News Around The District

  • A closer look at student rights

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 2/13/2020 12:30:00 PM

    Knowledge is power, and students at Alexander Hamilton High School recently had a lesson on their civil rights and how to behave in certain situations to ensure their rights are protected.

    Lucía Hermo, deputy director of the Hudson Valley New York Civil Liberties Union, presented two 45-minute sessions, one for seventh through ninth-graders, and another for upperclassmen recently at AHHS. 

    The program was hosted by the PTSA and Ms. Hermo said the reality is more and more juveniles are being arrested. Therefore, it is important that students have information they can use in the event they are arrested or have an interaction with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

    “I think a lot of students are thinking about it,” Ms. Hermo said. “We want to make sure the information is in their brain. We wanted to present the information so it all sticks.”

    She covered important information pertaining to the work her agency does and things to keep in mind when interacting with law enforcement officials, from the police to agents from ICE.

    “I work with the New York Civil Liberties Union. We are a non-profit organization focused on constitutional rights. We use the Constitution as a tool to defend all of your rights, if you are a citizen or not. If you are living or working here, you have basic human rights and we are going to work to defend them,” Ms. Hermo said. The preview of her agency includes the courts, state legislatures and communities.

    “We do a lot of legal work, also work in the legislature and promote bills that we think will advance civil liberties and denounce those that don’t,” Ms. Hermo said.

    “All of you have the power to fight for yourself, to fight for your family and to fight for your friends,” she said.

    Among some of the tips she shared was how to behave when interacting with law enforcement. Suggestions included staying calm, not running from the police, and knowing that they can remain silent. It is also important to let the officer know you intend to stay quiet by saying as much.

    “That is one of the most important rights you should remember when interacting with police, because what you say can be used against you,” she said.

    When it comes to searches, Ms. Hermo said no one has to consent to a search of their person, car or house. Although, police do not need a warrant if they notice an illegal object in plain sight. They will need a warrant, however, to search in areas they cannot see, such as the interior of a car trunk. Even with a warrant, the search is limited to what it specifically says on the document. If the warrant states it will search a car, officers cannot also search inside a house.

    “Be sure a warrant is in your name, it says the address of your property and is signed by a judge,” Ms. Hermo said.

    They maintain their rights while in school, but there may be limits to some rights. For instance, Ms. Hermo explained, the school has a right to limit a student’s free speech, particularly if it is disruptive to the school day. A school must obtain the permission of a parent or guardian for a student to talk to the police, and if granted the police cannot discuss incidents that happened off school grounds. An exception to this is if there is an immediate danger.

    The reasonable suspicion principle for searches applies in school as well. Teachers are permitted to confiscate phones but cannot look through them. A principal or school administrator must give permission for a school resource officer to conduct a search, but this can be dismissed in an emergency situation. The right to remain silent is applies at school too.

    When dealing with an ICE agent, Ms. Hermo said, the best thing to do is to make a plan, remain silent and document everything. That means write down as many facts as you remember after the interaction.

    Like with the police, if an ICE agent comes to your house, do not open the door unless he or she has a signed warrant from a judge.

    “Immigration law is not criminal law, it’s a completely different law. We all have same basic rights but there are different manners of law,” Ms. Hermo said.

    Junior Bailey Proctor is a member of the school’s activism club, REACH — Raiders for Education, Activism and Change at Hamilton — she worked with the PTSA to invite the NYCLU in for this  assembly,

    “The club wanted to supplement everything we want to create here, including fostering student voices and advocacy,” Bailey said.

    “This is a big part of that,” she said. “I loved it.”








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  • Wacky Game Day filled with fun, games and crazy hats!

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 1/28/2020 9:00:00 AM

    The folks at the Carl L. Dixson Primary school had spoken. On Election Day, December 13, 2019, they voted for the Egg Spoon Relay as the game of choice for an upcoming fun event. When Wacky Game Day arrived on the calendar, they were not disappointed!

    Students and their parents enjoyed three games including balancing an egg on a spoon, a hula hoop race car race and a super-fun dance party. The “wackiness” was led by physical education teacher Kevin Tiernan, who had everyone in the Dixson gymnasium on their feet dancing by the end of the day.

    Mixed in with all of this fun, was the fact that the school was hosting Crazy Hat Day and many participants played their games while wearing hats of all kinds, colors and sizes!

