News Around The District
Lockdown drill helps district plan for an emergencyPosted by Alicia Smith on 12/10/2018 2:05:00 PM
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 Biaocco.
“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 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.”
No Shave NovemberPosted by Alicia Smith on 12/6/2018 3:20:00 PM
Staff sport a new look for a good cause
Several staff members at Alexander Hamilton Junior/Senior High School participated in No Shave November, sporting a new look for several weeks in order to raise money for the fight against cancer.
Eight men on staff locked away their razors for the month and donated money to the cause, and five women also contributed to the initiative.
No Shave November is a non-profit, online organization that encourages participants to forgo shaving or grooming for the month as a way to bring awareness to the disease. The no-shave concept was adopted to focus on hair, which so many cancer patients lose due to their treatment. Men are encouraged to forgo shaving, and let their beards or mustaches grow. The event is not for men alone and women can join as well. Participants donate the money they normally would spend on grooming products.
This was the second year AHHS staff participated, raising close to $500.
Principal Joseph Engelhardt, who was among those sporting facial hair, said this year there was an increase in donations from his staff.
“There was good energy about growing the beards,” Mr. Engelhardt said, adding, science teacher Tony Thompson “led the charge with his positive energy.”
Making friends takes practice, parents offered tipsPosted by Alicia Smith on 12/3/2018 2:40:00 PM
Making friends takes practice.
By practicing a number of social scenarios with their children, parents can help them navigate social relationships and have an easier time making friends, the district's behavior interventionist told parents at a recent presentation at the Alice E. Grady Elementary School.
“In social behaviors we think they should come naturally, and they don’t,” Emily Katz, Ph. D. said.
Ultimately, Dr. Katz said, “it’s all practice.”
The event was hosted by the Special Education Committee of the PTA and drew a group of parents and educators who were looking for advice for their children and those with special needs who may have difficulty interacting with others.
When children have a better understanding of how to enter a conversation or an activity, offer a compliment, receive feedback, accept rejection and show empathy they gain valuable life skills.
“These are huge milestones kids need to experience in order to be truly social,” Dr. Katz said.
Some children may demonstrate social skill deficits, they do not interact or respond to others or make eye contact.
In order to begin to help a child, Dr. Katz recommends parents consider what their child is doing — are they unable to interact socially because they do not know or understand the subtleties of how to do this, or do they simply have no interest and won’t interact with others?
One of the best thing’s parents can do to help their child be more social and feel more comfortable doing so is to get out and interact with others as much as possible. Dr. Katz suggested trips to the park and the library, having friends over, or signing up for a weekend activity.
“This is being intentional about it,” she said.
Parents can also ask their friends or older siblings to assist. These peer mentors help demonstrate appropriate social skills.
Role-playing can also be a valuable tool for parents. In these instances, parents and their child act out a hypothetical situation using appropriate words and body language.
For example, parents may demonstrate how to initiate a conversation by sharing how to introduce themselves or asking questions and then having their child engage in a pretend conversation.
“We call them behavioral rehearsals,” Dr. Katz said.
Dr. Katz is not opposed to offering a reward to a child who is struggling socially, at least temporarily. When a child demonstrates an appropriate social behavior or meets a goal, such as talking to three other children, he or she can be given a reward initially, which will be faded out as the practice becomes more common.
“They might need some motivation to get to that place,” Dr. Katz assured.
It is also important to help children identify emotions. One exercise parents can use is to find pictures of people showing different emotions and label them, such as a smiling person would be labelled “happy.” The images can be used to have a conversation with your child by asking questions about the image: Why is this person happy? What about the image shows that they are happy?
Another activity parents can use is a script as a way to build skills. A script can include introducing oneself, asking how someone is doing, and a response when the person asks how he or she is, etc.
“The ultimate goal is we want it to be as natural as possible,” Dr. Katz said. “If you teach with scripts, use a variety of scripts. Over time children will mix up the scripts on their own so they can be more spontaneous.”
There are also videos which can help convey the message too.
“Video modeling has been shown to be effective,” Dr. Katz said. “It’s another visual aid that can help your child.”
Other visuals include charts and lists.
