Excelsior: Fall/Winter Issue

Fall/Winter Issue of Excelsior

Please scroll the two columns below to read the the articles from our latest issue of the Suffern Central School District’s newsletter. Excelsior is available via web link as a PDF for download in its mailing format. See the Communications page for PDF versions of recent issues.

Photo of Dr. Adams and studentsDear Suffern Central Community Members,

As we enter the final month of 2017, I want to thank our community for their their continued support. As the Suffern Central School District, we continue to refine and grow our programs and curriculum at all levels, in constant pursuit of improving opportunities for all of our students to achieve success. Our efforts continue to be guided by our Strategic Plan. This past school year our volunteer committees created measurable statements aligned with our District’s goals. This work was undertaken with a view toward the future of our schools, entitled “Suffern Central 2020”. In this issue of the Excelsior, we are presenting just a few of the measurable statements involved in our Strategic Plan and sharing how they are already aiding the progress toward our vision for the next few years in our District.

Excelsior is just one of our many communication tools, and we hope you’ve noticed some additional enhancements to the way we stay connected to our School District community. This fall, we introduced a new, user-friendly website, sufferncentral.org, an electronic flyer distribution system called Peachjar, a new Superintendent’s blog, and additional social media accounts.

I also wanted to share with you the awards for communication that our District won this past year. This summer, the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) awarded Suffern Central the Award of Merit for our 21st Century Learning Video Campaign, and an Honorable Mention for this publication, Excelsior. Locally, the New York School Public Relations Association (NYSPRA) awarded us with an Award of Excellence for our 21st Century Learning Video Campaign, and Award of Honor for our #MountieSuperstar Social Media Campaign.

I continue to be inspired by the work of all our staff, students and community to keep this District the best in our area. I look forward to watching the students grow and thrive and to working with you to continue building on our current successes.

Douglas S. Adams, J.D., Ed.D
Superintendent of Schools

#SCSDMountie Pride

Photo of AP scholars . Photo of Hispanic Heritage winners

Congratulations to our National Merit Scholars who have all demonstrated outstanding potential for academic success! Jacob Hoffman was named a National Merit Semi Finalist for placing in the top one percent of the 1.5 million students who qualified through PSAT performance. National Merit Commended Students Luke Dorrian, William Funcheon, Abigail Gandon and Dustin Lee placed in the top five percent of the students who entered the competition through their performance on the PSAT.

The following Suffern High School students earned AP Scholar awards in 2017. These awards recognize high school students who have demonstrated college-level achievement through AP courses and exams.

AP Scholars: Mariah Agbonkpolo, Aliza Brown, Amy Calafiura, Jenna Castro, Sarah Chen, Kaitlin Corker, Christopher Costa, Matthew Dain, Sierra DeVeaux, Daniel Dowling, Saahil Dutta, Nathan Emanuel, Isabel Fanara, Jacob Feder, Aaron Gdanski, Harris Greenstein, Aaron Johnson, Ashley Joseph, Andrew Kareeparampil, Maxwell Kim, Dustin Lee, Samantha Liddy, Katherine Michel, Dheivanai Moorthy, Divya Nambiar, Eva Oberkircher, Jolie Quiros, Joseph Rorro III, Molly Schaarschuch, Hannah Scherwatzky, Sophia Smith, Nikita Torres, Tyler Verhaegen, and Erika Witt.

AP Scholar With Honors: Kyle Byron, Patrick Canty, Gabriel Chen, Hannah Diamond, William Funcheon, Harrison Gdanski, Daniel Kaufman, Esha Maewal, Deepika Nambiar, Veronica Ng, Christina Philip, Brandon Popik, Jackson Stone, Sarah Taborda, Michelle Tsang, Tyler Vo, Carli Weisberg, Eliana Winograd, and Zachary Zajac.

AP Scholar with Distinction: Eshana Ahsan, Connor Anderson, Adena Assawakulpaiboo, Matthew Bauco, Ryan DaCosta, Luke Dorrian, Abigail Gandon, Andrew Genua, Jacob Hoffman, Jeremiah Isaac, Aaron Jed, Sarah Kupferberg, Anders Lewis, and Nicole Rawiszer.

Congratulations to the Suffern High School students recognized with Hispanic Heritage Achievement Awards this fall.

