Special Meeting of the Board of Education, 4/2 at 7 p.m.
Please be advised that the Board of Education will meet on Thursday, April 2 at 7 p.m.
This meeting can be viewed online. Check the District Clerk box at the bottom of the page for the link.
Dear Mahopac Community,
The end of February marks the official beginning of budget season. This months-long process is a continuation of the work the Board and I do year-round to manage the challenges and opportunities of our current financial situation.
When I joined Mahopac three years ago, I did so with a commitment to transparency, communication, and right-sizing in all areas of our District. This proactive approach has served us well. We have been able to maintain small class sizes in our elementary schools, re-introduce modified sports for our middle schoolers, add opportunities for our high schools students, continue to provide special education programming that is second to none in our region, and the passage of the capital bond last year. Work will begin this summer to update our facilities in a way in which we can all be proud.
As we approach the budget 2020-2021 budget, there are many variables still unknown. Most significant of these is the continuing fallout from the clerical error that occurred in the 2011-2012 school year. As you will recall when it was discovered last year, it was promptly reported to the state. This error has the potential to cost the District $4 million over the next four years. At this point we await the release of the Governor’s budget, due on April 1, to determine next steps. As such the Board and Administration are working to develop a budget that creates efficiencies and leaves programs intact. Additional considerations in this year’s budget process are the level of our state aid; increases in contractual obligations; fuel, transportation, and special education costs; and the tax cap.
I wish I could be presenting you with a more positive picture at this point, but as I stated earlier, I am committed to transparency and this is the reality of the situation. I continue to work closely with the Board on these items, and I encourage all residents to become engaged in our District budget process by attending meetings and reviewing the documents posted on our meeting agendas, and to reach out to me with your questions and concerns.
Please be assured that I will be providing updates to the community as they become available.
Superintendent of Schools
A Mahopac High School student has advanced to finalist standing in a national scholarship competition. Vincent Vitanza, a senior who is in the band and orchestra at MHS playing saxophone, cello, piano, base, violin, and viola, was one of more than 1.5 million students in nearly 21,000 high schools to enter the 2020 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the Preliminary SAT (PSAT) qualifying test in the fall of 2018. The pool of approximately 16,000 semifinalists, representing less than 1% of U.S. high school seniors, included the highest-scoring entrants in each state. Approximately 15,000 semifinalists met all the requirements to advance to finalist standing in the competition sponsored by The National Merit Scholarship Corporation, and as one of them, Vitanza is now in the running for the prestigious National Merit Scholarships which will be awarded between now and June.
Vitanza said he was shocked to learn that he had made the first cut in September when he was named as one of approximately 16,000 semifinalists in the program, “There’s only so much preparing you can do for the test. I got a good night's sleep and showed up to take the test without really thinking about the possibility that I might be named a Semifinalist.”
“Vincent was a pleasure to have in class,” said Mahopac High School science teacher Robert D'Alessandro about Vitanza’s characteristics as a student. “He has demonstrated an ability to evaluate environmental issues and provided scientific solutions for these matters. This strength is one of the reasons why he was chosen to be part of the team that represented Mahopac High School at the Hudson Valley Regional Envirothon his freshman year. Vincent was one of the leaders of his team and helped assist them to a second place finish for Putnam County.”
In addition to being named a National Merit finalist, Vitanza is on the varsity tennis team, and an active member of both the National and Spanish Honor Societies and the secretary of the Science National Society. He is also the president of the Teen Leaders Group at YMCA Camp Combe in Putnam Valley, which focuses on volunteer service, team building, and leadership exercises. Vitanza plans to attend Fordham University and major in environmental science.
For the second year in a row, Greg Tang, Jr., math guru, and international mathematics-thought leader, facilitated Family Math Night at Mahopac High School earlier this month.
Students in all elementary schools have been exposed to “Tangy” activities and challenges throughout the course of the school year, which promote an excitement for math while encouraging students to think critically and creatively.
