Category Archives: Schools Scene

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

About the Big RFH Field Hockey NJSIAA Win

It was last weekend, on Nov. 15,  when the Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School Field Hockey team won the school’s first NJSIAA Group II title.

The girls won the title over Bordentown High School in a 3-2 victory that came on the heels of a historic Shore Conference Title win against Shore Regional High School on earlier in the month.

A small Rumson-Fair Haven Retrospect breaking story ran on the day of the NJSIAA Group Title win.

Here are more details about the game, provided by RFH:

Madison Maguire, Peyton McCauley, and Lilly Croddick scored goals for top-seeded RFH, and goalie Anna Babiak had four saves.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the efforts of these girls over the entire season, and certainly in their Group II Final game,” Head Coach Julie Vaccarelli said. “This is another first for the program — we have never before made it to the group final, and to win in our very first appearance is just spectacular.”

The RFH field hockey roster consists of: seniors Abigael Donohue, Catie Ebner (Captain), Molly Lake, Maggi McCann, and Peyton McCauley (Captain); juniors Anna Babiak, Kara Dixon, Bridget Fitzgerald, Maggie Jennings, Madison Maguire, Kiera McKay, Gabrielle Ramirez, Masie Sapnar, and Kate Sustick; sophomore Ali DeVito; and freshmen Lilly Croddick, Emma D’Amelio, Kaitlyn MacGillis, Megan MacGillis, Makenna Maguire, and Molly Nowell.

RFH Field Hockey Victory: NJSIAA Win

They did it!

The girls on the RFH Field Hockey team won the NJSIAA tournament on Saturday with a final score of 3-2.

The victory comes after the team won the first field hockey Shore Conference title on Nov. 2 — an RFH Field Hockey first.

“The top-seeded Bulldogs bested the second-seeded Blue Devils with a score of 2-0″ in that game, a release from RFH said.  The RFH girls were the first team of the 2014 season to hold Shore Regional — winner of the past 15 Shore Conference Title bouts — scoreless.”

Rumson-Fair Haven Retrospect will update this story when more information and photos become available.

RFH Athletes Sign Letters of Intent

Eleven student-athletes from Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School (RFH) signed National Letters of Intent on Nov. 12, National Signing Day, to play intercollegiate sports.

Student-athletes and their respective programs …

• Hannah Anderson – Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois – cross country
• Cooper Cuje – University of Maryland/Baltimore County – lacrosse
• Catie Ebner – Villanova University, Villanova, Pennsylvania – field hockey
• Kate Fahey – University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan – tennis
• Anna Finn – Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, Connecticut – lacrosse
• Rachel Lehnert – Monmouth University, West Long Branch, New Jersey – cross country
• Morgan Maguire – Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia —baseball
• Samantha Sabino – University of New Hampshire, Durham, New Hampshire – basketball
• Emily Schissler – Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio – lacrosse
• Grace Stant – Villanova University, Villanova, Pennsylvania – basketball
• Jillian Swikart – Villanova University, Villanova, Pennsylvania – lacrosse

The National Letter of Intent serves as a binding agreement between student-athletes and their intended collegiate sports programs, and marks the final step in the recruitment and commitment process.

Champs: RFH Field Hockey

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

Everyone knows by now that they’re the champs.

Here’s how … The Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School (RFH) field hockey team earned the school’s first Shore Conference Title by defeating Shore Regional High School on Nov. 2 at Raritan High School, Hazlet.

The top-seeded Bulldogs bested the second-seeded Blue Devils with a score of 2-0. The RFH girls were the first team of the 2014 season to hold Shore Regional — winner of the past 15 Shore Conference Title bouts — scoreless.

“I could not be prouder of the effort put forth by the girls — they played with heart and supported one another all over the field,” RFH Head Field Hockey Coach Julia Vaccarelli said. “It was a total team effort.

“It was an amazing feat to clinch the program’s first-ever Shore Conference title, and also end a 15-year-long streak by Shore Regional.”

