News Around The District
AHHS graduates celebrate accomplishments, communityPosted by Alicia Smith on 6/27/2019 2:00:00 PM
Graduation for the Alexander Hamilton High School Class of 2019 was held at the Westchester Broadway Theater, an appropriate venue, as the graduates were the stars of the show.
As the evening of June 24 went on, a story unfolded, told by school administrators and student speakers. Each offered encouragement to the graduates to follow their dreams, celebrate success and remember the community that helped them get here.
In recalling what makes this particular class stand out in his mind, AHHS Principal Joseph Engelhardt told the audience it was the class’ commitment to service. Each year, Mr. Engelhardt said, students volunteered their time outside of school — working with younger students and volunteering at local hospitals, libraries and nature center.
“During this time the students are not only giving back to their community but are discovering passions that they may not have known existed before, all while learning important skills,” Mr. Engelhardt said.
“As you move on from Hamilton and spread your wings even wider, I encourage you to find and chase down your passion, love what you do each day, seek the knowledge you need to be successful,” he said. “Class of 2019, you are the now. We cannot wait to hear about all the success that awaits you.”
Salutatorian Sarah Corp said she knew she would cry at the memories if she read the messages classmates wrote in her yearbook.
“Not only would I miss the overwhelmingly warm atmosphere of support encouragement and love, fostered by faculty and staff who went out of their way to enable our success and the student body that proved to be more than classmates but family,” she said.
“I knew I would miss the smiles, laughs and chaos in the hallway, the fellowship and community in the lunch room and the numerous opportunities to grow and bloom in the classroom. These are all memories that we will carry with us as we go out in the world and discover the purpose life has in store for all of us.”
Not all of her tears reflected a feeling of sadness; some were tears of joy.
“I cried because I’m happy,” Sarah said. “I am happy because the memories we made at Hamilton, with all the ups and downs, were truly some of the best times of our lives and I am so grateful for them and for all of you who shared them with me. Not only am I happy, but I am excited too. Excited because I know that our futures are bright, our success is limitless.”
The ceremony included presenting several students with scholarships, many that were made possible through the generosity of local businesses, residents and organizations. The scholarships presented this evening amounted to almost $30,000 for students.
Student Government President Daniel Zeppieri, was not only the recipient of the Village of Elmsford Mayor’s Award & Scholarship, but was also one of the speakers at the ceremony.
“Hamilton has gifted us with leadership skills, friendships that will last forever and of course free therapy sessions from our teachers,” Daniel said. “We are much more than just students at Hamilton. We were one big, crazy family.”
“I ask the Class of 2019 to hold Elmsford in such high regard that when people ask where you are from you do not simply reply with some little, small village, but you reply ‘I am from a place where people loved us unconditionally and helped us grow into the people we are today,’” he encouraged.
Valedictorian Toni Marie Perilli had promised she’d have some Disney magic in her address to her classmates and she delivered.
Quoting Walt Disney, Toni said “’All of our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.’”
“Each of us has a dream, a heart’s-desire. It calls to us. And when we are brave enough to listen and bold enough to pursue that dream, it will lead us on to a journey to discover who we are meant to be. All we have to do is look into our hearts and unlock the magic within.”
Toni is the third generation in her family to attend AHHS, and admitted it was not the place she expected to go.
“Yet now I couldn’t see myself going anywhere else,” she said. “This school is truly a diamond in the rough filled with amazing opportunities, committed educators and an environment that can’t be found anywhere else.”
She continued, “It’s rare to find a place that is more than just classmates and teachers. It is a family. It will always be a part of me, and I am thankful for that.”
In addition to congratulating the Class of 2019, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Marc Baiocco, in his address, echoed the commitment the class had to community service in his address. He said they delivered 150 baskets to needy families for the holidays, they helped clean-up Elmsford, donated items to help pets, tutored younger students and more.
“The graduates here before you this evening I can truly call leaders,” Dr. Baiocco said.
After declaring that the students had met all the state requirements for graduation, the graduates flipped their tassel from the right to the left, a gesture that officially cemented that they had graduated.
The procession then began for one final tradition to be upheld. When called, each student stepped to center stage to receive their diploma as their families, teachers and classmates cheered them on.
New princpal recommended for GradyPosted by Alicia Smith on 6/27/2019 1:30:00 PM
A message from the Elmsford Union Free School District
Dr. Andrea C. Hamilton has been recommended to be named the new principal at Alice E. Grady Elementary School.