10th grade: Mataji Baguio, Kayla Collado, Ivania Cordova Mendez, Josue Dieguez, Brian Echavarria, Andrea Lopez, Alex Lopez Soto, Leonardo Martinez, Elsa Mazariego, Lisandra Rivera, Emily Ullman

12th grade: Thomas Alvarado, Alisha Arias, Amaris Arias, Angelica Baguio, Elias Choclin, Ryan Da Costa, William Funcheon, Samantha Garcia, Gabrielle Guerrero, Sebastian Jimenez, Gabriela Lopez, Carina Luna, Jariel Luna, Wilber Mazariego, Lucas Negron, Justin Pagan, Alexa Rivera, Cristina Sanchez, Sarah Taborda, Karina Taveras, Nikita Torres, Nanci Vides

Photo of NYSSMA participantsThe Suffern High School Music Department is proud of the following students who were selected to participate in the New York State School Music Association’s All State Performance Groups.

Pictured: Michelle Chen (violin)  Symphony Orchestra; Noah Marlowe (tenor 1) Mixed Chorus; Anders Lewis (string bass) String Orchestra; Dustin Lee (alto sax) Symphonic Band; Hannah Diamond (alto 2) Treble Chorus; Morgan Wolfe (soprano 1) Mixed Chorus. Two alternates were also chosen, Tyler Vo (cello) and Morgan Wolfe (cello).

Strategic Plan: Suffern Central 2020

Goal #1: Provide authentic learning experiences and the ability to pursue personal interests.

Metric: By 2020, Suffern Central students in benchmark years will showcase their school-related opportunities to pursue personal interests and to engage in authentic-learning experiences.

STIR Program

Photo of STIR students  Photo of STIR student

This past August, Suffern High School Senior Nick Heller, found himself squeezed into the back of a medivac vehicle rushing to Long Island to retrieve a human heart needed for transplant. Not only did Nick participate in the procurement, he scrubbed into both operating rooms: one to watch surgeons remove the heart and the other to transplant the heart into a recipient’s body. It was a unique opportunity for a high school student, made possible through Nick’s enrollment in the Science and Technological Investigative Research (STIR) course at Suffern High School. A three-year science research course sponsored by The State University of New York at Albany, STIR offers students the opportunity to lead authentic original research under the guidance of a high school and college/university/professional mentor.

As a sophomore, Nick choose to study “stem cells and their differentiation factors that help to specialize them into particular cells.” He describes it this way: “Stem cells are like high school students. They are learning, not truly positive about what they want to pursue when they become older. This student is exposed to certain courses in high school, just like a stem cell is exposed to certain environmental factors. Eventually the student chooses a particular profession, just like a stem cell, which, after being exposed to environmental factors and molecules, becomes a specialized cell like a muscle cell.”

Many hours of researching and annotating papers led to Nick’s specific STIR experiment. He performed a test on stem cells in the lungs to figure out if lacking a particular molecule would result in disease. His junior year, Nick searched for a mentor. He was fortunate to find Dr. Matthew D. Bacchetta, Associate Professor, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Columbia University Medical Center. At their fi rst in-person meeting, Nick watched Dr. Bacchetta perform a Pulmonary Thrombdnarectomy (PTE) surgery on a patient’s lungs. “Dr. Bacchetta has taught me a lot of lessons about science and the medical profession, but also about life,” Nick said. “I learned that it’s important to network and make connections in the real world, to stay focused and work hard.” One of the best rewards of this mentorship and project is that Nick is now a published author in two journals; The Interactive Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery Journal and the Indian Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery.

In his last year in STIR and at SHS, Nick is continuing his work with his mentor and on his research – and he’s taken on the role of advisor for the new STIR students. He feels that having students of different ages in the program is a benefi t and appreciates the guidance he received from upperclassmen.

“STIR has taught me how to manage my time, achieve deadlines and develop my public speaking skills, all necessary tools for college and beyond,” Nick said. “I look forward to using these skills in the real world, and when I become a surgeon myself.”

The STIR program spans three school years and is led by science teacher Wendell Hala. As a former geologist/geochemist, Hala always enjoyed research and jumped at the chance to teach this research course when it first came to the high school. “STIR teaches kids to write at a higher level, organize thoughts and data more effi ciently, and present topics in front of an audience with ease,” said Hala.

The current STIR class has 25 students.  Every year, the students host the STIR Symposium where graduating seniors showcase their projects. This year, Nick and his classmates will present on April 19, 2018 in the High School library.


