Wyckoff Schools Today
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Faculty in Focus: Dan Dodd Keeps Kids Fit at WashingtonPosted by Thomas DeLoughry at 8/16/2017 9:00:00 AM
Faculty in Focus:
Dan Dodd Keeps Kids Fit at Washington
Dan Dodd has shaken things up at Washington School in his four years as the school’s physical education teacher. A personal trainer and competitive cross-fit athlete, Dodd has introduced students to new activities and to a team-first approach that has kids setting personal goals and rooting for each other rather than reacting negatively toward classmates who are not the fastest or strongest.
Dodd was a football and baseball player at Indian Hills High School before continuing his baseball career at Rowan University and he added a personal trainer certification before arriving at Washington School in 2013. “I liked him right away,” says Principal Scott Blake, who cites Dodd’s local roots in Oakland and his upbringing as the son of a teacher and police officer. Being a college athlete was also a plus, says Blake. “They generally have good time management, demonstrate responsibility, and are good team players,” he says.
Blake recalls that Dodd’s arrival coincided with an expansion in physical education classes to one hour from the former 45 minutes, so it was the perfect time for innovative ideas. Dodd says students have responded well to new activities he has introduced, which may include an old-fashioned relay race with pushups in the middle, for example. “They seem to really enjoy it, which is the end goal,” Dodd says.
“I’m trying to make games apply a little more to fitness and things they can do after school,” adds Dodd, who says his greatest joy is seeing kids playing his games on their own after the dismissal bell.
Teams of Washington students carry a tube full of marbles during Wizards’ Challenge Day.
He notes that many students are active in soccer or basketball or baseball, but many are initially reluctant to try new skills due to their over-reliance on adult coaches or possibly a fear of failure. “A lot of them have a lot of over structure rather than saying 'Let’s go be active for an hour and half,’” he says, noting that many students have discovered new skills when exposed to new activities.
On the other hand, those who struggle with physical tasks also enjoy the activities because of Dodd’s team approach that might, for example, have teams competing to see which team has the fastest average time in a race. “We talk a lot about logical personal goals,” he says. “We also discuss trying to use other people’s strengths” to raise each team’s performance.
Washington School recently held its fourth annual Wizards’ Challenge, which Dodd began as a day of games. It started for the upper grades, but now includes all grades and features age-appropriate tasks for teams of students to complete. They might include climbing on the pentaweb playground equipment to find letters and make words or something more physical like doing burpees as a team.
Dodd also completed his own challenge recently as part of a competitive cross-fit team. In fact, he invited his students to come see the Northeast regional competition involving 200 teams at an arena in Albany, N.Y. One boy made the trip with his parents to root on his P.E. teacher, who brought his student down close to the action and posed for pictures with him.
“The guy’s a fitness freak,” concludes Principal Blake. “It’s something he takes seriously but what’s cool is he tries to make fitness fun for kids.”
Accolades for Award WinnersPosted by Thomas DeLoughry at 8/16/2017 9:00:00 AM
Accolades for Award Winners
The Board of Education used parts of its two June meetings to recognize students and staff who had won awards during the school year.
Ten students from Washington School were recognized for helping their school turn in a fifth-place showing in Arcademics.com’s Third Annual Arcademics Multiplication Cup. The students showed off their multiplication skills for 65 hours and answered 138,043 multiplication facts correctly. The top 10 achieving students were: Erol Sonmez, Emre Sonmez, Niko Smilovic, Colin O’Shea, Nick Arena, Thomas Santos, Jason Sansone, Scott Vivinetto, Avery Orlando, and Colin Feeley.
Two fifth graders from Sicomac School were recognized for winning awards in the “Fair Housing Poster Contest,” an annual contest sponsored by the Northern Bergen County Community Housing Resource Board. Gabriella Rice earned third prize in the contest, while Jacob Marcos received an honorable mention.
WEA Scholarship recipient Patrick Gunn (center) with his parents
Steve and Angela Gunn.
