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This project, a collaborative effort between the district, the village, and G&S Solar, marks a pivotal moment in our commitment to renewable energy.

📆Date: Friday, June 21, 2024

⏰Time: 11:15 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.

📍 Location: Farragut Complex, Outdoor area in front of Farragut Complex

The installation of solar panels across the roofs of the Farragut Complex and Hillside Elementary School will not only reduce our carbon footprint but also provide Hastings residents with access to clean, sustainable energy.

Please join us as we commemorate this achievement with a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony. Together, we celebrate progress towards a greener, more sustainable future for our community. 🌞♻️

Click here to view the full program.

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July 11, 2024 

By Keith Berman 

Hastings-on-Hudson — Following a lengthy process with an Advisory Committee that worked with Hastings Superintendent of Schools William McKersie to find the right person for the job, Andrew (Andy) Clayman is set to become the new principal of Hastings High School. 

Dr. McKersie announced Clayman’s hiring on January 30th, 2024. Clayman has since held a number of events to get to know staff and parents in preparation for his first day, which is July 1st. 

Clayman’s background in education goes back to 2007. He was a founding teacher and assistant principal at KAPPA International High School before assuming the principalship of Health Opportunities High School for the last five years. Prior to that, he attended Skidmore College before earning his teaching degree at Pace University (as part of the New York City Teaching Fellowship) and his Masters of Educational Leadership from City College.

Clayman lives with his wife and two children in Sleepy Hollow. He discussed with the Current what makes him most excited about going from a high school in the Bronx that, when he took over, had a 50% graduation rate, to a system built on a strong community where students routinely graduate.

“I’ve never had the opportunity to be deeply embedded in a community, like one with sports events or a Friday night when the kids put on a play, and that’s such a vibrant part of what Hastings is. This isn’t going to be a job where I just go to work and come home. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to really get to understand kids and their families in a 360-degree get-to-know-the-community way.”

Clayman shared that his own upbringing in Schenectady gives him a head start on his work in Hastings.

“I grew up near Albany, so I have New York State Hudson Valley in my blood. Schenectady was where GE started. When it left, Schenectady was a dead industrial town, so most of my childhood was colored by that, living in a place that was once prosperous, but had lost its economic engine. It put my fire in my veins around the underdog story, rooting for something a lot of people had counted out. Hastings has had a similar trajectory. It was industrial, and then the industry left, and it is really revitalizing itself in the last 15 years.”

Clayman considers his first priority to be getting to know the community in a more particular way.

“There is no substitute for having deep knowledge about the community. I’m going to spend a lot of time meeting staff, meeting students, meeting families. I think that, once we’ve got that under our belt, then communal decision-making comes next.”

Clayman also looks forward to taking on the intersection of teens and tech.

“I think AI is just an incredible tool that we’ve got to harness. The idea that thinking our role as educators is to catch students when they use it is short-sighted. We should think about ways to use it to augment how we teach, and that is one of the most pressing priorities for education in the 21st century. If we’re worried about whether or not kids are using AI, we shouldn’t send them home to write essays, we should watch them write right in front of us. We want kids to know what responsible use of AI looks like and what future careers are going to be for our young folks.”

And what makes for a successful high school?

“Relationships. Staff and students feel like it’s a second home. You spend more hours in your school building than waking hours at your home. Students have to feel like the school works for them. All too often, school feels like something done TO young folks, compulsory education. That’s not what we know is best. Optimally, students need to have agency over their learning.”

He also is well aware of the dangers of the apps on students’ phones.

“I would be remiss not to mention social media and the impact on their mental health, and the way [students] consume information and reflect on the way they want to live.”

Ultimately, Clayman’s approach to educating students is built on his idea of student agency.

“All too often, we ask students ‘what do you want to be when you grow up,’ which insinuates that they are not something right now. I want to communicate that ‘you are also a full person right now,’ and make sure our students reflect on and build on the faith of their own voice.”

This view is harmonious with his thoughts on special education.

“I think that everyone should have an individualized education plan regardless of whether or not they have an IEP. Every person consumes information differently, learns differently, and every student comes with assets and challenges. Far from stigmatizing students who receive special services, we are really seeking: What are their strengths and how do we build on those strengths?” he said.

Clayman also did not shy away from the topic of college admissions.

“We’ve got to do everything we can in order to prepare [our students] to get into the best school that they want to get into. I’m not giving short shrift to that as a responsibility, but I’m also not measuring our success by how many students are getting into Ivy League schools. I think it’s not mutually exclusive to say ‘let’s get our kids as prepared as we can to get into the best schools that we can’ while getting our students as ready as possible,” said Clayman.

Clayman’s term follows the retirement of outgoing high school principal Lou Adipietro. The Hastings BOE also recently announced the appointment of Ms. Tara Ware as Hastings High School’s new Assistant Principal. Ms. Ware will begin her new role in January 2025.

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When you look back on your HHS experience, what has been most meaningful? 

Sonya: My time participating in Student Union and helping to organize events like the Olympics, the volleyball tournament, and pep rallies has been incredible. It’s introduced me to so many students and faculty members, and I’ve loved getting to plan school-wide activities. Being Buzz the Yellowjacket at homecoming was also cool!

Erik: I think that one of the most special parts of HHS is its culture of encouraging and supporting ambition. When a student has an idea for something to plan, learn, or do, administrators and teachers don’t say no, but instead “how can we make this happen?” Given the trust and freedom to step into positions of responsibility, we’re able to take on big things and push our boundaries in meaningful ways.

What was your favorite class?

Sonya: I’ve loved almost every class I’ve taken, but science research has stood out as one of the greatest. Ms. Shandroff has done an amazing job of guiding us through the entire research process, and I’ve learned skills from presentation-making to gathering insights from professional researchers.

Erik: Mr. Smith’s SUPA American History. Not only did SUPA cement history as my favorite subject and inform my prospective major in college, but it changed my whole worldview and my outlook on this country. If you think that sounds crazy, ask anyone else who took the class—they’ll say the same! Advice to all underclassmen: take SUPA.

What classes/extracurricular activities benefitted you the most? 

Sonya: Really any class or activity that allowed me to connect with other students and make new friends. Cross country, Student Union, and physics class have all allowed me to grow, explore my interests, and form friendships.

Erik: My favorite classes have been the ones where we’ve applied our learning to the real world, like in Ms. Shandroff’s AP Environmental Science, Señor Lopez’s Spanish 5, and, of course, SUPA. In terms of extracurriculars, I’ve loved working with my peers to put together the Olympics, talent shows, and other events through the Student Union. In addition, the connections that I’ve made with cast, crew, and directors over ten years in Hastings’ Theatre Program are some of the most meaningful in my life.

What advice do you have for students about maintaining good grades? 

Sonya: Take breaks when you need them, so you don’t get burnt out, pay attention to small details on assignments, and help your friends along the way!

Erik: Participate in class! Ask questions, speak in discussions, etc. Also, go after school if there’s anything you don’t get. Teachers are always happy to help you understand!

What plans do you have for the future?

Sonya: I’m going to be starting college at Duke University this fall, which I’m super excited about! I hope to major in mechanical engineering and computational media. I’m not entirely sure about what I want to do in terms of a career, but I’d love to find a way to combine my love of math and film!

Erik: I’m going to Middlebury College, where I’ll likely major in Political Science or American Studies and minor in Spanish. Then career wise, I’ll probably want to work in government, politics, or maybe business. Those are just broad ideas, though—I’m excited for the whole “liberal arts experience” of exploring all my interests and seeing where I end up. But I can say for certain that (unlike Sonya) I won’t be doing math!

Is there anyone you'd like to thank for aiding in your success?

Sonya: I’d really like to thank everyone who’s helped me through these past four years: my parents, grandparents, friends, and especially my little brother, Jeevan. Jeevan’s always been there for me, encouraged me, and supported me through everything. I love you, Jeevan!

Erik: I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my family and friends for their love, patience, and guidance. My parents, brother, grandparents, and closest friends have always been there for me, and I’m extremely grateful. I’d also like to thank Mr. A, who is responsible for so many of the wonderful experiences that my peers and I have had in this school. We will really miss him!

 

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The Class of 2024 came dressed to impress, as they met to take photos in the courtyard. Afterward, they boarded coach buses to Glen Island Harbour Club in New Rochelle, a perfect venue on the shores of the Long Island Sound. They navigated the cobblestone entrance way to cheers from Principal and Assistant Principal Lou Adipietro and Melissa Hardesty, Senior Class Advisors Erin Dolan and Greg Smith, as well as chaperones Joanne Cipollina, Austin Hills, Emily Kehoe and Chris Repp.

"I was lucky to be among the cheering admirers," wrote Superintendent McKersie in his Board of Education report. "Blue and then starry skies over windswept waters, appetizers, refreshments, a banquet meal, and non-stop music and dancing made the night one to remember for the Class of 2024 and their guests."

A special thank you to Ms. Dolan and Mr. Smith for the extensive work required to pull off a wonderful evening for the students. 

Stay tuned for more photos from district partner ESU Events in a behind-the-scenes photo montage, which will be included in the next Hastings Happenings.

 

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Moderated by New York State Regent Francis Wills, the panel explored the benefits of student liaisons on school boards, a legal requirement that Governor Hochul and the New York State Assembly is now planning to put forth in all of the state's schools.

With over 100 board members and superintendents from across the region in attendance, Elianna and Kai represented Hastings exceptionally well. After the panel, they fielded questions.

Below they share their reflections of the evening:

"Speaking at the WPSBA was absolutely amazing! I wasn’t expecting to be such a central part of the event. I loved chatting with the superintendents and school board members of other districts prior to the sit-down dinner. It was incredibly insightful to learn about the role of student board members in other schools. Speaking on the panel was actually a lot of fun! I enjoyed answering questions and sharing my honest thoughts on how other districts can successfully incorporate students into the BOE in a way that makes students feel seen, comfortable, and welcomed. Everyone seemed beyond impressed with Hastings’ two student liaison system. The coordinators of the event told me and Kai they wanted to stay connected to possibly have us work as mentors to train future student liaisons at county wide events. It was a truly rewarding experience."

-Elianna

"The conference was a wonderful and educational experience. It was amazing to see so many board members interested in what Elianna and I had to say on student involvement in BOE meetings. After getting to listen to other district's liaison positions, it's clear that Hastings has been doing for years what other schools are now striving towards. I was so glad to see how engaged everyone was during the panel and it felt like Elianna and I were truly able to convey how important and impactful being a student board liaison is."

-Kai

 

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Dear Hastings Families and Staff:

Ms. Ware was recommended based on a thorough review process conducted by Mr. Andy Clayman, Mr. Lou Adipietro and the HHS Assistant Principal Advisory Committee. Ms. Ware’s formal transition to the district will be effective January 1, 2025.  

Ms. Ware comes to Hastings with a proven track record as an assistant principal and teacher. Her enthusiastic and student-centered leadership style, instructional expertise, innovative thinking, and relationship acumen will serve students, staff, and families well in her new home at Hastings High School. Ms. Ware looks forward to meeting HHS students, staff and families this fall, well before she starts in January 2025. 

Please join me in welcoming Ms. Ware to our community.  

Be well.

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To provide context to the book, they also viewed the film Schindler's List, in which German industrialist, Oskar Schindler, saved over 1,000 Jewish prisoners from being killed by Nazi executioners. An authentic learning experience further engaged students, when they received a visit from the daughter of one of the Jewish survivors, Schindlerjeuden, Barbara Lissner (and her husband Michael).

Ms. Lissner's father, Sol Urbach, lived to the ripe age of 96 and was a treasured eyewitness to the kindness and respect for humanity that Schindler possessed. Lissner spoke with the students about her father's experience as Schindler's personal carpenter and the countless atrocities he witnessed, even while under the protection of Schindler.

"Students were riveted by her presentation and engaged in thoughtful dialogue," said Dr. Cotrone.

 

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"This was a great opportunity for me to say goodbye and thank our fourth grade families for all their support, introduce parents to their new school counselors, talk about social-emotional learning opportunities, discuss a typical day as a fifth grader, review clubs and activities that are offered,  and answer any questions families had about FMS," said Hillside School Counselor Juliann Snyder. 

Click here to view the presentation. 

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This is the second year in a row that Farragut’s Debate Team has qualified for the invitation-only championship tournament.

“Our students spent countless hours researching, preparing speeches, and developing high-level crossfire questions regarding the affirmative and negative of Japanese revision of Article 9 of their Constitution to allow for offensive military capabilities,” said Debate Team Advisor Devita Cruz. “For the last month, and every day the week leading up to the tournament, these girls worked to understand both the history and the intricacies of this advanced topic. Sixth graders!”

Well, the students’ hard work paid off, as they each walked away with Top Speaker Awards in their division:

  • Phoebe placed 10th, Mehrunissa placed 5th, and Anna placed 4th, among 76 other middle schoolers in their division.
  • The team of Nami, Poppy, and Keren placed 3rd, among 37 teams in their division.  

“I am so incredibly proud of the hard work and dedication these students have put into their debate performances this year,” Cruz said. “Each student deserves all the accolades they have attained this season.”

 

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The world’s largest pre-college science competition, ISEF brings top science students together to showcase their innovation through self-designed science projects. Each year, ISEF awards millions of dollars of scholarships and prizes to participants.

Baldassarre and Hamilton, who were among the top twenty students to qualify for ISEF through the Regeneron Westchester Science & Engineering Fair (WESEF) in March, both received Grand Awards at Regeneron ISEF:

We are scheduling time to speak with Hamilton about his project (stay tuned!), but we did have a chance to talk with Baldassarre earlier in the year when he was named one of Hastings’ 2024 Regeneron Scholars.

“My mom died of ovarian cancer when I was nine years old,” he told us. “She was an amazing mom and encouraged me to be a curious question-asker. She'd be proud. My family feels the weight of her loss every day and it felt important to use my interest in science to honor her."

A prideful Ms. Shandroff, Science Department Chairperson, also wrote to staff, “Congratulations to both Justin and Miles for these amazing achievements!”

Congratulations, indeed. 

 

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Messages of gratitude and wishes for a restful, peaceful, and happy retirement were shared. It was a perfect way to celebrate Mr. A's legacy and far-reaching impact.