    Click here to see photos from this wacky day!



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  • AHHS alumni share their experiences as college students

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 1/14/2020 9:00:00 AM

    There is so much to consider when going through the college application process — from remembering deadlines and considering financial aid options to selecting a major and visiting schools for a first-hand look. A panel of alumni from Alexander Hamilton High School recently gathered at their alma mater to discuss these topics and more to help current high school students as they start the process of transitioning to college. Student panel

    Panelists offered one piece of universal advice during the Jan. 9 assembly: Be sure to bring shower shoes! You will want to wear them in the dorm communal showers.

    Each year the guidance department hosts the panel, inviting alumni to visit during their break between semesters. The group typically represent a diverse selection of schools from public and private to SUNY and CUNY institutions.

    “This is a great opportunity to ask questions you may have, get a real-life experience, not just me talking about college,” guidance counselor Monica Ahern said to the juniors and seniors in the audience.

    The shower shoe tip was just one of many pieces of advice offered by the panel. Panelists discussed their personal experiences as college students, offering suggestions and reassurance that while the process is challenging, it will be worth it.

    “Ohio University is very dear to my heart. I love that place,” Leslie Aguilera, a junior pre-law major said. “Even though it’s really big, everyone pretty much knows everyone.”

    Getting settled into this new college reality was among the many questions juniors and seniors in the audience had. The adjustment can be a big one as students get used to a new schedule and workload, figure out how to make new friends and manage their time.

    “Please, please, please take studying seriously in high school,” pleaded Rachelle Petifort, a sophomore nursing major at Rutgers University-Camden. “Once you go to college, they really hold you to a higher level.”

    “Get organization down now so you know what is coming up, because once it’s here, it’s here,” agreed Lowell Pierette, a sophomore at Dominican College, referring to a test or essay deadlines.

    “There will always be a party to go to, but your GPA is forever,” Ms. Aguilera said.

    The panel had mixed thoughts on scheduling early morning classes. Some were able to adjust easily because they are used to getting up early for high school, while others avoided morning classes whenever possible. The consensus was, however, that panel members appreciated the scheduling flexibility college offered and individuals have to determine what works for them.

    In addition, several panelists advised keeping an open mind when it comes to living in a residence hall. Each student on the panel had a unique experience: one lived in specialized housing, another in an off-campus apartment and several in freshmen-only dorms. They each had advantages and disadvantages, panelists said.

    Megan Mirtil, a sophomore finance major at SUNY Buffalo said that often, like at her school, freshmen are required to live on campus and more housing options open up later.

    Frank Zambrano, a junior music major at SUNY Oneota, lives in a dorm for transfer students, a condition that helped him quickly meet other transfers and develop friendships.

    “Some dorms are not the most glamorous thing ever. They are very basic, but you will learn to love it,” he said.Melida Rodriguez-Chavez, a freshman business major at SUNY Albany, agreed. “I love my dorm room, it’s better than my room at home,” she said.

    The high schoolers had queries about SAT preparation and financial aid.

     Mr. Zambrano advised finding out what, if any, test scores the college requires applicants to take. His school did not look at SAT scores.

     Ms. Petifort suggested students buy a SAT preparation book, which she found beneficial as it had test questions to review. She also mentioned the SAT class she took at the library. Although it was tough to get up on Saturday mornings, it was helpful. Another option, she said, was to look up test questions online.

     One high school student asked about purchasing college textbooks, another considerable expense. The college students had several ideas to save money.

    Mr. Zambrano said it’s possible to find PDFs of some textbooks online which can simply be printed out.

    Mr. Pierette suggested renting textbooks. However, that requires students to pay attention to the due date to return the textbook as there is a fee for overdue books.

     The college library may have textbooks available, and some professors may provide students with an access code to find the textbook online. There are also microloans available to help with textbook expenses, and some financial aid covers the cost of books.

    Another piece of advice is for high school students was to start applying for scholarships. Jason Bernard, a freshman at SUNY Binghamton, recommended visiting the website goingmerry.com. The website enables users to fill out a brief questionnaire and submit one application for myriad scholarships, he said.

    The college students were able to reassure high school students that their college has a number of resources available to help them with this transition and as they continue with their education. Suggestions included taking advantage of their professors’ office hours and using the health clinic on campus not only when they are not feeling well but also if they need assistance with mental health issues. There are tutors and study groups to help academically and they can always ask for suggestions as to where to get help among their classmates.