Spotlight on RP Connor STEAM Challenge

Photo of Connor STEAM displayThis year, RP Connor’s Instructional Facilitators, Dawn Bean and Trish Lanese, launched two ways their students could pursue personal interests while incorporating curriculum and learning. The “Maker Mats,” and monthly STEAM challenges are year-long, accessible projects for everyone in grades K-5 to enjoy. They engage the minds of the students and provide them with opportunities to think critically and be creative with engineering and design concepts. These activities offer students the chance to share those concepts and the learning process with their families at home. They also allow the educators to learn about their students’ personalities, strengths, and interests, while the students tap into their varied cognitive abilities.

COMING UP NEXT: Snow-Person Challenge: Make a snowman out of a recycled bottle.

Middle School Students Escape to Learn

Photo of SMS students in Escape to Learn program  Photo of SMS students in Escape to Learn program

Aliens have invaded Earth and they’ve decided that the only humans allowed to keep their brains are the ones who can prove they have one. Navigate through a series of puzzles and challenges to find the box with the brain helmet and you win.

Believe it or not, this activity teaches growth mindset, a theme of the seventh grade curriculum. Students work together in small groups to solve clues and find solutions to the given problems, through a series of questions and puzzles that reinforce the growth versus fixed mindset lesson.

“These challenges have helped our students approach problems in different ways,” said Liza Martin, seventh grade English teacher, and one of the masterminds behind bringing the

“Escape Rooms” to Suffern Middle School. “No matter what lesson we’re teaching, these puzzles can be a great way to explore collaboration and creative thinking. Additionally, they allow our students to approach problems in a variety of ways, work together, and learn how to be resilient.”

“Some of the most unexpected students shine as leaders in these situations because there is no academic precursor for solving them. We all have different strengths and talents,” adds Literacy Specialist Jennifer Johnson. “These ‘Escape Rooms’ help the students learn about themselves and how they work with others. They can see what frustrates them and what they’re able to do.”

Using a program called Breakout EDU, which encompasses physical kits and a variety of digital tools, the teachers have created scenarios for a few different lessons throughout the year. This year they introduced a Halloween-themed challenge. In the Spring, in conjunction with reading the play Arsenic and Old Lace, the students will face another challenge which revolves around learning empathy for the play’s characters.

“Ultimately,” Martin added, “for the students, this is a life lesson, with an academic twist. You can be persistent, think your way around a problem and find a solution, all while having fun.”

Goal #2

Objective: Support students in their development of social-emotional competence, self-esteem and responsible character throughout their school experience.

Throughout the District, our schools weave character education into their curriculum and special initiatives. Here are a few highlights:

Montebello Elementary School

Photo of students in Montebello's participants in character educationCharacter education is grounded in respect– respect for yourself and respect for others. At Montebello, we don’t talk specifically about character education. We talk about and practice mindfulness. Through mindfulness, students learn to care for themselves and others; to think before they speak/act; to speak and act from a loving and kind place in their hearts. Students learn that choices are made best when they pause and that it is better to reflect than react and regret it after. – Dr. Teresa Ivey, Principal

Photo Caption: Montebello’s “Attitude of Gratitude” door decorating contest, just one of the many ways the school highlights respect.

Cherry Lane Elementary School

At Cherry Lane, we work to educate the whole child, which includes a strong social-emotional learning piece. It also is inclusive of service learning and civic education. All of these share a commitment to helping young people become responsible, caring, and contributing citizens/members of society. For this to work, character education must involve everyone at school and be a part of everyday life. It’s not about one, it’s about everyone – global community and citizenship. We have a commitment to helping young people become responsible, caring, and contributing members of society. – Angela Aguilar, Principal

Cherry lane introduces monthly character education books to its students to teach respect, citizenship, and caring.

Viola Elementary School

Viola character education posterThe best character education lessons are the ones that student leaders and their peers recognize as important to Viola’s positive climate and school culture. Students have made effective videos and created their own skits to use as lessons for assemblies, for teachers to use in their classrooms, and for me to use as reminders with students. The school garden is just one way for students to demonstrate leadership and to work together in a respectful, responsible and safe way by helping others. They feel good about themselves and are proud of their contributions to the world around them. –Christine Druss, Principal

Photo Caption:

For a week in February, Viola participates in the national “Starts with Hello” campaign. Students in upper elementary grades receive lessons on how to include others and create a culture of inclusion and connectedness within their school and online.

