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Winter 2014

Empowering Students with Dyslexia

the courier

From the Headmaster’s Desk

One of the joys of working with dyslexics is seeing them defy the assumptions that society makes about them. Nowhere are those assumed limits more thoroughly debunked than at Kildonan. I’ve been told that dyslexics shouldn’t expect to be admitted to competitive colleges and universities. The Kildonan classes of ‘13 and ‘14 have been putting that notion to rest. I’ve been told that dyslexics can’t excel at creative writing, music performance, dramatic performance, independent study, or foreign languages. Student work in our Independent Project and Literature courses has belied the creative writing assumption as well as the independent study one. Our music program, which now numbers more than twenty students, has burgeoned to the point where almost any instrument a student takes an interest in becomes a feature of annual school events. The recent stage performances of our middle and elementary students have taken audiences’ collective breath away. The next limit Kildonan plans to defy is the foreign language one. We are currently recruiting teachers who will provide a multi-sensory, dyslexia-specific program for that purpose starting this September. The world may be skeptical about dyslexics’ capabilities, but at Kildonan we continue to move forward in celebrating all that dyslexics can do. —Warm wishes, Kevin


in this issue Award for Diana Hanbury King 2 Assistive Technology 2 Ben Foss Visits Kildonan 3 Gordon Sherman 3 Music Program/Sound Baffling 4- 5 Kildonan Profiles 6-7 Interview with Scott Butler 7 Visual Arts and IP Programs 8-9 Upper School On the Move 10 Middle School News 11 Annual Fund/Parents Weekend 12 21st Century Green Entrepreneurs 13 Sports Update 13 Elementary News 14-15 Discussions on Dyslexia 16

Welcome to Xavier, the newest member of the Pendergast family!

AWARDS Diana Hanbury King Receives High Honors At IDA Conference This November Diana Hanbury King, co-founder of The Kildonan School, was awarded the Margaret Byrd Rawson Lifetime Achievement Award at the 64th IDA conference in New Orleans. This award is given to an individual whose work on behalf of IDA embodies compassion, leadership, commitment to excellence and advocacy for people with dyslexia. Diana is one of only two recipients who have received this award along with the IDA Samuel Torrey Orton award, presented to her in 1990. Congratulations Diana, we are so proud and grateful to you.

ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY The Assistive Technology Center on our campus is dedicated to providing our students with the newest advances in software, technology and programs. Jamie Martin and Frank Sorrentino are the driving force behind Kildonan’s cutting edge Assistive Technology. They work with all the upper school students, as well as give lectures, and host tours and visits for a very curious educational community. What sets our AT Center apart? Jamie and Frank spend a significant amount of time working on curriculum to best serve all the Kildonan students. Their program has now been expanded into the Kildonan Middle School, teaching our 7th and 8th grade students how to use technology to aid them in their classwork and homework. All Kildonan students now use ipads to research, write reports, and put together presentations. By teaching our younger students how to utilize technology to compensate for their language differences, they are better prepared to succeed at the high school level. High school students receive 1:1 tutoring in technology and a plan tailored to their individual learning needs. Implementing technology isn’t merely a tool to help our dyslexic students “survive” in the academic world, but an evolving and ever changing learning method that students can adapt to help them achieve success. Kildonan’s AT Center collaborates with other dyslexia groups and resources, placing us at the forefront of an exciting era in the education of dyslexic students. These groups and organizations seek out Kildonan to learn what assistive technology works best, and how to incorporate it with the importance of Orton Gillingham language training. Jamie agrees that technology can support “ear” reading, but all dyslexics still need and desire the ability to “eye” read. Brock L. Eide and Fernette F. Eide, authors of “The Dyslexic Advantage”; author and dyslexic advocate Ben Foss; and Peggy Stern, founder of—all stress the importance of technology tools for dyslexics. Jamie and Frank have successfully integrated assistive technology into our strong language training and tutoring to give Kildonan students every advantage available. If you haven’t already visited the AT Center on campus, please stop in.


