Page 1

Fall 2018

From the Heart Mount Pleasant — The Heart of Westchester County

Volume 18, Issue 1

A New Look for Columbus

Bond Work Completed as of Fall 2018:

Bond funded work in full swing over summer School may have been closed, but Columbus was a buzz of activity over the summer months. As part of the continuing bond-funded facilities upgrade, work on the elementary school began in earnest as soon as the students said goodbye. The bulk of the work completed this summer occurred outside the school. One of the goals of the construction was to reconfigure the driveways and parking areas to make the morning drop-off safer for students. Buses and cars now have distinct routes with buses dropping off directly in front of the school and cars proceeding to the new drop off circle on the side of the building. Principal Michael Cunzio has been very pleased with the change, “The new drop off area has really been tremendous. The best thing is the separation of the cars and buses because it was always a problem with cars getting stuck in between the buses and trying to let kids out. Another benefit of the drop off

The Mount Pleasant Central School District Newsletter

area is that we’ve created a whole new black top area that students can use during recess.” Other upgrades to the Columbus campus include the addition of a retaining wall, which allowed the parking lot to be expanded to add 64 new spaces, improved sidewalks, and an upgraded athletic field. In addition to the sitework, building work included installing rooftop exhaust fans which helps reduce energy costs by circulating air and preventing heat and moisture buildup in the building. The HVAC controls were upgraded and air conditioning was installed in the library - a much appreciated addition in the very warm days of September. Interior work (ceilings, doors, windows, lighting, and bathrooms) will continue throughout the year when school is not in session.

Westlake High School: Auditorium Roof Replaced Floors abated and replaced in 41 rooms Westlake Middle School:   Entire Roof Replaced Columbus Elementary: Sitework: Road Reconfiguration Parking Reconfiguration Drop-off Circle added Retaining wall Sidewalks Athletic Fields Mechanical Upgrades: Rooftop Exhaust Fans HVAC Controls Library AC

Construction Timeline

Work will continue over the next several years with the bulk of the construction occurring during the summer. Throughout the school year, work will occur after school hours, on weekends and holidays. Budget Funded Construction

Bond Funded Construction $39.6m Bond Approved

• WHS Auditorium Roof • WMS Roof

• WHS Floors • CES Sitework


Summer 2017

• WHS/ WMS Elevator • CES: Roof, Boiler, Univents • HES: Cupola, Facade, Masonry

Summer 2018

• WHS Mechanical Upgrades • WMS Mechanical Upgrades • CES Interior Work Continues

Columbus Elementary School’s new front entrance (above) and drop off circle (below).

• WHS Upgrades to Begin • WMS Upgrades to Begin


• WHS Sitework to Begin • HES Upgrades to Begin




• WHS Track Resurfacing • WHS Theater Rigging

From the Heart • Fall 2018

Taking the Helm:

MPCSD welcomes new Superintendent and Interim Director of Curriculum Mount Pleasant welcomes two new leaders to the district for the 2018-19 school year. Dr. Kurtis Kotes stepped into the role of Superintendent of Schools in July 2018. After spending the summer months getting to know the district, he made a recommendation to hire an Interim Director of Curriculum to fill the vacancy left last year. The Board approved David Bernsley at the September 26th meeting. Mr. Bernsley has served as high school principal for Walkill High School and Monroe Woodbury High School. He has also served as principal of the alternative education program for the Monroe Woodbury Central School District. Dr. Kotes and Mr. Bernsley both bring a strong background in school leadership, curriculum and instruction, and community relations. They both agreed to take time from their busy schedule to answer a few questions. FTH: What attracted you to Mount Pleasant? Dr. Kurtis Kotes (KK): This is the fourth district in which I’ve had the honor to serve and each district that I have come to has been a little bit smaller. When you c o m e to a district like Mount Pleasant, you have the

opportunity to have those relationships with the students. You become an educator because you enjoy those interactions with children. It’s a wonderful community. It doesn’t take long to realize how welcoming and interactive this community is.

get our hands involved in things without micro-managing. We are both from the philosophy of allowing people to do their jobs and being there to support them. I believe in the “Servant-Leadership” model of supporting and serving the staff. I know Kurtis and I share the same philosophy.

