News Around The District

  • Let’s hear it for the Hamilton Spirt Squad!  

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 11/18/2022 11:50:00 AM

    Creativity is prominent in the art room at Alexander Hamilton High School where painting, sculpting, and drawing are the norm in Room 221. However, another creative activity has also become a draw for students – this time in the form of dance with the newly revised Spirit Squad. Girls cheering


    One afternoon, the team gathered for practice in the art room. They began with a brief meeting about the upcoming bake sale. Then it was time to get to work with a quick warm-up, followed by practicing their routines. 

    The Spirit Squad was revitalized last year after more than two decades. Last year, then-seniors Amy Diakhate and Andreya Lane worked to bring the squad back after its last cheer in the early 2000s. This year, co-captains junior Sika Nutifafa and sophomore Jailynn Hort have taken the lead roles.  


    Together, they develop routines and lead practices. The group’s advisor, Hamilton art and history teacher Natalie Bolden, is there to keep the girls organized and is the team’s official videographer. Ms. Boden gives input on what the girls do, but mostly provides the squad space to convene for practice along with the freedom for them to develop their unique cheers.


    “They lead the crowd in cheers, raise the spirits of those there in attendance,” Ms. Bolden said. “Last year, the people started to expect it. It’s exciting.”


    “I was a little nervous to be the club’s advisor because I am not a dancer,” Ms. Bolden said. But she had no reason to worry as the squad does all the work.

    “Honestly, my favorite part is to see how the girls’ become leaders on their own,” she said.  


    While the Spirit Squad has made a handful of public appearances this year - including at this fall’s football games and a performance at the November Board of Education meeting - it is gearing up for a traditionally busy season for cheer: basketball season. The first home game is scheduled for Dec. 7. 


    Sika and Jailynn were both on the squad last year. “We wanted to bring back a dance program,” Jailynn said. “Hamilton hasn’t had a dance team since the early 2000s. It’s for girls who want to dance or cheer.” 


    Sika said that being a co-captain has helped her develop her leadership skills. “I feel like we’re a team,” she said. “We respect and support each other.” 


    Together they research cheers online and craft routines, or develop ones based on what they think will work with the crowd. 


    Many squad members have been or are currently involved in cheer or dance teams outside of school. Nevertheless, that experience is not a pre-requisite, assured Jailynn, who encouraged other girls to join the squad.  


    “Just believe in yourself,” she continued. “Your talent will be put to use. We will be patient with you and help you get out of your comfort zone.” 


    Sophomore Daniia Dash said that she was slightly apprehensive about the upcoming basketball season, when the squad will perform in front of larger crowds. Despite that trepidation, she decided to join the squad this year. 

    “I don’t find any of the routines challenging,” she said. “I’m a quick learner.” 


    Junior Jada Estrada has experience in competitive cheer and dance and joined the Spirit Squad because she thought she could share that knowledge with others in the club. 

    “I feel like we can use old cheers and focus on how we can make it better,” she said. 


    Girls cheeringEighth grader Denim Silvera admitted that she was never a “sports person”, but she likes to dance and used to be involved in competitive cheer outside of school. She described the Spirit Squad as a group of young women who are “loving, funny, caring, smart, beautiful and very accepting.” 


    “At the end of the day, we just have fun,” she said. 


    “We all give each other energy,” freshman Chelsea Ortega said of how members of the squad support one another.


    “We’re good together,” agreed freshman Valeria Maldonado.


    During a recent practice, the squad reviewed a cheer it had been performing at events and then practiced a new one that was recently added to their repertoire. The cheers consist of rhythmic clapping, vocal support and feet stomping to give emphasis to their encouragement. 


    Like several other squad members, sophomore Renee Murphy is a dancer. She takes lessons in jazz, ballet, modern, African dance, and hip hop. 


    “It’s fun because we get to develop a vibe at events, and people know we are out there,” she said of performing. “I’m very excited for the first game.” 

    Cheer with the AHHS Spirit Squad on Dec. 7 when the boys’ varsity basketball team takes on Sleepy Hollow at 6:15 p.m. at AHHS. 

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  • Regeneron Day of Doing Good sees students building to new heights 

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 11/1/2022 9:20:00 AM

    When the towers that students were creating crashed onto the gymnasium floor, the crash and the groan were almost simultaneous. Although, all was not lost! A few giggles erupted and soon students at Alice E. Grady Elementary School were rebuilding their structures in the hopes of going even higher. 


