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Dear Mahopac Community,
As you may know, the NYS Education Department (NYSED) has recently prohibited the use of Indigenous names, mascots, and logos by public schools. While I have not been in the Mahopac community for very long, I know that the Mahopac Indians mascot has been a long standing tradition used to recognize the indigenous people who lived in our beautiful community long before all of us.
The NYS Education Department has informed us that State Aid may be withheld from school districts who do not comply with this mandate. In addition, we must create a plan for the mascot change by June 30, 2023 with full implementation no later than June 30, 2025. The summary from the NYS Education Department can be found here.
During the Board of Education Work Session on Tuesday, January 17th, I shared a plan for determining our new mascot name. You can find that plan here. Our objective is to select a new mascot that embodies the Mahopac spirit, provides school district recognition, and invokes pride and enthusiasm. The first step in this process is to assemble a Mascot Selection Committee consisting of approximately 60 individuals representing diverse perspectives within the Mahopac community. Committee members will include students, staff, alumni, and community members from a variety of organizations and community members at large. This committee will meet several times between February and April to determine several mascot name options. On May 16, 2023, all of our K - 12 students will have the opportunity to vote on the name of our new mascot from the selections that the committee determines. The result will be announced at the Board of Education meeting on May 18, 2023.
Should you wish to be considered as a community member or alumni on this committee, please provide your information via this survey: Mascot Committee Interest Survey. Community organizations such as PTOs, SEPTO, and MSA will be contacted and invited to select representatives for this committee.
The NYS Education Department has opened a public comment period through February 28, 2023. They invite the community to provide data, views, or arguments regarding NYSED’s regulation on the mascot. The NYS Board of Regents will meet in the Spring to finalize this regulation and provide additional guidance. Should you wish to share your opinion on this issue, contact information is as follows:
Mail: Christina Coughlin, Assistant Commissioner, NYS Education Department
89 Washington Avenue, Room 1078 EBA
Albany, NY 12234
Superintendent of Schools
Mahopac Central School District staff and faculty gathered alongside students and community members earlier this week to welcome back our victorious varsity cheer team after a successful weekend at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas.
The team had a daunting task ahead of them when they arrived in Dallas and saw the size of the arena, the crowd, and the hundreds of other cheer teams present from around the country.
“It was a two-day event. We got there at noon on both days because I wanted the team to get used to the arena and to support other New York teams that we knew,” coach Jasmine DeCosmo said. “Then we performed our two-minute-and-thirty-second routine. I knew that they had it in them, I was a little nervous about the big lights and the pressure, but I knew that they were prepared and that they could do it.”
After months of practicing and working just to get an invitation to the national competition, everything culminated in two, two-and-a half-minute-long performances. When asked how the routines went, DeCosmo simply said, “No deductions, both days.”
After the first day, the pressure was on since the team knew that they were in first place in their division. When the time came for the second performance, the team sought to replicate the previous day’s success. Cheerleader Kate Conklin spoke about the moments immediately after their second performance.
“We all hugged each other and went to our coaches,” Conklin said, “and they said that we did really well. That really completed it because they’re always honest with us. The feeling of watching the recording of our performance was indescribable. I was so happy, there were so many good emotions. We really felt like we secured it.”
Some members of the team have been cheering at Mahopac for over a decade, and the national championship will be the crowning achievement for the team’s graduating seniors, like team captain Jamie Genario.
“Mahopac has always had a great environment for cheer; you always feel the love from the people around you,” Genario said. “What makes this win so special is all of the support, not only from our parents and teammates, but from the town and school as well. It was an amazing feeling to come home to an escort from police and fire and then to see so many people from the community and from all of the schools waiting for us at the high school.”
Mahopac Middle School’s future scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and artists arrived at the school gym to present their projects to their peers and the community last weekend. The gym was buzzing with students talking about the topics of their projects, which included electricity, psychology, ecology, and more.
The student-scientists at the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) Fair presented many ambitious projects. Some chose projects involving electricity, using electrometers to measure often very small differences between charges.
“The purpose of my experiment was to determine if I could make a battery out of household salt,” Mahopac Middle School student Eileen Bergerson said. “Most store-bought batteries are either alkaline or lithium. Alkaline batteries are made from a lot of harmful chemicals and are not biodegradable.”
No two projects were quite alike., Another experiment involving an electrical charge tested for electrolytes in order to compare various energy drinks.
Students were not afraid to find out that their hypotheses did not match their conclusions, as they knew that there were things to learn from their experiments either way. This was the case when Amatul Iram and Alison Ortiz tested concentration spans in various age groups.
With the holidays and almost half of the school year behind us, Mahopac’s elementary schools remain a place where students are encouraged to be kind and engage with their teachers and fellow students.
Each day this week included a costume and activity theme. Students dressed for a beach day on Tuesday, in their pajamas on Friday, and on Wednesday each elementary school even had unique themes.
The theme on Tuesday was Ride the Wave of Kindness, and the theme didn’t just extend to students’ attire. In Kate Legeret’s kindergarten class, students passed a beach ball around, and whoever caught it sat in a beach chair and told the class about a kind thing that they did.
Classes throughout Lakeview participated in a schoolwide activity that began with a special video message in which Principal Jenn Pontillo read “The Jelly Donut Difference,” by Maria Dismondy to students. After that, Robin Clark’s kindergarten class was tasked with coming up with six different ways that they could be kind, just like the children in the story.
“I can help someone up when they fall down,” kindergartener Caroline explained.
With the help of their fifth-grade buddies from Mary Moriarty’s class, the kindergarteners wrote down the ways that they could be kind on their worksheets.
“I can share my toys with my friends,” Cassidy said. “And I can let other people join my games!”
While the kindergarteners were coming up with ways to be kind, their fifth-grade buddies guided them in putting their thoughts to paper.
“I’ve wanted to be a fifth-grade buddy since I was in kindergarten,” fifth grader Maddie said. “I remember my fifth-grade buddy, and I really like working with the little kids.”
The Great Kindness Challenge, presented by the global nonprofit, Kids for Peace, was launched in 2012 to address bullying and foster connection, inclusion, and compassion. Millions of students across the country participated in acts of kindness this week.
How do different animals survive when the winter weather turns cold? Ask Austin Road and Fulmar Road Elementary school students!
A visit from educators with Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES Center for Environmental Education (CEE) offered the students many insights into how various animals adapt when their habitats become colder and when resources become scarce.
“When an animal like a hedgehog goes into hibernation, it slows its body way down, including its heart,” said CEE educator Julia King.
The CEE educator mimicked the rate of a hibernating creature’s heartbeat by clapping in a slow rhythm.
“It seems like it’s not beating at all!” said Abigail, an Austin Road first grade student.
Students got to see some examples of animals that use different strategies to survive in the winter, and even got to meet a few such animals.
One class of Fulmar Road third graders were introduced to Mona Lisa, a painted turtle.
“Make sure that you only touch the shell,” educator Samantha Pierce said, “and make sure to wash your hands after.”
One student asked what Mona Lisa did during the winter. Pierce explained that painted turtles experience “brumation”—a state of sluggishness—when it gets cold outside and they hibernate under water.
While preparing to play a game to illustrate why some animals migrate during the winter, Pierce posed the question to the class. A third grader named Titus spoke up.
“They leave to get to someplace warmer with more food,” the student said.
As the students at Austin Road and Fulmar Road Elementary discovered this week, understanding the ways in which animals adapt to changes in their environments is a critical part of understanding the natural world.
Two Mahopac High School teachers have been selected for their skill and dedication to teaching to join the New York State Master Teacher Program. Jen Cauthers and Kelley Posch have proven themselves to be exceptional examples of New York State high school educators and will continue to lead by example into the future.
The Master Teacher Program is a network of over 1400 K-12 STEM teachers from all throughout New York State.
“They are very selective,” said Cauthers, the MHS Anatomy and Living Environment teacher. “You have to go through a very extensive application process, documenting all of your professional development and not just your background in education.”
On top of all of the professional development and work required to apply, the Master Teacher Program requires that teachers not only know their curriculum, but are able to teach it in a way that makes it tangible and applicable for their students.
“We get the question ‘when am I going to need this’ all of the time,” said Algebra teacher Posch. “Making those real-world connections by turning the subject into more relatable tasks is critical for getting students invested in what they’re learning.”
Both Cauthers and Posch have met the NYS Master Teacher Program’s high standards as teachers and have displayed a high level of dedication to their students. Both teachers intend to use the connections created through the Master Teacher Program to further their abilities as educators and that of other teachers across New York State.
“There’s a couple of us from across the program that are in the health sciences and we’re hoping to form a network so that we can work together,” Cauthers said.
“The NYS Master Teacher Program is a great avenue for teachers to grow and share their skills with other teachers,” said Dr. Matthew Lawrence, principal of Mahopac High School. “Thank you to Ms. Posch and Ms. Cauthers for being examples of professionalism to the MHS family.”
"The entire Mahopac Central School District is proud of Ms. Cauthers and Ms. Posch for their extraordinary efforts in becoming leaders in their craft," said Superintendent of Schools Christine Tona. "These two teachers join High School colleagues Tricia Fuller-Johnson, Michael Mahoney, Frank Rizzo, and Elizabeth Stephens who have already earned the designation of Master Teacher. I commend and thank all of these teachers for their dedication and professionalism."
