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Superintendent's Thanksgiving Message

Dear Clarkstown School Community Members:

One of the Thanksgiving traditions in our District is the Bardonia Elementary Turkey Trot, an event that is symbolic of the season of giving and expressing thanks.

The race is directed by Bardonia Elementary Fifth Grade Teacher Alice O’Hara, and this morning’s edition on the school playground was the 6th annual running of this wonderful event. I would like to share my reflections of the Turkey Trot while making connections to the race for the purpose of spreading holiday thanks throughout our District. 

Prior to the Fifth Grade students coming outside to the starting line today, a large group of South High School Track and Cross Country runners were in the school leading stretching exercises in the Fifth Grade homerooms. The idea of having South runners assist the younger students began with former longtime track and cross country coach Ray Kondracki, who retired last June. The tradition of older students giving encouragement and support to younger students continued today through the leadership of South Coaches Pete Modafferi and Maureen McNamara.

The stretching exercises in the Fifth Grade homerooms led by the South runners now completed, the Fifth Graders exited the rear of the building behind a group of drummers and other percussionists led by Music Teacher Jonathon Ross.

On a beautiful autumn morning with sunshine and blue skies, a large throng of teachers, staff, parents and students in grades K-4 awaited the runners at the starting line. Ms. O’Hara gave a welcoming speech and directions for the race course followed by a wonderful rendition of the National Anthem sung by First Grade Teacher Allison Boyer. 

And then they were off!  

First, the Fifth Grade boys, and then shortly thereafter the Fifth Grade girls.  Run three laps around the course and grab a popsicle stick each time after a lap were the directions to follow.  After you were handed a popsicle stick following your third lap, one more trip around the course remained before crossing the finish line. Most students took off sprinting at the sound of the horn, and as the race unfolded they eventually spread out across the course while finding their pace. I joined the students on the course, taking in the entire scene along the way: Fifth Grade runners cheered by the audience, inspired by signs held by students, and uplifted by motivating music blaring through the loudspeakers.

One by one they crossed the finish line. Sofia Caraballo was the girls winner and Aidan Bigelow was the boys winner. Today, however, winning was putting your foot on the starting line, competing, cheering, assisting, guiding, motivating. And when the race course had cleared, one runner was still on the course with nearly a full lap remaining. South runner John Walters, Bardonia Student Assistance Counselor Michelle Hughes and I stayed with him as he walked, ran, walked, and ran again. Suddenly, while back among the pack of the crowd, with still another segment of the race course to complete, his classmates took notice of the lone runner on the course. In an instant, the Fifth Grade students departed from the crowd gathered at the finish line, and like a sea of humanity, they ran back onto the race course and joined their classmate. Now surrounded by students, and the finish line straight ahead, he burst into a kick, sprinting to the finish with classmates cheering him while running at his side.

I was emotionally touched, and impressed by this act of generosity, sportsmanship and kindness among the Fifth Grade Bardonia Elementary students.  They saw a classmate, alone on the race course, and left their place in the crowd to give him the moral support he needed at the right time.

The final lap by this student and his classmates at the Bardonia Elementary Turkey Trot summarizes, in essence, what the teachers, staff, administrators, students and parents do throughout the Clarkstown Central School District.

They give to each other every day!

I am thankful for what everyone does to make the Clarkstown Central School District a great place to learn and grow.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Martin D. Cox
Superintendent of Schools

BD Turkey Trot