Dr. Hamilton has served nine years as the Assistant Principal at Alexander Hamilton Junior/Senior High School.
Throughout her time as a school administrator, Dr. Hamilton modeled effective educational practices; most notable are her empathy and professional relationship building skills. Student success is always at the forefront and for Dr. Hamilton, her effective rapport building leads to greater student achievement and community connection.
We know that Dr. Hamilton’s consistent commitment to positive student outcomes and a focus on our strategic goals will continue to provide outstanding opportunities for our students. I will recommend that Elmsford UFSD Board of Education consider Dr. Hamilton’s promotion on Tuesday, July 9, 2019, at its regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting.
With regard to the Assistant Principal position of Alexander Hamilton Junior/Senior High School, we will seek a candidate who demonstrates many of the qualities that Dr. Hamilton possesses and that resulted in much success in her position at AHHS. In speaking with Mr. Engelhardt, he is committed to finding an Assistant Principal who shares our vision for AHHS’ excellence and who will model leadership qualities for our community of leaders.
Goodbye to Grady: Sixth-graders celebrate their moving upPosted by Alicia Smith on 6/27/2019 12:30:00 PM
The musical selections for the Alice E. Grady Elementary School Moving Up Ceremony on June 26 summed up the entire event.
The Grady Band, conducted by Nikolaus Campbell, played “Celebration,” by Kool & The Gang. The Fourth, Fifth and Sixth-Grade Choir sang “Ready to Go” by T. Jennings and J. Riggio.
Principal Douglas Doller shared a conversation he had with a student that very morning. When he asked if the student was ready to move on to Hamilton, the student replied “no.”
Mr. Doller, and the many speakers at the event, assured all the students in the Grady Class of 2019 that they were indeed ready.
“It’s a change you are all ready for,” Mr. Doller said.
“I have to tell you it’s been my absolute pleasure to watch each and every one of you grow and mature into the young ladies and gentlemen that sit here today, poised and ready for the next step in your education.”
Fellow graduate and Student Council President Dayana Gonzalez agreed.
In her address to the class and guests, Dayana said, “Today is a very special day because we are moving on to the next step in our academic lives. On this day we stand ready to rise to the challenges.”
“Remember, that you can do anything you put your mind to as long as we work hard and stay dedicated,” she continued.
Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Marc Baiocco, shared with the parents in attendance his confidence in what the students can achieve with the parents in attendance.
“I can guarantee that in the next six years at Hamilton your students will be challenged, and they are going to again be at the top of their hill. By the time they finish 12th grade they will be looking down at their future. They will be prepared and ready for the world.”
The ceremony also included the announcement of several special award recipients.
“Our work here is done,” Mr. Doller said. “You are now Hamilton Raiders.”
Field Day fun at GradyPosted by Alicia Smith on 6/27/2019 11:15:00 AM
The wet, dreary weather outside in no way dampened the competitive spirit of students inside when the Alice E. Grady Elementary School Field Day was held indoors on June 21.
Students engaged in exercises of speed, strategy and feats of strength. And they had fun.
Up first was an obstacle course and each class, two students at a time, took turns running and jumping over the “turtles” and between the cones, all while being cheered on by their schoolmates.
Then came time to think when classes challenged each other by stacking odd shaped boxes one on top another — students ran up to the stack added another box before running away with fingers crossed that their stack would not topple over. The team with the highest stack that was still standing after the allotted time expired were declared the winners.
Finally, it was time for a good ol’ fashioned game of tug of war. Classes battled it out as gym teacher Drew Watson kept a careful eye on the rope as it was tugged this way and that way before a victor was declared.
Joining the Grady students in all the fun were guests from Southern Westchester BOCES’ Tappan Hill School in Tarrytown. They came over to participate as they have been doing throughout the year.
All the festivities were accompanied by music, and occasionally students would sing and clap along.
Dixson Class of 2019 moves on upPosted by Alicia Smith on 6/25/2019 4:00:00 PM
It was a beautiful summer morning, perfect for a celebration. And that is exactly what the faculty, staff, students and families of each first-grader did.
June 24 was moving-up day for the Carl L. Dixson Primary School rising second graders.
Students arrived at school as first-graders and after a musical performance, family photos, leaving a handprint on a banner, and officially receiving their certificates, they left school as second-graders.
