In the News
“This is an extraordinary group of teachers and administrators,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Douglas Adams. “As I visit classrooms, I am very impressed with the quality of teaching at every level in this District.”
Administrators appointed to tenure
Danielle Castaldo, Supervisor of Secondary Special Education
Lisa CastaldoGreen, EdD, Director of Pupil Personnel Services
Andrew Guccione, Director of Athletics Physical Education, Health and Wellness
Teresa Ivey, EdD, Elementary Principal (Montebello Elementary School)
Stephen Walker, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources
Through Rockland PLUS, students make connections to real-world planning issues and decision making, learn about sustainable planning guidelines and green building and create a redevelopment plan for a local site. Over the course of the school year, students discuss and refine their ideas with professional mentors.
“Initially, getting kids to forget about what’s already there and imagine a new blueprint” can be a challenge, noted AP Environmental Science teacher Chris Michie. But the result is profound.
“It was eye-opening to see how we can apply what we’ve been learning to our own backyard,” said Rachel Fischer, a junior. “The course is very interdisciplinary, so I was able to incorporate all the knowledge I had from prior honors science courses. We’ve never thought that way before—looked at something critically in terms of the environment and energy use—at least I hadn’t. We might have thought about it in terms of developing countries, but not for something right here, like our train station. So that was really exciting.”
In fact, this year’s PLUS challenge focused on leveraging mass transit to create healthier, more economically and socially vibrant communities. The AP Environmental Science students looked at ways to redevelop downtown Suffern to boost bus and train ridership and make the area more accessible to bicyclists and pedestrians.
“We learn about brownfields and LEED-certified buildings, which impact how they approach development,” Michie explained.
Each year, Rockland Community College hosts the Rockland PLUS Symposium in March for students to share their ideas with peers and present to industry and government mentors for feedback. Nearly all of the participating schools were forced to cancel this year, due to snow.
Instead, Rockland PLUS mentor and Lamont-Doherty scientist Margie Turrin visited Suffern High School for presentations a week later.
Listening to students discuss their plan with mentors is rewarding, said Michie.
“I enjoy watching them interact with professionals,” he reflected. “Our kids really present and carry themselves—I always get very positive feedback.”
Photo caption: AP Environmental Science students presented their redevelopment plans to Rockland PLUS mentor and Lamont-Doherty scientist Margie Turrin on March 27.
“Attending a spring college fair is an excellent opportunity for Suffern High School students, particularly sophomores and juniors,” noted Director of Guidance Sarah Kern. “It gives juniors a chance to increase their contact with colleges they potentially may make application to in the fall and gives sophomores a chance to jump start this process. Hosting a fair at Suffern High School is an added benefit, one that we hope to offer again next year.”
Guidance counselor Marissa Guijarro reported that college representatives were pleased with the robust turnout and pledge to return to future Suffern High School-hosted events.
Photo caption: A Suffern High School student and her dad spoke with a college representative from the University of Buffalo, one of 90 colleges represented at the NYSACAC Regional College Fair on April 14.
[April 21, 2015] Eager Viola students handed out “passports” to the crowds of students, parents and siblings that turned out for Curriculum Night in mid-March.
Throughout the building, learning spaces had been transformed into labs, exhibition halls and performance spaces to showcase student achievement in the visual arts, music, science, engineering, technology and much, much more.
Grade-specific passports guided attendees to specific “destinations” tied to a particular leadership trait. Fifth-graders, for example, focused on integrity, while the First-graders were centered on perseverance. These leadership qualities along with many others have been embedded within the context of their curriculum throughout the school year.
In the cafeteria, Instructional Facilitator Lynda Hammond led an immensely popular LEGO design challenge and students created and tested paper airplane designs. The gym was beautifully decorated with a sportsmanship gallery display and the musical performance was fun for all that participated.
By the end of the evening students had received “stamps” in their passport books for each destination they visited throughout the building.
“Everyone—students, staff, parents and administration—all worked to make Curriculum Night about a community and about a school that we are all proud of!,” said Principal Christine Druss.
Photo caption: Viola students shared their excitement about learning with parents, siblings and community at Curriculum Night on March 10.
[April 21, 2015] On April 2, Kathryn Chertok’s fourth-grade classroom was transformed into a Living Statues Museum, as students took on the identities of Colonial American coopers, blacksmiths, carpenters, shoemakers and printers.
This “performance” marked the culmination of students’ month-long research on the skills, tools and materials needed for each trade and the goods produced or services provided.
To breathe life into their roles, the fourth-graders wore costumes, accessorized with props and delivered speeches they had prepared based on what they had learned. Students from the other two fourth-grade classes visited the museum and were able ask the “Living Statues” questions about work and daily life.
“During a time when our humanities curriculum has become very paper and pencil, hands-on activities like the Living Statues Museum allow students the opportunities to see their reading and research come to life,” noted Chertok, who co-teaches the class with special education teacher Jen Korn. “These are the kind of experiences they will remember when looking back on fourth grade!”
The daylong event provides younger students with the opportunity to learn about and try out the various instruments in preparation for the start of instrumental music instruction in fourth grade.
“Our retention rate has increased significantly since we began doing this,” explained RP Connor Elementary School music teacher Alison Meyer. “Kids get to try the different instruments and it gives parents an idea of their children’s particular interests.”
Senior Marilia Riva-Andrade was one of the many Suffern High School student volunteers at the Zoo.
“When I joined marching band in seventh grade, I realized that music was really more than something I just enjoyed doing. Leadership opportunities—as section leader of flutes, section leader of woodwinds and drum major—enabled me to grow my skills,” she said.
In fact, Riva-Andrade is headed to SUNY Fredonia this fall, where she will major in music education.
