Community & School News September 2016

Important School Dates
Monday, September 5 – Labor Day
Thursday, September 8 – First Day for Public & Catholic Schools
Friday, September 9 – Full day for non-District 75 students; partial day for pre-K
Monday, September 12 – Eid al-Adha (schools closed)
Thursday, September 15 – Middle School Parent Conferences*
Thursday, September 22 – Elementary School Parent Conferences*
Wednesday, September 28 – High School Parent Conferences*
* contact schools directly for confirmation

Summer Camp Tax Credit
Spent a small fortune on camp this year? Then we’ve got some good news for you. Summer camp is tax deductible! There are, however, stipulations. For starters, overnight camps don’t qualify. Neither do families with stay-at-home or unemployed spouses. The credit must be work-related, meaning summer camp must be a necessary form of childcare for working parents in order to qualify. Learn more from Forbes here, where you can also link to the forms you need to write off camp.

It’s Time to End to Bullying
Hearts across the country were broken last month when incessant bullying caused a 13-year-old boy from Staten Island to take his own life. Daniel Joseph Fitzpatrick left a note citing that that he “gave up” after being bullied in school for years, then went on to commit suicide in the attic of his family’s West Brighton home on August 11.

We hear stories like Daniel’s far too often today. With advances in technology and social media, children can easily fall victim to bullying in vicious ways that their parents never experienced. It’s important to spread awareness to stop the bullying before it starts. Staten Island columnist and Community Education Council 31 President Michael Reilly hosts free parent workshops and student assemblies on issues of cyber-bullying, social media, staying safe online, online predators and more. Utilizing the practice of “Think Before You Click,” Reilly advises students to look at what they are about to post and consider how will that post reflect their character, their families and their schools. To schedule an assembly for your school or organization, send an email to [email protected]

Like Daniel, many victims of bullying feel alone and as though no one understands what they are going through. It helps to speak to others who have been through a similar experience. Play It Forward NY holds anti-bully support workshops for children and teens who have bullied or teased. The workshops are free and aim to provide a safe place for kids to share their story and brainstorm ways to handle the problem. The group will meet Wednesday, September 21, 4-6pm, at Rossville AME Zion Church (lower hall) at 584 Bloomingdale Road and on Wednesday, September 28, 4-6pm at Projectivity at 51 Broad Street. Be sure to check the Staten Island Parent Calendar for future meetings. Link to the Play It Forward website here.

For more valuable information and resources on bullying, check out the, where you’ll find facts on local laws and policies, helpful videos, prevention tips, warning signs, and more.

Ew! Super Lice Hits New York
“My head is itchy.” They’re the four words no parent ever wants to hear, and now there’s an even yuckier reason why. 48 states, including New York, have now reported outbreaks of treatment resistant super lice. Daunting as the name may sound, super lice is only different from regular lice in that it contains a genetic mutation that makes it resistant to pyrethroids, the insecticide contained in common over-the-counter lice treatments. If your child still has lice after using an over-the-counter treatment, he or she may have super lice and a prescription treatment will be required. As annoying (and gross!) as an infestation can be, it’s important to remember that head lice poses no medical threat and is not dangerous. Lice are wingless insects that cannot fly, thus they are spread through direct head to head contact and the sharing of accessories or clothing that come in contact with the head. According to the CDC, an estimated 6 million to 12 million infestations occur each year in the United States among children 3 to 11 years old.

9th Annual Westerleigh Folk Festival
Spend a day with the family enjoying music and art! The 9th Annual Westerleigh Folk Festival will be held Saturday, September 25 from 11:00 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Westerleigh Park. The event, which is free and open to the public, features three stages showcasing a variety of musical genres – including one that’s just for kids. This year’s performers include popular local favorites like Brielle Von Hugel, Patrick and the Rock-a-Silly Band, The Wahoo Skiffle Crazies, All Hands on Deck, Fly By Midnight and many more. There will be free children’s activities such as face painting, balloons and pony rides (from noon to 2pm). Artists and craft vendors will be displaying and selling work along the North-Eastern Promenade of the park. Westerleigh Park is located at the corners of Neal Dow & Maine Ave. off Jewett Ave. The park is handicap accessible. Street Parking is available. Park seating is limited so bring a chair or blanket. Link to the Westerleigh Folk Festival website here. Enjoy the show!

