District News

District News

Vox Summit Encourages BHHS Freshmen to Use Their Voice for Positive Change in the World

You’re a 14-year-old fleeing your country and you’re given less than a minute to pick the sole item you’ll take from your home into a new land. Or, you must read a passage, but with flashing lights, clapping hands and stomping feet all around, you can’t comprehend the words on the page.

These powerful, eye-opening simulations of what it can be like to be a refugee or a person with autism came to Byram Hills High School as part of the second annual Vox Summit, which introduced students to a variety of societal issues at home and abroad. The special event for freshmen was aimed at promoting increased engagement by students and encouraging them to speak up for positive change in the world.

The May 2 event began with a panel of students discussing their service-learning trips, followed by breakout sessions where students met with members of organizations that help others. The day wrapped up with a World Cafe, where students reflected on what they heard and learned.

“By exposing them to different service projects around the world, different groups that handle different human experiences around the world, or even in our own backyard, we want to expose our students to people who are different than they are and highlight the importance of bringing dignity to everybody’s experience,” Principal Christopher Walsh said.

“The focus is letting them know that they do have a voice and they do have the power to change the world,” he added. “We want them to start thinking outside of our small community and to start thinking globally.”

The summit was based on the Asia Society’s four tenets of global competency, which are to investigate the world, recognize perspectives, take action and communicate ideas, according to summit organizer, Melissa Stahl, Chairperson of the World Languages Department.

“The summit was a chance for freshmen to see that opportunities exist in the local, national and international realm for them to make a positive change for something or someone else in the world and society,” Ms. Stahl said.

Students presenting at the VOX summit

Instead of a single keynote speaker, a panel discussion was held featuring Byram Hills students, including one freshman, discussing service-learning trips they had taken to countries including India and Tanzania. The moderator, social studies teacher Thomas Andriello, led the conversation about their experiences and asked students about the leadership qualities they developed through these projects.

From there, students attended breakout sessions. The sessions featured the work of eight organizations: SHARE the Project, a community service group; Bridges to Community, an international nonprofit group that helps people living in impoverished communities in developing nations; Extraordinary Ventures, which supports people with autism and other developmental disabilities; IRIS, which helps refugees and immigrants; Amigos International, which offers volunteering programs in Central and South America; KEEP: Girls in School, which helps keep at-risk girls in school in Kenya; Neighbors Link, which tries to strengthen the community through the healthy integration of immigrants; and Pleasantville Cottage School, a residential treatment program for boys and girls ages 7 to 16. Another session was led by a teacher and focused on the five key practices of leadership from “The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations.”

Breakout session during the VOX summit

During the World Cafe sessions in the cafeteria, students sat in small groups at tables, where each had a student facilitator who was either a Global Scholars Program student or a member of the Student Leadership Board. “We had a lot of students involved in being leaders and showing the freshmen how it is possible for them to become leaders in one capacity or another,” Ms. Stahl said.

“We hope the kids are inspired to want to engage in making positive change and feel competent they can,” she added. “Small changes can lead to big change, and we want students to know that they can use their voice and have an influence. You’re never too young to start making positive change.”

Mr. Walsh called the summit a success.

“We thought the students were really engaged and the different organizations did a great job of discussing their benefits to society,” he said. “Overall, it was a great day for our freshmen.”

2018 Tenure Awards

2018 Tenure Awards

The five Byram Hills educators who received tenure in 2017-2018 were honored by the Board of Education in June. They are: (from left in the back row) Robert Castagna, director of health education, physical education and athletics; Jessica Shaw, English language arts teacher at Byram Hills High School; Jill Boynton, director of special services; (from left in the front row) Mary Brady, special education teacher at Wampus Elementary School; and Deepak Marwah, director of fine arts. “Tenure means a commitment,” Superintendent Jen Lamia said. “Through extensive observations and extensive collaborations, the District feels confident not only in what you’ve done, but what we think you will continue to do for the children of Byram Hills. Each one of you has exemplified, for me, how collaboration with colleagues supports our kids.”