Up next for the girls is the NJSIAA State Tournament run, in which the Bulldogs are the top seed.

“We will look defend our sectional title and hopefully make in to the group championship – another first for the program,” said Vaccarelli.

The RFH field hockey roster includes: seniors Abigael Donohue, Catie Ebner (Captain), Molly Lake, Maggi McCann and Peyton McCauley (Captain); juniors Anna Babiak (Goalie), Kara Dixon, Bridget Fitzgerald, Maggie Jennings, Madison Maguire, Kiera McKay, Gabrielle Ramirez, Masie Sapnar and Kate Sustick; sophomore Ali DeVito; and freshmen Lilly Croddick, Emma D’Amelio, Kaitlyn MacGillis, Megan MacGillis, Makenna Maguire and Molly Nowell.

RFH’s Kate Fahey a Tennis Star

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

What started as a 3-year-old hitting tennis balls in emulation of her parents has led to the first NJSIAA State Singles Championship in the history of Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School (RFH).

RFH senior and tournament top seed Kate Fahey defeated Millburn’s Stephanie Schrage with scores of 6-3, 3-6, and 6-1 on Oct.18 in West Windsor.

And while she stood alone in victory on the tennis court that day, Kate has plenty of praise for all those who have supported her along the way.

“I have my parents to thank for introducing me to the sport and instilling a love for it” said Kate, who noted that they still play competitively.

Kate credits her first private coach, Ray Kuzava of New Shrewsbury Racket Club, for teaching her the fundamentals of the sport beginning at the age of 8 and providing her with a firm foundation. Her current coach, Catarina Ryan, who began working with Fahey when she was 13, is described as “a mentor and friend as well as a coach.”

During her sophomore year at RFH in 2012, Fahey reached the NJSIAA State Singles Championship Final but lost to Lexi Borr of Westfield. She then left RFH and dedicated her junior year to competition in United States Tennis Association tournaments.

After careful consideration, Kate returned for her senior year at RFH. She ended her senior season with a record of 23-0.

“It was just so nice to be back at RFH, and I love all of the girls on the team as well as Coach Manley,” said Kate. “They are just an extremely talented and wonderful group.

“I am definitely happy with my decision to come back!”

Next year Fahey will play for the University of Michigan, to which she made a verbal commitment in January of 2014.

“I made a commitment that was considered early for tennis, but after visiting the campus and meeting the coach and the players I was sure that this was where I wanted to be,” she said. “It is a great fit for me academically and athletically, and it already feels like home.”

If you guessed that Fahey has her eye on a bigger prize, you are correct.

“I plan to work very hard and try to improve at the University of Michigan, so that I will be successful after graduation.” said Kate. “I definitely want to play professionally.”

Kate is the daughter of Elena and Tom Fahey of Fair Haven.

Flash Mob a Halloween Treat at Sickles School


Those at the Halloween Parade at Viola L. Sickles School in Fair Haven this year got a spooky musical treat when the kids launched into a flash mob of Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Zombie Style.

The concept, a first in the school district, was conceived by parent Bennett Coleman and choreographed by Vanessa Berry, owner/director of Kick Dance Studios in Fair Haven and Rumson, a release from the school district said. The performance involved students in first through third grades dancing up a diabolical storm.

“We had just three rehearsals, and all of the students worked really hard,” said Berry in the release. “This was a great opportunity for the children currently taking dance lessons to show off their moves, as well as for all of the students to enjoy demonstrating what they learned.”

“I thought all of the students were utterly charming,” said parent Susan Culbert in the release. “I was impressed by them.”

The Sickles Halloween parade has been a longstanding tradition. Officials welcomed the new addition.

“I am so grateful to Vanessa Berry for the donation of her time, and to Monmouth Stereo for the donated use of their equipment,” Sickles School Principal Cheryl Cuddihy, costumed as candy Dots, said. “I also want to express my thanks to Bennett Coleman, who was instrumental in organizing this wonderful activity.”

