Engaging in acts of service is so important for both our students and staff for many reasons. This includes fostering community, cultivating empathy, facilitating personal growth, promoting a positive school culture and instilling social responsibility and civic engagement.
Acts of service promote not only academic success, but also the development of socially responsible and compassionate individuals. At Ichabod Crane, our Rider community consistently supports one another on a daily basis, becoming particularly noticeable during this time of year.
In this edition of the Rider Report, you will discover the various ways our students and staff are showing up for each other and residents in our neighboring communities. This includes numerous food and clothing drives, our annual K-12 Giving Tree Program and the district’s recent efforts to secure free meals for all students, starting January 1, 2024.
We are also extremely grateful for the consistent outside assistance that we receive, such as the generous grants from the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation. We recently were notified that the district will receive $5,905. This funding will be directed toward enriching arts and humanities programs, positively impacting about 240 students district-wide.
As I reflect on my first five months at Ichabod Crane, it's been truly inspiring to observe how generosity, empathy and compassion are fundamental principles within our Rider community. I am very thankful for this and wish you all the very best during this holiday season.
Articles in this edition:
Ichabod Cares: Acts of Service Resonate District-Wide
HS Students Illustrate and Translate Published Books
Free Meals for All Students Starting Jan. 1
5th Graders Celebrate Día de los Muertos
Spotlight on New Support and Operational Staff
Next in January
Ichabod Cares: Acts of Service Resonate District-Wide
A defining characteristic of our Rider community is the authentic compassion and generosity that becomes especially prominent this time of year. Students and staff district-wide come together in so many ways to offer help and kindness to our Rider community and beyond.
This year, the K-12 Giving Tree Program will help over 110 Rider families by fulfilling their holiday wish lists. Each year, the Giving Tree team at each school meets to select families for the program. Once a family agrees to participate, the team inquires about their specific needs.
“Our Giving Tree Program truly embodies the Rider spirit. It is incredible to witness our students, staff and community members join forces to support dozens of Ichabod Crane families,” Middle School Co-Principal Anthony Marturano said. “This season can be challenging for many, for various reasons. I'm proud of all we do to offer relief and support to as many people as possible during the holiday season.”
Our Riders go beyond helping each other. They also find ways to extend their support outside the district’s campus into the surrounding communities. Once again, the High School has “adopted” the residents at The Grand Rehabilitation and Nursing home at Barnwell in Valatie. The students are collecting items to make 240 gift bags – one for each resident at the nursing home. The bags will include lip balm, card games, body wash, blankets, stuffed animals and more.
The High School’s Interact Club distributed empty plastic bags across the community for our district residents to fill with non-perishable goods. On Halloween night, our students picked up the bags, which brought in 2,590 food items for Ichabod’s Table, the High School’s food distribution program for students, and for the Valatie Ecumenical Food Pantry.
Our Primary and Middle School students are currently participating in Read for Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Capital Region, a community service program in collaboration with local schools, youth groups and libraries. This initiative not only raises funds for RMHC of the Capital Region but also emphasizes the importance of community service and encourages reading.
Our K-6 students started reading on November 20 and will continue to December 15. Each school has set a goal to raise $3,000. You can visit their team website pages here: Primary School and Middle School. Our Lil Riders at the Primary School also collected hundreds of non-perishable items during November to donate to the Valatie Ecumenical Food Pantry.
“Every year I am increasingly impressed with the generosity of our community, staff and our students. Being a part of this Rider community makes me feel so proud, observing everyone rallying together in support,” HS Principal Craig Shull said. “It is very important for our students to participate in service learning opportunities as it allows them to recognize the genuine strength and significance of our community. Our students not only experience personal growth through helping others but also come to understand the significant impact they can have on the lives of others."
“This makes our Rider community such a special place to live, learn and serve,” Mr. Shull said.
HS Students Illustrate & Translate Published Books
Last spring, Jen Degenhardt, an accomplished Connecticut author, attended our High School Spanish classes during a two-day visit. She used her books, which the students had read before, to help them enhance their conversational world language skills.
During her visit, Ms. Degenhardt, who taught middle and high school Spanish for 24 years, shared how she frequently hires students to illustrate and translate her novels. She encouraged our Rider students interested in this opportunity to reach out to her.