2018 Longevity Service Awards

Twenty-five members of the Byram Hills faculty and staff were recognized for their many years of service during a Board of Education meeting in June. Together, they have devoted a collective 585 years to Byram Hills. The Longevity Service Award recipients are (from left in the front row): Jennifer Rowell, Barbara Boemio, Susan Ornstein, Ellen Medd, Duane Smith. (From left in middle row): Sara Fischer, Linda Haracz, Florence Behr. (From left in back row): Jared Christian, Jacqueline White, Antoinette Addonizio LaPeruta, Phil Peterson, Doreen Cohen, David Bruskewicz, Anne Kaplan, David McMichael, Melissa Stahl, Robert DiMartino.

Not pictured: David Eisermann, Kathleen Guglielmo, Alexandra Davies, Isabelle Del Vecchio,Brian Ettinger, Mariann Neale, Anne-Marie Pasquale.

Four Byram Hills Teachers Honored with Teacher Recognition Award

The Byram Hills School District celebrated the four recipients of this year’s Teacher Recognition Award in June, honoring them for their commitment to education that goes above and beyond the duties of a classroom teacher.

The 2017-2018 award winners are Nicole Cavalieri, a secondgrade teacher at Coman Hill Elementary School; Lindsey McHale, a special education teacher at Wampus Elementary School; Jared Christian, a health and physical education teacher at H.C. Crittenden Middle School; and Amy Menasche, a fine arts teacher at Byram Hills High School.

Teacher Recognition Award Recipients

The winners receive $1,000 to be used during the next school year for items such as classroom materials or professional development, and they traditionally address the faculty in the fall. “To be there on that day and find out what was it in their lives that inspired them to be this person for children is sustaining and enriching for all of us,” Superintendent Jen Lamia said.

Coman Hill

Nicole Cavalieri regularly goes beyond her obligations as a classroom teacher.

“To put it simply, Nicole teaches each and every one of us — children and adults — what it means to demonstrate kindness and compassion while always focusing on building skills that will foster success,” Principal MaryBeth Crupi said.

Mrs. Cavalieri really gets to know her students and infuses that knowledge into her lessons to make them more exciting, Ms. Crupi said. She also empowers her students to understand the impact of their social decisions.

“There is not a day that goes by where Nicole is not modeling and teaching kindness,” Ms. Crupi said. “From posting random acts of kindness on her bulletin board to acting in the Coman Cares assembly, Nicole truly teaches us that we can brighten someone else's day just by being kind and promoting good cheer.”

She sets high expectations and encourages students to challenge themselves.

“It is not uncommon to walk into Nicole's classroom and to hear a child exclaim, ‘I did it!’ or ‘I'm learning how to get better at this!’” Ms. Crupi said. “Perseverance and pride are in abundance in Nicole's classroom.”

Wampus Elementary School

The level of care and support that Lindsey McHale has for her students is extraordinary.

Mrs. McHale has made her classroom “a visible and integral part of the Wampus community,” said Debra Cagliostro, who just retired as principal at Wampus.

“Her students are greeted by everyone and the peer mentor program has exploded with students interested in buddying with her class,” Mrs. Cagliostro said. “Her expectations are high but her level of support and encouragement has allowed the children to flourish.”

In anticipation of a performance at school of “Addy & Uno,” a musical about a child with autism, Mrs. McHale provided an opportunity for Wampus students to ask questions and learn about students who experience the world in a different way, Mrs. Cagliostro said.

“Her energy, creativity, and passion are exemplars of a teacher who is not coming to her ‘job’ but coming to her calling,” Mrs. Cagliostro said. “We can teach teachers skills and pedagogy but we can't teach them to have love and commitment. Thankfully for all of us, Lindsey has it all.”

H.C. Crittenden Middle School

Jared Christian has taught in Byram Hills for 20 years, and every year, his priorities are his students and their growth as he helps them learn about the benefits of physical activity and a healthy mindset.

“Through his work and dedication in the classroom, in the gymnasium, outside on the ropes course or on the field, Mr. Christian provides students with the tools to make good decisions regarding their diet, their exercise and their lifestyle,” Principal Kim Lapple said.

She lauded Mr. Christian as a quiet leader, saying that “his actions are a constant reminder of why we teach.”