“We love you & we’ll miss you, Mr. A…”

 

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Organized by Library Media Specialist Jamie Nedwick, the event inspired the school's youngest learners to write, write, and write some more!

In the Learning Commons, the children sat, listening intently to Ms. Satin Capucilli, as she gave them inside tips on story creation. From her handy dandy idea notebook and drafting the story, to collaborating with illustrators on the final published piece, Ms. Satin Capucilli shared her entire writing process.

One highlight from her presentation was the advice she gave. "Draw from your own lives for ideas for your stories," she told the students.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience for the district's littlest scribes, as they continue on their writing journeys, picking up helpful tips along the way.

author visit

 

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\Music Teacher Eric Day also provided a reflection of the powerful evening.

"The concert was a special send off for a talented group of seniors, including Miles Levine, who is Juilliard-bound, and Livi Seidenberg, who will be double-majoring in music and business at Virginia Tech," he said.

After the show, a couple of videos surfaced of the finale, which combined the orchestra with senior singers and band members. Thank you to the parents who were able to capture Hastings' talented musicians on camera. The videos are below for your viewing pleasure.

 

 

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For round two of the Geography Bee held on April 18 in the Blue Lecture Room, a set of questions were presented to the top 12 students from round one:

  • Sixth graders Miles Gray, Lucas Greenfield, Diego Nafziger, and Jane Weber
  • Seventh graders Elias Costa, Antonio Marquez, Alyssa Schlacter, Miles Schwarz, and Liam Sexton
  • Eighth graders Jason Kass, Louis von Rege, and Benjamin Massey

With the timer set to 10 seconds, the middle schoolers quietly wrote their responses on the white board. Once their time was up, they stepped away to reveal their answers. Correct answers allowed them to move on to the next question and incorrect answers were marked. To stay in the running, each student was allowed just one incorrect answer.

According to sixth grade social studies teacher Alexis Comerford-Jones, the stakes were high.

“The original goal was to end with five finalists,” she said. “But at the end of the group written round, we still had nine contestants, and so a tiebreaker round began.”

The top five out of the final nine contestants will move on to round three at Hackley at a date to be announced later this month. These students are:

  • Seventh graders: Antonio Marquez and Miles Schwarz
  • Eighth graders Jason Kass, Louis von Rege, and Benjamin Massey

Congratulations to the top five and to all of Farragut's scholars on their geography brilliance.

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"Playing exclusively against other similarly sized public schools throughout the country, we won every match by huge margins,” said Academic Challenge Team Advisor Michael Willson. "It just goes to show how incredibly talented this team is.”

Next up, is the NAQT National Championship Tournament in Atlanta, Georgia, which will take place on Memorial Day weekend. Public and private schools of any size are eligible to compete. 

A huge congratulations goes to Captain Benny Feldman, Hazel DePreist-Sullivan, Owen Linder, and Jacob Goldman-Wetzler—National Champions!

Special thanks to Karen Swartz-Feldman for traveling to Chicago with the team and to the Hastings PTSA for the generous grant, which financed the trip.

 

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“They edited and revised their work before publishing their stories,” Hatjygeorge said.

The narratives even contained a "Dedication" page and an "About the Author" page. The day's activities were a perfect way to commemorate a big step in the students’ writing journeys.

Write on, write often, little learners!

 

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Facilitated by fourth grade teacher Amanda Peisel, a presentation from the Student Council engaged the packed audience with funny, educational skits about reducing, reusing, and recycling.

Hudson Compost Solutions gave students an extra lesson on composting and the importance of plant life during their lunch periods.

Stepping up to the challenge, elementary schoolers worked together to put their lessons into action. They even practiced random acts of environmental kindness and participated in spirit days throughout the week including, “One with Planet Earth,” where they dressed up in clothing to represent Earth and the elements.

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Hastings High School's AP Art Show is open to the public on Thursday, April 18 and Friday, April 19 in the lobby. A culmination of work that began in July, the show features a plethora of pieces in a variety of mediums, created by 15 of Lorienne Solaski's AP Studio students and eight photography students in Cory Merchant's AP class.

From 3D art and sculptures to masks and clothing, the show contains representations of the students' Sustained Investigation project, which Merchant says involves generating ideas and then refining them through experimentation and practice.

"This show is the culmination of about ten months of work," Merchant explained.

"Some of the students have probably been building this body of work for even longer. For many of the students, as well as for Ms. Solaski and me, this is the first time we get to see all the work together on display. It's always a triumphant and celebratory moment when things start to come together for the students. We are so lucky to work with such talented and creative students every day!"

For the full experience, come and check out the show:

Tonight, Thursday, April 18 at 6:00 p.m.

Tomorrow, Friday, April 19, 12:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

 

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Spring has arrived, bringing with it a sense of renewal and excitement. It was evidenced this week as students dressed in spirit wear hurried through the hallways, buzzing with anticipation for Hastings High School's Annual Spring Pep Rally.

We had a chat with Student Union President, Barney Smith, and Vice President, Erik Ghalib, who gave a summary of the run-of-show for the "hypest of the hype" event below:

The Spring Pep Rally began, as always, with the welcoming of the Class of 2024. This year, we and our fellow seniors got to run through a giant new Yellow Jacket inflatable tunnel, donated by the Booster Club.

Then, emcees Pat Lacy and Georgia Kennedy led representatives from each grade in a relay race. After that, each spring sports team performed a choreographed dance for the chance to win a free pizza party.

The grand finale of the afternoon was a much-awaited Teacher Balloon Stomp Competition, with over a dozen faculty members competing to pop balloons tied to each other’s’ ankles without letting their own balloon get popped. After an intense and exciting battle, English teacher Sarah Stern came out victorious with Math teacher Joann Bassani in a close second place.

Thanks to devoted Student Union representatives, enthusiastic teachers, and an energetic student body, it was an incredibly fun afternoon!

For a behind-the-scenes look into the Class of 2024 introduction, watch the video clip below.

 

 

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In classrooms across grades at Hillside Elementary School, students recently engaged in group discussions about blood flow in the human body, including where the highest concentration of oxygen is located and how many chambers there are within the heart.

Using a "flipped classroom" model, an instructional strategy and a type of blended learning that aims to increase student engagement, Ericka Melvin, one of Hillside's Physical Education teachers, set up an obstacle course of the human heart in the small gymnasium.

Before traveling to the small gym to participate in the active component of the lesson, students were shown a video in their classes about blood flow and what happens each time their heart beats. To build up their strength and cardiovascular endurance, they completed the obstacle course, each station representative of the location of blood flow to the heart and throughout the human body.

"The kids travel through the veins, which bring blood flow from the heart to the lungs, enter into the chambers and valves, and back through the arteries into the human body," said Melvin. "The rock wall symbolizes the human body.

Educational, healthful and enjoyable, the lesson impressed students school-wide.

 

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Larry Cerretani’s Daily Living Skills class is hosting its Second Annual Dog Treat Fundraiser at Farragut Middle School.

The charitable campaign, which began in March, aims to promote neurodiversity acceptance, equality, and inclusion. All proceeds will benefit Hudson Valley's Paws for a Cause, a local pet therapy organization that has worked with Cerretani’s class since the beginning of the 2022 school year.

Coinciding with several worldwide initiatives including Neurodiversity Celebration Week (March 18-March 24), World Down Syndrome Day (March 21), World Autism Awareness Day (April 2), World Autism Acceptance Week (April 2 – April 8), and World Autism Month (April), the fundraiser will last through the end of April, and is the perfect way for students to show their appreciation for Paws for a Cause’s volunteers.

For weeks, busy baker bees have been preparing batches of treats that contain sunflower seed butter, pumpkin puree, and rolled oats, a healthy and tasty option for Farragut’s four-legged family members. The students are even packing the treats, and specially delivering orders to their teachers, peers and their families. 

“It's not just about supporting a good cause,” Cerretani explained. “It's also about spreading awareness and fostering acceptance.”

Orders can be placed through Tuesday, April 30. Purchasing options include:

  • 2 treats for $1.00
  • 7 treats for $3.00
  • 13 treats for $5.00

Use this form to make a purchase request and to support a good cause. Please note, the fundraiser is for FMS staff members, students, and their families only.

 

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On Thursday, March 21, the Hastings Science Research students attended the awards ceremony for the Regeneron Westchester Science and Engineering Fair. Twenty-two of Hastings students won awards including Justin Baldassarre and Miles Hamilton, both ranking among the top 20 students of the 714 at the Fair. Justin and Miles have earned the opportunity to participate in the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair to be held from May 11 - May 17, 2024, in Los Angeles, where they will compete against approximately 1,800 students from over 75 countries. On average, four million dollars in awards are given annually at Regeneron ISEF.

Click here to view the top 20 projects from this year’s competition.

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Senior Sewing began in 1973 as a way to bring the benefits of sewing to Hillside students. Since then, the PTSA has continued the tradition with classes that help children improve their communication and motor skills, use their imagination and creativity, and develop patience. Additionally, creating something from scratch boosts student confidence. Best of all, it connects children to their community at an early age.

 

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Before spring recess, renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theaters Student Performance Group lit up Hastings High School’s auditorium with a riveting performance for students and staff.

The event, funded by the Race Matters Committee, Farragut Middle School, and Hastings High School, with leadership from Diversity & Inclusion Coordinator Dr. Jenice Mateo-Toledo, was the result of the collaborative effort of Hastings faculty members and community partners. Several high school students even stepped into leadership roles, forming a Welcoming Committee for the dancers, creating banners, and assisting with the run-of-show, lighting, and sound. Click here to view the full list of collaborators.

Freshman Ruby Black gave a heartwarming introduction to the program and to Ailey's Student Performance Group (ASPG) Rehearsal Director Freddie Moore. Taking the microphone, Moore delved into the history of the Alvin Ailey organization, including how it grew from a now-fabled performance in 1958 at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. Mr. Ailey and his group of young African American modern dancers forever changed the perception of American dance, going on to perform for an estimated 25 million people at theaters in 48 states and 71 countries on six continents.

 Moore went on to explain that Mr. Ailey drew on his African American roots in 1930s Texas, using the blues, spirituals, gospel, and ragtime for inspiration. This resulted in the creation of his most popular and critically acclaimed work, Revelations (1960), as well as 79 other ballets over his lifetime.

“What you’ll see is beyond dance steps,” Moore said. “There are stories behind the movement.”

The dancers performed six excerpts from their repertoire. Vibrant colors and pulsating rhythms transcended the confines of the stage. The movements were fluid, graceful, and electrifying, all at once. With each leap, twist, and turn, a captivating story was told.

In between each dance, Moore engaged students with historical facts and asked them for their own interpretations. They were treated to the real "Ailey Experience" when he taught them two eight-count phrases of movement. 

 When the finale Revelations came to an end, the auditorium erupted into thunderous applause. The dancers, who joined Ailey from all over the world, took their bows. Students were left feeling inspired by the unifying power of dance and the enduring spirit of human expression.

 

“Dance came from the people, and it should always be delivered back to the people.”

-Alvin Ailey

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Before performing for guests at the main events on Thursday, March 7, and Friday, March 8, fourth graders gave their fellow Hillsiders a preview of Frozen KIDS with a school-wide assembly and dress rehearsal. The students confidently took the stage, singing and dancing their hearts out to catchy tunes from the Disney movie. 

Congratulations to Director Lisa Levine, Production Coordinator Phyllis Udice, First Grade Teacher Emily Isidori who used her dance background to teach the choreography, and to all of Hastings' teachers and staff for guiding the students to a well-received production.

Fourth Grade's Frozen KIDS

For a behind-the-scenes look at the show, watch a couple of short videos below. 

 

Fifth Grade's Mary Poppins Jr.

On Friday, March 15, and Saturday, March 16, Farragut Middle School’s fifth graders performed their musical Mary Poppins Jr. On both evenings, there wasn’t an empty seat to be had, as audiences smiled in admiration at the talented youngsters. Featuring song, dance, and visual effects, including a flying and disappearing kite, the cast lived up to their show’s key closing lyric, “Anything can happen if you let it.” 

Congratulations to Director Jonathan Riss, Production Coordinator Phyllis Udice, and all of Hastings' staff who made the production a joyous success.

For a behind-the-scenes look at the show, watch the below photo montage.

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The culmination of a workshop led by external partner Folklore Urbano NYC, the scripted production of original music and choreography showcased what the students learned over the course of the six-week program. 

Connecting to the fifth grade Social Studies standards, the workshop highlighted the diversity of the Spanish, Indigenous, and African roots of Latin America with lessons on their culture, geography, and language. 

“Folklore Urbano NYC's Cumbia for Kids Residency is the company we used for the second year now,” said fifth grade teacher Kyle Case. “We are so glad to have this experience continue for our students each year.”

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Each year, WESEF sponsors the top students to advance to the Regeneron International Science & Engineering Fair. Over 700 high school students from Westchester and Putnam Counties participated in the 2024 fair, a record number of projects for the region. 

"On Friday, I dropped by as students were practicing their presentations," Superintendent McKersie noted in his report for Tuesday's Board of Education meeting. "I was treated to a brief sample of each student’s research, which in each case matches college level work (and beyond) in the rigor of the topic, research design and methods, statistical analysis and summary of findings, real world applications and future research potential."

The students learned how they did at WESEF at an Awards Ceremony on Thursday, March 21. Click here to read the an update in Superintendent McKersie's March 22 letter to the community. 

 

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Starting with this month’s "Plant Power" theme, during their lunch periods on Tuesday, March 19, students learned about the health benefits of plants and plant-based proteins.

What was on the menu? Kaleidescope Salad made with cranberries, kale, chickpeas and a homemade lemon dressing. 

"Chickpeas are a great plant-based protein option that are high in fiber, which keeps us fueled throughout the day," Leote explained to the students.

Below is the recipe card for the salad, which Leote and Hillside Cafe Cook Margarita Fuentes shared with the kids, along with a word search activity sheet.

"A few of the children were trying chickpeas or kale for the first time and found that they really liked it!" said Leote. 

Given the students' positive reaction, the Food Service Team is considering officially adding Kaleidescope Salad to the menu.

 

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Specially designed for students to connect and relax, the event featured a wide range of activities. From bingo, chess, and board games to ping pong, foosball, and Twister, middle schoolers rotated through the stations. There was even participation from Hastings faculty, high school students, and parents, who brought their energy by facilitating the games and giving the kids pointers. 

