Riverside Reporter

Riverside Elementary School Newsletter 2/16/18

Principal's Message

Believe it or not, we are preparing for Spring Conferences. Conferences will take place the week of March 14th and March 21st. As in the fall, conference appointments will be organized through the online application, SignUpGenius. You will receive a paper letter from me detailing how SignUpGenius works, but below are some important dates in regard to conferences:

  1. Monday, February 26th - SignUpGenius becomes available to parents. You will receive an invitation via e-mail from SignUpGenius. Please be sure to check a spam folder if you do not get an invitation by 5pm on Monday, February 26th!
  2. Friday, March 2nd - Deadline to sign up for conferences. Time slots are on a first come, first served basis; and I anticipate time slots filling up quickly in this electronic medium.
  3. Wednesday, March 14th, Thursday, March 15th, Wednesday, March 21st and Thursday, March 22nd – Spring conferences will be held. School will dismiss at 1pm on these days.
  4. Thursday, March 15th – Evening conferences will be available.

Conferences represent an important opportunity for you and your child’s teacher to discuss your child’s progress so far and evaluate goals set in the fall. If you have any difficulty signing up or need any assistance at all, please contact your child’s teacher.

Letter From The Superintendent

February 15, 2018

Dear families and staff,

Yesterday’s tragedy in Florida weighs heavily on our hearts. Our thoughts go out to the students, staff, and families, and to all those who were affected by this latest school shooting. As we grieve and help our children grieve, you may find guidance in the resources provided at the end of this email.

I want to assure you that here in Princeton, we continue to make students’ safety our top priority. In January, we worked with the Princeton Police Department to conduct security audits at all of our buildings.

As a result of our security audit at the high school, and following the incident there last week in which a former student entered and later left the building, we will be making some important changes in our safety practices and protocols:

  • All doors at Princeton High School will be locked during arrival times, as well as during the school day.
  • Students will only be able to enter the school through the tower entrance or the entrance by the Performing Arts Center.
  • Security personnel will be in place monitoring both entrances to ensure that no one enters who shouldn’t be in the building.
  • Parents and other visitors will only be allowed to enter through the tower entrance where they will need to sign in.

We have already implemented several other security changes throughout our district based on the security audits we undertook in January. During the school day, the doors to all of our buildings are locked. At our elementary schools and at John Witherspoon Middle School, students are only able to arrive and leave through their school’s main entrance, which is monitored by staff. We have also made additional recommendations for all of our buildings, from enhanced PA systems to additional security cameras to modifications of our internal procedures.

Please note that security is also an important component of the proposed facilities referendum. We plan to add new entryways to all six of our buildings that will be warm, welcoming, and secure.

We appreciate your understanding and support as we implement these new procedures designed to improve the safety for our students and our staff. Moreover, we join with communities all over America in grieving the loss of the students in Florida and in renewing a common commitment to make our schools physically and emotionally safe for all children to learn.


Steve Cochrane


Talking to children about school shootings in the news

In the aftermath of a shooting: Helping children manage distress

How to talk to children about difficult news

First Grade Art Show!

Come one, come all to our district-wide art exhibition on Friday, February 23rd from 6-8pm at the Numina Gallery at Princeton High School. Hundreds of artwork will be on display from grades elementary through high school including our first grade Riverside Royalty Self Portraits!

The Gallery is located at Princeton High School on the lower level near the Performing Art Center. Refreshments will be served.

Important February Dates

  • February 19, 2018 - School Closed - Presidents' Day
  • February 26, 2018 - 1pm Dismissal - Staff Professional Development

Raising a Resilient Child

Parents/Guardians are invited to join us on Friday, February 23rd at 9am in the cafeteria for a discussion on "Raising a Resilient Child." Leading the discussion will be Ben Samara, Guidance Counselor at Riverside and Kristina Donovan, Princeton Public Schools Guidance Supervisor. Parents of kindergarten through fifth grade students are welcome to attend! We look forward to seeing you there!