Throughout the day (Tuesday, Feb. 11), students at Lakeview Elementary took part in activities led by Tang and their teachers (last year this event was held at Austin Road and next year it is scheduled to happen at Fulmar Road), before all the elementary school students headed off to the main event at the high school.
The evenings’ activities were coordinated by 70 Mahopac teachers, led by Sharon Foreman and 40 members of the MHS Math Honor Society (Mu Alpha Theta) and helped provide parents with a peek inside the Mahopac math program and a chance to see exactly what happens in the classrooms.
During the lead up to the event, Tang posted a comment on Twitter regarding Math Night saying, “I have never seen a district so excited about math. Students, teachers, administrators, parents, and siblings! The world needs more of this excitement, encouragement, teamwork, community. It’s just terrific!”
There was even a special edition of Spotlight on Mahopac Schools taped all bout the evening. It can be viewed online at https://youtu.be/e52PD3gL1UQ.
Does your child turn five years old on or before December 1, 2020? Then it's time to register!
Registration is by appointment only on these dates:
Austin Road: January 13, 15 and 30; February 5 and 13
Fulmar Road: January 24 and 28; February 7 and 25
Lakeview: January 17 and 22; February 3, 11, and 27
Please contact the Office of Central Registration at 845-621-0656, ext. 13506 or 13905 to schedule an appointment and request a registration packet. Registration packets are also available on the District website under Departments/Registration/Registration Packets/Grades K-12.
The Office of Central Registration at The Falls District Office is located at 100 Myrtle Avenue Mahopac, NY.
When students learn the facts about what’s happening with substance abuse, addiction and recovery in their local environment, they have a stake in the vitality of it. This is what two Mahopac High School educators are determined to prove next semester.
In an unprecedented feat, Davia Bugge, LCSW-R, Mahopac High School student assistance counselor, and Valarie Nierman, MS, SDA Mahopac Central School District health coordinator and high school health teacher, have designed a half-credit class “Substance Abuse, Addiction, and Recovery” for junior and senior students that not only provides an instructive immersion in substance abuse awareness, prevention and treatment but also enables a viable career path opportunity.
“Our goal is to help students better understand the plight of those who have seen their lives thrown into chaos as a result of drugs and alcohol abuse and then offer a practical way for making a possible profession in helping with recovery,” said Anthony DiCarlo, superintendent of schools.
Holding true to the Mahopac Central School District’s strategic plan for supporting students in becoming caring, collaborative and compassionate lifelong learners, this elective debuts in the new year offering rigorous coursework focused around three core modules:
- Basic Knowledge of Substance Abuse Disorders:
- Overview of the Addictions Field
- Diversity of Intervention and Treatment Approaches
The curriculum will include functional partnerships with local and state services, such as Arms Acres, Cove Care Center ®, Drug Crisis in our Backyard, The Harris Project, New York Department of Education and New York Department of Health.
“Just with the subject nature, each lesson will root in the MHS core values of compassion, resiliency, risk taking and problem solving,” Nierman said. “Twenty-seven students have already registered for this elective and will learn to view difficult situations from a new perspective. Students may or may not have a personal connection to substance abuse and addiction issues. Regardless, this course will help them gain the knowledge and skills for challenges they may face.”
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), nearly 50 percent of all high school seniors nationwide have used some sort of illicit drugs in their lifetimes. Furthermore, 60 percent of them had consumed alcohol within their last year of school. As illicit substance abuse continues to increase in the United States, so does the need for qualified, dedicated professionals to treat those suffering from addiction.
“This is why we included the OASAS [New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports] certification component to the elective which will provide each student the first-level of becoming a certified substance abuse counselor,” Bugge said.
Mahopac High School is the first school in the entire state of New York to request and be granted approval as an OASAS Education and Training Provider. The Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor (CASAC) is the sole New York State credential to require the specialized addiction training needed to fully understand and treat the intricacies of addiction and at the completion of this elective, Mahopac student participants will earn their first-tier (85 hours) of certification towards the 350 hours required to be credentialed a substance abuse counselor.