A special thank you goes to everyone who helped make the event a success, including the Custodial and Facilities staff for their help with the behind-the-scenes set up and clean up, as well as the Guidance Department who helped the PTSA and SEPTA to maximize the experience for students.

 

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“Twenty-seven of Hastings' students came out, and we fielded seven teams,” said Academic Challenge Team Advisor Michael Willson. “This is the largest group of students I have taken to MACC in my seven years as a coach.” 

In the A Division, the team took First place. Another Hastings team came in Third place. The B Division team also came in First place and two other Hastings teams finished in Third and Fourth place. That's five of the top eight teams!

"I'm so proud of them!" Willson said. "I couldn't wait to share their accomplishments with the community."

Over Memorial Day Weekend, Willson will be taking the A Division team--Owen Linder, Jacob Goldman-Wetzler, Hazel DePreist-Sullivan, and Captain Benny Feldman--ranked Fourth in the Northeast, to the National Competition in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Winning A Division Team holding their Winners Plaque

L to R: Owen Linder, Jacob Goldman-Wetzler, Hazel DePreist-Sullivan, and Captain Benny Feldman

The Winning B Division Team holding their Winners Plaque

L to R: Nate Sollars, Maxwell Silva Steeves, Captain Rian Kacmarczyk, and Henry Sliker

 

Owen Linder, Jacob Goldman-Wetzler, Benny Feldman, Hazel DePreist-Sullivan, Chloe McCabe, Sofia Eliasi, Jasper Zimmerman, Natalie Garson, Keith Mon, Maya Madajewicz, Sonya Lasser, Emre O'Flattery, John Mielke, Jet Spiro, Jake Andrus, Rian Kacmarczyk, Maxwell Silva Steeves, Henry Sliker, Nate Sollers, Theo McCabe, Reuben Belasco, Will Andrus, Will Weber, Ian Morrison Anthony Holder, Noah Berkowitz, Salem Kinderlerer, Advisor Michael Willson

Photographer: Declan McConnel

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To prepare for the exhibition, students complete a weeks-long research project, where they are asked to identify a skill they’d like to develop, a problem they'd wish to solve, and a larger-scale question they’d like to answer. Working with a mentor or expert in the field, they create action plans that include educational resources. Then, it's time to practice their skill.

According to Lopez, there are various checkpoints the students must complete throughout the process, such as written and verbal reflections of their progress, goal setting, a vocabulary list of key words to help them communicate their topic, and a mock presentation to their peers. The final exhibition allows them to communicate their topics to an outside audience, including the highs and lows of the process and what they learned. 

A staple of Lopez's Level 5 curriculum, the Passion Project is always beneficial for students involved, as well as the larger school community. Given its long-standing success, it's safe to say that the tradition will continue for many years to come. 

For a look at this year's list of students and their Passion Projects, click here.

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The first graders took it a step further this year, writing one, two, even three-page biographies! From Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama to Jackie Robinson and Maec Jemson, the students focused their efforts on honoring African Americans from all periods of U.S. history. 

One student, Lucas, wrote about Fredrick McKinley Jones, the “King of Cool.” 

“In the 1930’s, Fredrick McKinley Jones invented the roof-mounted cooling system that is used to refrigerate goods on trucks,” Lucas stated. 

Another student, Arthur, wrote, “She devoted and risked her life to help rescue other slaves,” in reference to Harriet Tubman, “conductor” on the Underground Railroad who led enslaved people to freedom. 

“The kids showed great interest,” Lazar said. She also explained how there have been crowds of students and staff who have stopped to read and discuss the bulletin board.

“The vision really came to life,” she added, pleased that the accompanying photos helped students put faces to names.

Proud of their work and eager to share their newfound knowledge, the children shared what they loved most about the biography project. 

“I got to learn about how nice she is and how she cares about so many people,” said Georgia, a first grader in the class, about Oprah Winfrey. 

Both engaging and educational, the students’ biographies gave passersby a glimpse into history, and the African American heroes whose roles have made a lasting impression on life and the world today. 

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For this edition of Staff Spotlight, we asked Dr. Mateo-Toledo what this honor means to her and more. 

What does it mean to be named an "Unsung Hero"?

It’s extremely gratifying to be acknowledged for one's passion and life's work. Therefore, this recognition is truly an honor for me. Hastings has been a long-time leader in the areas of DEI, so I also view this as a collective recognition and celebration of our journey and influence in the region over the past 25 years.  

What inspires you in your role as D&I Coordinator? What is one aspect of your work that you enjoy?

DEI is at the center of the Hastings-on-Hudson community. Working with various stakeholders and seeing the smiles on our children's faces is what inspires me most. I enjoy collaborating with students, staff, administrators, and other community partners to design learning opportunities for students, such as the upcoming Alvin Ailey performance, the Multicultural Book Fair, and the Racial Equity days. Working with teachers to develop a curriculum that supports authentic learning and inclusivity is equally invaluable. 

What current and future goals do you have for the district?

One of my goals is to work with our school community as we continue our path of growth, understanding, acceptance and belonging, while ensuring that we meet the needs of all students.

What is one fun fact about yourself or something you enjoy doing outside of work? 

One of my favorite things to do outside of work is travel. Before entering my current role, I was a long-time English as a New Language (ENL) teacher, and had the opportunity to learn about different languages, cultures, perspectives, and ways of living from my students. When I travel to other countries, I connect with former students, and I immerse myself in their worlds and experience their customs. This has added to my appreciation for the beauty of diversity.  

What is your favorite quote or mantra? 

“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou

Dr. Mateo-Toledo in Lisbon, Portugal. 

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The week featured a string of morning announcements kicked off by middle schoolers Amichai De Lowe and Julia Levan. Each day, students greeted the school in other languages such as Hebrew, Polish, German, Danish, and Chinese Mandarin, and afterwards, read a Language Fact of the Day.

In English, Julia L. presented the first Language Fact of the Day. "Mandarin is considered the most difficult language to learn because of its nuanced, tonal nature," she explained. "It is also the most commonly spoken language in the world!"

Fifth graders Ethel Gautschoux and Ember Lustbader wrapped up the announcements on Friday by greeting the school in French and Portuguese, respectively.

Based on their knowledge of multilingualism and the daily facts they heard, students were encouraged to take a survey. More than 275 middle schoolers participated, entering in a contest to win prizes. From the survey, it was learned that there are 35 languages represented at FMS! 

See below for the list of languages. 

Even the ninth graders in Andrea Bromberg's class aided in the cause, taking a poll of over 300 students in the cafeteria, who were asked to guess the number of languages represented at FMS. Eden Greenberg was the only student to guess correctly, which won her a multilingual themed t-shirt. 

Other prize winners, eighth graders Kota Shemonski and Gigi Levinson, were chosen based on their thoughtful responses to the survey’s short-answer question, which asked students to reflect on the meaning of the following quote by actress and writer Fiona Lewis:

"Learning another language is not only learning different words for the same things but learning another way to think about things."

Below are several of the students’ reflections.

 “I am thrilled by the number of students who participated in the optional survey and the enthusiastic support from our staff and administration,” Sullivan said. “The data collected shows the rich linguistic culture of the school and helped us learn more about our students. The first-ever, week-long language celebration generated many authentic conversations around the benefits of multilingualism.” 

Due to its far-reaching impact, Sullivan plans to make World Language Week an annual tradition, with hopes of expanding to Hastings High School in future years. 

All students who participated in the survey were offered multilingual themed stickers. 

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In preparation for the festivities, students participated in an at-home project with their families. On pink and red paper hearts, they wrote what they loved most about living in Hastings. A collaborative collage on a mock Hastings waterfront bulletin board displayed each students' heart and note. During the celebration, families enjoyed perusing the bulletin board they helped to create with their children.

Student in Dana Finsmith's and Michelle Campbell's class Lucia Heenan and family wrote, "I love how there are so many sweet people here!"

Another student, Florina Cheung, and family wrote, "I like Hastings-on-Hudson because it is small, cozy, and has lots of kind people."

In addition to activities surrounding Community of Love Day, the celebration included a showcase of more of the children's creations, including their proposals for the Hastings waterfront, which culminated a social studies unit on the history of Hastings. Constructing written plans with matching drawings, the students became strategic thinkers, utilizing their power of persuasive writing.

Other exhibits on display included the students' urban, rural, and suburban drawings; dioramas of downtown Hastings’ current goods and services; and watercolor paintings of the waterfront featuring the famous water tower. There was even a scavenger hunt on the history of Hastings!

Each class's celebration concluded with a special thank you to community members, who left the building with a renewed sense of gratitude, impressed by all the work shown.

Dana Finsmith's and Michelle Campbell's second grade class in front of the mock Hastings waterfront bulletin board. (Created by Michelle Campbell's, Dana Finsmith's, Courtney Dickens's and Ifie Fell's classes).
 
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Decked out in togas with a Valentine’s Day flair, necklaces, stickers and festive shades, students enjoyed a pot-luck dinner, participated in a funny Cupid gift exchange, and engaged in other fun activities including a game of Mythology Bingo and Latin Jeopardy.

"It was a smashing success!" said Driscoll. "A special thank you to Dr. McKersie for visiting us."

 

 

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“Harper has become an unofficial member of the class,” Cerretani said.

To honor Harper and the organization’s volunteers, the students crafted specially made cards leading up to Valentine’s Day. They sold the cards to their fellow students during their lunch periods, as well as to Farragut’s faculty and staff. 

“The fundraiser spread love throughout the school, while also raising funds for a local organization that has become near and dear to the students’ hearts,” Cerretani added.

Following the Holiday Card Fundraiser in December, which raised over $150, the Valentine’s Day Card Fundraiser raised an additional $215 for Hudson Valley Paws for a Cause – another feather in the caps of Cerretani’s students! Through these efforts, the students also learned essential life skills such as product development, salesmanship, financial management, and philanthropy. Most importantly, they are continuing to model compassion for others. 

“I am so proud of what they’ve achieved and the impact they’ve made on the larger community,” said Cerretani. 

In honor of Neurodiversity Celebration Week (March 18-24), World Down Syndrome Day (March 21), and World Autism Awareness Day (April 2) Cerretani's students will host their Second Annual Neurodiversity Awareness Fundraiser at FMS. Stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks. 

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Beginning last year, Hastings High School juniors (then sophomores) and Science Research students Victoria Lugomer-Pomper and Adam Greenwald proposed a collaborative new idea to Hillside STEAM Teacher Robin Farrell: an after-school club to share their knowledge and love of science with the district’s younger students.

After an encouraging “yes” from Farrell and a great deal of planning, the students, along with a group of their peers, brought their vision to life. The club, called Wonder Workshop, is now in full swing, meeting every other Friday at Hillside Elementary to provide enrichment opportunities for the school's second graders.

"The high schoolers drive the entire club," said Farrell. "They bring their own ideas and enthusiasm and work well with the kids."

In addition to what they’re already learning in Farrell’s STEAM class, Wonder Workshop’s elementary students engage in hands-on experiments that include takeaways to bring home.

According to the high school facilitators, who come together on a weekly basis to research and prepare, Wonder Workshop is all about teamwork and providing a memorable experience for the younger scientists.

"It’s inspiring to see the growth and collaboration," said Lugomer-Pomper. "The most rewarding part for me is when the students don’t quite understand the experiment on the first try, and by working together, they figure it out. Those sessions are the most successful ones. Being able to spearhead that collaboration is very fulfilling."

"I remember when I was younger and experienced science in different ways,” Greenwald said. "If we can continue to inspire that same love for science, it will be invaluable to the students' futures."

 

 

 

 

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Today, we're introducing the Portrait in Action, a new biweekly series aimed at showcasing the Portrait coming to life throughout the district.

Here is where we will feature the great work that students and their teachers are doing to weave the Portrait framework into daily classroom activities and model the Attributes outlined below:

Click here for the first edition. Stay tuned for more examples from each school as the series continues.

Remember, you can always visit the Portrait of a Hastings Learner (POHL) section of our new and improved website for more information.

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"Random Acts of Kindness Week is when we go beyond what is expected of us to reach out and help another person," Woodall explained to a packed audience of students in the Multipurpose Room. "There are hundreds of ways to show someone that you care." 

After watching this video, the students turned-and-talked to reflect on the different acts of kindness they witnessed. Then, the Safety Patrol performed a comedic yet educational skit to explain what Kindness Week, "only the greatest week ever," would entail. 

Spirit Day activities this week, as shared by the Safety Patrol on Monday, have included: 

  • Monday: Kick Kindness into Gear, Silly Sock Day
  • Tuesday: Team Up Tuesday, Team Up for Kindness & Wear Favorite Sports Team / Attire 
  • Wednesday: Wellness Wednesday, Wear Red or Pin to Show You Can Be Kind and Love Yourself
  • Thursday: Words Can’t Be Taken Back/Turn Your Back on Bullying, Wear Your Clothing Backwards
  • Friday (Tomorrow): We Dream of Kindness Pajama Day, Dress in Your Favorite PJs to get ready for Winter Break 

This year, there was even a Kindness Challenge, where all students were asked to record a week's worth of kind acts and add each one to the "pot of gold" to show that kindness is worth more than gold.

"There will be a prize for the grade that completes the most acts of kindness," said one student on the Safety Patrol, Zeba. "The prize will be announced when we get back from break."

On Valentine's Day, all kindergarten classes celebrated their 100th Day of School. 

Led by their teachers, the school's youngest learners, wearing specially made hats, participated in a series of activities including a Lego challenge using 100 Legos, a 100-second exercising contest, dice-rolling, a color by number game, and much more.

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Congratulations are in order for: 

 

  • Justin Baldassarre
  • Robert Burdick
  • Jacob Goldman-Wetzler
  • Sonya Lasser
  • Owen Linder
  • Zixuan Wang

 

This recognition is indication of the years of excellent teaching and support each student has received throughout their K-12 experience at Hastings. Please join us in congratulating the Finalists, their teachers and families!

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Thank you to our families who attended the Parent Gender Workshop at Hillside Elementary School. 

Please click here to review the presentation and access helpful resources.

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Students in Mary Greene's and Larry Cerretani's sixth-grade English Language Arts classes recently finished a Book Club Unit focused on neurodiversity.

