News Around The District
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.”
Science on the goPosted by Alicia Smith on 10/30/2018 9:50:00 AM
The wheels on the bus go round and round, and what people may not realize is sometimes the microscopes do too.
At least that is the case with the BioBus, a converted bus that now serves as a mobile science lab. The lab travels to students, and on Oct. 26 it returned to Grady Elementary School, having also visited last year.
“Thank you for coming back,” Principal Douglas Doller said to bus staff when he stepped out of his office to take a peek inside.
“Whoa, this is so cool,” exclaimed one student as he led his class on board.
Students walked into a science lab complete with three microscopes and screens above them so they could get an even better look at what they were seeing when they peered into the scopes. The back of the bus served as more of an educational setting where students could sit as they were presented with information.
On this day each sixth-grade class had an opportunity to spend time on the bus. Classes were broken up into two groups. While one group learned about the parts of a cell, the other group was busy at the front of the bus peering into microscopes to get a closer look at Daphnia, a small planktonic crustacean, commonly called a “water flea.”
Volunteers from Tarrytown-based Regeneron Pharmaceuticals helped students use the microscopes and answered questions.
“Almost every scientist who studies cells uses a fluorescent microscope,” said Dr. Ben Dubin-Thaler, founder and executive director of BioBus. He went on to demonstrate how a fluorescent microscope works, offering the user a unique view of cells. The microscope uses different colored lighting to highlight the many parts of a cell. Students saw a green cell enlarged on a screen before Dr. Dubin-Thaler switched colors, turning the cell red. He had taken a picture of both images and, using a computer, superimposed one on top of the other, enabling students to see the entire cell in green, and its nucleus in red.
“The red is DNA,” Dr. Dubin-Thaler said.
“That was a moving thing,” said one student when suddenly something wiggled across the large screen attached to the microscope.
“It looked like the Flash,” added one student, referring to the comic book super hero.
The appropriate science term was offered by another student, “It’s a living cell.”
Dr. Dubin-Thaler was impressed with the students’ observations and reminded them how scientists also use this practice when they do their work.
“It’s why scientists think we are related to a banana,” Dr. Dubin-Thaler said, a fact that caused laughter among the students. “At the cell level,” he noted, much to their relief.
The students’ observational skills were later put to the test when they used the microscopes on their own. As they peered at the Daphnia, they observed such things as dark spots within the crustacean, and hypothesized that they were eggs. Other students noticed it had only one eye. And still others watched as the Daphnia they were looking at was eating by wiggling its legs to create a water current as miniscule things in the water were pushed into its mouth to be filtered.
“It looks like it has a little nose,” observed one student.
“There is something we recognize as familiar, but it is different,” BioBus staff member Rosemary Puckett said when students noticed the creature’s eye and nose.
The BioBus has been visiting schools since 2008, when Dr. Dubin-Thayer developed the concept, believing hands-on science was the best approach for inspiring students to take an interest in the sciences.
Since it first hit the road, the BioBus has visited more than 500 schools and worked with 250,000 students.
AHHS College Fair offers time to think about the futurePosted by Alicia Smith on 10/22/2018 3:05:00 PM
Junior Janisha Brown perhaps expressed what many students in the gym at Alexander Hamilton High School were thinking on the morning of Oct. 18: “It’s a little scary but exciting at the same time,” she said.
Janisha was among numerous teenagers who attended the College Fair, where 40 representatives from colleges and universities in the tri-state area waited to speak with students.
Although she is not exactly sure what she wants to study in college, Janisha said she hopes to study the arts and dance.
Not knowing exactly what she wants to do when she graduates is a normal thought to have for so many juniors and seniors. It is one of the reasons high schools host these types of events. They offer students an opportunity to learn what schools are out there, what they offer in terms of degrees and they can even help eliminate a few options, said AHHS guidance counselor Monica Ahern.
“In the end it’s to start the research,” Ms. Ahern said.