The school nurse and a parent from Washington School were also recognized by the Board for winning a $1,000 Environmental Awareness Challenge Grant from the Bergen County Utilities Authority to build a garden. Nurse Lorraine Antonucci and Wendy Coffey, a parent, have already worked on the garden with fourth graders. The two-year project will eventually include a hydroponic garden.
Another grant winner that the board cited was Stacey Linzenbold, the makerspace coordinator for the elementary schools, who will use money from Orange & Rockland Utilities to enhance and enrich students’ understanding of circuitry at the kindergarten level. Students will design and create a “Circuitry Circus” with moving parts, lights, and sounds during the next school year.
The Board also recognized two graduating high school students who were chosen by the Wyckoff Education Association as winners of $2,000 college scholarships in the group’s annual competition. One scholarship is awarded to a graduate of the Wyckoff schools and a second is given to the child of an association member. Patrick Gunn is an Eagle Scout and was a marching band member and editor-in-chief of the student newspaper at Ramapo High School. He plans to study journalism at Syracuse University. Kevin DeLoughry, son of Eisenhower teacher Tom DeLoughry, was involved in the leadership program and student government at Bergen Catholic High School, where he also was on the indoor and outdoor track and cross country teams. He plans to study film at Wesleyan University.
School board members also congratulated Eisenhower seventh grader Matthew Latronica for his high scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) which was offered through Johns Hopkins University’s Center for the Advancement of Academically Talented Youth.
Another seventh grader, Nathaniel Somppi, was recognized as the winner of Eisenhower’s annual Geography Bee and congratulated for his strong showing at the New Jersey Geography Bee at Rowan University in March.
Five other Eisenhower students were recognized for their participation in the Model UN Club, which took part in the International Middle School Model UN Conference in New York City this spring. The five students were James Belov, Nicholas, Belov, Ulysses Bergel, Marra Finkelstein, and James Nassau.
Six more Eisenhower students won recognition for their accomplishments in the New Jersey Science Olympiad competition. Vijay Tummalapenta and Kipal Patel placed 5th for their “Write It Do It” project. Grant Li and Vincent Puccio placed 4th in the wind power competition and Justin Sullivan and Hudson Eisele placed 4th in the bottle rocket competition.
Another science competition brought recognition for three Eisenhower students who received honorable mention in the Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision contest. Honorable mention means that their project was judged to be among the top 10 percent in the national competition. The work of Patrick Barker, Christopher DeBellis, and Jacob Kurtz was called “Optical Nerve Microcarbon Implant.”
The board also congratulated Eisenhower science teacher Loris Chen for two awards. Chen was selected as a STEM Fellow by the German government’s Transatlantic Outreach Program. She is learning about best STEM practices in Germany this summer and must present a workshop for fellow teachers when she returns to share what she has learned. Chen also received $1,600 in a separate grant competition administered by the National Environmental Education Foundation and Samsung Corp. The grant recognizes Chen’s role in connecting STEM with place-based environmental education.
A dozen Eisenhower students were recognized for their participation in a STEM challenge at Ramapo High School that pitted the FLOW middle schools against one another in a competition to build a Rube Goldberg device with provided materials. The two teams of Eisenhower students included: Katherine Browne, Jenna Caso, David DellaFave, Hudson Eisele, Matthew Latronica, Jackson Lloyd, Jake O’Brien, Esther Park, Kapil Patel, Kyle Piccirilli, Cooper Stine, and Kathryn Swatek.
A reading competition called “Battle of the Books” brought recognition for the five Eisenhower students who took first place in a competition that saw Eisenhower’s team face off against their counterparts from five other middle schools in Bergen County. The five students were: Sarah Chagares, Abigail Connors, Ella Connors, Emma DePersis, and Gabriella Susino.
Playwriting brought honors for eight Eisenhower eighth graders whose plays were chosen as finalists for the New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival. The eight finalists were: Charlotte Breckenridge, Lauren DeLeo, Marra Finkelstein, Taylor Keogh, Sarah Onderdonk, Jordan Orlando, Tara Sproha, and Sofia Wuensch. Marra Finkelstein’s play, Chow Chow, was chosen for production at the festival.