“The music department here is just amazing,” she noted. “We have a huge, all-student pit orchestra, which is really unusual; most other districts hire professionals. And I’ve had the opportunity to do band, orchestra, chorus AND all my honors and AP courses.”
As for the advice she shares with younger students, Riva-Andrade said that she tries to keep it simple.
“I’m making them work hard, because I don’t want them to leave without making a sound,” she laughed. “But I tell them that, whatever instrument they choose, to make sure they love it and stick with it.”
Photo caption: Suffern High School senior and future music educator Marilia Riva-Andrade teaches an aspiring flutist basic finger positioning at the District’s annual Instrumental Petting Zoo on April 18.
Senior Rebecca Skulsky (Soprano I) performed in the All-Eastern Honors Treble Voice Chorus and junior Phoebe Lachenauer (Alto II) performed in the All-Eastern Honors Mixed Chorus. Junior Ari Lachenauer was one of just 20 students—and three trombonists—chosen to perform in the All-Eastern Honors Jazz Ensemble.
“It is an incredible honor to have three students selected from our high school,” said music teacher Alice Biss Adams. “They are each a testament to the hard work and dedication it takes to reach such an advanced level. We in the music department are all so proud of their achievements.”
With assistance from Suffern High School music teachers, these exceptional students prepared challenging music to perform under the leadership of prominent conductors at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium.
“The amount of talent that existed in a single room was astounding,” said Phoebe, who plans to pursue opera performance in the future. “The sound we created together was so awe-inspiring…I don’t have the words to describe it.”
“It was also amazing how educated our conductors were,” added Rebecca. “Thought it was incredible how they shared their deep understanding of the pieces; you could feel it in your soul. It was the most beautiful thing I’ve sung in my life.”
For his part, Ari appreciated how the jazz ensemble focused on how musicians can enhance a piece through performance.
All felt that they had benefited from the strength of Ramapo Central’s music program.
“I just really love how our teachers pay so much attention to the pieces we perform…such a passion,” Rebecca noted.
Phoebe agreed. “Each contribute their entire heart to the ensembles they direct and it’s so inspiring to see people doing what they love.”
Photo caption1: From right – Suffern High School’s Phoebe Lachenauer, Ari Lachenauer and Rebecca Skulsky were selected to perform at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Providence, RI on April 11-12 with the NAFME All-Eastern Honors Ensemble.
Photo captions2-4: The All-Honors Treble Voice Chorus (all performers dressed in black), Mixed Chorus and Jazz Ensemble onstage.
US immigration policy was the 2014-15 debate topic. Two-student teams are randomly assigned to debate both the affirmative position and the negative position (essentially defending the status quo) although at different times during the tournament.
“For the affirmative position, you need to identify key issues that are weaknesses of the status quo and construct a plan to address them,” explained Jeremy. “We focused on the labor shortage and recommended a shift that would allow for immigrant workers to cross the border but require documentation to safeguard national security.
“We also argued for the consolidation of immigration oversight across government agencies and enhancing communication to eliminate long delays in processing of documentation,” added Cameron.
Junior Oumaima Chamar, an alternate, said that the level of competition was exciting.
“I’m the pinch-hitter,” she said. “It was great seeing them debate both sides and do so well.”
“We liked the negative,” Jeremy noted. “If you show that you understand the issue and have worked to construct a plausible argument, judges appreciate the effort.”
Although the County tournament is the end of the road in terms of competition, the experience itself extends far beyond.
“I’ve been a part of the debate and speech teams since freshman year,” reflected You Jeen. “The interaction with students at other schools has been very satisfying, but even more than that, I’ve benefited personally in terms of developing skills. It’s an all-encompassing learning process that’s helped me to become a better person and to be more informed about government policy.”
Debate coach and English and history teacher Dr. Robert Wilson added, “Policy debate is an intellectually rigorous exercise that occurs over three days. You Jeen and Steve did a fine job in making the finals, and Cameron and Jeremy were particularly outstanding in reaching the final debate of the academic year.”
Photo caption: From left - Suffern High School’s debate team members Oumaima Chamar, Cameron Martel, Jeremy Dohmann and You Jeen Ha. Not pictured: Steve Woo.
[April 15, 2015] RP Connor will celebrate its school community with the annual Diversity Night on April 29 from 7-8pm. Festivities will include booths representing students’ ancestral countries--including Argentina, Haiti, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Mexico, Poland and Spain—with samplings of delicious foods, lively dance, beautiful dress and even a little language introduction. Attendees will receive passports to guide them through the evening.
“Connor’s multiculturalism is an advantage that supports and enhances instruction every day,” said Principal Mary DiPersio. “This event is a celebration of the diversity of the human experience.”
Diversity Night is free and open to the public. Hope to see you there!
Photo caption: Diversity Night, a long-standing tradition at RP Connor Elementary School, celebrates the richness of this multicultural community.
Rockland County: A Century of History (1900-200), which Zimmerman edited, has been an inspiring source text for Seminar students, who have been compiling informational web pages based on independent research they’ve conducted.
“This project integrated literacy across the content areas and infused technology within the writing process,” explained teacher Dr. Amy Mackenzie. “Students chose topics they found interesting and created wikis to teach others about the history of Rockland County.”
Rose, a sophomore, opted to learn about the century-old, Cleary-Newman murder case. At the center of the tragedy were ill-fated newlyweds and an angry, politically powerful father-of-the-bride. Rose was hooked by their story and compelled to research the crime further.
“The victim was only 18 and Anna Cleary’s father got away with it,” she said. “It was just so sad.”
Photo caption: Local author Linda Zimmerman discussed local history with Literacy Seminar students, thanks to a recent REACH Foundation grant.