On the ballot: Smart Schools Bond Act

posted Oct 30, 2014, 10:42 AM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Oct 30, 2014, 10:42 AM ]


[October 30, 2014] On November 4, voters statewide will have the opportunity to cast their ballot in favor or against Proposition #3, the Smart Schools Bond Act.

First proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in his 2014 State of the State address, the proposition calls for an investment of $2 billion in schools for classroom technology, high-tech security, high-speed internet connectivity and enhanced or modernized facilities to accommodate pre-kindergarten programs.

If the Smart Schools Bond Act passes, school districts will be allocated a share of the monies based on a state aid formula. The proposed allocation for the Ramapo Central School District is $1,646,123.

Districts will be required to submit a detailed “Smart Schools Investment Plan” for review by the Smart Schools Review Board. Grants will be released to individual districts once their plans have been approved.

To fund Smart Schools, New York State would issue and pay off bonds. Terms have not yet been determined. 

For additional information, click here for the Governor’s Smart Schools webpage.

SHS yearbook receives national recognition

posted Oct 30, 2014, 10:18 AM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Oct 30, 2014, 10:28 AM by Ramapo Central ]

[October 30, 2014] Within, the 2014 Suffern High School yearbook, has been recognized with two prestigious national honors. The publication was recently awarded a Gold Medal distinction from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association and first place honors from the American Scholastic Press Association.

"Every year, the bar is a little bit higher, and this group was no exception," noted Yearbook teacher Debra Frey.  

Suffern High School’s award-winning, annual publication is produced by students enrolled in an English elective which blends rigorous academics and real-world experience. Staff is “hired” in May and ad sales launch over the summer. By fall, deadline-driven sales calls, design, writing and photography are underway. The final, eagerly-anticipated product is released mid-spring. 

Congratulations to the 2014 staff: Kaley Clavel (editor), Megan Sepulveda (junior editor), Joely Adelson, Jenna Borenkoff, Maria Castiglia, Halle Epstein, Kira Galina, Lauren Giella, Sarah Hechler, Sara Holand, Casey Huffield, Jacklyn Magurno,  Kirsten Meehan, Sophia Muni, Lauren Murillo, Erika Panitz, Rebecca Silver, Renee Romagnoli, Sydney Rondina and Marissa Tarangelo.

Photo caption: The 2014 Yearbook staff traveled to Columbia University last spring to take part in workshops and the annual Columbia Scholastic Press Association convention.

Musicians win All-State, Area All-State honors

posted Oct 30, 2014, 10:08 AM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Oct 30, 2014, 10:08 AM ]


[October 30, 2014] Six Suffern High School students have been selected as All-State musicians and two others have been named alternates by the New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA). All-State performers must earn the highest scores at the spring NYSSMA Solo Festival, receive strong evaluator recommendations and meet additional criteria. These top musicians will perform at the 2014 All-State Concert in Rochester on December 7.


Twenty-seven Suffern High School musicians will perform in the Zone 9 Area All-State Festival on November 21-22. This regional concert will feature high-performing music students from Rockland, Orange, Sullivan, Ulster and Greene counties. 


Congratulations to:



All-State Musicians: Jake Diamond, Ari Lachenauer, Cam Martell, Katie Sadoff, Rebecca Skulsky and Phoebe Lachenauer


All-State Alternates: Katie Hock and Marilia Riva-Andrade


Area All-State Mixed Choir

Alyssa Burke

Eunice Cho

Molly Ferguson

Julie Goetz

Ari Lachenauer

Rebecca Skulsky


Area All-State Women’s Choir

Phoebe Lachenauer

Kirsten Meehan

Katelyn Warbrick


Area All-State Symphonic Band

Chip DeBoer

Samir Dutta

Alex Fernandez

Emily Liu

Marilia Riva-Andrade

Katie Sadoff

Jason Springer

Rachel Tian


Area All-State Symphony Orchestra

Jeremy Blair

Jake Diamond

Samantha Donato

Kenny Gu

You Jeen Ha

Katie Hock

Caitriona Keane

Cameron Martel

Melanie Sadoff

Ryan Tso


Photo caption1: More than two dozen Suffern High School musicians—representing orchestra, band and choir—were named All-State or Area All-State performers by the New York State School Music Association this year.

Photo caption 2: Suffern High School’s NYSSMA All-State musicians placed among the top high school performers in the state.

Brain science unit helps SMS students boost learning

posted Oct 28, 2014, 9:49 AM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Oct 28, 2014, 9:50 AM ]

[October 28, 2014] At Suffern Middle School, preparatory work for high school begins in seventh grade, and the pacing of instruction accelerates. Many students find that raised expectations make the shift from sixth- to seventh grade more demanding than the prior year’s transition from elementary to middle school.

Recognizing this challenge, seventh-grade English teachers decided to harness a new Common Core-aligned Expeditionary Learning (EL) unit on brain science to help students optimize their learning. The result: “Your Brain…A User’s Guide.”

“The EL unit is in Module 4, which we felt was a little late in the year for kids to get the benefit,” explained teacher Danielle Tomas. “So we started writing curriculum, using our knowledge of students’ cognitive abilities at the beginning of seventh grade and launched it as the first unit of the year.”