The front lawn of the school was a bustle of activity as students and their parents had fun coloring while students took turns dipping their hands in ink and placing them on their class’ banner. Other students sang a song for their families. And while that was being done, children in another class posed for photos with their families.
The activity did not end there.
In the gym, classes took turns accepting their certificates. They processed into the room and heard encouraging words from their school principal and the superintendent. Students presented their teachers with a bouquet of flowers.
“I am going to miss you in the mornings,” Superintendent Marc Biaocco said, of the morning ritual he shared with students.
“You will be moving up to Grady. It’s an exciting time,” he continued.
Principal Jeffrey Olender thanked the parents for their support.
“The support you have given your child, the support you have given the building has been amazing,” Mr. Olender said.
He reminded parents how their sons and daughters came to Dixson as 3-and 4-year old’s and are leaving at the age of 6 and 7.
“They are truly little people, they have found their voice,” he said.
Sports Night: Varsity athletes honored at annual banquetPosted by Alicia Smith on 6/24/2019 4:15:00 PM
As one coach said, he almost didn’t recognize the athletes he coached since they were not wearing sweatpants and t-shirts like they do at practice.
It was an evening to leave the cleats and mouthguards at home and celebrate the achievements of the Alexander Hamilton High School star athletes at the Varsity Awards Banquet.
“We win and sometimes we lose, but we always have class and that you cannot show better than we do here in Elmsford,” AHHS Principal Joseph Engelhardt said when he welcomed guests.
“The Class of 2017 was pretty sports-heavy and 2018 surpassed my expectations of them,” Athletic Director Kevin Pollok said. “This class of 2019 was able to lead us in a new direction. We’ve never had so many post-season awards as this year.”
Among the post-season honors were 19 All-League Honorable Mentions, 47 All-League, 4 Class C Individual Championships, 8 All-Section Honorable Mentions, two All-Sections, one League Pitcher of the Year and one League Player of the Year.
Almost 50 athletes were inducted into the Varsity “H” Club, meaning they received their first varsity letter. In addition, there were 17 athletes who were named the 2019 Iron Award Winners. An “Iron Raider” is a student-athlete who has participated in three varsity sports in one year. Several of those honored were repeat Iron Raider winners from previous years.
Coach Kevin Budzynski was given the Friend of the Program Award.
He used to coach the varsity soccer team, Mr. Pollok said, adding that when so many students tried out for the varsity soccer team, they had to add a junior varsity program to give more student-athletes the opportunity to play. He then had to find a coach for the JV squad and Coach Budzynski answered the call.
“My favorite part of coaching has nothing to do with game day,” Coach Budzynski said. “It has do with the bus rides, hanging in locker rooms after games, talking after the fact, sometimes the practices themselves. The relationships that get built is more important. You guys are the reason I do it.”
The evening also included the announcement of this year’s recipient of the Kevin Lee Bass Memorial Scholarship. Mr. Bass, AHHS Class of ’73, was a star on the track and field team and a notable basketball player. He passed away in 2008. Since 2010, his family has given out $20,000 in scholarships to deserving students.
This year’s recipient was Melida Rodriguez, a three-sport athlete who played soccer and both winter and spring track.
Mr. Pollok also announced the winners of the Scholar Athlete Awards, which includes selecting a male and female athlete from each grade.
Multi-sport Coach Anthony Shallo was selected as the PTSA Coach of the Year. Coach Shallo coaches three varsity sports — Varsity Girls Soccer, Varsity Winter Track and Varsity Softball.
The event, held in the Alice E. Grady Elementary School gym, had each varsity coach announce special awards ranging from Most Improved Players and Coaches Awards to All League Players and Outstanding Performers.
Retirees reflect on their time in EUFSDPosted by Alicia Smith on 6/21/2019 12:00:00 PM
The end of the school year can be a transition for many. High school seniors move on to college or jobs, sixth graders head to Alexander Hamilton High School and first graders move up the hill to the Alice E. Grady Elementary School.
The end of the year can also signal change for staff too. This June, three familiar faces will spend their last weeks in the district as they transition into retirement.
James Volpe, Grady second grade teacher
James Volpe loved his first grade teacher so much, when he got to second grade, he knew he would become a teacher himself.
He attended Westchester Community College studying hotel management, but the pull to the classroom was too strong. Mr. Volpe then registered to study education at Pace University. He student taught with his first grade teacher and landed a position in Mount Pleasant. He also taught at Saint Anthony’s School in White Plains. He has been at the head of the class in Elmsford for 31 years.
