District News

District News

 Byram Hills High School Senior Wins Neuroscience Research Prize

Rachel Chernoff, a senior at Byram Hills High School, has won a 2019 Neuroscience Research Prize from the American Academy of Neurology and the Child Neurology Society.

 Rachel Chernoff, a senior at Byram Hills High School, has won a 2019 Neuroscience Research Prize from the American Academy of Neurology and the Child Neurology Society.

Rachel Chernoff, has won a 2019 Neuroscience Research Prize

Byram Hills High School senior Rachel Chernoff has won a 2019 Neuroscience Research Prize from the American Academy of Neurology and the Child Neurology Society.

A student in the Byram Hills Authentic Science Research Program, Rachel won $1,000 and was invited to present her research at the 71st annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Philadelphia in May. She is one of four winners.

Stephanie Greenwald, director of the three-year science research program, said Rachel is truly deserving of the honor.

“She has worked hard developing her research and perfecting her presenting skills,” she said. “Now she will attend this national conference, walk amongst professional neurologists and talk about her work colleague to colleague. I know this is something she always dreamed of. She truly represents the notion that perseverance and dedication are rewarded in the end. We are so proud of her.”

Rachel was recognized for her novel study that involved ischemic preconditioning, a research technique that protects the brain from future stroke damage by depriving its blood supply in short episodes.

Using this technique, she investigated the source of a specific type of brain cell that helps with immunity and clearing cellular debris. As part of her work, Rachel noticed behavioral differences after ischemic preconditioning between male and female mice, which may point to a hormonal difference in their reactions to neural trauma.

Together, her results lay the groundwork for the use of ischemic preconditioning as a potential preventative technique to reduce the damage from strokes.

The Neuroscience Research Prize, which has been awarded since 1993, honors students whose skill and talent show potential for scientific contributions in the field of neuroscience.

Byram Hills High School Senior is a Finalist in Regeneron Science Competition

Byram Hills High School senior Brent Perlman has been named a finalist in the prestigious Regeneron Science Talent Search, honored for his biological engineering research with photosynthesis that could lead to therapeutic treatments for heart attacks, strokes and cancer or the creation of organs in a lab. 

Brent Perlman - Regeneron Finalist

Byram Hills High School senior Brent Perlman was named a finalist in the prestigious Regeneron Science Talent Search.

Brent, a student in the school’s three-year science research program, was one of 40 finalists announced today by Regeneron and the Society for Science & the Public. The students move on to the final round in Washington, where they will compete for $1.8 million in awards in March.

“I’m beyond excited about being named a finalist,” Brent said. “It’s thrilling to be recognized by such a prestigious competition, and I am thankful for the opportunity to share my research with such a large audience. I’m eager for my work to be displayed in Washington D.C., as this recognition increases the chances that its applications could one day help to improve the lives of people suffering from a variety of debilitating diseases.” 

“I would have never been able to complete my research or receive this honor without the help of my mentors at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Dr. Glenn Gaudette and Dr. Joshua Gershlak, or my science research teacher Stephanie Greenwald. I’m so grateful for all of their guidance and support throughout the past three years.” 

Principal Christopher Walsh offered his congratulations.

“We are so proud of Brent for this accomplishment,” he said. “He has dedicated so much of himself to this work and it is great to see it acknowledged on such a large scale. His work has the potential to have such a huge impact on society and yet he is still as humble as ever.”

The 40 finalists will undergo a rigorous judging process, interact with leading scientists, show their research to the public and meet members of Congress during their time in Washington from March 7 to 13. Each will receive at least $25,000 for participating in the week; those who finish in the top 10 receive prizes that range from $40,000 to $250,000. The top awards will be announced on March 12.

Brent’s research involved photosynthesis, the process plants use to produce oxygen and sugar from sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide. He induced photosynthesis in human cells for the first time by isolating chloroplasts, the photosynthetic components of plant cells, from baby spinach leaves. He then cultured these isolated chloroplasts with human cells, which incorporated the chloroplasts, and subsequently conducted photosynthesis. 