    Each grade had an opportunity to participate in the Tarrytown-based Regeneron Day of Doing Good. It is an initiative that began in 2017 and has Regeneron staff volunteering in the community. The company works with Volunteer New York to coordinate activities. Regeneron volunteers have visited and worked with students at Grady for several years now, both in person and virtually during the pandemic. Together they engage in a science-related activity. Girls surround tower they built  

    On Oct. 21 students built structures out of Keva planks, which were brought over from the Westchester Children’s Museum. Volunteers began by teaching students about the concepts of gravity, balance and stability. 


    “You are going to learn how you can become an engineer and architect,” Beau Dubac, the outreach coordinator with the Westchester Children’s Museum, told students.


    Once students got a sense of how to use the planks by first building boats and bridges, they moved on to the Tower Challenge. 


    Working in groups of four or five, students brainstormed how best to build the tallest tower. Some began with a sturdy base, others went for it by piling the planks one on top of the other, while other groups piled on, but stabilized the structure every few inches. 


    “Just don’t breathe,” one desperate student said aloud as her group’s tower became taller than her own height. 

    “AHHHHH,” came a shout of surprise from across the room as a group’s tower fell. 


    When the students’ time to build was over, Mr. Dubac measured the height of each structure. The tallest for this session measured 5’10”. 


    “In the middle of it, it started moving a lot,” sixth grader Kiara Surrell said of her group’s tower, which ended up as the tallest. “We were just going straight up, but we made sure it was stable on the bottom.” 


    “It was taller than I would have expected,” said her groupmate, Kamryn Bostic. “I didn’t know if it would last so long.” 


    Another student in the same group, Cassie Tascon, said that the project was fun: “It was even taller than anything we had done when studying STREAM,” she said, referring to science, technology, reading, engineering, art and math. 


    “It took a lot of teamwork and effort,” added Linda Zhinin, a fellow group member.


    “It was fun,” Selina Tapia, another group member concluded. “I got to do it with my friends.” 


    Once the soaring structures were measured and a winner was selected, students then used them for an impromptu game of Jenga, where they had to pull the planks out of the structure to see how many they could remove before their tower fell over. 


    Group of volunteers poseFor Regeneron volunteer Lili Blumenberg, an associate scientist of bioinformatics, the day was personal. Having recently had a baby, she wanted to interact with older children so she could get a sense of what is to come. 


    “It’s so exciting to work with kids on engineering,” she said. “It makes you excited for what we do.” 

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  • Building community begins with an AHHS tradition, ‘Start with Hello Week’

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 10/19/2022 10:00:00 AM

    “Hi, I’m Sabrina,” a young girl announced after walking up to where teacher Kacie Schulman was sitting. The two chatted for a minute before the girl took off to go finish her lunch.


    It was a perfect example of exactly what Ms. Schulman was hoping for — students taking an initiative to get to know other people. Girl speaking with woman


    For the fifth year in a row, students at Alexander Hamilton High School have been engaging in “Start with Hello Week,” an initiative hosted by the Peers as Leaders, or PALs, student organization. Throughout the week students engage in different activities to help them get to know one another, find new friends, and have some good old-fashioned fun.


    During the week-long event, students and staff take a day to wear a name tag, enabling others to learn the names of classmates and those they see in the hallways. There are activities during lunch periods, for example, students were encouraged to sign a Start with Hello Promise Pledge, that suggested they have empathy for others, reach out to their peers to prevent anyone from feeling isolated and to be an upstander, and use their voices when they see something wrong, and to simply say “hello” to others.

    Another lunch activity was Start with Hello Bingo. During lunch, Bingo cards were passed out and each square had a suggestion such as “find someone who plays a sport,” or “find someone who likes cats better than dogs.” As their cards filled up upon completion of the suggested activity, students could earn candy from a PALs representative.


    Ms. Schulman also has PALs members decorate a board outside of her classroom on a regular basis. Currently there are messages of welcome posted there.


    The week culminates in a bit of a frenzy, on Friendship Friday, each students receives a laminated emoji. Throughout the day they must find other students who have the same emoji they do. The group then visits Ms. Schulman’s classroom for a prize.