“A college fair,” she continued, “helps students learn which schools offer their preferred major and perhaps help a student consider a school further away from home.”
Jordine Gabeau, a junior; is still undecided. However, she said she wanted to attend the fair to learn more about her options.
Juan Fiernadez, a fellow junior, was specifically interested in the University of Hartford, located in Central Connecticut, because the university has an architecture, design and technology major that piqued his interest.
“I’m excited about my future,” Juan said.
The fair was also an opportunity for representatives to meet prospective students and learn more about what fields students are interested in pursuing.
“These fairs offer an insider’s perspective on the college,” said Katie Boateng, university admissions counselor at New Jersey’s Farleigh Dickinson University.
Although students can find a tremendous amount of information about colleges and universities online, it is important to speak with a representative who can answer questions.
“It’s nice to talk with someone, know their name and see their face,” Ms. Boateng said. “We give them contact information, so that they can reach out to us later.”
Parents learn of hidden dangers in ordinary itemsPosted by Alicia Smith on 10/18/2018 1:35:00 PM
The make-shift bedroom where “Jaime” was hanging out looked like a typical teenager’s room with clothes on the floor, empty soda cans around and shelves cluttered with items.
What was unusual in this scenario was the number of adults who were going through the backpack on the floor and rummaging through the shelves full of the teen’s belongings. No one was interested in whether “Jaime,” who was laying on the bed, got any rest. There were more important things going on.
“It’s scary,” parent Denise Labrusciano said.
Ms. Labrusciano’s fear arose from the information that had been shared through a special program at Alexander Hamilton High School on Oct. 16.
Judith Mezey presented “Hidden in Plain Sight,” highlighting the numerous household items that can be easily manipulated into objects to hide drugs or alcohol, or to prepare an illegal substance. Parents got an inside look at some of the seemingly innocuous dangers in their home and what to look for when it comes to keeping their child substance free. Parents were invited to look for these items in “Jaime’s” bedroom to see if they could discover some of the hidden dangers.
“Now I get it,” Ms. Labrusciano, whose eighth-grade daughter attends the school, said following the adults-only presentation.
“Jaime,” said Ms. Mezey, Director of Community Based Programs, was “a very good young person but is making some questionable decisions.”
Although the headlines are filled with bad news regarding opioid addiction, Ms. Mezey noted that alcohol remains the No. 1 substance abused by teens in Westchester.
“I don’t want people taking their eye off the alcohol issue,” she said.
To that end, Ms. Mezey held up a tall can one might mistake for an AriZona iced tea, which is why the packaging purposefully looks the way it does. Rather, it is Four Loko, a flavored alcoholic beverage which has the equivalent amount of alcohol as five beers.
“They are drinking to get as drunk as possible,” Ms. Mezey said.
Excessive drinking is dangerous and can lead to death, and “smaller tragedies,” such as becoming intimate with someone while under the influence, Ms. Mezey said.
Teens, she said, can hide alcohol in water bottles, and mix it with Gatorade or another beverage. They can purchase items online that can be used as a flask, things such as a hairbrush, tube of lotion and a feminine hygiene product.
Then there is vaping, a habit recently being adopted by more teens in which vapor is inhaled through a battery-operated device.
Commonly referred to as e-cigarettes, the vaping devices come in a variety of sizes and styles and some can be quite discrete.
E-cigarettes first became popular among adults who were trying to quit smoking tobacco cigarettes.
The devices are filled with e-juice, which can contain nicotine although there are nicotine-free varieties available. They can look just like a pen and can include the same amount of nicotine in a pack of cigarettes, Ms. Mezey said.
Ms. Mezey introduced parents to Juul, a vaping device she referred to as “the Rolls Royce.” The Juul looks like a large pen drive for a computer and comes in many flavors.
When asked why vaping has become so popular, Ms. Mezey said, it is, in part, due to the false sense that the activity is safer than smoking cigarettes, teens enjoy the flavors and the coolness factor.
