Superintendent’s Ram Gram

December 2022

A Message From Superintendent of Schools Dr. Aurelia Henriquez

As we welcome winter and the many opportunities to triumph, the meaning of community and family is revealed in the various acts of kindness demonstrated in our school district each day. Together, we share common challenges and continue to seek solutions through collaboration.

The Port Chester community is resilient and vibrant with a great deal to be thankful for this season. The attendance at the November mobile food pantry was heartwarming, and each distribution yields 10,000 pounds of food for our residents and families. Many students, including our modified football team and Key Club, volunteer their time to sort, distribute and carry food for families in need. I am so proud of our students and staff and grateful for the support of the Board of Education. Through these efforts, we are cultivating a culture of gratitude, community and inclusivity. We are so very thankful for Feeding Westchester. Through community partnerships like this, we can meet the needs of our students and families. This month, Meals on Main began weekly distributions at Thomas Edison and John F. Kennedy elementary schools. These opportunities allow us to build community and educate the whole child.

An Update on Technology

The technology department has been busy preparing for computer-based testing. As we transition this year from mostly paper-based New York State assessments to full computer-based testing, we want to ensure that all students are prepared and equipped with the tools to be successful. Our technology coaches have been training faculty and staff on tools, format and samples available, and we are beginning to teach students how to use the tools and get exposure to the types of questions they will see on the state assessment. All third to eighth grade students will get exposed to all sample materials that we have access to, and we are converting old test questions to computer-based format for additional preparedness. In January, students will take a simulation where they will experience the format of logging in, using the tools, taking different types of questions and submitting answers. Director of Technology Michael Ritacco has also been working with building administration on the planning and logistics aspects.

An Update on Curriculum

This fall we rolled out the new elementary progress reports and report cards for students in K-5. We held a parent information session in October, where we shared details about the positive changes made to our parent communication tools, and what you can expect as we communicate your child’s progress during the year. You can access the recording of this presentation on the district website under the Parent University tab here.

Two other exciting updates in our efforts to enhance communication with families are the new elementary trimester marking periods and an additional parent-teacher conference. To learn more about our mark reporting in K-5, including how to make the most of parent-teacher conferences, and access to sample progress reports and report cards across all elementary grades, please visit the district website here.

An Update on Special Education

Our special education teams have been fully engaged in rendering mandated services for our students who are between the ages of 3 and 21, completing evaluations and collaborating at CPSE/CSE and 504 meetings throughout the district. Our amazing special class and integrated co-teachers have maximized professional development support to ensure that our students have greater access to the general education curriculum in a meaningful manner. Our committed resource room and consultant teachers continue to work arduously to supplement instruction and teach our students compensatory strategies to meet their IEP goals.

Multisensory pedagogical approaches and programs remain at the core of our service. Our dedicated school psychologists and social workers are continuously meeting the social-emotional needs of our students and using psychometrics, functional behavior assessments and social analytical tools to assess students’ potentials, levels and needs to refine our individualized service delivery. Our dynamic speech and language therapists remain focused on remediating receptive, expressive and pragmatic language deficits. Our occupational therapists and physical therapists have been constantly seeking reinforcing mechanisms to ensure that our students are able to generalize the fine motor, sensory and gross motor skills achieved via therapy in the larger school setting. Teachers of the visually impaired and teachers of the hearing-impaired services have been essential to our students impacted in these areas to achieve the curriculum standards and integration in our classrooms. Our nurses have continued their devotion to keeping our students healthy and safe. Our kind paraprofessionals have positioned our students in the most optimal place to progress across all areas. Our graceful clerical team in the special education office continues to manage the overwhelming number of clerical demands with determination.

