Sunshine and Smiles on the First Day of School

Students of all ages were greeted with smiles by teachers and administrators on the morning of Sept. 2, the first day of classes for the 2015-16 school year.

Kindergartners met their classroom teachers and peers for the first time as they waved goodbye to their parents, while older students throughout the district embraced old friends and sought out their new classrooms, cubbies and lockers.

The sun shone brightly as excited students entered their schools to fill the hallways with laughter and conversation for the next 10 months.

Six Staff Members Reach 25-Year Milestone

Six members of the Katonah-Lewisboro team were recognized by their colleagues during the Aug. 31 Superintendent’s Conference Day.

Each honoree was called to stand in front of district personnel while her supervisor or building principal reflected on her many years of service to the district before she was gifted a bowl.

John Jay High School art teacher Julie Evans-Kaser, Principal Jessica Godin said, is an inspiration to her students who “gently pushes them out of their comfort zone…[and] inspires students to be proactive.”

Barbara Semenetz, Godin’s secretary at JJHS, is a graduate herself of the Katonah-Lewisboro School District.

“Barbara is one of the most studious workers,” said Godin. “John Jay would not be John Jay without Barbara Semenetz.”

Computer Aide Lorraine Pidgeon was recognized by Director of Technology Ahunna Akoma, who recalled the many roles Pidgeon has assumed since she started in the district at Lewisboro Elementary School in 1989. Akoma applauded Pidgeon’s work ethic in her current position with the technology department.

Senior Office Assistant Nancy Cogswell, who has three children who all graduated from John Jay High School, currently keeps operations running smoothly in the John Jay Middle School guidance department, said Principal Richard Leprine.

“Nancy brings a sunny disposition to work with her every day,” he said. “She is respectful, extremely professional and a consummate team player.”

Leprine also had kinds words for Holly Kellogg, an art teacher at JJMS, whom he recognized as being a talented artist herself — “She is very passionate herself and that translates to her students,” he said. Kellogg is also a John Jay High School alumna.

Cristy Harris, Katonah Elementary School’s principal, spoke highly of second-grade teacher Judy McBride, whose three children are JJHS graduates, praising her “unbridled enthusiasm for all things new.”

“Judy is not afraid to take risks in the classroom,” said Harris. “[She] is all about making learning fun and meaningful.”

Recognizing New and Returning Team Members

Katonah-Lewisboro’s faculty members returned to school on Sept. 1, a day before students, to prepare for an exciting school year.

New Superintendent of Schools Andrew Selesnick, who began his post on July 1, emphasized the importance of district employees working together as a team to offer students the best possible experiences. “We have to be a great team,” he said, offering up a personal anecdote about a teacher who inspired him to pursue a career in education.

Selesnick’s message was reiterated by Board of Education President Marjorie Schiff, who told the educators, “Thank you for all you do to support and educate our students.”

Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Debra Legato then introduced all of the year’s new employees, including 15 faculty and staff members who are new to the district, two Katonah Elementary School teachers who are taking on new roles and five employees who are returning to the district.

“We are in the business of inspiring children to become their best selves,” Selesnick said.

Sixth-Graders Prepare for New School Year


John Jay Middle School’s incoming sixth-grade class enthusiastically compared schedules and toured the hallways of their new school as they gathered for a meet and greet on Aug. 26.

The students and their families were greeted at JJMS by a DJ out front and PTO members in the cafeteria. Also on hand were the school’s administrators and a number of eighth-grade students serving as leaders, who answered the new students’ questions about scheduling, lockers, lunchtime and more. The JJMS leaders also led the sixth-graders on tours of the building, pointing out where they might take Spanish or French class and which hallways to cut through to get to class more quickly.

The informal event allowed students to connect with peers after a long summer and become more comfortable with the new faces and hallways at John Jay Middle School before classes begin on Sept. 2.

“My daughter went into the event a little scared and anxious and by the end she was all smiles with her friends!” said one parent.