From Illusion to band, orchestra and chorus concerts, the spotlight has been on Mahopac’s talented student musicians this month.
Two student-musicians from Mahopac schools have been offered opportunities to join prestigious performances later this year: Clara Sprague will play in the New York State Band Directors Association Honor Band, and Cameron Dinsmore will perform with the New York State Honor Band.
Sprague plays the French horn in the middle school band, trumpet in the jazz band, and even plays in the All County band. Her next accomplishment will be performing in the NYSBDA Honor Band.
“My dad is a professional French horn player and I really liked the way that it sounded so I wanted to learn to play,” Sprague said. “I’ve received a lot of encouragement from my friends and my band teachers at Mahopac, which has helped me become more confident playing in front of other people.”
Sprague cited her current band teacher as a critical part of her development as a musician, “Mr. Teglasi has been amazing and I really want people to know that. He’s hard on us but really patient and nice. He just brings the best out of all of us no matter how long it takes. He’s made me feel so much more confident in my playing.”
Dinsmore is a Mahopac High School junior and member of the band. Dinsmore plays piano, flute, violin, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, guitar and trumpet but says that the flute is her favorite instrument to play in a performance.
Although she has been playing the flute for only two years, Dinsmore said she immediately had an affinity for the instrument: “Something just clicked with the flute.”
Not only is Dinsmore first chair and concertmaster in the band, she was also selected to be first chair in the New York State Honor Band. Dinsmore has worked hard to get where she is, but she credited much of her musical development to her band teacher, Rich Williams.
“I definitely wouldn’t have gotten to where I am without Mr. Williams. He has had faith in me and saw a potential in me that I never imagined that I had. I remember hearing about students going to All State, but I never thought that it would be me.”
Despite all of her accomplishments, Dinsmore said that it wasn’t just about the music.
“I have made lifelong friends in these bands. No matter what else is happening on any day, just knowing that I will get to spend 40 minutes playing music with these people is a breath of fresh air. I remember when we won Best Band at Music in the Parks and we just felt unstoppable after working so hard to make it there together.”
Most people don't think of coding, or computer programming, as an activity for young students. But integrating coding into elementary school classrooms is exactly what Mimi Murphy and Trish Huestis have been doing for the last three years.
The two educators offer “Hour of Code” at Lakeview, Austin Road and Fulmar Elementary Schools. Through the one-hour introduction, all students in kindergarten through fifth grade have the opportunity to learn some basic coding skills. Hour of Code is an international event celebrating computer science education.
Even the youngest students learn a lot during Hour of Code, which is typically held in December.
“It’s BB-8!” one of Shannon O’Shea’s kindergarten students said, “He rolls around!”
The Lakeview student was looking up at the smart board where some famous robot characters including R2-D2, Wall-E and BB-8 were displayed. Murphy explained to the students that most robots don’t understand English, they understand “code.”
Students were “programmed” with a special set of instructions, using symbols instead of words. They followed along, hopping, spinning and stepping when they recognized the corresponding symbols.
“I speak robot!” another student said.
Huestis and Murphy explain why it is beneficial for students to participate in an Hour of Code.
“Coding is ‘health food’ for your brain. It reinforces key math concepts related to logic and computational thinking. Coding requires problem-solving and perseverance, an essential skill set for every stage of life. Additionally, there are many job opportunities for coders and programmers. As technology continues to advance, the number of those opportunities is rising exponentially.”
After learning that robots understand their own unique language, O’Shea’s students returned to their seats and were instructed to program a beaver to finish building a dam. Students had to use a preset list of commands and string them together so that their beaver would move to the correct spots on the dam and drop logs into place to complete the structure.
Many kindergarteners took to the exercise like fish to water, quickly completing all of the beginner levels. Hour of Code makes coding relatable to students of all ages.
Learning to play any instrument can be a daunting task. But Mahopac Middle School’s orchestra, led by Katelyn Tai, offers students an opportunity to develop their skills on a wide range of instruments each week.
“Mahopac has encouraged me to focus on music,” said Sullivan, who is also a member of the chamber orchestra. “When we’re practicing with our sections we can move through the music quickly and then we play really well together as a whole orchestra.”
After weeks of practice, the orchestra took to the Mahopac Middle School stage for a performance attended by friends and family on Tuesday night. The ensemble performed well and the students were excited to get back to practice for the next performance.
Seventh grade twins, Andrew and Aaron Rojas, do everything together, including playing cello in the orchestra. Both have seen significant improvement in their playing skills since they picked up the instrument a few years earlier.
“It’s been a lot of hard work and we did really well, but we can always do better,” Andrew said about Tuesday’s performance.
“We’ve made a lot of progress since the beginning of this year and we’re already learning our next pieces,” Aaron said.
The students in the orchestra are always striving to succeed and better themselves.
“My favorite memory of playing in the orchestra is when we played creatures on stage,” Polanco Cartmill said. “We played it better than in all of our rehearsals.”
While students often spend many years finding their interests, one Fulmar Road Elementary third grader is already making waves in an unconventional after-school activity.
Haris Pupovic is a Ninja Warrior and has been ever since he was four years old.
“Haris has so much energy, but he didn’t really have a place to go to utilize that with traditional sports,” Haris’ mother Emily Pupovic said, “that’s when we took him to ‘Ninja.’”
Being a Ninja Warrior means training, running and competing on agility courses consisting of jumps, climbs, water hazards and a wide variety of other obstacles. Ninja Warriors aren’t just expected to overcome every new obstacle on any given course, but they’re also expected to do it quickly.
Pupovic emphasized that the focus and endurance required to complete courses provided Haris with exactly the outlet that he needed.
“Doing the obstacle courses is hard because you need to use different skills to overcome each part,” Haris said. “You have to be good at hanging and swinging from your hands and balancing. It’s a lot of practice.”
Haris attracted a lot of attention earlier this year when he competed in the Federation of International Ninja Athletics (FINA) World Championships, held in Buffalo, New York. The competition was fierce, but the Fulmar Road student held his own and finished with a respectable time.
Haris continues to train and compete in FINA events. He said that he was not deterred by the notion of failure, even though falling during a competition could spell the end of an attempt.
“If you fail, you can’t give up,” Haris said, “you just have to practice and try again.”
A few dozen students and a handful of teachers and administrators gathered in the Mahopac High School cafeteria Wednesday afternoon for a challenge issued by the German Club’s advisors, Katrina Bauerlein and Greg Brown.
It was the 20th anniversary of the German Club’s gingerbread house competition and, for the first time in its history, the competition was opened up to those outside of the club.
Teams formed as they had in years past, out of club members and their friends. But also in attendance were representatives of the Italian Club with their rendition of a sweet Colosseum, members of the Girls JV Basketball team who intended to build a miniature basketball court, the Spanish Club, the Gay-Straight Alliance, the Environmental Club, and many more.
The rules were simple. Teams had two hours to construct their gingerbread creations in one of two categories: the “traditional” category for proper gingerbread houses, and the “creative” category where any gingerbread construction could be entered.
Judges included Superintendent Christine Tona, Principal Matthew Lawrence, and Spanish teacher Sam Correia. At the end of the allotted time, each team had a chance to deliver a one-minute pitch to the judges, who awarded first and second place prizes in each category.
“Santa gets kind of stressed out,” said the representative from the Environmental Club, “so he needs to be able to go to his lake house to relax. He’s got a log cabin, his reindeer are hanging out in the front yard, and he has a little pond. He has a small forest too, but you’ve got to watch out for the grinch.”
The Environmental Club’s intricate diorama featured sustainable elements calling back to the values of the club.
Other entries included a Brownie factory, a Christmas tree in an ice rink, a re-creation of the Candyland board game, and even a camper van.
One of the teams, made up of German students and their friends, created a two-foot-tall construction, including a backdrop that depicted the Alps in icing.
“This is our Winter Wonderland,” the Alps team representative said, “There's a snowman and his little son and they have a nice pond with some doves and some fish. They live in Germany and those are the Swiss Alps and they have a zoo with some llamas and bears.”
The presentations were almost as interesting as the creations, with teams weaving intricate narratives, complete with memorable characters and fantastic histories.
“This was originally a family tradition,” Bauerlein said. “When I started working here and started the club, my sister came in and helped my class to create gingerbread houses. Slowly it expanded and now here we are 20 years later with two categories, rules, and teams from all over the school.”
Fulmar Road students are spreading holiday cheer this year by purchasing small gifts for friends and family at the holiday sale.
"I got a little book and an ornament," said a student named Alexa. "I got the ornament for my mom and the book for my little sister."
Parent volunteers help students budget their purchases, as well as decide what to buy for their friends and family.
“Hmm, I think that my dad would like this,” said a student named Gabriella, as she picked up a headband with Christmas lights and felt antlers on it.
Some students, like Taylor, thought of friends in their class when buying gifts.
Taylor bought a few items for her family, but when she saw the colorful, fancy pens on the gifts table, only one person came to mind: her friend, Anna. The Fulmar Road student bought the pen and promptly delivered it to her friend, who was browsing the sale herself.
“I love it!” Anna exclaimed, embracing Taylor.
Spearheaded by the PTO, the holiday sale at Fulmar Road Elementary raises funds for trips, activities, and events for students all throughout the year. But Jessica Cipillone, the PTO’s head of fundraising, said it was not just about money.
