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Westfield Day School

Many have passed by the gray, non-descript Victorian building while dashing toward the train station or hurrying to the post office, without giving a second thought to what is behind the unobtrusive red sign and door at 23 Purdy Avenue.

 

23 Purdy Avenue, Rye
967-2530
Year Founded: 2000
Head of School: Peter Schoenholtz
Grades: 7-12
Enrollment: 25
Average Class Size: 3
Student/Teacher Ratio: 2 to 1
First Day of School: September 7

 

Many have passed by the gray, non-descript Victorian building while dashing toward the train station or hurrying to the post office, without giving a second thought to what is behind the unobtrusive red sign and door at 23 Purdy Avenue.

 

And, as Peter Schoenholtz, LCSW, Founder and Director of Westfield Day School, deadpans with a sigh, “We just might be the best-kept secret in Rye.”

 

While many schools can boast of new high-tech facilities or sports fields, Westfield’s reputation rests on a far simpler, decidedly “low-tech” premise: taking kids with special needs and giving them hope and a new future.

 

Or not so simple, as explained by Pamela Heldman, Academic Director and newly appointed Assistant Director for Administration: “I tell all our new staff in orientation, especially those from the public schools where I spent 30 years, ‘just because you may only have three students in your class, don’t for a minute think it’s going to be easy; it’s harder than it seems and different than teaching a lesson plan to 20 kids. You have to find a way of making sure each child understands what you’re teaching, otherwise their difficulties will get in their way, just as they did at other schools.’”

 

While Westfield students often have a combination of learning disabilities and psychological problems, it is classified as a non-public school for students with learning disabilities, according to the Directory of Non-public Schools from the New York State Education Department.

 

“When I approached SED about starting this school in 2000, they told me they were sorry, but there was no such type of school that works exclusively with students with both emotional and learning problems, so we’d just have to be content with the learning disability classification,” lamented Mr. Schoenholtz. “But, since labels don’t really matter to me anyway as a clinician, I thought, ‘So what?’”

 

He continued, “As a child therapist and consultant for schools, I was keenly aware of how kids with both emotional difficulties and learning problems were forced into one category or another, but were often just failing in mainstream settings.”

 

And so was born the concept of the school, whose trademarked motto is: “Linking Education and Emotional Support.”

 

Ms. Heldman relates example after example of how at Westfield, the needs of students determine the help they receive. “These kids struggle to fit in to traditional schooling and society’s expectations. It’s our job to create expectations they can master and improve upon, slowly raising the bar

until everyone agrees they’re ready to move on.”

 

And move on they do: Westfield prides itself on the over 90% acceptance rate of graduates to their first-choice colleges. For the New York students taking Regents, they and their parents can be comforted in knowing the combined test scores average over 85%, when many of the students were previously unable to even take the tests, let alone pass them with “flying colors”.

 

Westfield has added another innovation this year to their considerable portfolio of individualized educational programs – The Westfield After Day School.

 

“The idea grew out of the realization that since we provide such a close, personalized learning experience during the day, why not open our doors after school for general public tutoring?” said Ms. Heldman. “When a student asked us about learning guitar, we thought, ‘Why not?’ Soon, we had ten other kids joining in, and that turned into an end-of-year project for the entire school, a professionally mastered CD of mostly original songs.”
Unlike the regular Westfield program that works with up to 25 students in grades 7 through 12, the after school program can adapt to the needs of students at any grade level and in all academic subjects, with an after school music and arts program as well.

 

“This is what we’ve been doing successfully for 11 years, so we thought that this would be a good time to get out the word,” said Mr. Schoenholtz.
It’s clearly time that this “best kept secret in Rye” no longer be kept by just the lucky few.

 

NEW TEACHERS:

 

Samantha Cosentino
Graphic Art, Italian
Ms. Cosentino has her Master’s in Italian Literature and also freelances as a Graphic Artist. She is excited to bring her energy and creativity to the students at Westfield this year.


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