Transportation Reminder

Welcome to the 2015-16 school year. Please remember that buses may be delayed during the first few weeks of the school year as students and parents become familiar with their bus stops and routes. We ask for your patience during this period. Thank you.

A First Peek into High School


John Jay High School’s Class of 2019 had a chance to reconnect with classmates, meet administrators and counselors, and enjoy a meal together at the annual Freshmen Potluck Supper on Aug. 25.

The students and their parents came together outside the school on a warm summer evening to mingle, compare class schedules and take a look at the hallways of their new academic home for the next four years.

“This is their first opportunity to really see the school,” said JJHS Principal Jessica Godin. “It’s nice that it’s a casual atmosphere and involves the integration of the peer leadership.”

Many senior peer leaders, along with PTO officers, were decked out in John Jay purple as they welcomed the families to the affair. The peer leaders took the freshmen on tours of the building, sharing important tips about which hallways might house their classes, as well as other insider information – such as which water fountains have the best tasting water.

“This is a great opportunity for students to get a feel for the school and helps alleviate some of the tension,” said Godin.


Faculty Takes Summer to Examine Curricula


The classrooms and hallways may be void of students during the summer months, but Katonah-Lewisboro teachers have been hard at work reviewing and revising curricula in a number of subject areas.

Elementary teachers and administrators took close looks at the mathematics and ELA curricula, revising assessments and developing new units. Middle School teachers gathered to discuss world language and science curricula. A number of new initiatives at the high school were explored during the summer months, in the areas of mathematics and writing, among others.


Summer Reading and Math Activities

July 2015

Dear Katonah-Lewisboro Families,

We hope you are enjoying the beginning of the summer. Attached please find information related to summer reading and math activities as we are recommending that our students take time to keep their skills sharp.

Please consider completing the reading log and math calendar with your child and have them return it to his or her classroom teacher in September.

We look forward to welcoming our students back to school in September. Enjoy the summer!

The Elementary Principals


Fifth-Graders Celebrate Moving Up

John Jay High School’s future Class of 2022 made its first big academic transition during the celebratory June 25 Moving Up Ceremonies across the district.

The fifth-grade students, identified by their single classroom teachers for the last time, each crossed a stage to accept a certificate, along with a handshake and a smile, from their teachers and building administrators. Building principals also offered words of advice to the burgeoning sixth-graders.

Check out the summer issue of KaLeidoscope for more from the ceremonies.

Class of 2015 Takes Next Steps

Members of John Jay High School’s Class of 2015 officially became alumni as they switched their tassels on the evening of June 23.

Despite repeated setbacks caused by the weather, the 287 graduates were all smiles as the entered and left Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts in Katonah.

After the class entered to “Pomp and Circumstance” and recited the Pledge of Allegiance, school musical groups the Rolling Tones and the Noteables performed the national anthem, after which Interim Superintendent John Goetz welcomed the guests to the ceremony.

“The next step is clearly in your hands,” he said to the graduating students. “Stay focused and try to be happy in all that you do. The future needs happy, optimistic and balanced people.”

In her address, Board of Education President Marjorie Schiff told the class, “Throughout your time in high school, you have enriched the community, our community, through your dedication to academic, artistic, athletic and extracurricular endeavors. You have become important role models and contributors for the younger students at John Jay High School, for your siblings and for the children in our community.”

Class of 2015 Co-presidents Karen Beaty and Emma Jansen spoke about the characteristics that define the class and decided that diversity, friendship and the class’s special bond are legacies to be left behind with the school’s Key of Knowledge. That key was passed to the junior class’s co-presidents, Gabby Dowd and Kelly McDonald, who in turn thanked the graduates for serving as positive role models for the younger students.

Valedictorian Ryan Monasch, salutatorian Briana Tang and class speaker Enis Rraci each offered moments of reflection and advice to their peers. Rraci asked his classmates to applaud for the many people who had helped them during their high school years, from teachers and guidance counselors to cafeteria staff and parents.