Awards from The New Jersey Association of Student Councils (NJASC) brought accolades for the Executive Board of Eisenhower’s Student Council. The state association gave awards to Eisenhower’s council for being the top Middle School Fundraiser and for its tally of community service hours. The Eisenhower council raised $5,500 that was donated to Bianca’s Kids, the state association’s charity. The members of the Executive Board were: William Anderson, Riley Benedik, Sarah Chagares, Alexander Emmolo, Camryn King, Stephanie Kologrivov, Owen Rice, and Sabina Taneja.
The Board of Education also recognized excellence on the sports fields by acknowledging the championship softball team at Eisenhower, which prevailed over Harrington Park to win the title. Eisenhower teacher Paige Coppola coached the team. The players were: Lindsay Arone, Madison Bogart, Samantha Bogart, Victoria Cunningham, Caitlin Kinney, McKenna Lont, Siobhan Mathews, Savannah Nowak, Eva Purvin, Savannah Ring, Sydney Samuel, Mikayla Shepard, Brennan Tosney, Gabrielle Unger, and Nina Winborn.
Eisenhower’s other diamond dwellers also took home a championship trophy for baseball. The team, which was coached by Eisenhower aide Frank Picciotto, defeated River Vale to win its second straight title. The players were: Christian Cavagnaro, Tyler Cosgrove, Reid Duffus, Dean Ferrara, Andrew Kozlevcar, Jake Leonard, Ryan Macke, John Pane, Collin Polakowski, Connor Saslow, Connor Sedlak, Quinn Schiller, and Richard Sica.
Two track athletes from Eisenhower were also recognized for their accomplishments. Sophia Vernieri took the gold medal in the 100-meter dash and a bronze medal in the 200-meter race. Darin Donellan received a bronze medal in the shot put competition.
Wyckoff Bids Happy Retirement to NinePosted by Thomas DeLoughry at 8/16/2017 9:00:00 AM
Wyckoff Bids Happy Retirement to Nine
Superintendent Rich Kuder on the final school day with (L to R) Linda Otway, Linda Eckstein, Joanne Valenti, Diane Riess, Teresa Burger, and Rob Shean.
The last day of the school year was an opportunity for the District to say goodbye and thank you to nine staff members who worked an average of 22.5 years in the Wyckoff schools.
A ceremony at Eisenhower Middle School brought all of the district’s faculty together to hear Board President Rob Francin, Superintendent Rich Kuder, and various building principals wish their best to the retirees. The retirees were also recognized at a Board of Education meeting earlier in June.
Dr. Kuder praised Barbara Hannon for her 44 years in the district, serving in Lincoln and Washington in roles that included teaching first and second grades as well as special education. Hannon made her mark as a teacher who always maintained a warm, welcoming environment where students felt respected and encouraged, Dr. Kuder said.
Dr. Kuder thanked Diane Riess for her 25 years of dedication as a special education aide at Sicomac School. He noted her dislike for the spotlight, but that students and parents had recognized her patience, constant encouragement, and intense commitment to her students.
Another retiree with 25 years of service was Rob Shean, who worked in the District office for the last 10 years on special projects, but previously taught fifth grade for 11 years at Sicomac and science for four years at Eisenhower. Dr. Kuder praised Shean’s enthusiasm and focus on students and credited him with leading the information technology efforts that have transformed Wyckoff’s schools.
A third member of the 25-year club was Linda Eckstein, the principal’s secretary at Coolidge School. Dr. Kuder said her energy, enthusiasm and excitement were contagious and had helped make the front office a vibrant and happy environment.
Teresa Berger, who worked 23 years as the art teacher at Lincoln, was an “eternal student,” according to Dr. Kuder. He said she inspired her colleagues and responded to the strengths and needs of all of her students with energy, enthusiasm, and talent that always elicited maximum effort from them.
Gail Kindle, a secretary who served a total of 17 years in the District office and as the principal’s secretary at Washington School, was praised for being a “go-to” person and jack of all trades. Dr. Kuder said she created a sense of family at Washington while impressing with her creativity and problem-solving skills.
