Category Archives: Schools Scene

Find out what’s going on in the RFH Regional High School and Rumson and Fair Haven school districts.

A Winning Hoops for Hearts at Knollwood

A slam dunk success is how Fair Haven’s Knollwood School sixth graders, borough police and firefighters described the recent Hoops for Hearts basketball game at the school to benefit the American Heart Association.

“The entire school was full of energy, camaraderie was high, and everyone put their heart into this effort,” Knollwood Physical Education/Health teacher and event organizer Kim Lagrotteria said in a release. “Hoops for Hearts is an event that you will see again at Knollwood School.”

The Feb. 6 basketball tournament, comprising several games, pitted the “celebrity” police officers and firefighters against two teams of sixth graders on the court in what was dubbed a “fast-paced Championship Basketball Game,” Celebrity Kock-Out, and Half-Court Challenge, the release added.

The “celebrities” garnered the top score in the Championship game. The sixth graders won the Celebrity Knock-Out Game, which left a sixth grader as the last player left standing. And the Half-Court Challenge was one which involved the students making donations to the American Heart Association getting chances to sink basketballs.

The participants took their best shots as Lagrotteria, Andrea Mrusek of the American Heart Association, “celebrities,” and classmates cheered them on. Prizes were awarded to those who made baskets.

The “celebrities” ended up with the top score in the Championship Game, but the $7,560 netted in event proceeds, which was more than double the $3,500 donation goal, was the bigger win, Lagrotteria said.

With roughly 119 students participating, they “helped motivate one another to reach their personal fundraising and physical education participation goals,” said Lagrotteria in the release. “Students in other grades were asking how they could become a part of the event in the future, and donated money to help achieve our school’s goal.

“This event not only brought great attention to a great cause, it also brought the school together.”

Hoops for Hearts activities took place during the month of February, designated American Heart Month by the American Heart Association.

There were incentives put in place by Lagrotteria for students to meet the original $3,500 fundraising goal.

Students were awarded small rubber ducks, which they donned during the school day, in recognition of their efforts. And Lagrotteria, herself, promised to wear a duck costume if the school’s goal was met. That promise was kept (the photo above shows).

In addition to the main fundraiser, Hoops for Hearts featured activities throughout the month that were designed to promote physical fitness. Another basketball tournament featuring all of the sixth graders was held during regular Physical Education classes.

Players in the Championship Basketball Game and cheerleaders were all members of the sixth-grade Physical Education class that raised the largest amount of funds for the American Heart Association.

Cheerleaders were: Brett-Cetnar Garrett, Caroline Danaher, Bridget Mikolajczyk, Charlotte Stant, Emma Walker, Maia Werner and Kitty White.

Basketball players were: John Baker, Jack Costello, Wyatt Kemler, Aidan Kilfeather, David Livingston, Michael Strulowitz, Robby Sypeck, Jack Theodore, Spencer Torine and Drew Venancio.

RFH Girls Winter Track Team Scores Big

The following is an edited press release from Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School:

The Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School (RFH) Girls Winter Track Team has earned a double victory.

The team garnered the school’s first Group II State Relay championship for Winter Track and scored its fourth consecutive Central Jersey Group II Sectional title.

The historic State Group II Relay Championship was the result of a first-place finish at the State Relays in January, where 24 teams competed and RFH bested Holmdel by three points.

Continue reading RFH Girls Winter Track Team Scores Big

Forrestdale Student Dubbed Geography Expert

You could say that Forrestdale School sixth-grader Peter O’Connor knows where things are in this world.

After proving his expertise in geography by winning in-class competitions, the Rumson 12-year-old garnered first place in the Forrestdale School Geography Bee on Feb. 4, a press release from the Rumson School District said.

O’Connor won the champion title after competing among 18 sixth- through eighth-grade students who qualified through the in-class competitions for the final school-wide contest, the release added.

The winning question he answered correctly:  “Which country is the setting for Jack London’s classic novel ‘The Call of the Wild’, which takes place during the Klondike Gold Rush in the Yukon?” The answer: Canada.

Eighth-grader Sam Eckstein came in second.

Peter, the release said, will now go on to participate in the Regional Finals of the National Geography Bee in April.