Working together on the assignment, the middle schoolers created posters that visually represented the books they read. Each student contributed one of the following options to their group poster:

 Learning about the vast spectrum of neurotypes, such as Autism, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior, Synesthesia, Cerebral Palsy, and Dyslexia, fostered inclusivity and awareness among classmates. The students were eager to research, understand, and share perspectives about these topics, demonstrating their intellectual curiosity and empathy toward one another. Their final projects featured the diverse ways people perceive and interact with the world.

"The book helped me understand that other people see the world differently than I do, and those differences could affect the way their life happens and how they learn," said one student, Oliver. "I also learned that just because you have a learning difference, it doesn't mean you should be treated any differently."

Sasha, another student, said, "I read the book The Goldfish Boy and the character, Matthew, had OCD about getting germs. I felt like I was able to understand him and people who have OCD better and can help them."

"We are proud of the students' hard work and creativity," said Greene. "They showed their appreciation and understanding of others' brain differences through reading, writing, and collaborative discussions."

Below is the full list of the books that students chose from:

  • The Museum of Lost and Found by Leila Sales
  • Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
  • Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
  • Mockingbird by Katherine Erskine
  • The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson
  • A Mango Shaped Space by Wendy Mass

 

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After a comprehensive assessment of student well-being, multiple strategic

discussions, and a year-long New York State approval process, the district has established a school-based Mental Health Clinic to support children with social and emotional challenges.

Assistant Director of Special Education MariAngela Sanchez set the idea in motion, leveraging her background as a Supervisor of School Psychologists in New York City. After keenly observing the needs of students, Sanchez, along with Hastings' teaching and clinical staff, called for a more holistic approach to student mental health services. Forging a partnership with Andrus Health and Wellness Center, a private nonprofit serving six other school districts in Westchester County (Yonkers, Charter School of Educational Excellence, White Plains, Lakeland, Ossining, and Peekskill), Sanchez and her colleagues made their vision a reality.

Andrus, who uses preventative and restorative practices to manage the impact of childhood adversity and provide coping strategies for success, is one of the Support Satellite Clinics receiving funding from New York State. This is part of Governor Hochul's $1 billion plan to expand the continuum of youth mental health care.

With the help of Adriana Miller, a licensed social worker from Andrus, Hastings is reaping the benefits of the Governor's plan. Miller, who started at Hastings in January, is working with the district's clinical and teaching staff to develop intervention plans for in-school counseling. She is on campus five days a week, splitting her time equally between the three schools.

According to Sanchez, the newly established Mental Health Clinic aims to significantly improve access to therapeutic support, especially for children facing barriers to care. Based on evolving needs, ongoing evaluations will be conducted on programs and services.

"I hope the school community recognizes the value of the school-based Mental Health Clinic," Sanchez said, "and the value in fostering ongoing partnerships to enhance the social-emotional well-being of all students".

 

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In honor of World Read Aloud Day, Hillside Elementary School focused various student activities on the joy of reading. One special aspect of the celebration was a procession around the school led by kindergartners and their teachers to the applause of older students.

Having just begun their reading journey, the students were beaming with excitement. Clutching their favorite picture books bursting with colorful illustrations and enchanting tales, the children paraded through the hallways wearing specially made hats. The other students lined outside their classrooms clapping as they strutted on by with confidence. The Spirit Day theme, "Pajama Day," added to the joyousness of the occasion. What could be better than getting cozy with a good book?

Each year, the traditions of World Read Aloud Day bring the Hillside community together, amplify voices, and leave students' hearts filled with the magic of storytelling.

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The PTSA's Used Book Fair, a community-driven, decades-long tradition, took place last week in Hillside's small gym.

Read a personal reflection below from parent volunteer Sharon Billman, who, each year, leads a team that keeps the tradition alive and thriving.

"I'm proud to be continuing an event that's become a part of our village. What other place could fill a gym with books in seven hours? I love the camaraderie of being part of this team of volunteers. I love when a neighbor hands me a book and says 'Have you read this one yet? It's really good.' I read more good books that way. I especially love when a kid's face lights up with delight over a book."

 

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Emily Isidori, a first-grade special education teacher at Hillside Elementary School, recently received a National Board Certification, the most respected professional certification in education. The National Board Certification was designed to develop, retain, and recognize accomplished teachers and to generate ongoing improvement in schools nationwide.

For this edition of Staff Spotlight, we asked Isidori about the certification process, what her achievement means to her, and more. Check out her responses below. 

What is the process like to become a Nationally Certified Board-Teacher (NBCT)?

The process to become a NBCT is an extremely rigorous one. It is made up of four components: 

  • Component One is an assessment, which determines understanding of content knowledge and teaching practices. 
  • Component Two challenges you to reflect on differentiation practices to incorporate and design out-of-the-box thinking that ensures all students are being appropriately challenged. 
  • Component Three invites the cameras inside the classroom and asks for a deep reflection and analysis of your teaching. This is an opportunity to watch yourself teach and interact with your students. 
  • Component Four, better known as “the beast”, asks you to reflect on your impact on students and how you’ve collaborated with other members of the school community to advance students’ learning and growth. 

What inspired you to pursue the certification? 

I heard about the process from fellow Board-Certified teachers Lisa Levine and Katie Magnatta. Learning how much of a positive impact it made on their teaching practices inspired me to pursue it. 

What does this accomplishment mean to you?

This accomplishment means much more to me than I anticipated. I learned a great deal during the process, not only about who I am as an educator, but also as a human being. The incredible part about this experience was the guidance I received from my colleagues at Hillside, as well as the families of my students. They were all so invested in my success. To say I’m grateful for this support system is an understatement. 

What do you love most about being a teacher? 

There are so many things I love. What I love most is watching as the light bulbs go on when something clicks for a student who may have been struggling with a concept. I love seeing the children apply strategies they have learned and use them across all areas. I love the sense of humor that first-graders have and, of course, I love their eagerness to learn.

What goal do you have for this school year and beyond? 

My primary goal is to foster a love of learning in all students. I hope to inspire them to continue exploring even outside of the classroom. I want them to see the value and joy in lifelong learning and to feel confident in their ability to pursue their interests and passions. My hope is to be able to impart to them the confidence to know that they can do hard things and that we are all here to help them reach their goals.  

What is one fun fact about yourself? 

I grew up in Jamaica and came to the states to go to a performing-arts boarding school at age 16, where I majored in dance. I love taking my background in dance and applying it to choreographing the fourth and sixth grade musicals in Hastings alongside Lisa Levine. 

What is your favorite quote or mantra? 

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” -Helen Keller

 

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It's a new semester and over 25 seventh graders have signed up for Arianna Grassia’s Media Literacy course. The course, which was added as an elective last year, teaches middle schoolers critical thinking skills and empowers them to make informed decisions about what they see and hear in the media.

The day's lesson has begun and on the itinerary is media-mapping, a process of identifying and evaluating various media types.

"Media is so big these days," Grassia said to the class. "My hope for today is that you begin to consider what types of media you’re engaging with.”

Before planning what to include on their own media maps, students participated in a practice round. Grassia handed each table little strips of paper containing content names and titles. Groups worked together with a glue stick to paste each strip into the right media category.

After the practice exercise, every student received a Media Map Planning Sheet with sections for print media, web-based media (YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok), movies, television, music/podcasts, and video/mobile games.

“Use this sheet to reflect on your media consumption,” said Grassia. “Are you consuming one type of media more than another? What types of videos are you watching? What music do you listen to? Be specific.”

The middle schoolers will use the planning sheets to create personalized media maps. Once the maps are finalized, the classroom will be transformed into a museum-like format and time will be allotted for students to view their peers' media maps, connect and reflect.

Grassia hopes that by the end of the course, her students will have "creator" mindsets, but most importantly, they will have learned to stop being passive consumers of content. Asking questions is the first step!

 

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Dear Hastings Families & Staff:

I am thrilled to announce that Mr. Andrew (Andy) Clayman has been appointed

by the Board of Education as the new Principal of Hastings High School.

The BOE met with Mr. Clayman in Executive Session this evening and then in a Special Meeting voted unanimously to support my unequivocal recommendation. Mr. Clayman will assume the principalship on July 1, 2024, following the retirement of Mr. Lou Adipietro. 

Mr. Clayman emerged as the top candidate from a several month process, which attracted over 70 applicants. Three semi-finalists met with the Advisory Committee on January 10, and two were invited back for a second, intensive session with the Committee on January 17 and 24. Mr. Clayman received strong backing from all members of the Advisory Committee following the second session, with endorsement of his exceptional experience as a high school teacher and administrator, obvious dedication to students of all backgrounds and abilities, and success at working with faculty and staff to collectively lead high schools to foster the growth and well-being of every student.

Mr. Clayman’s references underscored his rare abilities and record as a high school educator and administrator. Among many commendations, his references noted especially his intellect, “often thinking four steps ahead

of many of us;” his tireless and effective attention to students and their needs, “providing them formal input to the school’s direction, or simply recognizing their need for fun engagement activities;” his dedication to working with fellow faculty and administrators to “think outside of the box for student success…including when he connected experiential education experiences to the structures of the International Baccalaureate program;” and, his “unique work ethic with a signature ability to interact in open, accessible and personal ways with students of all backgrounds.”  In the words of one reference, who has supervised and mentored Mr. Clayman since 2007, “Hastings is landing an uncommonly talented high school leader, who can address immediate problems and issues, while always looking long-term for creative and systematic ways to advance student learning and growth.”

Mr. Clayman’s cover letter and resume provide details on his attraction to Hastings and his impressive work history. Since 2007, Mr. Clayman has been a leader, as a teacher and then administrator, in the small high schools innovation initiatives of the New York City Public Schools. For the past five years, he has been principal of Health Opportunities High School. For the previous 10 years, he was a founding teacher (English Language Arts), International Baccalaureate Program Director and assistant principal of KAPPA International High School. Mr. Clayman received his B.A. from Skidmore College, Masters of Science in Teaching Secondary English from Pace University (as a New York City Teacher Fellow), and Masters in Educational Leadership from City College CUNY. 

Upon his appointment by the BOE, Mr. Clayman stated, “I’d like to extend my heartfelt appreciation to Dr. McKersie, Dr. Szymanski, the Advisory Committee and the Board of Education for this tremendous opportunity. Hastings is such a warm, welcoming community that is equally committed to academic excellence, supporting a diversity of learners and attending to students’ socio-emotional needs and I feel honored to accept this position. I look forward to rolling up my sleeves, meeting everyone, and getting to work!”

Mr. Clayman lives in Sleepy Hollow, NY with his wife Lilly, and two young children, Simone and Ezra. When not working, he enjoys all kinds of outdoor adventures (hiking, biking, rock climbing, skiing), reading, cooking and traveling. 

Please join me in congratulating Mr. Clayman on his appointment.  I look forward to introducing him to as many of you as possible in the coming months.

Be well.

Bill 

William S. McKersie, Ph.D., Superintendent of Schools

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Third Annual High School One Acts two stsudent on stage with a dog

On Thursday, January 11, and Friday, January 12, high schoolers in Hastings Theatre Program performed the Third Annual High School One Acts, a collection of short comedy scenes adapted from shows like Saturday Night Live that are directed, crewed, acted, and overseen entirely by students.

Equally as impressive as the show, which had audience members falling out of their seats with laughter, was the $2,400 raised for the Hastings Food Pantry and the Hillside Woods Restoration Project.

Third-Annual-High-School-One-Acts-Three actors around a campfire on stage

“A big thank you to Ms. Udice for her invaluable help and support, Mr. Adipietro, Ms. Hardesty, Dr. McKersie, Dr. Szymanski, and Ms. Saviano,” said Co-director Erik Ghalib. “We're so grateful for your support of the One Acts and the Theatre Program as a whole.”


Read reflections below from Co-directors Erik Ghalib, Lionel Muench, and Frances Kastner. 

"Thanks to the work of our amazing cast, crew, and directors, the third-ever fully student-run High School One Acts was a huge success! This year, the show involved more than ninety students, three teacher actors, an elementary schooler, and a dog. And because of the incredible support of the Hastings community, we were able to raise over $2,400 for the Hastings Food Pantry and the Hillside Woods Restoration Project. Lionel and I are sad to be saying goodbye to the show, but we know that it will be in great hands next year with Franny Kastner and Isaac Volpe as co-directors."

– Ghalib

"It has been an amazing three years and that is because of the help of our endlessly supportive teachers, the trusting administration, faculty and staff, and our wonderful directors, cast and crew. We could not have asked for a better group of people to put on this show. It is thanks to them that we were able to put this show on and raise this money. I'm excited to see One Acts continue to grow long after our years at Hastings."

– Muench

"The One Acts is a great space for students to put on a show of their own, as this is the only fully student-run production offered at the school! It gives students the large responsibility of working together as a whole cast and crew. Along with being incredibly helpful mentors to me throughout the past two years, Lionel and Erik have made the show such a welcoming space where everybody feels comfortable. This is especially true and often a difficult task in a show where students are being directed/managed by their peers."

– Kastner


Third-Annual-High-School-One-Acts--wide-cast-show-on-stage
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headshot Jacob Goldman-Wetzler

It was recently announced that two Hastings High School seniors–Justin Baldassare and Jacob Goldman-Wetzler–were named Scholars in this year's Regeneron Science Talent Search.

Communications Associate Jackie Saviano spoke with the two Scholars to learn more about their research projects, inspiration, and future plans. Last week's Hastings Happenings featured her conversation with Baldassare.

This week, we feature Saviano's conversation with the second Regeneron Scholar Jacob Goldman-Wetzler on his project "Investigating the Impact of Optimal Flashcard Creation Principles on Memory."


How did you learn about Regeneron’s Science Talent Search (STS)? What was the application process like?

I learned about the Science Talent Search through my Science Research class. Ms. Shandroff encouraged me to apply. The application process was long with lots of questions to write answers to. Some parts were fun, like describing my aspirations as a future scientist.

Can you explain your project in simple terms?

My project titled "Investigating the Impact of Optimal Flashcard Creation Principles on Memory" had two parts:

  1. I created an algorithm to automate the process of making computerized flashcards.
  2. I tested different ways of making flashcards and found that flashcards using Piotr Wozniak's principles of optimal flashcard creation do work better, which is the first time that these principles have been empirically validated. In the future, this could help make flashcards and spaced repetition, a method of reviewing material at systematic intervals, more accessible.

