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SWB District News

  • Center for Special Services Psychologists, Social Workers Hold Annual Breakfast for Support Staff

    SWBOCES Center for Special Services psychologists and social workers held their annual Holiday Breakfast last month to thank all the support staff for their help and hard work throughout the year.

    The employees they honored at the party included administrative support staff, such as program assistants; custodians; technology specialists Frank D’Ambrosio and Kevin McSweeney; and security staff members.

    “We thanked all of the people who really make our school lives run much more smoothly and who quietly support the work that we do,” said Dr. Penny Knack, an SWBOCES psychologist at Irvington High School.

    The most popular item on the menu was the fresh pancakes served up by Dr. Sara Stave throughout the morning, although everyone seemed to enjoy the bagels and lox, fresh fruit salad, brownies, cookies and cakes, and the frittata.  

    The psychologists and social workers are: Nicole Ciaivardini, Steve Coleman, Michele Insalaco, Robyn Kleinman-Spencer, Dr. Knack, Rachelle Kritzer, Yolette Levy, Katie Lockwood, Kenn Mann, Rebecca Phang, Bill Ruth and Dr. Stave.

    News Feed - Center for Special Services
  • SWBOCES Teacher at Farragut Middle School Tests out Hot New Technology

    Mitch Cohen does it all. He teaches science, math and technology in the Southern Westchester BOCES Center for Special Services program at Farragut Middle School in Hastings-On-Hudson. He is a master at designing hands-on instruction that motivates students to learn, think critically and ask questions. So when the SWBOCES technology department decided to try out the latest and greatest interactive technology, staff members asked Mr. Cohen to use it in his classroom for a week and provide feedback.   

    Mr. Cohen said a great feature of TRUTOUCH interactive panel is that it allows users to take notes on a digital whiteboard with the most comfortable writing experience available on a touch screen. With the use of one interactive display, all the tools teachers need are right at their fingertips, instead of using old, stained whiteboards that force them to constantly erase good ideas.   

    Staff reported that students enjoyed using this new teaching tool so much that they were discussing Mr. Cohen’s classes long after they ended. Mr. Cohen said both he and the students loved using the TRUTOUCH panel. 

    SWBOCES plans to purchase several Newline TRUTOUCH interactive displays for the Center for Special Services this school year.

    News Feed - Center for Special Services
  • Pocantico Students Practiced Kindness, “Traveled” the Earth and Outer Space in December

    December was a busy month for students and teachers in the SWBOCES Center for Special Services program at Pocantico Hills. On the Friday before winter break, they participated in a sing-along. Kevin McSweeney, SWBOCES technology facilitator, played the guitar while children sang many holiday favorites. Santa Claus made an appearance and gave candy canes to students.

    These were other notable activities at Pocantico Hills in December:

    -- Second- and third-graders in Erin deSpoelberch’s class discussed and brainstormed ways to be kind to others. Each school day, they chose one small act of kindness to practice. After performing a good deed, they each glued a description of it on their “Calendar of Kindness.”  The projects were posted for the whole school to see.

    -- The “Elf on the Shelf” was part of a daily vocabulary development program in Ms. deSpoelberch’s class. Every morning, her second- and third-grade students located the elf and participated in a group discussion on how to describe him, based on his action and location. Children learned how to expand and refine their vocabulary. One day, for example, students initially said the elf was by the window. After developing and building on their description, they progressed to a more detailed one: “Our classroom elf is using a grappling hook to slide down the rope from window to window.” After students worked together to revise and edit their description each day, they read it to Principal Jessica Walker to see how quickly and easily she could find the elf.

    -- Third- and fourth-grade students in Melissa Santoro’s class learned about Earth science. Each pupil had an opportunity to act out the sun and Earth’s relationship in the heliocentric universe. One child acted as the sun, standing still, and another was the Earth rotating on its axis at a simulated 23.5 degrees. Simultaneously, the “Earth” revolved around the “sun.” It was an engaging experience to learn about the awareness of our bodies in space.

    -- Students in James Walsh’s class safely “landed” their “space shuttle” after exploring the solar system and beyond. Now that they have returned to Earth, their “voyage” is land-based. The third- and fourth-graders are discovering the locations of continents, countries and oceans. In one unit, they “traveled” throughout the United States to learn where states and capitals are located. The children will be “visiting” other countries and continents as they set out on their global journey.