ben foss visits kildonan On Tuesday, November 4th — election day and the eve of the Annual IDA Conference — Ben Foss, honorary alum, bestselling author, and inventor of the Intel Reader visited Kildonan to share insights from his book, The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan. Within minutes of jumping up on the stage, Mr. Foss had captured the attention of those in the room, including parents, prospective families, psychologists, educators, and of course, students, who could see a little bit of themselves in the author. Ben’s lecture covered a range of topics, including his own story, which starts similarly to many of our students — with frustration, trouble in school, embarrassment, and the need for lots of help from his parents and teachers. His story then progresses to business and law degrees from Stanford University and a role as the Director of Access Technology at Intel. He emphasized the importance of getting the help that you need and taking advantage of technology. While the world may be tailored to “eye readers,” there are ways that “ear readers” (who use text to speech and speech to text) can make the world more accessible. He encouraged all the dyslexics in the audience to embrace their dyslexia and turn the world upside down — to look at the educational goals in a completely different way that empowers the student and doesn’t see the student as “disabled.” He introduced a whole new vocabulary: to identify not diagnose, to train not remediate, to integrate not overcome, and to “eye or finger-read” not read, just to name a few. He also shared how reframing his dyslexia as a strength helped him become more resilient, emotionally stable, proactive, and self-aware – traits that are important as we get older and feel more empowered. To view Ben Foss’ video, email Maureen Rule at

gordon sherman Discusses Cerebrodiversity On a very cold, rainy, foggy Tuesday night in January, Gordon Sherman, neuroscientist, Founder of the Newgrange School, and Harvard faculty member, battled the elements to present his topic “Welcome to the Future Where Dyslexic Brains Thrive.” In his visually colorful, humorous talk, Dr. Sherman explained the term “cerebrodiversity,” which he coined to explain the differences all humans have in our brain development and design. Our individual cerebral blueprints allow us to process information differently — which is a good thing, allowing for unique talents and advantages. (For his presentation he was glad he was asked to give a speech — something he is quite capable of — for if we asked him to dance then a disability may have appeared.) Dr. Sherman further explained how our brains are plastic — neuroplasticity is the official term — meaning further good news that our brains continue to learn and adapt to our environments. Its this ability to adapt that gives humans our distinct advantages and also leads to learning differences. This is why direct, multi-sensory instruction is key for dyslexics, full of instruction in phonology, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, hand-writing and written expression. Classrooms need to be full of movement, color, creativity and technology that stimulates the brain. Technology has a huge impact on learning differences — Dr. Sherman quips that before the printing press, dyslexics were happy! But technology development is changing the world for dyslexics, reducing the ‘disability’ aspect and Dr. Sherman sees that as a very bright future.



college acceptances 100% College Acceptance Rate Since 2005—100% of Kildonan’s seniors have been accepted to college. Here are some of the great schools attended by our alumni: Adelphi University Alfred University American University Cazenovia College Cooper Union CW Post Dowling College Eastern Conn State College Evergreen State College Green Mountain College Ithaca College Johnson and Wales Miami Kettering University La Salle University Maine College of Art Marymount Manhattan College McDaniel College Mitchell College Mount Saint Mary College Muhlenberg College New England College Parsons New School for Design Quest University Rhode Island School of Design Ringling College of Art and Design Roger Williams University Savannah College of Art and Design Skidmore College Southern Vermont College SUNY—Delhi, Morrisville, Oneonta, Alfred State, Canton, Cobleskill Towson University Univ of CO at Colorado Springs Univ of MA at Dartmouth University of the Arts—London Washington State University Western New England College


music at kildonan: includes a top dog and a doctor rocker

The music program at Kildonan has sky rocketed over the past two years. Its humble beginnings started with just a few students learning violin and guitar; it now boasts 20 students actively learning during their academic day and another dozen volunteering their free time to participate in the evenings. The department is led by Dan Ball, who teaches guitar, conducts numerous all-school performances, and coordinates the lounge and coffeehouse jam sessions. Dan is supported by Pete Scholes, who teaches guitar, and Michael Klvana, who teaches the basics of sound recording. We have to brag and mention that Michael recently won the 2014 “Top Dog” award for the best keyboard/electronics tech, while touring with the Rolling Stones. With these three at the helm of the program, our students are not only learning instruments, they are composing, recording, and working across grades to create sound effects and soundscapes for school performances. See their accomplishments during Parent’s Weekend and the Art and Science Fair performances by visiting: The Art & Science Expo at Parent’s Day at Stephen Harris, former bass guitarist of Guns and Roses, visited us to share his personal story of his dyslexia. After leaving school Stephen joined various bands and enjoyed a rock star career, but later realized medicine was his calling. He is now in the process of earning his medical degree, but that didn’t stop him from jamming with the students and our music faculty.