Be sure to check out the video on the Fair Haven PTA Facebook page. Click here.

Rumson Book Fair a Success

The following is an edited release from the Rumson School District … 

“I like books,” said Clara Winters, a first grader at Deane Porter School, when asked why she was excited to attend this year’s Rumson School District Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) Book Fair.

Judging by the number of excited youngsters clutching brand new books in anticipation of taking them home to enjoy, Clara was in good company.

The 2014 Rumson PTO Book Fair, held in the gymnasium of Deane Porter School from Oct. 15 to 22, featured a large number of compelling titles to pique the interests of Pre-Kindergarteners through eighth graders at Deane Porter and Forrestdale schools.

Thousands of books and related items were available for immediate purchase, including a selection of titles for adults and young adults.

This year’s attendees were urged to make way for their new purchases by donating gently used titles to the Bridge of Books Foundation.

Bridge of Books provides an ongoing source of books to underprivileged children throughout New Jersey in order to support literacy skills and foster a love of reading.

The Rumson school community donated of 20 cartons of books.

Kicked off with a conch shell concert by Forrestdale School Band Music Teacher John Lebitsch, the book fair’s Family Fun Night was held on Oct. 22 from 6 to 8 p.m. and featured activities such as face painting, crafts, and King and Queen for a Day photos as well as a gift basket raffle.

Parent volunteers assisted with book sales throughout the event, while eighth graders from Forrestdale School helped out with activities.

“We are so fortunate to live in a district with a wonderful Book Fair and terrific community and PTO support year after year,” said Abby Daly, this year’s PTO book fair chairperson. “The money that is earned through book fair is invested in new titles for our school libraries to help keep our collections fresh.

“It’s truly an investment in the future.”

For those wishing to purchase new books for use in specific classrooms, teacher wish lists were made available as well.

Forrestdale fourth graders Kira and Lisa Hunt. “The Book Fair is always great,” said Forrestdale fourth grader Kira Hunt. Her sister, Lisa, agreed, adding that “picking out books is a lot of fun.”

Fair Haven Schools’ Writers’ Workshops Aim to Grow Good Authors

The following is an edited release provided by the Fair Haven Schools District:

“When you think you’re done, you’ve just begun.”

That’s the motto of the student Writers’ Workshops at Viola L. Sickles School in Fair Haven.

And while you may have guessed otherwise, Colleen Doogan told a roomful of surprised parents that her blossoming writers actually get excited when they hear this phrase.

“They view it as an invitation to carry on with a process they thoroughly enjoy,” said Doogan, who is in her first year as the district’s K-3 literacy coach. What does a literacy coach do? She provides support for teachers to enhance their reading and writing instruction.

Doogan hosted a Parent Literacy Lab at Sickles on Oct. 9 for parents of students in Kindergarten through fifth grade to demonstrate how Fair Haven schools’ teachers and administrators are set on growing good writers through modeling, engagement and reflection.

“I know it’s hard to do, but when your children tell a story you should try your best to drop everything and really listen,” Doogan told the parents. “Encouraging the telling of good stories is a key to good writing.”

A former first grade teacher who followed her passion to become a reading specialist, Doogan’s resume includes serving as staff developer at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University under the leadership of Lucy Calkins. Doogan worked closely with the renowned literacy expert and author, and taught at reading and writing workshops in school districts nationwide.

She described the writer’s workshop at Sickles as “an essential component of a balanced literacy program.”

“The students are learning to develop good writing skills by writing — a lot,” she said. “Even our Kindergarteners are learning the importance of sequence in a story.

“We do what real writers do, because students are motived to write more when they understand that they have an authentic purpose and a real audience.”

Sickles students begin the writing journey in Kindergarten, where they are encouraged to create drawings that tell a story in sequence; and, when they are able, to add words to the drawings.