“I saw the love of children she had,” Mr. Volpe said of his first grade teacher. “She made every child feel special.”
It was an attitude he adopted when he became a teacher too.
Children have changed, Mr. Volpe said. He notices it most with the popularity of cell phones and electronic devices that keep kids from playing outdoors. Although the technology may have a negative side, from his point of view, it can also be a useful tool. Throughout his career Mr. Volpe said he always incorporated the latest technology and it was important for him to learn how to use these tools.
Last year Mr. Volpe suffered a health crisis, developing a severe case of pneumonia. He said he never planned to retire, laughing at how he signed up for his retirement benefits in his early teaching days thinking at the time was an odd thing to do since he was just starting his career and as far as he was concerned he was not going to retire. However, he recently began to realize that he was more tired at the end of the day and it might be time.
“I have to take care of me now,” he said of his decision to move on.
His plans for the future are to volunteer, perhaps at Grady.
“I’ll miss the kids. And my colleagues, they are family,” Mr. Volpe said.
He has been teaching for so long, Mr. Volpe, said he has had children of some of the students he first taught when he came to EUFSD.
“It’s been a great 31 years,” he said.
Kim Sparber, Library Media Specialist
Working as a school librarian is a second career for Kim Sparber. She spent 12 years working as a lawyer with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.
When she took time off to raise her two children, Ms. Sparber would often volunteer in the library of her children’s school.
“I loved it,” she said.
The librarian there told her she should go back to school for a master’s in library science. And she did.
“I wanted to work with kids. I felt my calling was with young children,” Ms. Sparber said. “I like the elementary level, they are like sponges.”
A critical component of her work, she said, was incorporating technology into the students’ library lessons. She wanted children to know that the library was not only an amazing place to check out a good book, but the importance of other skills that would serve them well into the future too.
That was why teaching library skills, research skills and information skills were all part of the work she did.
“I’ve always tried to incorporate technology into my library program,” she said. “I believe it’s essential to have good technical skills.”
To that end, Ms. Sparber created a Maker’s Space in the Grady library and for the past five years celebrated the Hour of Code with students there.
“I’ve tried to balance my program by instilling a love of reading with the technological skills they need,” she said.
After 11years in the EUFSD, splitting her time between the Dixson Primary School and the Alice E. Grady Elementary School, Ms. Sparber has decided to retire.
Her immediate plan for the future is to take some time to travel. She also plans to broaden her role as secretary of the Westchester Children’s Museum board, on which she serves.
She said she will certainly miss the students.
“Every year your kids are different, and every year there is something special about them,” she said.
“I hope the library program continues in some form of what I created here,” she said. “Most people don’t know what school librarians do. We teach areas that nobody else teaches them. It’s really important schools have teaching librarians.”
Jarvis Tilokee, Dixson teaching assistant
Twenty-five years ago Jarvis Tilokee was invited into a classroom at the Carl L. Dixson Primary School, and she never left.
After giving up a career in Cosmetology, Ms. Tilokee became a teacher’s assistant, starting at Dixson as a part-time employee for two years before coming on full-time.
“I loved it,” she said, reflecting on her first time as a TA. “I love Elmsford. Elmsford is my heart.”
After her long tenure here, Ms. Tilokee has decided to retire. Her initial plans are to take it easy at first, but ultimately, she said she would like to volunteer, not surprisingly, with children. She indicated she would like to spend time in a hospital, perhaps reading to children or rocking babies. And, she said, she wants to spend time with her two granddaughters.
Ms. Tilokee spent her time in kindergarten classrooms where she would work one-on-one with children, helping them in reading or math. There were times too when she helped tie their shoes.
“I love it,” she said of this grade level. “They are like seeds before the tree grows up.”
What kept her at it so long, she said, was the children.
“It’s a joy when you see that they get it,” she said. “It’s what I really love about them.”
In addition to her job in the district, Ms. Tilokee moved to Elmsford from Brooklyn and raised her two sons here. Both are graduates of Alexander Hamilton High School.
“They are wonderful young men for it,” she said.
“It’s bittersweet, but it’s time,” Ms. Tilokee said.
All the retiring teachers and staff were recognized for their many years at Board of Education meeting this spring. In addition, teacher Ryan Matthews and speech and language pathologist Samantha Delaney both received tenure.