“It teaches them about the value of money and making choices when they’re shopping,” Cipillone said. “They have to keep track of how much money they have and how much things cost and they aren’t just buying for themselves, they’re buying for others.”
Festive music and the aromas of chocolate and peppermint greeted visitors to Austin Road Elementary Tuesday.
The scents were coming from the December Courtyard Café where students from Allison Walsh’s, Amanda Giacquinta’s, and Sara Nielsen’s classes greeted visitors and offered tickets for sweets and hot chocolate.
“Happy holidays!” said the student handing out tickets, “What would you like?”
Visitors had a choice of candy canes, chocolate bark, cupcakes, and peppermint hot chocolate.
“Do you want some hot chocolate?” an Austin Road student named Michael asked, “It’s really good, we’re running out!”
When asked if he liked being in charge of the hot chocolate station, Michael simply said, “It’s the best job, because everybody loves hot chocolate.”
The students proved to be good at sales. They did not allow anyone to pass by without offering something sweet while Vincenzo kept the seasonal music playing.
The courtyard cafe is a monthly event organized by Kate Ward who also credits Rebecca Kassirer, Meghan Reinhardt, Dana Pinatello, and Chris Williams for helping make the event possible. Ward also took a few minutes during a lull in business to comment on the event and its significance to the students.
“It’s a good way for the students to develop skills like cooking and working with food and it gives them a chance to socialize,” Ward said. “They’re involved with the whole process from preparing the food to interacting with the visitors.”
Velcro. Shark Skin swimsuits. Aircraft.
These are all examples of biomimicry, the practice of devising solutions to everyday problems using strategies from nature. Austin Road fourth graders learned about biomimicry recently in a workshop with Danny Carvill, an educator from the Center for Environmental Education at PNW BOCES.
When Carvill asked for a volunteer, Thomas stepped up to the front of the class. Carvill gently placed a small cluster of burrs on the back of the student’s shirt. As burrs often do, they stuck to the fourth grader’s shirt. Next, Carvill asked the students why the plants stuck to Thomas’ shirt.
“They’re seeds!” one student called out, “Spikes!” “Hooks!” yelled others.
Carvill explained that burrs have small hooks that grab onto loops in fabric and animal fur. In fact, the inventor of Velcro fasteners took the idea from the burrs that stuck tenaciously to his dog’s fur.
After providing other examples of biomimicry, Carvill challenged the students to take inspiration from the natural world and create their own inventions. Some drew wings that could carry a man in flight. Others made multi-purpose suits that could protect wearers against extreme temperatures and camouflage them in various terrain.
A student named Zaen drew an apparatus with multiple joints and strong, arm-like braces.
“It’s a claw grabber like on a praying mantis,” Zaen said. “It has hollow parts to scoop things up in case you want to grab something round that would normally slip out.”
By teaching students about biomimicry, teachers can connect the natural world, technology, human innovation, invention and sustainability – all relevant areas of study for today’s students.
Learning does not stop when the school bell rings.
Mahopac Middle School students have had fun learning after school in workshops sponsored by the Parent Teacher Organization for years. The workshops run the gamut from archery to beauty crafts to edible science projects.
“You’re out!” a student called out across the gym as colorful foam balls flew through the air.
With Bon Jovi’s It’s My Life blaring over the gym speakers, students played “Throw, Catch and Evade,” a complex form of dodgeball that calls for participants to duck, dip, dive and dodge their way to victory.
In the “Science is Yummy” workshop, students used plastic spoons to carve out the shapes of the phases of the moon from the cream of Oreo cookies. By the end of the class, and the end of more than one package of cookies, students had an entire chart of the moon's phases in Oreo cookie form. Mint and vanilla cookies represented the earth and the sun, enabling students to depict eclipses.
“In a solar eclipse, the moon blocks the sun, but in a lunar eclipse, the earth’s shadow covers the moon,” a student named Sabrina explained, sliding cookies around to illustrate the relative positions of celestial bodies.
Through after-school workshops, students are able to experience fun and varied lessons outside of the usual curriculum and many even sign up in pairs or groups, enjoying the activities with their friends.
“The most important part of the workshops is for students to be able to socialize with their peers,” Kathy Cuomo, organizer for the workshops, explained, “and to do it after school while learning something new.”
How much energy should the United States produce?
The nation has been grappling with that question since the dawn of electricity. Aalyaan Ali, a Mahopac High School junior, hopes to help answer it using machine learning.
A form of artificial intelligence, machine learning “trains” computers to make humanlike decisions without being explicitly programmed for them. Examples of machine learning include facial recognition, language translation, and self-driving cars.
Ali is in his second year of the high school’s Science Research program. While searching for a research topic, Ali was attracted to the use of machine learning to predict energy consumption. As he delved into existing research, Ali said he found that all of the work on this subject focused on energy consumption in commercial buildings.
“Over a quarter of the energy consumed in America is consumed by residential buildings,” Ali said. “The more accurately we can predict residential energy use, the greater the odds that we will neither over produce nor under produce energy for our needs. It’s about better predicting future energy consumption.”
Ali tested two machine-learning models to determine which one could more accurately predict energy consumption. Using data compiled by the United States Energy Information Association on energy use in 5,000 homes, Ali let each model “train” on data from 3,000 of those homes. He then asked each model to predict energy consumption in the remaining homes, based on characteristics like square footage and region.
“I learned how to use machine learning models to analyze residential energy consumption in the United States,” Ali said.
There are many applications for these types of machine learning models in infrastructure. Ali is excited by how better energy production estimates could improve both infrastructure and industry, as well as life for the average American.
“Less overproduction means less waste and less burden on infrastructure. Our infrastructure will last longer if it isn’t constantly being flooded with excess power,” Ali said. “An effective model could help homeowners find inefficiencies in energy use like if they have an old refrigerator or poor insulation. It could also help determine if they are paying for more electricity than they need based on the data.”
“Most young e-cigarette users want to quit.”
This was just one of many messages written on the CoveCare Center display board at Mahopac Middle School on Wednesday, in preparation for the Great American Smokeout the following day.
Jillian Kulka, CoveCare Center Prevention Educator, was present to speak to students about the dangers of smoking and using e-cigarettes.
“Weren’t e-cigarettes supposed to help people stop smoking cigarettes?” asked sixth grader Erick Rodriguez, “Or was that just a marketing ploy?”
With a crowd of students listening intently, Kulka explained that people can be just as addicted to the nicotine in e-cigarettes as they can to the nicotine in cigarettes.
Many of the health risks associated with e-cigarettes remain unknown, but Kulka emphasized that, what is known, is that nicotine is highly addictive. After one crowd of students moved on to get their lunch, one student stepped out of the crowd to ask Kulka a question.
“Is there anything you can smoke that isn’t addictive?” the student asked.
“Our lungs are made to breathe air,” Kulka said, “anything else could cause damage and illness. Even vapes have chemicals in them, it isn’t just air. A lot of the vapes that say they don’t have nicotine, still have some nicotine in them.”
Kulka emphasized the importance of the efforts made by her team in conducting this outreach to students in schools and of students recognizing the prevention resources in their communities.
“It’s important to have a time where they are focused on thinking about substances and the impact that they can have on their lives,” Kulka said, “they can ask difficult questions because the CoveCare Prevention Team has been here before and we aren’t strangers.”
Eight Mahopac High School seniors have committed to play sports at the college level next year.
They are: Jake Degnan, Mike Rettberg, Emma Morretta, Lauren Beberman, Marie Camastro, Maya O'Keefe, Maddie Orsini, and Riley Massett. The students announced their intention at a ceremony held on Wednesday, November 9th, with a crowd of family members, friends and school officials in attendance.
“My parents really pushed me to be the best person and player that I could be, but they were never hard on me,” said Massett, who committed to play Lacrosse at Widener University. “They were very supportive of whatever I wanted to do. They were always willing to drive me to play, whether it was down the street to the high school or to a tournament in Maryland.”
The student-athletes credited coaches and peers who had helped them achieve their success.
Beberman, who will play Basketball at Adelphi University, thanked one of her longtime coaches, saying, “I’ve had the same AAU basketball coach since the 5th grade, Kristi Dini. She helped me by teaching me basketball, but she also pushed me whenever I hesitated and was always there to talk and support me.”
Rettberg specifically named the larger Mahopac Community as critical to his growth, saying, “The support from students and the community is outstanding. It doesn’t matter how well they know you, we always have fans turn out to watch and support us and that makes a huge difference.”
Only one in 13 high school athletes goes on to play at the collegiate level. The students who will play their sports at a college level next year are:
Fourth graders in Jeanne Russo’s class at Lakeview Elementary had the chance to see Assistant Superintendent Michael Tromblee in a new light when he made a Veterans Day visit to speak about his own military experience.
“All military branches have their specialty,” Tromblee said, “but they also have a lot of cross-over… In the Air Force we have ground troops just like the Army does. I was a ground troop, I flew in helicopters and operated communication equipment.”
Tromblee showed students pictures from when he served as an Airman in the United States Air Force in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
“Why aren’t you smiling?” a student named Emily asked as she looked at an old photo of the assistant superintendent in his dress uniform.
Without any hesitation, Tromblee said, “Because I’m trying to look tough.”