Dr. Katz demonstrated one chart relating to being at the playground which visually laid out expectations when visiting. For example, interacting with three friends, playing on specific equipment such as the swings, and what the reward will be if all of the expectations are met.
“It starts to build a capacity to engage with kids,” Dr. Katz said.
Another chart or visual would be a list of rules to share with your child. For example, if working to improve your child’s skills with sharing, the list of rules might include: Let the friend have a turn, Ask to have a turn, Have a positive attitude.
A chart on how to vave a conversation may include: Make eye contact, Bring up a Topic, Make eye contact again.
Parents can also create a list of conversation starters simply by writing a few topics down and any questions relating to that topic. This activity can help model a conversation and prompt some questions a child can later use in another conversation.
“It expands to helping a child stay on topic and also builds vocabulary,” Alice E. Grady Elementary School Psychologist Rose Hoey said of this practice.
Dr. Katz said she has noticed this activity spark a positive moment among children when they realize they can also talk about other topics.
Ms. Hoey agreed, “it’s like priming the pump,” she said.
Many of these activities are things Dr. Katz said can happen at any time and require little or no resources. Often it is just a matter of talking to your child or setting aside five minutes for a role-play activity.
“It’s just practice. These are all different forms of the same thing,” Dr. Katz reiterated.
Some of these activities may develop on their own. When a parent or child sees someone else behaving a certain way, it could serve as a conversation starter. What do you think happened, what did you notice about that, what would you do are questions that may arise.
Much of what parents are trying to do is to teach their child empathy, which Dr. Katz said is a difficult concept to teach another person.
“It’s hard for many adults to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes,” she said. “I think the best way to do it is in real life. For example, if you see a child crying in a grocery store, talk about it with your child.”
Ms. Hoey said she views these types of teaching moments as a teacher might when they develop a curriculum for their students.
“First it’s the language,” she said. “You have to give them language skills. You start by giving them a lot of language. Then you start to discern between thinking and feeling. They have to know the difference between their thinking bubbles and speaking bubbles.”
“Each step is more difficult but you build on each step,” added Dr. Katz. “The more exposure they have, the more they are equipped to handle a situation.”
Finally, if a parent is truly struggling and not sure how to help their child, Ms. Hoey recommended reaching out to the school which has people and resources that can help.
“We need to support each other because it’s such a hard job,” Ms. Hoey said.
Dixson Book FairPosted by Alicia Smith on 11/27/2018 2:55:00 PM
Book fair bonanza
The Carl L. Dixson Primary School art room was transformed into a book shop the week of November 26. Instead of paper, paints and brushes, students found tables and shelves of books for sale as part of the bi-annual Scholastic Book Fair.
When first grade students stopped in, they were an active bunch selecting books on ponies and superheroes.
Volunteer parent Kim Ware was among those helping students fill out selection forms. She was greeted with several hugs, including one from her own daughter. Students know Ms. Ware well as she often is in the classroom reading to students.
Students were assisted in filling out a form for the books they had selected. The forms would be given to their parents who had the option of purchasing books off their students’ list at a later time.
In addition to students enjoying the books, teachers benefit from the sale as well as they receive a free book and a $5 coupon toward the purchase of a second book.
A Day of ServicePosted by Alicia Smith on 11/27/2018 2:30:00 PM
A day of service for the community
The Alexander Hamilton Junior/Senior High School was abuzz with activity the day before Thanksgiving as students and staff partook in what has become a school tradition to help those in the broader community.
During the annual Day of Service, the entire school engages in activities for the holidays, from packing food baskets for local families to making dog biscuits to be donated to a local shelter. Other activities included a trail clean up, help around a local fire station and band members entertaining primary school children with their playing skills. Another ongoing activity was preparing items and letters to be sent to the troops.
“Isn’t this amazing,” remarked Superintendent of Schools Dr. Marc Baiocco, as he stepped into the school cafeteria. He was confronted with a mix of staff and students who were packing up 60 food baskets to be delivered to local families.
Students and staff had collected the food items for distribution, and the Elmsford Police Department assisted in bringing the baskets to each family.
Sophomore Christalene Mirtil was helping to unpack and organize canned food.
This was her first time volunteering during the Day of Service.
“I wanted to give back,” she said. “I think it’s great.”
