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Award-Winning Publication of the Valhalla Union Free School District Voting Information: The annual budget vote for the fiscal year 20122013 by the qualified voters of the Valhalla Union Free School District will be held on Tuesday, May 15, at the following locations: District 1: Town of Mount Pleasant Kensico School 320 Columbus Ave. Valhalla, NY 10595 District 2: Town of North Castle North Castle Community Center 10 Clove Road North White Plains, NY 10603 District 3: Town of Greenburgh Virginia Road Elementary School 86 Virginia Road North White Plains, NY 10603 Voting hours will be 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. For more information‌ Learn more about the district and the proposed budget for 2012-2013 by logging onto our website at

A Message from the Board President Dear Residents, In budgeting for the 2012-2013 school year, we have entered a new reality – the 2 percent tax cap. From this year forward, we must comply with the tax cap and new unfunded mandates that the state imposes on us every year. The first thing you need to know is that there really is no 2 percent tax cap. The cap is on the school district levy, which is the amount taxpayers fund after deducting all sources of revenue, including state aid, from the total budget. There are exceptions that allow the cap to be higher and there are certain circumstances where the cap is less. This formula is set by the state. Complicating matters further is the combination of assessed property values and equalization rates that determine the tax increases for each town. School districts do not set the tax rate. This year, one town's taxes are decreasing and the other two have increases above the tax cap, but the tax levy is within the state formula. Please keep this in mind when you look at your property taxes. Based on the new reality, we must still continue to provide a first-class education for our students while continuing to meet the existing and new state mandates for everything from special education to new testing requirements. This is becoming more of a challenge as labor, pension and health costs continue to rise faster than any tax cap can keep up with. We need the state to take back some of these expenses or make changes to existing pension and healthcare costs. Under the tax cap, these things are unsustainable and must be addressed by the Governor, Legislature and State Education Department. As always, Valhalla UFSD will continue to provide our students with the best educational experience possible. Next year, we are not projecting any program cuts and only a few staff reductions that are mostly based on lower enrollment. Without change, however, in future years all school districts, including Valhalla, will be forced to make drastic cuts to everything from sports to educational program offerings. Several school districts already have eliminated modified and Junior Varsity programs. Layoffs are continuing in many districts and will continue for the foreseeable future. Through strong financial planning, cost-effective strategies and working with our teachers and administrators, we hope that we can minimize the impact of program cuts in the future. Working together, the board is confident that we can meet the challenges that face us in the future. Sincerely, William Rosenberg, President, Board of Education, Valhalla Union Free School District

Voyages PowerPoint?! For those adults who still have trouble accessing their e-mail, it’s a humbling fact that every Valhalla fifth grader knows how to use PowerPoint, a Microsoft Word application used for making graphic presentations (yes, the same PowerPoint program business professionals use, not a watered down kid’s version).

Linda Carpentieri, KS library media specialist, gives online research tips to a class of fifth graders.

Recasting the Role of the School Librarian In films, on television and in fiction, the school librarian has often been portrayed as a finger-shushing, bun-wearing, bespectacled spinster who chastises students for late book returns and obsesses over the card catalog. “She was the teacher at the end of her career put out to pasture in the library,” Linda Carpentieri, the library media specialist at the Kensico School, said with a hearty laugh.

Bowl. As she ushered a class of rowdy fifth graders into the library, she shouted over them to be heard. “It’s okay; I’m just loud,” she joked, by way of explanation, as the youngsters scurried

Happily for librarians everywhere, that worn out stereotype has left the building. School librarians, like their counterparts working in public libraries, museums, and in legal, academic and corporate libraries, have rightfully laid claim to being the professional navigators of information in the digital age – with or without the bun and glasses.

Far from her dowdy, quiet-please predecessors, Ms. Carpentieri proudly sported a Giants jersey and jeans at school the day after the New York team won the Super

In the VRES technology classroom, 25 Macs are set up for weekly computer instruction that begins in kindergarten. Little fingers are introduced to the keyboard and mouse -- in many cases not for the first time. Many households today, Ms. Paloungos pointed out, have computers and laptops, so children as young as 5 may already have some exposure to them by the time they enter school. “Many of our students are a lot more tech savvy than you might think,” she said, adding that two-finger typing in all capital letters is perfectly acceptable in class. When you’re only 5, the shift key doesn’t matter all that much yet. Working at both schools, Ms. Paloungos is able to closely monitor students’ progress as they move from one school to the other and gradually build their skills each year, so that by the time they head off to middle school, they’re proficient in several Word and Mac applications and know how to make, if only simple, PowerPoint presentations, posters, iMovies and comic strips, use blogs, build websites and type from the home row keys using the shift key.

“We specialize in information – how to find it, interpret it and apply it,” Ms. Carpentieri said. “We are the center of the school for information.” The school librarian’s role, much like the job title (school librarians are now typically referred to as media specialists or library media specialists) has changed dramatically since the advent of the Internet in the mid90s; more so as state standards and the newly designed Common Core Learning Standards ensure that students have the research and technical skills they need to succeed in college and the workplace.

More humbling still is that students begin learning how to use PowerPoint in second grade at Virginia Road Elementary School. Technology teacher Koula Paloungos splits her time between VRES and KS, preparing the district’s youngest students for the more extensive computer skills they’ll need when they move on to middle and high school.

Virginia Road’s technology specialist Koula Paloungos, left, and library media specialist Tracey Jackson.

to take seats at tables where Mac laptops had been set out for them to use. Following a quick refresher Ms. Carpentieri gave on accessing information in two online encyclopedia databases, Britannica and Grolier, the students continued work on a research project of their choice. The information they collected would be used to write a report and create a PowerPoint project. 2

It’s a bit mind-boggling, considering that not too long ago, students didn’t learn to type until they were in high school. Ms. Paloungos sees it differently: “What young students are capable of is profound,” she said.

Everything Begins with Literacy “Here, it’s all about learning to read and loving to read and being read to,” said library media specialist Tracey Jackson, Ms. Carpentieri’s counterpart at VRES. “As a K-2 CONTINUED ON PAGE 3


building, everything focuses on literacy. That’s our overarching goal.” Without Ms. Jackson’s thorough introduction to the library starting in kindergarten, and her weekly lessons on information literacy skills, including the parts of a books, finding and replacing books on a shelf, the difference between fiction and non-fiction, and beginning research basics – like how to use the dictionary – the technology component could not be tied in. Everything begins with reading and literacy.

base students use to learn about animals and their physical characteristics, adaptations and habitats. The information is short and simple – just a few sentences written at the appropriate level for emerging readers. Students write down what they learn in their graphic organizers, a fancy term for a research folder where notes, ideas and pictures are collected and organized visually. The students bring their organizers to technology class, where Ms. Paloungos helps them to incorporate their research into an end product that’s graded. Depending on

“Every year, we build on something new,” she said. “The nice thing is that I know that whatever I’m teaching students in the library, there’s going to be an end product in the technology classroom.”

Teaming Up with Teachers Each grade at VRES and KS works as a team, studying the same units at the same time. The second grade recently completed a unit on dinosaurs, culminating with a class trip to the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan to see life-size remains of the prehistoric creatures in person. The first study unit of the year for KS third graders is Native American history and culture. Both librarians consult with teachers to find out what it is they want students to know about the subject. Then they search for appropriate grade-level resources, databases and books for the students to explore. “I’ll take the curriculum and make up my own questions about it,” Ms. Carpentieri explained, “then I find the resources that the students are going to use to answer those questions. This takes hours and hours of work.” In preparation for the dinosaur unit at VRES, Ms. Jackson taught second graders how to use the dictionary and got them to understand how and why words are alphabetized. Looking up words like ‘fossil’ and ‘tyrannosaurus rex,’ for example, is a lot easier when you know how to find them.