He explained the concept of ‘military bearing’, saying that it was important to exhibit a professional demeanor and not to reveal one's emotions.
The Lakeview fourth graders listened closely as Tromblee’s described his experiences in the mountains of Montana, in Italy, and even during his forward deployment to war-torn Bosnia.
“Anybody see the guy in war movies with the radio on his back,” he asked. “That was me. Talking to planes, talking to helicopters, talking to other units, that was my job.”
Tromblee described a deployment activity to Bosnia where he aided special forces operators participating in anti-sniping missions, working to address communication equipment issues their team was having.
Tromblee passed around a ‘shadow box’, containing his commendations and medals as well as a photograph of his grandfather, who served in Europe during World War II and in the Korean War.
As the class ended, Tromblee revealed a final gift for the students. He had a pile of special Mahopac ‘challenge coins’ which he handed out for the class’s excellent questions.
When the students received the substantial, shiny coins, their eyes went wide and smiles spread across their faces.
“When you get a challenge coin in the military,” the assistant superintendent said, “you have to keep it on you and always be prepared for a member of your team to ask you to show it.”
Susan Chrisman’s fourth grade class filled with ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ at the mention of the word ‘magnets.’
The invisible forces that govern the universe can be challenging to understand, even for college students and adults. But Dan Novak, coordinator of the Center for Environmental Education at PNW BOCES, made it look easy.
“When you’re standing on the floor, is the floor pushing on your feet?” Novak asked the class. The answer: “It is!”
The Fulmar Road fourth graders were quick studies, and when Novak showed Chrisman’s class how he could magically stick a piece of paper to his shirt, a perceptive student named Siena was not fooled.
“Ok, so when you dropped it,” Siena said, “we could see the magnet on the back of the paper.”
Novak revealed the magnet that he was wearing on a necklace and pointed out that the magnets could exert force on one another despite the fact that there was a layer of fabric in between.
For the next part of the lesson, students had the chance to think creatively and problem-solve. Novak gave each table a plastic bin containing sand and some metal nails. It would be up to the students to use the tools provided to them to clean their ‘beach’.
Novak explained that beaches covered in refuse like nails were not good for wildlife like sea turtles that rely on beaches to lay their eggs.
When asked how they could make the beach safe for the turtles, several students spoke at once, saying, “We have to clean it up!”
Students cleaned the beach twice: once, using plastic forks; and a second time using magnets on strings. The students quickly discovered that the magnets were a more efficient way to collect the metal nails than the forks were.
“I think we’re done.” a student named Jordan called out.
But some students weren’t satisfied and as soon as they finished their second round, they began brainstorming about how they could clean the beach even more quickly.
“We had to drag the magnets over the sand,” fourth grader Siena said, “With the forks we could scratch the sand. Maybe we could combine the fork and the magnet!”
In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, people from all walks of life came together to help our nation heal. Today, with war raging in Ukraine and strong political divisions at home, Mahopac Middle School students are focusing on what unites us, rather than what divides us.
Through an event known as “Inclusion in Honor of 9/11,” eighth grade students on teams 8A and 8D are engaging with one another and their community. Students have completed six activities ranging from writing letters to elected officials to creating flags that represent their individual identities.
“I reached out to the Putnam County Legislature about addiction and mental illness awareness,” said eighth grader Cira Graap. “I got a letter back from them. They said that they were working to raise awareness. And they gave me contact information for someone who I could speak with to continue to help.”
Another student, Tyler Santos, said he wrote to town officials about the state of the roads in Mahopac because his mom said they needed work. “They wrote back to me and said that they were working on it and had sent my letter to the New York State Department of Transportation,” which also maintains some roads in the area.
Students also created flags to represent their unique interests and backgrounds. “I included my ethnic background and also my interests, like reading and baking,” student Yasenia Lewis said. “It’s important to show the diversity in our community and to celebrate our differences.”
The event, organized by science teachers Margaret Fox and Kelly Kischak, is in keeping with a national day of service in memory of 9/11. As they engage with their peers and get involved in their community, Mahopac Middle School students are preparing to enter adulthood as well informed and contributing members of society.
Colorful pumpkins lined the windows and walls of Susan Soltis and Danielle Romano's fourth grade class in Lakeview Elementary School.
The pumpkins were part of a creative twist on the traditional book report. Having chosen a book to read and report on, students were asked to paint a pumpkin to resemble a character from their chosen book, and then present it to the rest of the class.
Kaylee presented first.
“She’s a pug who wants to be a pumpkin,” Kaylee said, showing off her pug-faced squash. “I picked this one because Peggy the pug was afraid of Halloween, but then she overcame her fear.”
In an interesting turn of events, Kaylee’s pumpkin had become a pug for her report, much to the amusement of her classmates.
The next student to present was Francesca. She painted her pumpkin to resemble the teddy bear from a story with special significance to her.
“It’s about these children who move to a new house and accidentally leave their teddy bear behind…” Francesca said.
Francesca recently moved, so the teddy bear’s adventure spoke to the her.
The Lakeview fourth graders might have only seen one image, if any, of these characters and yet they captured their mental image and, with paint, pipe cleaners, and pumpkins, brought them to life.
It had been days since the beloved science class mascot Stanley Skeleton met his untimely end in Mahopac Middle School…
In the center of science teacher Patrice Butala’s classroom lay the gruesome scene. Stanley, the class’s skeletal anatomical model, lay motionless, surrounded by evidence that could lead the class of intrepid sixth grade investigators to his killer.
When asked what leads he had, sixth grader Christopher Pilato said, “It was Ms. Fallman!”
Pilato pointed toward a mugshot of the suspect on his screen. He had noticed a distinct Halloween mask in the teacher’s hand, which just so happened to be found at the scene.
“No! There was also a red fingernail!” said student Hunter Rodriguez, pointing to a picture of another suspect, “It must have been both of them!”
While the junior detectives continued their work, the dramatic sounds of harpsichords and piano played and Butala explained that she had devised the lesson with the help of Jason Zides as part of the state’s Next Generation Science Standards.
“We’re teaching claim, evidence, and reasoning.” Butala said, “Tomorrow I’m going to go into those standards with them by asking ‘What is your claim? What happened to Stanley? What is your evidence?’”
While the search for the killer is entertaining for the sixth graders, they are learning evidence-based deductive reasoning as they solve the crime.
A menagerie of monsters, superheroes, and even a person-sized block of cheese assembled in front of Mahopac Middle School awaiting judgment by school faculty and staff.
It was Halloween 2022.
And the first order of the day was the annual costume contest at Mahopac Middle School.
Judges surveyed the students, evaluating each of their costumes. While looking over the lineup of eighth graders, it was impossible to miss a student named Cooper Grimm who was dressed as a giant wedge of cheese.
“It’s all home made,” Cooper said, “My mom helped me a lot. It’s all foam and felt and it rests on these straps.”
Cooper leaned down to display his and his mother’s craftsmanship, showing off a sturdy construction that was supported by straps on his shoulders. The big cheese beamed as he spoke about his creation and the judges took note.
It isn’t just crafts skills that students get to show off during Halloween though, as one student arrived wearing some shockingly realistic injury makeup. Savannah Torres was dressed as a monstrous Queen of Hearts following an altercation involving a playing card.
“She got hit in the head while she was trying to eat someone,” Torres explained, with a Queen of Hearts playing card appearing to protrude from a gruesome wound on her forehead.
“We did the makeup… We do it every year, but it’s always a new injury.” Torres said, proudly displaying her horror movie ready fake wound.
A flurry of yellow and red leaves fell around the students from Mahopac’s three elementary schools as they waited for the event that they had spent weeks preparing for to begin. Students were wearing their elementary school colors: green T-shirts for Fulmar Road, black for Austin Road and yellow for Lakeview.
The 145 second, third, fourth, and fifth-grade students sat on the grass at Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park listening as physical education teacher Bill Huestis prepared them for the run.
“When can we go?” one Austin Road student called out.
The students were about to run 3.1 miles in two laps around a paved, flat, circular route. Some of the students were nervous, while those who had run the 5K before were excited. After some final words of encouragement from Superintendent Christine Tona, students took to the starting line.
The shrill sound of a whistle carried across the park. The runners were off. They began in a pack but stretched out as the race progressed. Parents and teachers waited by the finish line.
After less than half an hour, students began to cross the finish line, beginning with Isaiah Mitchell who said that “the race was only a little hard.”
Mitchell and his classmates had been training for the run in the weeks leading up to the event and had participated in the run at Lakeview Elementary School the prior week.
Parents and teachers congratulated students as they poured across the finish line, handing out ribbons and medals.
When asked how he was feeling after the race, Fulmar Road student Jonathan said that he felt good about his performance, but that “I kept looking back for other runners.”
That was when another Lakeview fourth grader chimed in, saying, “I’m happy and I’m hungry.”
On a crisp Autumn morning kindergartens from Fulmar Road Elementary School arrived at Outhouse Orchards and were greeted by their parents.
The itinerary included apple picking, a hayride, pumpkin picking, and a walk through the corn maze. The students couldn’t wait to get started. They were split up by class into groups led by their teachers, Fran Shea, Megan Shea, Nicole Petrone, Katheryn Jesselli, and Lisa Barletta.
