By Robin Jovanovich

Talking to a group of longtime Rye volunteer firemen, it is hard not to view them as professionals. For decades they’ve governed themselves, electing chiefs and assistant chiefs, and responding to and putting out their share of fires. They weren’t paid, but they always showed up.

Change, however, comes faster than you think, and not just in technology.

When Michael Corcoran was hired as Rye’s Police Commissioner last year, the Rye Fire Department was struggling to find qualified volunteers who were ready to step up as chiefs, so they waived the five-year residency requirement.

Meanwhile, the City Council voted to change the City Charter and create a Commissioner of Public Safety position, to which both the Police and Fire Departments would report.

According to David Larr, who was elected chief by his peers, and Wayne Elmore and Vinnie Ballantoni, who’ve each served for close to 50 years, the volunteers asked to meet with the City liaisons, Councilmembers Kirsten Bucci and Richard Mecca. “We were concerned because the City was taking money out of planned traffic improvements to hire someone from the outside,” said Elmore. “We also wanted to make sure there would be enough money to buy needed equipment,” said Ballantoni.

It was Councilman Mecca’s suggestion to hire a Public Safety Commissioner, as they had in White Plains. “It was sold to us that the Commissioner was just an administrative position and that the leadership would remain under the chiefs,” explained Larr.

“In fact, I have an email from Commissioner Corcoran saying how much he looks forward to working with me.”

But after the Public Employee Safety & Health Bureau (PESH) came in to do an inspection of the Rye Fire Department last year, and cited them for 19 violations, 14 of them workplace violations — cooking products on the same shelf as cleaning products, expired tags, training records they found wanting — the then chief, Mike Billington, stepped down. “They discounted his experience,” said Larr with disappointment.

Larr, who was then elected chief, asked PESH if they had reviewed his files. In April of this year they emailed him that he was qualified to be chief, and Corcoran also emailed him saying he looked forward to working with him. But, according to Larr, Corcoran then delayed accepting the election results.

When we spoke to Commissioner Corcoran this week, he said that the Fire Department lacked proper oversight and supervision. “You can’t have one lieutenant in charge of 17 firefighters. It’s absurd.” He added, “Volunteers will always have a role to play. There is a tradition here and I respect it, but we need to stabilize the organizational structure and move the department forward in a professional way.”

To that end, the City has proposed adding three lieutenants and promoting, from within, a deputy chief. The estimated annual cost is $300,000, based on an average salary of over $90,000, without benefits and pensions. With overtime, a firefighter can make $130,000 a year.

Larr thinks that’s a cost that’s hard to justify, especially since the City has under $200,000 in annual fire loss. He makes a larger point: We can’t afford to replace the equipment we need ($900,000 for a new fire engine) — we received zero for capital improvement this year — but we can hire more staff?”

Corcoran said he’s looking to replace an engine in the 2018 capital budget. As far as the additional hires, he said the City still has to approve the salary scale. “We need the blessing of the City Council and Civil Service.”

By Robin Jovanovich

Rest assured, I’m no love-struck teen. Just someone trying to get your attention. And it’s not about me, but about an eight-piece band called Juice. They’re only in town a few more weeks and trust me when I tell you they’re no one-note wonder. You’ve got to hear them, which is <no problema> as they practice four or five hours a day in someone’s basement in town. The home happens to belong to the drummer’s parents, and I can get you in the front door.

The kids, most of whom got their start playing in lower or middle school bands, met four years ago, freshmen year at Boston College. Kamau Burton, acoustic guitar and vocals, was in an <a cappella> group with Ben Stevens, lead vocalist. Miles Clyatt, drummer, would run into Rami El-Abdin, bass player, at auditions. None of them was majoring in music much less thinking of becoming a professional musician, but when given a chance to jam at a Battle of the Bands, they gave their loosely organized but enormously talented group a name, a name that stuck. In no time, they were playing at sold-out events in Boston and beyond.

“I was in a different band. Juice beat my band,” said El-Abidin, who is two years older than everyone else in the group. It was only natural he took charge, building their website, getting one of their friends to be their booking agent.

They have shows lined up and are proud to tell you that they no longer play for free. In fact, they’ve opened for DNC and Kayne West. You probably know their music, Mr. Timberlake? Come to think of it, you probably have played with them!