“Once we go forth from our places of comfort, where our options are limited and our restrictions relatively maximized, we have more opportunity to make meaningful change, to make an impact, to move an entire hill or mountain or valley of sand, instead of single grains,” Monasch said. “Why don’t we go out into the world and make it a better place? Why not us?”

“The harder work is ahead, but so is the more intense reward,” said Principal Jessica Godin, one of the evening’s keynote speakers. “Know you will always have purple in your blood…most importantly, with trepidation or without, you are ready to move on to the next step of your journey knowing you will always find a way to land on your feet.”

MS Students Display Impressive Art

Eighth-grade John Jay Middle School students recently had the opportunity to showcase artwork they have been working hard on during the annual Arts Night.

One highlight of the eighth-grade art curriculum is the collage self-portraits that students spend weeks forming, using only colorful cut paper and glue. In the portraits, students are challenged to capture not only how they look, but a bit of their personalities as well.

Other work on display during Art Night included the eighth-grade Sharpie Line Art Project, which required students to incorporate words, imagery and patterns into their moving pieces. Art teacher Kendra Friedman asked students to be aware of the positive and negative space in their pieces when striving for balance. Students also created abstract three-dimensional colored pencil drawings using their knowledge of color systems.
Eighth-grade student Matthew Chambers also had a special display on view during Art Night. Chambers, who has a passion for drawing cartoons, worked with Friedman every day on his work. She asked him to consider branching out and creating new cartoon characters in environments, which resulted in a number of original designs.

“He did this in addition to the work on the curriculum,” said Friedman. “Having his own exhibit is really a great experience.”

HS Students Enjoy Music of Zimbabwe

John Jay High School students recently had a chance to hear renowned musicians Banning Eyre and Tendai Muparutsa when they visited the school on June 5.

Thanks to the efforts of ArtsAlive!, students heard international music firsthand. Last year, the organization brought an Indian music workshop to the school.

This year’s workshop was a big hit with students, as they were introduced to a number of instruments, lyrics and songs from Zimbabwe. Eyre and Muparutsa discussed the history of the instruments and how they are used, such as in religious ceremonies.

“Sometimes, I miss Zimbabwe,” said Muparutsa before performing an original song for the students.

The day proved to be an enlightening and enjoyable one for all involved.

“I already have some ideas for the next few years,” said ArtsAlive!’s Jack Freudenheim, who coordinated the visit.

Board Awards Tenure to Six Educators


Six members of the Katonah-Lewisboro school community celebrated an important milestone in their careers by receiving tenure before a gathering of family, friends and administrators at the June 4 Board of Education meeting. School board members unanimously approved the designations during a meeting in the John Jay High School library.

The newly tenured staff members are:

• Marisa Merlino (John Jay High School director of guidance)
• Michael Cohen (John Jay High School business education teacher)
• Daniel Longhurst (John Jay High School science teacher)
• Jane Emig (Meadow Pond Elementary School teacher)
• Sandra Mackenzie (Increase Miller Elementary School teaching assistant)
• Candice Meshil (Katonah Elementary School teaching assistant)

“We are very proud of them,” Interim Superintendent John Goetz said. “Tenure is a significant milestone in one’s educational career. It signifies a level of accomplishment, a level of recognition, and a level of things being confirmed that we knew already – that we made the right hiring decision.”

Goetz said one common quality among the six staff members is their ability to connect with students. In addition to knowing their subject matter, he said, they also know how to deliver it in the best possible way for students to learn.

As part of the celebration, members of The Rolling Tones, the high school’s all-male a capella group, performed. Each tenured staff member was introduced by an administrator from his or her school.

“[Emig] promotes higher levels of student understanding and helps them make connections to real-world problems,” said Meadow Pond Principal Carolann Castellano. “She has proven herself to be an excellent educator and a collaborative colleague.”