From Research to End Product In first grade, Ms. Jackson introduces students to online educational databases designed for beginning researchers,among them PebbleGo, BookFlix, Discovery Education, BrainPOP Jr., and Enchanted Learning. PebbleGo Animals, for example, is a data-

they come here,” Ms. Carpentieri said. “It’s one step at a time.” During the second half of the year, she introduces third graders to Britannica and Grolier, Brain Pop Jr., and other subscription research databases. Their first research project is usually about China. Fourth graders are proficient at navigating databases and finding books on their own, but Ms. Carpentieri spends a considerable amount of time teaching students the difference between legitimate sources such as the encyclopedia, and dubious sources like Wikipedia and other websites Google offers up in a search that cannot necessarily be trusted for accuracy. “Our children learn that there is a world beyond Google,” she said. “Googling for information is not the way colleges want students to do research papers.” By fifth grade, students are comfortable using databases and shopping for information. They’re also whizzes in technology class. “It’s more complex at this stage,” Ms. Carpentieri said, “but they know how to handle it.”

Fifth graders Olivia Dillon, Jillian Caldarola and Nikola Viazmenski say they're becoming good researchers.

grade level and the research project, the end product might be a report or piece of creative writing done in Word, a poster, web page, PowerPoint presentation, or some other visual product that demonstrates students' understanding of the subject and their technical proficiency. At the end of the fifth graders' library class, Ms. Carpentieri toured Kensico’s hallways, pointing out glass cases displaying posters incorporating text and images of notable African-Americans students had made for Black History Month in February. “One thing’s for sure,” Ms. Carpentieri said, “I could not get my job done without our technology teacher.”

Building a Strong Foundation a Step at a Time At the Kensico School, Ms. Carpentieri’s job continues where Ms. Jackson’s leaves off. When students come to Kensico in third grade, Ms. Carpentieri takes things up a notch. Third graders spend the first half of the year learning how to use the library, often playing games to practice locating fiction and non-fiction titles. “Tracey provides a good foundation because the children know about fiction and non-fiction when 3

A Teacher for Teachers In addition to their work with students, the librarians provide teachers with professional development in research. Ms. Jackson shows teachers how to mine the different databases for information and ways they can incorporate video into their lessons. Ms. Carpentieri teaches a unit in copyright law, plagiarism, paraphrasing, and how to correctly cite photo and literary sources. “Not even all of our teachers know how to do a proper citation page because this is not their area of expertise,” she said. Ms. Jackson and Ms. Carpentieri, both graduates of Long Island University’s master’s degree program in Library and Information Science, say that today there is no difference between a librarian and a media specialist. Whichever title is used, they are still the guardians of information. “It really is the same thing,” Ms. Jackson said. “We know how to access information in text or digital form and we have to determine what’s going to work best for whoever is asking for it.”

Voyages Inclusive Education for Students with Disabilities ‘Flourishing’ The Valhalla School District this year adopted an inclusive education model that provides services for students with disabilities, to the fullest extent, in general education classrooms. The model brings support services to the student rather than moving the student to the services, and ensures that teaching strategies are adapted to provide quality outcomes for all learners in the general education classroom. In an interview, John Salatte, Valhalla’s Director of Special Education and Student Services, discussed the inclusive education model, its posiJohn Salatte tive benefits for all students throughout the district, and ways parents can work with teachers to help their children. Q. Define inclusive education. JS: The inclusive education model means that all of our students, to the fullest extent possible, are supported in their home school with special education programs and related services. Q. What’s different about this model compared with how special education was conducted in previous years? JS: With the new inclusive education model, our students with disabilities are served by Valhalla employees in a general education classroom in their home school. We still have children with more severe disabilities in out-of-district placements, and we’re continuing to build special education programs in the district to accommodate more involved types of disabilities. Prior to this year, students with more involved disabilities were primarily served in separate special education classrooms here in Valhalla or out-of-district depending on the severity of their disability. Q. Instead of being separated from their general education peers, students with disabilities will be learning in the same classroom alongside them?

JS: Yes, to the fullest extent possible, students with disabilities will have a general education experience, and they will be supported in that experience. Q. What benefits does the inclusive education model offer students with disabilities? JS: This model is more effective because students with disabilities are exposed to the real world, and academic concepts are presented in an authentic setting. Students with disabilities also benefit from their general education peers, who are excellent language, behavior and academic role models. I also think that all of our students learn about tolerance, diversity and acceptance of differences by having students with disabilities in class with them. Q. Will special education teachers still push into the classroom? JS: Yes. The primary service for students with disabilities is Consultant Teacher Direct, which means a special education teacher is with a general education teacher in a general education classroom for the entire class. Q. What’s the benefit here? JS: Special education teachers can do a myriad of things: they can co-teach if students with disabilities need modifications to a unit of study. They also provide small group instruction, so there may be multiple groups formed in the room. The general education teacher will work with a group of students, the special education teacher will work with another group, and a teacher aide may also work with a group. The groups ebb and flow and it’s incredible to watch; you would never know who’s working with whom. 4

Q. What’s the range of disabilities students typically have? JS: We have students with disabilities that range from minor language impairments to severe cognitive impairments and various syndromes. Through the use of sensory breaks, and the work of occupational therapists and speech pathologists and the teaching strategies and techniques they employ, our students with disabilities are achieving, to the fullest extent possible, in a general education setting. Q. Why was it decided to establish an inclusive education model in Valhalla schools? JS: The decision to adopt this model evolved from a series of conversations with parents, our Special Education PTA and administrators around the idea that students with disabilities should be in their home school and be supported as much as possible in general education. Our vision is: “Our students will be prepared to achieve to the fullest expression their educational, social and post-secondary goals with the support of the Valhalla Union Free School District in the least restrictive environment possible.” The decision to move to this model also evolved out of parents’ concern about their children’s post-secondary plans and how they could best be prepared for college and the world of work. When children are very young, it can be difficult to determine what supports they will need in the future to help them after they leave high school, so you must constantly refine the big picture vision in supporting them in obtaining a general education diploma and in their post-secondary plans. Q. What role has the Special Education PTA played in supporting the inclusive education model? JS: I’d like to acknowledge the work our SEPTA members have been doing regarding outreach to parents in the community who need some reassurance and support with this new model.


Voyages Rotary Club Honors Valhalla Students for Nearly Half a Century John Whearty has shaken a lot of hands. As one of the original founding members of the Mt. Pleasant Rotary Club in 1963, he has congratulated more than 400 Valhalla and Westlake High School seniors recognized by the Rotary as Student of the Month.

national Soles4Souls shoe drive.

A Proud Community The recipients of a Student of the Month award are treated to lunch at local restaurant Casa Rina along with their parents, guidance counselor, school principal and district superintendent, and are given a plaque that commemorates their compas-

“Almost without exception since the mid1960s, we’ve been honoring a senior from both schools nine months out of the year,” said Mr. Whearty, the first principal of Westlake High School in 1962 and the former superintendent of the Mt. Pleasant Central School District.