This has been the summer of the band’s life. They’ve recorded five new tunes. (I got to hear one of them right there in the basement.) I also was given a copy of their CD, which includes two of my favorites, “Gold” and “Where I Wanna Be.” I was almost pulled over on I-95 last week because I had the radio blasting and the sunroof open and I was jammin’ to music that reminded me of Stevie Wonder, the Beatles, Three Dog Night, and youth.

These are heady times for Juice, who played at Summerfest in Milwaukee. They sold out at Garcia’s at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester. “There was big word of mouth,” acknowledged Clyatt, a 2009 Rye High graduate. “It was like a high school reunion.”

By the time you read this Mr. Timberlake, Juice will have returned from an eight-day mid-Atlantic tour.

But the best part of their summer? “The ability to access one another. “We’re determined to explore all musical paths,” said Daniel Moss, who plays guitar. “And we’re finding our own sound.”

They’re eternally grateful to Miles’ parents, Wonda and Bob Clyatt, who invited them to spend the summer and soundproofed the basement. “We love all the creative nooks in their house, but mostly we love Wonda’s cooking.”

Next month, three members, Chris Vu, who plays keyboard, Stevens, and Christian Rougeau, vocalist and violinist, are headed back to school in Boston — Chris, whose mother is a concert pianist, to study at the New England Conservatory, Ben and Christian to finish their last semester. Wanting to keep a good thing going and give their music a chance, the other five members naturally got an Airbnb in Boston for three months. They’re all looking for part-time jobs.

After that? They’re loosely talking about Nashville. “There are Airbnbs there too.”

In conclusion, Mr. Timberlake, if you want to get in touch with these boys, and I highly recommend you do, drop them a line at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. It would make my summer — and their’s.


Juice members, from left: Michael Ricciardulli, Chris Vu, Daniel Moss, Ben Stevens, Rami El-Abdin, Miles Clyatt, and Kamau Burton. Not pictured: Christian Rougeau.


Miles Clyatt in the kitchen with his mother Wonda, who’s been cooking up a storm.

By Jana Seitz

I have the greatest summer job. For six weeks I get to immerse teenagers in the great outdoors. They arrive each morning at the Rye Nature Center for Paddle Adventure Camp and we return them safely each evening, filthy dirty and happy. Sleepy boys and girls of all shapes, sizes, and temperaments appear, clutching backpacks and waiting to awaken. We hop in a big passenger van or minivan, depending on our group size, crank on some tunes, and hit the road. I’ve subjected them to everything from New Orleans funk to African instrumentals; other counselors, to sci-fi podcasts. We generally don’t speak much before we arrive at our day’s destination. They wake up slowly as I do with my Mommy Morning Caffeine Show and focus on “safety first”. Some days I drive a pickup truck and trailer with kayaks, as we alternate hiking trips with kayaking. I’ve forgotten mid-trip which vehicle I’m driving and have had to adjust accordingly. (Don’t strap the kids on the trailer; don’t take the trailer on the Taconic.)

There’s great adventure to be had within an hour’s drive of home, and we’ve found our share. The “we” of Paddle Adventure Camp consists of an incredibly knowledgeable team: Friends of Rye Nature Center’s Christine Siller (Executive Director), Taro Ietako (Conservation Director), Courtney Rothaus, AJ Johnson, and Henry Myers. They are naturalists, biologists, environmental scientists, and horticulturalists who’ve also become lifeguards and kayakers for this program.

We’ve paddled The Hudson River, Long Island Sound, and connected the dots of the Croton River from the reservoir to the dam to the Hudson. We’ve hiked the Hudson Highlands, the Bear Mountain area, and Cranberry Lake to find the quarry where the rock that built the Kensico Dam came from.

We’ve learned about Revolutionary action in the 1770s and the importance of the history of the Hudson Valley. They’ve listened to me read from my sepia-toned histories of everything from Bannerman’s Island to Playland, heard Taro’s ghost stories about Leatherman, a recluse who lived in a cave in Pound Ridge, found “wiccan” shelters and altars, lean-to’s and cairns. My incredibly informative co-counselors have taught us about mushrooms, plants, flowers, ant behavior, birds, and bugs.