At the apple trees, students were encouraged to help one another find and reach apples that they could take home after the trip.
At the hayride, parents and students piled onto a wagon pulled by a tractor around the orchard.
“The corn maze!” one of the students yelled in anticipation as the tractor drove past a field of corn.
After their ride around the orchard, students, teachers, and parents alike trekked up a hill toward the corn field. When they arrived, they met their guide, Jeff Aquilino, who handed out laminated maps of the maze. When she saw the map, kindergartener Zofia’s eyes went wide.
“Frankenstein!” she yelled, recognizing the shape of the titular doctor’s monster on the map.
As they prepared to venture into the maze, the students received one last warning from their guide.
“Watch your step,” Aquilino said, “and don’t eat the corn.”
As the class strung out into a line following their guide and teachers, one student named Oliver strode up to the front of his classmates.
“I know where we’re going!” he declared.
Students worked together to try and identify their location on the map using clues in the maze. Eventually, they all made it back out with their parents and teachers.
The kindergarteners concluded their trip around the orchard with a stop at the pumpkin patch. After that, the whole grade got back together to enjoy some freshly baked donuts before climbing back onto their bus and heading back to class.
By 3:10 pm on Tuesday, three groups of Mahopac students had collected on the grassy hill outside of Lakeview Elementary.
Each group wore T Shirts corresponding to their elementary school, green for Lakeview, Black for Austin Road, and Yellow for Fulmar Road. All three crowds cheered and looked on in anticipation at the grass field and array of cones below. It was a day that they had been training for, the day of the Lakeview Run, which had been organized by all of the Mahopac elementary physical education teachers.
“I want to go first!” one Lakeview student called out.
That was when the first heat was called up, the oldest of the elementary school runners, the 10 to 11-year-olds. Once all of the students were corralled behind the starting line, Donn Tobin held his flag up and signaled for the first run to begin.
The oldest group ran a 1-mile-long course, while the two younger groups ran three quarters of a mile and half of a mile respectively. There was a healthy sense of competition as each of the races began and the runners spread out.
Some students slowed down, encouraging their winded classmates who were struggling to keep up and pushing them to make it to the end.
By the end the runners were exhausted. Students collected their award certificates and then made their way back to their spots on the hill to rest.
“Waiting was really nerve wracking!” fourth grader Fiona said after the race.
While many students were challenged by the distance, others were looking forward to next week’s run, the FDR Park 5k.
“I was tired,” fourth grader Scarlet said, “but I was ready for it to be harder!”
A lot has changed in the last fifty years.
The Mahopac High School class of 1972 was the first class of students to go through all four years of their high school careers in the then new high school building. For their 50th reunion, 28 members of the class of ‘72 got together to walk the halls of the high school once again.
Fifty years ago, they were exploring a new building and in 2022, they explored once again. “A good 80% of us haven’t been there since we left… It was an eye opening experience,” said Tom Lombardi, who helped organize the event.
Some of the visitors recognized their old cafeteria, which has since become the main office while others noticed that the old shop rooms had transformed into engineering centers.
“It’s all more technology based.” Lombardi said, “I’m an engineer by degree and I thought ‘wow this is really an improvement.’”
Guided by Assistant Principal Gary Ziegelhofer, the ex-students traversed their old stomping grounds and heard all about how teaching and the high school had evolved.
“After the tour was over we all went to a pizza place in town and we all said that we had an appreciation for today’s teachers and the challenges that they face…” Lombardi said, “I think that the students of today will be better prepared than we were as students.”
Long-term projects are always intimidating, especially when that work is destined to be judged.
Mahopac High School Senior Megan Bloomer undertook just such a project in her sophomore year when she joined the high school’s Science Research Program, headed by Elizabeth Stephens.
Students begin the program in 10th grade but unlike most other electives, science research spans two to three years. During that time, students develop, research, present, and edit a science research project of their choosing. Since joining the program, Bloomer has presented her work in front of peers and adults.
“I have learned a lot about research,” she said. “And even if you don’t publish, you learn presentation skills.”
Students typically work on either one project for two years or two projects for a total of three years in the program. After choosing a project, students work with a mentor and Stephens on their project.
Early this year, Bloomer was contacted by the “Journal of Emerging Investigators,” a science journal for high school scientists, regarding her nine-page paper, titled, “The effect of adverse childhood experiences on e-cigarette usage in people aged 18-30 in the US.” She had been selected to edit her paper in preparation for being published.
“I was so excited, but there was still a lot of work to do with the editing,” Bloomer said.
After a lengthy editing process, Bloomer’s research paper was accepted and published on the journal’s website on Oct. 6.
Bloomer credited Mahopac’s Science Research Program with helping her develop college-level skills and build her resume. Stephens said the research program challenges students, provides valuable experience and helps them to develop projects that will stand out after high school.
The program is still accepting 10th grade students who are interested in science research this year. Those interested should contact Elizabeth Stephens at email@example.com.
Who doesn’t love a fire truck?
First graders from Austin Road Elementary were thrilled to get up close to a fire truck when they visited the Mahopac Falls Fire Department as part of fire safety month.
The trip began with an explanation of the suits that firefighters use and how to remain safe during a fire.
One fire volunteer pointed to his colleague who was wearing a breathing apparatus and said. “If there is a fire and you hear that noise, make a lot of noise so that he can find you!” The firefighter began to breathe and the distinct sound of air running through the device filled the room.
The Austin Road students then split up into four groups and visited various locations around the fire station. They had a chance to sit in and learn about an ambulance. In another area, they saw and got to climb inside a fire engine. Students even had the opportunity to use a firehose to put out a mock fire under the supervision of one of the volunteers.
The final stop for the students was the safety truck where they viewed multiple real world examples of situations that could result in a fire. The displays in the safety truck included common household locations like the stovetop in a kitchen, fireplace, and a second floor bedroom.
It is never too early to learn how to use a computer. With that belief in mind, the Mahopac Central School District has made it a priority to provide students with the technological edge needed to succeed.
Thanks to the district’s Technology Department, the students in Megan Shea’s kindergarten class at Fulmar Road Elementary School are expanding their learning by using Chromebooks.
Chromebooks offer students a way to learn how to use computers but also augment lessons in everything from reading to mathematics.
In a recent class, Shea used Chromebooks for a reading lesson that allowed students to advance at their own pace. The lesson did not need to stop every time a student had a question. Instead, each student worked through the lesson, slowing down or speeding up as necessary, leaving Shea free to address students’ individual needs as she moved around the classroom.
Students who finished early could move onto a math lesson, while those who were still working on the reading lesson did not feel rushed. Chromebook lessons are just another tool that teachers use to help prepare Mahopac students to succeed in the digital age.
As adults, many Americans struggle to make healthy lifestyle choices.
Teachers at Austin Road Elementary strive to help students form healthy habits that they can carry with them throughout their lives, beginning with the Elementary Cross Country Program. A staple in the town for decades, the program culminates with a 5k run at FDR Park on October 26.
Students from second to fifth grade who volunteer get together to run several mornings a week behind the school. They run under the supervision of Bill Huestis, Lauren Kittredge, and Bob Cohowicz.
As the students completed lap after lap during a recent session, the teachers used markers and popsicle sticks to denote how many laps each student had completed. Each student had to complete all 10 laps within 40 minutes in order to qualify for the 5k run at FDR Park.
“We have entire families that have run the race,” Kittredge said.
For his part, Huestis said, “It’s all about healthy habits… it’s great to hear from parents that their children have kept up with it into middle school.”
Both the FDR Park and a run at Lakeview are scheduled to take place in the next two weeks and they are certain to be a true challenge for the elementary school students, but the Austin Road runners will be ready.
The scent of hot chocolate wafted from Robin Ambrosi’s classroom as her students filed in for a special lesson. The class was all about reading, but the Lakeview fourth graders were surprised by what their teacher had in store.
Students were greeted by jazzy coffee shop music and desks covered with “menus” and small stacks of books. Ambrosi welcomed her students to the aptly named “Starbooks” before she explained the lesson.
All of the students were instructed to sit at their assigned tables and look at the book in front of them. Each looked at the book’s title, then the text on the back cover, and then began reading the first chapter. They read for six minutes before taking a few notes about their book in the “menus” that had been provided to them. Students wrote the name of the book that they read so that they could find it again if they were interested reading it.
Ambrosi, wearing a barista apron, called each table up for some hot chocolate to enjoy while they read. Some students were already so engrossed in their reading however, that they completely missed the first call. After six minutes was up, Ambrosi got all of her students’ attention and told them to finish writing about their first book and to move on to the next table, where another book awaited them.
Once each student had traveled to their next seat, hot chocolate in hand, the process began all over again: front cover, back cover, first chapter. Principal Jennifer Pontillo stopped by as an added treat, reading part of one of her favorite stories, “Maniac Magee” by Jerry Spinelli. She, told the fourth graders that not every book could be judged by just its cover.
Just as the fourth graders were really getting into their next books, they wrote down what they thought and then went off to the next table. The exercise served to foster a sense of literary exploration in the fourth graders and expose them to many different stories that they might not have sought out on their own.
Given that several students had to be reminded repeatedly that they needed to leave one of their books behind to move on to the next table, it’s safe to say that this “book tasting” was a success.
