Save the date: RTA Blood Drive is Jan. 28

posted Jan 22, 2015, 6:56 AM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Jan 28, 2015, 10:11 AM by Ramapo Central ]

[January 22, 2015] Once again, the Ramapo Central teachers are partnering with the New York Blood Center to provide lifesaving blood and blood products for our neighbors in need. 

The 44th RTA Annual Blood Drive will be held on Wednesday, January 28 from 11:30am-5:30pm at the Ramapo Central School District Administrative Offices, 45 Mountain Road, Hillburn.

NYBC reports that there is a critical need for donations during the winter months. A single blood donation can save up to three lives.

Members of the Ramapo Central community are encouraged to participate. For information on who may give blood, please click here to check the New York Blood Center’s eligibility page.

Walk-ins are welcome; no appointment is required. However, if you wish to schedule an appointment, please email blood drive coordinator Christine D’Antonio-Krebs.

Donors must present identification with photo or signature and should arrive well-hydrated and with a full stomach.

Plan to donate? Please consider spreading the word on social media to challenge friends and family to join you. Check out New York Blood Center’s recently-launched #blood4What campaign on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for inspiration.

Ramapo Central graduates first Model School cohorts

posted Jan 22, 2015, 6:37 AM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Jan 22, 2015, 6:38 AM ]

[January 22, 2015] This fall, 18 Ramapo Central teachers volunteered to participate in a Model Schools Core Plus cohort, a program designed to help teachers leverage instructional technology to enhance student engagement and achievement.

“It’s a very light footprint in terms of formal instruction—actually less than a full-day workshop,” noted Model Schools coach Leslie Accardo.

Since October, an elementary cohort composed of 10 teachers from RP Connor Elementary School and Sloatsburg Elementary School has set individual goals, created and tested tech-integrated lessons using Google Apps for Education—Google Drive, Google Classroom, Apps Play Store and Google Hangout—and exchanged ideas with their Model Schools peers. Eight Suffern Middle School teachers undertook the same challenge, in a separate cohort. All were provided with Chromebooks for their work.

Participants report that it was a powerful process.

“Having the opportunity to do the work over time with Google Apps and the Chromebooks, we really had time to think about what we were trying to do,” reflected RP Connor special education teacher Barbara Brain. “It slowly became part of our being.”

“It was empowering to have training tuned in to how I want to grow professionally,” said Sloatsburg fifth-grade teacher Brad Sahlstrom.

RP Connor art teacher Steve Pashley tried a number of different tech-integrated assignments with his students, from reviewing a work of art to sharing digital artwork.

“At first, I thought this was more for middle school. But I tried 18 different things to do with art and found that it’s a great tool,” he said. “The kids jump all over it.”

While January marks the completion of the first two cohorts, their work will continue. Participants plan to keep their Google+ communities going, explore new ways to leverage technology in their classrooms and to share what they’ve learned with colleagues.

A Suffern High School Model Schools cohort is slated for launch this spring.

“When you look pedagogically at what you can accomplish with your students through technology, you realize that you should buy in,” said RP Connor third-grade teacher David Grammerstorf, a Model Schools participant.

Providing differentiated, job-embedded support helped teachers with varying levels of tech experience become more adept (and creative) in terms of integrating technology into their instruction. 

“Our involvement with this LHRIC (Lower Hudson Regional Information Center) service was made possible through the efforts of Dawn Bean, chairperson of the District’s Tech Professional Development committee and Instructional Facilitator at RP Connor, who immediately saw the potential in this model,” explained Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Lisa Weber. “Because each teacher’s professional growth and application of the technology is unique, the overall benefit to the District is amplified as these experiences are shared with colleagues and other students.”

Photo caption: RP Connor art teacher Steve Pashley demos a slideshow of student artwork and comments created with Google Apps for Education tools.

Sloatsburg hosts swearing-in of NYS Assemblyman Brabenec

posted Jan 21, 2015, 12:23 PM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Jan 21, 2015, 12:24 PM ]

[January 21, 2015] Sloatsburg Elementary students got a front-row glimpse of government in action as witnesses of the ceremonial swearing-in of New York State Assemblyman Karl Brabenec in their school gymnasium on January 16.

Third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students attended the brief ceremony, along with a number of local government leaders. Sloatsburg Village Clerk and Ramapo Central Board of Education member Thomas Bollatto, Jr. administered the oath of office; Mayor Carl Wright held the Bible.

Principal Joseph Lloyd explained to students that in his new role representing the 98th District, Assemblyman Brabenec will work at the state level as “a critical thinker and problem solver for many Rockland and Orange County citizens.”

For his part, Assemblyman Brabenec reflected on his experience and offered students advice.