    And finally, another pearl of wisdom was offered by Ms. Aguilera: Save your quarters! Most laundry facilities require money to use the machines and it can get expensive quickly.


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  • Students get inside look at government through Princeton Model Congress

    Posted by Brian Howard on 12/20/2019 4:00:00 PM

    Students in the Princeton Model Congress Club at Alexander Hamilton High School had an opportunity to walk right through history while on their trip to Washington D.C.

    During a tour of the Capitol building, students were one room away from where media outlets were camped out as they covered the impeachment hearings in November. Students gathered for photo

    The tour on the Hill was just one of the many highlights of the trip as students also visited the Library of Congress, dined at Union Station, walked past the White House and saw the pandas and other delightful animals at the National Zoo.

    The purpose of the trip, however, was more than a tour around the capital city. The 21 students were there to work as a delegation to the annual Princeton Model Congress Conference.

    The conference draws more than 1,000 students from across the country from public and private schools. Throughout the conference, students simulate what it is like to serve as an elected member of Congress. PMC also offers three special programs where students can serve as president, sit on the Supreme Court bench or counsel the commander in chief.

    “Prior to the conference, students are assigned a specific committee, one that models Congress,” club adviser Kevin Budzynski said. “They must research and write a bill that is reflective of the work of that committee.”

    As they put their individual bills together, students are reminded how during the conference they will be on a committee with students from different parts of the country who may have different political leanings. Students are encouraged to write a bill that reflects their personal interests and passions.

    “Essentially the students must become an ‘expert’ on their topic and be able to sell this idea at PMC,” Mr. Budzynski said. “Beyond this, students become familiar with Roberts Rules of Order and parliamentary procedures as all committees are run according to this format.”

    Mr. Budzynski has been moderating the annual trip for the past 15 years and has seen interest in the club grow. He initially had eight to 10 students in the club, which has grown to more than 20.

    “I think the fact that more kids come each year proves the value of the PMC experience,” Mr. Budzynski, a social studies teacher, said. “I am especially proud that a number of the students who have attended PMC have chosen to attend college in the DC area,” he continued. Three former PMC participants visited with students on their recent trip, one attends American University and two are Midshipmen at the US Naval Academy.

    One of most valuable experiences that comes out of the trip is an opportunity to meet other students who are participating in the conference.

    “This serves as a means for motivation and as a bar for excellence. I tell them that these are the people they will be competing against to attend the top colleges and later on, they will be their colleagues and competitors in the workforce,” Mr. Budzynski said.

    “I also believe that for our students, it shows them that they are on an equal playing field with kids from private schools; that they are no different and are as smart or smarter,” he said.







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  • ‘Bookalicious’ Book Club keeps students reading

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 12/20/2019 3:00:00 PM

    The allure to keep reading was too much for sixth-grader Eldon Agee, who admitted he read ahead to chapter 11 of the fantasy fiction book he was reading.

    “It just sounded so intriguing,” he said. Students sit around table

    Developing a passion for reading is just one goal of the ‘Bookalicious’ Book Club at Alice E. Grady Elementary School. 

    The club, new this year, was organized by library media specialist Cathy Boden and meets once a week. There are sessions for fifth-grade and sixth-grade students.

    “I try to get something they are not reading in the classroom so they can read something different,” Ms. Boden said.

    On this particular day, club members were discussing chapter 10 of “The Bridge to Terabithia” by Katherine Paterson.

    After a few minutes to enjoy an after-school snack, students settled into a conversation regarding the book.

    They discussed what was happening with the main characters – Jess and Leslie – before tragedy strikes. They answered questions prompted by Ms. Boden and offered their insight into what the characters may have been thinking and why they may have felt how they did.

    “I decided to join the club because I wanted to read,” Joshua Nareen said, adding that it’s also an opportunity to learn new book titles.

    “Everyone gives book clubs a bad name,” Eldon said, adding that book clubs do not deserve to be thought of negatively.

    “This club is entertaining, and you can learn new things,” Nayeli Balezach said.

    Ms. Boden said she searches for books to read in the club and considers books that are appropriate for the children’s ages, as well as what titles have won literary prizes. She is also planning on starting a chapter for fourth-graders soon.

    “I’m also trying to get something they may never have read on their own,” she said.