    News Feed - Center for Special Services
  • Presentation Gives Students Inside Look at New NY Bridge Project

    Students from several automotive classes on the SWBOCES Center for Career Services campus had the chance Jan. 5 to get a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to build a twin-span replacement bridge, the developing state-of-the-art structure that will take the place of the 62-year-old Tappan Zee Bridge.

    In an hour long presentation, Dan Marcy of the New York State Thruway and a member of the educational outreach team for the New NY Bridge Project, explained to students the mechanics behind the construction of the bridge, the various stages of the $3.8 billion project and all of the equipment that is necessary to bring it to a successful completion.

    The new cable stay bridge is being supported by approximately 1,000 steel foundation pilings sunk 300 feet into the river and positioned underneath each of the bridge’s concrete piers.

    The foundation of the bridge is critical, said Mr. Marcy, because it supports the entire weight of the bridge and the traffic loads it will carry.

    It will have more than 190 stay cables, which are anchored to the interior of the bridge’s concrete towers and to the sides of the structural steel field sections.

    To date, about 60 stay cables have been installed.

    To accommodate the ongoing construction, two floating plants have been sitting on the river so that concrete can be made nearby and poured into the developing bridge. Mr. Marcy said that more than 300,000 yards of concrete will be used, enough to build a sidewalk from the construction site to Key West, Fl.  

    Referring to the super crane called “I Lift NY,” Mr. Marcy said the giant machine is the largest one of its kind on the project. It has the capacity to lift more than 1,900 tons, which is 12 times the weight of the Statue of Liberty, he said.

    The project wouldn’t be complete, however, and might run into problems without the help of tugboats, which he described as the project’s “workhorses.” They are capable of pulling the super crane all across the river, he explained.   

    The westbound span is expected to be finished later this year. A bike and walking path is also planned for the new bridge.

    A time-lapse video of the construction work from August 2016 to October 2016 can be seen here:


    News Feed - Center for Career Services
  • New SWBOCES Principal Found Calling for Special Education While Teaching in Katonah-Lewisboro

    After teaching in the Katonah-Lewisboro School District in various roles, Allison Emig transitioned into special education and discovered that she has a passion for teaching children with special needs.

    For half of her 15 years in Katonah-Lewisboro, she created special-education programs for students with autism and developmental disabilities. She taught grades 3 through 5 for five years, developing a program to integrate technology into the classroom soon after the creation of iPads. She then started a new special-education program for grades 6 and 7.

    Ms. Emig, who also worked as a teacher on special assignment in Katonah-Lewisboro, enrolled at Manhattanville College two years ago to obtain a degree in educational leadership. Soon after graduating in August 2016, she saw an advertisement for principal of the Decagon at the Rye Lake Campus and jumped at the chance to use her skills as a special education teacher and administrator. She started the job Oct. 31 and is grateful for the opportunity to work for Southern Westchester BOCES’ Center for Special Services.

    “I’ve always wanted to be a principal,” she said. “I absolutely love working with teachers. I like having that creative partnership with them.”

    At Rye Lake, Ms. Emig supervises the Therapeutic Support Program for Developmentally Delayed students and Autism Spectrum Disorder Programs. She is also responsible for the Intensive Day Program on the campus. “It’s just incredibly rewarding when you see children who have significant disabilities make progress,” she said.

    Ms. Emig said working as a principal also keeps her close to the children. “The kids are amazing,” she said. “I already feel very connected with the children, and I also feel connected to the staff.”

    Other parts of her mission as principal are to develop relationships with families and SWBOCES school districts. “My next goal is to feel more connected to the districts and families that we serve,” she continued.

    Ms. Emig, who grew up in Orange County, was offered a job in the Katonah-Lewisboro School District when she completed her graduate student teaching there. After teaching kindergarten and fourth grade, she took a seven-year leave to raise her children. She returned to Katonah-Lewisboro and was a teacher on special assignment, which is similar to an assistant principal, in a kindergarten through fifth-grade school.

    Ms. Emig has been married for 20 years. She, her husband, their son and daughter, and their two dogs live in Dutchess County. She describes herself as the quintessential soccer (and hockey) mom. Her son, who is 13, plays on a travel ice hockey team. Her 15-year-old daughter is on a travel soccer team. Both play for their high school junior varsity teams.

    Her children and husband were very supportive of her while she was in graduate school, lending a hand to cook dinner or otherwise help out if she had a deadline for a paper or another assignment for school.

    “My family members are my No. 1 fans,” she said. “We all are achieving our dreams in the family because we all work so hard to help each other.”