Guidance Counselor's Corner

At the end of one month, we have posted 350 acts of kindness to the Riverside Kindness Tree. As we stand just short of our goal of 500, we have decided to extend the project for one week. We're hoping to finish strong with 150 acts of kindness next week to reach our goal! With that in mind, I'd like to share a little inspiration in the form of a an informative article on kindness in schools.

Kindness Is Something Students Learn By Feeling It by Lisa Currie, Ripple Kindness Project

Most people have heard the phrase "random acts of kindness", which refers to a selfless act of giving resulting in the happiness of another person. Terms like this are increasing in popularity around the world, as more people identify a deficiency in their lives that can only be fulfilled by altruism. It seems we just can’t get enough of those addictive feel good emotions and with good reason.

Scientific studies have shown that kindness has a great number of physical and emotional benefits, and that children require a healthy dose of the warm and fuzzies in order to flourish as health, happy, well-rounded individuals.

Patty O’Grady, PhD, is an expert in the area of neuroscience, emotional learning, and positive psychology with special attention to the educational arena. She believes that “kindness changes the brain by the experience of kindness. Children and adolescents do not learn kindness by only thinking about it and talking about it. Kindness is best learned by feeling it so that they can reproduce it. Kindness is an emotion that students feel and empathy is a strength that they share.” A great number of benefits have been reported to support the theory of teaching kindness in schools.

Eight Reasons For Teaching Kindness In School:

  1. Happy Children - Science explains that the good feelings we experience when being kind are produced by endorphins that activate areas of the brain that are associated with pleasure, social connection and trust, and it’s proven that these feelings of joyfulness are contagious, encouraging more kind behavior by the giver and recipient.
  2. Increased Peer Acceptance - Research on the subject has determined that kindness increases our ability to form meaningful connections with others. Studies show that kind, happy children enjoy greater peer acceptance because they are well-liked and that better than average mental health is reported in classrooms that practice more inclusive behavior due to an even distribution of popularity.
  3. Improved Health and Less Stress - It’s widely documented that being kind can trigger a release of the hormone oxytocin which has a number of physical and mental health benefits as it can significantly increase a person’s level of happiness and reduce stress. More recently though, it’s been found it plays a significant role in the cardiovascular system, helping protect the heart by lowering blood pressure and reducing free radicals and inflammation, which incidentally speed up the aging process.
  4. Greater Sense of Belonging and Improved Self Esteem - Studies show that people experience a "helpers high" when they do a good deed, a rush of endorphins that creates a lasting sense of pride, well-being and an enriched sense of belonging. Even small acts of kindness are reported to heighten our sense of well-being, increase energy and give a wonderful feeling of optimism and self worth.
  5. Increased Feelings of Gratitude - When children are part of projects that help others less fortunate than themselves, it provides them with a real sense of perspective and helps them appreciate the good things in their own lives.
  6. Better Concentration and Improved Results - As it increases serotonin, which plays an important part in learning, memory, mood, sleep, health and digestion, kindness is a key ingredient that helps children feel good. Having a positive outlook allows them greater attentions spans and enables more creative thinking to produce better results at school.
  7. Less Bullying - Two Penn State Harrisburg faculty researchers, Shanetia Clark and Barbara Marinak say, “unlike previous generations, today’s adolescents are victimizing each other at alarming rates.” They argue adolescent bullying and youth violence can be confronted through in-school programs that integrate "kindness — the antithesis of victimization." Many traditional anti-bullying programs focus on the negative actions that cause children anxiety and often with little impact. Teaching kindness and compassion in schools, not only fosters the positive behavior that creates warm and inclusive school environments, but helps children feel that they belong. It’s documented that the effects of bullying can be significantly reduced by integrating kindness based programs in schools.
  8. Reduced Depression - Dr. Wayne Dyer, internationally renowned author and speaker, says research has discovered that an act of kindness increases levels of serotonin (a natural chemical responsible for improving mood) in the brain. It’s also found that serotonin levels are increased in both the giver and receiver of an act of kindness, as well as anyone who witnesses that kindness, making it a wonderful natural antidepressant.