During our 30 trips, we’ve picked and eaten sun-warmed berries, made our own s’mores on the heat of the dashboard, and had treats at the best sweet shops in the county. Caught crayfish, frogs, butterflies, and sunfish. Seen beaver dams and trees felled with fresh teeth marks. Found snakeskins, cicada husks, and feathers. Cleaned trash out of Blind Brook. Visited with painters <en plein air>. Discussed politics, zombies, zombie politics, architecture, travel, cooking, cultural differences, books, video games, and rap music (old is better than new).

We’ve talked to Appalachian Trail through-walkers who’d been on the road for months. Watched fire ants wage war on black ants, stealing their eggs and plundering their homes. Played in waterfalls, trudged in kayaks through overgrown water chestnut, heard the noon bells at West Point as their helicopters hovered above us in training. Had a bald eagle fly right by us at the top of Anthony’s Nose. Watched a hail and lightning storm from the safety of our van with the doors open and music blasting. Dunked our heads and feet in cold streams. Painted over graffiti on rocky cliffs in gray/brown tones to mask it. Painted our faces and bodies in river mud for “sunscreen.” Played soccer under weeping willows. Rappelled in and out of a gorge. Worn mugwort branches in our hats to ward off mosquitos. Learned to read trail maps and markers the hard way, by getting lost. Found petroglyphs left by Lipan natives. Ascended 1,000 feet in half a mile. Learned that bullying doesn’t occur in the outdoors (unless you’re riding shotgun and play “Despacito” — again — on the radio).

We’ve encountered potential dangers too — copperheads and thunderstorms. Learned of bridge jumpers and hikers who died on paths we walked, and of the foolishness of people who got out of their boats to walk in rather than wait for the tide to turn. We’ve felt more acutely the deaths of unknown soldiers who perished in a plane crash in an obscure bean field in Mississippi, far from their homes in the Hudson Valley. We’ve learned to be prepared and to think in order to elude danger, rather than be afraid.

A week has now passed since the end of camp, and I’m almost my other self again after a pedicure, a massage, and a trip to the beauty parlor. I’m still too feral to eat indoors or make polite conversation with adults. But my teen-age self reigns supreme.


Hudson River at Little Stony Point in Cold Spring

Cooling off in the Doodletown stream

Falling in line at Ward Pound Ridge Preserve

Chillin’ in Milton Harbor

Nicholas John D’Agostino died peacefully of complications due to cancer, with his family by his side, on July 12, 2017. He was 70.

Born in East Stroudsburg, Pa., on October 6, 1946, he grew up in the Bronx on Tomlinson Avenue off Pelham Parkway.

Mr. D’Agostino was a Green Beret in the Army Special Forces, and went on to a career as a restaurateur in Westchester County. He was a longtime Rye resident before moving to Cos Cob, Conn.

After the youngest of his three sons joined the Rye High School Football team, he decided to learn sports photography. In a flash, he built a successful freelance photography business, starting with The Rye Record. As a contributor for the last 18 years, he covered high school graduations and school events as well as sports, and even penned an occasional sports column called “From the Sidelines.”

“From the day Nick strolled into our office — in his tennis whites — we were among his biggest fans,” said publisher Robin Jovanovich. “He had an easy charm and was always happy to sit and share a story about his family, whom he loved and was extremely proud of. When he heard that one of my teen-age sons was a good tennis player who was struggling in school, I was not surprised to learn weeks later that they soon had a regular game.”

In early June, he called the paper to inform the staff that they could count on him to cover graduation at Holy Child, but would have to miss graduation at Rye High because he was undergoing more medical treatment. “ A few days later Nick called back to say he’d be happy to give his substitute some pointers about the best places to position yourself at the packed stadium, or if the ceremony had to be held indoors,” said Ms. Jovanovich. “That was so like him.”

Camera strap around his neck, Nick D’Agostino covered sports and special events in Westchester and Fairfield counties and beyond.

His family said he would be remembered for his social nature, generosity, and love of people —and tennis.

In addition to his wife of 37 years, Patricia D’Agostino, he is survived by his sons, Chris O’Brien (Suzanne), Craig O’Brien (Carrie), and Corey D’Agostino; his grandchildren, Caleigh and Brianna O’Brien; his brother, John, and his beloved Portuguese Water Dog, Campari.

Memorial donations may be made to The American Cancer Society.