Brett Bergerson and Isabella Valle, best friends since second grade, have shared many milestones. Now the two Mahopac High School seniors are both being honored for their academic achievements.
Bergerson has been named a Commended Student by the National Merit Scholarship Program, while Valle received the National Hispanic Recognition Award from the College Board. Both students credited the outstanding education provided by Mahopac schools with enabling their success.
“Education is definitely cumulative,” Bergerson said as she cited teachers who had inspired and nurtured her from her time at Fulmar Road Elementary School all the way through to her time at Mahopac High School. “Fulmar fostered a love of learning in a familial environment that allowed us to grow,” she said.
Valle and Bergerson both recalled a Living Environment class they had taken during middle school. Valle said that the class “made science fun,” and helped plant the seeds that have since developed into an interest in biophysics.
“There are a wide range of opportunities available in Mahopac Schools,” Bergerson said, “and there are teachers who are willing to help and support you at all levels.”
When asked about the challenges that they had to overcome, Valle spoke about the Covid-19 pandemic, which began during their first year in high school, and how the school district helped them to survive and thrive throughout it.
“Accommodations like the Chromebooks saved us during the pandemic,” Valle said, “by allowing us to stay connected to our classes and to stay in touch with each other.”
As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. In Mahopac, dedicated teachers, innovative programming, and a supportive community all come together to create success stories like those of Bergerson and Valle.
Mahopac High School is awash in color this week: blue for seniors, gold for juniors, white for sophomores, and black for freshmen. It’s all a part of Spirit Week.
Spirit Week began Wednesday, with a “Country vs. Country Club” theme that saw some students dressed in cowboy hats while others donned sweater vests and other preppy attire. Thursday will be “Adam Sandler Day,” followed by the highly anticipated “Color Wars” on Friday. Monday’s theme is “Anything but a Backpack” and finally, Tuesday will be “Tropical Tuesday.”
Spirit Week is just what it sounds like—a week of fun events designed to bring students and faculty together to celebrate Mahopac High School. To ensure that students would be engaged in Spirit Week, Ava Van Nortwick, executive senior president, said the senior class government sought to include students in planning and decision-making.
With the school’s permission, the senior class government sent out forms so that students could vote on the themes of each day throughout the week. Of all of the days Van Nortwick said she was most looking forward to “Anything but a Backpack Day,” where students must use containers, other than backpacks, to carry their books and school supplies.
Van Nortwick said there was much enthusiasm for a Spirit Week given the remote learning of recent years. Speaking personally, Van Nortwick said, “I was a freshman and then suddenly we were juniors.” For most of the students in the high school, she said, this was likely their first-ever full Spirit Week.
Van Nortwick said Spirit Week was important “because everyone participates and has fun doing it, especially since it’s only the beginning of the year. Bringing the student body together to do something other than school work really helps everyone feel more welcome and unified.”
As soon as the fifth period bell rang, discordant tunes and off key notes began to emanate from Mahopac Middle School’s band room.
Despite commanding sections of booming percussion and brass, Michael Teglasi spoke softly to the students who quieted while he described the piece they would be playing. Teglasi challenged the eighth graders to play a new, difficult song, while reassuring them that “This is the place to fail, this is the place to make mistakes.”
The piece that the students played was called “Afterburn” and the first attempt was a work in progress.
Growing as a musician has not been easy during the past two years as students had few opportunities to play their instruments, and fewer still to play with their peers. Many students said they were out of practice, and some were timid about playing the piece.
After the first attempt, one student spoke up, saying that she could not play the piece because she was not able to keep up. Teglasi replied, “You’re going to try, that’s what we do here.”
Before the next attempt, Teglasi played a recording of “Afterburn” so the students could hear professional musicians playing the piece.
It takes practice to master any skill, and in the case of musical instruments, the learning process is very audible. Missed notes and out-of-tune attempts, frustrated some students but the group’s performance improved with each effort.
To help the students improve their individual performances, Teglasi had the band play shorter sections of “Afterburn.” By the end of the class, the students were playing the piece far better than at the beginning.
“There’s no way we would have been able to do this at the beginning of last year,” Teglasi said.
Not bad for day one.
With a new school year underway, students and teachers are beginning to settle into their routines. An important aspect of this time of year is students beginning to forge relationships with one another and their teachers. Meeting new people is challenging, even for adults, so Fulmar Road Elementary sought to help their students over this social hurdle with a simple solution.
“What’s your name?” It’s a simple question, but sometimes hard to ask. This is why Fulmar Road Elementary provided all of their students with name tags on Tuesday and asked them to write down their names. Every student then had one fewer question to ask to get to know their future friends. Teachers and staff even got in on the introductory fun, wearing their own name tags and going out of their way to greet students.
While students got to know each other’s names through their name tags, teachers also tried to facilitate the students’ budding relationships. When third-grade students from Susan Chrisman and Stacey DiLullo’s classes went to Physical Education with Jamie Davenport and Ross Fumusa in the afternoon, their teachers took them outside. The students were told that they would be playing a game called “Dinosaur Tag.” Given that the game had both the words “Dinosaur” and “Tag” in its name, the students were immediately interested.
The students were divided up into six teams and were told that they needed to run across the field, one at a time, collect a bean bag, or “dinosaur egg,” and bring it back to their team. The task would have been easy if there weren’t two students in the way, brandishing pool noodles with which to tag runners. If a runner got tagged, they had to return to their team empty handed.
The competition got fierce when one student was chased by their pool noodle-wielding peer all the way from the left side of the field to the right, only to turned around and see that they would need to make the entire return journey in order to score. Each team triumphantly cheered their teammates’ names and consoled those who were tagged.
The game served as a good way to get some energy out, but also as an opportunity for the third graders to use the names of their classmates and begin to build new relationships for the school year and beyond.
When Roseanne Hall’s fifth grade class heard that they would be having a lesson with Sarah Weeks—bestselling author of “Pie,” “Save Me a Seat” and “So B. It” —the students were excited to get started.
In events organized by PTO Co-President Susan Downey, Weeks has been video calling into fourth and fifth grade classes to provide students with tips and lessons on writing. Many of Hall's fifth graders are excited to write but struggle to find the spark to start their stories, so the class was all ears when Weeks introduced that topic. Her answer, however, wasn’t quite what they were expecting.
Weeks told the students that in order to find something to start writing about, they only needed to look up from their notebooks. The class was presented with an image that Weeks had taken of the front of an abandoned bowling ball; visible within the gripping holes of the ball was a spider web.
Weeks told students that when she saw the bowling ball, she felt compelled to take a picture of it and to use it as a basis for writing. She speculated as to what kind of spider might make its home in such an odd place. From there, all of the details and characters and story flowed. The lesson was simple: all that the students need to do to start writing is to take a close look at the world around them.
The next image to go up on the smartboard was of cookies shaped like animals on a baking sheet. That was when Weeks handed the reins over to the students and told them that they should search for inspiration in the image and write a story from the perspective of one of the cookies with the added challenge of not explicitly stating which cookie each student had chosen.
With only five minutes before they would start to share their writing, the room hummed with the sounds of scratching pencils and turning pages. Every student focused in on their unique cookie and perspective. Once time was up, students began to share their stories with Weeks and their peers.
While only a brave few students raised their hands initially, after the first volunteer, almost every student in the class wanted to share their work. The time went by quickly and there was too much enthusiasm for writing for everyone to be able to share their pieces with Weeks.
It seems that the author’s lesson had the desired effect.
Sarah Weeks will continue to speak with students in Austin road's fourth and fifth grade classes in the coming weeks.
How do you express yourself through art? Start small.
That was the lesson that Chris Williams, Austin Road Elementary’s new art teacher, shared with kindergartners Wednesday. Williams began the class by reading “The Dot” by Peter H. Reynolds, a picture book that describes the struggle of Vashti, a student who finds it hard to express herself through art. Eventually, Vashti’s teacher convinces her to start with a simple dot and then to sign the paper, helping her take ownership of her work.
One dot became two, small dots became large dots and all sorts of colors were used and she even made an inverted dot by surrounding the blank space with other dots. Vashti made all sorts of images from dots and found that she could make bigger images from smaller, easier shapes. While showing off her art, Vashti gets to take on the role of teacher for another student who is just as nervous as she was.
While art class isn’t necessarily the place that you would normally expect to find a read aloud, the story was the foundation of the lesson and the kindergarteners easily found their groove drawing with lines and dots with all sorts of colors and techniques. When quizzed, some students had a very clear idea of the images that they were creating, like Jack, who pointed to the concentric lines on his page and declared, “This is the outer core and the inner core of the Earth!”
Williams also took the time to explain that the author of The Dot also illustrated it. The students couldn’t believe that someone could write and illustrate. Later, this prompted a student named Teagan to claim that she was going to grow up to be “an artist and a principal!”
By the end of the lesson, (and the end of several paint sticks), some students had to be pulled away from the art that they were creating. In stacking so many dots and lines on top of one another, the kindergarten students learned an important lesson: lots of small, simple skills build into more complicated and difficult ones over time.
The message was clear, in order to become good at something, you have to start small.
Children are like sponges, they’ll pick up all sorts of things in their environment. Elementary school age students love to see the adults in their lives take time out of their day to involve them. Role models who set a positive example to follow are a critical part of childhood development, and children will often take words and behaviors directly from the adults around them. If mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery, then that makes kindergarteners the compliment kings.