    News Feed - Center for Special Services
  • A quick tour of the new

    Welcome to the new web home of Southern Westchester BOCES! The first thing to know is that we've launched not one but eight new websites, giving each of our major centers space unique to their services and audiences.

    We worked with our school district partners to ensure our new sites meet your needs, not our own. When you arrive at, you'll find we put what you need most where you can find it most easily. We sought to minimize clutter and  tailored our design to make your visit efficient and productive. You should come away knowing more about us and our services than when you arrived, with minimal effort. And it should be just as easy if you're on a desktop PC, a laptop, or a mobile device like a tablet or phone.

    Here are some highlights about our home page (see attached images for illustration):

    • Our menus are designed to take you right where you need to go, without having to scroll down and search. They feature our Board of Education, our Central Administration, links to our major centers, job opportunities at SWBOCES and general information about our organization. Links to our social media feeds (please follow us!) are to the right of the menus.

    • Scroll down a little bit, and our vivid slideshow gives way to what matters most to us: Our Mission, Vision, Values and Goals; links to key SWBOCES departments, and quick links for our employees.

    By now you're well on your way to accomplishing what you come to do. If you spend a little more time with us, though,  you can scroll down and find the latest news from across our campuses. The events, programs, accomplishments and individuals that make us proud are featured under SWB District News. Below that you'll find our Twitter feed, a featured video and calendar events. We've also highlighted the Dignity for All Students Act coordinators across our campuses. 

    Look for highlights of our major centers' news home pages in the coming days.

    Southern Westchester BOCES
  • Tappan Hill Celebrates the Holidays with a Sing-Along

    Before leaving for holiday celebrations and winter vacation Friday, students and staff members at Tappan Hill gathered for a group sing-along. Their selections included “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel,” “Must be Santa" and other songs.

    They used maracas, tambourines, bells and even a harmonica to embellish their performances. A number of children wore Santa Claus caps. Some donned elf or Christmas tree hats or wore handmade reindeer headbands. Teacher Errol Rivera’s had on a dancing Santa hat with lights.

    Jalen Estevez led his classmates in a version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and used his hands and arms to act out “naughty,” “nice,” “making a list and checking it twice” and other parts of the Christmas classic. Santa Claus, who was paying a visit to the school, danced as Jalen and the other students sang.

    Tappan Hill Principal Phyllis Rizzi presented three employees with gift cards from  the entire staff to thank them for all their hard work throughout the year. They are administrative assistant Cathy Fragoso and custodians Joseph Cecere and Isaac Choluta.

    Children enjoyed treats and snacks after the performance.

    News Feed - Center for Special Services
  • Rye Lake Students Grade Teachers in Inaugural Holiday Cookie Challenge

    Rye Lake Campus math teacher Paulette Theret recently made several types of cookies for her grandchildren and asked them to vote on which one she should make for the inaugural Holiday Celebration Cookie Challenge.

    They chose her famous brownie cookies, and their input paid off.  Ms. Theret received a trophy that she will keep until next year’s cookie contest (and possibly longer if she comes up with another winning recipe). The runners up included white chocolate cranberry cookies and lemon zingers. Some of the other cookies in the contest were chocolate candy cane and oatmeal walnut.

    “This trophy will be passed from winner to winner over the years,” Rye Lake Principal Scott Kaufman said. “May you take this trophy, take care of it, hopefully have it for more than a year, and cherish it.”

    Axel Sagastume, 16, of Brewster, helped Ms. Theret win. “I voted for the brownie cookie because I like chocolate,” he said.

    The event ended with a surprise for all the students. Staff members had chipped in money to buy presents. They handed out gift bags with scarves, ear buds, socks, McDonald’s gift cards and other goodies.

    The Rye Lake Wellness Committee coordinated the gift drive. “They took a lot of time. They gathered a lot of money,” Mr. Kaufman said. “They put a lot of heart into creating these gifts, so I hope you appreciate them because we appreciate you.”

    Counselor Cristina Tompkins and the other school counselor, Jennifer Ardisana, made peanut butter blossoms. The competition to make the best cookie was fierce. “Everybody wants the trophy,” she said..

    Culinary student Chris Krapish, 16, of Croton-on-Hudson, brought in Italian Christmas cookies and sugar cookies that he baked. He enjoys cooking and baking for others. “Just the feeling of cooking and you’re giving the food to somebody else who needs it” is what motivates him, he said.

