Clarkstown Central School District

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  • Students Share D.A.R.E. Reflections in Multiple Ways at West Nyack Elementary

    Posted by Martin Cox at 2/17/2017

    Groups songs, individual reflections, oral reports and a solo rap were among the ways students told their parents what they learned from the D.A.R.E. Program at West Nyack Elementary.

    I had the pleasure to attend the program Thursday morning and listen to the reflections of students as well as adults, including Clarkstown Police Department Officeer Mark Robinson, the D.A.R.E. Program Coordinator. The central theme shared by everyone was the importance of making good decisions and healthy choices.  Music Teacher Brianna Benitez supported the graduation while inserting songs for students to sing in order to share what they learned from the D.A.R.E. lessons.

    Clarkstown Town Supervisor George Hoehmann, West Nyack Elementary Principal Annie Streiff and I all had the opportunity to share our viewpoints with students as well. When speaking the students, I posed the following question: "How do you make good choices?"  I suggested that the answer to the question was based on the habits they develop.  Further, I informed the students that the habits they develop, in part, are determined by the people they surround themselves with, and to be sure to surround yourselves with people who inspire you.

    The West Nyack Elementary D.A.R.E. Graduation was a great partnership between the District, Town and Clarkstown Police Department on behalf of students.











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  • Little Tor Elementary D.A.R.E. Graduation Brings Together School and Community

    Posted by Martin Cox at 2/17/2017

    Wednesday's D.A.R.E. Graduation at Little Tor Elementary was more than a celebration of students.

    A closer look revealed a celebration of a strong partnership between the District, Town of Clarkstown, and the Clarkstown Police Department as well.

    And when combining all three groups, the result was a team effort on behalf of students.

    Leading the charge was Officer Mark Robinson of the Clarkstown Police Department, who looked for the best in students while having them share oral reports about the benefits of the D.A.R.E. program.  Interim Principal Matt Younghans opened the program and welcomed parents, students and community guests, including several members of the Clarkstown Police Department, to the packed Little Tor Elementary Cafetorium.

    Students then took over the rest of the program, not only by hosting the introduction of speakers, but by sharing their reflections as well. Clarkstown Supervisor George Hoehmann was in attendance, and as a guest speaker encouraged students to be inspired while making good choices as did Town Councilman Frank Borelli.

    Congratulations to our graduates, their Fifth Grade teachers, Interim Principal Matt Younghans, Music Teacher Julie Upton and Officer Robinson for a wonderful ceremony!


    DARE Graduation   Little Tor DARE Graduation

    Little Tor DARE Graduation  Little Tor DARE Graduation

    Little Tor DARE Graduation   Little Tor DARE Graduation

    Little Tor DARE Graduation  Little Tor DARE Graduation

    Little Tor DARE Graduation  Little Tor DARE Graduation

    Little Tor DARE Graduation



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  • Creativity Shared at Link's IB Celebration of Student Authors

    Posted by Martin Cox at 2/17/2017

    A captive audience was on hand to listen to creative stories at Link Elementary yesterday.

    As part of the school's 15th Annual International Baccalaureate Celebration of Student Authors, students took turns in the school library reading stories they wrote. Joining the students in the audience were Link Elementary Principal Fran Cuccia, Elementary Curriculum Coordinator Dr. Ellen Connors, Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Jeff Sobel, Supervisor of Pupil Services David Carlson, Board of Education Vice President Tammy Bierker and Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski.

    Mercedes Aglialoro, Link's IB Program Co-Coorindator, opened the program in the library and then introduced students to begin their read alouds. The students wrote and read the following stories:

    *Jason Gough  - Jason Likes Sharks

    *Derek Eng - What Earth Was Like

    *Annelise Hur - Music

    *Andie Kwan - Ready, Set, Go

    *Jake Randt - My First Time Tubing

    *Haasini Teegala - If You Were a Gerbil

    *Tatiana Smart - Not Young, Not Ever Again

    *Elena Mendiola - A Fearless Day

    *John Oliveri - My Walk Off Double

    *Kaitlyn Rose - Ice Skating

    *Zachary Casstellano - Blue Whales

    *Veronica Leone - The American Flag

    In addition to their outstanding reading and oral language skills, the students did a tremendous job answering questions from the audience following each story.


    Link Authors  Link Authors

    Link Authors  Link Authors

    Link Authors  Link Authors


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  • Guest Readers Aplenty at West Nyack Elementary

    Posted by Martin Cox at 2/17/2017

    Guest Readers were coming and going this morning at West Nyack Elementary.