The ability of human cells to photosynthesize allows them to generate oxygen, which they are normally unable to produce. The oxygen produced by these photosynthetic cells promotes healthy tissue and organ development and growth, and can help treat different diseases.

Brent's research has applications in the engineering of functional organs in a lab; the treatment of heart attacks, strokes, and cancer; the delivery of biopharmaceuticals to affected human cells in the body; and even space travel. 

“Brent is a true scientist,” said Stephanie Greenwald, director of the Byram Hills Dr. Robert Pavlica Authentic Science Research Program. “From the moment I met him he asked thoughtful questions, took enormous risks with his work and did all of this with great kindness and appreciation for those around him. We are all so proud of his accomplishment.”

Brent has a pending patent for his process of creating photosynthetic human cells, and plans to continue his research in the fall at the University of Pennsylvania, where he will study in the Vagelos Program in Life Sciences & Management. 

“My dream is to one day create my own biotech start-up based on my research into human photosynthesis. Maybe we will all be green with chloroplasts in the next 20 years!” Brent said.

Brent, 17, was one of seven Byram Hills seniors named as scholars in the first round of the talent search, which bills itself as the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors. Nearly 2,000 students entered the competition. 

In the 30 years the school has competed in the Science Talent Search, Byram Hills has had 111 scholars; 20 of them, including Brent, have gone on to become finalists.

Winners of the talent search have gone on to win top science and math honors, including 13 Nobel Prizes and 13 National Medals of Science.

HCC Students and Faculty Open Up in Student Voice Circles Workshops Aimed at Supporting a Healthy School Environment

The gym at H.C. Crittenden Middle School stood nearly silent, the quiet broken by the sounds of footsteps moving back and forth across the floor, sneakers squeaking along the way.

Students, faculty and staff stood in two lines facing each other, and were invited to take three steps forward each time a statement read aloud was true for them. With nearly three dozen statements that touched on race, ancestry, family makeup and feelings, participants were in steady motion, stepping out when they felt comfortable recognizing a part of their identity without having to say a word.

“Please step forward if you believe your teachers and principal see you as a respectful person,” facilitator Trent Day Hall read aloud. Participants were also invited to step forward if they or anyone they knew had ever been teased, made fun of or called a bad name.

Some statements drew just a few participants, others attracted many, including the penultimate statement in one session, which touched on a priority at Crittenden: “Please step forward if you ever wished that people would just be more kind at school.”

The activity, called an inclusion line, was part of the Student Voice Circles workshop that all middle schoolers attended in October in groups of 70.

Broken into smaller groups that were seated around a circle, the students and adults took turns sharing parts of their identity as they got to know each other better. They participated in the inclusion line and returned to their circles to reflect on the experience. They concluded the 2 ó-hour workshop by writing down recommendations and commitments for improving the school.

The goal, Mr. Hall explained, was for participants to get to know each other in a fundamental way, to humanize each other, and ultimately, to work together to discover ways of improving the school environment. He encouraged students to stretch themselves, to keep an open mind and to take a risk, noting that growth was possible even in a short amount of time.

The social-emotional learning workshop was aimed at “teaching people about themselves so they can then understand the complexities of another person,” Mr. Hall explained.

“If everyone in the school is honoring every other person, then there’s no reason why people should ever find themselves being bullied or made fun of because we all understand the inherent dignity in everyone,” he said.

Principal Kim Lapple said the Student Voice Circles workshop exceeded expectations for fostering a greater sense of community at HCC.

“It was phenomenal,” she said. “The Voice Circles have far surpassed all that we were hoping for in terms of setting a climate of inclusion and student empowerment. The students, administrators and faculty left feeling invigorated and energized in our work together. It has set us on an incredibly focused path.”

Now that the student body has learned how to share their thoughts through Voice Circles, HCC will continue to use the model.

“We’re going to give students a leadership opportunity to become Voice Circle ambassadors,” Ms. Lapple said. “We will train those students HCC Students and Faculty Open Up in Student Voice Circles and they will be able to identify topics we feel will be helpful to explore with our students.”