Service Above Self The students, who are recommended by their home school, are chosen because they display the characteristics associated with everything the Rotary stands for. “The Rotary moto is ‘service above self,’” Mr. Whearty said. “We’re one of the largest service organizations in the world and we feel it’s appropriate to recognize the quality students we have in our schools. We want to identify kids who not only do well in school, but who are of service in the community. The busiest kids are the ones who get the most done.” Take Julian Guy, for example. The Valhalla senior, who was December’s Student of the Month, got a perfect score on the ACT college entrance exam and near perfect scores on his Preliminary SAT, which qualified him for a National Merit Scholarship. His high scores and academic track record at VHS got him accepted

2011-12 Rotary Club Students of the Month, from left: Lee Moskowitz, September; Maria Trujillo, November; Adrianna Babak, October; Julian Guy, December; Danielle Colabatistto, February; and Mariah Koeltl, January.

into both Harvard and Yale through the universities’ early selection program. Julian also has been the driving force for the last two years behind the school’s collection of more than 300 pairs of gently used shoes and sneakers for the

Congratulations to the Class of 2012!

Kent State University King’s College The colleges where our students were accepted Lasell College Lesley University were so great in range and type that they were Long Island University too numerous to list here. Following is a short list of just a Manhattan College few of the colleges that have accepted Valhalla students. Manhattanville College Massachusetts Institute of Adelphi University Coastal Carolina University Fordham University Technology Arcadia University College of Mt. St. Vincent Franklin Pierce University Mercy College Gannon University Arizona State University College of Saint Rose Miami University - Oxford Harvard University Art Institute of Boston Concordia College Mitchell College Hofstra University Assumption College Cornell University Mount Saint Mary College Hunter College Baruch College Curry College New England College Iona College Bentley University Dean College New England Culinary Ithaca College Boston College DeSales University Institute James Madison University Brandeis University Dowling College New York University John Jay College of Criminal Northeastern University Bryant University Drexel University Justice of the CUNY Cape Cod Community East Carolina University Pace University, NYC Keene State College College Fairfield University Pace University, Pleasantville


sion toward others, honesty, integrity and excellent work ethic. Two deserving seniors also win $750 Rotary scholarships after a selection and interview process with Rotary members. “The Student of the Month recognition emphasizes for the community the quality of young people we have among us,” Mr. Whearty said.

Paul Smith's College Pennsylvania College of Technology Plymouth State University Post University Pratt Institute Providence College Purchase College Quinnipiac University Randolph-Macon College Rider University Sacred Heart University Saint Michael's College Salve Regina University Seton Hall University Siena College Southern Connecticut State University Southern New Hampshire University

Springfield College St. Bonaventure University St. John's University Stony Brook University Stonehill College Binghamton University SUNY - Albany SUNY - Brockport SUNY - Buffalo SUNY - Cobleskill SUNY - Cortland SUNY - Delhi SUNY - Morrisville SUNY - New Paltz SUNY - Oneonta SUNY - Oswego SUNY - Plattsburgh Temple University Towson University Tulane University

University of Arizona University of Connecticut University of Hartford University of Maryland University of New Haven University of Pittsburgh University of Rhode Island University of Rochester University of Scranton University of Tampa University of Vermont Villanova University Wagner College West Virginia University Westchester Community College Xavier University Yale University York College

Voyages Student Art: Masterpieces Worth a Thousand Words (and Lots of Smiles)

standing of shapes and textures and allow them to use their imagination to design the zoo of their dreams.

Art in all its myriad forms – paintings, sculpture, photography and others – is a feast for the eyes and a stimulus for the intellect.

In one kindergartner’s tapestry, a purple zebra and his companion --- a brown giraffe covered in bright blue spots --- take center stage on a piece of gold fabric embossed with a Medieval-looking floral motif. A bright pink bird with a yellow beak hovers nearby and a blue elephant quietly grazes alongside a watering hole made from blue tissue paper. A tree to provide shade for the animals was made out of brown construction paper for the trunk and bright green tissue paper for the leaves. An assortment of colorful buttons in different sizes decorates the zoo. “This project was all about their process of knowing about animals and the zoo and putting their ideas in a form other than on paper,” Ms. Elliot said. Ms. Elliot also likes to do projects based on literature to align with classroom literacy goals. Fairytales are a particular favorite because of their magical imagery and appeal to youngsters.

But nothing is more stirring to the heart than the art of a child.

VRES art teacher Sarah Elliot shows off a kindergartner's zoo tapestry.

At Virginia Road Elementary School, art teacher Sarah Elliot presides over a school full of mini Van Goghs and Da Vincis in the making, but even the greats had to start somewhere.

vivid color and detail – scaled down, of course, to a child’s level.

In Ms. Elliot’s classroom, everything begins with learning about colors, shapes and lines.

With animals as the theme --- something young children know about firsthand from visits to the zoo and animal studies in the classroom --- the tapestries are unique works that incorporate the students’ under-

“These are the major components of art that we all use to create a visual form,” she explained. As parents well know, young children are natural artists. Put a crayon in any child’s hand, and they’ll happily color for hours or make adorable drawings that can’t fail to bring on smiles. But if children know about different shapes and how to draw them, “they can make anything,” Ms. Elliot said. Putting that to the test, kindergarten students recently completed a tapestry project reminiscent of the ornamental Medieval wallhangings found in museums that depict allegorical stories of people and animals in Students work on a papier-mâché project.


For an assignment based on “The Princess and the Pea,” the tale of a princess who proved her royalty to a prince with her sensitivity to a pea placed under her mattress, first graders studied the story and then talked with Ms. Elliot about bedrooms and what their own room looks like. They also read “Cinderella” and imagined what her bedroom might look like. For their project, CONTINUED ON PAGE 7


the students were asked to make a collage of a bedroom fit for a prince or princess. “The students don’t know what things looked like a long time ago, so I had them design a room like their own, with a TV and their toys in it,” she said. In their collages, the students incorporated some textual items like a chandelier made from metallic-colored doilies and added a photo of themselves, topped with a handmade crown made of gold paper painted with jewels, laying down on top of their imaginary bed. Cave art is another fun project kindergartners enjoy, in part because Ms. Elliot turns off the overhead lights and allows them to grunt like cavemen while they trace their hands and draw animal figures by the light of a flashlight. As students develop their skills, they may do self-portraits, create art inspired by multicultural artifacts Ms. Elliot brings in to show them, make papier-mâché ornaments and clay pieces, work on seasonal projects, and tackle the masters, like Van Gogh, by trying their hand at their own version of “Starry Night.” The students use a wide variety of art tools and materials for their projects, including paintbrushes and scissors, different types of paper and everyday objects, watercolors and pastels, colored pencils, crayons,

Hats Off to Kensico!

wood and plenty of paste --- that perennial hallmark of art projects made by young children. “I try to hit every aspect of art so they have that experience and can take all of their skills and knowledge with them to Nancy Kincade’s art class at the Kensico School,” she said. “I want them to be excited about art and to love it.” Students are in class with Ms. Elliot one day a week and typically complete a project within two to three weeks. Ms. Elliot decorates the school hallways and glass cases with student work and displays it in the school’s annual literacy fair in May. She puts a label describing each project on the back of every child’s work so parents know what they’ve been working on when the art treasures go home and find a spot on the refrigerator door, a bulletin

Coloful paint and some brushes provide children with infinite ways to create imaginative art.

board or in a special “gallery” area for the whole family to admire. “Art is a great outlet for children because it gives them a sense of ownership,” Ms. Elliot said. “It’s something they can hold onto forever.”

We may have had the winter that wasn’t this year, but it sure was a popular season for hats of all kinds – Santa hats, cozy beanies and wooly caps, but especially for toasty warm animal hats, a favorite among Kensico students.


