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Delivering Holiday Cheer

Some of North Salem’s oldest and youngest residents have become friends, sharing time together to ring in the holiday season.

The students of Pequenakonck Elementary School were busy elves during the month of December, creating cards, crafts and letters to cheer all 125 residents of Salem Hills Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Purdys for the holidays.

Fifth-graders wrote and decorated cards and letters, while younger students created bookmarks, stationery and snowman ornaments.

In addition, students, faculty and staff have been saving water bottles since September, and the money obtained from recycling them was used to buy gifts and craft supplies for their senior friends. To date, $441.45 was raised from recycling 8,829 water bottles. Everyone in the school was involved in the project, and many donations were received from school families as well. 

PQ’s three kindergarten classes traveled to Salem Hills before the holiday recess to deliver the cards and gifts, as well as perform a mini holiday concert for the residents. Seniors were invited to sing along and joined in for several holiday tunes, filling the halls of Salem Hills with the sounds of the holidays. The intergenerational friends exchanged gifts and the kindergartners brought back beautiful solar cardinals that flap with friendship.

This heartwarming project is part of the school’s ONE CUB Kindness Initiative founded by kindergarten paraprofessionals Britt Togonon and Lisa Finer. ONE CUB’s goal is to empower students with the knowledge that they can make a difference in the world through kindness. It all starts with ONE CUB!



Kindergartners Embrace ONE CUB Initiative

The kindergarten class at Pequenakonck Elementary School has fully embraced its ONE CUB mission to spread kindness throughout the school and community.

Thanking Veterans

In November, kindergarteners gathered in the cafeteria to learn about the country’s brave veterans and the importance of thanking them as Veterans Day approached.

Students listened to the story “Hero Dad” and created and decorated three-dimensional stars containing a message of thanks. These stars were delivered to veterans at the Burke Rehabilitation Outpatient Clinic in Somers, veterans residing at Salem Hills Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Purdys, as well as the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Bronx. 

Stars were also gifted to veterans working for the North Salem Central School District. The kindergarteners also made star necklaces with a shiny penny in the middle to wear on Veterans Day or to give to a relative who is a veteran.

Making a Difference

At the end of October, students participated in national Make A Difference Day and learned that they can make a difference in the world every day.

Kindness at School and Home

Students have also brought home red and orange hearts to list all of their kind deeds for family and friends. This school/home connection project partnered parents and students. Parents were asked to help write down all the acts of kindness performed by their child, and then they cut the hearts out together. Kindergartners made a difference by cleaning their rooms, helping siblings, setting the table, picking up leaves and giving hugs to family members.

These beautiful hearts were sent back to school, and each one was read aloud to the class followed by a cheer! An orange and red tree mural is overflowing with all the returned hearts and is proudly displayed across from the purple kindergarten hallway.

Connecting With Seniors

On Halloween, PQ’s kindergarten classes donned their costumes for the first annual Halloween visit with intergenerational friends at Salem Hills Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Purdys. 

Salem Hills was filled with smiles as the students paraded around the arts and crafts room in their costumes to the seniors’ delight. The children were thrilled to wish their senior friends a “Happy Halloween” as they trick-or-treated around the festively decorated room. The residents, in their Halloween costumes as well, gave out trinkets to the PQ students. The visit concluded with the kindergarteners singing “The 13 Nights of Halloween.” The visit is one of several planned between the facility and PQ, including one in December for the holidays!

“PQ kindergarteners, we are so proud of you!” said paraprofessionals Lisa Finer and Britt Togonon in a joint statement. “You can make our world a better place, ONE CUB at a time!”


Future Programmers Tackle the Hour of Code

For the fifth consecutive year, Pequenakonck Elementary School students celebrated Computer Science Education Week by learning to code and improving their programming skills from Dec. 4-10.

The Hour of Code offers students of all ages across the globe an introduction to computer science. New and returning PQ students were excited to embrace the initiative through fun tutorials offered on

See the Hour of Code in action in the video below and view a photo gallery here.


PQ Running Club Celebrates Achievements

Members of the Pequenakonck Elementary School Running Club recently wrapped up the club’s 13th season with a recognition ceremony.

“At the conclusion of the club each year, we have a short ceremony to acknowledge the fourth- and fifth-grade students that have participated,” said coach Robert Gilchrist. “Family members [and] community members are invited to join in on our celebration.”