“I wanted to participate and help out the community,” senior Jevoy McDonald said. “If you have a chance to give back you should. I think every year we get more and more goods. It gets better and better.”
“I felt like it’s good to give back to the community,” added senior Jaquan Herring. “It’s a good cause.”
Junior Lily Tom helped pack the food baskets too.
“Everyone should have food on Thanksgiving,” Lily said as to what motivated her to help.
In the home and careers classroom students had their sleeves rolled up as they were elbow deep in dough and flour making homemade dog biscuits to be donated to the Paws Crossed Animal Rescue in Elmsford.
“I like it because we give back and we benefit the community,” junior Stephanie Richter said as she kneaded dough.
The good cheer did not end there. Eighth-grade students were preparing for Christmas by decorating hand-made placemats, which will distributed to seniors at a local facility.
Algebra teacher Matt Simon was overseeing his students making the placemats.
“Every service day we do something different,” Mr. Simon said. “The seniors enjoy getting something, it brightens up their day.”
There was also a large contingent of students from all grade levels who lent a hand in making Christmas decorations in order to deck the halls of their school.
Sophomores Bailey Proctor and Alyssa Fitzgerald were in the hallway hanging red, green and white paper chains students had made.
“I’m having a good time, it’s fun,” Bailey said of helping her school look festive.
“I wish this happened every day,” was the sentiment expressed by seventh grader McKeever Artis, whose class made Christmas ornaments.
Physical Science and Research and English teacher Sabrina Doolittle was on the stage directing students, not for an upcoming performance, but rather directing them as they organized the backstage area and helped prepare the stage for upcoming holiday concerts. There were old sets that needed to be moved out of the way and risers that needed to be placed. Students were also helping to build new storage racks.
Outside the school there were students helping to clean up along the South County Trailway that runs through Elmsford. Others visited the Elmsford Fire Company, No. 1 on East Main St., to help clean up the grounds there.
“We have students come down every year, they rake leaves, clean fire trucks,” Firefighter Jasin Lulanaj said. “At the end we tell them about the fire service.”
It was a cold day, and the crew consisting of freshmen Corlber Ebouard, Tyrese Kordello Clerge, Kanson Pesantez, Jayden Green and Jaylen Savage were bundled up in winter coats but all said while it was hard work it was enjoyable.
Freshman Olivia Eannazzo was able to stay warm when she visited a pre-kindergarten classroom at the Carl L. Dixson Primary School. She brought along her saxophone and two classmates and shared music with the students who were intrigued with her instrument.
“They were kind of like ‘this is cool,’” Olivia said of the student’s reaction to the music she played. “Hearing the sound was fun for them.”
All the activities on this day were completed before 11 a.m. when students returned to the junior/high school and were soon dismissed for a half day.
“One-hundred percent of the school participates,” Rob Jacoby, band director and music teacher, said. He also helps to organize the day, which is now in its fifth year.
“It’s a group effort,” confirmed Lucie Rambaran, of Community Outreach Partners, which assists on this day, along with other members of the organization, Erica Carrasquillo and Debra Barbosh.
“Mr. Jacoby has done a great job with this,” Principal Joseph Engelhardt said. “It’s a whole community effort.”
Dixson School students vote for Wacky Game DayPosted by Alicia Smith on 11/14/2018 12:00:00 PM
And the winner is . . .
Students head to the polls
Students at Carl L. Dixson School are not old enough to officially vote yet, but they had an opportunity to witness democracy in action just days after their parents went to the polls.
For the students, and their parents, Nov. 8 was Election Day. A big choice was on the line, too.
Students were voting on which activity they wanted to enjoy during Wacky Game Day, which will be held on Jan. 11.
The options were “Hoop Hop Showdown,” a fun game played with Hula Hoops and involves hopping, or “Move it, Move it,” another active game.
Before the school day began on the Dixson Election Day, parents and students filled out a ballot and cast their vote. Principal Jeffrey Olender served as a poll monitor and ensured all went smoothly.
Parents were allowed to participate in the selection as they will be invited to come to Wacky Game Day too and enjoy the fun.
“It’s official. You have voted,” Mr. Olender told one student as he dropped his ballot in the box.