“When I was Town Supervisor of Deerpark, lots of people came to me asking for help. Most of the time, there was something I can do—you always have to make the effort. Be friendly, be positive and do your best to help your neighbors and you will be successful,” he said. “Thank you for sharing this special moment with me.”

Photo caption: New York State Assemblyman Karl Brabenec takes his oath of office before an audience of Sloatsburg Elementary students on January 16.

SMS battles bullying with kindness

posted Jan 21, 2015, 12:15 PM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Jan 21, 2015, 12:15 PM ]

[January 21, 2015] 
Bullying prevention gets a lot of attention at Suffern Middle School. Throughout the year, assemblies, monthly homeroom meetings and clubs work together to reinforce a “bully-free” environment and promote compassion.

On January 16, homerooms building-wide spent 30 minutes focused on tailored, grade-level lessons developed by the school’s Olweus team. Eighth-graders focused on setting and respecting boundaries in their relationships and reflected on how their behavior “sets the tone” for others. Seventh-grade students worked to distinguish between joking and bullying, and the importance for taking responsibility for hurtful behavior. Sixth-graders explored the devastating impact of bullying and tried to understand the bully and empathize with the target.  

“We have these meetings every month,” noted Katie, a sixth-grader in teacher Jennie Narciso’s class. “They’re helpful because you see what can happen because of bullying; I think it makes people think about their behavior.”

As part of the January lesson, a number of classes also worked to create paper chains comprised of individual links representing acts of kindness students had witnessed or performed over the last few weeks. Segments will be joined to create a single “chain of kindness” for unveiling at a culminating Olweus event at the end of the school year. 

The project was a tie-in with the work of the Kindness Crusaders.

“We focus on encouraging positive behavior, promoting kindness, happiness and empathy,” said English teacher, literacy specialist and club advisor Nicole Tarife. “I follow Rachel’s Challenge on Twitter and the paper chain idea came from there. It is a physical representation of how our actions affect each other and it helps to give students a concrete image as they reflect on their own behavior. My hope is that by the end of the year, our paper chains of kindness stretch across the entire stage or even the entire football field! Imagine a middle school that has contributed to that many kind acts; what a wonderful learning environment that could be!”

Photo caption: Links representing acts of kindness were created by students during the January 16 Olweus homeroom meetings at Suffern Middle School. Ultimately, they will be joined to create a single “chain of kindness” and displayed in the building.

Kindergarten pre-registration is underway

posted Jan 19, 2015, 5:16 AM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Jan 19, 2015, 5:16 AM ]

[January 19, 2015] Kindergarten pre-registration has begun for the 2015-16 school year. Children must be five years of age on or before December 1, 2015 to enroll.

Parents of incoming kindergarteners are urged to contact their home elementary school to begin the pre-registration process. Once they have pre-registered with their home elementary school, parents will be assigned a specific time to report for registration and screening with their kindergarteners-to-be. 

Cherry Lane Elementary School: To pre-register, call (845) 357-3988. Parent orientation for incoming kindergarteners will be held on April 16 at 7pm. Registration and screening dates are May 4 & 6.

Montebello Elementary School: To pre-register, call (845) 357-4466. Registration and screening dates are May 5-7.

R.P. Connor Elementary School: To pre-register, call (845) 357-2858. Parent orientation for incoming kindergarteners will be held on May 4 at 7pm. Appointments for screening and registration will be scheduled for May 11-15.

Sloatsburg Elementary School: To pre-register, call (845) 753-2720. Registration and screening dates are May 5 & 7.

Viola Elementary School: To pre-register, call (845) 357-8315. Registration and screening dates are March 25, 26 and, if needed, 27.

Unsure where to register? Call (845) 357-7783 to confirm your home school information.

Ramapo Central rates 32nd in New York State

posted Jan 19, 2015, 5:01 AM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Jan 19, 2015, 2:20 PM ]

[January 19, 2015] According to the 2015 Niche Rankings of the Best Public Schools in America, Ramapo Central made the grade as the top district in Rockland and 32nd in the state for overall experience. Rankings are based on public and government data, the organization’s own proprietary data and surveys of current students, recent alumni and parents.

REACH Foundation funds 15 school initiatives

posted Jan 1, 2015, 6:56 AM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Jan 1, 2015, 6:57 AM ]

[January 1, 2015] 
At the December 16 Ramapo Central Board of Education meeting, the REACH Foundation of Rockland announced more than $8,100 in grants to 15 projects in District schools.