Community gathers to celebrate sixth gradersPosted by Alicia Smith on 6/19/2019 10:00:00 AM
Alice E. Grady school’s community of students, parents and staff gathered for the annual Sixth-grade dinner to celebrate sixth-graders and the next step in their educational journey.
The dinner, in which representatives from the Village of Elmsford, along with school administrators and Board of Education members were in attendance, has been a tradition for several years. It serves as a special way to let the students know they are appreciated and supported, and that the entire school community recognizes their hard work.
The gymnasium at Grady was hardly recognizable as it was transformed into an elegant dining room.
Guests were greeted by Alexander Hamilton High School students who volunteered as hosts and were escorted to their tables by members of the Grady fifth-grade class. Families were seated at tables covered by black tablecloths with clusters of balloons as center pieces. Music, provided by a DJ, wafted through the room.
“To our parents, thank you so much for being a part of this,” Dr. Baiocco said. “You truly are the best and I love each and every moment we get to spend together.”
Then he addressed the sixth-graders. “You are just going right up the hill. If you get lost anywhere in the building, please see me, I’ve been there for 10 years and I can show you the way.”
Dr. Baiocco also thanked the many volunteers who helped put the evening together.
“Our teachers and Grady staff, we cannot thank you enough for the amount of effort that goes into this event,” he said. “Thank you for making this such a success. Each and every year, it just gets better and better.”
Following dinner, which was catered by Carmine’s Italian Deli and Café, guests spent the rest of the evening dancing.
Class of 2019 Valedictorian and Salutatorian reflect on time in Elmsford, their futuresPosted by Alicia Smith on 6/18/2019 12:00:00 PM
Toni Marie Perilli and Sarah Corp have been in school together since they were first-graders at Dixson Primary School. As they moved to the elementary school and onto Alexander Hamilton High School, they had many classes together. Now, they will share the stage during the upcoming Class of 2019 commencement ceremony. Toni earned the spot as class valedictorian as Sarah the salutatorian.
Both have appreciated their time in the Elmsford Schools and said they could not imagine a more supportive community.
“It’s so different from other schools in the area,” Toni said. “The principal and superintendent stand outside every day and greet you. The teachers, even though I might not have had them, know my name. It really helped with learning. You know what to expect. They are not just teachers here, but truly mentors.”
Sarah agreed. “Starting in elementary school and middle school on up, you know how much the faculty cares,” she said.
Toni observed after a recent talk with her kindergarten and third-grade teachers that they have all grown together.
“You can see how they’ve grown as people,” she said.
“The small size fosters a tight-knit community,” Sarah said. “I remember starting at Hamilton in seventh grade. I was so nervous, but it was so welcoming.”
In the fall, Sarah will be attending St. Lawrence University and plans to major in biology. Toni intends to study communications and digital media at Manhattanville College.
In addition to the effort they applied to their school work, which put them at the top of their class, the two students have found outlets outside of their school.
Sarah played soccer at AHHS and is part of a local community theater group. Not one bit shy, she has a passion for public speaking and writing poetry. She spoke in her church group and last year attended a church convention where she spoke in front of 500 people in Syracuse.
“It started when I was five,” Sarah said. “I got up and started speaking. Someone mentioned to me I should speak at events.”
She has gone on to speak at competitions and has been an active participant in her school’s Black History Month commemorations.
“She always blows it out of the water,” Toni said of her classmate’s speaking talent.
Toni has her own passion that puts her in the spotlight: dance.
She has been dancing since she was two. She is currently a student at the French American Ballet Theater. She has performed at events throughout the country through summer intensives. This coming year, her dance teacher is hoping to find her guest dance opportunities.
“French American Ballet Theater, I couldn’t get any better than that,” Toni said. “The director does nothing but push you. I’ve seen such improvement in myself. It’s been the best experience I could ever have.”
In addition to her dancing, Toni also writes a blog that she described as “a lifestyle blog with a mix of everything: fashion, adventure, travel, advice on school — everything I am passionate about.”
As their senior year comes to an end, the two have been busy working on their speeches for graduation.
While they were reluctant to reveal much about what they plan to share with the audience at graduation, Toni said the audience can expect her speech to have “a little bit of Disney magic.”
Those who know her well, she said, know of her love for all things Disney and should not be surprised that it has influenced her speech.
“I took a more optimistic approach,” Sarah said of her speech. “I want to encourage people to be positive about their future.”