At the ceremony, each runner received a T-shirt and certificate of completion. Awards were sponsored by Northern Westchester Hospital and presented to the students by its president and chief executive, Joel Seligman.

The Running Club offers a designated day for participating students to run based on their grade over the course of seven weeks.

“It’s an excellent opportunity for our students to meet new friends, understand the importance of fitness, and more importantly, enjoy a lifelong activity,” said Gilchrist.

Students set personal mileage goals each season to reach the 15, 30 or 50 mileage clubs. Over the course of the club’s season, students track the total number of miles they run on charts displayed in the gymnasium lobby. Students can also choose to run on weekends with their parents, siblings and other family members to accumulate more mileage. Banners in the gymnasium also display the highest accumulated miles completed by male and female runners each season.

At the culmination of the 2017 season, students were offered support by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kenneth Freeston, Principal Mary Johnson and Assistant Principal Dr. Stephanie Bell, who were in attendance at the ceremony.

“Our school and NWH have been in this partnership for the last 13 years, promoting and celebrating good health and fitness,” said Gilchrist. “We are privileged and thrilled to have such a strong organization supporting our running program here at PQ.”


running img

Honoring a Local Veteran

Each year around Veterans Day, third-grade students at Pequenakonck Elementary School pay tribute to veterans from the various branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.

This year, on Nov. 15, students welcomed Nancy Beetstra, a Marine and member of the Wounded Warrior Project, to the school. Beetstra is a relative of one of the third-grade students and said she was honored that PQ’s students take the time learn about veterans each year.

Students interviewed Beetstra about her experience as a Marine and later, each completed a write-up about a veteran; noting the branch of military he or she serves or have served in, any wars the veterans have served in and a brief description of their tours of duty. The write-ups, along with photos of the veterans, are proudly on display in the third-grade hallway.


warrior image

A Frightfully Fun Halloween at PQ

The hallways and classrooms of Pequenakonck Elementary School seemed a little extra spooky on Tuesday, Oct. 31.

Students, faculty, staff and administrators alike got into the Halloween spirit by dressing up in creative and fun costumes.

Kindergartners, in particular, enjoyed the day’s festivities by participating in a number of Halloween-themed activities like pumpkin decorating and skeleton making (using Q-tips!) before ending the day with a parade around the school. 


Philipsburg Manor

Grade 1 visits Philipsburg Manor to participate in hands-on activities of the 18th century and learn the story of enslavement in the colonial north.


manor image

Dad's Day

On Monday 9/18 and Tuesday 9/19 PQ Elementary celebrated Dad's Day. Dads, or other significant male role models, brought their children to school and enjoyed a morning of math games over breakfast. Dads walked their children to class and joined Mrs. Johnson and Dr. Bell for a short presentation on teaching math at the elementary level. Here are some of the photos from the mornings. #PQdadsrock

A New Year of Learning

Students, faculty and administrators are all ready for another exciting year of learning and growth in the North Salem Central School District.

At each grade level, administrators are hosting assemblies and orientations to acquaint and reacquaint students with the ins and outs of the school day.

At the middle/high school, new Principal Mr. Vince DiGrandi and Assistant Principal Dr. Kathleen Murphy have been introducing themselves to students and faculty as they too ease into their roles. They have hosted welcome assemblies for grades 7-12 and have given sixth-graders more time to assimilate to their new building.

“The kids are undergoing a lot of change [with the new administrators],” said Mr. DiGrandi. “But they seem open to new opportunity. Everything has been great so far.”

Pequenakonck Elementary School welcomed new Assistant Principal Dr. Stephanie Bell. She, with Principal Mrs. Mary Johnson, have been meeting with each grade level during the first week to review expectations and appropriate behaviors in various school environments including the cafeteria, hallways, playground and bathrooms.

“It has been a great start to the year,” said Mrs. Johnson. “There is a lot of new energy and the kids are happy to be back.” 


Being Friendly with Four-Legged Friends

Friends come in all shapes and sizes, and earlier this year, PQ’s ONE CUB Kindness Initiative made some new four-legged friends when they visited Our Farm Equine Rescue in North Salem. The visit was part of ONE CUB’s expansion to include teaching students about kindness toward pets and animals.

