school have their own separate drills too. These types of drills have been done in the district for the past six years. As the practice sessions took place through the years, members of the police were asked to join administrators so they could become familiar with the buildings in the event of an actual emergency. The district’s technology department has also played more of a role as new high-tech security measures have been put in place.

    “It’s creating awareness with more and more people,” Dr. Baiocco said.

    This drill was planned. However, not all of them are. One spontaneous drill took place during the busy lunch time part of the day as a way to test students and staff, Dr. Baiocco said.

    The original portions of the building at Dixson date back to 1894 and despite its older architecture, it is surprisingly equipped for emergency circumstances, Dr. Baiocco said. There are large closets in the classrooms where students stay during an emergency, and a storage area that can also be used to ensure the safety of those inside the building.

    Part of the purpose of the drill is to ensure students and staff react appropriately should an emergency arise. When they hear the lockdown announcement, the classroom lights are shut off, students hide and everyone is instructed to never open a door until the “all clear” is given.

    At Dixson, Dr. Baiocco tested these instructions when he knocked on a classroom door and called out to kindergarten teacher Angeline Capocci.

    “Open up,” he said, knocking on her classroom door. “It’s Dr. Baiocco.”

    No one inside the classroom responded.

    The drills also offer the district an opportunity to test the technology it uses in an emergency situation. The district uses Sonar Cloud, a service which allows administrators to lock down a building with their cell phones.

    In the future, Dr. Baiocco said, the district would like to upgrade to a system that would automatically alert the police. Currently, when an actual lockdown is announced, someone has to call 9-1-1.

    Once the drills at each school were complete, the superintendent had a brief meeting with school administrators and the police, who served as the escorts, to discuss the day’s event.

    “Over the years we’ve perfected things,” Dr. Baiocco said.

    Among the improvements were putting signs in the windows with the room number, especially important for rooms which face the courtyard at AHHS. The signs alert emergency responders to identify places inside the building. In addition, the high school has added tinted windows, which makes it more difficult to see inside.

    One question which persistently comes up after each drill is what to do with the blinds on the windows. The debate centers on whether they should be closed or remain open.

    “The message to staff is just get out of the way,” of the windows, the superintendent said.

    The district is in the process of making laminated instruction sheets that will be placed in each classroom to serve as a reminder on what to do in the event of an emergency.

    There is a difference, Dr. Baiocco noted, between a lockout and a lockdown. During a lockout, all of the doors are locked and monitored and no one is allowed in or out of the building. Students and staff carry on as they normally would. This practice was put to the test last year when a shooting suspect in nearby Tarrytown was on the loose.

    A lockdown, Dr. Baiocco said, “is when everyone is basically cornered in their area.”

    Dr. Baiocco said the next steps would be to coordinate a village cabinet meeting with the mayor to review the protocols and have village department heads visit each of the school buildings so they can become familiar with the layout. In the future, the district would like to install technology that will not only alert the police but also send them floor plans of the school buildings.

    The superintendent is also reviewing how the district can work with contractors who come to the school and may not be familiar with the emergency protocols and do not know where to go or what to do in a lockdown.

    When asked how students respond to these drills, the superintendent said when the drills were first implemented students were anxious. However, now that they have been in place for so long, students know exactly what to do and it has become more routine.

    “It’s like with fire drills,” Dr. Baiocco said. “It’s almost Pavlovian, when the fire alarm sounds, they are up and out. This is becoming like that.”


    Comments (-1)