First graders are provided with writing folders containing papers with space for drawings and sentences. Second and third grade students move on to writer’s notebooks, which they fill with all kinds of writing — storytelling, instructional and historical pieces, to name a few.

When students move on to the fourth through eighth grades at Knollwood School, they further develop their writing skills through a host of instruction and activities.

In the writer’s workshops at Knollwood, students keep writers’ notebooks and publish finished pieces in a variety of genres. These students work on the same types of writing as their Sickles counterparts, but they write with increasing sophistication.

For example, fourth graders create book reviews and personal essays while the eighth graders pen literary essays and “position” papers (bringing together research and persuasive writing).

“The increased availability of digital resources and tools along with the use of Google for Education has allowed some Knollwood students to maintain online notebooks,” said Ellen Spears, the district’s director of Curriculum and Instruction. “Many teachers also encourage students to publish on blogs and also to other authentic audiences.”

As a reward for the completion of all their hard work, Fair Haven students in all grades share their best writing with classmates and parents at yearly events dubbed Writer’s Celebrations.

“All of our students at both schools are being immersed in the writing process,” said Sickles School Principal Cheryl Cuddihy, who compared the experience of learning to write with that of learning to drive.

“You don’t learn to drive by using just the blinker one day and the steering wheel the next,” she said. “You need to experience the car as a whole and improve with practice.”

The parents took part in writing and reflection activities with Doogan and with Literacy Specialist/Kindergarten Teacher Kerry Leahey, and were gifted with writer’s notebooks. But the evening’s best takeaways were the strategies Doogan shared for bringing out the “hidden writer” in every child.

“My wife Danielle and I felt very strongly about learning how to encourage and model good writing,” said Thomas Pantaleo, parent of second-grader Thomas and fourth-grader Lucia. “I thought the workshop was terrific, and I came away with guidelines that will make me a better ‘coach’ for my kids.”

Parent Literacy Lab was the first in a series of events planned during the school year by the Fair Haven Family Institute. The Fair Haven Family Institute was created to provide parents with an inside look at exciting initiatives taking place throughout the school district.

With assistance from the Fair Haven School District Technology Coordinator Pat Young and Technology Support Technician Pauline Clark, the Parent Literacy Lab was live-streamed to a local family that had expressed interest in the event but was unable to attend. The expansion of live-streaming to additional households is planned for the near future.

The Fair Haven Family Institute web page features timely and helpful information including details on upcoming events. It can be found on the school district website at

Upcoming Fair Haven Family Institute presentations include:

• Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC”) on Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. in the All Purpose Room at Knollwood School and;

• Google for Education on Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. at Knollwood School.


RFH Guidance Head Recognized

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The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) has chosen Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School (RFH) Supervisor of Guidance Fran Swift to serve as a member of its Professional Development Committee.

Swift, who has been the RFH supervisor since July of 2008, received official notice of her appointment as one of three New Jersey delegates to the NACAC Board of Directors on Sept. 15 . Her three-year term began in late September, after an annual national search conducted in the spring of 2014, and will continue through September, 2017, according to a release from RFH.

Among Swift’s duties is acting as liaison for the Regional Affiliates with which she is paired. Within that partnership, she will promote/present workshops for the national organization, the release said. The organization’s membership consists of 13,000 professionals from around the world.

“The scope of my work will be to communicate best practices to School Counselors and College Admission Professionals in the regional affiliates, and to report the affiliates’ professional development needs to the national organization,” said Swift. “My goal is to help achieve a shared strategic vision for the college admissions process that takes everyone’s perspectives into account, Swift said in the release.

“I saw this as a great opportunity to serve NACAC, as well as to gain valuable information and networking connections that will benefit the student body at RFH.”

Swift is the only appointee from the state selected to serve on the eight-member NACAC Professional Development Committee.

As a member of that group, Swift represents the New Jersey regional affiliate chapter as well as the Dakota, Great Plains, and Rocky Mountains regional affiliates.