Luisa Batista-Gallo

<Foreign Language, Middle and High Schools>

Ms. Batista-Gallo joins from the Huntington Union Free School District, where she has taught middle and high school Spanish for two years. Prior to that, she taught Spanish for three years at KIPP NYC College Prep Charter School in the Bronx and for two years at Valley Stream Central High School on Long Island.

She has a BA in Spanish Language and Literature from SUNY Stony Brook and an MA in Spanish Language and Literature from Hofstra University. She received a FLES (Foreign Language in the Elementary Schools) Certification from Dowling College’s Institute for Certification of Instruction in Foreign Languages.

Sinead Birdy

<English as a New Language (ENL)>

Ms. Birdy comes to Rye from Public School 119X in the Bronx, where she has worked for the past three years as an integrated co-teacher in second and third grade English as a New Language and as a third grade classroom teacher.

She has a BA and an MS in Education, both from Fordham University, advanced certificates in Gifted and Talented from Hunter College and in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) from Mercy College.

Dr. Eric Byrne

<Superintendent of Schools>

Dr. Byrne took the helm on July 1. For the past six years, he served as Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction in the Chappaqua Central School District. Previously, he served as Principal of the Roaring Brook School in Chappaqua, of the Pound Ridge Elementary School in the Bedford Central School District, and of PS 183 on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. He began his career as a high school science teacher at Grover Cleveland High School in Queens, and later became an elementary school teacher at PS 183. For more than eleven years he has served as an Adjunct Professor at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education.

Dr. Byrne has a BA in Natural Science from Fordham University, and an MS in Teaching and an EdD in Educational Leadership, Administration and Policy, both from Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education.

Eric DiVito

<Music, Osborn and Milton Schools>

Mr. DiVito comes to Rye from PS397, Spruce Street School, in Lower Manhattan, where he taught elementary music for four years. Previously, he taught music for seven years at C.A.S.T.L.E. Middle School on the Lower East Side. He is a private guitar instructor, composer, freelance guitarist, and leader of an eponymous modern Jazz group, the Eric DiVito group, which performs in jazz clubs in Manhattan. He has produced two records with the record label Pioneer Jazz Collective (PJC Records).

He received a BM from the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam and an MA from the Aaron Copeland School of Music at CUNY Queens College.

Dr. Erin Hyle

<School Psychologist>

Dr. Erin Hyle comes to the District from Pleasantville High School, where she completed her doctoral internship. Previously, she worked for five years as a full time school psychologist at the Gordon C. Swift Middle School in Watertown, Conn.

She has a BS in Human Development from Binghamton University; an MS in Education with a major in Preschool Psychology and a Professional Diploma in School Psychology from Fordham University; and a PhD in School Psychology, also from Fordham University.

Fatima Oliveira

<FLES (Foreign Language in the Elementary Schools), Osborn and Midland Schools>

Fatima Oliveira returns to the District from Ward Elementary School in New Rochelle, where she has taught FLES for the past two years, and New Rochelle High School, where she has taught Spanish 2. Ms. Oliveira taught FLES to grades 2 and 3 at Midland School in 2014-15. Previously, she was a special education Spanish teacher for grades 8-12 at Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES for five years.

She has a BA in Psychology and a minor in Spanish from SUNY Binghamton and an MA in Teaching Spanish K-12 from Manhattanville College.

Scott Peck

<Technology, Rye Middle and High Schools>

Mr. Peck comes to Rye from Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk High School near Albany, where he taught middle and high school technology and Project Lead the Way courses the past nine years. He has a BS in Technology Education from SUNY Oswego and an MA in Science Education from Western Governors University.

Wendy Robins

<English as a New Language (ENL)>

Ms. Robins returns to Rye from Port Chester Middle School where she worked as an English Language Arts and English as a New Language teacher for the past two years. She previously worked in the District for nine years as a Teaching Assistant in the Special Education Department and as an Elementary Reading and Writing Summer School Program teacher.

She has a BA from Queens College and a Masters of Professional Studies TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) from Manhattanville College.

<<Rye High School>>

Ashley Blanch


Ms. Blanch comes to Rye from Somers Middle School, where she worked as a Teaching Assistant, and Somers High School, where she was a Student Teacher. Previously, she worked as a Teacher Aide at Ziccolella Middle School in Hastings-on-Hudson.