Voice Circles will be utilized to promote social interactions within the HCC community and to also learn more about student perspectives about their experiences at H.C. Crittenden. Topics that Ms. Lapple plans to look at through Voice Circles include promoting kindness, and examining when kids feel connected to the school community and when they do not.

“We want to continue this work where students can participate and have their voice heard in the school community in a way that we can hear them, and then figure out the next steps to better our community,” she said.

Several students said the workshop shined a light on the personal, often hidden, experiences of fellow students.

“This has changed me by showing me that I’m not alone when it comes to feeling scared or insecure or alone,” seventh grader Matthew Mackohe said. “It really did open my eyes.”

He learned that he has more in common with some students than he realized, and felt that using Voice Circles at HCC could help bridge the gap between friend groups.

“I think it could help by helping open up people,” he said. “I think it can be good if everyone gives it a chance.”

Another seventh grader, Javier Benerofe, called the workshop productive.

“It opened a lot of people’s eyes to what other people are experiencing, and that in some ways, I’m not alone in this thing and there are other people experiencing the same thing,” he said, adding that he hadn’t known so many students had felt bullied or alone.

The best part was writing the recommendations and commitments, he said, “because I think it’s important for the students to have a say in how their school is run and to be able to really recommend things to their administration to make change for the better.”

Ms. Lapple says she hopes that Voice Circles will help create a school community where students are empowered to be involved and make a difference. And a more engaged 

student body will lead to academic growth.

“In the end, this work will help HCC become more connected and more empowered,” she said. “When students feel their voices matter, they are seven times more likely to be engaged and academically motivated.”

HCC is grateful to the Byram Hills Education Foundation for supporting this important workshop.


  1. Trent Day Hall was the facilitator for the Voice Circles workshops that H.C. Crittenden Middle School students, faculty and staff attended in October.


  2. Students and faculty met in small groups during the Voice Circles workshops that took place at H.C. Crittenden in October. In their circles, they shared parts of the identity and reflected on ways to help improve the school culture.


  3. Toward the end of the Voice Circles workshops, participants returned to their circles to write down recommendations and commitments.


  4. Students wrote down their recommendations and commitments.


The Power of Play Shines Brightly Through the New Educational Play Space at Coman Hill


The large, open room on the lower level of Coman Hill Elementary School comes alive when students arrive and peel off in every direction, and the space quickly fills with the unmistakable sounds of happy children at play.

They’re off and running with their classmates into the huge new educational play space, climbing, jumping, hanging and spinning. They scamper up to a higher level, crawl under rollers, sit in a swing or swish down a slide, only to run back in again, laughing all the while as they catch up to their friends.

Or, they’re outside the massive structure, skipping through hula hoops and hopscotch, shooting baskets and knocking down bowling pins. There are quiet activities like drawing, reading and building in the area as well.

It’s clear that the power of educational play is a priority at Coman Hill for the students in kindergarten through second grade.

“Play is an essential part of the development of young minds and the human spirit,” says Principal MaryBeth Crupi. “We firmly believe in the importance of play. It’s always in the forefront at Coman Hill.”

Since the arrival this fall of the educational play space - a giant play structure purchased through a grant from the Byram Hills Education Foundation - students have had even more ways to play. The colorful, two-story playscape is surrounded by other activities students can enjoy to exercise their bodies and minds.

“There are many opportunities for kids to choose what their bodies need at that particular time and space,” Ms. Crupi says. “We are so grateful to the BHEF for providing us with such a wonderful opportunity to increase our students’ learning through the educational play space.”

It’s through educational play with classmates that students learn and practice essential skills like problem-solving, communication and collaboration.

“They’re learning so much through play,” Ms. Crupi says. “There’s a plethora of skills they’re working on in their most natural environment, which is comfortable and conducive to learning.”

The lower-level room is used for indoor recess, it’s a place where teachers can take students for a movement break or a reward and to help meet Ms. Crupi’s challenge to find 10 extra minutes a day for play.