Some teens may argue if they use the nicotine-free varieties their health will not be at risk or they say they are just inhaling water vapor.
Regardless, inhaling any substance into your lungs is not a good idea, Ms. Mezey said, adding that an e-cigarette user is five to 15 more times likely to develop a formaldehyde-related cancer compared to a regular cigarette smoker. In addition, vape pens contain Diacetyl, which has been linked to a form of cancer called “popcorn lung.”
“Teen vapers are twice as likely to have chronic bronchitis as were kids who never vaped,” Ms. Mezey said.
Moving on to other substances, Ms. Mezey stressed how today’s marijuana is not like what teens were using years ago. In the 1980s, she said, the amount of THC, the substance in marijuana that creates the high users seek, was 3 percent. Today, it measures 20 percent. When marijuana is broken down into a wax-like substance, the amount of THC becomes more concentrated, up to 90 percent.
“It’s a totally different stratosphere,” Ms. Mezey said. “It’s not even the same drug.”
Marijuana has several names that all mean the same thing. It can be referred to as trees, chronic, skunk, bio/hydro, 4/20 and purple haze, to name a few.
Users have also expanded the way they ingest the drug, including using it in vaping devices. The Juul device sells flavored pods, including one with THC oil. Some teens just go straight for the oil, to get more THC, and can find it on websites such as spacevape.com.
Parents should be on the lookout too for the Vapen Clear, a device that looks extremely similar to an asthma inhaler, but is used to inhale marijuana.
There might be small devices teens have around used to grind up the marijuana leaf. Ms. Mezey held up a round item a bit larger than a golf ball. It was made to look like the Death Star from Star Wars. When opened, it was actually a grinder. This was just one of many examples of paraphernalia disguised as innocuous items.
Edibles have become popular in states where recreational marijuana use has become legal and refers to when marijuana is baked into items that can be ingested, such as cookies, brownies or gummy bears. Teens may enjoy what they perceive as a sweet treat without realizing what they are ingesting.
Ms. Mezey shared how one pediatric association concluded that marijuana is addicting and can have a negative impact on a teen’s brain and cause cardio-respiratory disease and testicular cancer.
While alcohol, vaping and marijuana are certainly cause for concern, Ms. Mezey reminded those in attendance of the hidden dangers in an ordinary medicine cabinet — prescription drugs.
These range from anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax to opioids, including Vicodin.
“These are really dangerous drugs,” Ms. Mezey said.
While these strong medications can be prescribed for valid reasons, Ms. Mezey suggested parents consider asking their child’s physician to prescribe a non-opioid pain reliever.
The dangers of these drugs are they can cause seizures during withdrawal and lead to addiction.
Keeping unused pills around can be a hazard as there are ways for teens to hide these as well. Among the items in “Jaime’s” room, were a can of Barbasol shaving cream, which has the bottom screw off revealing a hidden compartment. An ordinary Altoids tin can also be used. Both can easily hide pills.
Beware of cough syrup, Ms. Mezey said. The over the counter medication often contains Dextromethorphan, or DXM, which is a semi-synthetic opioid.
There are also hidden dangers in cleaning supplies. Dust-Off, for example, is a propellent cleaner used to clean computer keyboards among other things. It contains several toxic chemicals. Teens will spray the substance into a plastic sandwich bag and inhale.
All of this information was enough to make parents worried.
“You scared the bejesus out of us,” commented one parent.
Collis Johnson, a parent of a Grady Elementary School student, said he came by the program to learn the latest.
“I just wanted to see what kind of new tricks kids are trying to get by their parents,” he said. “It’s good to see as things come along they are staying ahead of them.”
Ms. Mezey assured parents they are not helpless.
“The best thing you can do is listen to their music, watch the television shows they do and talk about it,” she stressed.
“Even if they roll their eyes or slam the door, they are hearing you,” Ms. Mezey assured.
For more information parents can visit www.PowerToTheParent.org.