David Bernsley (DB): I too have been at large districts, so coming here, I appreciate working at a smaller district. I’m going to each building, meeting and interacting with the staff and students and getting to know them by name. The district as a whole has the sophistication of wanting the best for their children and understanding the 21st century needs, but also has the small town roots that really attracted me. You don’t find many districts like that anymore.

FTH: What do you see as challenges in the district?

FTH: What is your history with each other? KK: On the professional level, we dealt with similar issues as principals in neighboring schools [Goshen and Monroe]. That led to many other dialogs and the opportunity to work together on various county-level initiatives. DB: I thought working with Kurtis would be an exceptional opportunity for me. We’ve known each other approximately 10 years and he’s always had a stellar reputation. We have enjoyed working together professionally. FTH: What is your leadership philosophy? KK: You have to shift your human capital to where you believe they will be the most effective in the district. And that means making the human connections and continuing a dialog with the staff, including the support staff that do the work behind the scenes.


DB: There’s a lot to be said about this district and how we can

KK: When you come to a district like this, that is high performing and high functioning, it’s a luxury to take [business leader] Jim Collins’ approach and say “How do we take good to great?” Having those conversations allows us ask how can we refine our craft and add to what we already do well to continue to make this a desirable place to live? The other end of that is the fiscal equity and fiscal sustainability piece. It’s great to say we are going to add programs and opportunity, but what gets sacrificed and at what cost? That balancing act is something that every school leader around the country is facing right now. It takes a lot of planning, insight and creativity to make sure that if you add something new now, that far into the future you will be able to sustain it. DB: Money is important for certain programs and professional development, but we can do a lot of things in house because we have so many talented people. I’m excited to partner with and support them throughout the school year. FTH: Can you share a little about the personal side? KK: I am a big Miami Dolphins fan (and still have my Dan Marino poster from childhood). My dad played football for the University of Georgia, but broadened the horizons for us into other sports. I was on the rowing team in high school and at the University of Albany. My brother played professional baseball for the Toronto Blue Jays. My wife is an LPGA Class A teaching and club pro. We have one son who is going for his black belt in taekwondo and another who competes as a successful golfer. DB: I played professional basketball in Israel while my wife was teaching at the American International School before deciding to pursue a degree in education. We have five children and I enjoy coaching all their youth sports on the weekends.

Kurtis Kotes Ed. D. Superintendent

It’s hard to believe that the calendar is reminding us that it is already the month of October. The first few weeks of school are exciting, fast paced and filled with hope and aspiration of many successes for the year. The opening of the 2018/2019 academic school year proved to be no different! From the anticipation of the return of our instructional staff during the Superintendent’s Conference Days to the return of our students and all of the wonderful events that go with the new year, the Mount Pleasant Central School District is positioned for our students to achieve everything to which they work towards each and every day. My transition to the role of Superintendent of Schools continues to go very well. Every day, I get to know more students, families, staff members, and community members. I am so very impressed by the dedication and commitment of all stakeholders in ensuring that the students in the community have access to the most successful school system possible. Collaboratively, everyone stays focused on ways to continuously improve all of our programs. It is reassuring as an educational leader have the dedication of such a caring community to the school system. We can and will continue to work together in this mission. I want to welcome Mr. David Bernsley to the district as our Interim Director of Curriculum and Instructional Services. Mr. Bernsley has served as a principal and district administrator and his experience brings value to this position. He will help us work towards our academic goals for the school year while staying focused on our strategic plan as well. The district will work on a posting again for a permanent director as we move throughout the school year. We should be proud of all of our academic accomplishments including the summer STEAM Symposium, WMS accreditation as an International Baccalaureate World School, the continuation of our

Tenure Eligible

The following staff are eligible for tenure in the upcoming year. Comments on their eligibility are welcome and can be made on the district’s ‘Feedback Form’ at Tenure Date



Theresa Outhouse HES/CES

Asst. Principal


Andrew Lennon


Director of Business Administration

Gerald Banner


Special Education

Gayles Garson Joseph Harras Erin Sica Michelle Speisman


ELA Social Studies Music Science




From the Heart • Fall 2018

Looking forward to a year full of opportunity.