So when the principal of Lakeview Elementary School came down to Mrs. Jennifer Borst’s kindergarten class to read to the students, the entire class was listening. Principals have a lot of different responsibilities and classes to attend to, so when Principal Jen Pontillo came into this particular kindergarten classroom in person, the students were certainly surprised.
She immediately captured their attention when she announced that she was going to read them a story called, “It’s Hard to Be Five.” In an instant, the energetic kindergarteners were hypnotized; seating quickly on the carpet they began to listen intently.
“It’s Hard to Be Five” discusses the many trials and tribulations of being a 5-year-old, such as starting school and having to listen to adults. The magic of the lesson was evident each time she turned the book to show the class; all the students sat up to try and read the text on the page. They were all so interested in reading, you would have thought that you were in a room full of book worms!
The visit concluded with a conversation concerning the many ups and downs of being a 5-year-old. At the request of a student named Jojo, the conversation shifted to the exceedingly important topic of hedgehogs and what exactly they look like. When Mrs. Jennifer Borst put up an image of the prickly animal on the screen, there was a marked division among the class about the nuanced differences between hedgehogs and porcupines.
Today was a good day in kindergarten.
September 13th, 2022
Just because summer vacation is over doesn’t mean that the fun has to end! This was the theme of the day for eighth grade students of Mahopac Middle School on a break from classes for fun and physical exercise during a field day hosted by the Loop Team teachers.
As the school year spools up and students return to classes, the eighth grade students who are a part of the Loop Team have already started working hard on a brand new year of curriculum. Many are sad to leave the summer behind, but as long as the weather is still nice, they’ll take any chance to get outside and be active with their classmates.
And active they were. Colorful bags flew during the beanbag toss, students scrambled to pass around a shirt during the T-shirt race, and the morning games culminated in a high intensity egg race.
Mr. Hafemann’s pink team began with a strong showing as their frontrunner took off from the starting line while carefully balancing his egg on a spoon. Things were going well for him right up until the moment that he dropped his egg. Things got heated as the race approached its conclusion, and multiple teams found themselves in close competition for first place. The sidelines quickly became a cacophony of cheers, with each team yelling at their final egg runner, saying, “GO! HURRY! YOU’RE ALMOST THERE!” and, of course, “DON’T DROP IT!”
Later that day, the teams returned for a final series of competitions, including a delicate game of grapefruit golf, a balloon race, and a final round in which teams selected their 10 best sled pullers to haul Mr. May across the field at top speed in a snow sled. The competition was fierce, but in the end only one team could be crowned victorious.
During the award ceremony, it was revealed which team had scored the most points over the course of the day. In a moment of anticipation shared by the first and second place teams, all held their breaths while they awaited the big reveal. Congratulations to Ms. Pacheco’s green team for winning the day, and well done to all of the students who participated.
After a good day of running around and being active, students grabbed some snacks and water, posed for a picture, and made their way back up the path toward their classes. School has begun, and while students will spend most of their time exercising their minds, there is still time to get out and get active.
September 8th, 2022
September 2nd, 2022
A new generation of MCSD kindergarteners, sixth graders, and ninth graders are being welcomed into new school buildings by their peers and teachers. Assemblies, special guest speakers, and even scavenger hunts are the order of the day, as students learn their way around the schools that they’ll be learning in for years to come.
Transitions Day is an opportunity for students to explore their new buildings and meet their teachers, as well as get a head start on the school year in their new environment.
Sixth grade students sat together in the middle school gym to hear from faculty and administrators about what they could expect in this new chapter of their academic lives. Their principal, Tom Cozzocrea, issued a call to action, challenging students to “take ownership” of their academics and social life, and he assured them that every teacher and staff member would be there to help them take this next big step forward.
Addressing the sixth graders, Superintendent Tona asked the students if they were excited for their first day. Naturally, there were many raised hands, but just as many rose when she asked if anyone was nervous. The superintendent reassured the students and confided that she also felt nervous, saying, “I had the jitters this morning too!”
As a new class entered the middle school, incoming ninth graders spent some time roaming the halls of Mahopac High School on a scavenger hunt. Each student searched for their own classrooms as well as all of the places of interest around the building. For their last stop, each of the new freshmen received a cold and sweet ice cream reward!
While Mahopac’s newest middle and high school students acclimated to their new environments, the district’s youngest scholars arrived at their elementary schools. While the older students may have had to get used to some changes, this will be many of these kindergarteners’ first foray into school!
Between scavenger hunts, assemblies, and back-to-school jitters, it’s certainly been quite a day for all of the transitions students in the MCSD, but if the smiles and giggling are anything to go by, they’re taking it in stride!
Dear Mahopac Families,
Welcome to the 2022-2023 school year! All of the staff in the Mahopac Central School District have been busy getting ready for our students’ arrival in September. In order to ensure a smooth transition for our students entering a new school this year, we have established the following schedule:
Please access our 2022-2023 Calendar for dates that school is in session. Later this week, the full listing of events in all of our schools will be posted on our website.
As I complete my second month as superintendent of schools, I cannot wait to see our students in action in the classroom and while they participate in the many activities that the Mahopac Central School District has to offer. I have enjoyed meeting many members of our beautiful community throughout the summer and look forward to meeting everyone during school and community events. Thank you to those who have joined me at the summer Community Connections meetings. Please consider attending a future Community Connections meeting for informal conversation and refreshments. The next meeting will be on September 22, 2022 and you can access the full schedule here: Community Connections with Our Superintendent.
Please join me in welcoming Christina Howe, our interim assistant superintendent for business, who has replaced Sandra Clohessy. Also, please welcome Karen Gatto, our interim director of special education, who has replaced Dr. Greg Stowell. Both Ms. Howe and Ms. Gatto are wonderful additions to Mahopac with many years of experience and expertise in their fields.
Thanks to the support of the Mahopac community, the Capital Project is providing for many wonderful and needed improvements throughout the school district. Summer work is concluding in time for our first day of school. This work included a renovation to the Middle School parking lot and improvements to the District’s water supply. Renovation to the libraries at Austin Road and Fulmar Road has begun and will be ongoing throughout the fall. Also in progress is the installation of an elevator at Fulmar Road and a turf field at the Middle School. Additional information about completed and future work related to the Capital Project can be found here: Capital Project Information.
The New York State Department of Health and the New York State Education Department released Operational Guidance for K - 12 Schools to Support Safe in-Person Learning. This information is helpful to us as it supports our ability to continue to return to normalcy after the pandemic. Please find information for families here: What Parents/Caregivers Should Know about COVID Mitigation Strategies for the 2022-2023 School Year.
Please be aware that the Federal program providing free lunch to all students has ended. Should you wish to apply for free or reduced lunch for your child, please find the applications and information on our District website or through this link: Mahopac Food Services information. For 2022-2023, school lunch will cost $2.35 in our elementary schools and $2.45 in our middle school and high school.
I am honored to be able to work collaboratively with our families, staff, and community to support the Mahopac culture of academic, social, and emotional excellence for every child. I hope that you and your family enjoy the remaining days of summer. I look forward to welcoming all of our students back to school in September and celebrating their accomplishments throughout the school year!
Superintendent of Schools
Ben DiLullo, a 25-year resident of Mahopac, will serve as Mahopac Board of Education President for the 2022-2023 school year, while Adam Savino continues in the role of vice president.
DiLullo, who earned his bachelor’s degree in Economics from Columbia University and his master’s degree in Business Administration from New York University, works in project management and contract development for a major pharmaceutical company. He has been active in Mahopac Schools for several years, having served as treasurer and then president of the Special Education Parent Teacher Organization.
DiLullo said he looked forward to his tenure as board president because he “wants to help lead the district to the next level in a post COVID time.” At the top of his priority list is supporting the newly appointed superintendent, Christine A. Tona.
“I want to provide her with all the support she needs because if she is successful, our children will be successful,” said DiLullo, adding that he has tremendous confidence in Tona’s ability.
He said he also hopes to use his management expertise to make board meetings more efficient and more effective, and looks forward to advancing civic readiness and environmental initiatives in the district.
“I believe in the power of a good team,” he said. “The most important thing is always the student. What can I do to help the student?”
Savino, who has worked in the utility industry for nearly 30 years, is also a longtime resident, having been raised in Mahopac. The father of two was elected to the board in June 2019, having served as co-president of the Lakeview PTO for two years.
He is active in the community, notably as member of the Mahopac Volunteer Fire Department and Chairman of the Board of Fire Commissioners. He is a huge fan of youth sports and enjoys his role as a volunteer soccer coach. As a Board of Education member, Savino played a key role in the superintendent search and in the passage of the capital projects bond.
“One of the key issues for a school board is to create a long-term vision that maps a course for students to reach their full potential,” said Savino. “That means providing all of the necessary opportunities for students, empowering the staff and providing leadership.”
In a ceremony that was part celebration and part goodbye, Mahopac High School graduated 327 students on Friday evening and wished retiring School Superintendent Anthony DiCarlo well in his retirement.
The graduation had been rescheduled to Friday because of weather and as graduates walked down the turf field, passing under an enormous American flag that waved in a summer breeze, bleachers full of family and friends erupted in cheers.
