Warwick Valley School District principals talked about new and old classes and activities at the school board monthly meeting last Thursday.
Johnna Maraia, principal at Sanfordville Elementary School, said that students in her building spent the first days of school getting to know their teachers, having their first lockdown and lockout safety drills, and getting to Touch a Truck. Children met New York State mounted troopers and their horses; saw drones up close, and saw a SWAT truck; they also met with other first responders and essential workers, such as members of the Department of Public Works.
“What about the bus drivers?” some of the students asked. “Our kids ask the best questions,” Maraia said, adding that drivers will meet with students next year. Also, police officers, firefighters, doctors and nurses will have lunch with Sanfordville’s children, as part of upcoming Red Ribbon Week – a national program for school children that encourages healthy choices and steering clear of substance abuse.
At Park Avenue Elementary, principal Bill Biniaris spoke about his students taking a trip to the Albert Wisner Public Library to learn about the library’s resources. Once there, kids participated in Writers’ Workshop and rhythm and dance activities and applied for their first library card. Each received a book of their own to take home.
“Kinderbuddies” will pair students to read together, and the third-graders made friendship bracelets.
The new student council has been set up for the year, Biniaris added, “fostering school and community pride and leadership opportunities for students.
Tryouts for Odyssey of the Mind, a nationwide competition where teams of students must come up with original, creative solutions to a set of problems, will take place on October 11.
Park Avenue kids will learn about the life cycle of a pumpkin on an upcoming trip to the Wright Family Farm. And finally, in November, the drama club will be back in the building for the first time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Middle school principal Giorgianna Diopoulos said that her students are excited about Homecoming; modified sports have begun, and 8th grade boys are giving their favorite teachers their jersey for a day, as a way of expressing appreciation to those who inspired them to participate in sports.
Fifth and sixth grades 5 and 6 had an anti-bullying assembly and were visited by Sweethearts and Heroes. In a related event, seventh and eighth graders participated in an assembly teaching them how to be “upstanders” for peers.
Students had the opportunity to speak with Purple Heart veterans and will fundraise for the American Cancer Society, she noted.
Diopoulos added that the middle school will watch “Mallory,” with their parents on October 24, in the evening, about a young girl who was driven by bullying in school and on social media to take her own life.
Middle and high school students will take part in assemblies and programs dedicated to substance abuse prevention during Red Ribbon Week, from October 24 – 28. Students taking the video production course are creating videos for the Prevention Coalition’s YouTube channel.
The group Sweethearts and Heroes spoke with students as part of a program that helps them stand up to bullies.
The League of Women Voters (a non-partisan group) spoke to high schoolers of voting age, educating them on their responsibilities as citizens, and urging those of age to register to vote.
The high school will host a college fair and Financial Aid Night on October 19: over 150 colleges and universities will be there. PSATs are October 15, and Seniors will have their portraits taken beginning this week.
Anyone interested can do the Polar Plunge on December 3 in Greenwood Lake, to raise awareness and funds for the Special Olympics.
District audit successful
The district recently completed their regular financial audit, conducted by the outside firm Nugent and Haeussler.
William Trainor, one of the firm’s auditors, said that the district is in “sound financial shape...(there’s) no risk of fiscal stress...You can feel confident your policies and procedures are effective.” Typically, he said, “We want to see between 95 -98 percent.” The auditors gave the district a grade of 98 percent. He thanked Assistant Superintendent for Business Timothy Holmes “for making our lives easier,” as the district’s documents were well—organized.
Superintendent David Leach announced that the district is pausing for a week all activities – extra-curriculars and sports – at Newburgh Free Academy, in light of the shooting there after a football game the previous week.
Board members John Garcia and Tom Maslanka ( a retired Warwick police lieutenant) attended the game, Leach said, and were among those who helped kids get to safety. District mental health counselors are available to offer support. They, the coaches, and other district staff met with students after the incident.
Leach said he plans to discuss student mental health at the board’s upcoming work session on October 20.
“We will look at what supports we’re offering,” he said.
Beverly Braxton, founder of We the People Warwick, a 50-year resident, retired Warwick teacher and parent of two children who came up through Warwick schools, expressed appreciation of the job the school board is doing, pointing out that a big part of a child’s day is what happens outside of school.
She created We the People Warwick last year, she said, to defuse political tensions in the community, and in to create “a supportive community for healing and growth.”
Her organization, she said, has developed teams devoted to special events, mental health – particularly in youth – and youth engagement.
“It will take the collective power of the community to address the challenges” facing kids today, she said, noting that she is reaching out to community leaders, houses of worship, and others to help reach this goal.
Jeanine Mitchell, a We the People Warwick member, teacher and parent, said that one of the group’s objectives is fostering youth/adult partnerships, and to “look to kids’ voices to understand their challenges,” as well as offering youth mentorships.
The organization, as part of its youth initiative, conducted an anonymous, four-question survey of youth emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic, to take their “emotional temperature,” Mitchell said.
“We want to foster belonging and connectedness for Warwick’s children,” she said.
Our kids ask the best questions. - Johnna Maraia, principal at Sanfordville Elementary School.