Each year, the Foundation solicits grant proposals from educators, staff and community members for innovative educational programs, which an emphasis on the arts, community service and leadership development. Grants are made possible through the generous support of community members who participate in the organization’s special events, such as the upcoming Dancin’ Machine gala on January 31. For more information, visit the REACH Foundation website. 

Congratulations to the 2014-15 REACH Foundation grantees:

Cherry Lane Elementary School
Project Archive: Dr. Cortney Steffens
To underwrite the purchase of a hovercam to record math and ELA lessons. Videos will be posted online to provide students and parents with a better understanding of how new curriculum is implemented. The goal is to eventually have students create their own video tutorials, to be accessed by others. Grade 3.

Montebello Elementary School
b-calm System: Jennifer Cancro
To underwrite the purchase of headphones that use AudioSedation, a unique blend of sounds designed to mask distracting noises in the classroom or home. The system is not designed as a sensory or audio therapy, but as an “acoustic shield” allowing control of the sound environment for students with learning challenges, such as ADHD or autism. Grades 3-5.

Ride and Learn: Dr. Teresa Ivey
To underwrite the purchase of six pedal exercisers which allow for physical exercise during in-class activities, which can provide positive academic and behavioral benefit for active learners. Grades K-5.

Sensory Modulation: Ellen Stone
To underwrite the purchase of six stools that allow movement while sitting to increase learning for active students. Grades 1-3.

RP Connor Elementary School
Once Upon a Yoga Mat: Gina Pepe
To support a school-wide yoga program through the purchase of 25 mats and an instructional DVD. Grades K-5.

Viola Elementary School
Pedal to Settle: Melanie O’Keefe and Dr. Sandra Block
To underwrite the purchase of six pedal exercisers which allow for physical exercise during in-class activities, which can provide positive academic and behavioral benefit for active learners. Grades K-5.

Viola’s Recycling Team: Lynda Hammond
To support a composting program to teach students the importance of recycling.

Suffern Middle School
Enrichment & Motivation: Melissa Monaco
To underwrite the purchase of a green screen to extend students’ learning by expanding the creative and innovative tasks they can use to complete quarterly enrichment projects. Grade 7.

Fluorescent Light Covers: Beth Boehning
To underwrite the purchase of Skyview panels to cover fluorescent lighting in Boehning’s classroom to soften the sub-visible flicker in an effort to reduce stress, headaches and repetitive behavior in children with autism. Grades 6-8.

Kindness Crusaders: Nicole Tarife
To underwrite the purchase of materials to create videos promoting random acts of kindness throughout the middle schools. Grades 6-8.

Manipulatives in Math: Pat Boswell, Karen Mena, Eileen Finnegan and Alison Clare
To underwrite the purchase of hands-on, 3D math puzzles for students to use abstract reasoning in collaborative groups. Grade 7.

SMS Green Team Garden: Elio Ficarella
To underwrite the purchase of materials to complete the garden project at the middle school, which will be used in conjunction with science curriculum. Grade 6.

The Learning Studio: Peggy Sheehy
To create an EPIC Learning Studio, a creative environment where Every Person Is Counted, which includes adjustable, rolling desks and chairs to support this collaborative, innovative model classroom. Grade 6.

Suffern High School
Writing Workshop with Linda Zimmerman: Dr. Amy MacKenzie
To bring Linda Zimmerman, a published author and local historian, to speak with two sections of Literacy Seminar about conducting research for writing. Students are reading her books and the visits will kickoff a class research project. Grades 9-12.

Multiple schools
Social Skills Stories: Agnes Taub
To underwrite the purchase of an iPad and apps to teach social skills to children with autism spectrum disorder. The apps allow students to write their own online social stories and help create self-awareness and self-management. Grades K-8; Montebello Elementary School and Suffern Middle School.

Code on, Ramapo Central!

posted Dec 22, 2014, 3:58 PM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Dec 22, 2014, 3:59 PM ]

[December 22, 2014] Ramapo Central’s first-ever Family Hour of Code was a tremendous success, drawing more than 50 students and parents to the December 9 event at Suffern Middle School.

The crowd included some experienced programmers, many under the age of 10. Montebello Elementary School first-graders who are wrapping up their first computer science unit as part of a Project Lead the Way pilot spoke about their work with Scratch, Jr., an introductory programming language aimed for children ages 5-7.

“We read a book, Superkids, and then made it come to life in Scratch, Jr.,” James explained to participants.

Third-graders representing each of the elementary schools described projects they’d created with Scratch as part of a computational thinking unit launched District-wide in 2012. 

“I started programming in sixth grade,” said Steve Grosmark, a developer and Suffern High School parent, who also spoke briefly at the event. “It’s really a creative process; you can create a lot of things—art, music—with code.”