Voyages A Message from the Superintendent Dear Parents and Community Members: Over the past six months, the Board of Education, Leadership Team and I have completed a comprehensive budget development process. Developing a budget is not only a financial process but a process in which we revisit our vision, our educational promise to our students and how our program is delivering in relation to the needs of our children. Each administrator has forecasted the needs of their buildings and programs and, with very few resources, we have tried to enhance our programs. In our 2012-13 budget plan, we have continued to work on cost efficiency. We are continuing to share services to reduce costs and analyzing and negotiating service and personnel contracts. We have moved additional costs to shared BOCES services, and next year will open an additional special education classroom at Virginia Road to increase our ability to service students in our district. We also are moving forward with a comprehensive technology plan and expanding the use of wireless capabilities and virtual learning to enhance 21st century learning outcomes for students. The district has been impacted by the financial constraints of the community and state. In order to stay within the levy limit established by the Tax Cap Law, we had to cut more than $600,000 from our budget. Due to lower class enrollment in the elementary schools, we will reduce one elementary position and a .5 music position. We will be restructuring the data analysis position, moving from a 1.5 to 1.0 FTE. This will help us to meet the increasing demands of Race to the Top requirements. Over the past several months, we have posted podcasts and PowerPoints for each presentation. I hope you will take some time to review this budget guide and our website materials. If you have any questions about the final budget or our process, please do not hesitate to contact me. As a school district and community, we have so much to be proud of. I am confident the 2012-13 budget will help us continue our journey towards excellence. Sincerely, Dr. Brenda Myers Superintendent of Schools

Financial Challenge

Understanding New York’s Property Tax Levy Cap

Our District is facing two large financial hardships:

In order to help residents in the Valhalla School District understand the state property tax cap, we are providing some answers to frequently asked questions about the new law.

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Does the new tax cap law mean school tax levies can’t increase by more than 2 percent? No, the law does not mean that tax levies cannot increase more than 2 percent. The legislation signed into law in June requires every district to calculate its own tax levy limit. Two percent (or the rate of inflation, if less) is just one of eight factors in this calculation. What the new law does do is set a higher threshold for voter approval of budgets if the proposed tax levy set by a district exceeds the tax levy limit. If the tax levy (before exemptions) is at or below the 8

tax levy limit, a simple majority (more than 50 percent) is needed for budget approval (as in previous budget votes.) If the tax levy (before exemptions) exceeds a district’s tax levy limit, the support of a super majority (60 percent or more) of voters is required for budget approval.

What is a tax levy limit? For school districts, the tax levy limit is the highest allowable tax levy (before exemptions) that a school district can propose as part of its annual budget, which will CONTINUED ON PAGE 9

Voyages In May, residents vote to adopt a budget with an estimated tax levy. In August, the board of education adopts a resolution to officially set the tax levy. It is also important to know that the new law applies to the tax levy, not to tax rates or individual tax bills. In addition, the law does not impose a universal 2 percent cap on taxes – or any other specific amount. The law does require a greater number of voters to approve a budget that


require approval of a simple majority, or more than 50 percent of voters. Any proposed tax levy amount above this limit will require budget approval by a super majority (60 percent or more) of voters. Essentially, the tax levy limit sets a threshold requiring districts to obtain a higher level of community support for a proposed tax levy above a certain amount. However, the new legislation does not place a limit on any taxes a school district would levy to pay for expenditures related to specific exempt items, including some court orders, some pension costs and local capital expenditures. These items are then added to the tax levy limit to arrive at the allowable tax levy limit.

“ In May, residents vote to adopt a budget with an estimated tax levy. In August, the board of education adopts a resolution to officially set the tax levy.”

exceeds a school district’s individual tax levy limit, as calculated by a complex formula. There are several factors that dictate how an individual’s school tax bill is calculated after a school district sets the final tax levy – none of which are within the district’s control. Tax bills continue to be calculated by using a property’s assessed value (as determined by the local town assessor) and the tax rate – or the amount paid in taxes per $1,000 of assessed value. Tax rates are not solely determined by the tax levy approved by voters; they are often adjusted by the state using equalization rates, which are designed to equally distribute the tax burden across municipalities within a district. Tax bills can also be affected by STAR or other exemptions for which individual taxpayers may qualify.

How is the tax levy limit determined for school districts? The law dictates an eight-step formula that each school district must use to calculate its individual tax levy limit. In particular, the calculation adjusts a district’s tax levy to reflect growth in the “ The law dictates an eight-step formula that each school district must use to calculate its individual tax levy limit….Tax levy limits are calculated by each district and will vary by district.”

local tax base (if any) and the rate of inflation or 2 percent (whichever is lower). Tax levy limits are calculated by each district and will vary by district.

What is the allowable maximum tax levy limit for Valhalla UFSD?

Does the law take into account that some expenses are currently outside a district’s control?

Based on the state required formula, our allowable maximum tax levy limit is 2.08%. We received two small exclusions for increasing costs for capital debt and Employee Retirement System (ERS) increases. We will need 50 percent of our voters to pass the budget.

Yes. Taxes that school districts levy to pay for certain expenses are exempt from the tax levy limit calculation. In other words, after a school district calculates its tax levy limit, it then adds these exemptions to that amount. This allows the district to propose a tax levy greater than the amount set by the limit without triggering the need for approval by 60 percent of voters. These exemptions include: voter-approved local capital expenditures; increases in the state-mandated employer contribution rates for teacher and employee pensions that exceed two percentage points; court orders/judgments resulting from tort actions of any amount that exceeds 5 percent of a district’s current levy. Tax certioraris, however, are not exempt. These exemptions seem to indicate an acknowledgment among lawmakers that schools have no ability to simply limit cost increases in these areas to the rate of inflation. As a result, a district’s final tax levy (after the levies for these exemptions are added in) could be greater than its published tax levy limit and yet still be considered, under the law, within that limit.

“ Based on the state required formula, our allowable maximum tax levy limit is 2.08%.”

What happens if the budget does not pass by a majority of the voters? If the budget does not pass after two public votes, the district will be held to a zero increase. The district would need to cut an additional $768,019 in expenses from the budget. Editor’s Note: This information was developed and first published cooperatively by the Capital Region BOCES’s Communications Service and Questar III’s State Aid Planning and Communications Service. Tax Levy Cap Terminology Tax Levy: The total amount of property taxes a school district must collect to balance its budget, after accounting for all other revenue sources, including state aid. The tax levy is the basis for determining the tax rate for each of the cities, towns or villages that make up a school district. This is only one component of the calculation of an individual’s property tax bill. In May, residents will vote on the adoption of a budget with an estimated tax levy.

What will the property tax cap law mean for my tax bill? To understand the answer to this question, it is important to know the difference between the terms tax levy and tax rate. Tax levy is the amount required to fund a school district’s operations. Tax levy is only one factor in the calculation of an individual’s property tax bill. Tax rate is determined by the tax levy, the assessed value of a property and the equalization rate set by the town.

Tax Rate: The Tax Rate (by Town or Taxing Authority) is comprised of: the tax levy set by the District; the assessed value of the individual property, set by the District; the assessed value of the individual property, set by the Town or Village assessor (not the school); and the equalization rate for the Town, which is set by NYS Office of Real Property Services (ORPS).