“EL was a jumping off point; we tailored the unit to delve into multiple intelligences and growth mindset,” noted teacher Liza Martin. “We also enriched the curriculum with District resources, like BrainPop, which are more interesting and engaging.”

What they’ve found is that discovering how the adolescent brain works builds confidence and motivates students to take ownership of their own learning and studying. Understanding that intelligence and mastery is developed through perseverance and practice has had a positive impact on how students perceive themselves.

“This unit has had most of my kids flourishing—so many ideas!” reported special education teacher Florence DeStefano. “They are making connections between what they are learning and their own lives and realizing that the harder they try, the more successful they’ll be.”

“We always tell kids to keep trying, but now they understand how and why that works,” added Tomas.

Martin agreed, noting that the unit has been powerful for many students.

“The science shows kids that grappling with something new is going to be challenging but perseverance leads to growth and success,” she said. “It’s shown them that they are in control of their educational destiny. That’s huge.”

During an exercise in Martin’s class, students chose statements about learning that reflected their own thinking and pasted on an image of a human head. As they discussed their beliefs, Martin issued a challenge:

“Look inside your ‘head’ and find a fixed mindset statement. Now, rewrite it as a growth statement.”

“‘I am interested mostly in things that I am good at,’” said Melissa. “‘I am interested mostly in things that I am good at…because I worked hard to get good at them.’”

In addition to DeStefano (Team Sigma), Tomas (Team Psi) and Martin (Team Sigma), English teacher Jenny Coffey (Team Omega), English teacher Gina DeMarsico (Team Gamma) and Literacy Specialist Jenn Johnson are part of Suffern Middle School’s seventh-grade English team. 

Photo caption: Seventh-graders in English teacher Liza Martin’s class reflect on their personal beliefs about learning, during a lesson in a new English unit called “Your Brain…A User’s Guide.”

SHS students and preschoolers benefit from child care “learning lab”

posted Oct 28, 2014, 9:35 AM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Oct 28, 2014, 9:35 AM ]

[October 28, 2014] Each year, Suffern High School students run a developmental child care program at school, for credit.  This on-site learning lab is part of a 30+-year-old elective, Child Development & Psychology. The course is a big draw for those interested in pursuing a career in a child-related field.

"I want to work with kids as a speech pathologist, so I thought this would be a good way to study their behavior," said Michelle, a sophomore.

Another tenth-grader, Jessica, hopes to major in special education in college. She enrolled to see how she would do with younger children. "Not everyone is going to learn at the same pace, so you have to be patient while you work with each child."

Student-created, themed activities focus on developing fine motor skills, letter and number recognition and counting. Small teams take turns facilitating the individual 2.5-hour child care sessions which incorporate circle time, center-based learning, physical activity, crafts and a story.

“The focus is on kindergarten readiness,” explained Family and Consumer Science teacher Shawna Strenfel, who has taught the course for the past four years. “Students apply what they’ve learned about the knowledge and skills children need to start school to create a curriculum targeting those fundamentals. No worksheets!”

Success requires research and creativity.

"You have to think like a kid and embrace your inner child," said George, a tenth-grader surrounded by mounds of cotton balls and construction paper and hard at work on creating a “germs and hygiene” craft.

Zach believes that the course will make him a better parent.

"The greatest challenge is all the planning—to create well thought-out activities and make sure that kids are engaged while they're learning," the sophomore noted. "But this experience will help me in the future, when I have children of my own. Before they come to a place like this, I’ve discovered that there are things I can do to help them learn to their best ability and grow up to be smart kids."

Photo caption:  A team of Child Development & Psychology students worked on a Halloween-themed craft for an upcoming session at the SHS Child Care Center.

Viola’s Environmental Center is all about “OWL”

posted Oct 24, 2014, 9:29 AM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Oct 24, 2014, 9:30 AM ]

[October 24, 2014] On a recent fall day, Instructional Facilitator Lynda Hammond prepped a small group of Viola Elementary School fourth- and fifth-grade students for fieldwork.

“We are going to be junior scientists,” she explained. “Our work is to observe, wonder and learn: OWL.”

With science notebooks in hand, the group set out for Viola’s brand-new outdoor Environmental Center. Moments later, students and teachers had fanned out to explore, with collection bags and magnifying glasses in hand.

Students were excited to discover evidence that connected to their classroom studies. Miguel was busy referring to a bird guide to identify a small feather he’d found.

“What’s special about being in nature is that it’s where you see wildlife,” said Miguel, feather in hand. “Robins are my favorite animal, but this is from a blue jay.”

The Environmental Center opened this school year, with the completion of the first of several ambitious stages of development. Over the summer, the District’s buildings and grounds crew to the lead in clearing the wooded area of ground debris and invasive plants and readying the three paths. Hardworking Eagle and Boy Scouts installed four wooden benches, tree identification labels and an informational display case at the Center’s entrance.

The next stage of development is slated to start this fall. Stepping stones, a park bench and a bird bath will be purchased with a Lowes grant awarded to Viola based on a proposal developed by fifth-grade students last year.