WHS Science Research Program, our commitment to social-emotional learning in our elementary schools intended to help students be better prepared to learn, and many other initiatives intended to help all Mount Pleasant students reach their full potential as learners. We also celebrate the success of all of our student athletes and the success that has been demonstrated during the fall season. We look forward to the musical performances that lie ahead and the Westlake Art Show. All of these opportunities lend to a wonderfully rounded program that help all of our students to demonstrate their strengths and talents. I am so proud of all of our staff for their dedication to our students. I look forward to the rest of the school year and the opportunity to continue to meet and get to know more of our students and their families and the wonderful contributions that they make to our school community!

New faces in our schools and classrooms

Lauren Antonecchia

Jennifer Baltich

Lauren Balcer

WHS Guidance

HES Teaching Asst.

WMS Science

Jaclyn Gabriele

Jennifer Hartman

HES/CES Computers

WMS Special Ed

Bridget Boccio

Amanda D’Amico

Nancy Deneny

HES Grade 1

HES Special Ed

Lauren Laccetti

Heather Raniolo

Maureen ValVano

Keri Vaquero

WMS Science


CES Grade 5

CES Reading

CES/WHS Speech

Katie Frattarola WMS Special Ed

Jennifer Zefi HES Grade 1


From the Heart • Fall 2018

Continuing to build STEAM

The second annual STEAM Symposium

More than 50 middle and high school students attended the second annual STEAM Symposium at Westlake High School (above). Inset: Event co-coordinators Mary Knopp and Janet Matthews

The steamy August weather didn’t dampen spirits for the second annual STEAM Symposium held at Westlake High School on August 15-16, 2018. Nine months of planning culminated with two action packed days for students with an interest in the STEAM fields (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics). Professionals from across Westchester County were lined up to share their expertise with more than 50 attendees who ranged from grades 7 - 10. Event co-coordinators, Janet Matthews and Mary Knopp, along with the STEAM committee, worked hard to create an event that would inspire students to consider a career path in one of the STEAM disciplines. Ms. Knopp, the Westlake Library Media Specialist, explained that making “the connections between what they are learning in school and the real world by bringing in the professionals is really great for them.” A variety of subjects, from architecture and circuitry to 3D animation and artificial intelligence, were offered to fuel curiosity, inspiration, and wonder. The symposium is set up inspire possibilities for young students by exposing them to all the advantages of a STEAM education.

Creating new paths to graduation


Recognizing the need to prepare students for 21st century careers, Westlake High School is providing new pathways for those interested in pursuing an education in STEAM. With more than 40% of 2018 Westlake grads declaring a STEAM major in college, providing the building blocks to prepare them is more important than ever. With recent regulations establishing greater flexibility in graduation requirements, the approved pathways go a long way in addressing the diverse needs, talents and interests of our students. At Westlake, administration is focusing on two areas of STEAM: Technology and Engineering. While, there already exists pathways for those pursuing Science, Mathematics or the Arts, there

isn’t currently a logical multi-year sequence for students to follow in the other disciplines. Under the technology umbrella, the plan is to focus on offering sequential courses in Computer Science from middle school through high school. A newly offered course for 8th graders this year, Explorations in Coding & Design, introduces the basics of coding. While a similar class has been offered as an elective to 9th graders for several years, middle schoolers now have the ability to get acquainted with the material at a younger age allowing the opportunity for more in-depth learning as they progress through high school. The 9th grade class will evolve into a more advanced, second level class. To continue the momentum, an AP Principles of Computer Science course will be proposed in this year’s budget. This class will target kids in grades 1012, especially those who have had exposure in the previous two years. The long term goal is to add a more advanced course in computer programming for upperclassmen. Students who follow the sequential pathway will be well prepared to apply their knowledge in college and

professional settings. Similar pathways are being constructed for students interested in pursuing knowledge in Engineering. Building off what middle schoolers are being exposed to in their Technology and Design Education classes, 9th graders have the option of enrolling in 21st Century Art and Design, which balances the A and E in STEAM by combining aesthetics and utility in the design process. The next step will be to offer more advanced classes for those interested in following the Engineering pathway. Partnerships with outside organizations are currently being explored. WHS Principal Keith Schenker notes “There is a certain body of proficiency that we want all students who experience a STEAM pathway to have and there is a skill set that we want to develop in these kids. Our critical focus, whether we are looking at STEAM or any other standards, is the idea of building core competencies in kids. Core competency is the combination of skill, ability and knowledge and we are focusing on how we can really develop all three of these things in kids.” Providing multiple pathways and adapting curriculum to prepare students for the ever-changing future will benefit not only students graduating from Westlake, but also the companies that are looking to hire those individuals in the future.