Voyages Where the Money Comes From

Where the Money Goes



Revenue Appropriated Fund Balance 1.5% $650,000

Other Receipts 4.4% $1,934,840

Expenditures State Aid 8.0% $3,516,737

Transfers 0.2% $98,000

Benefits 23.0% $10,081,066

Salaries 49.2% $21,525,098

Debt Service 4.2% $1,849,085 BOCES 8.1% $3,550,917

Property Tax Levy 86.0% $37,636,494

Revenues State Aid Property Tax Levy Appropriated Fund Balance Other Receipts: Other Payments in Lieu of Taxes Non-property Taxes - County Charges for Services Day School Tuition Use of Money & Property Refund of Prior Year’s Expenses Unclassified Interfund Transfer Total

Supplies 1.7% $752,812

8.0% 86.0% 1.5% 4.4%

The Three Tax Levy Numbers Under New York State’s Tax Levy Cap With all the talk of New York’s new 2 percent tax cap, it may come as a surprise to learn that each school district in the state will present three separate tax levy numbers this spring, as part of their compliance with the new legislation. And chances are good that none of your school district’s three tax levy numbers will be exactly 2 percent. That’s because the 2 percent that you hear about is just one part of a complex formula that school districts must use to calculate two of their tax levy numbers: the tax levy limit and the maximum allowable tax levy.

Tuitions 2.2% $982,832

Expenditures Salaries Benefits Contract Services Transportation Tuitions Supplies BOCES Debt Service Transfers Total

$3,516,737 $37,636,494 $650,000 $1,934,840 $550,000 $295,000 $60,000 $250,000 $348,840 $100,000 $55,000 $276,000 $43,738,071

1. TAX LEVY LIMIT $36,097,788 Essentially, the tax levy limit tells a school district how much community support it will need to pass a budget with its proposed tax levy. For school districts, the tax levy limit is the highest allowable tax levy (before exclusions) that a school district can propose as part of its annual budget and needs the approval of only a simple majority of voters (50 percent plus 1) to pass the budget. If a district proposes a budget with a tax levy amount (before exclusions) above this limit, it will need the approval of a supermajority of voters (60 percent) to pass the budget. School districts are required to report their calculated tax levy limit to the state comptroller by March 1. 2. MAXIMUM ALLOWABLE TAX LEVY $37,636,494

Contract Services 5.7% $2,502,093

Transportation 5.5% $2,396,168

49.2% 23.0% 5.7% 5.5% 2.2% 1.7% 8.1% 4.2% 0.2%

$21,525,098 $10,081,066 $2,502,093 $2,396,168 $982,832 $752,812 $3,550,917 $1,849,085 $98,000 $43,738,071

employee pension systems that exceed two percentage points • Court orders/judgments resulting from tort actions of any amount that exceeds 5 percent of a district’s current levy A school district adds these exclusions to its tax levy limit without triggering the need for 60 percent voter approval. 3. PROPOSED TAX LEVY $37,636,494 The third tax levy number is arguably the most important. It’s the tax levy called for by a school district’s proposed budget. By definition, the tax levy is the total amount of money to be raised locally by a municipality (i.e., school district) after factoring in all other available revenues.

• Voter-approved local capital expenditures

If a school district’s proposed tax levy minus exclusions is less than or equal to the district’s calculated tax levy limit, the district will need the approval of a simple majority of voters to pass its budget. If the proposed tax levy minus exclusions is greater than the district’s calculated tax levy limit, 60 percent voter approval is needed.

• Increases in the state-mandated employer contribution rates for teacher and


The maximum allowable tax levy is the tax levy limits PLUS certain exclusions. Taxes levied to fund the following expenses are excluded from the tax levy limit:



Voyages Budget Questions & Answers Q. What are the budget development priorities? • Strategic Planning • Improving Student Performance • Maintaining Facilities and Capital Assets • Communication/Public Information • Technology Integration • Fiscal Stability and Efficiency Q. What was the overall program impact of cutting more than $600,000 from the budget? Elementary School Teacher: Due to a reduction in class enrollment at Kensico, we will reduce one section of third grade. There will be five sections of third grade. Elementary Music Teacher: Due to reduction in enrollment, we will eliminate a part-time music teacher position at Virginia Road. Grades K, 1 and 2 will continue to have one full-time music teacher. Data Analysis Position: We will elim-

inate a 1.0 Test Coordinator position and a .5 FTE Chief Information Officer. We will create a new position called Instructional Support Services Provider: Data Analyst. This position will focus on the effective use of data to improve students' achievement and meeting the NYSED data reporting requirements. Q. Are there any changes to service or programs included in the budget? Special Education: We will be opening a new classroom to service students with special needs at Virginia Road Elementary School. This will provide an opportunity for some of our youngest students to receive their educational program at Valhalla. Health Services: We will add a health aide as part of our nursing services. This position will support our nurses in all three buildings, providing coverage and assisting with required medical screenings.

Q. What is the district doing to be more cost-effective? We are currently using three core strategies to bring down costs while maintaining quality programs: cost elimination, program restructuring and building partnerships. We have focused on our facility needs because moving forward, this can be an expensive cost driver for our school. We will be developing an Energy Performance Contract to help improve the energy costs of our buildings and to facilitate necessary repairs. Information regarding our Community Facility Committee, including our five-year plan, can be found on our website: Q. What is the projected enrollment trend for our district? Our district just completed another 10year study to project future enrollments. Our enrollment is peaking this year and next with just about 1,600 students. The larger classes are moving into the middle and high school. Our elementary enrollment is decreasing and we expect that class sizes should stabilize between100 and 110.

Q. What is the estimated savings from the budget reductions?

Enrollment Trends 2012-2013 Summary of Changes to Expenses Aoooooooo


Reduce 1.0 Elementary Teacher (Kensico) Reduce .5 Music Teacher (VRS) Restructure Health Services Add 1.0 Health Aide (No Budget Increase) Add 1.0 Special Ed Teacher Return 4 students to District Tuition and Transportation Savings Reduce .45 from District Office - Clerical Restructure Chief Information Officer Reduce Transportation Costs Reduce Chaperones Reduce Overtime for O&M Reduce Credits for Professional Staff Revised TRS Rate Projections

- 79,500.00 - 33,000.00 0 +100,000.00 - 329,725.00 - 35,000.00 - 50,000.00 - 35,512.00 - 21,000.00 - 20,680.00 - 14,000.00 - 86,472.00

Total Savings

- 604,889.00 11

2000 1900 1800 1700 1600 1500 1400 1300 1200 1100 1000

1515 1523 1528 1511 1519 1557 1543 1481 ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ 1438 ◆ 1321 1370 ◆ ◆ ◆






















Q. Did our district receive any mandate relief? We have not received any mandate relief. Since the Tax Cap Law was enacted, there have been no legislative changes to current mandates. We have provided a priority list to the governor and legislators outlining areas CONTINUED ON PAGE 12




that would provide some fiscal relief. The State Education Department has also increased the mandates on schools, and next year we will be required to incur more costs for Dignity for All, Graduation Requirements, APPR, Common Core Standards and new assessment and data requirements.

Our Guiding Principals in Preparing the 2012-13 Budget On behalf of the Valhalla Union Free School District Board of Education, Superintendent and Administrative Team, these are our guiding principles for budget development and financial processes: 1. We are completely and unwaveringly committed to serving the interests of students. 2. We are committed to exercising care and good judgment in managing resources with which we are entrusted.

Q. What are the equalization rates and how do they affect our taxes?

It is common for school districts to be comprised of more than one town or municipality. Our District is comprised of parts of Greenburgh, Mount Pleasant and North Castle. Each town may have different levels of property assessment. School districts are required to distribute their taxes among the municipalities within their boundaries. In order for a school district to fairly distribute its property tax levy (the total amount of school taxes to be collected), the levy needs to be divided in proportion to the total market value for each town. This allows for an equitable distribution of taxes based upon the market value of each community.

District Transportation Policy The 2012-13 budget will continue the District’s policy of providing transportation for children who reside at least one-half mile and no more than 15 miles of the school of attendance.