“Through his positive inner voice, he motivates others around him to reach their goals,” Ms. Lapple said. “He pursues self-improvement, utilizes self-reflection and embraces his role as a consummate team player. Most importantly, he seeks to engage students as partners in their learning.”

She applauded his respect for students as individuals and said that he “makes everyone around him better.”

Byram Hills High School

Fine arts teacher Amy Menasche continually demonstrates the ideals of lifelong learning.

She has found many avenues for her students to be evaluated by professional artists and helps them prepare their submissions to outside art competitions, said Principal Christopher Walsh, who called her a “tremendous promoter of art as a career to her students and the community.”

“Amy consistently challenges her students to become better artists by encouraging them to submit their work to various competitions throughout the country,” he said. “In one instance this year, Amy drove round trip to Pittsburgh with one of her student's sculptures that was being submitted into the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts competition so that it wouldn't get damaged in transit. The student wound up winning a scholarship and a prize for his work.”

Next year, Mrs. Menasche will teach a new class, yearbook production, which Mr. Walsh said promotes the District’s vision of authentic learning through multiple content areas.

“She is always looking for new ideas to make her classroom more authentic and cutting edge,” he said.

Congratulations Class of 2018!

Class of 2018 Group Picture

The 205 members of the Byram Hills High School Class of 2018 hugged and cheered their classmates, listened to inspiring speeches full of reminiscences and well wishes, and finally, crossed the stage and received their well-deserved diplomas.

The commencement ceremony, held June 19 at The Performing Arts Center at Purchase College, began as the graduates filed onto the stage in royal blue caps and gowns to the traditional sounds of “Pomp and Circumstance” performed by the high school band.

After a welcome from Principal Christopher Walsh, the salutatorian, Stella Li, and valedictorian, Jackson Deitelzweig, addressed their classmates with a mix of nostalgia and inspiration.

Ms. Li expressed her gratitude to all who helped the class reach the moment of graduation — parents, teachers, administrators, janitors, substitute teachers, interns and even the barista at the Byram Bean.

Stella Li speaking at Graduation

“Everyone in this community came together to make this incredible and vital educational experience possible,” she said. “Here’s to the 13 years that have passed, and to all the years that are yet to come. Graduating seniors, go out there and change the world.”

Mr. Deitelzweig highlighted the lifelong friendships that have been made at Byram Hills, and offered his own interpretation of the Dr. Seuss classic “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.”

“We all have different interests, different hopes and different dreams, but we all aspire to do something truly great,” he said. “What’s important to realize is that we all can and we all will.”

Jackson Deitelzweig speaking at Graduation

In the principal’s address, Mr. Walsh noted that the audience included members from at least five generations, and he recalled their contributions and challenges in an ever-changing world. He told the graduates that although their futures are unknown, they have already proven they’re unafraid to use their collective voice and that the one constant in their lives has been change.

“No generation has ever been better prepared to deal with the unknown than they are,” Mr. Walsh said. “Take what is the best from every generation that has helped to form you. Fifty years from now, some adult in a funny robe will be giving a speech about the graduates of this generation and how they changed the world.”

Giving her first commencement address as superintendent, Jen Lamia urged the graduates to continue the good work they’ve done at Byram Hills, to use their “strong, commanding voices” and to take “full possession of your strength and your conviction.” She also reminded them to take risks and to begin their next chapter with wide-open hearts and minds.

“You are thoughtful, curious, determined, energetic and, most importantly, compassionate human beings,” Ms. Lamia said. “We need you now more than ever to continue to build our beautiful world.”

Other highlights included the presentation of a class gift of a waterfall for the new wellness center in the high school library, the concert choir performing a moving rendition of “Home,” and of course, the cap toss. As Assistant Principal Kristen Sautner presented the Class of 2018, the blue caps went flying high, a striking sight against the bright red backdrop.

Students at Graduation taking selfie Students at graduation


In the fall, 99 percent of the graduates are headed to college, and 77 percent of the class was accepted by a Tier 1 or 2 college or university. Six percent of the class will attend an Ivy League institution.