The ONE CUB team decided to use recycling money from bottles/cans donated by students, families, faculty and staff to make a donation to the facility to help feed the rescued horses, as they wait to be adopted and find a forever home. Sharon Kress, the Rescue founder, provided an informative, guided tour and introduced GiGi, Sadie, Harry, Obie and Nugget – the horses she rescued and is currently rehabilitating. Gazing into the expressive eyes of the beautiful animals, the team knew they had to do something to help this most worthy cause.

The team rallied the troops at PQ and sent a letter home to families announcing the project and asking for bottle donations. The response was overwhelming! On May 5, Ms. Kress came to PQ to receive a card containing $220 to help with horse expenses. Lisa Finer and Britt Togonon, PQ paraprofessionals and ONE CUB co-founders, recycled 4,400 bottles and cans over three months to raise this amazing sum.

Kress commented, “Thanks again! We are so appreciative and proud to be a recipient of this program. I am so proud of and impressed by your students. Great job!”

In addition to recycling, a bulletin board was created in PQ’s front hallway, which highlighted a different horse each month in hopes of getting one of them adopted. Greeting all those who enter the building were photos of each “horse of the month” along with what is known of the horse’s history.

Taking care of horses is a big responsibility, and the students in Mrs. Donofrio’s kindergarten class watched, “The Berenstain Bears’ Trouble with Pets” and learned that taking care of and being kind to any pet (large or small) is an important job. The young learners took turns sharing how they take care of their pets at home. 

“We encourage the community to continue supporting this non-profit organization in any way possible. The farm offers after-school enrichment programs and has a Facebook page and website ( detailing all the ways North Salem can help our four-legged neighbors,” Finer and Togonon said in a joint statement. “They will also be at the Old Salem Farm horse show with information about their organization. Together, we can find these beautiful animals a forever home.”

ONE CUB would like to thank PQ’s students, families, and co-workers for bringing in bottles to help the cause. Keep those bottles coming, and we’ll keep recycling to raise funds to spread kindness around our community!

ONE CUB’s mission is to empower students with the knowledge that they can make a difference in our world through kindness, communication, citizenship, problem solving, and celebrating the differences in us all.  It all starts with ONE CUB!


Acts of Kindness for the Earth

Kindergarten students celebrated Earth Day by performing acts of kindness that help the planet.

The grade has been engaged all year in the ONE CUB Kindness Initiative, and for Earth Day, students strengthened their school/home connection by bringing home two green leaves. At home, they wrote their earth-friendly acts of kindness on the leaves. Students wrote about acts such as turning the faucet off while they brush their teeth, cleaning up litter and helping their parents in the garden. Students shared their acts of kindness with their classmates before the leaves were added to a gradewide tree mural.

ONE CUB’s mission is to empower students with the knowledge that they can make a difference in our world through kindness.


Bringing Brightness to Salem Hills

With little April showers on their shoulders, Pequenakonck Elementary School’s kindergarten classes happily visited their intergenerational friends at Salem Hills Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Purdys. This sojourn marks the sixth consecutive year of this get-together to share kindness, communication, literacy, music and smiles. This trip is part of the school’s unique, ongoing ONE CUB Kindness Initiative, founded by paraprofessionals Lisa Finer and Britt Togonon in 2008.

The young learners entered the arts and crafts room with a book in one hand ready to read to their senior partners and a handmade tissue paper flower in the other to present as a gift. The friends conversed and colored together as they enjoyed each other’s company. The trip concluded with a sing-along including old standard tunes and a patriotic song. You can’t help but get goosebumps listening to voices harmonizing whose owners are separated by 80 to 100 years!

This unique friendship is ongoing throughout the year. Kindergartners made “Thank you” stars in November for veteran residents at the facility. In December, all four classes arrived with presents for every senior friend to celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah. ONE CUB expanded beyond the kindergarten walls as all grades at PQ participated to write personal cards and letters, make gifts and stationery and collect water bottles to recycle. All recycling money collected was used to purchase a gift for each of the 130 residents. PQ families, faculty and staff donated new items to be gifted – a true collaborative team effort.

In February, Chris Bockis, the activities director of Salem Hills, visited kindergarten classrooms along with her assistant, Victoria, dressed in costume to celebrate the birthday of Dr. Seuss. Salem Hills gifted the kindergarten with a Dr. Seuss book as well as a very special game designed by the seniors for their young friends. The year culminates with this April visit – a heartwarming experience for all!