Integrating Service Learning: WMS Hosts Community Service Fair Westlake Middle School is officially in its first year as an International Baccalaureate (IB) approved school. An IB education inspires young people to become lifelong learners. The program promotes character and moral development through a unique curriculum with high academic standards. It consistently challenges students to think critically and understand how their learning fits within a wider global context. The IB learner profile highlights 10 attributes. Students strive to become inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced and reflective. Acquiring these attributes can help individuals become responsible members of local, national and global communities. Teachers across disciplines, from math and science to art and physical education, plan collaboratively to focus on instilling these attributes in their students. To that end, in September, WMS hosted the first ever Community Service Fair. Volunteer organizations visited WMS to inspire students with ways to get involved. Representatives from the MP Police Department, MP Recreation Department, Valhalla Lions Club, American Legion, Valhalla Ambulance Corps, Honor Flight, SPCA and the Pleasantville Garden Club came to help the students foster ideas for their Community Leaders Project (CLP). The CLP requires every 8th grader to conduct a service project over the course of the year. WMS teacher and CLP Organizer, Claire Ianonne, noted that bringing in outside organizations broadens the kids’ definition of community and shows them there are many creative ways to make a contribution outside of school. Completing the CLP has many benefits to the students in addition to the obvious one of helping others. Students learn valuable skills engaging in practical explorations through a cycle of inquiry (What is the problem?), action (How can I address the problem?) and reflection (Did I make an impact?). These skills prepare them for continued success in school as well as the real world.

From the Heart • Fall 2018

IB in Action:

8th graders learn about service opportunities at the WMS Community Service Fair.

What Does IB do for WMS? Builds Students’ Character Encourages Learning by Questioning Connects Ideas Across Subjects Fosters Teacher Collaboration Embraces All Learners Integrates Service Learning Promotes a Common Language Cultivates a Growth Mindset Supports Real World Experience

Building Character Starts Young In an effort to develop and promote positive social and emotional learning and establish a kind and respectful community, elementary guidance counselor Connie Cutrone and school psychologists Ilana Cohen and Kristina Walraven are continuing the focus on the STARRS initiative that was introduced to elementary students last year. The STARRS program rewards students for positively contributing to a Responsible, Respectful, and Safe building-wide culture. In a back-to-school kickoff, students and teachers attended “workshops” to emphasize STARR behavior. The program helps children learn how to self regulate and how to relate to others. Unifying these ideas around common language helps reinforce positive behaviors in various settings. When all the adults in the building continually

use the same language, the students idea is that the entire school will be united are better able to understand what is in demonstrating how kindness, respect, expected of them. empathy and determination, among other In addition to promoting STARR character traits, build a solid foundation behavior, both Hawthorne and Columbus for learning and life. will have monthly spirit days highlighting a different character trait each month. These “Colored in Character” days will promote important character traits that students will be encouraged to adopt. By wearing a particular color on a given day, students and staff are taking a stand to recognize the importance of showing good character at all times. So far, the staff and students have dressed up in blue for respect and orange for responsibility. Going forward, they will wear purple for gratitude and green Mrs. Cutrone asks CES students to share ideas about how for fairness, among others. The they can be responsible.