Joanne Valenti, who was an instructional aide at Sicomac for 16 years, will be remembered for her enthusiasm, attentiveness, and caring, Dr. Kuder said.
Dr. Kuder thanked Francene Komsa, a guidance counselor and social worker at Eisenhower, for her 14 years of devotion. Dr. Kuder lauded her for being calm, professional, caring, and tireless. He noted Komsa’s particular skill in hearing all concerns and then solving problems in ways that made all parties feel respected.
Another retiree who contributed to Wyckoff schools for 14 years was Linda Otway of the District’s business office, where she served as accounts payable secretary. Dr. Kuder praised her for her effectiveness and efficiency in being part of an award-winning team in the business office.
Northern Ignite Brings Visitors to WyckoffPosted by Thomas DeLoughry at 6/14/2017 3:00:00 PM
Northern Ignite Brings Visitors to Wyckoff
In the same way that Wyckoff educators have ventured to other schools in search of good ideas, educators from near and far have come to the District’s schools to see successful programs and facilities.
The newest effort, known as Northern Ignite, describes itself as “an educational innovation cluster.” It has brought together local superintendents, principals, and technology administrators eager to take advantage of the opportunity to learn about innovative ideas being implemented at schools in Bergen County. “We wanted to have others learn from our journey of implementing Makerspace and STEM education in our classrooms,” says Wyckoff Superintendent Rich Kuder. “While we learn from others, we also want to provide others with the same opportunity.”
Northern Ignite began several years ago to provide professional development to school leaders and teachers and share best practices within Bergen County. This year the goal was to set up a process for school visits.
About 40 visitors from Northern Ignite schools with a particular interest in Makerspace STEM education came to Wyckoff in April. Eisenhower Principal Chris Iasiello says the group spent the morning at his school observing a robotics class taught by Marc DeBlock and a digital imaging class taught by Harold Olejarz. “We got a lot of tremendously positive feedback,” Iasiello says. Norah Peck, the Bergen County Executive Superintendent for Bergen County, was among those most impressed, he adds. “We’re always happy to have other districts learn from us,” Iasiello says. “Peck was pleased to see the overall engagement of the students and the level of work that they were doing,” Kuder adds.
The group also visited several of Wyckoff’s elementary schools to observe various Makerspace activities. Washington School Principal Scott Blake was proud to show what is happening in his school's kindergarten classes. "The visitors were astonished to see kindergarteners creating circuits, coding, and taking toys apart to see how they work," says Blake.
Lincoln School Principal Patrick Lee says the visit gave Lincoln a chance to share what is happening in the school from first to fifth grade. "Students in grade 1 were working on a building challenge using a variety of materials, and students in grade 5 were engaged in coding and Tinkercad work," Lee notes.Sicomac Principal Steve Raimo says the Northern Ignite visitors saw STEM activities in his schools makerspace and in regular classrooms. "It was gratifying to have the endorsement of fellow educators who were impressed by the creative and innovative work being done by the students," Raimo says. The visitors were also impressed by the students' "level of independence and enthusiasm."
District Budget Is ApprovedPosted by Thomas DeLoughry at 6/2/2017 12:00:00 PM
A $42.6-million budget for the 2017-18 school year was approved at a meeting of the Wyckoff Board of Education on May 8th.
capital outlays and classroom expenses, which will be lower than in the current school year.
Capital improvements will include telecommunications upgrades throughout the district, as well as air conditioning at Washington and Coolidge Schools.
The spending plan includes a tax levy of $36.8 million, which is an increase of 1.99% over last year’s amount. The budget presentation says the increase works out to be $139 per year based on the average assessed home value of $782,700.
Sign Up for Wyckoff Summer AcademiesPosted by Thomas DeLoughry at 6/2/2017 12:00:00 PM
Parents who are seeking fun learning opportunities delivered by accredited teachers at an affordable price should register their children for the Wyckoff Summer Academies, the District's summer program that starts July 10th.