Sophomore Denise Miranda conveyed her interest to Ms. Degenhardt. Last summer, Denise illustrated and translated the novel, "The Nanny," which follows the character of Yamila, who uncovers a family secret jeopardizing her success at her competitive high school. Denise continues to work with Ms. Degenhardt on additional projects.
“I was really happy for this amazing opportunity. I love the artistic process of the work,” Denise said. “I never imagined my art would be in a published book.”
Ms. Degenhardt also recently published a book, “La Invitación,” which is based on a true story about the friendship between two Ichabod Crane students. Spencer Stickles illustrated the cover and interior art. Denise Miranda, Roberto Vazquez-Orozco, Michael Rodrigue and Lorraine Warner (retired Spanish teacher) also contributed to the book.
The Spanish Department secured funding from the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, allowing them to bring in Ms. Degenhardt for the author visit. Annually, staff members apply for grants from the foundation's designated Ichabod Crane School District Arts and Humanities Fund.
The Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation recently announced the recipients of this year’s grants. A total of $5,905 was awarded, which will impact approximately 240 students across the district.
Congratulations to this year’s recipients:
Melanie Moon, 6th grade teacher, for the “Chariot of the Sun” program. The students benefit from a live performance that incorporates the use of poetry, masks and mime, while intertwining audience participation to create a theatrical learning experience. Prior to the performance, the students learn about ancient civilizations in their social studies classes.
Patrick Sanger for the Ichabod Crane Model UN Club for transportation funding to the 70th session of the Harvard Model UN Conference. This conference allows our students to interact with about 4,000 students from around the world.
Gayle Abrams, High School art teacher, for “Inheritances XVII.” Inheritances is a collaborative book created by the High School’s Illustration and ENL classes. Our English Language Learners write their stories, inspired by their personal histories and cultures. Our student-artists create several illustrations based on the writing and conversations with the authors. This project, now in its 17th year, helps students enhance their writing, editing and illustrating skills, while using research and conversation to bring together the written word and art.
Megan Yeats, High School English teacher, for a June field trip for the HS Humanities classes to see “Turandot,” an opera by Giacomo Puccini, presented at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.
Free Meals for All Students Starting Jan. 1
Ichabod Crane Central School District will offer free meals to all students, starting January 1, 2024. All students enrolled in K-12 will be eligible for one free breakfast and one free lunch each day, regardless of economic status.
“All children need and deserve access to nutritious meals in order to learn and grow. Providing free meals to all ICC students eliminates the stigma associated with food insecurity while in school, and contributes to an inclusive, safe and nurturing school environment. It speaks volumes that our district took the first step towards this in the fall,” Superintendent Marie Digirolamo said.
When school started in September, Ichabod Crane offered breakfast at no charge for all students regardless of their eligibility/status in the National School Lunch/Breakfast Program, which provides free and reduced-price meals to qualifying students. The school district’s 23-24 budget, approved by district residents in May, includes funding for breakfasts. Last school year, we served 48,632 breakfasts and 170,225 lunches.
Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture expanded access to its Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which allows eligible districts to offer school meals at no charge to all students. USDA lowered its eligibility threshold from 40 percent to 25 percent. This change allows school districts with 25 percent or more of their students being directly certified in the National School Lunch/Breakfast Program to offer free meals to all students, after receiving federal approval. Students who are eligible for SNAP and Medicaid, or who fall into categories such as homeless, foster, migrant, or runaways, are considered direct certifications for the National Free Lunch/Breakfast Program.
Ichabod Crane CSD applied for this program and was recently notified that the district’s participation in CEP was approved for a period of four years. Just over 32 percent of the district’s students are directly certified in the National School Lunch/Breakfast Program. Starting Jan. 1, the district’s free meals program will be funded through a combination of state and federal funds.
“Our students spend the majority of their days here at Ichabod Crane. We do everything we can to provide our students with all they need to be successful and healthy, including transportation, Chromebooks, instructional materials and more,” ICC Food Services Director Todd DiGrigoli said. “This fall, we started to offer free breakfasts, but we wanted to do more. When I saw that the threshold was lowered, I knew the district would qualify and I immediately started the application process. I am thrilled we were approved and grateful that all of our students will have access to healthy and free meals each and every day.”
5th Graders Celebrate Día de los Muertos
As part of their Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration, Viviana Heron and her classmates created vibrant ofrendas, a type of altar, to honor their loved ones that have passed away.