High School Principal Matt Lawrence took to the podium and noted that 283 members of the Class of 2022 are going on to a two or four year college, 23 plan to work, 14 will take a gap year and seven are enlisting in the military.
“You were the class to lead us back,” Dr. Lawrence said. “You were able to shake off the remnants of the last year and a half. You ran clubs, you played sports, you made music. You owned Mahopac High School. You have strong core values and that makes strong leaders. I want to say two words to you: “Go Pac!”
Salutatorian Kaylie Ann Hammond spoke about a high school career that went from in-person classes to studying online to returning with a lot of contact tracing.
Valedictorian Matteo Perillo noted there were many statistics of which his class could be proud, but that education in Mahopac High was about more than numbers, it was about heart and values.
Superintendent DiCarlo said he was honored to have served the Mahopac Central School District.
Later Dr. Lawrence returned to the podium and spoke about all that DiCarlo accomplished in his four and half years as superintendent.
“We finally have college courses in every area of the curriculum,” Dr. Lawrence said. “We now have a STEM lab and updated science classes and a music wing and you should see our library/media center. We have been named one of America’s best schools. Mr. DiCarlo, that’s what happens when leadership works with leadership.”
Not every teenager would jump at the chance to be a school district administrator for a day, but Mahopac High School junior Kevin Whitmarsh did just that when he won a raffle hosted by the Mahopac Lions/Leo’s fundraiser for their Relay for Life team.
The prize was to spend the day trailing Michael Tromblee, Mahopac’s Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Learning. Tromblee serves as co-advisor to the Leo’s Club and Kevin is a member of the Leo’s.
"It was a great day," Tromblee said. "I think Kevin learned a lot. The more exposure to careers you can get at a young age, the better equipped you will be to decide what direction to take in your life."
A week before the school year ended, Kevin visited Tromblee's office in the Mahopac Falls School for a discussion on what innovations students might like to see in classrooms. Then he participated in beta testing of new materials. Later he helped fly a drone over the Falls School athletic fields with Jay Zides, the District’s Secondary Educational Technology Specialist. Zides happens to be a certified drone pilot.
Kevin also got to participate in a discussion on district professional learning activities, take a tour of the bus garage and read a book to Country Knolls Preschoolers.
When Gabby Cazzari started her senior year internship at the Yorktown Center for Specialty Surgeries, she was sure of one thing: she did not want to see any blood.
She was interested in medical technology, not nursing, she said.
“She was adamant,” said Bernadette Lingardo, the English teacher and coordinator of the WISE program at Mahopac High School. “I’m so excited that after spending a semester interning in a medical environment, she now wants to be a nurse.”
WISE, or WISE Individualized Senior Experience, gives Mahopac seniors the chance to intern in a business they want to learn more about. The program, which has been in place in Mahopac High School since 1997, accepted 30 students this year. They interned in all sorts of different workplaces – from architecture firms to police departments, film production companies to veterinary offices, elementary schools to design shops. A Mahopac High School graduate runs the film production company that hosted the intern.
“In the first semester we introduce goals and objectives,” Lingardo said. “The students do research, write cover letters and visit sites where they might want to intern. In the second semester they go to the site.”
It is a yearlong process that begins with an application in 11th grade and ends when each student delivers a presentation about their experience to other students, teachers and parents.
“The presentation is the culminating activity,” Lingardo said during the weeks-long presentation period at the end of May. “They worked hard to get to this place.”
In Gabby’s presentation she talked about how much she had learned from the experience.
“I wanted to experience a medical environment and figure out my future career,” Gabby said. “WISE made a huge impact on me. I walked into WISE not wanting to even see blood. Now I watch bunions getting cut off and see people getting cataracts removed, and I think it’s really interesting.”
When the fifth graders in Beth Doré’s class start to garden, they learn about more than getting their hands dirty.
Doré, who has been the garden coordinator at Austin Road Elementary School for 1o years, turns gardening into an opportunity for hands-on learning and incorporates most subjects in the curriculum into the experience.
“The students start by writing a story we call “Hello Garden,” Doré said. “It's about using your five senses in the garden. Then they learn about plant parts for science, distances and measuring for math and healthy eating for health and nutrition.”
Along the way, she works some history and geography into the lessons. It is a lot to pack into a small plot of land, but somehow she manages to plant the seeds of learning along with the tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, herbs and flowers that grow in abundance.
On a recent morning, the students harvested the bounty. They washed, dried and prepared it into a salad before serving it to their schoolmates. To them, it seemed, the gardening experience was all about the fun.
“We planted everything in the spring,” said Aidan, who is 11. “Now we’re going to harvest chives and lettuce and Swiss chard.”
Doré taught her class to test the soil, make the compost, fill the beds and lay the irrigation system.
“They do all the behind the scenes work, then the other fifth grade classes get a chance to do the planting and all the kids get a chance to harvest,” she said.
When Lisa Coen’s fifth graders came out for their turn at harvesting, Sophia, a 10-year-old in Doré’s class, explained the right way to harvest lettuce.
“It grows from the middle, so you take the leaves from the outside first,” Sophia said. “You go from the outside to the inside.”
Then she stood back and smiled as the other students picked lettuce leaves for their own salad.
“The best part of this is that the students feel so proud,” Doré said.
Some teachers introduce their students to fish or amphibians to teach them science, but Arielle Goldstein, a special education teacher at Lakeview Elementary School in Mahopac, brought a bunch of mini farm animals from her home to teach her students about animal care.
“I grew up working at Muscoot Farm in Somers,” said Goldstein. “I think it is so great to expose kids to animals that they would not normally see.”
A year ago, Goldstein and her fiance, Dan Honovich, who is a veterinarian, bought a farm in Patterson and started stocking it with dwarf goats, mini donkeys, mini cows and micro cows. They now have a collection of 30 animals at their farm, Ridge Ranch.
On a recent sunny morning the couple brought a few of the small farm animals to Lakeview for all of the second graders to see.
Samantha, 8, led a mini donkey named Caz on leash as a group of her classmates gathered round. Though only second graders, the children towered over Caz, who only stood as tall as their waists.
“My uncle’s dog is bigger than this donkey,” Samantha said. “She’s so small.”
Caz, who likes having her cheeks scratched, didn’t mind the children fussing over her. One boy, Sammy, played with the donkey’s mane and shaped it into a mohawk, but the animal didn’t seem to notice.
“They are very gentle creatures,” Honovich said. “They are great with children.”
Goldstein hopes to make the farm animal visit an annual event.
Athletes, coaches, families and friends gathered on the Mahopac High School Field on Wednesday evening for the Senior Athletic Awards Ceremony.
“This is a great night. It’s not only a chance to celebrate our athletes, but also to celebrate the programs, coaches and teams that helped them develop their talents,” said School Board President Michael Mongon. “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to create an athlete. Here in Mahopac, we make sure our athletes work just as hard on their academic skills as their sports, and that they have a strong sense of teamwork and fair play.”
Then Mongon turned the microphone over to School Superintendent Anthony Dicarlo.
“Athletes, you do us proud,” DiCarlo said.“The Board and I salute you for your scholastic achievements, your athletic achievements and your community service. You have grown in every aspect of your lives. You are, indeed, a credit to your high school, your parents and yourselves.”
Before the awards were presented, the names of 16 seniors who were named All-League for spring sports and seven seniors who were named All-Section, were read to the crowd.
All-League Spring – Seniors 2022
• Ava Jennings
• Avery Przymylski
• Grace Witt
• Nicole Panny
• Audrey Colucci
• Ally Savino
• Mia DelBene
• Gabby Marino
• Mia Lanter
• Ava Lichtenberger
• Joey Koch
• Conor Watts
Track & Field
• Kaylie Ann Hammond
• Sean Massett
• Michael Harney
• Chris Evans
All-Section Spring – Seniors 2022
• Ava Jennings
• Avery Przymylski
• Gabby Marino
• Ava Lichtenberger
• Joey Koch
• Sean Massett
• Michael Harney
It was a clean sweep for Mahopac High School at this year’s Music in the Parks competition in Massachusetts.
All five ensembles from the high school’s well-regarded music department won awards and two of the groups — the Symphonic Band and the Sinfonietta – took home the biggest awards of the day.
The competition, held at Westfield State University in May, featured 23 ensembles from high schools throughout the Northeast. It was followed by a trip to Six Flags New England, where the adjudicators announced the winners.
Mahopac ensembles received the following:
• Sinfonietta – Superior Rating, First Place, Best Overall Orchestra. Mahopac’s Sinfonietta received the highest score in the entire competition.
• Symphonic Band – Superior Rating, First Place, Best Overall Band of the Day
• Wind Ensemble – Superior Rating, First Place
• Chorus – Excellent Rating, Second Place
• Philharmonic Orchestra – Excellent Rating, Second Place
“Students performed extremely well that day,” said Band Director Rich Williams. “They weren’t expecting these results because they are very aware of what goes into a good musical performance and they hold themselves to a high standard.”
The Mahopac Central School District is known for its outstanding performing arts programs. Mahopac is regularly cited as one of the best communities for music education by the NAMM Foundation.
Williams credits hard work through daily rehearsals and individual practices, a commitment to excellence and the school district offering students many opportunities to perform.
Judges in the Music In the Parks competition rated performances by assigning points in each of five categories – tone, intonation, rhythm, technique and musicality.