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  • Dixson rings in the holidays with fun show

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 12/20/2019 8:00:00 AM

    First-graders at Carl L. Dixson Primary School supplied a holiday earworm for all in attendance at the annual Dixson Holiday Show.

    “Snow pants! Warm and snuggly, snow pants!” they sang. Students performing on stage

    The show, held on Dec. 18, allowed each grade level to perform two numbers, each with a holiday theme. Some of the other selections included “Kwanzaa,” “Holidays are Here,” “I Have a Little Dreidel” and the classic “Jingle Bells.”

    “This is one of our proudest moments of the year,” Principal Jeffrey Olender said as he welcomed friends and family in the Alice E. Grady Elementary School auditorium where the show was performed. “It’s one of the most festive events.”

    “It is truly a joy to work with each and everyone one of these kids,” music director Chris Funke told the crowd.

     After all of the students had performed, it was the Dixson staff’s turn to take the stage with their rendition of “North Pole, North Pole.”


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  • ‘Egg-cellent’ results by the voters at Dixson

    Posted by Brian Howard on 12/19/2019 4:00:00 PM

    The morning drop-off at the start of school can be hectic at Carl L. Dixson Primary School. Families bustle into the building to get students to their classes on time. On the morning of Dec. 13, the routine was even more frantic than usual due to some important business. Students voting

    The day was declared Election Day at the school as students and their parents were voting on which game to play at the upcoming Wacky Game Day in January.

    Children and adults each cast their ballot, selecting between exciting games like the Bean Bag Toss or the Egg Spoon Relay.

    “Every beating heart that comes in can cast a ballot,” Principal Joseph Olender said as families arrived at school. Parents will be invited to participate in the special Game Day next month.

     When the results were tallied, the Egg Spoon Relay beat the Bean Bag Toss by 104 to 90 votes.

     Dixson families will have a fun and “wacky” time when Game Day arrives!


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  • GREEN plants the seed for future garden

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 12/19/2019 1:00:00 PM

    The GREEN Club, or Getting Raiders to Establish Ecological Networks, has been hard at work this fall digging into an important project.

    The club is in the process of installing a sustainable garden in the courtyard at Alexander Hamilton High School. Club members eventually hope to grow enough food to supplement their cafeteria’s menus and donate some of the produce to the community as well. Students working in garden

    “One of our goals is to really establish this and make it something of our own,” club president Jackie Praino, a junior, said.

    EUFSD parent and AHHS Class of ‘94 alum, Joel Rodriguez offered to work with students and helped the club develop a plan. He is a consultant with the Village of Elmsford as part of his graduate school Capstone experience in Global Sustainability and Climate Change and has 18 years of experience in environmental education, community planning and project management.

    “My Capstone project aims to incorporate more sustainability initiatives into the Elmsford Public Schools,” he said. “To do this, I chose to focus on greening spaces around the schools to help with storm water mitigation and a reduction in heat island effect.”

    After consulting with school administrators in the district, along with the GREEN Club, Mr. Rodriguez developed several projects at schools throughout the district. The first is the garden at AHHS.

    In addition to planting food, the courtyard will eventually include an outdoor learning space and a habitat for local flora, and improvements to help mitigate storm water runoff.

    “I wanted a garden, but construction was not my strong point,” Jackie said, adding she was excited to receive assistance with this part of establishing the garden.

    With the help of Mr. Rodriguez and the Village of Elmsford, which provided workers to help the students with some of the tougher components, the garden is coming into shape. To date, a 30-foot terrace and two 4-by-4-foot raised beds have been completed.

    Plans for the space also include a pergola for an outdoor classroom, a biodigester to generate energy for cooking classes, a greenhouse made from recycled bottles and more raised beds and terraces, as well as several trellises.

    During the school’s annual Day of Service the day before Thanksgiving break, club members were out in force working in the garden. Several students pulled apart wooden pallets, while another group took the wood and hammered together garden boxes. And still another group dug out terraces on the hillside portion of the courtyard.

    “Mother Earth has given us a good day,” club adviser Francine Thomas said, referring to the weather on the Day of Service. There were clouds in the sky and a chill in the air, but the precipitation held off, enabling students to work. The club hoped to get the infrastructure in place before the first hard freeze, Ms. Thomas said.