Students perform once a month in the Goldman dorm “coffeehouse” — a place where students can stand up to musically express themselves because of the support and encouragement they receive from faculty and each other. Under the leadership of Sherry Dwyer, the elementary students gave a rousing performance of holiday songs for the residents at Sharon Health Care Center. The students then went on to perform two spirituals, Go Down Moses and Hold On, at the Science and Art Fair. In addition to learning and performing songs that enrich their understanding of topics they are studying in social studies, the students are busy designing and constructing their own Tubano drums that they will be using in group drumming activities.  The drumming activities are exciting and are designed to strengthen motor planning and sequencing skills, to exercise visual and auditory pathways, and teach collaboration.  Music at Kildonan is hitting a crescendo and we can’t wait to hear new voices, combinations and instruments as the ear progresses.

College Scholarships 2013/14 graduates have all ready won over $375,000 in scholarships to college!

better sound Sound baffling does not baffle 11th grade student Trey Sauers. Trey chose to create a better sound environment on campus for his Independent Project. Trey researched the best solution for acoustic improvement, measured the spaces and then even installed them. By strategically placing these sound squares in the Assistive Technology Lab, echoes or sound bounce-back, has been greatly reduced.

Thanks Trey for choosing an interesting but practical aspect of audio to study! Following is an interview with Trey on his Kildonan experience.


kildonan profiles

TKS: Thanks Alton and good luck to you. Keep us posted.

Alton Sioussat ’13 attended Kildonan as an elementary student from 2002-2006. Alton is now a freshman at Colby College. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation. TKS: Alton, how are you enjoying Colby? Did you feel prepared when you got there? AS: Colby is a really good fit and I love it there. It helped that I went to boarding school—it made the transition easy. TKS: Can you share a little with us about your Kildonan experience? AS: Kildonan is a great place. It taught me not just how to overcome my dyslexia but how to embrace it and use it to my advantage. My reading improved, I gained self-confidence, and I learned how to advocate for myself. Now that I am older, I see that reading is important but that I can use technology to help me. When I get beyond that and use technology, I am able to think at a higher level—about the work not about my spelling. I still hit roadblocks occasionally but I have the confidence and skill to advocate for myself now.


TKS: What is the greatest thing you took away from Kildonan? AS: That would definitely be the relationships—relationships with other students and teachers. I still keep in close contact with Sandy (Charlap) who tutored me for two years. When I started at Colby, I had trouble getting a language

you are in, if you have the opportunity to go to Kildonan — go. A year or two at Kildonan building your confidence is time well spent.

“Normal is a setting on a washing machine.” —Trey came to Kildonan 2 years ago and he shared his opinion on his experience so far:

waiver. Sandy and Francie Borden helped me write a statement to the Board and wrote a letter on my behalf. I am happy to say that it worked. I also had an issue this fall with using text to speech with the pdf’s I was getting in class. I went back to Kildonan and Jamie Martin, Head of the AT Lab, showed me some additional tools — especially on my ipad, that I didn’t know how to use. I am all set now. It is a relief to still be able to reach out to everyone at Kildonan. TKS: Alton, what advice would you give to the students at Kildonan today? AS: Embrace your dyslexia. It is okay to admit you have dyslexia and to find the good in it. It is also fine to let others know about it. Try to think of it as a positive — not something that will hold you back. Also, it gets a lot better and easier to deal with as you get older. TKS: What advice would you give to a student who is considering attending Kildonan? AS: It doesn’t matter what grade

The Kildonan School (TKS): How have you enjoyed being at Kildonan? Trey: Making the decision to leave my family and friends and move 12 hours away was a hard decision for me. I have always known in my heart I could be successful in school, if given a chance. After a visit to The Kildonan School it was an easy decision for me. They knew how I learned and they knew how to teach me. Yes, I have to work hard — but I have to work hard at finding the answer where in traditional school I worked just as hard trying to figure out the question. Having all of my classroom information and resources in an audible form allows me independence. Now I spend my time searching for answers and I don’t mind that at all. TKS: What has been the highlight of your “Kildonan education” so far? Trey: Reading and understanding the Steve Jobs book (Steve Jobs). And playing the theme of Phantom of the Opera (on the drums) with my chemistry teacher (playing keyboard) to a packed house and receiving a standing ovation.