Photo caption: The new Viola Environmental Center is provided students with a rich resource to make connections between classroom learning and hands-on exploration of the natural world.

Award-winning author Neal Shusterman visits SMS

posted Oct 24, 2014, 7:57 AM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Oct 24, 2014, 7:57 AM ]

[October 24, 2014] New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman spoke about inspiration, projects in development and much more during his October 20 all-day visit to Suffern Middle School. For an entire period, students at each grade level had an opportunity to pepper Shusterman with questions about his writing process.

“It takes a long time to write a book. So, for me to be willing to spend months and months working on a story, it has to meet three criteria,” he explained. “One, the story has to be original. Two, it has to be universal so that every reader can connect with it. And…it’s got to be screaming to be told.”

Shusterman said that observing the world around him and wondering “why?” or “what if” has sparked inspiration for many of his award-winning books. In fact, the protagonist of The Schwa Was Here was “born” during a school author visit. 

Many times, however, a story isn’t screaming to be told…at first. An idea needs to be revisited and reworked over time. Everlost took the author ten years to complete. 

“When I realized that the Twin Towers were going to have a central role--that’s when I wanted to write it. Maybe it was my way of dealing with 9/11,” Shusterman said. “It started as a good ghost story but became something more important—a story about loss and hope.”

School Library Media Specialist Melanie Speechley noted that author visits are a fantastic way to promote literacy in the middle grades.

“This is particularly true with students in grades 6-8, when independent reading can drop off,” she said. “A visit by a committed professional writer, such as Neal Shusterman, can help to encourage and increase independent reading among our middle school readers.  Through the process of listening and interacting with an author, our students make a special connection to both the author and reading. The interest and enthusiasm generated by Mr. Shusterman’s visit is readily evident among our students and we believe that this author experience will help to encourage a lifelong love of reading in our students.”

One student asked whether Shusterman—with many dystopian works to his credit—only writes “scary” stories.

“I don’t set out to write something scary,” he replied. “My goal is to challenge you to think, to see things in different ways.”

This author visit was sponsored by the SMS PTA.

Speak out! Eliminate the GEA Week starts October 20

posted Oct 17, 2014, 6:52 AM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Oct 17, 2014, 6:53 AM ]

[October 17, 2014] FACT: The Ramapo Central School District has lost roughly $12.5 MILLION in state aid since the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) went into effect in 2010-11.

During the week of October 20, the Ramapo Central Board of Education is encouraging community members to make just three phone calls to ask state legislators to eliminate the GEA and adequately fund public education.

Get involved: For more info on the Board’s Eliminate the GEA Week effort and to sign up to make calls, click here

Get informed: For a summary of how the GEA has impacted Ramapo Central, click here.

Get the big picture: To view a video on the impact of GEA on public education statewide, click here.

Keep up with the Board’s advocacy effort throughout the year. Updated information and links are posted on the Advocacy page.

POW/MIA Honor Chair ceremony on October 17 at SMS stadium

posted Oct 17, 2014, 6:30 AM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Oct 17, 2014, 6:30 AM ]

[October 17, 2014] The Suffern High School Military Appreciation Club will unveil a POW/MIA honor chair at the Suffern Middle School stadium during a brief ceremony on tonight at 6:50pm, immediately preceding the Varsity football game.

According to members of the Military Appreciation Club, "The ‘chair of honor’ program is intended to create daily reminders of the POW/MIA issue in cities and towns across the nation.  A POW/MIA chair in any location is to remain perpetually empty to help people remember that even though our soldiers may not be here, there is still a space for them."

The honor chair program is sponsored by Rolling Thunder®, Inc., a national organization. Suffern High School’s Military Appreciation club has worked closely with Rolling Thunder Chapter 3 NY to facilitate the installation at Suffern Middle School.

The honor chair will be permanently attached to the stadium, surrounded by chain and stanchions. There is a corresponding plaque explaining the purpose of the honor chair and acknowledging project contributors, which include the Suffern High School football, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, boys soccer and track & field teams.

Ramapo Central students, staff and community are invited to attend this public ceremony.

Be Smart and Be Seen! It’s National School Bus Safety Week

posted Oct 16, 2014, 11:31 AM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Oct 16, 2014, 11:32 AM ]

[October 16, 2014] In recognition of National School Bus Safety Week (October 20-24), Ramapo Central Transportation Supervisor Rena Gesner asks families to share the following “bus tips of the day” with their children.

Monday: Be aware, cross with care
Cross in front of the bus after the driver has indicated it is safe to do so.

Tuesday: Keep aisles clear
Sit facing forward, feet on the floor and items placed on their laps.

Wednesday: Respect the “Danger Zone” surrounding the bus
Stand at least 10 feet away from all sides of the bus to ensure that the driver can see you.

Thursday: My stop is a safe stop
Wait quietly and away from the road. Do not run and play at your bus stop.

Friday: Go directly to your seat
Remind children that, to be safe, they should go directly to their seats and remain seated throughout the ride.

Community members also play an important role in ensuring student safety. Motorists must come to a full stop when approaching a stopped school bus with its flashing red lights on—it’s the law!
Thank you for your support in keeping Ramapo Central students safe.

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