From the Heart • Fall 2018

Much to be Grateful For

On behalf of the Board of Education, I would like to welcome the students, families and the staff back to the 2018-19 school year! By now you have attended back to school night, have met your children’s teachers and are settling into your fall schedule. I want to thank the Director of Facilities, Eric Strack, and the maintenance and custodial staff for all their hard work to get our schools looking so nice. Hopefully you have had a chance to meet our new Colleen Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Kurtis Kotes. With Scaglione-Neglia any luck, you have been able to witness what the BOE President board observed during our interview process and the sincere qualities his former colleagues expressed. I am confident that Mount Pleasant will be reaping the same benefits from having him in our school district. At a time when news and social media seems to be filled with controversy, I want everyone to take a moment and appreciate all those that make our community special. Be thankful for the teacher who takes the extra time to explain the material in a unique way that allows your student to understand the content to be successful. Or the administrators, guidance counselor, nurse, psychologist, teacher aide or staff member that take the time to be a friendly face a student can turn to. The volunteers, teachers and staff who give their time to put on an amazing Homecoming event that brings the entire

Westlake High School congratulates 58 AP scholars


Christopher Bauco

Katie Burns

Lee Cohen

community together, and for the people that come out to cheer, socialize and provide financial support to the organizations. Our community is filled with countless volunteers that help, each year, to put on professional caliber plays and concerts, athletic games, science and art fairs, charity fundraising events, dinners, dances & golf outings so we can enjoy time with old friends and make new ones while raising funds for programs not covered in our budget. Thank you to the PTAs, the Education Foundation, the Westlake Athletic Club, to those of you that serve on the Audit Committee, and Curriculum Initiative Assessment Committee, Citizens Budget Advisory Committee or Facilities Committee. Thank you to the special teachers, staff, parents, and community members who go above expectations to make our community special and build memories that make our school year special. Take a moment to appreciate their efforts, volunteer your time or get out and have fun by attending their events. Lastly, we would like to welcome new board members Mike Horan and Mike Griffin and thank long standing board members Tom McCabe and John Piazza for their passion for education and the enthusiasm they brought to serving our district so well. Our community was fortunate to have you in your role and you will certainly be missed.

George Doulos

Kylie Gottlieb

Declan Frank Hegarty Malandruccolo

Fifty-eight students at WHS have earned AP Scholar Awards in recognition of their exceptional Bryan Brian Amanda Anthony Faith Freyja Ava achievement on the college-level Mesquita Mynes Rubeo Scaglione Summers Varga Zadrima Advanced Placement (AP) Exams taken in May of 2018. According to the College Board, only about 18% of the Amelia Caston, Keira Donnelly, Declan Hegarty, Bryan Mesquita, Faith nearly 1.8 million students worldwide who Joelle El Hamouche, Michael Farina, Summers and Freyja Varga. AP Scholar Award. Completing took AP Exams performed at a sufficiently Isabelle Joseph, Brian Kelly, Philip high level to earn this award. Markuszewski, Erin McMorrow, Robert three or more exams with grades of 3 The College Board recognizes several Musial, Terence O’Brien, Charles or higher were graduates Sally Bedus, levels of achievement: Panzarella, Christopher Panzarella, Allison Brunetto, Sara Bruni, Julianna National AP Scholar Award. Susan Pinchiaroli, Adam Rutkowski, Buckley, Joseph DiLiberti, Meghan Earning an average score of at least 4 Lauren Schneider, Christine Sharabun Falahee, Jennifer Hutnik, Cordelia (out of 5) on all APs taken and scores of and Seunghyun You and current seniors Jannetty, Daniella Maric, Maeve 4 or higher on eight or more exams were Christopher Bauco and George Doulos. McCardle, Anthony Minda, Divya 2018 grads Keira Donnelly, Joelle El AP Scholar with Honor Award. Mundackal, Katelyn Murphy, Caroline Hamouche, Michael Farina and Brian Earning an average score of at least 3.25 Murray, Arianna Palmiero, Nicholas Kelly. on all exams taken, and scores of 3 or Papaleo, Kelly Pierce, Danielle Porco, AP Scholar with Distinction higher on four or more of these exams Julianna Roma, Kathryn Ross, Megi Award. Earning an average score were graduates Joseph Flynn, Zachary Syku and Nina Thur-ova and current of at least 3.5 on all exams taken, and Lubart, Christina Mangione and Emily seniors Frank Malandruccolo, Brian scores of 3 or higher on five or more Rubino and current seniors Katie Mynes, Amanda Rubeo, Anthony exams were graduates Talin Bedonian, Burns, Lee Cohen, Kylie Gottlieb, Scaglione and Ava Zadrima.

one outstanding Italian language student from each legislative district throughout Westchester county during Italian American Heritage & Culture Month.