Swift is very active in the New Jersey regional affiliate of NACAC (NJACAC) and is one of six national delegates from her state serving as the voice of NJ School Counselors and College Admission Professionals on key initiatives, the release said. Previously she completed two terms (four years) as one of two New Jersey secondary school representatives.

Swift is also a member of the Professional Development Committee for NJACAC. In this capacity, she coordinates the Naviance Users Group, presenting workshops to help school counselors implement an on-line system designed to improve college and career planning.

A former Kindergarten teacher, Swift has worked in high school guidance for 27 years. She serves on the Monmouth County School Counselors Executive Board, where she served as president for nine years.

Swift recently completed a term on the Advisory Board of Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY, and recently joined the Fairfield University Advisory Board in Connecticut.

Founded in 1937, the National Association for College Admission Counseling is an organization dedicated to serving students transitioning from secondary to postsecondary education.

Members include professional school counselors, college access counselors, admission and financial aid officers and more.

RFH Tower Players & Their ‘Miracle on 34th Street’


Miracle on 34th St. poster, courtesy of Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School
Miracle on 34th St. poster, courtesy of Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School

Yes, Rumson-Fair Haven area theatergoers, there is a fall high school show.

The Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School (RFH) Tower Players is aiming to make audiences believe in Santa Claus with its Dec. 12, 13 and 14 stage production of Miracle on 34th Street, The Play, a release from RFH said.

Based on the classic 1947 movie and novel by Valentine Davies, the Tower Players’ version of the story of a white-haired bearded man named Kris Kringle and his embattled, tradition-inspired journey as a 34th Street Macy’s Santa, has been dubbed “part nostalgic throwback and part cutting-edge entertainment,” by staff.

The show, according to the release, will feature 38 cast members bringing to life the original storyline of Kringle’s holiday trials and tribulations as he insists he is the real Santa.

The contemporary component of the RFH production manifests itself in large-scale dance numbers choreographed to a rock-based soundtrack, the release said.

The popular plot, the release said, unfolds like this:  A kind white-haired man is asked by Macy’s bigwig Doris Walker to portray Santa in the famous flagship store on 34th Street in New York City.

Trouble starts to brew when the man, who says his name is Kris Kringle, claims that he is the actual Santa Claus. His claims are seriously doubted by Doris Walker and her daughter Susan, both of whom don’t believe in the existence of Santa Claus.

As Kris’ sanity comes into question, his danger of being committed to a psychiatric institution grows. Doris, concerned for Kris, enlists her friend and neighbor Fred Gailey to defend Kris in court. The highly practical Susan befriends Kris as well and, in doing so, end up with the most precious gift of all – something to believe in.

In the RFH production, Kris Kringle is played by senior Laurence Morales. Doris Walker is played by senior Emily Mangiavillano, with senior EIise Roncace as Susan Walker. Senior Andrew Maris plays Fred Gailey.

Also featured, in a ballet performance of toys coming to life, are sophomores Sara Safarian and Rachel Makstein.

The Tower Players’ Miracle on 34th Street, The Play is directed by Suzanne Sweeney, with choreography by Patty McCarron and costumes and props under the direction of Carole Malik.

Tower Players alumna Kasi Ann Sweeney is assistant director and Stefania Flecca is production coordinator. Sets, sounds and lighting are provided by Matthew Leddin and his 30-student crew, with set design contributions from the RFH Stagecraft class as well.

Tickets — $10 general admission and $6 for senior citizens, children and students — may be purchased by visiting the RFH website ( or by contacting Play Production Coordinator Stefania Flecca at 732-842-1597, extension 826.

Tickets will also be sold at the theater box office in the auditorium lobby from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 24 and Dec. 1 and 4. Tickets will be sold an hour before each performance as well, based on availability.

Curtain time for the production’s Friday opening  night on Dec. 12 is 7:30 p.m., followed by a show on Saturday at the same time and a closing matinee on Sunday at 1 p.m.