What inspired you to focus your project on this topic?

Over the past few years, I have gotten really interested in spaced repetition memory systems. I've used them to dramatically reduce the time I study for tests and learn material for school. This made me want to study them further. Making the flashcards took up the most time for me, and so I wondered if I could automate it. The desire to create automated, optimal flashcards is what led to my project.

Do you have any advice for students who are interested in the STS?

I'd recommend filling out the application, even if it looks like a lot. The expected value of filling it out is high and you never know if you will be selected. It's okay to fill it out fast just to get your name in the pot. Don't let the need for perfection be your enemy.

What are your plans after high school? 

Unless I find something better to do, I’ll probably go to college. After that, I want to help align superintelligent AI systems.

If you could have a conversation with a scientist, alive or deceased, who would it be? 

I'd talk to physicist Richard Feynman. I've read his book Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! so many times. He has taught me a great deal of life lessons and I would love to talk to him and learn more.


Please join us as we congratulate both Jacob and Justin on such a prestigious achievement.

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Led by new Music Teacher and Hastings alumnus Doug Friedman, third and fourth graders at Hillside Elementary School recently performed their Winter Chorus Concert for their parents.

Smiling and standing tall on choral risers in the front of the Multipurpose room, students were accompanied by Hillside's Occupational Therapist Anna Marie Epstein on the Kongos and Choral Activities Director Jon Riss on the piano. Two children were assigned to introduce each song using a microphone. One of the songs was Randall Thompson's "Velvet Shoes," which paints the picture of walking through soft snow in winter. Another was Katy Perry's "Firework."

"It means the world to me to support your children's music-making," Friedman said to families in his opening remarks.

For the entire concert, students reached for the stars, danced and confidently belted out all the lyrics, making their parents and their teachers very proud.

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It was announced last week that two Hastings High School seniors–Justin Baldassare and Jacob Goldman-Wetzler–were named Scholars in this year's Regeneron Science Talent Search.

Communications Associate Jackie Saviano spoke with the two Scholars to learn more about their research projects, inspiration, and future plans. Check out her conversation with Baldassare below.

How did you learn about Regeneron’s Science Talent Search (STS)? What was the application process like?

I learned about STS through our school's research teacher, Mrs. Shandroff. She's always encouraging us to put our projects out there and compete in fairs, and I wanted to showcase my work! 

The application process was extremely lengthy. There were several essays and many sections for describing methodology, results, conclusions, etc. Additionally, the application required submission of a paper 20 pages in length and a long section for my mentor to fill out. 

What is your project titled? Can you explain it in simple terms for our community? 

My project is titled "STING-rich Ciliated Cells Protect the Fallopian Tube from Early Transformation in the Development of Ovarian Cancer."

A Quick Research Summary:

STING is an immune response pathway that's a vital component of the body's ability to fight cancer and other illnesses. My project examines the ways that this pathway kills potentially cancerous cells in the fallopian tube. 

Ovarian cancer is usually diagnosed at a very late stage, once it's extremely aggressive and difficult to treat. I wanted to explore what's occurring in early-stage ovarian cancer. Detecting ovarian cancer early (and understanding what's causing it) is an untapped opportunity to improve prognostic outcomes. 

For my project, I studied STING expression in the fallopian tubes in humans and mice (where ovarian cancer begins at its earliest stages) and discovered the following: STING is lost in the earliest known stages of ovarian cancer in humans. Without it, potentially cancerous cells are able to grow in the fallopian tube.

In the future, we could potentially target STING or raise its expression in the fallopian tubes to intervene in ovarian cancer.

What inspired you to focus your project on this topic?

My mom died of ovarian cancer when I was nine years old. She was an amazing mom and encouraged me to be a curious question-asker. She'd be proud. My family feels the weight of her loss every day, and it felt important to use my interest in science to honor her. I carry a picture of her in my wallet wherever I go. 

Do you have any advice for students who are interested in the STS?

In general, it's important to pick a project you're willing to work hard at, regardless of wanting to win awards. 

Advice that comes to mind:

  • If you're in a lab, take almost excessive notes and read papers during any down time you have. Broad knowledge helps understand your work in context, and when writing a research paper, it's useful to look back on notes from the lab. 
  • Network! Get a sense for what people in your field are researching. 
  • Make sure your research tells a compelling story. Present data in a logical, exciting order.

What are your plans after high school? 

First, go to college. In the future, I’m hoping to use my education to engineer technologies for early cancer detection, possibly in the biotech start-up space. I’m especially interested in pursuing cancer research at the intersection between biology, technology, ethics, and business.

If you could have a conversation with a scientist, alive or deceased, who would it be? 

Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of Emperor of All Maladies. He's especially interesting to me because not only is he a prolific researcher, but he has also written numerous books that are accessible to a general audience. The aforementioned title is on the history of cancer.

To me, science is most useful when it's accessible and involves a conversation across fields. I'd love to talk to him about how scientists can forge a more transparent, communicative relationship with the public, and I'd most definitely chat him up about bioethics. 

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First graders at Hillside Elementary School concluded a unit on Civics with a Peace March last week. A tradition instituted many years ago by first grade team leader Maria Gunther and retired first grade teacher Leigh Galanis, the event honored the life of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by spreading messages of peace and unity throughout the school.

Guided by a team of teachers and the strumming sounds of Ms. Galanis’ guitar, the first grade sang songs like “This Little Light of Mine,” marching through the hallways carrying their handmade signs. Students in other grades gazed in admiration as the first grade role models strolled by. Words and phrases written on the signs included “Be a Part of a Community” and “Use Kind Words."

Watch the behind-the-scenes video below for a glimpse into the Peace March and celebration. 

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The initiative aimed to develop valuable skills applicable to pre-vocational tasks, while simultaneously supporting local partner and pet therapy organization Hudson Valley Paws for a Cause.

In the week leading up to the fundraiser, students meticulously crafted the cards using a variety of materials. They managed dozens of orders, delivered the cards to staff mailboxes, and monitored fundraising finances. Through this multifaceted approach, students applied diverse skills in a meaningful way. 

"While the students anticipated the fundraiser to last at least two weeks, the cards were sold out within a few days!" Cerretani said.

The fundraising effort culminated in an impressive $155 raised, as revealed by 7th-grade student Olivia Allan, who conducted the final count. Students enjoyed creating and selling the handmade cards. They were especially excited to contribute to Hudson Valley Paws for a Cause, home of their therapy dog, Harper. 

Larry Cerretani commended the students for their hard work and dedication, emphasizing the broader impact of the fundraiser on both skill development and supporting a worthy cause. The success of this initiative highlights the positive outcomes that can emerge when students are empowered to apply their skills for a greater purpose.

For more information on Hudson Valley Paws for a Cause, click here.

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Those were the ambitious goals that propelled Hastings High School seniors Jacob Goldman-Wetzler and Justin Baldassarre to be named Scholars in this year's Regeneron Science Talent Search, our nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition.

Goldman-Wetzler and Baldassarre are among 300 students selected from high schools across 48 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and four other countries. The Regeneron Science Talent Search recognizes and empowers promising young scientists to explore innovative solutions to significant global challenges through rigorous research and discovery. By providing a national stage, the competition empowers students to present new ideas and challenge conventional ways of thinking.

In recognition, the Hastings Scholars will each receive $2,000 and the high school will receive the same for STEM-related activities. Forty students will be chosen as finalists on January 24 and will have a chance to compete in March for a grand prize of $250,000. 

"This is the fourth year in a row that our students have been recognized in this very competitive competition,” said Science Department Chairperson Melissa Shandroff. “And it's the first time we have had more than one student chosen — a testament to all of their hard work!"

Stay tuned for more information, including a featured interview with both Scholars. 

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Organized by senior Benny Feldman, the Valley Cup has generated major attention in the tri-state area, increasing participation in National Academic Quiz Tournaments (NAQT).

“The mission of the Valley Cup, both this year and last year, was to introduce the local, more insular Westchester teams to a more competitive circuit,” Feldman said.

That mission was largely accomplished on Saturday, with 30 teams from 21 schools coming to compete. Five of the schools were from Westchester; most notably Eastchester High School, which placed third, making it to a semi-final tiebreaker. Other participating teams came from the Bronx’s Horace Mann, and schools in Long Island, New Jersey and Connecticut. 

Click here for the full list of participating schools.

Following NAQT format, the tournament consisted of sets of various questions with a maximum of six players per team. The teams were placed into preliminary brackets before being re-seeded for playoffs. Each team was guaranteed a minimum of 10 games.

“Benny planned the entire event, including lunch for the staff,” said Academic Challenge Team Advisor Michael Willson. “All of our junior and senior team members were moderators and scorers.” 

After each tournament, trophies were awarded to individuals with the highest average points per game, as well as to the top three teams. The highest scorers were awarded book prizes, also qualifying for the Northeast Regional Championships and/or High School National Championship Tournament.

“The effort these past two years has been amazing,” Feldman said. “Not only is Hastings representing Westchester on the national stage, but we’ve also built the infrastructure for our fellow Westchester teams to be successful. We hope to see our efforts create a lasting impact!”

Funds raised from the Second Annual Valley Cup will benefit Hastings' Academic Challenge Team, who, in case you didn't know, is currently ranked 14th in the nation.

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It was another day in Hastings, and Dr. McKersie was doing what he calls his routine "walk-about" through the bustling halls

It was another day in Hastings, and Dr. McKersie was doing what he calls his routine "walk-about" through the bustling halls of Hillside Elementary School. On the itinerary was a guest reading in Christine Samuel's and Eszter Fejer's classes.

He shared a summary of his experience reading to Samuel's fourth grade class in a report for Tuesday's Board of Education Meeting:

"The text is the joyful book, he th (Giles Andreae & Guy Parker-Rees). Even if you do not know the book, you can guess that Gerald (the Giraffe) evolves from a clutz on the dance floor to a veritable Baryshnikov (or Gregory Hines). Gerald’s parting wisdom: 'We can all dance…when we find music that we love.' I turned to the class and asked, 'What do you love so much that it gets you going, makes you happy, makes you want to do even more?' The class leapt to respond, with eager hands thrust in the air signaling their love to share: 'Reading… math… soccer… basketball… drawing… painting… reading (again)… my after-school program… swimming… Hillside… soccer (again)... reading (again)... and, of course, Taylor Swift (three times).' Hard to recreate the moment here, but it put a skip in my step. Early glimpse of their essential, emerging passions."

On his visit to Fejer's second grade class, he wrote:

"I appreciated the chance to work with students on the layers—serious and fun—of The Thing Lou Couldn't Do. Their energy was matched by their inquisitiveness and willingness to share ideas about the characters and story progression. Maybe most memorable was their ability to have fun with the book, laughing and smiling as the humor, some subtle, that emerged in words and pictures."
 

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two pictures of students, each working on recycling projects

After learning about the biochemistry of composting and its benefits to earth in STEAM, Hillside students, with supervision from parent volunteers and members of Hastings’ Zero-Waste Advisory Taskforce (ZWAT), participated in a lunchtime composting pilot. 

The pilot, scheduled for Fridays in December, allowed the elementary schoolers to apply their new knowledge of waste separation.

“Even older students, especially those in the Lunch Buddies program, have taken on roles as compost monitors!” said parent volunteer and ZWAT member Rachel Thornton. 

students at trash can

Following the school’s lunch periods, trash and compost are weighed, and data is compiled for the purpose of measuring progress. On December 8th alone, 105.5 pounds of waste was generated from lunch. 91.5 pounds of that total was compost. This amounts to 87% of lunch waste, and is an improvement of over 76%, based on a measurement taken on Earth Week’s Compost Day.

“Students should be able to feel the daily satisfaction of helping take care of their world!” Thornton added.

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Screenshot of Video Matilda Jr

On Friday, December 8, and Saturday, December 9, sixth graders in the Hastings Theatre Program performed their musical production, Matilda Jr.

With sold out seats on both evenings, the show proved to be a massive hit for community members of all ages. Click here to view the program.

Watch the video above for a behind-the-scenes look into the cast and crew's dress rehearsal and performance.

Matilda Jr-students in aisle
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17 students sitting on froor with hands together cross legged

As part of Hillside’s social studies curriculum, students in Tasnim Nagrath’s kindergarten class learned all about their family's culture. 

“The children have been getting in-depth knowledge from their families about what countries they come from, the languages that are spoken at home, and traditions, including art, cuisine, and music,” said Nagrath.

Building an understanding of diverse cultures and communities, students culminated the lesson by sharing their family history with each other.
 

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14 students on stage singing

On Friday, December 8, and Saturday, December 9, sixth graders in the Hastings Theatre Program performed their musical production, Matilda Jr.

With sold out shows on both evenings, it proved to be a massive hit for audience members of all ages.

Stay tuned for more photos in next week's Hastings Happenings.

Click here to view the program.

Sixth Grades Matilda Jr two student on stage
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Academic Challenge Team & Model U.N. Club students dressed up  nicely

Both the Hastings High School Academic Challenge Team and Model U.N. Club are a force to be reckoned with this year.

Students on the Academic Challenge Team have extended their academic prowess from the Westchester League to all over the metropolitan region. They started the season out as a clear top team in the Northeast, placing in the top five at every tournament, including 2nd at Columbia University in October and 3rd at Livingston High School in New Jersey in November. Above all, their statistical performances have earned them a 24th rank in the country!

All their hard work came full circle at Columbia on December 2, when they defeated Hunter College High School, which, according to Team Captain Benny Feldman, is a top-ranked magnet school and a perennial powerhouse in the circuit since its infancy. This was the team's first-ever tournament win against an opponent outside Westchester.

Students from the Model U.N. Club and School Academic Challenge Team

“We are a team from Westchester, a relatively insular local league that doesn't tend to venture outside to play teams, let alone beat teams like Hunter, and that speaks to our dedication and prowess this season,” said Feldman. “By far, the most credit needs to go to Hazel DePreist-Sullivan, our top-scorer, who put on a clinic at Columbia and has improved at an unprecedented rate, solidifying herself as a top player not only in the Northeast, but also in the country.”

The team looks forward to the Garden Cup, which will take place at Livingston High School, and is estimated to be the largest Northeast tournament since pre-COVID. 