Designing a career iN architecture By Ari Goldstein, Senior

TKS: How have you grown since being at Kildonan? Trey: I guess my true reward has come in my own self confidence and self-esteem. I don’t feel dumb anymore. I have had to become independent. I have learned how to manage time, do laundry, tell people what I need to be successful. Yes, it is different, but it is where I love to call home. I love Kildonan, New York, traveling, and being independent. I love knowing that I am not limited by what I can actually decode any longer. I can read better than ever but I no longer am afraid of running into an impossible situation. Using technology and my increased reading skills, I can conquer anything. TKS: How do you think Kildonan has had an impact on you? Trey: Without a doubt, The Kildonan School saved my life. It gave me hope. They helped me see that learning differently is a good thing. Besides “normal is a setting on a washing machine,” and I never want to fit in someone’s mold! I am uniquely and wonderfully made!


During Parents’ Weekend, I had the opportunity to speak with Scott Butler (Kildonan ’86) who is in the Architecture/Construction business in Houston, Texas. Scott told me about his company, Butler Brothers, and the three companies within his architecture, construction, and real estate firm. We talked about my future and where I see myself in five to seven years. He talked about his struggles in school and how he developed strategies to get through school. Scott also talked about his previous jobs and internships working at architecture firms of all sizes. Scott told me how he climbed up the corporate ladder to become the CEO and main architect in charge of his firm alongside his brother, Bo. Scott’s brother had similar learning difficulties and had experience with numerous architects in Construction/Realtor/Architecture firms during his seven years of professional experience. At this time they are one of the most highly regarded firms in the greater Houston area and in the world; they build fabulous buildings that are eco-friendly, have an old Spanish look to them, and include modern amenities. We talked about the field and what type of courses I should take in college. Scott told me to take the most essential classes, which include hand drawing blueprints/drafting, engineering, and a practical math course, since that is all you use in this field. I talked about the current class that I am taking, Material Science Architecture and Design, that involves architecture and building. I also told him about the different programs we use to construct a rough layout of a project to demonstrate what it would look like if fully built, like AutoDesk 2013, AutoDesk Homestyler, and Google Sketch-Up. Scott recommended that I start at a big firm to get a better feel of what they do with bigger client plans; bigger firms also have more opportunities. After a few years, I can move into a smaller firm that can provide the opportunity to specialize in a particular part of the field or program. Lastly, Scott reassured me that this is a very demanding job, but since I have perseverance and knowledge in this field, he knows I will succeed and become a great architect in an up and coming green building firm. It was my pleasure to speak with Scott and learn more about the field. Note from the Editor: Kildonan is pleased to provide opportunities to current students to meet people in the fields they are interested in pursuing. We welcome all alumni, parents, and past parents to share what they are doing with us so that we can continue to provide this great service. Email for more information.

Visual Arts Probes the “unKnown” The Visual Learning and Art Center at The Kildonan School has created an art program like no other, challenging students to surrender to the “unknown” nature of creating and learning through art, which for many dyslexic students, is at the heart of how they learn best. Pulitzer Prize winning author Donald Barthelme said, “The not-knowing is crucial to art, is what permits art to be made. Without the scanning process engendered by not-knowing, without the possibility of having the mind move in unanticipated directions, there would be no invention.”

Kildonan’s Visual Arts program builds on this single truth, teaching students to seek and discover their own unique language of art through a process that builds, layering more complexity to their art through studio classes in drawing, 3-D design and installation, film and digital


photography, multi-media, robotics and iOS programming. Kildonan students are given a strong foundation through an array of classes designed to teach them how to create without knowing or having expectations as to what the outcome will be. Students are asked to “see” through their exploration of art which teaches them perseverance, problem solving and how to work through their struggles to find unanticipated answers. Co-director Sandra Charlap believes art is a “language you can learn” and begins work with her students at the most introductory level, starting out with just paper, charcoal, and black and white paint. Some students come into the program and discover there is an artist living inside them. Others gain an appreciation for art that instills a new confidence in their ability to create their own unique path, not only in art, but in the world. No one leaves the program unchanged. Sandra, along with her co-director Michelle Sorrentino, are deeply committed to each student’s individual growth, allowing for art to take their students in completely different directions and yield very different outcomes. The Kildonan Visual Arts Center has shown impressive results so far, with students producing college-level artwork and portfolios that have gained them admission to Cooper Union, Chelsea School of Art, London, Maine College of Art, Parsons and

Pratt’s Fine Arts Program, to name a few. Admissions Directors’ and Committees marvel at the deep knowledge and abilities of Kildonan Art students. The faculty, which also includes Christine Maraia, Jeffrey Stark and Todd Titone, work cohesively to guide their students through the many different avenues through which art flows.