Ms. Blanch has a BA in Economics from the University of Colorado and an MS in Middle and High School Mathematics Education from CUNY Lehman College.

Sally Mitchell


Ms. Mitchell comes to Rye from Pine Grove Middle School in Syracuse, where she worked as a mathematics teacher for the past year. Prior to that, she taught science for 18 years at two Syracuse-area high schools. She is a New York State STEM Master Teacher and is certified to teach Physics, Chemistry, Biology, General Science, and Mathematics.

She has a BS in Chemistry and Biology from Syracuse University and an MS in Science Education from the Syracuse University School of Education. In 2016 she was named an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

Cristina O’Connor

<Guidance Counselor>

Ms. O’Connor comes from EF International Academy in Thornwood, where she worked as a school counselor for the past three years. Prior to that, she was a School Counselor Leave Replacement at Clarkstown High School North in New City, N.Y.

She has a BS in Visual Arts Education from SUNY New Paltz and an MA in Counseling and Guidance from New York University.

Jeffrey Shannon


Jeffrey Shannon comes to Rye from the David A. Broody Intermediate School 228 for Magnet Studies in Brooklyn, where he has taught seventh and eighth grade mathematics. Previously he taught eighth grade mathematics and Algebra at Holley Middle and High School, in upstate New York, for two years.

Mr. Shannon has a BA in Mathematics with a concentration in Adolescent Education and an MS in Adolescent Education, both from SUNY Geneseo.

<<Milton School>>

Erin McArdle

<Second Grade>

Ms. McArdle comes to Milton from Hastings-On-Hudson, where she has been a leave replacement teacher for the past five years. She has also worked in both the Harrison and Greenwich public school districts as a leave replacement teacher. For eight years, she served as the director of Winged Foot Golf Club’s summer camp. She has a BA from Fairfield University and a MA in Teaching from Manhattanville College.

<<Osborn School>>

Samantha Cullen

<Speech Pathologist>

Ms. Cullen joins Osborn from the New York City Department of Education, where she worked as a speech language pathologist and pathologist-evaluator. Previously, she worked as an itinerant speech language pathologist for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

She has a BA in Linguistics from SUNY Albany and an MS in Speech Language Pathology from Mercy College.

Claudine Minella

<First Grade>

Ms. Minella was previously a kindergarten, second, and third grade substitute teacher at Osborn School, and a Kindergarten leave replacement teacher at Ridgeway School in White Plains. She also worked as an Academic Intervention Services reading and math teacher at Purchase School in Harrison. She began her career as a second grade teacher in the White Plains Public Schools, before becoming that district’s Literacy Developer.

She has a BS in Elementary Education from Pace University, and an MS with a specialty in Reading from St. John’s University.

Jon Tuttle


And just like that, summer gives way to fall, slipping off before we’ve had enough and leaving us wanting more. This is at least in part the fault of the back-to-school shopping season, which is always creeping up earlier, nudging us reluctantly toward September.

But that said, those in retail find this very good news, as B2S (the back-to-school retail acronym, for those in the know) is the second largest sales event annually.

Parents of middle schoolers will be interested — but probably not very surprised — to hear that there’s a downward shift in the age of new computer users. According to the National Retail Foundation, almost half of middle school parents surveyed said they planned to buy their middle school student a laptop this year. I hope my eighth grader doesn’t pick <this> week to start reading my articles; a laptop is not on his list.

While tech products are the big-ticket items, the majority of families will be shopping for the classic school gearbackpacks, apparel, footwear.

The major difference in back-to-school shopping behavior is a shift in who is making the decisions; we are relinquishing a lot of the decision-making to our children and allowing them more buying influence.

School backpacks have always been a way for kids to express their individuality, and right now, the prints, colors, and style options are eye-popping. More backpacks are made with thoughtfully-designed compartments and pockets made specifically to stash water bottles, laptops, phones, and, of course, a few books.

One of the most popular gadget accessories this season is the cell phone adhesive pocket that holds student IDs, thereby eliminating the need to carry anything beyond a phone. And the myriad of portable charger options out there mean parents should no longer hear “Sorry, my battery died.

— Annette McLoughlin

Note: All back to school articles are searchable under the "Back To School" tag.