Students were particularly impressed by art Grosmark created using code; several paused their own projects to take a look at his source code. His work is currently featured in the Art. Code? exhibit at the Suffern Free Library.

Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Lisa Weber noted that the strong turnout is indicative of a growing interest in computer science across the District.

“In addition to the evening event for families, many of our K–8 classes coded at school during Computer Science Week. Over 2,100 students across the District participated in the Hour of Code, including all classes in RP Connor, Sloatsburg and Montebello and approximately 775 Suffern Middle School students,” she noted. “Successful codes were celebrated throughout the classrooms and computer labs, and comments such as ‘This has to work . . . yes, finally!’ and ‘Woohoo!’ reflected students’ perseverance as the coding challenges became more difficult.” 

Fifth-grade Sloatsburg Elementary Students (along with Instructional Facilitator Andrea Edwards and teacher Deb Miller) were featured in a recent front page story in the Journal News on coding in schools. Read reporter Elizabeth Ganga’s story online here.

“The advantage of learning code is that you’d be a lot happier if you could express yourself and get to create what you like instead of having things already set up for you,” said Rowan, a fifth-grade Sloatsburg Elementary School student.

If your child is curious about programming, there are a number of free resources that families can use at home to encourage and support their children’s interest in coding. Here are just a few:, Hopscotch, Scratch / Scratch, Jr. , Codeacademy, Khan Academy and Mozilla Webmaker.

Related stories:  Got game? SHS boots up programming course

Photo caption: Ramapo Central’s first-ever Family Hour of Code got students, and their families, excited about computer science.

Music everywhere: Winter concert season has begun

posted Dec 22, 2014, 3:40 PM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Dec 22, 2014, 3:45 PM ]

[December 22, 2014] More than 225 musicians kicked off the District’s winter concert season on December 16, with a performance that featured Suffern High School’s Symphony Orchestra, Varsity Choir and Symphonic Band.

Since then, music has been in the air across the Ramapo Central community. The Cherry Lane Bell Choir wowed the crowds at the Suffern Public Library on December 18. The next morning, high school choir members caroled at Suffern Middle School while Symphonic Band members jammed with Viola Elementary musicians to welcome arriving students with song.

Make sure to check the District web calendar for upcoming concert dates in January and February. And, in the meantime, enjoy this holiday treat: an audio clip of the Suffern High School Symphony Orchestra rehearsing Puccini’s Preludio Sinfonico.

Related stories: Musicians win All-State, Area All-State honors

Photo caption1: Suffern Middle School receptionist Gloria Ward (and the entire front office staff) was treated to caroling by high school choir members on December 19.

Photo caption2: SHS band members partnered with Viola musicians to greet arriving Viola Elementary School students with holiday music on December 19.

Photo caption3: On December 18, Cherry Lane Elementary School’s Bell Choir performed at the Suffern Free Library (pictured here) and in the Christmas Spectacular at Lafayette Theater.

SHS makes strong showing at County Speech Tournament

posted Dec 19, 2014, 12:02 PM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Dec 19, 2014, 12:02 PM ]

[December 19, 20140 The Suffern High School Speech Team placed second overall, with five members placing in the top three of their respective events, in the 2014 Rockland County Speech Tournament on November 18. 

“We were up against some great teams,” said senior David Feldfogel, who came in third for Prose Reading. “It was very exciting to come in second.”

“It was particularly satisfying that we had a winner from each of the five categories of the competition,” added advisor (and English and history teacher) Dr. Robert Wilson.

Senior Imani Solan credits weekly rehearsals for her poetry performance, which earned third place honors.

“I chose Let America Be America Again by Langston Hughes,” she noted. “I chose African American history theme last year as well. It’s the poetry I’ve been exposed to by my parents, so I’m familiar with this work.”

Solan is headed to the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School next year, where she believes her Speech Team experience will serve her well.

“The public speaking aspect will be helpful when I need to present a business plan,” she said.

Junior Cameron Martel, who won the top prize in the Impromptu Speech category, felt similarly.

“The most valuable thing I’ve gained (from Speech Team) is being able to communicate my ideas and perspectives in a clear, concise way that can really shape other people’s perceptions,” he reflected.

Congratulations to:

Cameron Martel, Impromptu Speech, 1st Place
You Jeen Ha, Original Oration, 2nd Place

David Feldfogel, Prose Reading, 3rd Place

Imani Solan, Poetry, 3rd Place

Kylie Grosmark, Dramatic Monologue, 3rd Place

Photo caption: Proud Speech Team members (with advisor Dr. Robert Wilson) show off plaques earned for top performances at the 2014 Rockland County Speech Tournament. Not pictured: You Jeen Ha.

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