National Merit Commended Student

Westlake has a National Merit Commended Student this year - Christopher (CJ) Bauco. Of the 1.6 million students who took the PSAT last year, CJ was one of only 50,000 (the top 3% of scorers) who received recognition for their outstanding academic promise based on their scores. CJ is a successful student-athlete at WHS. In addition to being on the Summa Honor Roll every semester of his high school career, he is part of the rigorous Science Research program and competes in cross country, track and field and basketball. Congratulations to an accomplished student! All State Musicians Congratulations to WHS chorus students Serena Sam-Zee-Moi and Bryan Mesquita. Serena was chosen for the All-State Treble Choir and Bryan was named as an alternate to the All-State Mixed choir. Both students sang a solo and were graded by a judge at the NYSSMA solo festival in the spring. They both received scores of 99. Serena will be traveling to Rochester at the beginning of December to rehearse with other students from the state and then perform at the Eastman School of Music. Thousands of students in the state audition for this opportunity and it is a great accomplishment and honor to be chosen.

Students of the Month Cynthia Briggs and Faith Summers have been chosen as “Thornwood Lions Club Student of the Month” for September and October respectively. Students are chosen for putting “service above self”. The two seniors were nominated by their teachers and guidance counselors who cited exceptional service to their school and/or community. Students will be feted at a celebratory dinner in January. Italian Award Congratulations to senior Antonio Resciniti for being recognized by the Westchester Coalition of Italian American Organizations for Excellence in Italian Language and Culture. Each year, the WCIAO awards individual merit certificates to

Published Researcher Senior Faith Summers has made Westlake history by becoming the first science research student to get published in a peer-reviewed science journal while still in high school! She is one of the authors of an article about prostate cancer which was recently published in the medical journal The Prostate. She assisted in this research while conducting her own original study under the guidance of her mentor Thambi Dorai, Ph,.D., at New York Medical College in Valhalla, NY. Says Faith, “While conducting this research I learned a lot about lab procedures, collecting original data, and the mechanics of prostate cancer. I am super grateful that Dr. Dorai gave me this research opportunity and acknowledged my work on this study by citing me as an author!”

From the Heart • Fall 2018

And kudos to …

Celebrating our Students Has your current student or Westlake graduate received a recognition or award? Let us know! Email details to

Fire Safety Day at Hawthorne Firefighters from the Hawthorne and Thornwood Volunteer Fire Departments paid a visit to Hawthorne Elementary School during Fire Prevention Month in October. Classes took turns listening to tips to stay safe in case of an emergency (stay down low to avoid smoke, never hide from fire fighters and have a central meeting place). The volunteers also told the children to remind their parents of the importance of having

a working smoke detector in every room of the house. Each student then had the chance to practice the proper technique for STOP, DROP AND ROLL. Finally, the kids were able to have a look inside the fire rigs to get an idea of what it would be like to be a real live hero. Thank you to the volunteers for taking time out of their day to educate the students on such an important topic.


From the Heart • Fall 2018

Mount Pleasant Central School District

Non-Profit Organization US Postage Paid White Plains, NY Permit No. 9415

West Lake Drive, Thornwood, NY 10594

Nov. 16-17 at 8 p.m. Nov. 18 at 1 p.m.

(Senior luncheon at noon)

J.S. Whearty Theater at WHS Tickets $12/$10 online at

Board of Education Colleen Scaglione Neglia, President Laura Michalec Olszewski, Vice President Vincent Graci Michael Griffin Michael Horan Maria Jost Chris Pinchiaroli Superintendent Dr. Kurtis Kotes

* * * ECRWSS * * * Postal Customer

Correspondence Phone: 769-5500 • Fax 769-3733 Web: Editor/email contributions Alyson Walsh/

Westlake was full of spirit for Homecoming week!


WMS Pep Rally


Homecoming King and Queen


WHS Pep Rally


Pajama Day

Westlake Spirit

Wacky Wednesday

Fireworks and Friends

Profile for Mount Pleasant CSD

Mount Pleasant CSD- From the Heart - Fall 2018  

Mount Pleasant Central School District quarterly newsletter

Mount Pleasant CSD- From the Heart - Fall 2018  

Mount Pleasant Central School District quarterly newsletter