ONE CUB is a constant team effort – thanks go to paraprofessionals Claudia Badia, Denise Coursen and Carole Galligan, as well as the kindergarten teaching team, for their ongoing help and support.

The mission of ONE CUB is to empower our students with the knowledge that they can make a difference in our world through kindness, citizenship, problem solving, communication and celebrating the differences in us all. ONE CUB contributes to forming the foundation of these building blocks and skills that the students will cultivate and refine over their years at PQ, the MS/HS and beyond. A happy heart is an important thing to have - always! It all starts with ONE CUB!



Learning the Importance of Pollinators


Fifth-grade students at Pequenakonck Elementary School took their studies of plants and the environment outdoors in honor of Earth Day.

In a PTO-sponsored assembly, students learned the importance of pollinators and supporting habitats by replanting native plants and flowers in the area.

“Students helped to turn the PQ garden into a pollinator garden,” said Assistant Principal Julio Vasquez. “They planted many bee and butterfly friendly flowers.”

The flowers were seedlings that students had begun growing in their classrooms, as well as seeds that were sown directly into the garden.

“Some of the flowers students planted were milkweed, swamp milkweed, butterfly weed, joe pye weed, calendula, sunflower and poppies,” said Vasquez. “Many thanks to our fifth-grade students, teachers [Mr. Tavino, Mrs. Oswald, Mrs. LeFave, Mrs. Federici and Mrs. O'Brien] and a special thank you to Mrs. Tait for spearheading the project. This project served to develop our students' communicator, collaborator, critical and creative thinking skills, [and allowed them] to actively display citizenship by caring for our environment.”


 Sharing an Environmental Message


Leading up to Earth Day, senior members of the high school’s Environmental Club visited Pequenakonck Elementary School’s kindergarten classes to share a message about protecting the environment.

The high schoolers, in pairs, read the Dr. Seuss book “The Lorax” to each kindergarten class.

“We chose ‘The Lorax’ for its environmental themes,” said club advisor Ms. Kylie McCarron.

In addition to sharing an earth-friendly message, the seniors delighted in visiting their former classrooms and teachers and meeting with the younger students.

“It’s about building connections,” said Ms. McCarron. “It’s nice when the kids take charge and teach other kids.”

After the read aloud, the seniors shared some of the initiatives the club has undertaken to make North Salem a little greener. They then asked kindergartners what they have done and can do to protect the environment. The PQ students were eager to speak about times they had picked up garbage and planted trees.



Spreading Joy and Smiles


Kindergartners at North Salem’s Pequenakonck Elementary School continue to bring smiles to others as part of the ongoing ONE CUB kindness initiative. Students decorated “Feel Better Snowmen” cards to bring some cheer to the pediatric patients at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

Prior to making the cards, paraprofessionals Claudia Badia, Lisa Finer, Carole Galligan and Britt Togonon read the Caldecott Medal winner, “A Sick Day for Amos McGee” by Philip C. Stead, with the students. They explained that making others feel better when they are ill is one way we can all share kindness. The students were soon busy coloring, gluing on sequins and stickers, as well as the following message of friendship and cheer:

This little snowman comes to say,
“Hope you feel better today!”
The Pequenakonck Kindergarten

PQ’s youngest learners were excited to create the cards and discovered that spreading joy and smiles to others can make your own heart happy too.

ONE CUB’s goal is to empower kindergartners with the knowledge that they can make a positive difference in our world through kindness.


2017 PARP Order Forms

Grade 1 Nick Bruel February 8th

Grades K&3 Laurie Keller March 9
Grade 2 David Adler March 28





2nd Grade Odyssey Gymnastics Trip

2nd Grade visits Odyssey Gymnastics to enjoy a fun-filled field trip
where they get to develop improved physical fitness as well as positive self-esteem through their involvement in gymnastics activities.

PQ's "Snowflake Ball"

All PQ girls invited their favorite special guest...Dad, Grandfather, Uncle, Brother, or other special guest for a night of dancing, ice cream sundaes, and much more!

Making a Difference at PQ


Pequenakonck Elementary School kindergarten students are learning they can make a positive impact on the world every day, thanks to lessons they received during the annual Make a Difference Day in October.