The certified substance abuse counselor has a wide variety of employment options and is in high demand. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, substance abuse, behavioral disorders, and mental health counselor employment is projected to grow 22 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. This job growth is expected as people continue to seek addiction and mental health counseling.
Falling fourth to California, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, New York has the highest employment level in this occupation in the nation. Furthermore, the Bureau reports that the New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania metropolitan area has the highest employment level in this occupation and the highest annual mean wage of $56,400.
With just a prerequisite of successfully completing a required NYS health education class, any Mahopac junior or senior may register for this elective that offers the potential for a bright career path.
In learning the reality of substance abuse, addiction and recovery together, Mahopac High School students will likely transform it. And that is promising.
A well-rounded student is often considered to have an overall understanding of the world, along with the ability to write well and calculate. But students who haven’t grasped basic life skills — such as managing their time, being organized or knowing how to care for their social and emotional well-being — may graduate from high school, but also face challenges with entering adulthood.
This is largely why the Mahopac Central School District has created a required course for middle school sixth grade and high school freshman curriculum that focuses on helping students build and master skills for holistic success in and outside of the classroom. This also aligns with both the district’s strategic plan for supporting students in becoming caring, collaborative and compassionate life-long learners.
The sixth grade and freshman classes were selected to participate in this credited course because they are in transition to a higher level of learning with a new (larger) school and culture. The goal of this “skills” course is to prepare each student for college and career readiness, and to educate all students to be responsible and productive members of the community.
The need for preparing students beyond academics is not unique to Mahopac. Recently, the Pew Research Center released an analysis of Census Bureau data revealing findings that most Americans say parents are doing too much for their young adult children. “We believe incorporating real-life learning for our middle school sixth-graders and high school freshmen will help set them up for success and overall independence in school and beyond,” said Anthony DiCarlo, superintendent of Mahopac Schools.
Mahopac High School Life Class
Led by Mahopac High School Assistant Principal April Ljumic, the MHS Life curriculum creation was a collaborative effort of the High School Climate Committee, in addition to feedback from a consortium of stakeholders including students, teachers, teacher leaders, clinicians, counselors and administrators. It is rooted in the high school’s core values (risk-taking, compassion, resilience and problem-solving) and the STRIVE initiative, which stands for Be Safe, Take Responsibility, Be Respectful, Act with Integrity and Value Excellence.
“The overarching conceptual framework behind MHS Life was born from research on organizational wellness, which is near and dear to my heart,” said Dr. Matthew Lawrence, Mahopac High School principal. “One of the key factors to wellness is “Personalization,” meaning the level to which an individual or groups of individuals feel connected to each other and the organization. MHS Life is an overt mediation to increasing our sense of personalization among staff and students.
“This is designed to be a high-impact, low-stress class,” Ljumic said. The goal is to introduce freshmen to the expectations and rigor of high school life and beyond, including activities and conversations centered on boosting social, emotional, non-cognitive, executive functioning and academic skills growth.
With tactics such as social media education, digital citizenship, meditation, practicing a growth mindset and civic responsibility, the class structure varies forms of introspection work, small groups activities, guest speakers and project-based learning. Instruction is innovative, interactive, multimedia rich, and learner-centered.
“The organization of MHS Life provides the opportunity for high school resources that are important for freshmen to get to know, such as counselors, clinicians, and our SRO (School Resource Officer) to give instruction in a small student setting. Also, this benefits us logistically since we do not have to take students out of class for an assembly which was how this type of instruction was previously shared,” said Dr. Lawrence.
Throughout the school year, the curriculum is divided into three modules:
Perhaps the most poignant component to the class is the student self-reflection and teacher-student check-in/check-out. Students complete an individual self-reflection which allows their MHS LIFE teachers to get a pulse on how students are doing socially, emotionally and academically. Surveys include self-reflection, goal setting and an exchange on how teachers can help their students be set for all-around success.