Independent project Learning through Discovery

The Independent Project at The Kildonan School (IP) is a self-directed program of study that encourages learning through inquiry and self-discovery. Students choose a topic that they want to explore and then engage on a research process that leads to a thesis-like presentation in the end when students share their insights with their teachers, peers, and the community. The IP program is open to students in grades 10 through 12, where students would forego formal English, History and Science classes to work on their IP. However, students are not omitting these subjects from their curriculum — rather, they are incorporating those studies into their examination of their IP topic, drawing from these subject areas in pursuit of their research and study. Dyslexics learn best from “hands on” learning; from exploring, questioning, thinking outside the box. IP offers students a holistic approach to education, which has given students the gift of discovering “how they learn.” That discovery is an important piece of IP. Students actually become more “academic” through the process, gaining higher executive functioning skills, organization, structure and creativity. Being free of a typical classroom environment gives Kildonan’s IP students the time to grow their ideas. In its second year, the IP program has doubled in size, with students studying topics such as music, education, and sound. There are ten students in this year’s IP program. One student is currently writing a book about equine behavior. IP Faculty Advisor Sandra Charlap characterizes IP as the “ultimate tutorial” in that this type of curriculum allows the freedom to adjust to each student’s experience and abilities. Michelle Sorrentino, IP Faculty Advisor, noted that it “helps students become more aware of how they learn” as they embark on their research and investigation. Along with Sandra and Michelle, Francie Borden, Christine Maraia, and Frank Sorrentino, guide students as IP Faculty Advisors. IP Faculty Advisors work with students to help them fine tune and flesh out their topic, and have found their students’ commitment to their work to be outstanding. Suddenly learning is more fun! All the current IP students reported that they worked on their IP projects over the winter break, voluntarily! Because they are invested in their topic, their search for information and further knowledge is inexhaustible. The advisors also spoke with college admissions directors who praised the IP concept, noting it was exactly the type of curriculum that prepares high school students for success in college.


SCIENCE sidebar FAIR story PROJECTS The 8th grade Introduction to Physical Science class prepared diligently for this year’s Science Fair and Art Expo. Completion of the science fair project is an independent endeavor that requires students to sustain effort on a single topic for an extended period of time. They must design, conduct and report on an experiment, and manage their time effectively.   Experimental research is conducted in class so they can have support throughout the inquiry process.  Student projects this year ran the gamut of topics within the physical sciences from potato clocks to solar cooking to conductive dough. Students spent a significant portion of the fall term learning about the scientific method as preparation for their own inquiry for the Fair. These creative projects amazed parents, staff and their fellow students during the Fair, allowing us all to walk away with some new knowledge and understanding of science. 

on the move upper school team building As students move into the Upper School, field trips introduced in the elementary program remain an important part of the curriculum. During the fall, just as the students are settling into the new school year, each high school grade embarks on a class trip that gives them an opportunity to reconnect after the summer and welcome new students into the community. Traditionally, the seniors head off to New Hampshire where they climb Mt. Washington. The sophomores spend a day and a half enjoying an adventurous white water rafting trip. The juniors head to Hammonasset State Park in Madison, Connecticut for an overnight camping trip. The freshmen will spend a weekend ziplining in the spring. All these trips provide upper school students with an opportunity to bond with their classmates and create the tight-knit bonds that are the Kildonan community.

During the final week of the winter term, the Upper School travels to Rutland, Vermont for four days of skiing and riding at Killington Mountain. The trip is a favorite among Kildonan students who return from the experience feeling a strong sense of kinship and accomplishment.


Middle School Welcomes New Students The Kildonan Middle School often sees new students coming into the program mid-year, as parents find that their child’s current educational environment is failing them and they seek one that caters to their child’s individual needs. It is often daunting for students to enter a program that is already underway, especially when they may have experienced a rough start to their school year elsewhere.

“Kildonan is perfect because they specialize in dyslexics and that’s what I am,” states Ben. When asked what was the best thing about being at Kildonan was, he responded with little hesitation — “They understand me.”