    As part of the Rockland Read-In program, District Administrators and local leaders made their way to the school to read stories aloud in various classrooms. During the short time I was present from 9-9:30 a.m., District administrators were making visits as well. A glance of the Sign-in Guest Book at the front entrance revealed that Jeff Sobel, Assistant Superintendent for Personnel, and Dr. Ellen Connors, Elementary Curriculum Coordinator, were also in classrooms reading to students at the same time.

    On my way out the door, Michelle Zernone, K-12 ELA/Social Studies Curriculum Coordinator was coming up the sidewalk.

    And moments later, so was Clarkstown Town Supervisor George Hoehmann.

    Ms. Zernone was planning to read Fox by author Margaret Wild.

    Mr. Hoehmann, meanwhile, was entering the school to read the story titled Take Heart, My Child - A Mother's Dream by authors Ainsley Earhardt and Kathryn Cristaldi, a book that he was donating to the school when finished with his visit.

    The large number of guest readers is still another positive example of the District and the school community partnering together on behalf of students.

    I read the story titled Pauli Pastrami Achieves World Peace by author James Proimos to students in Kimberly Campisi's Third Grade classroom. The students were a very attentive and participatory audience. During and after the story, we agreed that the main character, Pauli Pastrami, was a person who tried to achieve his goal of World Peace by being a good listener and observer in order to help others. Further, we agreed that students and adults can always be good listeners and observers, as well, while trying to be kind to everyone.


    WNE Read-In  WNE Read-In


    WNE Read-In  WNE Read-In

    WNE Read-In

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  • Sharing the Story of Stellaluna at Lakewood Elementary

    Posted by Martin Cox at 2/17/2017

    The story of Stellaluna included a lesson for students at Lakewood Elementary today.

    As a guest reader at Pam Farsetta's First Grade classroom, I had the opportunity to read the book written by Janell Cannon as part of the school's Relax and Read Day this afternoon. The setting of the story is in Africa where a baby fruitbat named Stellaluna was knocked from her mother's embrace by an owl. Stellaluna the bat then lands in a nest of baby birds named Pip, Flitter and Flap.  The mother bird allows Stellaluna to stay in the nest as long as she eats bugs, does not hang by her feet and sleeps at night, three characteristics not consistent with those of a bat.

    As the story progresses, Stellaluna eventually is reunited with her mother who is somewhat surprised that Stellaluna has taken on the characteristics of a bird instead of a fruitbat. In the end, Stellaluna reverses her ways and behaves in a manner consistent with the rest of the fruitbats.  At the same time, however, she still remains friends with the three baby birds despite their different interests and behaviors.

    Ms. Farsetta's captive classroom audience had numerous comments and questions before, during and after the story. 

    We agreed, in the end, that just like Stellaluna was friends with the birds despite having opposite interests and characteristics, students can also be friends with all of their classmates even if they do not share exactly the same interests.


    Relax and Read at Lakewood  Relax and Read at Lakewood


    Relax and Read at Lakewood  Relax and Read at Lakewood

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  • West Point Dean Returns to South to Inspire Students at NHS Induction Ceremony

    Posted by Martin Cox at 2/17/2017

    "Embrace uncertainty. It's a space where you will thrive."

                         -Brigadier General Cindy R. Jebb

                          Dean of Academic Board, U.S. Military Academy, West Point

                          Clarkstown High School South, Class of 1978


    A Clarkstown High School South Class of 1978 graduate returned to her school to inspire students last night.

    Brigadier General Cindy R. Jebb, the first woman from Rockland County to be appointed at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, provided words of wisdom for students during the annual National Honor Society Induction Ceremony.

    I had the honor and privilege of introducing Brigadier General Jebb last night to the audience, first thanking her for service to our country while protecting our nation's freedom on a daily basis. In 2016, Brigadier General Jebb became the first woman to be appointed to the position of Dean of the Academic Board. The Brigadier General is a 1982 Graduate of West Point and also holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from Duke University as well as a Master of Arts degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College. 

    When speaking to our students, 99 NHS inductees and more than 100 current NHS members, Brigadier General Jebb stated, "In the Army, we encourage people to take risks. Be confident, have humility, and seek new knowledge."

    The Clarkstown High School South graduate stated 10 points of emphasis for students to consider while pursuing success in their lives:

    1) "Read!"

    2) "Continue to write, rewrite, and write again."

    3) "Think how you want to contribute."

    4) "Continue to strengthen your character."

    5) "Stay in contact with teachers and friends after you graduate."

    6) "Have a sense of humor."

    7) "Make time to think about strategy."

    8) "Take time to relax."

    9) "Focus on being well rounded."

    10) "Take advantage of every opportunity."