    “It’s a great way to bring kids together,” Ms. Schulman said of the emoji game.


    And that is why all these activities take place.


    “My mentee still says hello to me and gives me hugs in the hallway,” sophomore and PALs representative Alana Lewis said. “That goes a long way in fostering a friendly environment here.”


    When Alana was a seventh grader, she recalls having a mentor and it helped her come out of her shell a bit. She said just giving someone else a smile in the hallway can be enough to make others feel good about themselves.


    “I think it fosters a good community in our school,” PALs member and sophomore Matteo Diberto said of the weekly activities. He was helping to pass out candy to those who had completed their “Hello” Bingo cards.


    Sophomore Suvan Arachchi said he joined PALs because he was interested in mentoring and appreciated the assistance his mentor provided him when he first got to the school.


    Programs like “Start with Hello Week” help remind students to be respectful and shows them how to be a leader. He thinks it caught on because students anticipate it now that it has become an annual event at the school.


    “I hope they get the message that this is a whole community,” he said.


    “It’s all about inclusion,” Ms. Schulman said, and making every student at the school feel welcome and know they have friends and have an opportunity to make new friends too.


    Throughout the year PALs will continue hosting events including assigning an upper classman to mentor a new seventh grader. Later in the year they will roll out a Pen Pal program with sixth graders at the Alice E. Grady Elementary School.


    “It’s a really cool way to bring the school together and I just love that,” Ms. Schulman said.


    She has also noticed how students are developing their leadership skills and are getting a boost of confidence through the PALs program.


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  • Joint Village and EUFSD meeting celebrate community support

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 10/17/2022 9:00:00 AM

    It was standing room only at the recent Elmsford Union Free School District Board of Education meeting held on Oct. 12. Gathered in Village Hall were members of the district’s board of education and Village Trustees along with community and school supporters. They came together in an annual tradition, hosting a joint meeting.


    “We thank them for joining us,” Mayor Robert Williams said. “Eighteen years ago, I came up with an idea. It’s nice to show unity.


    “We have a great working relationship with our schools,” he said.


    The Board of Trustees proceeded with their agenda, attending to village business. This included acknowledging local businesses and addressing a renovated building along with applicants who were installing solar panels on their property and swearing in new members of the fire and police departments and the appointment of a new village clerk.


    In addition, the mayor acknowledged the work the village and school district both do toward preventing bullying, as October is Anti-Bullying Month.


    “It’s unique and has been successful,” Mayor Williams said of the anti-bullying campaign. “Because we made it a community effort.”


    “I’m proud to work with our school partners,” he continued.


    It then was the school board’s turn to hold their meeting.


    Man at podium addressing councilDuring his presentation Interim Superintendent Dr. Ron Gonzalez presented those in attendance with his building blocks for success, among them are providing a safe and secure environment for students and staff, establishing systems and structures that support the work the district does, increasing family and community engagement and continuing the equity and social and emotional learning going forward.


    “Thank you mayor for your support,” Dr.  Gonzalez told the village trustees. “This is uncanny for a school district to partner with a municipality in the many ways that we do. It speaks volumes to your commitment to our schools.”

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  • Passion for reading leads to semifinalist win in international competition 

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 9/30/2022 1:00:00 PM

    Alexander Hamilton High School Sophomore Brianna Rose was having a casual dinner with her aunts when she took a gander at her phone, a common thing for a teenager to do. 


    She scrolled through her school-issued email; after all it was Friday, and she would have assignments to complete over the weekend. What she didn’t expect to find was an email from the Ayn Rand Institute. Girl in pink sweater


    As a freshman in Keith Egan’s Honors English class at Alexander Hamilton High School, the class had been assigned to read Ayn Rand’s “Anthem” and submit an essay to an international competition that was sponsored by the institute. 


    The email informed her that she was a semifinalist in the competition that had students submitting their work from countries including Canada, Nigeria and South Korea. 


    “For the rest of dinner, it was all I could think about,” Brianna said. She notified her parents immediately, who shared her excitement.


    “When we entered the competition, I didn’t expect anything to come out of it. But as soon as I finished the book, I began to write my essay. I really liked the book. It’s such a different point of view. It stayed with me.” 