Directing the summer program is Barbara Pepe, an Eisenhower Middle School language arts teacher who also taught at Washington Elementary School since starting her 27-year career. She has been spreading the word at PTO meetings about the large number of course offerings intended for students as young as entering kindergarteners all the way up to next year’s eighth graders. The courses are grouped into academies, such as Skills Academy and Enrichment Academy. The Skills Academy will offer courses in everything from math skills to phonics to word play to creative writing. Enrichment, meanwhile, encompasses a wide array of courses, including baking, yoga, engineering, photography, and clay sculpture.
The Summer Academies will offer classes from July 10 through August 4. Four-hour sessions will be offered daily at Lincoln School, ending at 12:20 pm. Students can enroll for a two-week session or for all four weeks. Pepe says each two-week session costs $100, which is equal to $10 per day. She notes that this cost is far less than what many parents pay to help their kids avoid “the summer slide,” which is the loss of skills due to inactivity.
“Parents really want math, reading, and writing and they want to add in the fun enrichment classes as well,” says Pepe. “We have certified teachers here. Parents don’t have to pay the money for a tutor to get their child to continue to read and write and do math over the summer in a fun way.”
Pepe is especially proud of courses being offered for incoming kindergarteners. A Safety Town class promises to introduce students to Wyckoff’s first responders and their emergency equipment. A Wonderful Fun class will include blocks, Legos, art, literature, social skills and more. Pepe has arranged for nearby rooms at Lincoln to be available for parents of incoming kindergarteners to socialize and learn more about the District from fellow parents and District administrators.
Wyckoff’s oldests students, on the other hand, can choose from an array of courses, including bucket drumming, mosaic making, and iMovies. Some may also be interested in volunteering at the Summer Academies as Academy Counselors and can get community service hours for their participation.
Interested parents can find additional information posted online in a brochure. The Summer Academies Web page is another source for information or parents can call 201-848-5700 ext 6206. The Twitter address is @WPSSummer. The Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/WPSSummer/
In Search of Best PracticesPosted by Thomas DeLoughry at 6/2/2017 12:00:00 PM
Twitter, blogs, and other digital innovations have helped administrators and teachers tremendously in keeping up with what works best in schools, but sometimes you still need to see for yourself.
This philosophy has led teachers and administrators in the District to embark on trips in recent months, including low-mileage forays to Hoboken and New York City and longer treks as far as the Pittsburgh area. The knowledge gained is already influencing instruction and administration in Wyckoff.
Superintendent Rich Kuder was part of the trip to western Pennsylvania last fall, traveling with Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction Grace E. White and Makerspace coordinators Kristin Caputo and Stacey Linzenbold. They visited the Elizabeth Forward School District and the South Fayette School District, both of whom belong to an organization called Digital Promise and The League of Innovative Schools. Wyckoff staff members came away with some insights into how schools have developed classes and programs around technologies, such as 3-D printers, laser cutters, and robotics. One of the schools even partnered with a local business to create an engineering challenge for students to work on.
“You could see the way other people had programs going,” says Caputo, noting that Wyckoff is still determining the best ways to make use Makerspaces in all of the schools, including the new STEM Lab at Eisenhower Middle School.
Dr. Kuder also led a shorter trip to see how a Makerspace can be used when he ventured to the Marymount Middle School on Manhattan’s Upper East Side with Linzenbold, Eisenhower Principal Chris Iasiello, and Eisenhower Assistant Principal Chris Giordano. “We liked that kids were given independent time to use different materials to put things together,” says Iasiello. Some of the concepts seen at Marymount are being integrated into technology classes at Eisenhower, he says.
More recently, Sicomac Principal Steve Raimo was one of 16 staffers -- including primarily teachers from kindergarten, first, and second grades -- to visit the City and Country School near Manhattan’s Union Square. “The context of it came out of work we were doing at Sicomac School to investigate ways to re-incorporate creativity and play in kindergarten and in primary grades,” says Raimo, noting that City and Country is known as “The Play School” for its history of using blocks as learning tools. The blocks can be used for math, to construct a town for social studies, or to label the buildings in a language lesson.