Maurice Elias, a professor at Rutgers University Psychology Department says that "as a citizen, grandparent, father, and professional, it is clear to me that the mission of schools must include teaching kindness. Without it, communities, families, schools, and classrooms become places of incivility where lasting learning is unlikely to take place. We need to be prepared to teach kindness, because it can be delayed due to maltreatment early in life. It can be smothered under the weight of poverty, and it can be derailed by victimization later in life. Yet despite these and other travails, the receipt of kindness and the ability to show kindness through service are both growth enhancing and soul cleansing. Kindness can be taught, and it is a defining aspect of civilized human life. It belongs in every home, school, neighborhood, and society.”

It’s become quite clear that modern education must encompass more than just academics, that in order for children to develop into happy, confident, well-rounded individuals, matters of the heart must be taken seriously and nurtured as a matter of priority.


Thank You Very Much!

Thank you to everyone who helped with the Pancake Breakfast last weekend. It was a fun event that wouldn’t have been possible without the huge team of volunteers who made it such a success: Fabi Pineda, Amanda Slater, Darleny Cepin, Charlotte Glen, Melodie Schweitzer, Oxana & her Dad Anatoli, Rebecca Rix, Teresa Yazbek, Pamela Strumm, Dana Gabel Hazan, Wendy Wilton, James Broznan, John Kastellec and everyone else who helped clean up! Thank you also to Riverside’s wonderful custodian, Patrick Cavanaugh and our talented cook, Giuseppina Malangone. Thank you to you all.

Thank you to all the families who made donations to the Valentine’s Food Drive. Riverside families donated a whopping 899 pounds of food to help families in our local community! A special thank you to the teachers and 4th graders who weighed the donations and loaded it all into the Arm-in-Arm truck. Go Riverside! Congratulations to Beth Meyers and Melodie Schweitzer for overseeing this successful food drive. Additional thanks to Pam Levy, Mary Tragone, Danielle Bahr, Shana Elga, Alice Kim, Zohar Lavi-Hasson, Tara Bansal, Courtney Orlando, Fabi Pineda, Katherine & Ben Roman for their help.

After School Clubs Feedback Deadline: 2/19/18

Thank you to those families who participated in our Winter 2018 Clubs! We are coming to the end of this session, and we are already working hard to plan another session of clubs to start in April. If you have any feedback to share, now is the time to do so! Please email riverside.afterschoolclubs@gmail.com with your thoughts.

  • What did you think of the quality of clubs that your children participated in?
  • What was your experience of the registration process?
  • Did the logistics around pick-up/snacks/communicating with club leaders work well for your family?
  • If you were a parent volunteer, do you have any feedback regarding how the club process worked from your perspective?
  • Are you inspired to run a club of your own in the next session?

Please give us feedback by Monday, February 19th at 6pm. If you would like to help out in any way with running clubs, we would also love to hear from you!

REMINDER: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday Clubs end next week (week of the 19th), and Monday and Friday Clubs end the following week (week of the 26th)

International Night Registration Deadline: 2/23/18

It is our hope that you have received the sign-up sheet for our annual International Night which is coming up on Friday, March 9th. This year, we are looking to create an inclusive space in which to share personal narratives that embody our collective diversity and human connection! Thus, we are encouraging you to share a personal item, dance, tradition, dish or memorable experience in the form of story-telling with other Riverside families. Please specify your country if you are setting up a table or bringing in food and consider sharing a personal story/narrative with the items you wish to share. If you would like to perform, specify the country and nature of your performance and approximate length of time (please keep it to 3-5 minutes).

Thank you for sharing about yourself, culture and talents and please sign up via flyer or signup genius by Friday, February 23rd!

Teacher Appreciation Luncheon

The Teacher Soups & Stews Lunch is scheduled for Friday, February 23rd! This is a wonderful opportunity to show our teachers and staff our gratitude for all they do for our children! This is one of the teachers' favorite lunches of the year and a great opportunity for them to take a break and mingle with co-workers while they enjoy some warm, winter foods.