    “Anthem” is a dystopian novella first published in 1937. It tells the story of a man named Equality-7-2521 who lives in a society where technology and individualism have been suppressed. The man rebels and escapes with his girlfriend, who he was forbidden to fall in love with. The two plan to create their own society. 


    In describing the story, Brianna said that the main character uses his selfishness for his own self-interest - something that is strongly discouraged in society. 


    “It’s such a different point of view from what we are used to,” Brianna said. “We are told that selfishness is a negative. From my point of view, sometimes you need to be selfish to get by in life.” 


    The book is one that Mr. Egan has his freshmen class read, in part, because “Rand referred to her book as a ‘hymn to man's ego.’ It is the story of the struggle of the individual versus the collective, totalitarian society. The novella asks students to question which philosophy of life allows a human being to be truly free and a society to truly progress. ‘Anthem’ offers the opportunity for deep thought and complex debate.” 


    It also affords students an opportunity to write and to share their writing. Mr. Egan stressed that that was the point of writing. 


    “Publishing is the natural, final stage of writing,” he said. “Entering the contest every year supplies many students with the impetus to write their best and the drive to push themselves beyond what even they may think themselves capable.” 


    Additionally, Mr. Egan said that the competition is judged fairly and that the institute supplies the books to his class. There are also cash prizes. If they win, he said, students can include the achievement on their resumes. 


    English and history are Brianna’s favorite subjects, and she loves to read more than write. She recently read “The Priory of the Orange Tree,” by British author Samantha Shannon, and the fantasy novel “Legendborn,” by Tracy Deonn. She has recently begun to read the “Game of Thrones” series by George R.R. Martin. 


    “I really liked Mr. Egan’s class,” Brianna said. “You can tell he is really passionate about English.”  


    Outside of school, Brianna’s interests include Greek mythology, which she enjoys discussing especially with Mr. Egan during free periods. “I can talk about it until other people are sick of it,” she said. 


    “I was thrilled, but not shocked, when I heard that Brianna had become a semifinalist,” Mr. Egan said. “She worked diligently last year to improve her already strong writing style. When working with her partner on a writing assignment in class, I would often hear the two young ladies brainstorming ideas for the perfect word they needed for a sentence. Their attention to connotation and tone was inspiring.” 


    Mr. Egan is also impressed with Brianna’s love of reading.

    “Brianna also happens to be a bibliophile. She and a small group of her peers burn through unassigned books faster than Guy Montag in ‘Fahrenheit 451.’ The diverse titles they choose all spring from the pages of The New York Times bestseller list. These ladies mean business.” 


    His students hard work and interests have made her a standout student.


    “Brianna is one of the most soft-spoken, unassuming, kind and intelligent young ladies I have had the pleasure to teach over my 24-year career at Alexander Hamilton,” Mr. Egan said. 


    For all her love of English and history, Brianna also leans toward the sciences. Thinking about her future, she hopes to become a veterinarian, especially after having worked at a horse stable this past summer while visiting family in Jamaica. She is also thinking of the possibility of becoming a gynecologist, lawyer or journalist. 


    “Being a veterinarian is first,” she said, adding that she has a dog and several fish. “I need to be with animals more than humans,” she said with a laugh. 


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  • A beautiful day to spend time with Dad or a special friend

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 9/21/2022 2:35:00 PM

    The busses were there delivering children, there were cars lined up dropping children off, and a few students did the shuffle along the sidewalk. By all accounts it was a typical start to the day at school. But there was a new group in the mix: Dads and male caregivers!

    Today the Elmsford Union Free School District recognized Dads Take Your Child to School Day, an annual event celebrated at the Alice E. Grady Elementary School and Carl L. Dixson Primary School. This is the fourth year the schools have hosted the event. Man walking with boy


    “I love bringing them to school,” Dad Nick Quainoo said, as he walked his second-grade son, Kester, to school.


    “Mmm-hmmm,” a tired Kestor noted as he nodded his head in response to whether he liked having Dad come along to start his day.


    As the morning continued, Dads and caregivers helped their son or daughter with their backpacks. One Dad walked twice, first bringing his daughter to the front door at Grady before returning a few minutes later with his son. Several Dads at Dixson hung out for a few minutes before their day chatting about youth sports or enjoying the snacks that were available.