The event helps introduce Dixson students to staff at Alice E. Grady Elementary School who help organize the day. That way when they transition to their new school they will recognize some familiar faces.
And the winner is . . . “Move it, Move it,” with 87 votes, compared to 32 votes for Hoop Hop Showdown.
Elmsford honored for advances in AP coursesPosted by Alicia Smith on 11/2/2018 1:55:00 PM
The Elmsford Union Free School District has been recognized for their commitment to offering Advanced Placement courses.
The district “simultaneously achieved increases in access to Advanced Placement® courses for a broader number of students and also maintained or improved the rate at which their AP® students earned scores of 3 or higher on an AP Exam.
"We are so proud of the College Board District of Honor recognition,” Superintendent Marc Baiocco said. “Our school community worked hard to increase access to a rigorous learning experience for our students. This recognition is an example that we are working toward our goal."
An apple a day helps Dixson students with math skillsPosted by Alicia Smith on 11/2/2018 12:50:00 PM
They may say an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but students at Carl L. Dixson Primary School showed apples can help with learning math too.
On Oct. 19 the entire school dove into the apple barrel for Apple Palooza, now in its fourth year.
In the past the event was a first-grade activity. This was the first year students in Pre-K and kindergarten joined the fun.
Throughout the day students engaged in apple-themed activities that incorporated counting, completing number sentences, making patterns, counting by 10s and number recognition.
“All of the activities are structured as games to ensure that the students are having fun,” Principal Jeffrey Olender said. “The activities allow the students to engage with one another in a meaningful way.”
The pre-kindergartners spent time creating patterns using apples. Kindergartners searched through a bucket of objects looking for a number. They then went to an apple tree using what they saw to determine what the missing number was and to find that same number on the tree.
“In first grade, students saw number sentences on the ground where apples were used for the numbers. They had to use what they saw to determine the missing number and complete the number sentence,” Mr. Olender said.
The event was a community-wide activity as parents and volunteers assisted students. Sam’s Club and Stop & Shop were instrumental in making donations for the day.
“This non-traditional learning experience allows the students to apply math concepts from many different perspectives,” Mr. Olender said. “These authentic experiences then serve as opportunities to build upon.”
Elmsford Community Halloween Parade a fun and spooky hitPosted by Alicia Smith on 11/1/2018 11:15:00 AM
Ghosts, goblins, vampires, princesses, unicorns, ninjas, caterpillars and a host of other creepy, crawly and cute beings took over the streets of Elmsford on Oct. 31 for the annual Halloween Parade.
Led by the school band, which appropriately played music from the hit film “Ghostbusters,” Alice E. Grady School students began the parade. As they passed by the high school, they were cheered on by teenagers who gave a wave out of their classroom windows.
Not too far down the hill, on the way to East Main Street, the parade paused as the students from Carl L. Dixson School joined in the throng of ghouls, dinosaurs and zombies.
The students were not the only ones having fun. Teachers and staff showed their spirit too, many opting for group costumes. One group “dressed up” as a roller coaster ride, waving their arms in the air around the “curves.” Another group could not escape the “Very Hungry Caterpillar,” dressing as each of the snacks the caterpillar enjoys in the book of the same name.
Superintendent of Schools Marc Baiocco, was disguised as Jack Skellington from “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
As the mass of revelers traversed the local streets, neighbors popped out of their houses to watch the spectacle on the sunny afternoon.
Peer leaders present workshop as part of 'Seven Habits' initiativePosted by Alicia Smith on 10/30/2018 3:00:00 PM
In the first of a series of workshops inspired by Stephen Covey’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” student leaders at Alexander Hamilton High School presented younger peers with important material to consider as the school year progresses.
On Oct. 19, the older students discussed two of the seven habits, “Be Proactive” and “Begin with the End in Mind.”
Students were divided into groups where they could openly discuss the concepts being shared by the peer leaders.
Sophomores Grace Maresca and Kate Hidalgo and junior Savallya Boyini spoke with seventh-graders.
After discussing what the terms meant — proactive “taking responsibility,” and reactive as in “affected by their physical environment” — the group discussed real-life situations which had different results based on proactive versus reactive behavior.
One such example was a dog who was restless and barking. A proactive approach to caring for the pet was to take the dog for a walk, making the dog feel better. The reactive approach would be to ignore the dog, and let it continue to be uncomfortable and annoy you with its behavior.