Museum Day Live!
The 12th annual Museum Day Live will be held on Saturday, September 24. Museum Day Live, held by Smithsonian Magazine, is a day where over 1500 museums nationwide open their doors to the public for free. Here in Staten Island, the participating locations are: Historic Richmond Town, The National Lighthouse Museum, Alice Austen House Museum and the Staten Island Museum. Just over the bridge in Manhattan you can visit the Intrepid, Air, Sea & Space Museum, the New York City Fire Museum, and the Museum of Chinese in America for free, among others. You must present a Museum Live Ticket for free entrance to participating museum. Click here to find out where to get yours.

Big Win for Breastfeeding Moms
If you’ve ever crouched miserably in the corner of a dirty public restroom stall to nurse a hungry baby, then you’ll be relieved to hear new law will require private lactation rooms in many public spaces throughout New York City’s five boroughs. The lactation rooms must not be a bathroom and must contain a chair, an electrical outlet (for pumping), and nearby access to running water. The rooms will be available in public locations like the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene health centers, job centers, SNAP centers and medical assistance program centers run by the Department of Social Services.

The bill was signed last month, during World Breastfeeding month and was sponsored by New York City Council Member Robert Cornegy, who advocated for it after watching his wife struggle to breastfeed their twin sons while maintaining her career as an executive. “As a legislator, I am most proud when the legislation that I draft makes a positive difference in the lives of New Yorkers,” Cornegy said. “Today’s bill signing during World Breastfeeding Month is a victory and a reminder of a mothers’ right to publicly breastfeed and the City’s obligation to accommodate this healthy choice.”

After signing the bill, Mayor DeBlasio said “This bill is about fairness, access, and health – no new mother should be unable to breastfeed because she can’t find a private space. This bill takes our city one step towards being a place where all women feel comfortable breastfeeding whenever they need to, wherever they need to.”

The New York Wheel: Minecraft Style
As many Staten Islanders anxiously await the 2017 opening of The New York Wheel, which will be the largest observation wheel in the western hemisphere, no one is more excited than one particular group of Minecraft-loving students from the McKee Center & Technical High School in Staten Island. The ten students, ranging from 7th – 11th grade, worked hard all summer to show Rich Marin, the New York Wheel CEO, how excited they are to see Staten Island grow before their eyes with the construction of The New York Wheel. They then presented their summer-long project to Marin last month (each a masterpiece), built upon their own unique interpretation of the New York Wheel on the digital landscape of the popular video game Minecraft. Marin was astounded by the student’s knowledge and dedication, asserting that they “would be the future builders and creators of our own world.” Marin also spoke on the importance of studying science and technology and the powerful impact STEM programs can have among New York’s youth. He then presented the ten students with the first ever passes to experience the New York Wheel when it officially opens as a special treat to honor their passion for learning and hard work over the summer.

Spokes of Hope
Has your child outgrown his or her bicycle recently? Don’t just leave it in your garage to collect dust – donate it to someone who could use it! Generous Staten Islander Shawn Ortolano felt that every kid should own a bicycle, so he started a Facebook page asking for local bicycle donations that could be given to children whose parents aren’t able to buy them one. Ortolano started collecting bicycles just two months ago and has already filled his backyard with dozens of bikes in all different shapes, sizes, and colors. The Facebook group, titled Spokes of Hope, quickly gained momentum throughout the Island and beyond, welcoming over 3,000 members so far (and growing daily). By the time the group was just one month old, Ortolano had managed to bring smiles to the faces of over 40 children in need of a bike. If you are interested in donating a bicycle to Spokes of Hope, or if you or someone you know is financially unable to purchase a bike for your child, click here to link to the group on Facebook.

NYPL Goes Digital
Have you been making fewer trips to the library since it became possible to download entire books without getting up from the couch? If so, we have some good news. You can now download over 300,000 free e-books from the New York Public Library with the help of a new app called SimplyE. All you need is a library card and access to either an iOS or Android device. The library says they will continue to develop the app, with plans to debut Kindle and web browser versions later this year. Click hereto find out how to download it.

Book Wizard
So you know your child’s Guided Reading level according to the Common Core standards, now what? Sure, the classroom books are labeled, but how are you supposed to know if your books at home are above or below his reading level? Like most things in 2016, there’s an app for that! Most children lose at least one reading level over the summer break, so with school back in session there’s never been a better time to download apps that help ensure your child is equipped with the right books to improve their reading skills. Book Wizard is an app which allows parents to simply scan the barcode of a book and quickly determine its K-8 reading level as well as its Guided Reading level. The app is available to download for free, or you can link to their website here to manually search books from your web browser.