School Academic Challenge Team and Model U.N. Club

“We have hopped back on the grind and are hoping to get the crown and establish ourselves as the new kings of the region!” Feldman added

High schoolers in Model U.N. are also excelling. Advisor of both the Academic Challenge Team and Model U.N. Michael Willson shared a summary below on Model U.N. Club’s recent accomplishments: 

"The students participated in two conferences: October 21 at Horace Mann and December 2 at the Masters School. Club President Emma Gelman did a fantastic job leading the weekly practices and providing research to prepare the various committees. At the Masters School, Emma won the prize for top delegate on her committee. Frieda Belasco and Adela Mihalcescu also won awards." 

“I'm very pleased that both clubs have large numbers of freshmen members who are enthusiastic and committed,” Willson added. “I look forward to watching them grow in the coming years.”

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As part of the New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) Area-All-State Music Festival, nine Hastings High School musicians were featured in four ensembles in a series of concerts at New Rochelle High School.

Based on their high-scoring NYSSMA solos last year, the following students were selected:

  • Keith Mon, Violin, String Orchestra
  • Sofia Eliasi, Violin, Symphony Orchestra
  • Johanna Nollen, Violin, Symphony Orchestra
  • Nitin Kodali, Viola, Symphony Orchestra
  • Aidan Dorn, Bass, Symphony Orchestra
  • Josh Burdick, Bass, Symphony Orchestra
  • Natalie Garson, Clarinet, Concert Band
  • Drew Neiman, Clarinet, Concert Band
  • Izzy Meisner, Alto 1, Treble Chorus

In addition, the following three Hastings High School musicians below received individual accolades. "We are so proud of these incredible student musicians for their well-deserved recognition," said Hastings Music Teacher Eric Day. "It's wonderful to see their hard work, talent, and creativity be recognized at such a high level."

Miles Levine playing Cello
Miles Levine won the Juilliard Pre-College Concerto Competition and performed the Bacewicz Cello Concerto No. 1 at Lincoln Center with the Juilliard Pre-College Orchestra on November 18.
Jasper Zimmerman playing Piano

Jasper Zimmerman won two awards from the prestigious YoungArts National Competition, one for Jazz/Piano and one for Jazz/Composition. His composition portfolio included three original pieces, "Redemption of Eris," "Interstellar Cable Car," and "Hexaflexagon." Jasper was also selected as an alternate for this year's NYSSMA All-State Jazz Band.

zoe verduin by a piano

Zoe Verduin represented Hastings High School at the NYSSMA All-State Conference in Rochester, N.Y., with a winning original composition entitled "Waltz for Piano."

 

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Justin Baldassarre, senior and member of Hastings High School's Science Research class

Justin Baldassarre, senior and member of Hastings High School's Science Research class, recently attended the 2023 Ovarian Cancer Midwest Focus Conference held at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

This past summer, Baldassarre conducted his science research project at the University of Michigan in the lab of Ovarian Cancer Researcher Dr. Analisa DiFeo. He presented his project, "STING-Rich Ciliated Cells Protect the Fallopian Tube from Early Transformation in the Development of Ovarian Cancer" at the Conference with his mentor Dr. Jose Colina.

Stay tuned for more information in an upcoming Hastings Happenings.
 

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The Village, along with the MLK Breakfast Committee, is proud to announce the 12th Anniversary MLK Breakfast honoring the life of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The event will take place on Monday, January 15, at the James Harmon Community Center.

MLK in Wash DC at reflecting pool by Washington Monument

Each year, students from the Rivertowns use creativity to express their impressions of today’s most challenging social issues. This year, students are being asked to submit an essay (300 words or less) or artwork addressing the following question:

What is your vision for peace in 2024?

All submissions are due by Friday, January 5. Click here to download the flier with more information about the celebration and competition.

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On Monday, December 4, third graders participated in a series of hands-on workshops led by the National Circus Project, an outreach program that combines art education and physical education to foster creativity and confidence and to encourage self-discipline. 

Two students balancing plates on sticks

The program for Hillside students was a result of a Cultural Arts grant provided by the PTSA, with leadership from STEAM Teacher Robin Farrell. 

“In third grade, our students learn about patterns of motion,” said Farrell. “Part of this learning is connected to the patterns of motion on the playground, but then extrapolated to circus performances.”

Building on classroom teachings, students received a hands-on lesson on force and motion. The workshops, called “circus samplers”, taught the children the basics of juggling, plate-spinning, balancing, devil sticks and diabolo manipulation. 

Devil sticks, also known as flower sticks, involve manipulating one stick between two other sticks held in each hand. The baton is lifted, struck, or stroked by the two control sticks, stabilizing the baton through gyroscopic motion. 

 

Diablo circus art toy

 

The diabolo is a circus prop consisting of an axle and two cups (hourglass shaped) or discs derived from the Chinese yo-yo. The object is spun using a string attached to two hand sticks ("batons" or "wands"). A large variety of tricks are possible with the diabolo, including tosses and various types of interaction with the sticks, string, and various parts of the user's body. Multiple diabolos can be spun on a single string. Like the yo-yo, it maintains its spinning motion through a rotating effect.

After a day filled with experimentation and movement, Farrell facilitated a debrief session with students where they identified the ways in which forces and energy were demonstrated.

“It felt wonderful to be able to put hands-on, kinesthetic learning into action with this program!” Farrell said. 

students playing with balancing plastic plates on sticks
5 students playing with balancing plastic plates on sticks
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Hastings High School students enjoyed a blast from the past recently, as they walked through the halls of Hillside Elementary School prepared to give kindergartners in Nina D’Amato’s class a lesson on engineering.

To start, the district’s youngest learners were taught the basics of the engineering field. High schoolers fielded their questions and stories. Next, it was time to test their skills with the Marshmallow Challenge. The class split into four teams. Each team was tasked with building a tower using twenty sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, and one yard of string--enough to support a whole marshmallow at the top. Throughout the classroom stood a variety of tower designs, each one as creative as the next.

Kids sitting in Classroom

To round out the day’s activities, the youngsters tested out the catapult-style carnival games designed by the high school engineers. Part of a culminating project, the carnival games required high schoolers to collect data, analyze statistics, calculate net profit using mathematical modeling, and measure accuracy and precision.
 
“The games also had to engage an audience,” said Project Lead the Way teacher Faye Barenfeld. “Based on the kids’ smiles, they definitely did!”
 
Thanks to a grant provided by the Hastings Education Foundation (HEF) in 2020, Barenfeld’s Introduction to Engineering course is offered to middle and high school students. The course stems from the national organization called Project Lead the Way, which helps students develop career skills starting in kindergarten and continuing through to their senior year of high school.

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In the spirit of giving, students in Larry Cerretani’s Daily Living Skills class partnered with ninth grade peer volunteers to organize a food donation for Midnight Run Inc., a volunteer organization whose goal is to forge a bond between the housed and the homeless and provide a foundation of sharing and caring from which solutions may evolve. 
 
The donation, which was made to Midnight Run’s Dobbs Ferry location, involved bagged lunches specially assembled by the middle schoolers. High School freshmen Zelda Weitzman, Eliana Wallach, and Ami and Isla Martial made the sandwiches.
 
“This is the third year in a row that our students assembled bagged lunches for the Midnight Run," said Cerretani. “It’s become an annual tradition in our class. We call it our Day of Giving.”
 
Together, Cerretani and his class donated two large boxes of bagged lunches, providing food to dozens of homeless people.
 
To learn more about Midnight Run Inc., click here.
 

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On Tuesday evening, November 21, Project Share hosted its Thanksgiving Dinner for the homeless. A decades-long tradition, the event treats adults and children to a Thanksgiving feast prepared and served by Hastings students, staff, parents and residents. 

This year, upwards of 500 guests were in attendance. Santa even made an early appearance, riding his sleigh all the way from the North Pole to greet children. Vibrant place settings with the hymn “Amazing Grace” covered the tables. Bright flowers served as centerpieces. The food was indeed delicious, and equally as colorful as the fully transformed Cochran Gymnasium. 

A student-driven community service organization, Project Share has not only made a difference with its signature Thanksgiving Dinner event at Hastings, but also in other local neighborhoods in Westchester County and the larger community. What began as a Hastings High School club has since expanded into an independent nonprofit.

Last year, Executive Director Jeanne Newman, who first established Project Share in 1987, explained the groups mission:
 

"The organization’s active involvement with outreach volunteerism has provided opportunities for students to form friendships with those who are disenfranchised and disempowered, which, under other circumstances, would not be possible. It works to address and bring awareness of homelessness, hunger and food insecurity."

Project Share has been aiding men, women, and children from all five boroughs of New York City and Westchester County for 36 years with Hastings as its home-base —evidence that this community will forever remain one of deep compassion and remarkable giving. 

For a behind-the-scenes look into this year's Thanksgiving Dinner, watch a short video below.

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Student with teacher

As part of Gratitude Week at Hillside Elementary School, students dressed up as someone they appreciate.

A student in Ms. Samuels class chose to dress up as her teacher. They are pictured above.

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Children read several books, engaged in group discussions, and decorated diyas (oil lamps).

"The festive Diwali spirit was felt among both students and teachers around Hillside," Nagrath said. "We truly strive to create an understanding and affirming environment for all."

 

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With help from their families, they used a three-ingredient recipe to make salt dough. Back in the classroom, they took the dough and molded it into islands, incorporating the lessons they learned. Once the salt dough dried, they brought color to their islands with a little paint. 

“It was messy, and the teachers were covered in flour, but fun was had by all!” said Second Grade Team Leader Dianna Clarke. 

In the coming weeks, they will make maps of their islands, including a compass rose, symbols and a map key—part of another lesson on how to read a map. They’ll also be writing postcards to someone special using their creative writing skills, pretending to visit the landforms and bodies of water on their salt dough island. 

When asked what they enjoyed most about the project, students in Ms. Clarke’s class said: 

  • “I liked painting the salt dough and I like the volcano and pond I made the best,” Aurick said. 
  • "I like painting them and shaping the salt dough," said Emina. 
  • “It was really fun to learn about different landforms and bodies of water. It was fun to make them and get messy!” said Ezra.
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The virtual visit, which comes as a result of a generous grant from the PTSA, included additional instructional support from the students’ teachers –Mary Greene, Larry Cerretani, Julie Sullivan, and Lior Fishman—and allowed students to hear from Harrington about her writing process.

Through figurative language and a captivating plot, Wildoak, Harrington’s first book, tells the story of a girl with a speech-related disability who finds her voice to speak up for animal rights and conservation. An unlikely friendship is formed between two characters, both outcasts trying to find their place in an often unfriendly world. 

Students listened intently as Harrington shared her inspiration for the story, quick to ask questions afterwards. One student, Julette Budrias, even asked, “What strategies do you use to get unstuck in the writing process?"

Harrington loves connecting with readers and students and offers both virtual and in-person visits. Her presentations touch on sources of inspiration, research, revision and what goes into writing realistic fiction. 

“It was such an amazing culminating experience for the students to bring the text to a close in this way,” Cerretani said. 

“Christina Harrington is a masterful writer who helps students understand the interconnectedness of humans and the natural world,” Greene added. 

For more information on C.C. Harrington, click here.

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Since Godspell first hit the Broadway stage in 1976, it has had many interpretations.

Hastings’ version of Godspell references the preservation of Earth, with the character of Jesus representing the Earth, hoping to guide the cast and the audience (through the parables) toward a better understanding of how we can help each other and save the planet.

“So many of the songs are relevant and appropriate to this subject. I am thankful that Composer and Lyricist Stephen Schwartz allows for creativity and unique interpretation,” Walton said.

Come witness our talented students perform this well known musical. 

To purchase tickets in advance, scan the QR code in the flier. 

  • HS
  • Hillside

Unique to Hillside Elementary School, Discovery Kitchen extends beyond academics to engage students with fresh recipes, culinary demonstrations and tastings, and fun and informative nutrition education. 

Starting the series with a “Seed to Table” theme, Leote gave students a demonstration during their lunch periods. 

What was on the menu? A Mediterranean salad made primarily of tomatoes and cucumbers, both fresh and in season. Kid-tested and approved, the colorful recipe is an excellent side dish or snack.

Students approached members of the Food Service Team with questions and positive feedback. 

One student exclaimed, "This would be great with tortilla chips!"

Below is the recipe for those families who'd like to try the Mediterranean salad at home.

Stay tuned for more news about Discovery Kitchen throughout the year.

  • Hillside
  • Hillside

Hillside students and staff gathered in the Multipurpose Room earlier this week to thank community veterans, including 14 in attendance, with music performances, speeches and cheers. The featured speaker for the annual "Bring a Veteran to School" event was Mr. Tommy Drake, father of Hillside student Timmy Drake, who served in the Navy as a hospital foreman from 1992-96 providing medical assistance to marines and sailors. 

Today I share with you a digital Veterans Day Tribute, which includes photos and video footage from the event at Hillside, as well as the Story of My Uncle Jack.

Honoring the sacrifices that millions have made to protect our freedom and democracy is the very foundation of Veterans Day. On this long weekend, let us take a moment to salute their selfless service and bravery.

William S. McKersie, Ph.D., Superintendent of Schools

  • Hillside

For this year's event, which will be held in the Hillside Multipurpose Room on Friday, November 17, at 6:00 p.m. (doors open 5:30 p.m.), all Hillside students will have the opportunity to vote for the movie that they'd like to be shown.

Voting will take place during the school day on Monday, November 6, the day before Election Day. The Student Council will tally the votes and announce the winner in the Hillside announcements on November 14. 

Below are the movie choices (drumroll, please!):

  • Sing
  • Moana
  • Elemental
  • Encanto
  • WALL-E

"HEF is thrilled to bring back this beloved Hastings family tradition!" said Marie-Angie Vassallo.

  • HS

A 504 plan is geared toward ensuring a student has equitable access to a learning environment. An IEP focuses on educational benefits, and often includes direct services such as speech therapy.

The panels, organized for students in need of specialized instruction, consisted of members of Hastings' Special Education Department—Erin Dolan, Jo Ann Weinig, Jeanette Kocur, Nina Segal, and Laura Sullivan—and representatives from St. Thomas Aquinas College, Landmark College, and Guttman Community College. Part one was held in the Blue Lecture Room, and part two was virtual. Both evenings gave parents a safe space to ask questions and provided them with important guidance on the college process.