4. We are committed to future-focused planning and constant improvement.

Property Value and Tax Levy Apportionment $37,636,474 North Castle 31%

Estimated Tax Rate Per $1,000

Greenburgh 21%


2011-12 Final

2012-13 Estimate Change


$545.70 3.7%

Mount Pleasant $1,157.52 $1,216.24 5.1% North Castle


$809.07 -2.1%

Estimated Tax Rates based on Estimated Taxable

Mount Pleasant 48%

Assessed Property Values as of 02/15/12

Q. How has the district's total budget changed over the last five years?

% Budget to Budget Increases 2008-2013 16% 14%

Percent Increase

The equalization rate is the state’s measure of a municipality’s level of property assessment. The New York State Office of Real Property Tax Services (ORPTS) is responsible for determining the equalization rate per town. Equalization is intended to adjust locally assessed property values to an ever-changing real estate market.

3. We are committed to conducting our business in an open, objective and professional manner.

12% 10% 8%

6.36% 6%







0.0% 0% 20

-2 07


8 20

-2 08


9 20

-2 09


0 20

-2 10

School Year


1 01 2

0 1-2 01

12 20




Voyages 2012 -2013 Proposed Budget Summary by Category Description


Estimated Actual




Board of Education




District Clerk






District Meeting



Chief School Administration




Business Administration









6 5,489

Auditing Services Treasurer Legal Services



Personnel Services




Public Information






36,230 22,858

Operations & Maintenance Central Data Processing





School Association Dues





Judgments and Claims






MTA Payroll Tax




















BOCES Administration Charge Sewer District Charges School Supervision Regular Day School Special Education


Remedial Reading




Occupational Education



6,020 16,714

School Library & AV



Computer Assisted Technology




Guidance Services




Health Services






Psychological Services



Co-curricular Activities





Interscholastic Athletics





Diagnostic Screening

District Transportation







Contract Transportation




BOCES Transportation







Transportation Repair Employees Retirement




Teachers Retirement




Social Security




Workers Compensation




Employees’ Benefit Fund




Unemployment Insurance




Health Insurance




Bond Principal/Interest




Tax Anticipation Note Interest




Interfund Transfer









CAPITAL $4,909,326



Voyages An Authentic American Experience for Valhalla’s Foreign Exchange Students

a member of the volleyball team, and this winter she joined the basketball team. In the spring, she’ll play softball.

Valhalla is a long way from home for two foreign exchange students from Europe, but they’re far from homesick.

“When I first came here, I was shy and didn’t talk that much, but now I have so many friends and have so much fun,” she said. “School sports is my favorite thing. That’s one of the big reasons I wanted to be in an American high school.”

Iris Kempenaars from Roosendaal, the Netherlands, and Lena Ruppelt from Braunschweig, Germany, were reluctant to think about their June departure date from the small town, high school and host families they’ve come to love. But they were more than eager to talk about the year they have spent in the United States, what it’s been like adapting to American culture and high school, and their new-found love of bagels and New York-style pizza.

Both girls were surprised to find that they needed a ride everywhere around Valhalla and Westchester County and to the train station for excursions into the city. Most people bicycle, walk or take the bus in their hometowns, so they felt a little shut in for a while.

The girls, both seniors, came to the United States through two different organizations. Iris applied through Youth for Understanding (YFU), an international educational exchange organization. Lena came to Valhalla through the Mt. Pleasant Rotary Club and the Valhalla International Fund, a VHS organization that has served more than 200 incoming and outgoing exchange students since 1960. “I picked the United States because I like America and have always wanted to go to another country to have a new experience,” Iris said.

Iris: Finding a Home at Last While Lena settled right in with her Valhalla host family in August, Iris had an initial bumpy ride. She was first placed with a family in Long Island in August, then two months later was subsequently re-placed with another family in Sloatsburg, N.Y., after the Long Island family experienced some personal problems. The new family was also beset with problems shortly after Iris settled in, and she had to be placed yet again after establishing friendships at Suffern High School.

Iris in particular enjoys the city and its bright lights, especially when she’s in Times Square at night. She likes going to Broadway shows and has so far seen "Rent" and "A Christmas Spectacular" at Radio City Music Hall. “I’m a night person,” she said. “When the lights come on, people come alive.”

Iris Kempenaars from the Netherlands, left, and Lena Ruppelt from Germany, are Valhalla High School's two exchange students this year.

with a new friend in Lena. Exchange students are required to change families during the second half of their yearlong stay and Lena is now being hosted by the Whitman family. Host mother Lori, as it turns out, is the sister of Mrs. Cazemier, Iris’s host mother, a relationship that has deepened the girls’ own connection.

Lena: “The Best Year of My Life”

The YFU was in the midst of searching for a third host family for Iris, when she met Lena at a holiday party hosted by the VIF. After Lena learned about Iris’s difficulties, she shared the story with her host mother, Joan Tippett, whose daughter Ally was a VIF exchange student in Spain last summer.

“When I came here, I was thinking that this was going to be the best year of my life and I can say that it’s been amazing,” said Lena. “I just love to live here. It’s so different. Every day I learn something new and it’s just fun. The winter formal dance we had in January was such a good experience. We don’t have anything like that back in Germany.”

Mrs. Tippett contacted a Valhalla friend, Barbara Cazemier, and Iris at last found herself with a new host family, this one for keeps, in early January, and

For Lena, who loves sports, being able to participate on school teams has been a big surprise. German schools do not have school teams, she said. In the fall, she was 14

Simple things please Lena the most, like the twinkling lights from the houses she can see in the surrounding hills at night. “I think it’s so pretty at night,” she said. “My city is very flat in comparison.”

Teens are Teens the World Over Like their Valhalla teenage counterparts, both Iris and Lena wear jeans, leggings and Ugg boots and enjoy shopping at the Palisades Mall and watching “Grey’s Anatomy” when they’re not studying. They’ve both been studying English since they were in the third grade and speak fluently, but say they have a little difficulty CONTINUED ON PAGE 15


with some tougher vocabulary words in their American history and government classes. Not so in math, in which they excel. They are both enrolled in collegelevel algebra. High school in America is similar in some ways to high school in Europe and very different in others, the girls said. For example, in Germany, students stay in one classroom and teachers for each subject come to them, not the other way around. Lockers are much smaller and open with a key, not a combination lock, and clubs, sports and other activities are always outside of school on students’ own time. The American sense of humor is a little different, too, and Iris said that some of her jokes get a blank stare in return. But both girls love it when their friends try to mimic their accents. “They can’t do it!” Lena said. With a few months remaining before they return home, Iris and Lena are making the most of their time, enjoying their new friends and the experience of being an exchange student, which includes eating as much as they can of their two favorite American treats: bagels and pizza. “The pizza is the best!” Lena said.

A Look Ahead In February, Iris traveled with other YFU exchange students on a week-long trip to Hawaii. Lena traveled to Bermuda in October with the Rotary Club, and journeyed to Washington, D.C., in April. When Iris returns to the Netherlands, she’ll begin making plans to study business and marketing at a college 20 minutes from home, while Lena will complete her final year at her hometown high school (German students complete five years of high school). She plans to study international business and to travel as often as she can. Both girls will be taking home many great memories of their time in America and a few things they can’t live without: pretty things from Victoria’s Secret for Iris (there are no Victoria’s Secret stores in Holland except at the airport in Amsterdam, she said), and Valhalla logoed sports clothes and boxes of Hot Tamales for Lena, a spicy cinnamon candy she can’t get enough of.

Three VHS Students Heading to Europe on Exchange Program Three VHS students will be on their way this summer to European destinations on a student exchange program as the 2012 Valhalla International Fund Ambassadors. Deanna Alvarez will go to Spain, Kelli Whitman to Germany and Andrea Suarez-Navarro to France.