They covered the ofrendas that lined the Elementary Wing hallways with marigolds, sugar skulls and cherished mementos that remind them of their deceased family and friends.
As she walked by her class’ ofrenda, Viviana explained that the marigolds, given their strong smell and vibrant color, are thought to attract the souls of their loved ones to the ofrenda. She held in her hand an old photograph of her grandfather, her mother’s father, Jerry.
“I never knew him but it made me very happy to honor him and connect with my ancestors,” Viviana said.
Our fifth-graders had the chance to present the items they brought for their ofrendas. Many brought photographs of their loved ones, memories frozen in time, to show their classmates and teachers. Additionally, there was a painting crafted by a grandfather and a leather halter that had once belonged to a cherished horse.
Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) combines the ancient Aztec custom of celebrating ancestors with All Souls' Day, a holiday that the Spanish brought to Mexico, starting in the early 1500s. The holiday is celebrated mostly in Mexico on November 1 and 2, and is a joyful time, filled with beautiful symbols, traditions and imagery.
Spotlight on our New Support & Operational Staff
We are so lucky to have many new staff members join the Rider family this year!
This month, we are spotlighting the new support and operational staff, so you can get to know them a little better.
🌟Connor DeSantis started at the High School last March as a new school counselor. Before coming to Ichabod Crane, he was a graduate student, substitute teacher and intern counselor at Scotia Glenville HS, Draper MS and Pinewood Elementary. Fun Fact: I’m an Adirondack 46er, played college soccer at Brockport State and won a conference championship, and currently train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
🌟Jean-Marie Davis decided to apply for the school counselor position at the Middle School after vacationing on Kinderhook Lake this past summer and loving the sense of community. She completed her internships in the Arlington Central School District before starting at Ichabod at the beginning of the school year. She has worked in an Italian restaurant for the last 9 years. Fun Fact: I play cornhole overhand.
🌟Brenna Hayes, the Middle School’s new secretary, was the owner and stylist at Lords N Ladies Hair Studio in East Chatham for 16 years. Married to her best friend Mike for five years (together for 16), they have two rescue dogs, Sady and Ruby, and 13 chickens. A fun fact: I used to run every day, competing in half marathons, 10ks and 5ks, until I had extensive foot surgery involving three screws.
🌟Melissa Tart is a new bus driver, starting at Ichabod Crane in April 2023. She has a degree in business and has worked in the hospitality industry for the past 20 years. She was born and raised in Columbia County and is also a Rider alum. She has been married to her husband for almost 19 years and they have two sons who attend ICC. Fun fact: I am also a mom to three dogs, a cat and a goldfish.
🌟James Elmendorf is another new bus driver, starting at ICC in September, joining our transportation department's 65 drivers and aides, and fleet of approximately 55 buses. He has been a resident of Columbia County for 38 years. Fun fact: I enjoy spending time with my six grandchildren.
What’s Next in December
Dec. 5: Martin Van Buren’s Birthday Ceremony, 11 a.m., Kinderhook Reformed Cemetery at the former president’s gravesite
Dec. 5: BOE Meeting, 7 p.m., High School Library
Dec. 12: Festival of Trees, PS, 4-7 p.m., Primary School
Dec. 12: 5th and 6th Grade Concerts, 6:30-7:30 and 7:30-8:30
Dec. 14: 7th and 8th Grade Concert, 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Dec. 19: High School Winter Concert, 6:30 p.m.
Dec. 23 to Jan 1: Winter Recess
*All concerts are in the High School auditorium.
Dates, times and locations are subject to change.
✨ Honoring our local hero, 2nd-Grade Mini Olympics, Riders of the Month and more!
Two Middle School classes had the privilege of meeting and expressing gratitude to Master Sergeant Thomas Eastman, U.S. Army (Ret.), for his incredible service to our country. Mr. Eastman, a proud Rider parent, joined us for snacks, fun games and even read stories during library time. The entire Rider community extends heartfelt thanks to Mr. Eastman and all veterans for their service!
🌟Primary School Good Character Award Recipients, and Middle School and High School Riders of the Month👏
🌟Our 2nd-Graders just wrapped up their unit on ancient Greece with a spectacular mini Olympics! From a spirited opening ceremony to lively events and a unifying closing ceremony, these little champs truly brought history to life!🥇