As part of ONE CUB, the ongoing Kindergarten Kindness initiative, students took home red and orange paper hearts to list all of their kind deeds for family and friends. The hearts helped reinforce the school/home connection and involved families in the students’ acts of kindness. Parents contributed by writing down the acts of kindness their children performed at home, ranging from cleaning their rooms and helping their siblings to setting the table and hugging family members.

The hearts were then brought back to the classroom, where students cheered for their peers’ acts of kindness before the hearts were hung on the tree mural in the kindergarten hallway.



Third graders visited The Hardscrabble Club as part of their tennis unit in Physical Education. Instruction focused on stance, grip, forehand & backhand swings.

Recyclo-Cubby Promotes Kindergarten Kindness

Visitors to Pequenakonck Elementary School will encounter a new greeter just inside the front doors of the school in Recyclo-Cubby – the latest addition to the school’s ONE CUB Kindergarten Kindness initiative that encourages PQ students to make a positive difference in the world.

Standing at 6’4”, Recyclo-Cubby is tough to miss. It was constructed during the last school year out of materials that were recycled and repurposed by PQ students, with assistance from paraprofessionals Lisa Finer and Britt Togonon. In total, Recyclo-Cubby is made up of 781 bottle caps, 273 snack wrappers, 246 plastic bags, 20 pounds of newspaper, along with miscellaneous pieces of memory foam, pool noodles, chicken wire, a box, six tall blue water bottles, a metal pipe, old sneakers and six layers of paper maché.

The school’s 360-degree mascot contains the following messages: recycle, honesty, kindness, respect, reuse, empathy, friendship, mindfulness, problem solver and perseverance; all life skills important to the PQ community as the students mature during their years at the school and beyond.


Kindergartners Thank Local Veterans

As part of the ONE CUB Kindness Initiative, all four Pequenakonck Elementary School kindergarten classes gathered in the cafeteria on Nov. 7 to learn about the country’s brave veterans and the importance of thanking them as Veterans Day approached.

Students listened to the story “Hero Dad” and created and decorated 3-D stars bearing messages of thanks. The stars were delivered to veterans at the Burke Rehabilitation and Outpatient Clinic in Somers, the Salem Hills Rehabilitation and Healthcare Facility in Purdys and the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Bronx. Stars were gifted to veterans working right in the North Salem Central School District, as well. The kindergartners also made star necklaces with a shiny penny in the middle to wear on Veterans Day or to give to a relative who is a veteran.

Kindergartners are learning that kindness makes a positive difference in our world — ONE CUB at a time! 


First Grade Visits Philipsburg Manor

First Grade students visit Philipsburg Manor and participate in a touch tour of the past. They visited the manor house, grist mill, kitchen and the farm to experience how families lived long ago. Here, they are looking at a cotton plant.


Dads Day Brings Special Guests to PQ 



4th Grade Sails the Hudson River on the Clearwater Sloop


 Profile of a North Salem Graduate

North Salem’s Board of Education heard a presentation at its Sept. 14, 2016 meeting that unveiled the “Profile of a North Salem Graduate as a Problem Solver.”
During the presentation, Dr. Michael Hibbard, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction and Human Resources, outlined the skills, concepts and qualities that the school district aims to instill in its students throughout their time at Pequenakonck Elementary School, the Middle/High School and eventually as high school graduates.
As problem-solvers, Dr. Hibbard said, graduates will demonstrate being:

·         Critical and creative thinkers
·         Collaborators
·         Communicators
·         Citizens
·         Continuously improving learners
This portrait aligns with the district Mission, which is to “Engage students to continuously learn, question, define and solve problems through critical and creative thinking.”
Please check the district website each week for a “Mission Monday” post sharing one or more of the ways North Salem students are engaging in Mission-related skills and developing the qualities that will allow them to become successful problem-solvers in all areas of their lives as graduates of the North Salem Central School District.
To read more about the “Profile of a North Salem Graduate as a Problem Solver,” please click here.


PQ Students Head Back to School


Pequenakonck Elementary School was buzzing with excitement on Sept. 6 as students returned to the classrooms, their new teachers and old friends for the 2016-17 academic year.

Younger students enjoyed tours of the building, which familiarized them with the various classrooms they will visit during the year, while older students became reacquainted with the school and learned about some of the responsibilities they will have this year, including setting an example for their younger peers.


Today is a: F DAY 
Chase University River Central School District