Seventh grade Social Studies teacher Keith Laviola organized and hosted the competition.

Judges were: eighth grade Social Studies teacher Michelle Devoy; sixth grade Social Studies teacher Dan Morrone; and eighth grade English/Language Arts teacher Lori Zucker.

Forrestdale Eighth Grader a Spelling Champ

Can you spell winner?

It’s a pretty sure bet that Forrestdale School eighth grader Sage Basri can. The 13-year-old Rumson girl, one of 30 fourth through eighth grade participants, won the school’s spelling bee on Jan. 30, according to a Rumson School District press release.

Basri’s victory came when she correctly spelled the “championship” word anathema, the release said. Sixth grader Michael Benedetto came in second, it added, when he became the only other student who qualified for the final round by correctly spelling the word exonerate.

Continue reading Forrestdale Eighth Grader a Spelling Champ

RFH Athletes’ Letters of Intent Signed

An official goal has been scored for four student athletes at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School (RFH).

Letters of Intent — the written commitments of those sports stars to play college soccer and football at certain schools — were signed on Feb. 4 in the RFH library.

Parents and faculty present, the following RFH athletes did their signing to the specified colleges on National Signing Day 2015:

• Sam Eisenstadt, Elon University, football;
• Meagan McGurl, Lafayette College, soccer;
• Grant Rataski, Bryant University, football;
• Charlie Volker, Princeton University, football.

Volker is one of four Shore Conference athletes who will play football in the Ivy League. Others will be playing for Yale University and University of Pennsylvania.

*Information culled from a Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School press release.

RFH Students Tour Historic Cathedral

A group of AP Art History students from RFH recently toured the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City. Photo/courtesy of RFH
A group of AP Art History students from RFH recently toured the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City.
Photo/courtesy of RFH

The following is an edited press release from Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School (RFH):

Students from Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School (RFH) recently learned the stories behind the artwork and architecture of the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City.

Accompanied by their advanced placement (AP) art history teacher Kate Okeson for the “vertical tour” on Jan. 15,  the behind-the-scenes, hour-long tour was described as “adventurous.”

Continue reading RFH Students Tour Historic Cathedral

RFH Hot Topic: ‘Art, Censorship & Violence’

In light of the recent massacre of 12 staffers at the Paris headquarters of magazine Charlie Hebdo over a cartoon satirizing the Muslim prophet Muhammad, staff at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School (RFH) held a seminar dubbed Art, Censorship and Violence for students to examine this and other similar global issues from both philosophical and historical perspectives.

The Jan. 13 study hall seminar, organized and hosted by RFH English teachers Erin Burke and Dana Maulshagen, social studies teachers Tom Highton and Mike Emmich, and art teacher Kate Okeson, 25 students opted to participate, a release from RFH said.

“Sometimes certain events occur and they really make you think about what you are doing at school and in your daily life,” Okeson told the students, according to the release. “We are hoping that this is just the start of a series of conversations we can have about what ‘plays out’ as a result of current events.”

Okeson sparked discussion by reading aloud from an Art, Censorship and Violence packet that was given to participants containing informational articles, links, and questions on the topic.

Among the issues addressed were those involving the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, or “freedom of speech,” the release added. Students and staff discussed the ways in which laws of certain cultures and religions can be misconstrued; and, whether anyone has the right to prevent any type of artist from displaying complete creative expression.

Questions the students grappled with: everything from “Does censorship promote ignorance?” to “Is freedom of expression always a good thing?”

“It is always a good idea to put yourself in the mindset of the people creating art, and to have an open mind toward other peoples’ perspectives as well as your own,” said sophomore Rachel Makstein in the release. “That might be a way to more fully understand creativity and censorship and other peoples’ motives.”

The teachers, according to the release, were pleased by the turnout as well as the results of the seminar and hope to plan similar events.

“I think that events like the one in Paris regarding censorship and violence can cause us to question ourselves,” Burke told the students. “But they also spark discussions like these, in which we are asking difficult questions such as ‘What is truly important for us to experience and be aware of?’

“I think we have all learned a lot from one another today, and I hope we can have more discussions like this in the future.”

All About the Forrestdale Winter Concert


Forrestdale School in Rumson showcased student talent in the  Instrumental Music Program’s Winter Concert on Jan. 15.