    The ceremony opened with welcoming remarks from South Principal Deb Tarantino who introduced the Troubadours, South students who sang a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem. South senior Frank Sapienza, President of the school's NHS Chapter, offered inspiring opening remarks that led to the reading of the NHS Four Pillars by his classmates: David Walters (Scholarship), Peter Zollinger (Service), Sharon Tang (Leadership) and Nicole Rung (Character).

    South's NHS Advisor, Mr. James Russell, led the Tapping Ceremony when students were introduced as new NHS members.

    Principal Deb Tarantino, Assistant Principals Julie Dahl and Kevin Horan, Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Jeff Sobel, Board President Michael Aglialoro and Vice President Tammy Bierker were on stage for the ceremony.

    While introducing Brigadier General Cindy Jebb, I also took the opportunity to inform her and the audience that a current NHS member, senior Ben Lockey, was recently nominated to attend West Point. 

    Congratulations to our current and new NHS students, and special thanks to Brigadier General Jebb for returning to her high school while inspiring members of the school community with her motivational speech.


    South NHS  South NHS

    South NHS  South NHS

    South NHS  South NHS

    South NHS  South NHS

    South NHS



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  • Happy Valentine's Day!

    Posted by Martin Cox at 2/14/2017

    Valentine's Day celebrations are underway throughout the Clarkstown Central School District.

    Kindergarten students at Laurel Plains Elementary celebrated at the start of the day by singing Valentine's Day songs for their parents at 8:45 a.m. this morning at the school's traditional Valentine's Day Musical.  The event was held in front of a packed crowd at the school's cafetorium.

    Under the direction of Music Teacher, Cara Royal, the Kindergarten students received great applause from the crowd for their entertaining songs and Valentine's Day costumes.  Carol Pilla, Laurel Plains Elementary Principal, Susan Yom, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, Jeff Sobel, Assistant Superintendent for Personnel, Dr. Ellen Connors, Elementary Curriculum Coordinator, and Tammy Bierker, Board of Education Vice President, were in attendance for the musical.

    Happy Valentine's Day to all members of the Clarkstown school community!


    LP Valentine's Day  LP Valentine's Day

    LP Valentine's Day  LP Valentine's Day

    LP Valentine's Day  LP Valentine's Day

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  • District Office Administrators Discuss Concept of Coherence

    Posted by Martin Cox at 2/12/2017

    Professional Development is a common thread at Chestnut Grove District Office Administrative Meetings.

    And the common form of research lately has been the work of educational author and researcher Michael Fullan.  In addition to doing a year-long book study of Fullan's publication of Indelible Leadership (2017), our Chestnut Grove Administrative Team is also branching into another concept taught by Fullan through his book titled Coherence (2016).

    Coherence (2016), according to Fullan, "Consists of the shared depth of understanding about the purpose and nature of the work."  Further, the author stated, "Coherence, then, is what is in the minds and actions of people individually and especially collectively."

    What does the concept of Coherence, you might ask, have to do with the work of administrators and all other stakeholders in the District?

    Simply stated,  Coherence has everything to do with our work in the District, individually, and collectively.

    Fullan (2016) stated, "There is only one way to achieve greater coherence, and this is through purposeful action and interaction, working on capacity, clarity, precision of practice, transparency, monitoring of progress, and continuous correction."

    The professional development I inserted within our February 1 Chestnut Grove Administrative meeting on Coherence (2016) related to Fullan's Coherence concept of Shifting Practice. Spefically, his Shifting Practice concept is best taught through the author's "Fish Bowl" visual that includes two bowls, one that is crowded with fish and titled "Familiar" while the other bowl is less crowded with fish and titled "Unknown."

    In the "Familiar" bowl, Fullan stated, "The current rewards are understood, and they (the occupants of the bowl) know how to survive."

    By comparison, however, the "Unknown" bowl, according to Fullan, has multiple factors for fish (or school stakeholders) to consider such as the following:"


    **"The expectations of the kind of leaping and swimming required in the new bowl are unclear."

    **"Collaboration is not yet established, so they (the fish) have few friends or colleagues and the support structures are unknown."

    **"Rewards are distant and often lack specificity while the dangers of leaping are in the present."

    During our professional development session on February 1, administrators at Chestnut Grove reacted to Fullan's work and then made real-life connections about their leadership while shifting practice from the "Familar" fish bowl to the "Unknown" fish bowl.

    I believe Fullan's work on Coherence is directly related to the success of the District's current Strategic Goal Setting process led by Susan Yom, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction.

    Most recently, stakeholders within the Clarkstown school community shared insight, a total of more than 2,400 responses via survey, about their reactions and ideas pertaining to the current District Goals.  Moving forward, stakholders will soon learn about the opportunity to come together to revise the goals in order to provide a direction for our District on behalf of students.  As our Strategic Goal Setting process continues, I am certain we will need to subscribe to Fullan's theory of Coherence when engaging in "Purposeful action and interaction, working on capacity, clarity, precision of practice, transparency, monitoring of progress, and continuous correction" as one of several methodologies that will guide our success collectively.

