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By Annette McLoughlin

Inspired – or maybe troubled – by a national environment that seems to be challenging our collective notion of civility, several parents of Middle School students approached Rye Middle School principal Dr. Ann Edwards with a proposition. The concerned parents recommended that the school consider applying to enter a program overseen by the Anti-Defamation League called No Place for Hate. Dr. Edwards embraced the idea and set the wheels in motion. “I thought this would be a good vehicle to use to bring the issue of respect, civility, and inclusion to the attention of the students in the middle school.”

In order to qualify for official No Place for Hate designation, a school must form a committee, collect signatures on a “Resolution of Respect” contract, complete a training program, and design and implement a school-wide anti-bias or anti-bullying program. The program must clearly define the expectations for behavior from the community. The majority of RMS students signed a resolution and it is currently a registered school.

Dr. Edwards explained the next step in the process. “The students will complete a brief survey to identify the degree they think bullying and related behaviors are a problem inside and outside RMS. We want to learn if we have problems with name calling, teasing, exclusionary behavior, homophobia, sexual harassment, or cyberbullying.”

The results of the survey will determine a course of action. “We want to help our students develop civility. They are moving into a more and more inclusive world. We want them to be able to live in a peaceful world,” said Dr. Edwards.”

Other No Place for Hate designated schools include Dobbs Ferry High and Middle schools, Edgemont Junior-Senior High School, Rye Neck Middle School, and Somers High and Middle schools.

For more information on the program, visit www.adl.org/who-we-are/our-organization/signature-programs/no-place-for-hate.

 

As part of their annual community service project, Resurrection School students recently participated in two Midnight Runs, as they have for nearly 20 years.

At the beginning of the school year, Dale Williams, director of Midnight Run, came to the school to give all seventh and eighth graders an introduction to the program — its history and its aim to deliver food and clothing to those living on the streets of New York City and engage with them when you do.

To fund the two runs, students collected cash donations after mass at Church of Resurrection. Thanks to the generosity of the Rye community, the students were able to purchase extra clothing and supplies. The children were also very grateful for the support of Stop & Shop in Port Chester and Crisfield’s in Rye, both of which generously donated food.

On the day of the November 17 run, right after school, seventh-grade volunteers made delicious hot soup while eighth graders from Mrs. Nicastro’s class sorted, labeled, and folded clothing, and made sandwiches and toiletry bags to serve 125 people in need.

That night, students came back to school to load all the supplies, containers of warm soup, and hot chocolate into five SUVs driven by parent volunteers and accompanied by Assistant Principal Robert Forcelli and English teacher Audrey Blondel. Each vehicle was dedicated to certain items, including different size clothing, shoes, socks, and toiletry kits, as well as prepackaged food.

At 10, the Midnight Runners arrived in Manhattan. The eighth graders handed out supplies and interacted with the homeless, which is what makes the Midnight Run an extraordinary experience for all.

In one instance, after receiving the supplies he needed, one man started talking about his childhood and the fun times he’d had in his life. He seemed pleased to be able to talk with people who cared about what he was going through.

Many of the Resurrection students were humbled by the experience and have already signed up to volunteer next year.

 

 

At its December 20 meeting, Rye Neck Union Free School District’s Board of Education passed a resolution to present two related infrastructure and renovation bond propositions for a vote on February 13.

The first proposition, for $6.28 million, covers safety improvements by replacing flat roof sections at each of the District’s buildings. The Middle and High School roofs, covering more than 100,000 square feet are 23 years old and need to be completely replaced. Daniel Warren and F.E. Bellows elementary schools have smaller flat roof sections that are more than 20 years old.

The second proposition, for $21.33 million addresses the need to expand and upgrade the District’s outdate and overcrowded facilities caused by increased enrollment. It also addresses the need for flexible, collaborative classroom and laboratory spaces related to STEAM educational programs. The proposition includes the addition of eight classrooms and the High and Middle school campus which will be housed in a new two-story Collaborative Science Center.

Residents are encouraged to visit www.ryeneck.k12.ny.us/ for more detailed information. Bond hearings will be held January 24 and February 7 in the High School Community Room.

 

 

On December 8, Holy Child screened “Dream, Girl”, a documentary which chronicles the lives of women entrepreneurs, which was followed by a panel discussion with local entrepreneurs. The talk was moderated by Heather Cabot, an angel investor, writer, and adjunct professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. A former ABC News anchor/correspondent, Cabot reports on digital trends for a number of news and syndicated daytime talk shows. She is also the co-author of “Geek Girl Rising”, which profiles powerful women in tech.

The event was organized by Kristine Budill, Director of Holy Child’s E.E. Ford Program in Architecture, Engineering & Design for the Common Good.