    “This is just a wonderful way to celebrate our families,” Superintendent Dr. Ron Gonzalez said. “It’s such a simple way for children to spend time with their Dad or a special mentor in their lives. We appreciate all the men who came out with their son or daughter to share in a simple, but meaningful event.”


    “In order to make sure all of our students are supported and adults from our community feel valued, we’ve opened the day as a F.U.N. Day to include Fathers, Uncles or Near Relatives. There is space for all representatives in Elmsford,” Dr. Gonzalez continued.


    Man standing with girlThe DTYCTSD initiative began in 1996 following the Black Start Project Million Father March. In 2006, New York gave the event its current moniker and school districts throughout the state have been inviting fathers and other male caregivers to take part ever since. 


    According to the website, dadstakeyourchildtoschoolday.com, “research indicates that children whose fathers take a more active role in their lives have better outcomes related to academics, behavior, and social skills.” 


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  • New AHHS Assistant Principal has academic history with the district 

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 9/19/2022 9:00:00 AM

    They say you can never go home again, however, there are some who manage to do just that. Samone Grixti, an Alexander Hamilton High School graduate, Class of 2004, is one of those special people. She was recently appointed as the new assistant principal of Alexander Hamilton High School and will begin in this role on Sept. 28. Woman


    “My experience there was so amazing and wonderful for me,” she said of her time as a student in the Elmsford Union Free School District. “It was the main factor for why I wanted to come back.” 


    At school, Ms. Grixti recalls a loving environment, great teachers and great relationships with classmates and teammates. Those memories are what attracted her to returning to Elmsford as assistant principal and were a big influence on her choosing a career in education. 


    “The idea was to offer that sense of support and community that I had  to other students when I got older,” she said. “To be able to do that a Hamilton is amazing.” 


    During her incoming first year at Hamilton, Ms. Grixti said that she hopes to reestablish herself at the school and build relationships with AHHS staff members, students and families. 


    “I walked away from my time as a student in Elmsford with great memories,” she said. “I want to set up the current students’ lives to be successful so that they can reach their goals. I have a strong sense of equity. I want to bring that to the curriculum so that all of our subgroups of students have a path to college and a career.” 


    Additionally, as a former athlete on the track and field and volleyball teams, Ms. Grixti is excited to attend games and support Hamilton’s teams. 


    The sense of community created at her alma mater stayed with her as she pursued her career in education. She initially attended SUNY Stony Brook but found it too big for her liking, so she transferred to Iona College and later earned a master’s at Manhattan College. 


    “I loved having a small community,” she said. “I got to know everyone in my grade and the staff made you feel like you could accomplish anything. The then-principal allowed students to have a voice.” 


    Ms. Grixti started her career as a math teacher in the Bronx, beginning at St. Raymond’s High School for five years before moving to Jonas Bronck Academy for almost eight years where she served as the math team lead for three years. She is currently finishing her tenure at Mount Vernon High School as the math and science department chair, where she has been since January 2021. 


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  • New administrator to focus on equity and belonging and so much more

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 9/14/2022 10:35:00 AM

    Keturah Proctor is a dreamer. She dreams big and having been appointed as the district’s first Director of Curriculum, Instruction, Equity and Belonging, she has big ideas and plans.


    “I appreciate the opportunity to be a dreamer,” she said of her new position. Woman


    “It’s an opportunity to continue to dream and reset, in a way, as we are moving forward,” she continued.


    It could be said that Ms. Proctor began dreaming big right here in the halls of Alexander Hamilton High School, where she was a student. Her family moved to Elmsford in 1960. Her mother, aunt and several uncles all attended the school, and her daughter graduated in 2021.


    “That matters to me,” she said. “I actually feel so humbled and a bit nervous. I don’t want to let the community down. I went to high school here. I’m always coming to work thinking that I am repaying what I received.”


    Even before she graduated from Syracuse University where she studied Inclusive Elementary & Special Education and African American Studies, she was being recruited by the then-superintendent to come to work for the district. She began her career here as a special education teacher and later taught math at the Alice E. Grady Elementary School. She went on to earn degrees in Curriculum and Teaching, M.S.E. at Fordham University and another master’s in Educational Leadership-Future School Leaders Academy, Ed. M at Bank Street College.



    Last school year she was appointed as a teacher on assignment, helping to “manage our equity journey,” she said. She and her colleagues worked with the New York City based Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity to help steer the district’s equity work.