    And as we provide coherence for each other, I embrace the opportunity to "swim" with Clarkstown school community stakeholders when we shift bowls from the familiar to the unknown while making visionary decisions that are in the best interest of our students.





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  • North NHS Induction Ceremony Includes a Focus on Passion

    Posted by Martin Cox at 2/9/2017

    The Four Pillars of the National Honor Society are Scholarship, Leadership, Community Service and Character.

    Karen Czajkowski, English Teacher at Clarkstown High School North, suggests that the list grow to five.

    "I propose that we add Passion," said Ms. Czajkowski, the Guest Speaker during last night's NHS Induction Ceremony at Clarkstown High School North. "These kids are my passion. These are the young people who have taught me."

    Ms. Czajkowski, who is also the Chair of the English Department at North, provided the groundwork for her messsage about Passion at the beginning stages of her speech when she talked about the importance for students and adults to have special interests. "Find a hobby that inspires you," she said. "Something that you are passionate about.  Whether it is poetry, writing, cooking or running: no matter the hobby, it should bring you joy!"

    Her inspiring speech included insight about her own interest in art, and how this personal hobby has invaded her classroom and is shared with her students.

    The NHS Induction Ceremony last night was underway when 87 new NHS students entered the North auditorium holding candles while Pianist Dan Murray performed Canon in D Major during the Processional. Next, Sydney Dranow and Jadyn Koss led the audience with the Pledge of Allegiance followed by a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem sung by Gabi Dwyer.

    Senior Gianna Policastro, Co-President of the North Chapter of the NHS along with Skye Maisel, opened the program with inspiring reflections about being a member and leader of the NHS.  Officers Tenna Thomas (Scholarship), Zack Kraushaar (Leadership), Sarah Varghese (Service), and Mia Belovsky (Character) followed with insight about the Four Pillars of the NHS.

    Officers Brian Huang and Matthew Jaynes took turns introducing the 87 students for the Tapping Ceremony which was folllowed by an Acceptance of Inductees Speech from North Principal Dr. Harry Leonardatos. During his Acceptance Speech, Dr. Leonardatos reflected on his own experience as a NHS President while in high school and referenced a historical fact pertaining to the NHS banner behind him that read "Clarkstown High School" as opposed to "Clarkstown High School North."  Dr. Leonardatos pointed out the fact that North is preserving the tradition of the original school name by having the banner on display at the ceremony out of respect to the school and the alumni.

    Ashley Cohen provided the Induction Pledge that was repeated by the 87 inductees. Skye Maisel, Co-President of the NHS, gave the closing remarks to the ceremony that was also attended by North Assistant Principals Angie Watt, Amy Pages and Mary Patella, North NHS Advisors Ann-Marie Sevastian and Patricia Fischer, Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Jeff Sobel, and Board of Education Members Tammy Bierker and Walter Litvak. 

    In addition to her powerful theme about Passion, I was also inspired by Guest Speaker Karen Czajkowski's comments to students at the close of her speech, a message that students, as well as adults, should adhere to: "Play big and don't settle. The possibilities are endless!"


    North NHS  North NHS

    North NHS  North NHS

    North NHS  North NHS

    North NHS  North NHS

    North NHS  North NHS

    North NHS  North NHS

    North NHS  North NHS

    North NHS  North NHS

    North NHS


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  • Students Engaged in Columbia University Teachers' College Writing Process

    Posted by Martin Cox at 2/8/2017

    Embedded professional development was on display at New City Elementary last Friday.

    As a Project School with the Columbia University Teachers' College Writing program, field trainer Taryn Vanderberg made professional development come alive with students, teachers and administrators. Ms. Vanderberg took the lead role in the First Grade homeroom of Ms. Karen Teitel and taught a writer's workshop to the students while Ms. Teitel followed the lead of the trainer.  Principal Deb Forman and Special Education Teacher Michelle Aiello were also in the classroom to participate and support the lesson.

    Ms. Vanderberg's lesson focused on Opinion Writing and students used artifacts as story starters while writing their ideas about something special in their lives.  Below are the sequential steps utilized by Ms. Vanderberg during the lesson.

    **Mini Lesson

    **Small Group

    **Mid Workshop Teaching

    **Small Group


    I was impressed with the way students were immersed and engaged in the Opinion Writing assignment during my visit. Ms Vanderberg will come back to the classroom again in March to teach another lesson while also reviewing and reinforcing the aforementioned writing steps.


    TC Writing  TC Writing

    TC Writing  TC Writing

    TC Writing  TC Writing


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