Under the direction of John Lebitsch, the Intermediate and Advanced bands and the Jazz Ensemble took center stage to entertained a large, appreciative audience in the school’s gymnasium, a press release from the Rumson School District said.

The Winter Concert, the release added, featured the following selections:

• Percussion Portrait, by Jerry Nowak, was performed by the Advanced Band, showcasing the skills of the percussion section on six different instruments;

• The Intermediate and Advanced bands teamed up to present Walkin’ Cool, a jazz piece.

• The Jazz Ensemble closed the show with the Duke Ellington piece Satin Doll followed by an encore reprise of the band’s favorite holiday number, Feliz Navidad.

If you were at the concert and would like to have your photos added, send them, with proper credit, to

R-FH Schools Blizzard Prep: Early Dismissals

The impending blizzard brings with it closings and cancelled/postponed meetings and events within the next few days.

So far, in Rumson:

• There will be a 1 p.m. dismissal on Monday at Forrestdale and Deane Porter schools, according to the district website.

All activities are cancelled.

• The school district’s PARCC Parent Workshop set for Monday at 7 p.m. will be rescheduled. Check the district website for updates.

So far, in Fair Haven:

• There will be early dismissals on Monday at both Sickles and Knollwood schools, according to the latest post on the Fair Haven Schools website.

Sickles will dismiss at 12:10 p.m. and Knollwood at 12:30.

“For the safety and well-being of our students and staff, FH schools we will have an early dismissal today,” Superintendent Nelson Ribon post on the district website. “Overnight forecast models show a potential for extremely windy conditions (blizzard warnings) during the early afternoon along with snow.”night:

So far, for Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School:

• There will be an early dismissal at 11:45 a.m. on Monday.

All after-school activities have been cancelled.

Rumson-Fair Haven Retrospect will update this article as information becomes available. Please check back for updates.

Catching Up with New and Old Fair Haven Board of Ed Members

Former Fair Haven Board of Education members Katy Frissora and Cathy Alescio with Viola L. Sickles School Principal Cheryl Cuddihy (center). Photo/courtesy of Fair Haven School District
Former Fair Haven Board of Education members Katy Frissora and Cathy Alescio with Viola L. Sickles School Principal Cheryl Cuddihy (center).
Photo/courtesy of Fair Haven School District

The following is an edited press release from the Fair Haven School District:

Since Jan. 7, three new Fair Haven Board of Education members have been seated at the dais. They and their predecessors are offering a glimpse into their goals for the district and looking back at what brought then to the board.

Jennifer Halcrow, Bruce Padula, and Karen Saad have been sworn in to three-year terms on the nine-member board at the 2015 reorganization.

The three new members will serve on the board with Michael Bernstein, Claudia Brasch (vice president), Mark Mancuso (president), Tracy Rehder, Jeffrey Spector, and Randi Walker.

Jennifer Halcrow’s family has lived in Fair Haven for eight years. She has three children attending Viola L. Sickles and Knollwood schools.

Halcrow, who was drawn to Fair Haven by the excellent educational opportunities and strong sense of community, has a master’s degree in business administration and hopes to apply her skills toward achieving educational goals.

“My focus is on student achievement and academic excellence in the classroom as well as fiscal responsibility while budgeting to the needs of our children,” Halcrow said. “I also have an interest in improving communication among our parents, administration, and school board.”

Bruce Padula has been a Fair Haven resident since 2010. He moved to New Jersey to attend Seton Hall University Law School after graduating from Villanova.

A  partner Cleary, Giacobbe, Alfieri & Jacobs law firm, Matawan, Padula has a son in kindergarten and a daughter who will start school next year.

“Fair Haven is a truly special and unique community with dedicated and caring parents, volunteers, professionals, and neighbors,” said Padula. “My goal is to make Fair Haven schools the best they can be; and I hope to lend my professional experience as a school board attorney to the board in order to help achieve this goal.”

I am grateful for the support and trust this community has placed in me.”

Karen Saad discovered the borough of Fair Haven during a lunch stop at an eatery on River Road.

She “fell in love” with the town and is now a resident with three children who are currently students in the school system. Born and raised in New Jersey, she graduated from The College of William and Mary with a degree in accounting and is a Certified Public Accountant.