    “They gave us a great foundation,” she said. That, combined with her completing the Leadership Academy at Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES, was beneficial.


    “I really had to engage all the learning in the classroom space and what that means and become a systems thinker as well as a systems doer,” she said. “This is s structured process. You don’t always see the immediate results of your work.”


    “And it was also having to think really, really big,” she added.


    The work is not something that will be complete in three months, she said, but you have to think of the work as continuing out six months, three years, six years.


    “It’s an incredible responsibility, and there is an advisory component,” she said of her role.


    It is a in which she can be of service, Ms. Proctor said.

    “It’s not work,” she said. “It is a purpose. It is who I am. It is literally my community, and it matters that much more to me.”


    Ms. Proctor will lead the district in this work based on New York State Department of Education guidelines, along with the district’s equity statement and vision. Additionally, she will use the five recommendations created by the district’s equity team. They consist of climate change, communication, student equity and leadership, curriculum, and professional development.


    “These are the five areas that will help guide me,” she said.


    She will also enlist the help of a network of DEI, or diversity, equity and inclusion experts in the region that she has worked with herself.


    Over the summer she presented at the Ossining Union Free School District’s New Employee Academy. She said her goal at the time, and in her work in her own district, is to create a space where everyone feels supported and safe in order to learn.

    “You have to be vulnerable to do that transformative work,” she said.


    She has also been involved with the group Action and Change in Elmsford, which consisted of going into buildings to talk about white supremacy. She said she was nervous, as she often is when discussing highly charged topics, but “in those moments you just have to stand on the side of right.”


    “Understanding anti-bias, anti-racism is just as important as other subjects,” she said.


    “I do think, in terms of dreaming big, of what this community, this district can be,” Ms. Proctor said. “You envision, then make it happen. It’s big, but necessary.”


    Among her many motivations is to develop a place for students, staff, and administrators to feel at home in the district, the way she has felt about her home here.


    She embodies that sense of community, whether it’s a former student stopping by her house because they needed assistance in registering their child for school or a current student who needs a few minutes to collect themselves in her office during the school day.


    “I love what I do. I love learning. I do love this space that has deposited so much into me,” she said. “We need to be a space where people can shine.”


    “Elmsford is an awesome, awesome place,” she continued. “To be able to highlight the brilliance of young people and to highlight their cultural identities—it’s a risk, but it’s worth it. It’s part of that giving back.”


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  • Welcome back! Students arrived at school for another year

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 9/6/2022 3:15:00 PM

    Back-to-School time can bring with it a mix of emotions: Students are excited, nervous, and ready to show off their new clothes. As for parents, well, they can be both happy and sad, or as one parent expressed, “relieved” at her families’ new circumstances. Students walking in to school

    “I’ve got two kids in the same school now!” the mom said as she dropped off her children at Elmsford School District’s Alice E. Grady Elementary school, noting how her morning routine just got easier.

    Elmsford families were in full back-to-school mode on Sept. 6 as they returned to a familiar routine. They pulled up to the drop-off line then waved to their children as they walked into one of the three schools in the district. Some parents wrestled umbrellas as they carried their child’s bag of school supplies while managing to take the proverbial first day photos. Amid all this organized chaos, buses dropped off many more excited children.

    Students at Alexander Hamilton High School, who were first greeted outside by Principal Joseph Engelhardt and Interim Superintendent Dr. Ron Gonzalez, met in the cafeteria before being dismissed to their classes.

    Hatim Abdullah was all smiles, with reason. This is his senior year at AHHS.

    “I am really excited to be here,” he said. “My aunts and uncles and a brother went to school here.”

    Hatim was looking ahead just a bit, and said he wants to study computer science in college but is not sure where yet.

    Freshman Elaiah Francis was sitting quietly. It was not only her first day at AHHS, but her first in the district having moved to the area from Charlotte, North Carolina.

    She admitted she was nervous, but said she was looking forward to meeting new friends.

    “I want to be here,” sophomore Malayija McFadden said. “Every day here is just cool.”

    girl getting off of school busIt was not long before a crowd had gathered outside the main doors of Alice E. Grady Elementary School. Students greeted friends they may not have seen over the summer as parents posed their children under a decorative balloon arch for a photo. Principal, Dr. Andrea Hamilton then directed students where to go once inside.