“I think I speak for others in the department when I say that all the praise goes to our expert panelists. This could not have been done without them,” said Assistant Director of Special Education Tesfa Stewart. “Both nights were a huge success!”

To view a recording of part two of the college panel, click here.

Grassia’s Media Literacy course, which was added as an elective last year, teaches students ways to take what they’re reading, watching and listening to, and evaluate it with critical eyes and ears. 

“My hope is that my presentation will inspire librarians from around the State to begin shaping Media Literacy courses of their own,” Grassia said. “I believe this curriculum is an ideal fit and continues the librarian tradition of teaching students to navigate a complex landscape of information.” 

Click here for the conference website to learn more. 

 

Pilobolus tells stories with the human form to show diverse communities, brands, and organizations how to maximize group creativity, solve problems, create surprise, and generate joy through the power of nonverbal communication. 

The show, called Rules @ Play, was equal parts lively and interactive, and was organized as a result of a long-time partnership with Amanda Kupillas, owner of a dance studio located here in Hastings and Co-President of SEPTA. For many years, Kupillas has worked to bring the magic of dance and performance art to the district's youngest learners. 

“Throughout life, we all encounter rules, and sometimes we view them negatively,” Kupillas said. “Rules @ Play explored how rules can provide opportunities to solve problems and overcome challenges. They can spark creativity, and in our case, give us the tools to dance!” 

Through movement and discussion on and off the stage, Pilobolus dancers showed students the benefit of playing by the rules. 

“Oftentimes, companies send students or their second company to do these types of shows,” said Kupillas. “That is great, but in this instance, students had the unique opportunity to interact with dancers who are in the company year-round.” 

Laughter and excitement filled the room, making for a successful day of learning, engagement, and of course, dance.

Click here for a fact sheet about Pilobolus. 

Special thanks to Hillside's custodial crew and Principal Amy Cazes for help executing the setup for the show.

Faculty and staff were not to be left out of the fun, incorporating Halloween-themed activities into their lessons for the day and wearing group-themed costumes. A morning parade at Hillside Elementary School, led by Principal Amy Cazes and Assistant Principal Michael LaRocco (and their lookalikes), allowed children to show off their costumes. Families gathered on the sidelines to watch the parade and snap photos.

From Nintendo's Super Mario and Dr. Seuss's Thing 1 and Thing 2, to a banana and even a clothes dryer, it was a memorable day overflowing with creativity and lots of laughs.

“What better way to celebrate reading than to welcome our Hillside families!” said Kindergarten Team Leader Nina D’Amato.

For their first unit on reading, which began at the beginning of the school year, children learned how illustrations are used to tell stories. This exercise helps activate higher order thinking skills like predicting, inferencing and analyzing characters. 

“Even though we’re not quite at the point of decoding text, students are becoming experts at closely ‘reading’ illustrations with their reading fingers and talking about stories,” said D’Amato. “This is the foundation for building strong comprehension skills in young readers!”

The goal for the next unit is to foster a greater love of story books and reading, and it looks like the district's youngest learners are on the right path.

Students sing a song to celebrate reading. 

 

Teaching children fire safety at an early age is critical and is just one of the many ways that Hastings fire prevention squad partners with the district and broader community.

Ms. Mantell's and Ms. Morais's second grade class 

Second grader Laila Duda and her father Lieutenant Chris Duda

 

"We've been working since the second week of school to cook up a night of fun and frivolity," said Director Rachel Wineberg. 

A fast-paced, hilarious tale, One Man, Two Guvnors follows the mixed fortunes of Francis Henshall. Down on his luck and permanently hungry, Francis suddenly finds himself employed by two bosses. To prevent discovery, Francis must keep his two guvnors apart.

"I've never directed a show quite like this one," Wineberg said. "Even after hearing the same jokes night after night at tech rehearsals, the cast and crew snuck into the audience to watch and laugh. The only thing missing now is the audience!"

Come witness Francis’s quest to serve two masters and finally get a good meal.

 

Click here or scan the QR code in the flier to buy tickets in advance.

 

Click the images below to view the official trailer and the playbill. 

 

THE OFFICIAL TRAILER 

Filmed & Produced by Cast Member Benjamin Levan and Technical Crew Member Isaac Volpe

 

Demonstrating the best of Hastings’ school spirit, the event featured lively music, tasty food, entertaining activities organized by the Student Union, an impressive half-time performance from the Hudsonettes, and fundraisers to benefit student programming. Adding to the camaraderie was the Yellow Jackets victory against the Irvington Blue Knights. 

Varsity Football Coach Sammy O’Hare shared highlights from the game:

“Hastings beat long-time rival Irvington 39-20 on Saturday. Touchdowns were scored by five different players—Royal Peterson, Dominick Moore, Andrew Tenthoff, Charlie Richardson, Johnny Sbrega, and Julian Carnavali threw for three touchdowns, and Keith Capuano threw for one touchdown. Overall, it was a great team effort and win!”

“It was a great day,” said Director of Health, Physical Education & Athletics Drew Wendol. “The weather cleared up and the festivities were in full effect!”

Thank you to the staff and families who sent in such great photos and videos!

  • HS

Drawing from March’s Sweethearts & Heroes program, Guidance Counselor Juliann Snyder, School Psychologist James Forcinito, and Hastings High School’s BRAVE buddies led the sea of orange-shirted youngsters through Mr. Incredible’s A, B, C's of Bullying.

Featuring role-playing and a “My Superpowers” drawing assignment, the event provided students with the tools to jump into action and prevent bullying.

 

Before and during the Civil Rights Movement, Jacob Lawrence was a painter who depicted images of the African American experience and contemporary life. His style is defined as “dynamic cubism”, an art movement popularized in Europe which drew influence from West African and Meso American Art, and includes bold colors and geometric shapes.

"According to the Clark’s granddaughter Andrea, Lawrence even visited Hastings!" Panush said.

After discussing the Clarks’ work and Lawrence’s paintings, students used their knowledge of shapes to cut and construct collages of people, animals, buildings, and automobiles, all representing contemporary life in Hastings-on-Hudson.

"Both delightful and familiar, the students' art honors those who made strides in in the African American community and culture," said Panush.

The art was displayed at the school-wide assembly featuring Minniejean Brown-Trickey on Friday, and at the Village ceremony at James Harmon Community Center on Saturday.

 

To give you a closer look at Clark Commemoration Project, we've created this dedicated page complete with photos, videos, and other resources.

Hillside students singing "Little Rock Nine" with Minnijean Brown-Trickey

September/October 2023 

An exhibit about the Clarks, their work, Brown v. The Board of Ed, and the Little Rock Nine are displayed in the high school lobby.

learning session for families and students in grades 5-12 is organized by Dr. Melissa Szymanski.

The 45-minute zoom session provided information about Brown v. Board of Education, a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, largely shaped by the research of former Hastings residents Drs. Kenneth and Mamie Clark, which led to the desegregation of public schools and the Civil Rights Movement. 

October 12-13 – Minnijean Brown-Trickey of the Little Rock Nine, who lived with the Clarks in the late 1950s, speaks to students.

Watch the live-stream recording of each of her visits below. 

October 14 – the Clarks’ street sign unveiling ceremony is held at the James Harmon Community Center.

 Click here for Superintendent McKersie's remarks from the ceremony.

The audience listened intently as he spoke to the Clarks' daughter, Kate, and their granddaughter, as well as Minnijean Brown-Trickey, expressing gratitude to them for imparting their wisdom to Hastings' students and for giving them "hope".

Click here to watch the full Unveiling Ceremony.  

 MORE RESOURCES (Videos, articles, podcasts, literature)

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  • Hillside

Beginning with a presentation on safety from Hastings Police Sergeant Sam Brecker, students rotated through a series of workshops centered on hygiene, mindfulness, space and awareness, and kindness—all led by a team of fifth grade teachers. There was even a movement workshop facilitated by Never Stop Moving 365, which the PTSA generously funded.

Teaching the importance of self-worth at an early age, Wellness Day encourages kids to value their emotional and physical health, and is a prime example of the district's commitment to student wellbeing.

Formerly run by parent volunteers, the nature walks are a decades-long tradition at Hillside. In 2017, STEAM Teacher Robin Farrell began leading them, adding an equitable part of the program where every child participates in 10 nature walks throughout their K-4 experience; each a little different, but all aligned to New York State Science Standards. 

"On top of that we create this community connection by inviting as many parents as possible to join us, walk with their children, and learn what we have available in Hillside's woods," said Farrell in a previous edition of The Buzz.

For Magnatta's third graders, the trek began and ended at Sugar Pond, with many nature sightings including:

  • A white pine tree, which Farrell explained grows near water, keeping rivers and lakes cool and giving fish a healthy environment to live in
  • Beach trees, which use their roots to get nutrients
  • Turkey tail fungus, a very common mushroom in North American woods, generally found on fallen logs or tree stumps
  • Sticks, which, when decomposing, form a blue fungus
  • Lichen and moss, which are found on the branches and stems of trees. They may look like crusty patches, hanging growths, or even leafy mats

"Can we touch it?" one student asked, referring to the lichen. 

"Yes, but be careful. It's trying hard to grow," said Farrell. "We share these woods with so many living things."

Circling to the back of Sugar Pond, students saw the biggest and most beautiful tree of all.

"We call this the mother tree," Farrell said. "We believe it was one of the first trees to grow in Hillside's woods and has been here for many years."

A lesson about how trees use their roots to communicate with each other rounded out the day.

"Brown-Trickey came to Hastings when she was 16, after having been harassed, threatened, and ultimately expelled from the Arkansas high school she helped integrate in 1957. She spent the rest of her high school career living on Pinecrest Drive at the home of the Clarks, along with their children Hilton and Kate, attending New Lincoln High School in Harlem." (Mark Sameth, Hastings Historical Society) 

You can read more about Brown-Trickey, her connection to the Clarks and to Hastings, and her life as a Civil Rights activist in an article published by the Hastings Historical Society.

For a recording of Brown-Trickey's talk to Farragut students today, click here

The other sessions, taking place tomorrow at Hillside Elementary School and Hastings High School, are also limited to students and staff, but families may observe via the below livestream links:

 

The larger project, which received approval last year, includes the enhancement of the stage’s existing lights and the addition of new fixtures. A grant generously provided by Hastings Education Foundation (HEF) with leadership from Production Coordinator Phyllis Udice funded the rest of the project: two more LED spotlights and the expertise of Lighting Specialist David Lovett to educate students. 

“Mr. Lovett was instrumental in designing the lighting plot,” Udice said. “He devised a way to enhance and keep the older fixtures while creating an energy-efficient, cost-effective system that will last for years to come.”

Along with Hastings’ Technical Director Gillian Husovsky, Lovett facilitated training sessions for students on how to install and use the new equipment. Even Philip Volpe, father of seventh grader Mattea and ninth grader Isaac, lent a helping hand, bringing his assistant Ben Eells along for the ride. As a team, they removed the existing set for the Hastings Theatre program’s current production and installed the LED lights above the stage. 

Fun Fact: Mr. Volpe is the former Head Sound Engineer and Master Electrician for the Metropolitan Opera. Currently, he is the Head Electrician at Radio City Music Hall. 

“Mr. Volpe’s decades of experience with all things technical in the theatre space was much appreciated,” Udice said. 

The installation of the new lights comes just in time for One Man, Two Guvnors, which enchanted Broadway and England’s West End, and will arrive at Hastings High School on October 27-28.

“We are thrilled to finally have the lighting our productions deserve,” said Udice. 

“We can’t thank HEF enough for funding the most important aspect of this project, which was the education for students. They shared pure excitement while installing the LED fixtures.”

Below is a reminder about the series of activities.

  • September-October: An exhibit about the Clarks to be displayed in the HHS Lobby, before moving to the Hastings Historical Society through fall 2024.
  • October 12-13, 2023: A visit by Minnijean Brown-Trickey, of the Little Rock Nine, who lived with the Clarks in Hastings in the late 1950s, to speak with students. The sessions are limited to students and staff, but the public may observe via these livestreams:
  • October 14: Unveiling Ceremony for the Clarks’ Street Sign (signifying the co-naming of a portion of Mount Hope Blvd. as “Drs. Mamie and Kenneth Clark Way”) at the James Harmon Community Center from 2:00-4:00 p.m. 

In case you missed it, on September 26, Dr. Melissa Szymanski organized a virtual session for families and students in grades 5-12 on Brown v. Board of Education. The 45-minute program, led by a Park Ranger from Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park (Topeka, KS), examined how legal segregation began in America and the role that research by Drs. Kenneth and Mamie Clark played in the desegregation of public schools and the Civil Rights Movement.  

For the first time ever, HASP was represented at Hastings High School's Back-to-School Night on September 21. With a little help from School Psychologist and HASP Advisor Dr. Gloria Szesko, juniors Bea Tolson and Sam Nicholson, and seniors Zade Hinawi and Kaylon Kamashi managed the HASP station that evening, handing out educational materials to families and offering first-hand accounts of the benefits that HASP brings to its students.

"It was wonderful to have these four students volunteer their time and represent the program," said HASP Director and Hastings High School English Teacher Peter Scotch.

HASP students also took a trip to the Bronx Zoo recently. One of four-to-five field trips that they’ll take this year, the trip engaged students around this quote from Stephen Jay Gould, an American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science, and one of the most influential and widely read authors of popular science of his generation:

“We cannot win this battle to save species and environments without forging an emotional bond between ourselves and nature as well.”

An exciting and educational scavenger hunt with prizes for the top competitors allowed students to do just that - form bonds with one another and nature. 

If you’re interested in learning more about HASP, including its philosophy of “voluntary involvement,” history, practices, and the application process, click here

For any other questions, please reach out to Mr. Scotch, Ms. Hardesty or Mr. Adipietro. 

 

Tell us about your journey to Hastings. 

I started as a clerical aide/substitute at Hastings in October of 2009. In January 2010, I began full-time as an aide at Hillside. I worked in the communication classes until I became a Teacher Assistant for the fourth grade. Last year, I transitioned over to the main office. Being in different roles has given me the opportunity to work with a number of inspiring staff members, as well as witness many students grow up! 

What do you love about your current role?

I loved being in the classroom and working with the students, but being in the office has given me the chance to learn a different side of the education world. Not only do I work with students and staff, but also with families and the wonderful community members who support our school every day.