Elmsford schools, village continue work to prevent bullyingPosted by Alicia Smith on 10/15/2018 10:40:00 AM
The old adage “it takes a village” is being lived each day throughout the Elmsford Union Free School District and the Elmsford village. The two entities have joined together, along with representatives from Our Lady of Mount Carmel School, for an on-going anti-bullying campaign.
The Elmsford Board of Education and village leaders held a joint meeting on Oct. 3 to once again pledge their commitment to bullying prevention.
“The purpose of anti-bullying month is to raise awareness of bullying in our communities,” Mayor Robert Williams said at the joint meeting.
The mayor read a proclamation declaring October as Anti-Bullying Month in the Village of Elmsford. During the reading of the proclamation, the mayor cited a statistic acknowledging how 160,000 school children in the country refuse to go to school or attend a community event “because they dread the physical and verbal aggression of their peers.” He added that even more students “attend school in a chronic state of anxiety.”
The joint meeting has been a part of the district’s anti-bullying initiative for four years, Elmsford Superintendent Dr. Marc Baiocco said. Students throughout the district are taught four basic premises, including to not bully others, reach out to a student they see being bullied, include all students so no one is left out, and alert a teacher if they are aware of bullying taking place.
“We expand it much further beyond that,” Dr. Baiocco said.
The district also uses the principles explored in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, a book written by author and businessman Stephen Covey. It discusses how to put “emotional deposits” in other people’s bank accounts, which can go a long way in creating a bully-free environment.
“We’re teaching them the tenants of being a good friend,” Dr. Baiocco said.
In addition, the district hosts six leadership programs throughout the year, each one focusing on one of the seven habits noted in the book.
The district began the school year with a new program called Start with Hello. It is one of the many initiatives created by the Sandy Hook Promise, a non-profit organization founded by family members of victims of the December 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.
According to its website, Start with Hello “enables students to make a difference with their peers in a simple, fun, and impactful way by encouraging them to take small but powerful actions to promote connectedness and inclusion.”
Efforts to encourage a more inclusive environment have worked, according to Dr. Baiocco who has witnessed noticeable changes in his schools.
“It’s becoming imprinted in the fabric of the school,” he said. “It’s constantly up front and personal with the kids. I notice the teachers are doing more with that too, including more teachable moments.”
“We believe our program is very successful because we really get the word out to the whole community,” the mayor said.
Posters relating to the campaign are put up in schools and the Village Hall, and flyers relating to the campaign are mailed to residents and businesses.
“We promote it as a joint effort. That sends a good message to the whole community,” Mayor Williams said.
Working with others beyond the schools has been beneficial as well.
Dr. Baiocco said the village and schools enjoyed a summer movie night just before students headed back to school, which is another joint effort that brings the community together.
“The stronger the community the more likely to eradicate bullying in students,” Dr. Baiocco said. “It’s so we don’t see each other as different, we see each other as part of an extended family.”
The schools also helped the village promote the annual Elmsford Day on Oct. 6, which attracted more than 1,000 participants this year.
Dr. Baiocco explained that each of the programs are coordinated in conjunction with the PTSA and Student Assistant Services.
Seniors raise funds with annual car washPosted by Brian Howard on 9/18/2018
Nearly three dozen Alexander Hamilton High School seniors turned out Sunday, Sept. 16, to wash cars on a bright late-summer day, raising money to support class events and activities throughout the school year.
Some 140 cars were washed at the Elmsford Firehouse on Route 119. The annual fundraiser took in about $1,600 from generous car owners who stopped in to support the popular effort.
The funds will support various senior class expenses, including prom, yearbook, spirit wear and the Florida trip.
“This was a truly great job by our seniors, who worked hard and are probably a little sore after washing so many cars!” senior coordinator Laurie Abbate said. “We thank the Elmsford Fire Department for always allowing us to host this event, and we thank Mayor Robert Williams for his support and great advertising for the class.”