With the real-time data from students’ surveys, teachers not only are able to have a timely check-in individually but also measure curriculum impact. “The teacher-student check-in/check-out is our opportunity to connect, build positive relationships, and trust with students on a one-on-one basis and respond to individual student needs to support success. We’ve been blown away by the honesty and openness of the students’ self-reflections, and it has really made a positive effect on how we can effectively support them to meet their individual goals and the MHS LIFE curriculum therein,” Ljumic said.
This also allows teachers to thoughtfully prepare lesson plans that are data-driven based on the needs of students.
On any given school day, you’ll find no two MHS Life lessons are alike. For instance, Kelley Posch, MHS Algebra teacher, begins her class with a guided meditation that leads to a discussion about the growth mindset principle. The class does an exercise of matching famous people who have learned from failures and risen to success. Some of her examples include Walt Disney, who was fired from a newspaper for “lacking imagination,” and JK Rowling, who was rejected by 12 publishers for her first book. The students then share their learnings via a shared virtual Google Classroom with fifth graders in Austin Road Elementary School.
Down the hall, Christine Honohan, MHS History teacher, is leading a discussion about effective study techniques. Upstairs, Amy Mahoney, MHS English teacher, and Dominic DeMatteo, MHS Physical Education teacher and varsity football coach, have combined classes and are discussing paradigm shifts. Leveraging text from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey, the class is discussing methods for shifting perception with real-life scenarios that range from interacting with teachers to peers. They work in small groups and then share with the class ways to broaden their interpretation of the way they view day-to-day situations and the world.
“There are kids on all social and academic levels in the class and this gives each one tools for success in the next level of their education and then adult world,” DeMatteo said.
Mahopac Middle School Success
Like MHS Life, the middle school curriculum, MMS Success, emphasizes strategies for personal growth and development to help sixth graders figure out their place as good citizens in their community and the world. The half-credit MMS Success class are comprised of four components: technology (including topics such as key boarding skills, Chromebook care, and responsible media usage); organization (time management, collaborating for project-based learning and making reading selections); character building/social and emotional wellness (mindfulness and positive peer interactions); and middle school logistics/safety (ranging classroom expectations to safety procedures in and out of the classroom, including the use of social media).
“Middle School is a big change for sixth-grade students, no matter where they are academically. Some students are adept in coursework but lacking the skills of navigating life as a new middle-schooler,” said Tom Cozzocrea, Mahopac Middle School principal.
With full class discussions, small groups and individual reflections submitted via Google Classroom, teachers work with students on learning and understanding different learning styles. From there, students can self-identify what type of learner they are and establish the study habits and time management techniques that work best for them. Teachers then weave in strategies for students to explore, such as note-taking methods, establishing a study routine to accommodate their busy schedules and how to access help for emotional self-care.
A recent lesson in teacher Paula Frey’s class focused on the importance of morning routines. She encouraged the students to share their routines with each other in detail, including the time their alarm goes off, morning hygiene regimes, eating breakfast and getting to school. With no right or wrong answers, she skillfully pointed out examples of growth mindset in the discussion. For example, one student commented on wanting to get up a little earlier after listening to another student talk about waking up early, so he doesn’t have to rush.
Digital citizenship is another major focus for MMS Success. “We see a big disparity among sixth-graders on this issue. Some sixth-grade students have had a cellphone for a while and are very adept with social media and others do not yet have a phone,” Cozzocrea said. “Our goal is for MMS Success to help build a foundation for our students with responsible digital citizenship for years to come.”
As the sixth graders learn how to set themselves up for success in and out of the classroom, the teachers also tie in the importance of community. Embracing the core value of giving back to those in need, the sixth graders chose to collect the following items for the Putnam Humane Society through December 12:
* Please no treats or food that is made in China
**Please no sheets, pillows or mattress pads
Anyone interested in donating items can deliver them to the Mahopac Middle School main office.
As these freshmen and sixth graders continue their education at Mahopac, it will be interesting to follow their progress. “Something magical is going on here,” says Ljumic.