Tell us one 'fun fact' about yourself or something that you enjoy doing outside of work.

Before I came to Hastings, I was an event coordinator for a restaurant. I loved planning parties and still do! 

When I’m not at work, I enjoy spending time with my niece Callie and my nephew Joseph. I also enjoy visiting my daughter at college in Florida and going to the beach.

What is your favorite quote or mantra?

"Give a girl the right shoes and she will conquer the world." -Marilyn Monroe

Whether it’s sneakers to run a half-marathon or a great pair of heels to rock the day, I just love SHOES.

Greco and her daughter Leigha (HHS Class of 2021)

Coffee with Counselors event was held at Hillside last week for students' families. The presentation reviewed roles, the multi-tiered system of social and emotional learning, how the system of support works, and future educational opportunities. 

"We have worked hard over the past years with the administration to put the right systems in place so that all our students’ needs are met socially and emotionally," said Hillside Counselor Juliann Snyder. 

Click here to view the presentation.

During recess last week, Hillside's Physical Education team took fourth graders outside to brainstorm ideas for the newly-painted front black top. The painting, graciously funded by Hastings Education Foundation (HEF), has sparked creativity among students who are coming up with fun games for all their fellow Hillsiders to enjoy. 

"I grabbed paper and pens for the students to write down ideas," said gym teacher Bob McCann.

"When the students came into the room, I told them about the nice new playground obstacles outside. I challenged them to come up with some creative ways of how to use the black top obstacles. They worked in groups of approximately seven to design their games. While designing, they wrote down the rules. After rotating to a new area, we sat down together and students shared their results with their classmates."

This type of teaching is called "guided discovery", and it enables students to use what they've already learned as a foundation for creating something new.

"It was amazing to see students come up with their own ideas and combine them with ones that we've taught them over the years, to create entirely new games!" said gym teacher Amanda Bassmann. 

"It brought me joy to see the students use the skills that we have taught them in a real-world activity," said gym teacher Ericka Melvin. 

 

The installation of the weather station, which is the result of a grant provided by Hastings Education Foundation (HEF) with leadership from STEAM teacher Robin Farrell, is located above Hillside's Learning Commons space and will allow students to regularly contribute weather data to the community. Consisting of a solar-powered wet-globe thermometer, anemometer, and rain gauge, the weather station will provide an accurate view of heat stress on an individual in sunlight. 

Information received from the weather station will be used for daily classroom weather reporting and directly connects to science standards and units of study, as well as to the authentic learning experiences central to the Portrait of a Hastings Learner.  

Throughout the week, students and staff school-wide are celebrating the grand opening of the weather station. Click on the image below to watch a commemorative video created by Ms. Farrell in partnership with Hillside students. Teachers will be hosting viewing parties in their classrooms, and will begin exploring the Online Weather Center

"Until now, we did not have a hyper-local weather station. The weather data we received was often connected with Yonkers or White Plains," said Farrell.

"By bringing a weather station right outside our school’s doorway, our students will naturally have a greater curiosity and interest in the information."

Click here to watch an educational video about the weather station. 

The program, envisioned by Hillside's kindergarten teachers, with leadership from Assistant Principal Michael LaRocco, is designed to support kindergarteners with their new lunch routines and empower the school's oldest learners to be role models.

"The kindergarten teachers and I partnered together to craft a job description for interested fourth graders," said LaRocco. "From there, I began recruiting students."

Since its launch last week, staff members have seen the fourth grade volunteers:

  • model how to carry a (level) lunch tray to a table
  • assist with passing out utensils, condiments, and napkins
  • open milk cartons, thermoses, and Tupperware for kindergarten students
  • hand out lunch tickets and read orders aloud 
  • make friendly conversation with younger students

Kindergartners are already reaping the benefits of the new program. According to their teachers, students are:

  • building relationships 
  • learning how to advocate for themselves 
  • modeling the teachings of their fourth grade mentors

Each week a new group of lunch buddies will be assigned to the kindergarten class. 

"We look forward to seeing this program continue to blossom in the coming weeks!" LaRocco said.

Fourth graders holding certificates for their participation last week. L to R (Front): Liam Wallace, Archie Baxendale, Sydney Bruney, Anya Patel, Nora Hurd, Layla Mathews, Charlotte Janofsky, Esme Spaeth. L to R (Back): Sonny Spagna, Brooke Donahue, Andrew Weiss, Parker Barowsky, Grayson Chiu, Jackson Wyatt.

L to R: Grayson Chiu (Ms. Peisel & Ms. Oliva's class) helping with the tray and Parker Barowsky (Ms. Samuel's class) helping open a packet of ketchup.

The 45-minute zoom session provided information about Brown v. Board of Education, a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, largely shaped by the research of former Hastings residents Drs. Kenneth and Mamie Clark, which led to the desegregation of public schools and the Civil Rights Movement. 

Click the image below for a full recording of the learning session, including the concluding Question & Answer portion.

There are more events scheduled to honor the Clarks this fall. Social Studies Teacher Greg Smith and Diversity & Inclusion Coordinator Dr. Jenice Mateo-Toledo have designed a series of activities for students. 

  • September-October: An exhibit about the Clarks to be displayed in the HHS Lobby, before moving to the Hastings Historical Society through fall 2024.
  • October 12-13, 2023: A visit by Minnijean Brown-Trickey, of the Little Rock Nine, who lived with the Clarks in Hastings in the late 1950s, to speak with students.
  • October 14: Unveiling Ceremony for the Clarks’ Street Sign (signifying the co-naming of a portion of Mount Hope Blvd. as “Drs. Mamie and Kenneth Clark Way”) at the James Harmon Community Center from 2:00-4:00 p.m.  

“To address the lack of representation of girls of color in nature, in 2021, Chandra started Hiking Youth Program for Equity: Girls (HYPE: GIRLS) and began to arrange hikes, nature walks, and guest lectures for teenage girls of color in the local area.” 

Click here for the New Leaders Initiative webpage to learn more about Riya’s creative leadership and the immediate impact of her efforts.

Tell us about your journey to Hastings. 

I've served in many different roles throughout my career. I began as a middle school math teacher, math department chairperson and math Academic Intervention Service (AIS) provider for the Yorktown Central School District. I earned a Masters Degree in Special Education and a second Masters Degree in Administration and Supervision during that time. 

I then transitioned from the classroom to an administrative role, serving as the Dean of Students at George Fischer Middle School in Carmel. After a great experience in Carmel, I became the Assistant Principal at Eastchester Middle School. After four years, I became Principal of Eastchester Middle School and served in that role for another four years. In the final step of my journey before Hastings, I served as the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction at Eastchester for six years. 

Every role I've held has helped shape me as an educator and leader in many positive ways.

What inspired you to pursue a career in education? 

My mother and grandmother inspired me to pursue a career in education. My mother served as a teacher in Chappaqua for over 20 years, and my grandmother was a secretary at Scarsdale Middle School for over 30 years. 

Growing up in an education family helped me to see how impactful and inspirational it can be to work with students every day.

What do you love about your current role as FMS Principal? 

The best part about being Principal at FMS is being back with students and teachers directly every single day. While I loved my role in Curriculum & Instruction, there is nothing better than the unknown that each day brings in a school building. I love to see the smiles on the faces of the students and the hard work being put in by our teachers each and every day. It inspires me to see the wonderful experiences our students get to have while at Farragut.

What goals would you like to achieve this school year?

My goals for this year are to better understand the Hastings community, to make changes for the benefit of the student experience, and to develop a longer-term action plan to raise the academic and social-emotional experience for our students.

Tell us one 'fun fact' about yourself or something that you enjoy doing outside of work.

One fun fact about myself is that I am a classically-trained piano player. I started playing when I was five years old and was taught by my grandmother. I then took professional lessons throughout middle school and high school. While I don't play professionally, I love to play for fun whenever I can!

What is your favorite quote or mantra?

My favorite quote is from Albert Camus: 

"In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back."

Some whipped out their handy dandy notebooks and pens to write. Others took to typing on their personalized Yellow Jacket laptops or cozied up in a corner with a book of choice.

From adventuring through the playground, to snacking on some good eats and treats, there was much fun to be had by students, staff and families. 

"It was great to have Hillside families gather during such a beautiful fall night," said PTSA President Tanya Rynders. "Jimmy's Soft Serve was delicious and the raffle items were extra fun. Thank you to everyone who came out and made the event a special one."

Students learned that when put together, the number one and the number zero make the number 10, a benchmark number in early childhood education. They participated in various "number 10" activities including creating a 10-space pattern, writing the number 10 in tally marks, tracing it, and counting 10 items. 

By using 10 as a reference point, the district's youngest learners realized the patterns in the numbers and how to count up to 10. 

"They were most excited about making a 10 in their place value charts!" said Teacher Nina D'Amato.

Through individual and group activities such as wall-climbing and a blindfold challenge, students learned valuable leadership skills, including how communicating and trusting others in the process can lead to positive outcomes. A similar retreat for the freshman class will be held next week.

The retreats are just one component of Hastings’ broader Peer Leadership Program, which is designed to help middle schoolers transition into high school.  

“Throughout the school year, pairs of senior peer leaders team up with groups of ninth graders to teach them about collaboration and discuss problem-solving techniques. Simultaneously, senior peer leaders participate in a daily, for-credit, year-long leadership course taught by Hastings’ faculty,” said high school social studies teacher and Director of the Peer Leadership Program Jeff Conwisar.

See this year's group of senior peer leaders below:

Sharyn Belsky, Elianna Carvalho, Sawyer Dolgins, Erik Ghalib, Ian Harding, Oscar Hayes, Lois Heitler, Mira Hinkaty, Brian Jaeger, Sonya Lasser, Harin Lee, Miles Levine, Erin Lobovsky, Zoe Lohrasbi, Dom Moore, Lionel Muench, Jason Nadler, Shira Oppenheimer, Lucy Richer, Austin Schiffer, Barney Smith, Maya Tadmor, Leon Wang, and Aynsley Zamore

"The program taps into the power of the district's oldest students." Conwisar said. "It helps foster a nurturing environment for all."

  • HS

Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction Dr. Melissa Szymanski will provide a significant report on Action Plan Development at the September 27, 2023 Board of Education Meeting. 

In the meantime, continue to check the dedicated POHL page on our website and the Hastings Happenings for updates.

Leadership of this multi-phase project has come from Social Studies Teacher Greg Smith and Diversity & Inclusion Coordinator Dr. Jenice Mateo-Toledo and includes a series of activities for students this fall:

  • September-October: An exhibit about the Clarks to be displayed in the HHS Lobby, before moving to the Hastings Historical Society through fall 2024.
  • October 12-13, 2023: A visit by Minnijean Brown-Trickey, of the Little Rock Nine, who lived with the Clarks in Hastings in the late 1950s, to speak with students.
  • October 14: Unveiling Ceremony for the Clarks’ Street Sign (signifying the co-naming of a portion of Mount Hope Blvd. as “Drs. Mamie and Kenneth Clark Way”) at the James Harmon Community Center from 2:00-4:00 p.m. 

In addition, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction Dr. Melissa Szymanski has organized a special learning session for families and students in grades 5-12 on Brown v. Board of Education, which was substantially shaped by the research of Drs. Kenneth and Mamie Clark.  

During the 45-minute zoom session, which will take place on Tuesday, September 26, at 7:15 p.m., participants will learn about the role Drs. Kenneth and Mamie Clark played in one of the most important court cases in the 20th century. 

A Park Ranger from Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park (Topeka, KS) will explain how legal segregation began in America and how Drs. Kenneth and Mamie Clark were able to provide evidence that led to the desegregation of public schools and influenced the Civil Rights Movement. There will be 15 minutes for a Question-and-Answer portion at the end of the presentation. 

  • To RSVP, please click here. To join the Zoom, please click here. When prompted, enter the passcode: 866068.

This information is also available on the district calendar of the website and in the Hastings Weekly. 

In conjunction with an annual review of the District Code of Conduct, taking place now through October, each of Hastings’ three school buildings opened the year by introducing their specific Discipline Code for Students – frameworks that will guide student behavior in the 2023-24 school year and will be regularly reinforced and refreshed by administrators and teachers. 

At Hillside, Principal Amy Cazes and Assistant Principal Michael LaRocco gave presentations tailored to each grade level to teach students about their school’s Discipline Code and the importance of following rules. For kindergarteners, smaller, more intimate classroom discussions were had, and for grades 1-4, group gatherings were held at various times in the Multipurpose Room. 

“What do you imagine your school day would be like if there were no rules,” Cazes asked a group of first graders. “Would it be a good day or a bad day?” 

“Bad!” the students shouted out in unison. 

“That’s right,” Cazes said. “We need rules to live together and work together as a community.”

LaRocco informed students about the ways that school rules are helpful and the rights that students deserve when they come to school each day, including:

  • The right to feel safe and healthy
  • The right to respectful treatment
  • The right to a school environment fit for learning 
  • The right to learn and grow 
  • The right to information about school rules
  • The right to take part in district activities 

The Hillside theme was also read aloud. 

Hillside is a learning laboratory. We mix respect, courage, and curiosity to get the formula for success!

“And when can we show respect?” Cazes said. “When we know the rules.”

Click here for the 8/25 memo from Superintendent Dr. William McKersie, which outlines the District Code of Conduct review process and links to the school-specific Discipline Codes for Students. 

Approximately 1.3 million high schoolers enter the competition by taking the Preliminary SAT (PSAT) / National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT), the initial screening used to designate a pool of more than 16,000 Semifinalists representing less than one percent of high school seniors nationwide. 

Hastings' Semifinalists now have the chance to compete for a Finalist title by submitting scholarship applications, which will be evaluated by a committee of experienced college admission officers and high school counselors. The application information includes: 

  • Academic Records
  • Recommendation letters from the district
  • Essays
  • Extracurricular activities
  • PSAT/NMSQT scores

The NMSP honors students who show exceptional academic ability and potential for success in rigorous college studies. About 95 percent of the Semifinalists are expected to attain Finalist standing, and approximately half of these students will win a National Merit Scholarship, earning the prestigious Merit Scholar title. 

To echo a statement made last year by Superintendent Dr. William McKersie, these seniors exemplify the intellectual growth that Hastings faculty are fostering from grades K-12.

Please join us in congratulating Hastings’ seven Semifinalists on this esteemed honor.