    “I am happy about it being my last year at Grady,” said sixth grader Brookelyn Burch, who was glad for school to start.

    “I get to learn more,” she said, adding math and science are her favorite subjects.

    Her brother, Kisem Burch, who is in third grade, was waiting with his sister.

    “I’m hoping it is fun,” he wished for this school year.

    Their friend, sixth-grader Kiara Surrell, said she was nervous about meeting her teachers.

    At the Carl L. Dixson Primary School, parents and students waited in one of two places. The youngest students gathered in the gym before being led to their respective classrooms while the first graders next door gathered outside before being greeted by one of their teachers. Two boys in balloon frame

    “It looks a bit hectic to an outsider,” Interim Superintendent Dr. Ron Gonzalez said, after participating in the morning routine for EUFSD families. “However, it did go well, and we are just so glad to be welcoming our students and their families back for another year of learning. No amount of rain was going to dampen this day.”

    “It really was wonderful to be a part of this annual ritual,” he continued. “I think I might be just as excited as the students."

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  • “Snowball fight” part of the reflection process during superintendent convocation

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 9/2/2022 11:15:00 AM

    Latest instructional shifts have called for innovative ideas for student engagement. The same can be said for adult learning. That’s why crumpled up pieces of paper, or “snowballs,” were thrown around the gymnasium at the Alice E. Grady Elementary School. There were lots of laughs that went along with the exercise, in addition to encouragement from the superintendent of schools himself! Man speaking into microphone


    Before the paper balls went airborne, those gathered for the Superintendent’s Convocation, had undergone a serious reflection, writing on the pieces of paper three thoughts they were asked to share: “Today I am grateful for…”, “What is something the district goals did not address?” and “How will I contribute to our state of purpose?”


    The snowballs were collected, and Superintendent Dr. Ron Gonzalez will review them as a way of learning more about his staff.


    The “snowball fight” offered a moment of levity on this morning as district administrators and teachers focused on the serious business of teaching children as they prepared for the start of a new school year.


    In his first address to staff as interim superintendent, Dr. Gonzalez shared elements of his own childhood that helped direct him to where he is today. He was raised by a single parent, spending early days between the Bronx and New Jersey, he admitted to developing a bit of a chip on his shoulder by the time he was in middle school, which drives his leadership stance. Things could have gone differently, he said, but he had teachers, administrators and coaches who supported him not only academically, but emotionally as well.


    “I want you to fully understand the experiences I have had that helped me, so we can do this work together,” he said.


    “Being an educator is a job you either love or you don’t do,” he told those gathered. “You have to go back to that place that motivated you.”


    “We have an obligation and moral responsibility to make sure we are pulling the very best out of students,” he continued.


    The district appears to have had a good start with this, as shown by student performances that were included as part of the presentation. A group sang the National Anthem, another recited a poems, and Alexander Hamilton High School junior Yuriy Kryvoruchko performed two pieces on his saxophone.


    “Our duty is to make an impact,” said Board of Education President Paul Hood, after he welcomed Dr. Gonzalez to the district.


    “This is a very special place to work. We have to prepare them to be the best they can be,” he said of the district’s students. “You bring the best because our children deserve the best to make this year the best.”


    Dr. Gonzalez discussed his goals for the year. Among them are providing a safe and secure environment for students and staff, establishing systems and structures that support student success, increasing family and community engagement and continuing the equity and social and emotional learning going forward.


    “I want to hit the ground learning,” Dr. Gonzalez told the Board of Education upon his hiring. “I want every interaction with every student, family member, staff, board and community member to know that we are driven by our purpose.”


    He announced that by the end of September he will present the community with his “30 - 1st,” an update to be provided after the first 30 days of school where he will outline progress towards those goals.


    Towards the end of the presentation, Dr. Gonzalez had his staff engage in one more airborne activity. This time they were tasked to work in groups and fold a piece of paper into a paper airplane. Teachers and staff were then asked to write an affirmation on the airplane before throwing it across the gymnasium, again, defying all classroom management protocols. Among the things that were written on them were, “We are fiercely capable,” “Everything is fine, keep going and growing,” and “The words we tell our children become their voice.”


    “This is going to be a great year,” Dr. Gonzalez concluded. “I hope you keep this spirit going.”

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