Please help show your appreciation by sending in a favorite soup, stew, dessert or salad. If you can spare some time to set-up and clean-up, volunteers would be greatly appreciated!

Please sign-up at SignUpGenius!

Author's Night

Author’s Night will be held on Wednesday, February 28th from 6-7:30pm. It is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate all of our authors at Riverside. Also, this is a special opportunity to hear from one of our eminent parent authors, Tracy Smith, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, as well as one of our eminent community authors, Anica Mrose Rissi, author of the Anna Banana chapter-book series!

If your child doesn't want to participate but would still like to attend, this event is open to all. We more than welcome people to attend and listen to all the wonderful readings from our students and our community.

Riverside Spirit Wear!

Thank you for supporting the Riverside PTO by purchasing items from our new line of Spirit Wear! It is wonderful to see our school logo worn proudly in the halls at school and out in the community!

Spirit Wear sales are ongoing and items can be ordered anytime during the school year. Just pick up a copy of the order form from the front office or download one from the PTO website. Submit the form along with your payment to the locked PTO box in the front office. We will submit group orders twice per month for delivery to your child's backpack in approximately 2-3 weeks.

Thank you to our fantastic models!

Thank you to our fantastic models.

Girls on the Run Volunteers Needed

As we prepare for our Spring 2018 season, Girls on the Run is excited to serve the Riverside Elementary School community. In order to offer the program at Riverside School, we are in need of 2-3 coaches that can commit to mentoring our girls this spring. We are hoping either you or someone you know will be interested in helping our girls gain a stronger sense of identity, greater self-acceptance, a healthier body and an understanding of what it means to be part of a team. You do not need any coaching or running experience to be a Girls on the Run coach. Coaching 2 days a week is a commitment of 2½ hours for 10 weeks starting in early April and ending in mid-June. We train all of our coaches to deliver our comprehensive curriculum.

For more information, please send an email to anne@girlsontherunnj.org. Please forward this email to any friends you think would be interested in volunteering with us!


Please bring in your Boxtops! Our next submission is March 1st so we want to collect as many as we can prior to the deadline!

McCaffrey’s Supermarket Receipts

Don’t forget to save your McCaffrey’s Supermarket receipts after you shop! Simply place them in the box marked “McCaffrey’s Receipts” on the bookshelf outside the nurse’s office. The PTO collects 1% on each receipt. Thank you!


Black History Month Events

A Spiritual and Gospel Festival

Princeton High School choirs, community choir volunteers, and praise dancers will collaborate for a celebration of gospel music. The concert will feature guest musician Raymond Wise, Ph.D.

Date: Friday, February 23, 2018
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Location: Princeton High School Performing Arts Center
Ticket Fee: $10/adults, $5/students & seniors.

Black History Evening of Cultural Celebration

This celebration will feature a variety of student performances honoring Black history and culture.

Date: Friday, March 2, 2018
Time: 6-8pm
Location: Princeton High School Cafeteria

Princeton Education Foundation

Did you know that the Princeton Education Foundation (PEF) provides funding to our schools beyond the normal operating budget and solely for student-centered programs and improvements?

PEF channels funds back into our schools through its grant program. The PEF Grant program serves as a catalyst to support and enhance school and curriculum improvements, and professional development that heighten learning opportunities for students in the Princeton Public Schools.

With your support, the Princeton Education Foundation has been able to give students access to innovative programs, new technology, and facilities upgrades that are not funded within the school district’s limited budget. Specifically in the elementary schools, PEF has supported enhancements to the science curriculum and STEM instruction, improvements to school libraries, sponsored various author and expert visits to the schools, funded professional development, and has upgraded and added essential technology.

PEF greatly depends on the support of our Annual Appeal donors. The need for grant funding remains strong and is growing as the District continues to grow and budgets grow tighter every year.

Give today. Invest in tomorrow. Visit our website at www.pefnj.org.

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