Since the start of the school year, teacher Jennifer Rowell has been bringing her second graders to the play area every Friday morning for 15 minutes.

“It’s important for them to be able to stretch and move and be social,” Ms. Rowell said. “It’s a time for them also to practice their social skills, like communicating and problem-solving and using Kelso.” Her students enjoy the experience. “It’s a treat,” she said. “They look forward to it.”

One of her second graders, Jo-Anne Schilling, says she loves using the playscape, going down the slides, over or under the “rolly things” and playing with her friends. “It’s amazing because it’s so much fun,” Jo-Anne said. “Because people are always bumping into each other, you learn from your mistakes.”

Her classmate Benny Kemler also loves the play space, and enjoys the break from classroom learning. “It’s very fun and relaxing,” he said. “It’s nice to just be in different spots, not just sitting in a chair.”

While the structured classroom is the place for academics, the time spent in the play area gives young students a chance to explore their social-emotional selves as they work together.

“The best part is that they get to be connected in a way that’s not so structured,” Ms. Rowell said. “In the classroom I tell them who their partner is, what kind of group work they’re doing, but when they’re downstairs they get to pick and float and get to know each other a little better in that informal play setting. The free time is important for them to grow their whole selves.”

Ms. Crupi encourages teachers to find those extra 10 minutes for daily play to give academics a boost. “Research has said that when we are able to get kids a little bit physically active, they can come back to their studies and be more engaged and more attentive to learning,” she said. “A couple of teachers are saying, ‘I notice a difference. They seem to be far more focused.’”

No other neighboring district has a massive indoor educational play space like the one at Coman Hill, Ms. Crupi notes, adding that her students appreciate their unique opportunity. “Lots of kids have commented that we are very lucky to have this play space,” she said.

Another benefit? When bad weather cancels outdoor recess, Ms. Crupi no longer hears the groans. “Now when I have to announce indoor recess, I hear squeals of delight,” she said. “They absolutely look forward to using the play space.”

Whenever the stillness of the huge room is broken as students enter to have fun with their friends, without even realizing it, they are working on important life skills that will transfer into the classroom and stay with them through a lifetime of learning.

“These are life skills that are going to make our students successful as they travel to Wampus, to HCC, to the high school and beyond,” Ms. Crupi said. “These are skills that are essential for success.” “Play is such an essential component for early elementary education,” Ms. Crupi adds. “This play space just radiates our belief system.”

Educational play is a priority at Coman Hill, where students now have many more ways to play with the new educational play space. Located in a large room on the lower level of the elementary school, the play space is surrounded by all kinds of activities including hula hoops and basketball and reading, drawing and building.

With slides, swings and plenty of space to move around, there are many ways to play in the new educational play space at Coman Hill.

Byram Hills “Pink the Rink” Fundraiser Nets Nearly $14,000 for Breast Cancer Research

The Byram Hills Athletics Department is grateful to everyone who participated in the varsity ice hockey team’s seventh annual “Pink the Rink” game and fundraiser, which raised $13,817 for breast cancer research last week.

The fundraising effort included the sale of baked goods and “Pink the Rink” merchandise at school, a chuck-a-puck contest and Friday night’s game at the Brewster Ice Arena against John Jay High School of Cross River.

The Byram Hills Bobcats skated in pink jerseys and socks in honor of those affected by breast cancer. The team exceeded its fundraising goal of $12,000, and donated $13,817 to the American Cancer Society to fight breast cancer.

“The team always works to top their previous effort,” said Rob Castagna, the Byram Hills director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics. “They did so once again by raising over $13,000 to donate to the American Cancer Society.”

2019 Byram Hills Pink the Rink Team

The Byram Hills High School varsity ice hockey team at Friday night’s “Pink the Rink” hockey game and fundraiser. The team raised nearly $14,000 to fight breast cancer.

“We’re incredibly proud of our varsity hockey team for this tremendous effort for an important cause,” Mr. Castagna said. "Congratulations to both school communities for coming together to support the teams on the ice and throughout this successful fundraising campaign."