From left: Deanna Alvarez, Kelli Whitman and Andrea Suarez-Navarro.

The announcement was made at the end of the annual VIF International Friendship dinner in March, the culmination of a four-day weekend when exchange students from the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut region get together for activities and stay with Valhalla host families. Ambassadors go through a thorough vetting process after applying for an exchange spot, including interviews with parents and teachers, to determine if they can handle the transition to living in a foreign country. The VIF has been sending students abroad since 1960 and hosting exchange students who come here to study in Valhalla.

Candy Cane Volleyball Tournament Raises Funds for Children’s Hospital VHS physical education classes competed in the annual Candy Cane volleyball tournament to raise funds for the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital. Twelve students from the tournament’s winning team made the trip to the hospital in February to present their $600 donation to hospital representatives.


Voyages “I like writing a lot and want to be a writer one day.” Jenna specializes in writing service pieces and recently reported on how to dress appropriately for winter weather. “Serving on The Chronicle empowers these students to take a leadership role,” Mr. Tripaldi said. “It’s a resume builder, even at this young age.”

VMS Chronicle student editors-in-chief Jenna Balint, left, and Erin Brosnan with advisors Andrew Tripaldi, left, and Brett Erenberg.

Making Headlines and Deadlines at VMS Eleven budding journalists are always on the go around VMS, asking the important questions: who, what, when, where, why, and how? And when they get the scoop, you can be sure to read about it in the next issue of The Valhalla Middle School Chronicle, the school’s online newspaper, proudly published by and for the students of VMS.

Erenberg, who also is an advisor for The Chronicle. “The intellectually curious students want to branch out and cover these subjects,” he said. “They’re here on the staff because this is of interest to them.”

The Chronicle covers light-hearted school events like homecoming, school productions and field trips, and includes interviews with new faculty and staff.

Newsroom Experience

But the student reporters take it a step further and write about the most recent developments on the national and international front. “The students are very passionate and take the paper seriously,” said Andrew Tripaldi, a sixth grade English and social studies teacher and an adviser for the newspaper.

Covering the World In the Nov. 29 issue, for example, students covered some heavy duty news: Turkey’s October earthquake, the overthrow of the Egyptian government, and the assassination of Osama Bin Laden. Two reporters – Ryan Pruner and Jeremy Pember – spent a day touring the occupied area of Zucotti Park and interviewing protesters. Such stories tie in perfectly with their geography and social studies lessons, said sixth grade social studies teacher Brett

Led by student editors-in-chief Jenna Balint and Erin Brosnan, the reporters meet once a month with Mr. Erenberg and Mr. Tripaldi to discuss new story ideas and get updates on stories already in progress. The reporters e-mail their stories to the two teachers, who edit and lay them out with accompanying photos and post the finished newspaper online. Formerly a printed publication, the move to an online version has saved the school hundreds of dollars on paper and ink. The Chronicle is published quarterly after each marking period. The staff of reporters includes Madison Brand, Marc Charbonier, Carly Ettinger, Pearse Gallaghan, Allison Li, Jemy Paulson, Jeremy Pember, Ryan Pruner and Kaity Su. Jenna and Erin, both eighth graders, joined The Chronicle staff in the sixth grade. In addition to her hard news stories, Erin enjoys writing poetry for the paper, taking care of its cultural beat. “It’s fun,” she said. 16

The February edition of The Chronicle, VMS's online student newspaper.

Voyages An Extra Pair of Hands is All it Takes to Get Things Done Need a hand with that? Just ask the VMHS members of Helping Hands, a school-based volunteer club for students in grades six to 12.

roll up their sleeves as assistants at the annual PTSA Craft Fair, helping vendors unload and pack up at the end of the day, setting up tables and chairs, and serving refreshments. They've painted the school's snack shack and have donned Valhalla sports gear and sneakers to participate in the five-mile Making Strides Against Breast

Helping Hands' 40 enthusiastic members can be called on to assist with any job, big or small, but they especially like a good cause, and over the years have raised thousands of dollars in different ways to help leukemia and cancer patients. "Anytime anyone needs help with anything, we're there; that's why we're the Helping Hands," said club advisor Karen Martino, a middle school science teacher. The students run the club, deciding which projects to pursue and meeting with school administrators to discuss their ideas and gain permission to follow through on them. "They're the liaison between me and the administration," Ms. Martino said. The club's officers are all sophomores and include Hannah Halligan, president; Alexia Iuni, vice president; Nicole Ciccotelli, secretary; and Nikki Marmo and Kristin Portsmouth, who share the job of treasurer. Helping Hands meets after school on alternate Wednesdays. "We have very dedicated students who come back every year and want to help out in any way they can," Ms. Martino said.

Every Penny Counts One of the club's traditional annual fundraisers is Pennies for Patients, where students collect pennies over a two-week period in the fall to donate to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The club runs the collection at the Kensico School and rewards the class that raises the most money with a pizza party. This year, the Kensico School raised nearly $800, with the winning class contributing $159 of it. Helping Hands members count every penny, and in prior years, have raised as much as $2,300 at the Kensico School. In February, club members began selling daffodils to raise money for the American Cancer Society. The popular fundraiser has club members dashing off throughout the school to sign up as many staff members as possible to buy the bright yellow flowers, priced at $10 a bunch. For $25,

Helping Hands officers plan the club’s daffodil fundraiser to support the American Cancer Society.

customers can purchase a stuffed bear with their daffodils. With a larger donation, purchasers can send an anonymous Gift of Hope -- a bouquet of 10 daffodil stems in a vase -- to a cancer patient. "Many of our staff members actually seek out our members to place their order," Ms. Martino said. When the daffodils arrive on delivery day, Helping Hands members unpack the flowers and make sure their customers get their order. "It's a big day here!" Ms. Martino said. The American Cancer Society's Daffodil Days are especially meaningful for Ms. Martino, who was diagnosed with cancer and had a full recovery. The Helping Hands Club participated in Gilda's Club Awareness Day for teens at the Westchester chapter of Gilda's Club, a national organization named for comedian Gilda Radner, who died from cancer in 1989. Gilda's Club Westchester offers free support to anyone affected by cancer. From February through June, the students are collecting soda can pull tabs to recycle. The money earned will benefit the Ronald McDonald House at Maria Fareri Children's Hospital in Valhalla.

Hard Work Pays Off While fundraising is a big part of the club's mission, Helping Hands members 17

Cancer Walk in the fall. During the holiday season, club members collect money for the Salvation Army, taking turns ringing the bell at Shop-Rite in Thornwood. They've also been busy collecting and counting hundreds of box tops from grocery products that can be redeemed for money, and recently raised $360 with a zumbathon to beautify VMHS. The club plans to replace a glass display case for student art that has seen better days. "They wanted to do something the entire school would benefit from," Ms. Martino said.

A Thousand Origami Cranes One of the more astounding projects club members worked on with help from the VMHS art department is the folding of 1,000 origami cranes that were sent to Japan by a local Girl Scout troop after last year's devastating tsunami in that country. In Japan, the crane has great cultural significance. Legend has it that folding 1,000 paper cranes makes a person's wish come true. This makes them popular gifts. "Being a member of this club teaches students to be selfless, to give back to their community and to do something without expecting anything in return," Ms. Martino said. "Our students feel good about helping others and will no doubt carry that experience forward into their own lives."