    “The club has been instrumental in getting the buildout for the project off to a good start,” Mr. Rodriguez said.

    As a way to prevent landfill waste, students are recycling wooden pallets, nails and deck screws for the raised beds and a wall for the terrace. In addition, Mr. Rodriguez said, organic material from wood piles around the school and the municipal mulch pile are being used, which further helps reuse materials and save on costs.

    “Our main goal is to get the foundation in this fall,” Jackie said. “Then we’ll plant vegetables in the spring.”

    In addition to providing some fresh food for the cafeteria to use and donating some, Jackie said the club also hopes to build awareness among students about healthy eating.

    Jackie said she is excited about the garden and feels it will be part of the school community for years to come.

    “It makes me feel good,” she said, referring to the support among club members. Many of them, she said, stayed after school to work in the garden, even working until after dark to ensure everything gets done.

    “My daughters go to school here and I want to give them an example to follow. I want them to know that one person can make a difference, that they can do something today that will make for a better tomorrow,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “I hope this project inspires not only my children, but all of Elmsford students and families to take small action to help improve the environment because collectively we can make a large impact that will leave the world a better place for future generations.”



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  • Book buddies help to make reading fun

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 12/19/2019 9:00:00 AM

    The Carl L. Dixson Primary School was transformed into a mix between a toy workshop and a library as families gathered for a night of fun and reading at the Build-a-Reading-Buddy event. Mom reads to son

    On Dec. 11, parents brought their children to the gym where a plush friend — a reindeer, teddy bear, frog or dinosaur — was waiting for each student. Families then had an opportunity to stuff their cuddly friend to whatever “stuffiness” suited them. The plush toy was then taken for a pretend bath before being filled with a ‘bit o’ magic,’ compliments of Principal Joseph Olender. The final step was adorning the stuffed animal with an “I HEART Books” T-shirt.

    There were plenty of giggles from both parents and children as they stuffed their new friend and watched Mr. Olender wave his hands over a heart-shaped button with the word “kindness” on it. He then inserted one button into the belly of each plush toy for safekeeping.

    However, the most important part of the evening took place in the school library. After all the fun of getting their plush friend ready, families went to the library for some good old-fashioned reading time.

    Students selected from a plethora of books and took time for their parents to read to them. Some children even attempted to read the book themselves. Families were allowed to take a book home to continue their learning.

    The entire event was held as a way to support the district’s Elmsford Basics Initiative. The initiative supports five basic tenets that help stimulate brain growth in young children. Among them are reading and discussing stories. The annual event encourages parents to read got their child — no matter their age — as a way to build vocabulary. Parents are encouraged to talk to their child about the book they read, including pointing out pictures, talking about colors or shapes on the pages, and asking older children questions about the story.

    “We are seeing a lot more pre-kindergarten kids coming in, which is what Elmsford Basics is all about,” Superintendent Marc Baiocco said.

    Parent Shanille Graham was there with her kindergartner Grayson, who had selected a dinosaur.

    “I thought this was a great opportunity, anything to get him to read,” Ms. Graham said. “Any way that gets him to read, I am all for it.”

    “It’s fun quality time for families,” kindergarten teacher Kerry Young said. “It’s so important at this age,” she said of reading.

      Click here to see more photos from Build-a-Reading-Buddy Night!




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  • Grady executive board ready to serve

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 12/11/2019 8:00:00 AM

    Alice E. Grady Student Executive Board President Isaiah Travier ran for office with the slogan “Vote for Izzy, cuz he’s gonna get busy!”

    On Dec. 4, it was time to put his words into action. Isaiah, and council members Vice President Angel Hidalgo, Treasurer Eviana Palines and Secretary Lilly Loriega, made their inaugural report to the Board of Education during the board’s monthly meeting. Group of students at microphone

    After introducing his fellow board members, Isaiah shared the goals he hopes to achieve during his time in office.

     A priority for him, he said, is to improve school lunches, get better sports equipment and increase the number of after-school clubs. He said he is planning to hold some new fundraisers for these projects.

     “I look forward to working with all of you,” he said. “I will work hard to get stuff done.”

     Board Member Dennis Rambaran congratulated Isaiah and asked him for his support as the district gets ready to upgrade the playing fields at Alexander Hamilton High School.

     “I am going to need your support,” he told Isaiah, adding it would not be long before Isaiah was at the high school and would be using the fields.




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