In addition to sharing a video and worksheet peer leaders also took time to discuss Habit 2 — “Begin with the End in Mind.”
“That means developing a clear picture of what you want to do,” Grace said, “to plan ahead, set goals and to do things with meaning.”
One seventh grader said he intends to join the Navy. With that as a goal, he knows he has to get good grades now and stay in good physical shape.
“Small things you do today will set you up for the future,” Savallya said.
Kate had attended the college fair held at her school the day before. Even though she is a sophomore, she was considering her future.
“It got me thinking,” she said, adding that she would like a career in sales one day.
The leaders also reminded their peers about the importance of making connections and how the relationships they develop now with peers, their teachers and school staff, can one day help them with their goals. It is not uncommon, they said, for someone they have met to know someone who may be able to help them reach their goals, whether that is improving a skill or finding a job.
“Networking is key,” Savallya said.
“A lot of the world is someone helping you out,” echoed senior Mossiah Smith, who was leading a group of sophomores. “No one makes it on their own.”
Mossiah was joined by fellow peer leader senior Danielle Sydney. The two were also discussing the first two habits.
“Someone will see something in you that you can’t see for yourself,” Danielle said.
As for the future, Mossiah encouraged his peers to be proactive.
“If you know what you want to do, start doing it now,” he said.
The older students are familiar with the 7 Habits as it has been a part of their school culture for much of their time in Elmsford Union Free School District. They each decided to become peer leaders as a way to continue to spread the message to younger students, as someone had done for them.
There is a class available for those interested in becoming a peer leader, Grace said, where they learn valuable leadership skills and develop ideas to work with younger students.
Danielle was hopeful the message she and her peer leader partner shared struck a chord with the younger students.
“It’s better to talk to someone closer to their age,” she said, adding that often students feel more comfortable sharing with one another rather than an adult.
Kacie Schulman oversees the Peers as Leaders group and said there are 35 students in the program, all of whom had to fill out an application and be interview before being accepted into the Peers as Leaders.
In addition to running the lessons relating to the 7 Habits, the leaders also assist with other events, including the “It Starts with Hello” initiative at the start of the school year.
There were 12 Peers as Leaders teaching on Oct. 19.
“I feel that the Peers as Leaders did a great job with their presentations,” Ms. Shulman said. “They worked hard to prepare engaging and educational presentations. This was their first half day of the year and some students who have been part of the Peers as Leaders group have taught these lessons before but others were doing this for the first time. There is always room for improvement but overall I thought the lessons went smoothly.”
The next program will be held on Dec. 19.
“I think the Peers as Leaders program is a great way to get students involved in many school activities and push them to be leaders in the school. By being chosen to participate in the Peers as Leaders program, the students have the opportunity to step up and show their leadership in the school,” said Ms. Shulman. “I look forward to future half days as well as many other programs the Peers as Leaders will help lead.”
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Marc Baiocco explained the district has been using the 7 Habits concepts for about five years. Teachers underwent training by the Covey Foundation and the following year students received instruction.
“Then we began creating those leadership days and doing leadership training,” Dr. Baiocco said. “We have teachers in the room for compliance measures, but ultimately the students are the ones who are leading the session.”
The peer leadership program, the superintendent said, has grown in the past four years.
“They are pals,” he said of the older and younger students, adding the program focuses on students who have good leadership skills, and not necessarily those who are the best academically.
In addition to the workshops, Dr. Baiocco said two service days are incorporated throughout the year. The day before Thanksgiving, students and staff will put together gift baskets to be given to the community. Last year they created 60 baskets. In the spring, a project might include writing letters to service members or making cards for elderly residents in homes.
There are also additional days when the remaining habits are discussed throughout the school year — “Put First Things First,” “Think Win-Win,” “Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood,” “Synergize” and “Sharpen the Saw.”
Dr. Baiocco said too that Dr. Covey wrote a second book on an eighth habit, “Find Your Voice,” which is also incorporated into the schools.
“I am always impressed by the day when we get to see our students leading other students,” Dr. Baiocco said. “You see the basic essence of the seven habits. I find it incredibly powerful.”