    News Feed - Center for Special Services
  • Children Meet and Dance with Santa Claus at SWBOCES SEPTA’s Holiday Party

    From making Christmas ornaments and posing with funny props in the photo booth to dancing with Santa Claus and receiving gifts, SWBOCES students and their families had a great time at SEPTA’s sixth-annual Holiday Celebration at the Rye Lake Campus.

    Shortly before 5 p.m. on Dec. 20, one of the elves told children they had to make a lot of noise to ensure Santa Claus would stop in. They sang “Jingle Bells” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” When they finished, Santa came bounding to greet them. They sang and danced together to “Feliz Navidad.”

    Santa Claus gave students and their siblings presents, all of which had been donated. Some of this year’s gifts were Mashin’ Max, a game in which players protect their critters from the beast; Bedazzler and lip balm kits; and Connect Four.

    About 40 students and their families attended the event. “This is our favorite time of year to celebrate,” said Phyllis Rizzi, Tappan Hill School principal and co-vice president of SEPTA.

    Ms. Rizzi said there are many people to thank for putting the celebration together, including Annette Sansone, a teacher’s aide with SWBOCES who obtains gift donations. “She’s dedicated. She gets a lot of joy from seeing happiness in children’s faces,” Ms. Rizzi said.

    The executive board also thanks teacher Erroll Rivera (Santa Claus); elves Kathleen Knudsen, Linda Christiansen and Penny Dickenson (teachers); elves Kate Banfield and Sara Calderon (SWBOCES students and daughters of SEPTA members); Leah Harris, a teacher’s assistant at Tappan Hill; Kevin McSweeney, SWBOCES technology facilitator; art teachers Ariel Farber and Claire Ballantyne; Susan Doherty, a retired SWBOCES speech pathologist; Tappan Hill mom Cynthia Zac; and physical education teachers Diane Storm and Joseph Racioppo.

    “It was very successful,” said SEPTA President Trish Banfield, whose other daughter, Paige, and her friend, Brian Morgan, ran the photo booth at the party. “A lot of kids enjoyed themselves.”

    Children and adults posed with props in the photo booth, holding signs that said “Naughty,” “Nice” and “North Pole,” along with fake mustaches and a “Frosty the Snowman” head. They played a “snowball” toss game, bowled, and challenged themselves to see how many cups they could stack in a pyramid.

    “I really like the SEPTA parties,” said Christine Varon, whose son, Derek, is in the SWBOCES program at Farragut Middle School in Hastings-on-Hudson.

    Ms. Varon said her son has been with SWBOCES for a few years and she thinks the teachers are “brilliant. They give so much attention to him.”

    The Special Education PTA raised money through a 50/50 raffle and with a raffle for donated gifts, including Xbox one/Minecraft and gift cards. Mr. Racioppo donated the money he won in the 50/50 raffle to the SEPTA.  

    News Feed - Center for Special Services
  • Southern Westchester BOCES School Library System unveils innovative 'Makerspace' in Elmsford

    The Southern Westchester BOCES School Library System celebrated with administrators, teachers and students in the Elmsford Schools earlier this week as the district unveiled an exciting new Makerspace area in the Alice E. Grady Elementary School library.

    Elmsford’s Makerspace is the first of eight such spaces that the department is creating in four elementary and four high school libraries throughout the region.

    The Grady Makerspace came together through a collaboration with Superintendent Dr. Joseph Ricca, Grady Principal Douglas Doller, library media specialist Kim Sparber, and teachers Anthony Carolini and Mary Ellen Pickens.

    The space includes a variety of tools that students will be using, including Keva Planks building blocks, Makey Makey invention kits, Spheros robotic toys and Little Bits electronic kits, in addition to a new camera broadcasting station and a green screen.

    The walls of the lab will be painted with “idea paint,” which will allow students to draw their plans and write their ideas right on the walls.

    In other schools, such Makerspace areas might include 3D printers, software, electronics, craft and hardware supplies and tools, all with a bent toward experimentation and creation.

    “Making is creative, collaborative and empowering for learners,” said Pam Berger, director of the BOCES School Library System.

    “Students find making – tinkering, inventing, problem solving, discovering and sharing – intrinsically rewarding. School librarians facilitate this active learning transformation together with their colleagues to create an environment of discovery and exploration,” she added.

    News Feed - SWBOCES School Library System

Dignity Act Coordinators for Southern Westchester BOCES