The evening’s panelists included: Hadley Pollet, a fashion designer; Saskia Sorrosa, CEO of Fresh Bellies, which creates preservative-free baby foods; and Caroline Danehy, a Colgate University student and co-founder and creative director of Fair Harbor Clothing, which uses environmentally responsible materials like recycled plastic bottles and organic cotton.

Holy Child junior Lillian Mahemedi was inspired by entrepreneurs who’ve funneled their interests into making products that fill a need or solve a problem. “Saskia Sorrosa’s story was especially interesting, because when she realized that picky eaters can develop from a young age, she set out to make a baby food line that would introduce babies to broader flavors sooner.”

Her classmate, Martina Garate-Griot, was impressed by the fact that Caroline Danehy was just a senior in high school when she started Fair Harbor.

Ms. Budill was pleased to bring together Heather Cabot with the panel of women entrepreneurs. “I wanted to show our students that pursuing your passion — even at an early age — is incredibly important, but it must be combined with hard work, a willingness to network, and a desire to seek out support from those who have traveled the path before you.”

 

 

By Annette McLoughlin

Her long relationship with the Rye City School District begins at that point in a stay-at-home mom’s life when she has packed her youngest off to kindergarten and sits down to enjoy the exquisite silence. For Deb Antonecchia, that quiet was interrupted by the ring of the telephone.

The call was from her mother who rang her from Rye High School where she worked as secretary to the principal. “One of my mom’s clerical co-workers in the Middle School was ill and needed long-term coverage, so, of course, my mom volunteered me to fill in now that my children were in school,” recalled Antonecchia with a smile. “That was the beginning of my long and unexpected career with the Rye City School District.”

Two years after she began, her temporary position became a permanent appointment, as the secretary to the Director of Athletics at that time, Dr. Bernie Miller. After a few years in the Athletic Office, she moved into the office of the Dean of Students, along with Joe DeRuvo, who was being promoted after a long tenure of teaching at Osborn. It was in this position that she touched so many lives, for a total of almost three decades.

All who were lucky enough to work with her, describe her as kind, thoughtful, and compassionate. Rye Middle School Principal Dr. Ann Edwards, who knows her well, said she is the “ideal mix of professionalism and compassion. Debby is one of the most graceful women I have ever known. She is able to put aside whatever personal challenge she may be facing in order to help a middle school child open his or her locker or wait for a ‘meeting’ with the assistant principal.”

Antonecchia’s passion for her job, and most especially for her co-workers and the students, was evident in the way she approached every day and addressed every person. Asked about cherished memories of her time at RMS, she said, “I have struggled to come up with special memories, but to be very truthful, each and every one I have taken with me is special. I looked forward to going to work every single day. There was never one day in all those years that a child didn’t make me smile. Everyone should be as fortunate to have had a career that they love as much as I did.”

Math teacher Alex Tejera described the way she selflessly brought people under her wing and possessed innate grace. “From the time I arrived at Rye Middle School, Debby has been a second mother to me. She seems to know exactly the right thing to say and goes out of her way to help me and then follow up to make sure everything worked out.”

Science teacher Michele McRedmond recalled how compassionate and vital Antonecchia was in a very difficult time in her life. “She went above and beyond. In the last year and a half, my daughter suddenly lost her father and then I lost my sister. Honestly, I knew that no matter what, my classes and students would be taken care of because Debby would make sure of it...and she would find the time to check in on me.”

She was a fount of RMS information and everyone’s daily question-answerer and problem-solver. “Ask Deb”, according to many, may have been the most common phrase in the building these past decades.

Dr. Edwards praised Antonecchia for her levelheaded approach to the daily drama that is inevitable in a building full of adolescents. “Debby was able to remain calm in the sometimes chaotic world of the middle school. She knew how to cover classes, manipulate the schedule, and keep people happy with room assignments. 

English teacher Michael Massett added, “Debbie had her finger on the pulse of the middle school. She knew the ins and outs of how the school operated, treated the staff like family, and knew each and every child that went through the doors.”

Antonecchia shared that it has been “a joy to see generations of Rye students pass through the hallways during my tenure.”

A Garnet legacy and small town devotee, she basked in the personal connections and familial continuity of Rye. “My mother was a proud Rye High graduate, as were I and my siblings, and then my children. I have been delighted to see so many of these kids grow up, have families of their own, and remain right here in Rye.” She It became commonplace for a parent who was a Rye alumni to walk in the office, see me, and exclaim in amazement, “Oh my gosh, are you still here?” 

Deb Antonecchia retired this month, so she won’t be there when everyone returns from Christmas break, but the memories will linger on.

Deb Antonecchia

Sounds of the season rang out in the chapel at Manhattanville School where School of the Holy Child held its annual Christmas Concert December 12. Choral, instrumental, and chamber ensembles from both the middle and upper schools performed a selection of modern and traditional music from around the world, and offered gospel readings that narrated the Christmas story.

— Photo by Mark Wyville