John Jay High School Principal Jessica Godin described Cohen as a highly effective teacher with a perfect attendance record. She also spoke about Longhurst’s love for French cheese, which he gives out during AP exams, and his reputation as a knowledgeable teacher. She described Merlino as reliable, organized, and someone who always make the right decision.

Increase Miller Principal Kerry Ford described Mackenzie as someone with incredible knowledge of classroom instruction, commitment to students and professionalism. Katonah Elementary Assistant Principal Terry Costin spoke highly of Meshil, praising her patience, kindness and dependability.

MS Musicians to Perform at Carnegie Hall

John Jay Middle School students Lily Oyen and Sabrina Zapson have been selected for the 2015 Middle School Honors Performance Series.

Oyen will perform as an alto with the Honors Junior Choir, and Zapson will perform on the double bass with the Honors Junior Orchestra. The two will perform at Carnegie Hall in June. Participation in one of the three Honors Ensembles is limited to the highest rated middle school performers from across North America and select schools internationally.
Oyen and Zapson auditioned in the fall for the Honors Performance Series and were accepted after a review by the Honors Selection Board. Acceptance to these elite groups is a direct result of the talent, dedication and achievements demonstrated in their application and audition recordings. The two John Jay students will join other performers from 49 states, several provinces in Canada and several foreign countries for this special performance.
According to Program Director Nancy Richardson, “Being selected to the Honors Performance Series is something each Junior Finalist should be extremely proud of accomplishing. We process thousands of nominations annually, selecting only the most talented performers. Working with these conductors and performing at Carnegie Hall is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that these student-musicians never forget.”

Both Oyen and Zapson have studied music for many years and have been dedicated members of the John Jay Middle School Orchestra. Both students practiced tirelessly for their auditions and were overjoyed to be accepted into the program.

Junior Finalists will come together for five days in June in New York City to have the opportunity to learn from renowned conductors Greg Gilpin, Jeffrey Grogan, and Charles Peltz, work with other Junior Finalists and get a taste of New York City.

The Sunday, June 27 performance is open to the public. Tickets can be purchased through the Carnegie Hall box office.

The Honors Performance Series was created to showcase accomplished individual high school and middle school performers on an international level by allowing them to study under master conductors and perform in the celebrated venue.

Evolving Our World: A Greener Future


The Katonah-Lewisboro School District’s Sustainability Committee is made up of district administrators, Board of Education members and community members who have an interest in sustainable practices in our schools. On May 21, Director of Facilities Paul Christensen presented an update on the committee’s progress.

Christensen discussed the district’s greenhouse gas audit, which was performed from 2007-2009 and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2015.

By implementing steps and practices including composting, the addition of water bottle filling stations and other increases in efficiency and conservation, the district reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by more than 15 percent in 2013 (2015 figures to be presented in the fall).

Moving forward, the committee and district are looking to increase student participation in sustainability initiatives, complete the energy performance contract, continue to strive to reach the greenhouse gas emission goal, continue to evaluate opportunities for conservation and savings, maintain status as a “Lighthouse” district and add all kitchen waste to compostables. This fall, the district will implement DW single stream recycling and continue to add more water bottle filling stations.

For more information about the Katonah-Lewisboro School District’s sustainability efforts, see the presentation and video.


Ultimate Frisbee Teams Compete in State Championship

John Jay High School’s Air Raid and Bear Raid Ultimate Frisbee teams traveled upstate to compete in the USA Ultimate New York State High School Championship on May 23 and 24.

John Jay’s Air Raid team, created in 2007 by students, has gone on to win three times since its inception and now has more than 60 students involved in the Air Raid and Bear Raid co-ed teams.
This year, Air Raid placed ninth overall with a 4-3 record and Bear Raid placed 16th overall, winning the “Spirit of the Game” award during the tournament, which recognizes players for their exceptional sportsmanship.