Voyages VSF: Going the Distance for Valhalla Schools What can we provide our students that other districts are and are not offering? What will a child look back on and remember? How are we cultivating a well-rounded student? Valhalla Schools Foundation president Tracey Franzese posed these three questions to administrators and faculty in a recent letter thanking them for their support over the years and encouraging them to think deeply about the grant applications they’ll be preparing to submit to the Foundation in the spring.

students the project will impact, how long it will take to complete, how familiar the applicant is with the program and whether funding has been sought elsewhere. “The proposals that most stand out are innovative, out-of-the-box ideas,” Mrs.

A Valhalla Schools Foundation grant funded a Revolutionary War re-enactment for middle school students.

The VSF, founded in 2000, operates independently of the Valhalla School District as a nonprofit, tax-exempt, education foundation that provides grants to enhance the academic resources of Valhalla schools. The Foundation operates under a volunteer board of directors made up of many members of the community. Since its inception, the Foundation has been able to provide the district with more than $150,000 in grants, often funding from 15 to 25 grants each year. “Year after year, we join together to raise an extraordinary amount of funds to help make a difference in our schools,” Mrs. Franzese said.

Fundraising for Schools Through the popular annual VSF-sponsored The Kensico School band was gifted with two new saxophones, thanks to a VSF grant.

Comedy Night and fundraisers hosted by a local restaurant, to movie nights and the sale of bricks personalized with family names for the Kensico School walkway, the VSF raises as much as $30,000 a year to fund a wide range of grants.

Franzese said. “However, when we receive an impressive application that is not only thorough, but that is wellresearched and answers any questions the board may have, it is given the consideration it deserves.”

Last year, the VSF awarded more than $27,000 to teachers and administrators in the district. During the previous school year, 2009-10, the Foundation awarded 13 grants totaling nearly $20,000.

Applications are reviewed with District Superintendent Dr. Brenda Myers and members of the board and voted on. Applicants must be on hand during the process to answer questions.

Grants have helped to fund things like Nooks, iPads and iPods, docking stations, a digitized music library, school gardening programs, art room easels, musical instruments, cultural performances and workshops, a re-enactment of the Revolutionary War, sports equipment, cookware and Literacy Nights.

“It is an extremely long and important process, which the members do not take lightly,” Mrs. Franzese said. Most proposals do not exceed $3,000, however, larger grants are considered for exceptional ideas. “Teachers are free to come up with grants based on their expertise or where they might see a specific need,” she said.

Quality over quantity, however, is the goal this year, Mrs. Franzese said. “We realize that the grants can be as individual as our children. The board and I are always enthusiastic come grant time and look forward to the entire process and what is in store for our children.”

Now in the second year of her two-year term as president, Mrs. Franzese began serving the VSF as a committee member in 2003 and was involved with the PTA. “I felt strongly that the VSF was going to make an impact on the lives of not only my children, but on all children in the Valhalla district,” she said. “The Foundation is very important to me and I feel passionate about what we do and are capable of doing for the future of our schools.”

Innovative Ideas Welcome School faculty, staff, administrators and members of the Valhalla community can apply for a grant, but the process is not an easy one, Mrs. Franzese said.

Learn More

Submitted applications must provide a thorough description of the program or project for vetting by the VSF board. Members take into consideration the number of

To find out more about the Valhalla Schools Foundation and its accomplishments, visit the Foundation’s website at:


Voyages Spirit Club Gives Junior Vikings Something to Cheer About Last year’s winter sports season was a little too quiet for some sixth grade Junior Viking girls, so they decided to make a little noise about it. With back-up from parents, District Superintendent Dr. Brenda Myers and Valhalla’s Board of Education, the new VMS Spirit Club was formed this school year, allowing the girls to cheer for the boys’ and girls’ modified basketball teams when they play in January and February. No formal cheerleading experience, stunts or tumbles are required – rather, it’s all

about team spirit and having fun, said club advisor Lisa DeBiase, a VMHS Italian language teacher. VMHS athletic director Jamie Block ordered team shirts and borrowed pompoms for the Spirit Club members, who get out front and center to lead the crowds with chants and cheers.


Q. Are there any changes or enhancements to the inclusive education model and special education program that are planned for school year 2012-13? Yes. We’re bringing more research-based programs such as Fountas and Pinnell literacy interventions into our special education programs. We also are opening a special class at Virginia Road Elementary School. This program will serve as a base for some of our students with move involved disabilities. Q. How can parents best work with teachers to support their child? Parents should keep their eye on the prize: a happy, healthy child who is prepared to pursue his or her dreams. Keep high expectations for your child and ask staff what strategies to use at home. Q. Can parents contact you with questions and suggestions? JS: Absolutely. Although contacting their child’s special education teacher is more direct, I can be reached in the Special Education Office at 914-683-5034. They can also send an e-mail to me at Q. Overall, are you pleased with how the inclusive education model has been working so far? JS: Overall, if I had to choose one word to describe how it’s been going, I would borrow a word one of my staff members used: flourishing.

Spirit Club members inspire the crowds at winter basketball games.

Parents: Sign Up for E-mail and Text Message Alerts Valhalla schools now offer an e-mail alert service to complement the District’s existing phone alert/text message system. Administered by Blackboard Connect, the e-mail service provides parents with news about Valhalla events, messages from the Superintendent of Schools, non-emergency announcements and other items of interest. Parents also can choose to “opt out” of the e-mail service, but will continue to receive emergency phone calls from the District, when those occur. Parents who do not receive the District’s e-mail alerts can contact their school to be included. Non-parents who would like to receive e-mails from the District can sign up on the Valhalla schools website: or call Rosa Abbondola, District Clerk, at 914-683-5040 19

Voyages Valhalla Union Free School District 316 Columbus Avenue Valhalla, NY 10595

Non-Profit Org. U.S. Postage PAID White Plains, NY Permit No.9501

Board of Education William Rosenberg, President LaVerne Clark, Vice President Valentina Belvedere Joseph Garbus Alan Higgs Brian Macken William McGuinn Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brenda Myers Newsletter Writer and Editor Suzanne Davis Contributing Photographer Susan Rossi This district does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, creed, religion, marital status, gender, sexual orientation, age or disability in its educational programs and employment practices.

Remember to Vote! Tuesday, May15

Will You be Away on May 15?

Voting hours

• Applications must be completed to receive an absentee ballot. • Completed applications must be received by the School

will be

District Clerk by, or prior to, 4 p.m. on May 8, 2012, if

6 a.m. to 8 a.m.

the ballot is to be mailed to the voter, or on, or prior to,


4 p.m. on May 14, 2012, if the ballot is to be picked

2 p.m. to 9 p.m. See Page 1 for voting locations

up personally by the voter. • Absentee ballots must be received by the School District Clerk no later than 5 p.m. on May 15, 2012.

Supplemental Budget Information The following supplemental budget information is available upon request: • School Academic Report Cards • Property Tax Report Card • Salary Disclosure Notice Please contact a building principal or Christina Howe, School Business Official, at 914-683-5040.

What’s on the Ballot: 1. A proposition appropriating $43,738,071 to meet the estimated expenditures for school purposes for the fiscal year 2012-13, said sum to be raised by tax upon the taxable property of the district. 2. Election of Board of Education members to three open seats: Robert Ierace, running unopposed for a three-year term to fill the vacancy created by the expiration of the term of William McGuinn. Vote for One: James Adams or William Rosenberg for a three-year term to fill the vacancy created by the expiration of the term of Brian Macken. Ronald Cavallo, running unopposed for a three-year term to fill the vacancy created by the expiration of the term of William Rosenberg. 20

WEB Voyages Budget 2012 FINAL  

Spring 2012 Budg et Award-WinningPublicationoftheValhallaUnionFreeSchoolDistrict District1: TownofMount Pleasant KensicoSchool 320ColumbusAv...

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