Fortunately, this is not the case in the Kildonan Middle School. Current students look forward to new arrivals throughout the year and welcome them wholeheartedly into their classes. Nine new 7th and 8th grade students have joined our middle school since September and have easily transitioned into our program.

Our middle school program has its own building and space designed specifically for 7th and 8th graders. The curriculum features challenging, projectbased, hands-on, multi-sensory learning that prepares our students for the academic demands of the high school program. Middle school students spend their transitional years in a safe environment in which they can develop their skills, experience new ideas and social relationships, and discover their strengths.

One new student is Ben, who came to Kildonan from the Lake George region of New York. Ben chose Kildonan for its stellar teaching methods and assistive technology, but he has also quickly adapted to residential life at Kildonan and is making plenty of friends with both boarders and day students.


Ben enjoys skateboarding, snowboarding, biking, playing Minecraft, and hanging out with friends.

the chair project The Middle School Chair Project was the result of a brainstorming session for engaging students in an inquiry of self-expression. The decision of the middle school team was to have students refurbish chairs that they would then use during their time at Kildonan. Each day the students sit together for morning meeting and these chairs will replace the current seating when they are done designing and decorating them. When the students leave Middle School, they will take their chair — and their expression of who they were while at the Kildonan Middle School — with them. The project has many layers, including a peer review process. Students shared their design concepts with the group and received constructive feedback from each other. The students sanded, primed and decorated their chairs using paint, pictures, fishing rod holders, cushions, bicycle tires and even horse shoes. Jeff Stark, Todd Titone, and Marcie Wistar supervised the process, noting it was exciting for them to watch the students work with their hands and see the possibilities in the chair as a canvas for their ideas.

annual fund Dyslexic people learn differently. Traditional schools, unfortunately, tend not to embrace the sensory driven teaching styles that help dyslexic students thrive. The Kildonan School strives to give the opportunity of such specialized education to as many students as we can. Your gift to the Annual Fund helps make that possible. This year, the Annual Fund is incentivized. The Board of Trustees is imparting a Challenge in which gifts to the Annual Fund will be matched 3 to 1 for every dollar given by March 30. Now is the best time to give to Kildonan to demonstrate your support for a school educating dyslexics the way they need to be taught. Your donation will triple in value just by giving now. This year we are also holding a competition between school segments for reaching 100% participation. Elementary school, middle school, 9/10 grades and 11/12 grades are teamed up in hopes that each student’s family make a donation. Whether it’s $25 or $2,000, every gift counts. Whichever segment reaches 100% participation first will receive a prize. Please visit our website or email to make a tax deductible gift. Thank you for your participation! Your gift of any size supports our effort to help dyslexic children to learn.


parents weekend Our October Parents’ Weekend was filled with activities encompassing all aspects of Kildonan community life. We started with something new – parents attended school for half a day to experience each class in shortened duration, including one-on-one tutoring. This was the perfect lead-in to parent/teacher conferences, which were held late Friday afternoon. But no rest for the weary! Our Fall Ball followed, held in our revamped Schoolhouse Theater. Parents, faculty and staff had the opportunity to socialize and shop at our silent auction. Our array of silent auction items ranged from a guided hike up Lions Head, to a dog basket fit for any pampered pooch, to an exclusive cooking class with our own Mr. O (while he did hand out his famous Mr. O cookies, no, he did not share the recipe; nor will he share it with Winston — the lucky winner of the cooking class). Everyone had to get into the fun by helping serve dinner family style! The night was highlighted with a live auction of desirable items including a stay at the 5 star luxury St. Marks Hotel in New York City. Saturday held another active day including a musical performance by students and faculty, class presentations, a varsity soccer game, an equestrian exhibition and an alumni panel. Our alumni panel consisted of three experts in the field of architecture, property and construction. Stephen Forneris ‘ 83 AIA is an associate principal at Perkins Eastman, an international architecture and design firm, with practices in both Ecuador and New York. Jonathan Litt ‘83 is the Founder and CIO of Land and Buildings, an investment firm specializing in publicly traded real estate and related securities based in Greenwich, CT. Scott Butler ‘91 is the other half of Butler Brothers Design, also in Houston, TX . (See interview on page 7.) These three distinguished alums spoke openly on their feelings and experiences of being a dyslexic learner before and after their time at Kildonan. All expressed appreciation of the reading skills, self esteem and self advocacy that Kildonan helped them achieve. We are so grateful to our alums for generously giving their time to inspire current students and families, a truly invaluable gift.