She worked for the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm based in Washington, D.C. prior to moving back to New Jersey to raise her family.

“As an active volunteer in our schools and community, I love connecting with friends and neighbors and using my professional skills in finance, consulting, and accounting to enrich these organizations,” said Saad. “I am so excited to be a part of the board and will work to ensure that our children have the best possible educational experience.”

The oath of office was administered by Board of Education Attorney Anthony P. Scarrillo.

Katy Frissora and Cathy Alescio look back at their board time

Among those in attendance at the swearing-in was former board member Katy Frissora, who was thanked by Mancuso for her eight years of dedicated service.

Frissora and Cathy Alescio, who served one term of three years, did not seek re-election this year when their terms expired.

A former PTA president, Alescio attended many board meetings — something she considers an important prerequisite — before making the commitment to run.

“I sometimes hear parents discuss a concern; and I encourage them to get to know their board members on an informal level as well as during a meeting,” said Alescio.

Alescio’s commitment to understanding parents’ concerns translated into making certain that decisions about administrators and curriculum were considered from every angle during meetings of the committees to which she was assigned — Negotiations and Personnel. She expressed pride in how effectively she and her fellow committee addressed some very tough decisions.

“At the end of the day, I knew that I wasn’t elected just to represent the interests of my children,” said Alescio. “I was elected to represent the over 700 families who send children to our schools.”

Frissora focused on curriculum and community relations during her time as a board member. She worked with administrators to help parents visualize and understand how curriculum was being implemented in the classroom.

“Starting when I was a parent of a first grader, and then as a board member, I realized that parents are hungry for information about how their children are learning,” said Frissora. “I was emphatic about how we must use every possible tool — whether it’s social media, newsletters, photos, a teacher’s written communication, or a phone call — to share what is happening in classrooms with parents.”

Frissora was pleased to be known as the Board of Education’s “onion peeler,” examining each layer of every issue to come up with the best possible outcome.

“My mantra to parents has always been ‘for every question you have, your board members are asking the exact same question and discussing pros and cons’,” said Frissora. “I am so proud of how deeply the board on which I served probed into every question surrounding every decision, and I am confident that the present board will do the same with new onion peelers.”

Both Alescio and Frissora expressed a desire to see Fair Haven schools continue to be unique, as well as maintain their focus on developing confident learners.

“Cathy Alescio and Katy Frissora will be greatly missed by the Board and district,” said Mancuso. “The amount of time and energy they poured into their terms on the Board are a testament to their strong work ethic and absolute devotion to our schools and children.”

They helped invigorate and strengthen every committee on which they served, and are model board members worthy of emulation. I look forward to their continued interest and participation as stakeholders of our community.”

RFH Students Help to Empower Women Globally Via Fundraising

The following is an edited press release from Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School: 

The recent fundraising efforts of Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School’s (RFH) Global Women Empowerment organization will facilitate the education of two girls in Uganda and empower others around the world in different ways.

The more than $2,000 raised will be funneled to Change A Life Uganda’s Tuition for Tots-to-Teens to help the girls, Daisy and Patricia, finish high school and Global Women Empowerment, a student organization at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School, recently completed a highly successful fundraiser in support of Change A Life Uganda’s Tuition for Tots-to-Teens.

Continue reading RFH Students Help to Empower Women Globally Via Fundraising

Sports Success: RFH Places 2nd in ShopRite Cup

The following is an edited press release from Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School:

Based on an extremely successful fall sports season, Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School (RFH) has achieved a high ranking in the 12th Annual ShopRite Cup 2014-15 Fall Standings.

RFH is ranked second among all Group 2 schools, and stands at fourth place among all public schools in New Jersey.

The top five Group 2 high schools in the ShopRite Cup Fall Standings, in order, are: Haddonfield, 34 points; Rumson-Fair Haven 31 points; Collingswood,16 points; Madison, 16 points; and Kinnelon, 15 points.

The ShopRite Cup is presented jointly by ShopRite stores and the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA). Winning schools earn ShopRite points for top finishes in competition as well as for sportsmanship.

RFH earned points for the Girls Cross Country Sectional Championship, Field Hockey Group Championship, and the Football Sectional Championship.