Sloatsburg Elementary School

Photo of Sloatsburg studentsNew this year, our school psychologist, Dr. Peter Fishkin, pushes into our K-5 classes on a regular basis. He delivers lessons from the Second Step Program, which emphasizes students’ self-awareness and concern for others. These advisory approach classroom visits serve to complement the monthly character rallies, in which I meet with the grade levels to explore themes such as anti-bullying, caring, citizenship, fairness, respect, responsibility and trustworthiness. – Dr. Joseph Lloyd, Principal

Goal #3:

Objective: Seek expanded opportunities to promote our distinctive brand as a premier public school district, both within the community and to external audiences.

Metrics: By 2020, the number of partnerships between Suffern Central and our community will increase by 50%. By 2020, the collaborative efforts between schools will increase 200%.

Heroes & Cool Kids
SHS and SMS Collaboration

Photo of Heroes & Cool KidsHeroes and Cool Kids (HACK) is an organization at Suffern High School that aims to build relationships and lasting memories between the middle school and high school students. Fifty-eight Suffern High School students are trained to be teen leaders through the regional HACK program. There, they learn how to mentor middle school students on important life skills including sportsmanship, conflict resolution and positive lifestyle choices highlighting drug, alcohol and tobacco prevention.

The organization’s goal this year is to make more of an impact within the community and within the High School itself. At the fi rst meeting, HACK members led workshops and Q&A sessions for students in sixth grade and played games to teach teamwork, compassion and self-care.

“This program is great and allows us to answer questions about the High School to kids that look up to us as mentors,” said Matt Girard, Suffern High School Senior. “Personally, it’s also helping me become a better public speaker and learn valuable leadership skills. It’s great to spend time with these students, who want to learn and who need guidance as they grow up.”

“The Heroes and Cool Kids program has given our sixth grade students the opportunity to learn from high school mentors, who have helped our students to see that positive and healthy choices can lead to much success in the future,“ said Brian Fox, SMS Principal. “It not only helps students see a path to their future, the program also helps students see the value of good choices and provides them with peer insight on achieving their goals through graduation.”

Partnering with Google

Photo of students who partner with Google  Photo of students who partner with Google

Imagine having the opportunity to stare into the eye of a miniature Category 5 hurricane or get up close with a strand of DNA. That’s what Google’s new Expeditions Augmented Reality (AR) Pioneer Program aims to do, and Suffern Central School District was amongst the first to test it out. This October, students from the High School and the Elementary schools received a first hand look at Google’s new product which engages students by immersing lessons of the world into the classroom setting. Google’s AR technology which is used to map the physical classroom and deliberately place 3D objects around the room.  Students can walk all around the objects, get in close to spot details, and step back to see the full picture.

Nicole Mackenzie, Cherry Lane’s Art Teacher, applied to Google to be a test school last January. Once accepted, she worked with building principal Angela Aguilar to include the other elementary schools in the testing as well.

On October 3, third grade students from RP Connor, Viola and Montebello Elementary Schools visited Cherry Lane for this collaborative event. They were able to choose from a variety of expeditions including Da Vinci’s inventions, basic landforms and muscular systems. Not only did the kids experience the technology, they were all asked to provide feedback to Google on their likes and dislikes with the product.

“This was a unique opportunity for our schools and hopefully its success will lead to more collaborative programs in the future,” said Angela Aguilar, Cherry Lane Principal.

At the High School level, History, Biology, Earth Science, Astronomy and Art History students were able to explore Google’s technology, thanks to Assistant Principal Dr. Andrew Trust. Learning of the success at the elementary level, Dr. Trust knew the program would enhance the students’ learning experiences and offer them a unique way to be a part of developing new technology.

“The kids are amazed by the program,” said Dr. Trust. “They were able to investigate Da Vinci’s inventions without ever leaving the school. We can’t wait to see how this technology evolves.”


If you are in need of tech support for your child's Chromebook or iPad, here are the signup links for this week:

Tuesday, 9/15 - https://www.signupgenius.com/go/10c0d4eafab2aa7f5c25-scsd1

Wednesday, 9/16 - https://www.signupgenius.com/go/10C0D4EAFAB2AA7F5C25-scsd2
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Friday, 9/18 - https://www.signupgenius.com/go/10C0D4EAFAB2AA7F5C25-scsd4