The Wyckoff group actually visited City and Country twice for workshops to learn about block play and then hosted visitors from the Manhattan School at Sicomac where they demonstrated how to use their methods to teach Wyckoff’s children. Raimo says more collaboration with City and Country may be on the horizon. “They are so gracious and fervent and passionate about it,” he says of the City and Country staff.
Kindergarten teachers at Sicomac have already gone so far as to replace play kitchens in their rooms with block-play areas. Raimo says teachers in the first and second grades can volunteer to do more with blocks in their classrooms if they choose to. “It’s kind of like planting seeds,” he says.
Dr. Kuder, Washington Principal Scott Blake, and Lincoln Principal Patrick Lee also led a group of staff members to the Mustard Seed School in Hoboken where they learned more about implementing Responsive Classroom practices and gained an understanding of how the Reggio Emelia approach to the arts and art education can be used with students. “The information we gathered allowed us to better support our teachers in the areas of teacher language, interactive modeling, academic choice, and classroom management, says Blake.
All of the trips to various schools reflect the District’s interest in examining “progressive, innovative practices that are transforming the classroom experience for students,” says Dr. Kuder. “It is one thing to read in a journal about what is going on elsewhere, but I feel we can best learn from these other educators by observing these transformative practices on site where we can see the teachers and students engaged in the work,” he adds. “It also provides us with opportunities to ask the teachers and administrators about how they began the work and what they have learned from their experiences.”
Slow Before You GoPosted by Thomas DeLoughry at 6/2/2017 12:00:00 PM
Protecting the safety of children in school parking lots is the goal of a campaign put together by a Wyckoff resident now attending Ramapo High School.
Amanda Sproha, a junior, is a former student at Sicomac School and Eisenhower Middle School and came up with “Slow Before You Go” as her project for a Girl Scouts Gold Award. She says addressing the “craziness” of traffic conditions before and after school is the type of sustainable solution to a community problem that the Gold Award is all about.
Amanda has worked with Superintendent Kuder to spread the word about driving more slowly in and around school parking lots. She collaborated with art teachers Teresa Burger of Lincoln School and Monique Sarfity of Eisenhower Middle School to establish a contest to create the best artwork for traffic signs that will be posted at all five Wyckoff schools. The winner of the contest was Katie Haig, a sixth grader at Eisenhower.
Amanda used Katie’s winning drawing on car magnets that she sold to raise money for the traffic signs, which will also feature Katie’s design. Amanda’s budget for the project was $1,500, which is enough to place two signs at each of the five schools. Amanda says she has bought half the signs thus far, and they all will be installed when the full purchase is complete.
A Full Day Social Skills Summer Program Returning to WyckoffPosted by Wyckoff Schools Today at 3/22/2017
Get Tickets Now for WEF GalaPosted by Thomas DeLoughry at 3/22/2017
The Annual Spring Gala for the Wyckoff Education Foundation is fast approaching on Friday, March 24, at the Indian Trail Club. Tickets, which sell for $100, are still available through this Website
“Lights, Camera, Auction” is the theme for a night that includes dinner, cash bar, and a silent auction featuring numerous items and services for bidders.
A nonprofit foundation started in 1990, WEF raises money to purchase tools to enhance education for all Wyckoff schools, fund innovative teacher grants, sponsor educational activities and cultural assemblies that enhance education. Over the years WEF has given back over $1.8 million to benefit Wyckoff schools grades K-8. In the past WEF has sponsored video equipment, musical instruments, robotics equipment, a district wide online Library catalog and the purchase of laptops, iPads and Chromebooks.
Wyckoff Superintendent Rich Kuder says WEF has been instrumental in transforming Wyckoff’s education system in its relatively short history. "We are fortunate to have such a generous and supportive group of parents who are willing and able to support innovative work in the district," Kuder says. "The WEF has enabled us to fund innovative educational programs in the way that a bsuiness funds research and development. Their ongoing support has allowed us to make significant investments in educational technology and programs that continue to benefit our students. The support of Markerspace and STEAM programs is just the most recent example."
Proceeds from this year’s Spring Gala will go toward continued implementation of STEAM initiatives for all Wyckoff schools. STEAM refers to science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics.