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2012-2013 School Year

Resources for including Social Justice in learning

Facing History and Ourselves:

Southern Poverty Law Center - Teaching Tolerance:

March is Women's History Month

Governor Cuomo Announces the Opening of the 2013 Women's Equality Exhibit at State Capitol -

Women's Equality -

February is Black History Month

 - CNN Student News Black History Month: Learning Activities
 - Library of Congress: African American History Month
 - Smithsonian Education: Black History Month
 - National Park Service: African American History
 - National Endowment for the Humanities: Black History Month
 - National Archives: Black History Resources
 - U.S. Census Bureau: Black History Month 2012
 - Association for the Study of African American Life and History
 - Morehouse College: Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection

Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'" The MLK Day of Service brings people together every year to serve their communities. MORE

Celebrating the Beauty of our Multicultural District

During mid-October the Monticello High School dining hall was transformed to include a make-shift dance floor so students could salsa, merengue and bachata to various Latin beats and music from places such as Puerto Rico, Colombia, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Dancing the Bachata
The lunchtime dance party was part of the ongoing district-wide culture and diversity celebration initiative and included daily menu choices of adobo chicken, taco-seasoned tilapia, churrasco steak con arroz y frijole negro and insalata fresca.

Students Bianca Escoto and Maritza Callejas took advantage of the opportunity to dance during lunch not only for enjoyment, but as a way to burn some calories after a nutritious meal. The girls also agreed that this was a great way to bring students from many different cultural backgrounds together.

“It is so awesome that the school is allowing us to embrace and express our culture,” said Maritza, whose family is from Colombia and El Salvador. “I wish we could celebrate like this more often.”

Staff and faculty worked with students from various Hispanic cultural backgrounds to plan the weeklong event and choose the music and food selections. Safety staff member Bill Nolan set up the sound equipment and helped DJ. The high school hallways were adorned with student-made posters depicting important and historical Hispanic people, events and things. Teachers encouraged students to speak about their heritages and share the similarities and differences among the diverse Hispanic cultures. View photo gallery

2011-2012 School Year

"Celebrating Culture and Diversity" digital photo array

CLICK HERE to view the digital photo array that highlights some of the ways staff and students recognize and honor the contributions and beauty of the cultures that comprise this diverse school district. It also shows how students learn to respect and embrace the differences of others.

LGBTS Club Helps Promote Culture and Diversity Initiative through Anti-Bullying Campaign

As part of the Culture and Diversity Celebration initiative the Monticello High School LGBTS (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Supporters) Club produced an anti-bullying video. The project is designed to help promote a culture of kindness and acceptance among students. The LGBTS Club members, led by President Garrett Bunce, wrote, directed and filmed the video to raise awareness as a way to hopefully deter bullying. The video is posted on YouTube. VIEW

Celebrating Culture and Diversity in the Monticello Central School District

One of the goals of the Monticello Central School District and its Board of Education is to seek, acknowledge and celebrate diversity. Celebrating Culture and Diversity in the Monticello CSD is an award-winning initiative. It is a district-wide effort to incorporate positive cultural references into everyday classroom learning and includes the celebration of the many diverse cultures that comprise the school district. The initiative also focuses on teaching tolerance and respect among students. The culture and diversity initiative began in Monticello Schools in 2010, spearheaded by Assistant Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Newman.

Focusing on Social JusticeTara Komatz talks to students

It goes way beyond the professional responsibility of educators having equal expectations for all students regardless of skin color, cultural background or religion. It is our ethical obligation to ensure that the core values of the Monticello Central School District are upheld, that every student is treated with dignity and respect, and that there is equal access to opportunities and resources. This is the true recipe for success. This is our journey - our work-in-progress.

If we are to flourish, we must continue to embrace and celebrate who we are as a culturally diverse school community. Building relationships based on trust are worth our concerted efforts. Above all, we must never lose sight of what is most precious - the future of our children.

January - Celebrating the Life of Martin Luther King, Jr.

"The time is always right to do what is right."

The following information is from The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change website.

During the less than 13 years of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s leadership of the modern American Civil Rights Movement, from December, 1955 until April 4, 1968, African Americans achieved more genuine progress toward racial equality than the previous 350 years had produced. Dr. King is widely regarded as America’s pre-eminent advocate of nonviolence and one of the greatest nonviolent leaders in world history.

Drawing inspiration from both his Christian faith and the peaceful teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. King led a nonviolent movement in the late 1950’s and ‘60s to achieve legal equality for African Americans in the United States. While others were advocating for freedom by “any means necessary,” including violence, Martin Luther King, Jr. used the power of words and acts of nonviolent resistance, such as protests and grassroots organizing, to achieve seemingly impossible goals. He went on to lead similar campaigns against poverty and international conflict, always maintaining fidelity to his principles that men and women everywhere, regardless of color or creed, are equal members of the human family.

Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Nobel Peace Prize lecture and “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” are among the most revered orations and writings in the English language.

Drawing inspiration from both his Christian faith and the peaceful teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. King led a nonviolent movement in the late 1950’s and ‘60s to achieve legal equality for African Americans in the United States. While others were advocating for freedom by “any means necessary,” including violence, Martin Luther King, Jr. used the power of words and acts of nonviolent resistance, such as protests and grassroots organizing, to achieve seemingly impossible goals. He went on to lead similar campaigns against poverty and international conflict, always maintaining fidelity to his principles that men and women everywhere, regardless of color or creed, are equal members of the human family.

Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Nobel Peace Prize lecture and “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” are among the most revered orations and writings in the English language.

CLICK HERE for more information at The MLK Center website.

CLICK HERE for a catalog of historic speeches and interviews by Martin Luther King, Jr.

February is Black History Month helps teachers explore Black History Month in the classroom (2/1/12)

Celebrate Black History Month (NY Times Resource) 

Background and Resources

February 1, 2012 - CNN - "In the early 20th century, there were almost no mentions of the contributions of African-Americans in U.S. history textbooks. That is what inspired historian and educator Dr. Carter G. Woodson to start “Negro History Week” in 1926. Woodson choose the month of February for this focus because it was the birth month of two leaders who fought to end slavery: Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass." MORE

 - CNN Student News Black History Month: Learning Activities
 - Library of Congress: African American History Month
 - Smithsonian Education: Black History Month
 - National Park Service: African American History
 - National Endowment for the Humanities: Black History Month
 - National Archives: Black History Resources
 - U.S. Census Bureau: Black History Month 2012
 - Association for the Study of African American Life and History
 - Morehouse College: Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection

March is Women's History Month - Women's Education - Women's Empowerment

Excerpt and resources from

About Women’s History Month

Women’s History Month had its origins as a national celebration in 1981 when Congress passed Pub. L. 97-28 which authorized and requested the President to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982 as “Women’s History Week." Throughout the next five years, Congress continued to pass joint resolutions designating a week in March as "Women’s History Week."

In 1987 after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress passed Pub. L. 100-9 which designated the month of March 1987 as “Women’s History Month." Between 1988 and 1994, Congress passed additional resolutions requesting and authorizing the President to proclaim March of each year as Women’s History Month. Since 1995, Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama have issued a series of annual proclamations designating the month of March as “Women’s History Month.” MORE

Women's History Month Resources for Teachers

Women's History Month Resources for Teachers

Visit the following websites for more resources and information about Women's History Month

Library of Congress

National Endowment for the Humanities

National Gallery of Art

National Park Service

Smithsonian Institution

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

National Archives and Records Administration


West African Performers Entertain and Engage Monticello Students

The rhythm of the drum beat was so powerful it did not take much to get the roomful of high school and middle school students to their feet dancing and singing. Led by world-renowned musician Bernard Woma and the Saakumu Dance Troupe, Monticello students were treated to an authentic West African musical experience that was enlightening, exciting and engaging.

During the recent workshop, Mr. Woma and his Sounds of Africa band played drums and rhythmic instruments, showcased original dance techniques and taught the students some traditional African dance moves and song lyrics. As an added delight, Mr. Woma played his Dagara xylophone, which is a hand-carved wooden instrument with dried gourd resonators and vibrating, spider web-covered sound holes.

Prior to the performance, he explained that the Dagara is known in West Africa for “mesmerizing the listener, healing the spirit, and bringing happiness and joy when the vibrations connect with the human body.” Judging from the smiles on the students’ faces, they were definitely connecting to the sounds and experience on many levels.

“Singing and dancing is very important in the African culture,” said Mr. Woma, who is from Ghana. “In my country, it is expected that if you can walk – you can dance, and if you can talk – you can sing.”

For more information, visit or

2nd Annual Culture and Diversity Celebration Brings School and Community Together in Song 

Teachers, staff, students, administrators and community members gathered together at the high school on April 3 to celebrate the beauty and diversity of the Monticello School District - and celebrate they did!

The hundreds of visitors were greeted by students from the Monticello High School Finance Academy and their instructor Wendy Levinson. Guests received a celebration program and were guided to view the professional-style art exhibit arranged by Culture & Diversity committee members and Monticello art teachers Amy Garrett and Brenda Sywalski. During the Gallery Walk segment, attendees were serenaded by the Three Amigos on Guitar as they ogled the quality fine artworks in the newly unveiled high school Fishbowl Gallery and as they visited the informational booths set up by some of the school clubs. One of the tables was manned by students from the Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-Straight (LGBTS) Alliance who were proud to be included in an event that celebrates all types of diversity, and an initiative that promotes tolerance and respect for others - regardless of their differences. Many in the crowd wore the rainbow lapel ribbons handed out by the LGBTS representatives as a show of solidarity.

With musical performances by the Cooke School Second-Graders, the Monticello Grades 5-12 Choral Group and Monticello High School Chamber Singers, a poetry reading by Robert J. Kaiser Middle School teacher Cherise Barasch and her students Sara Jane Sorensen and Alec Fernandez, a folk song sing-a-long with local musicians Alan Sorensen and Tony Penn, and a jazzed-out rendition of "When The Saints Go Marching In," by the Monticello High School Saxophone Quartet, the two-hour event seemed to fly by. As an added treat, a talented group of high school students from England who calls themselves the London Chorus endeared the crowd with a 20-minute set of show tunes and ballads. To top off the performance, one of the young English performers shared an acoustic version of an original song slated for her upcoming debut CD. Board of Education member June Havas-Lombardi, who was instrumental in connecting with the London group, was presented with a banner from their school as a thank-you for hosting the young vocalists.

Before the excitement of the night could end, guests were treated to a sampling of foods from around the world prepared by Home & Careers students and their teacher Pam Sussman, along with cafeteria manager Debra Donleavy and some of her food service staff members.

Foods included fresh-made Jamaican meat pies, Polish latkes, Italian pasta with garlic and oil, French crepes and Irish potato pancakes. After the mini feast, it is safe to say, no one left hungry!

In addition to the festivities, local, state and national proclamations and citations were presented to Monticello Superintendent of Schools Daniel A. Teplesky and Assistant Superintendent for Student Learning Dr. Kenneth Newman. Dr. Newman is the visionary and driving force behind the culture and diversity initiative, which began last year. Political guests included Sullivan County Legislators Ira Steingart and Alan Sorensen, NY State Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther (who also represented U.S. Congressman Maurice Hinchey), and Linda Cellini who represented both her husband Town of Thompson Supervisor Tony Cellini and NY State Senator John Bonacic.

"This event is the reflection of the hard work, dedication and commitment of the Culture & Diversity committee members, students and staff. It is the culmination of other events and classroom learning that take place in our schools throughout the year," said Dr. Newman. "The music, food, family and friends helped to create an evening that illustrated the types of relationships and experiences we aspire to foster as this initiative continues to grow."

Spanish students present projects about Latin America

Students in Felisa Sheskin's Spanish II classes presented their projects on Latin American countries. For example, students designed trips and maps to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Cuba as if they were tour guides for a class trip t. They also fried plantains Caribbean style.

In Spanish III, students culminated a unit on travel to Europe, including Spain, by making games about a trip full of surprises and follies that the Spanish II students played. 

NY State Celebrates Women's History Month with the "Legacy of New York State Women." MORE

Artistic display depicts the empowerment of women through the ages

If you happen to be passing by Amy Garrett's art room at the Cooke Elementary School, check out her display which pays homage to the progress women have made in their wartime roles.

The bulletin board images show a comparison between 1942's Rosie the Riveter and 2012's USMC Female Engagement Team. 

This example shows our young girls that not only have women "come a long way," but that there are a multitude of new opportunities available to them in today's world.

Using Lessons from the Holocaust to Teach Empathy

When teaching assistant Robin Cruz was growing up, she remembers the stories a dear family member used to tell her. She remembers the sadness and pain of those stories as if they were her own. That is how Ms. Cruz first identified with the devastation she would come to know as the Holocaust.

Years later while working at the Robert J. Kaiser Middle School, a passing comment from an indifferent colleague would touch that memory and spur Ms. Cruz to action. She knew the only way to enlighten people to the reality and brutality of the Holocaust was to find someone who had lived through it to tell his story. That is how she met Werner Reich.

“What kind of person will you be?” asked the unassuming man with the kind eyes and gentle smile - his calm, steady voice never revealing the horror and pain of his past. It seemed unlikely that these young minds sitting in the large auditorium would relate to what this man had lived through more than sixty years ago. Yet, there was intensity in the underlying emotion that filled the room. As his presentation began and the brutal images depicting the devastation of the Holocaust flashed onto the large white screen, a stark silence came over the crowd. FULL STORY


Seventh grade art students study Harlem Renaissance painter

In honor of Black History Month, the seventh grade art classes studied Harlem Renaissance painter Jacob Lawrence.

While addressing the theme of community and environment, students looked at Lawrence's artwork which utilizes bright colors and simplified shapes to create vivid imagery of the life and culture of Harlem in the early 20th century.

Students created their original artwork from cut paper to replicate the style of Jacob Lawrence's paintings.

The students' work will be on display at the RJK and MHS Annual Art Show, scheduled for June 7, 6-8 p.m. in the Monticello High School gym.

Original works of art by seventh-graders Ashley Campbell, Alexis Bivins, Victoria Groom, Taylor Spargo, Lillie Carnell and Dominince Brownridge. Click on the thumbnails to view larger photos.

Harlem Renaissance Painter Jacob Lawrence

The following are excerpts from Wikipedia and Artchive

"Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000) was an American painter; he was married to fellow artist Gwendolyn Knight. Lawrence referred to his style as "dynamic cubism", though by his own account the primary influence was not so much French art as the shapes and colors of Harlem. Lawrence is among the best-known 20th century African American painters, a distinction shared with Romare Bearden. Lawrence was only in his twenties when his "Migration Series" made him nationally famous. A part of this series was featured in a 1941 issue of Fortune magazine. The series depicted the epic Great Migration of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North. The collection has been split into two parts for public viewing." MORE 

"Born in Atlantic City, Jacob spent part of his childhood in Pennsylvania and then, after his parents split up in 1924, he went with his mother and siblings to New York, settling in Harlem.

When years later he told an interviewer that 'I am the black community,' he was neither boasting nor kidding. He had none of the alienation from Harlem that was felt by some other black artists of the 1930s..."

Learn about the life and career of this Harlem Renaissance artist. 

How to create a classroom culture free of racism

1/12/12 - Edutopia - "There are several steps educators can take to ensure they are creating an anti-racist environment in the classroom, says Dr. Danielle Moss Lee, president and CEO of the Harlem Educational Activities Fund. Educators first should find ways to acknowledge race in the classroom, and seek out groups that are supporting minority students in the community, she writes. Other ideas include recognizing differences that exist within racial groups, reading about how to teach students of other races and maintaining self-awareness about potential biases." MORE

Students Honor the Principles of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Fifth graders from the Emma C. Chase Elementary School participated in the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Fine Arts and Essay Display in Albany.

Students submitted original artwork illustrating Dr. King’s Six Principles and Steps of Nonviolence. The artwork will be displayed until the end of February 2012 at the Empire State Plaza in the South Concourse.

This program is to commemorate the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to celebrate his birthday, and to continue promote his principles and teachings with regards to nonviolence. The Empire State Plaza is open to the public seven days a week, 7 a.m.- 8 p.m.

Photo: Allison Monroy, Ashley Mancroni, Cheyenne Guadalope, Reginald Mingot, Sara Grodin, Noah Rogers and Ryan Grodin.

Sixth-graders present folk songs and folk tales

Sixth grade students recently presented "Folk Songs with Tony Penn" as part of their unit study on oral traditions. The students practiced the songs as partStudents singing folk songs of a choral reading lesson and retold the songs in their own words as part of their retelling project. The songs were presented to an audience with musical accompaniment by singer/songwriter Tony Penn.

In addition, as part of the multicultural unit, sixth-graders in Cherise Barasch's class learned about other cultures (as well as their own) while studying and performing folk tales from around the world. Students discovered that they could use the traditional stories and tales as a way to explore mysteries from the past.

Students to display artwork in Dr. King displayAnnette and Caitlynn with their artwork

Cooke Elementary School students Caitlynn Carrera and Annette Brown joined in the Monticello Central School District’s initiative to have a voice in an art show celebrating the accomplishments and contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The 2012 Fine Art and Essay Display focuses on Dr. King’s Six Principles of Non-Violence.

The display will be shown in early January on the Concourse of the Empire State Plaza in Albany.

Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)

 Fighting Hate, Teaching Tolerance, Seeking Justice

The following information is from the SPLC website.

"The Southern Poverty Law Center is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. Founded by civil rights lawyers Morris Dees and Joseph Levin Jr. in 1971, the SPLC is internationally known for tracking and exposing the activities of hate groups. Our innovative Teaching Tolerance program produces and distributes – free of charge – documentary films, books, lesson plans and other materials that promote tolerance and respect in our nation’s schools. We are based in Montgomery, Ala., the birthplace of the modern civil rights movement." For more information, visit

SPLC provides resources to schools and organizations. This includes the following suggestions "What You Can Do" to promote tolerance and fight hate:

1. Speak up when you hear slurs. Let people know that biased speech is unacceptable. Apathy is as dangerous as hate.

2. Cross social boundaries. Seek out opportunities to interact with people who are different from you. Eat lunch with someone new.

3. Complain to media outlets when they promote stereotypes. Look inside yourself for hidden biases. Take a test at

4. Encourage your local police force to identify bias-motivated criminal acts as hate crimes.

Students learn about Native American artifacts

Tara Komatz, a Monticello graduate and teacher, recently visited each classroom at the Chase Elementary School to share Native American artifacts with the students. Komatz presented a large variety of artifacts that included dream catchers, spears, snowshoes and a tomahawk that dates back 500 years. Students were thrilled to hold the objects and examine the details and workmanship of early Native Americans. Komatz explained she is keeping a tradition alive that was started by her grandfather, Joseph Komatz. He started the collection of artifacts and would visit the classrooms of his grandchildren. The student and faculty of Chase thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to hear the stories and hold history in their hands.

Celebrating Hispanic HeritageCooke School

The George L. Cooke Elementary School art room, under the guidance and expertise of teacher Amy Garrett, is a place of multicultural learning. It is a colorful voyage of creativity and a showplace for bold and beautiful images. In her art lessons, Ms. Garrett celebrates the work of artists from diverse backgrounds as a way to open the hearts and minds of her pupils and ignite their curiosity and wonder.

Mexican-American Cartoonist

During October, students in grades K-5 celebrated and explored the life and artwork of the renowned and prolific Hispanic artist, Gustavo Arriola. Senor Arriola was a pioneer in the world of cartooning. He broke new ground in the 1940s when he rose to fame for creating the first boldly ethnic cartoon character named “Gordo.” During his career, he also contributed his talents to the well-known cartoon series “Tom and Jerry.”

As part of learning about Hispanic heritage, students discussed how Cooke SchoolMr. Arriola’s success, being Mexican-American, helped other young artists from diverse cultural backgrounds break into the field of cartooning. Students also had the opportunity to draw their own cartoons and write an original dialogue for their characters, similar to those in professional comic strips.

Photos: Cooke Elementary School art teacher Amy Garrett is surrounded by enthusiastic young artists Desiree Edwards, Jenelle Leon-Saravia, Zachery Ocasio and Michael Lands. The students, who are from Yesenia Kreeger’s fifth grade class, expressed how much they enjoyed the cultural art history lesson about the life and work of cartoonist Gustavo Arriola. As part of the lesson, they had the opportunity to create their own comic strip characters and stories.

Budding young artist Jadin Williams displays his comic strip creation.

Literature as Cultural LearningEPIC

To help celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, Every Person Influences Children (EPIC) representative Jane Sorensen visited Christine Cavello’s first grade class as a guest reader.

Ms. Sorensen read to the youngsters from the book, “Celebrating Cinco de Mayo: Fiesta Time” by Sandi Hill and Claude Martinot. She engaged the students in multicultural learning by telling the story both in Spanish and English. She then had the class repeat certain words and phrases out loud in Spanish. The children were thrilled to learn the meaning of the Mexican holiday and enjoyed having a guest in their classroom.

Photo: First-graders in Christine Cavello’s class learned some words in Spanish while EPIC Parent Coordinator Jane Sorensen taught a lesson about the Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo. Also pictured is teacher aide Virginia Mejia.

Learning a second language, learning about other cultures, making new friends

At the Chase and Rutherford Elementary Schools, students in grades K-5 are studying a second language. As part of the International Baccalaureate (IB), classroom learning is being enriched with the knowledge of how to read, write and speak Spanish. In addition, students are engaged in lessons that highlight the beauty and richness of the various Spanish-speaking cultures from around the world.

Students in Katlyn LaGrutta’s fifth grade class embraced a recent lesson that not only helped them practice their enunciation of Spanish words, but also introduced them to holidays from a variety of Spanish-speaking countries such as Mexico, Cuba and Puerto Rico.

Language instructor, Elisa Martinez, whose parents are from Spain, uses literature, music, dance, art, food, history and costumes to inspire students as she introduces them to new cultural experiences.Spanish lesson

“In this day and age, it is actually a detriment for children not to learn a second language,” said Ms. Martinez, who although she was born in the U.S., spoke Spanish before English. “As our world becomes more global, it becomes more important.”

Apparently, this class of fifth-graders understands that importance as well. When asked how learning Spanish will affect them personally, they replied with the following:

  • It could open new doors for them in business and give them more communication skills.
  • It will help them communicate with new students and others who can only speak Spanish.
  • It will help them communicate better if they travel to, or work in, other countries.

Some students shared tips about how they practice their Spanish comprehension when not in school. These included watching Spanish TV stations, playing Nintendo DS in Spanish and speaking to family members at home. About 25 percent of the class said they know someone outside of school who speaks Spanish.

Parental Support

As for having parental support for this type of learning, Ms. Martinez expressed that she gets an immense amount of positive feedback all the time. One parent, Elizabeth Evans, a former high school chemistry teacher, shared how her experience growing up in South Africa proved just how important it is to be multilingual.

“On any given day I had to speak three languages just to communicate with the people I encountered,” said Ms. Evans, whose two young daughters attend Chase. “There is significant research that connects learning a second language at a young age to an increase in a child’s overall cognitive flexibility and creativity.”

Research-Based Learning

Some of the research noted by Ms. Evans supports the theory that learning a second or third language can actually help youngsters learn their primary language. In addition, as the world becomes more and more globalized, a second language can provide our children with greater opportunities for future success and more skills to bring to the ever-growing competitiveness of the world marketplace.

With all the positive reasons to learn about other languages and cultures, there is also the fun side of it – this year for the elementary school students, that may include learning how to dance the flamenco!

Photo: Chase fifth-grader Colleen Michaels touches a skull figurine – a customary symbol in the “Day of the Dead” holiday. Spanish teacher Elisa Martinez included the interactive discussion in the day’s Spanish lesson after reading from the book, “I Remember Grandpa: A Story about the Day of the Dead,” en Espanol, “Yo recuerdo a Abuelito: Un cuento del Día de Muertos.”

Gustavo “Gus” Arriola

Gustavo Arriola (7/17/17–2/2/08) was a Mexican-American comic strip artist and animator primarily known for the comic strip Gordo (1941-1985). His work introduced many Americans to Mexican culture as it chronicled the life of Mexican bean farmer Perfecto Salazar “Gordo” Lopez (Gordo approximately translates to English as “Fatso”). Gus Arriola was born in Florence, Arizona, the youngest of nine children. His mother died when he was a baby and he was raised by a relative in a Spanish-speaking household. He learned English by reading the Sunday comics. His family moved to Los Angeles, California when he was 8-years-old. He first studied art formally in high school. MORE at Wikipedia.Cinco de Mayo book

Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo is a holiday held on May 5. It is celebrated in the U.S. and in Mexico, primarily in the state of Puebla, where the holiday is called El Dia de la Batalla de Puebla. The date is observed in the U.S. as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride, and to commemorate the cause of freedom and democracy during the first years of the American Civil War. In the state of Puebla, May 5 marks the Mexican army’s victory over French forces in 1862. Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day. That holiday is celebrated on September 16. MORE at Wikipedia.

Visual Art as Critical Thinking

”Visual arts are an excellent discipline to build and utilize critical thinking skills. I don’t think we often give credit to the deep conceptual and interpretational thinking that goes into the creation of a piece of art, and this is often because art is treated as something separate from the core content areas. School does not need to be this way.” MORE at Edutopia

Every Person Influences Children (EPIC) in the Monticello School District

The EPIC organization provides a variety of free resources to families throughout the Monticello School District, including parenting workshops, an early learning book club, and a family literacy program. Jane Sorensen serves as the EPIC Parent Coordinator for the three district elementary schools. She can be reached at 794-8830 or Robin LaFountain serves as the EPIC Parent Coordinator for RJK Middle School and Monticello High School. She can be reached at 796-3058, ext. 20098 or For more information about EPIC, visit the national website at


Flamenco is a type of music and dance with its foundation in *Andalusian music and dance. Gypsies played an important part in the evolution of the genre. The cante (singing), toque (guitar playing), dance and palmas (hand claps) are the principal facets of flamenco. In recent years, flamenco has become popular all over the world and is taught in many countries. In Japan, flamenco is so trendy, there are more academies than in Spain. *Andalusian is an autonomous community that is recognized as a nationality of Spain. MORE at Wikipedia

Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead is a holiday celebrated in Mexico and around the world. The holiday focuses on the gathering of family and friends to pray for and remember loved ones who have died. In Mexico, it is a national holiday. The celebration takes place on November 1 and 2 and includes building private altars to honor the departed. The origins of the modern holiday trace to an Aztec festival dating back hundreds of years. The holiday has spread from Mexico to places such as Brazil, Europe, Asia and Africa. MORE at Wikipedia

Civil Rights Officials Issue More Flexible Rules on Use of Race in School Assignments; Admissions

December 2, 2011 - Education Week

Federal civil rights officials today said that school districts and colleges and universities may legally consider race when making decisions about school assignments, admissions and other programs that are designed to increase diversity and reduce racial isolation. The U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education jointly released the new, more flexible guidelines that are meant to clear up confusion on how and when race can be considered in the wake of three earlier U.S. Supreme Court decisions. The two sets of guidance documents—one for K-12 school districts and the other for colleges and universities—cancel out those that were issued by the Education Department in August 2008 during the Bush administration. READ

Culture and Diversity Initiative Honored with Prestigious Award

November 3, 2011 - On behalf of the Monticello Central School District and Capital Region BOCES, communications PRSA Awardspecialist Renata Gittler was named as a finalist Empire Award winner in the non-profit campaign category by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Capital Region Chapter. Ms. Gittler received the honorable designation for her work on the “Celebrating Culture and Diversity in the Monticello Central School District” initiative. She was presented with the award by PRSA President Penny Vavura at a ceremony in Albany on October 27.

“At the heart of this social justice initiative is the hard work of many dedicated professionals,” said Ms. Gittler. “Hopefully, the widespread recognition of this project will raise the consciousness of others and help inspire more people to join in the celebration of our beautifully diverse region, and world.” MORE

Photo: From right, Renata Gittler with her PRSA Empire Award, AssistantMonticello students Superintendent for Student Learning Dr. Kenneth Newman, district clerk Mary Ryan Buchholz at the Empire Awards in Albany.

Monticello Schools Honored with National Award for its Culture and Diversity Celebration Initiative

Communications specialist Renata Gittler on behalf of the Monticello Central School District was recently honored with a 2011 Golden Achievement Award, one of the top honors bestowed by the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA), for her work on the “Celebrating Culture and Diversity in the Monticello Central School District” initiative. This award acknowledges successful public relations campaigns that demonstrate outstanding achievement and leadership in school communication. MORE