Help a Child Learn to Read!
The Staten Island Mentall Health Society is once again offering free training for its School Reading Volunteer Program, and you are invited to become a member of this unique volunteer corps that helps young students learn to read. Free training for new reading volunteers will be held on Tuesday, Sep 20 and Tuesday, Sep 22 frpm 9:30am to 11:30 am at SIMHS headquarters, 669 Castleton Ave., Building A. The training course will be repeated on Tuesday, Sep 27 and Thursday, Sep 29, same time and location.

After training, each volunteer selects a participating public elementary school to spend about five hours per week tutoring first- to fifth-graders. For more information or to register for training, call Maryann Striffolino at 718-442-2225 or email [email protected]

Fall Fundraising Walks
With summer officially over, it’s time burn off all those hot dogs and hamburgers and get back into a workout routine. What better way to start than by joining one of the many fundraising walks around Staten Island this fall? Talk about a feel good kind of workout! If you’re not into breaking a sweat, you could always make a donation instead. Every little bit helps! Here’s a list of local walks taking place this season fall,click here for more information on these walks.

Go Walk Your Dog • Saturday, September 24 • Wolfe’s Pond Park
Walk Like MADD • Sunday, September 25 • Clove Lakes Park
Light the Night Walk • Saturday, October 1 • Midland Beach Promenade
2016 Walk for Dyslexia • Saturday, October 1 • Clove Lakes Park
Out of the Darkness Community Walk • Sunday, October 2 • Clove Lakes Park
JDRF One Walk • Sunday, October 2 • College of Staten Island
Walk to End Alzheimer’s • Saturday, October 8 • Clove Lakes Park
Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 2 • Sunday, October 16 • Midland Beach
Walk Now for Autism Speaks • Sunday, October 23 • Historic Richmond Town
Bowling Against Breast Cancer Bowl-A-Thon • Sunday, October 23 • Rab’s Country Lanes

2016-2017 School Calendars
They’re going back! School is officially back in session on Thursday, September 8. What’s in store for the upcoming school year? Click here to check out the Public School and Catholic School calendars for 2016-2017. You can also view the calendars at anytime by clicking on the “Preschools & Schools” tab at the top of our homepage.

Standardized Tests
The results are in! Test scores for the 2016 standardized reading and math exams are available on the NYC public schools website. You can access your NYC Schools Account to view your child’s scores. Curious to see how Staten Island students performed? Click here for a comprehensive overview of test scores for the English Language Assessment (ELA) and Mathematics exams broken out by borough, grade, gender, year and other variables.

Lyme Disease Increase on the Island
The summer break is over, but there are still months of outdoor fun to be had. Although the weather is starting to cool down, you should still exercise precaution in parks or other wooded areas against ticks. Borough President James Oddo and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene recently announced a significant increase in Lyme disease among Staten Islanders in 2015, with more than double the reported cases from 2014 to 2015. 30 percent of black-legged ticks — the kind responsible for spreading Lyme disease — collected within the past year at select parks in New York City, including Staten Island’s Clay Pit Ponds and High Rock Parks, tested positive for the Lyme bacterium.

“These data confirm what we have suspected for some time – that due to the increase in white-tailed deer on Staten Island, the incidence rate of Lyme disease – carried by black-legged ticks – is also rising,” said BP Oddo. “Over half of Staten Island patients with early Lyme disease interviewed in 2015 reported no travel outside of New York City – the most compelling evidence yet that Lyme disease-spreading ticks are in our local area.”

“We want Staten Islanders to take advantage of their beautiful parks and wooded areas, but we remind them and all New Yorkers to check for ticks and take other simple steps to protect yourself from Lyme disease and other tickborne diseases,” Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said.

Birthday Freebies!
Everyone deserves free stuff on their birthday! Head over to to find out where you can cash in on tons of free stuff on your special day. Kids can enjoy free ice cream at Carvel, free burritos at Moe’s Southwest Grill, free pretzels at Auntie Anne’s and so much more! Click here to start reaping those sweet birthday benefits. And while you’re there, be sure to sign up for our monthly birthday club and get ten free tokens at Fun Station. Go to page 73 to check out the Staten Island Parent Birthday Club.

That’s What Friends Are For
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