From the administrative perspective, our teams have completed the required immunization surveys for every school, delivered presentations to prepare each team for the upcoming CSE annual review season, maximized opportunities to connect with parents to enhance the collaboration and commitment to the individualization of services for each student with an IEP or 504, and analyzed trends and data to mitigate disproportionality. We have facilitated action plans to improve the management of IDEA grants, met Medicaid’s and the System to Track and Account for Children’s requirements for claims of allowable cost, engaged in collaborative sessions with members of the Westchester County Department of Health Children with Special Needs Bureau, the Sound Shore Consortium, SWBOCES and PNWBOCES, to continue to strive to maximize regional opportunities to share in the best practices to serve our students with learning differences.

An Update on Human Resources

We had a successful Superintendent’s Conference Day filled with professional development activities. We hope to continue to offer relevant professional development sessions in the coming months. The Superintendent’s Conference Day offerings in March are already in the works, while safety and security training will be scheduled with individual schools during upcoming faculty meetings.

Once the district’s new website design launches, be on the lookout for a new human resources page. This page will include information on employee benefits, professional development opportunities and more.

Student-Journalists Honored With State Senate Empire Award

Members of Port Chester High School’s newspaper, The Port Light, received the prestigious New York State Senate Empire Award for serving their community. The students – who revived the paper after a decade hiatus – were presented the award by State Sen. Shelley Mayer on Dec. 7 at their school.

Sen. Mayer said the award is not traditionally given to students as it typically recognizes nonprofits or organizations that have been exceptional to the betterment of their community, but she thought the students deserved the recognition.

For more details, visit the district's website.

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Kindergartners Demonstrate Acts of Kindness

A group of kindergartners quietly tiptoed around their Thomas Edison Elementary School hallways to secretly deliver chocolate, an ornament and a handwritten note to their school nurse. The special delivery was part of the students’ 12 acts of kindness toward different members of their school community.

Having discussed how they could broaden their acts of kindness from the classroom to the building, teachers said they made a list of different individuals – from custodians to the school nurse, principal and assistant principal, lunch monitor and other classrooms – to be the recipients of their kindness throughout the holiday season.

Third Graders Create Temperature Graphs of Port Chester Weather

John F. Kennedy Elementary School third graders – who have been studying about water and climate in teacher Jeni Vogel’s science classes – created graphs of Port Chester temperatures from different months.

The students examined their community’s temperatures for last January, April, July and October before comparing them in a graph. As part of the multipart assignment, they will use the graphs to determine patterns in the weather and temperature that they see throughout the year. As a culmination to their weather and pattern lessons, the students will learn about climate and how it’s different from weather.

Fifth Graders Observe Virtual Model of Earth and Sun

John F. Kennedy Elementary School fifth graders – who have been learning about the Earth’s rotation and orbit around the Sun in science teacher Karla Purcell’s classes – used a virtual model to further their understanding.

As they observed the virtual model of the Earth and Sun, the students took notes and made observations about the phenomena that causes day and night, seasonal changes and varying amounts of daylight throughout the year.

Fourth Graders Create Original Projects on Native American History

As part of their Native American history studies, Thomas Edison Elementary School fourth graders engaged in authentic literacy-based learning and created original projects to demonstrate their understanding. They read articles, books and web content, and examined videos, primary and secondary documents and maps to study how the local geography and native people have shaped New York State and to learn about the Iroquois and Algonquian people.

To further synthesize their understanding, the students visited the Museum of the American Indian in Manhattan, where they engaged in guided, team-based explorations to tie together their classroom and real-life learning. As a culmination to their studies, the fourth graders created original projects supported with written reports and presented in front of their peers.

Park Avenue Students Display Artwork in Virtual Exhibit

Park Avenue Elementary School students Valery Guanoquiza and Anthony Trezza have their artworks on display in the virtual New York State Art Teachers Association exhibit. Guanoquiza, a fifth grader, created her “Pretty Primary Cake” using tempura paint, watercolor pencils and oil pastel on watercolor paper. Trezza, a fifth grader, created his “Screaming Rooster” piece using chalk and oil pastel on construction paper.