sports update The girls varsity basketball team is on the young side this winter, comprised of one sixth-grader, one seventh-grader, three eighth-graders, three tenth-graders, and one senior. That senior, Sophie, is our team captain and has led this team through a challenging season. The best part of working with this team is their positive attitude and the sheer fun they have practicing and playing in games.  Anyone who witnessed this team from the sidelines would give them high scores for team spirit. The Middle School basketball team has enjoyed an outstanding season. We have practiced basketball fundamentals and had a number of hard fought scrimmages during practice. In addition, we have played a number of exciting games against nearby schools. The team has shown enthusiasm and determination throughout the season. The 25th Kildonan Classic boys varsity basketball tournament was won by Hudson Valley, who played fundamentally-sound basketball and triumphed over two-time defending champion, Oakwood Friends, 55-51.  Waldorf edged out Eagle Hill for third place 75-72, and Woodhall outlasted Kildonan 52-46 for fifth place.  The games were exciting to watch, and the atmosphere of students and family from the other schools made for a fantastic tournament. 

21St century growing green entrepreneurs There’s something exciting developing in the Upper School. Christine Maraia’s Business Math and Entrepreneurship class recently held a community learning experience. They invited Becky Thornton, President of the Dutchess Land Conservancy (DLC) to lecture on the value of preserving open land as a natural and cultural resource. The class produced the event in partnership with FreshStart Brands and President Adam Reznikoff. Ms. Thornton gave an in-depth presentation and discussion entitled: “Why Should We Protect our Land? A Land Conservation Story for the Kildonan School.” The Business Math for Entrepreneurs class is not just any class. It’s a business! They have a mission, purpose, cause, and ultimately a voice. They are learning what it truly means to be a mission driven business, aptly named Good Vibes Project.  While the students are developing business, math, marketing, and entrepreneurship skills, they are also learning to employ responsible business practices.  They have chosen the DLC as their personal cause — largely as a result of appreciating the beauty of the Kildonan campus — and in the process of learning, they are raising awareness and funds for this organization. “We are learning, growing and building as we go,” Ms. Maraia said, “and Good Vibes Project is facilitating a closer relationship between Kildonan and the greater community.” Christine Maraia and her Business Math class are an example of a learning team: a collaborative group that is working and learning together to accomplish meaningful goals that benefit the local community.  This class, and its whole-school presentation represent 21st century learning at its best: multi-disciplinary, student-driven learning that solves problems and makes a difference in the world.  We are all proud of this dynamic learning community and look forward to seeing their green spirit changing the world.


A Note From the Stables Baby, It’s Cold Outside! I know many of you drive by and think “those poor horses must be cold.” Well, actually horses prefer to be out and about, and are safely outside at temperatures of 15 degrees and above. This year, though, the Stable team worked very hard to prepare the stables for those few times in the winter season when it is dangerously cold (like the first week in January – brrrr). Many of our horses do have new blankets and there are enough stalls this year to have everyone sleep in if necessary! The riding program is a key component of the Kildonan program, especially for elementary students. Research shows that balance sports like riding stimulate connections between the right and left hemispheres of the brain, which is especially important for dyslexics to enhance their language skills. During the coldest days the horses were let out for a shortened amount of time and the Maintenance team cleared the paths so the elementary students could walk to and from the stables and not miss a beat. So 16 horses, 1 goat, a visiting donkey and miniature donkey, are all well. Stay Warm! Claudia, Renee, and Jenna


Elementary learning outside the classroom A hallmark of the elementary program is the integration of field trips into the curriculum. The trips our students take invariably tap into the beautiful and historically relevant area in which our school is located. This fall, the students took a number of trips, including one to Lion’s Head for a hike up the 1,738 foot high trail in Salisbury, Connecticut; Sunnyside, the home of Washington Irving in Irvington, New York, where they saw a puppet show and had a tour of the house; one to a ropes course specially designed for our sixth graders to connect them as a team of learners; one to McEnroe’s Farm where the 4th graders take weekly trips to see how the gardens grow; and one to Sharon Health Center where the elementary students gave a choral performance. Each trip provides an opportunity not only to venture outside of our campus and learn more about our area, but also to strengthen the bonds among students, as well as between students and their teachers. One of the most engaging activities of the year was a series of two field trips to the Sharon Audubon Center to pursue the environmental themes central to “Hoot” by Carl Hiaasen, which the fifth graders read in their literature class.  The programs enabled the students to make connections to science by introducing concepts about complex food webs and about producers and consumers in ecosystems.  The class also dissected owl pellets after observing and learning about birds of prey.