Talented PCHS Artists Display Artwork in Virtual Exhibit

Port Chester High School students Joseph Alvarez, Emely Cervantes and Kimberly Nicolas have their artworks on display in the virtual New York State Art Teachers Association exhibit.

Alvarez, a junior, created his “Godzilla” piece with pen and ink as part of an “Art as Storytelling” class project, which challenged students to create an illustration with a narrative. Cervantes, a senior, created her “Carousel Frog” in watercolor as part of a class project that encouraged students to explore the whimsical nature of carnival and circus themes. Nicolas, a junior, created her artwork as part of an eye study project that challenged students to develop techniques with watercolor and create a realistic eye.

JFK Students Display Artwork in Virtual Exhibit

John F. Kennedy Elementary School students Daniel Aguilar, Yuri Guaman and Carlos Trujillo have their artworks on display in the virtual New York State Art Teachers Association exhibit.

Aguilar, a third grader, created his “Steaming Hot Chocolate” piece using oil pastel, paper and tempura paint as part of a class assignment that drew inspiration from folk artist Heather Galler. He learned about patterns and used cut paper and oil pastels to create the background and cup and saucer, while the steam in his work is painted with tempera paint.

Guaman, a fifth grader, created her “Self-Portrait” in colored pencil as part of a class assignment where students learned about drawing a human face and focused on proportion and placement. Drawing inspiration from Mary Cassatt portraits, it was Guaman’s first attempt at a self-portrait.

Trujillo, a fourth grader, created his “The Jungle” with oil pastel after drawing inspiration from jungle paintings by Henry Rousseau. The assignment challenged him to build on previous knowledge about creating a sense of space in a work of art with a foreground, middle ground and background, and use oil pastels and cut paper to create his own jungle scenes.

Special Highlights From Our Departments

Bilingual/ENL and World Languages Highlights:

· Dual Language Committee met on Dec. 9.

· First departmental meeting of bilingual content area teachers in the high school took place on Dec. 9. We will meet again during the spring.

· Mahopac Schools visited our programs to learn about elementary school dual language programs, middle school HLA and the Seal of Biliteracy at the high school.

· We’re working with Clarkson on potential partnership for residency program of Master of Arts TESOL candidates in our schools.

· We’re continuing work with the middle school team to clarify needs and options at the middle school for incoming dual language students.

· We’re planning parent workshops for the spring with instructional coaches and community school coordinators.

Athletics Highlights:

· 15 fall athletes were recognized as All-League, All-Section or Honorable Mention athletes in their sports by Section I athletics. Eighty-three fall athletes qualified for NYSPHSAA Scholar-Athlete recognition for achieving a 90% grade point average or higher for the first quarter.

· The livestreaming camera has been successfully installed in our high school gymnasium, and athletic events hosted in that location will be livestreamed. Events can be found at the following website:

· We hosted the second annual Lou Larizza Memorial Tournament, with the boys and girls basketball teams losing in the championship games.

· Our annual Carlucci Dual wrestling tournament took place on Dec. 17 in the PCHS new gymnasium.

Fine and Performing Arts Highlights:

· Dec. 21 – Middle school band and choir will perform at Thomas Edison and KSS and UPK.

· Dec. 22 – High school band and choir will be caroling all day at all schools in the district.

· Dec. 23 – High school singalong, faculty choir, band and winter concert.

· Eleven students were selected to perform with the All-County Choir at White Plains High School in March.

College Visits:

· SUNY Purchase – Music Side by Side and School of Visual Arts informational session.

Save the Dates

· Jan. 6 – PCHS Arts Alumni Mixer and Karaoke Night at 6 p.m.

· Jan. 20 – Electric violinist Martha Mooke will provide a demonstration for the middle and high schools.

· Jan. 27 – Tri-M Music Honor Society and Theater and Ossining’s Music Honor Society will perform a combined talent concert at 6:30 p.m.

· UPK registration for the 2023-2024 school year opens on Jan. 16.