The fourth grade students joined the fifth grade class at the Audubon Center, as they have been learning about the classification of everything on earth. While there, they studied vertebrates and invertebrates and looked at the animals under each heading.  They learned to observe animals in their own surroundings and in the classroom and to use tools to observe them more closely, identifying characteristics of each.  The fourth grade students also made another connection with their visit to the Audubon as they are reading “Owls Journey” by Maura D. Shaw, in their History class.

contributors We would like to express our sincere gratitude to parent Karen Grazia for editing and producing this newsletter! Thank you to all of our writers, contributors, and photographers:

Harvest feast giving thanks

Each year in elementary we gather together to celebrate and offer thanks in the form of our Harvest Feast. Lunch items of turkey and all the fixings are provided by the parents and served to faculty and special guests by the 6th grade class. A Native American poem is read to all to remind us of the roots of this American celebration.


Dan Ball Sandra Charlap Susie Danziger Sherry Dwyer Jessica Eckert Karen Grazia Kevin Irish Christine Maraia Jamie Martin April Pendergast Claudia Rinaldi Maureen Rule Yvonne Schutz Michelle Sorentino Mary Taft Marci Wistar Blake Wynot And thank you to all the students, parents, faculty and staff, who create the dedication and passion of the Kildonan spirit; we are indebted to you for all that you contribute to the community.

Discussions on dyslexia At Kildonan we have embarked on a Lecture Series for our community and beyond. Not only have renowned experts like Ben Foss and Gordon Sherman visited, but we offer informative, practical workshops to give parents necessary tools to navigate effectively in the learning difference world. Our most recent Lecture Series event occurred during Parent’s Weekend 2013 with two special education attorneys — Barbara Ebenstein, Esq. (NY) and Jennifer Laviano (CT) — speaking to us on the ins and outs of “sped law” and sharing some important tips and ideas. Most found the presentation very insightful and said they gained a much better understanding of the challenges families face when they are in mediation or litigation with their school district. Our next Lecture Series event will be in March right after our Camp Dunnabeck Open House. We will be hosting a Dyslexia Awareness seminar with our Orton Gillingham Fellows. The purpose of this seminar is to educate parents, teachers, and administrators on the signs of a learning difference, the importance of testing, and the role of appropriate academic accommodations. On April 18, we will be holding free reading screenings for children ages 5 to 8 in our area by our Orton Gillingham tutors. April also brings another Lecture Series event, Interpreting Psych Ed Testing with Marian Rissenberg, Ph.D. — a neuropsychologist expert in differential diagnosis and treatment of neurodevelopmental conditions. Dr. Rissenberg will help guide parents in the reading of a neuro-psych evaluation in terms of what to expect and what is important to understand. UPCOMING EVENTS 2/22 Navigating Dyslexia: The Legal Route 2/24 - 2/28 Upper School Ski Week at Killington 2/27 6th Grade Performance: “Ubu” 3/3 3/4 3/10 – 3/24 3/29

Upper School Independent Project Week Upper School Informational Tour Spring Break Camp Dunnabeck Open House Tour 10 a.m. Discussions on Dyslexia: Dyslexia Awareness - 12 noon

4/8 4/9 4/14 - 4/17 4/22

Upper School Informational Tour Elementary Informational Tour Earthweek with Rex Brasher Art Exhibit Discussions on Dyslexia: Interpreting Psych Ed Testing

5/13 Upper School Informational Tour 5/17 Founder’s Day/ Screening of and panel discussion of “The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia”


Camp Dunnabeck: June 27 - August 8 For more information on upcoming activities and events, be sure to check our online School Calendar or sign up for recent News and Sports Alerts on our website at and click on Calendar.

The Kildonan School 425 Morse Hill Road Amenia, NY 12501 845-373-8111

The Kildonan School Winter 2014 Newsletter  

Empowering students with dyslexia and language-based learning differences since 1969.