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News and Articles for Phoenix Central School District.

Dillon Middle School Announces PE Students of the Year Winners

Emerson J. Dillon Middle School students of the month gather for a group photo during a year-end ceremony.

The Emerson J. Dillon Middle School physical education staff honored outstanding students during a year-end celebration.

The event was the culmination of a monthly awards program that recognized students for their efforts and behavior. To cap off the year, two students from each grade level were selected as “PE Students of the Year.”

“This is about acknowledging and showing our appreciation to the students who are overall great kids; showing respect and responsibility throughout the school day,” said PE teacher Paul Lyman. “This award exemplifies students who are polite, kind, selfless, honest, trustworthy and serve as a positive role model to their peers.”

The 2017 PE Student of the Year recipients were Brycen LaRobardiere and Lia McBurnie (fifth grade); Damien Fratello and Elisabeth Caltabiano (sixth grade); Jacob Neupert and Madison Grover (seventh grade); and Tyler Redhead and Mackenzie Shank (eighth grade).

EJD student musicians perform spring concert

Emerson J. Dillon Middle School student musicians recently showcased their progress and talents during their final concert of the school year. 

The seventh and eighth grade chorus and band students performed a full lineup of songs featuring several soloists as well as group numbers. Under the direction of Shirley Kelly, the full chorus sang “Africa” and “Blackbird” before combining for a moving performance of “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.” Featured singers and soloists for the evening were Isabella Allen, Garrett Strang, Larissa MacDonald, Jayde Jacobson, Olivia Snyder, Gabriella Payne, Keaton Renfrew, Ashleigh Besaw, Aiden Trumble and Angel Barrows.

Following the chorus performance, the band took the stage for a medley of songs under the direction of Dave Frateschi. Songs included “Midnight Escape,” “Cake by the Ocean,” and “Fate of the Gods,” among others. Soloists were Chloe Calkins, Lily Roberts and Aidan Trumble.

Phoenix Cub Savers Earn Recognition

Participants in the Cub Saver program at Michael A. Maroun Elementary worked to “save their money for a rainy day” through the Edge Federal Credit Union’s initiative.

A focus on financial literacy and savings paid dividends for Michael A. Maroun Elementary School students this year.

Since the fall, students have been involved in the Cub Saver program through Edge Federal Credit Union, where they make deposits into their accounts and learn about finances as part of the school-based program. A recent celebration honored the students who contributed deposits throughout the year, with the seven “super savers” – those who made the most consistent deposits – earning time in the cash cube.

The cash cube provided the seven students with an opportunity to enter the cube and grab up to $1,000 in 30 seconds. All the money each participant was able to grab ($802 combined) was deposited into their accounts.

“It’s not how much they save each week, it’s just about establishing that pattern of behavior,” said Edge Federal Credit Union CEO Theresa Camerino. “This is a great way to introduce students to financial literacy and teach them the importance of saving money.”

JCB students receive top 2 honors

Alexa Uttamsingh and Brian Breen are humbled to represent the John C. Birdlebough High School Class of 2017 as valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively.

While natural academic, musical and social talents helped carry the pair to the top of their class, both Uttamsingh and Breen said it really was all about hard work and dedication.

“I’ve never really liked the word ‘prodigy,’” Breen said. “Words like that skip the whole portion of work that you do.”

Effort, added study sessions and a continued drive pushed Uttamsingh and Breen to success. Uttamsingh has followed in the footsteps of her sister, Olivia, who was JCB’s Class of 2015 valedictorian. Much like her sister, Alexa found a balance of her school work and extra work required to be named #1 in her class. The Class of 2017 valedictorian will attend the University of Rochester where she will study international relations before going to law school.

She reflected back on her time in the Phoenix Central School District and noted she was captivated by any class taught by social studies teacher Joan Martin. She also thanked JCB secretary Michelle Rudy for always being there for her inside and outside of school.

Uttamsingh encouraged JCB underclassmen not to get worked up or stressed about being valedictorian or salutatorian. She remained focused, studied hard, took small breaks to go to the gym, visited friends, was a lifeguard in summer months, participated in several extracurricular activities and managed to receive a weighted grade point average of 104.36.

Breen said his weighted grade point average of 104.04 was earned by studying when he had any free time. He is most proud that he received a 100 on his trigonometry Regents exam and his attendance to Conference All-State during his junior and senior year, where he played percussion both times. He has participated in marching band, jazz band, winter drumline, Tri-M Music Honor Society and Drama Club, among other extracurricular activities.

He offered the following advice to underclassmen: “Finish all of your work, even if it’s a lot.” Through hard work, he said, students may also find academic areas they unexpectedly excel in, as was the case when he attended Lisa Spereno’s English classes and discovered he enjoyed reading and writing.

Breen will attend Ithaca College for music performance and music education. He plans on being a music teacher. He thanked his mother for her unwavering support and said without her assistance and guidance he wouldn’t be where he is today.





Dillon Students Elected into National Junior Honor Society

Several Emerson J. Dillon (EJD) middle-schoolers were elected into National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) during a recent ceremony held at the school.


EJD NJHS Advisor Jennifer Mainville welcomed parents and families in celebrating the accomplishments of the inductees, and indicated that the NJHS students had planned the entire evening. The students proceeded with running the ceremony for the remainder of the night.

“National Junior Honor Society is about leading and taking charge,” said Mainville. “And that’s what the students are doing tonight.”


Following the traditional candle lighting ceremony, the following students were pinned as new NJHS members: Sarah Andrews, Sara Brunell, Isaiah Gordon, James Hagg II, Larissa MacDonald, Jacob Neupert, Mackenzie Shank, Nathaniel Sutter and Michael VanAuken.


EJD NJHS President Lily Roberts led the new and old members in reading the Member’s Pledge saying, “I will be loyal to my school; and will maintain and encourage high standards of scholarship, leadership, service, citizenship and character.”

EJD National Junior Honor Society proudly welcomes nine new members.

National Junior Honor Society members donate to Ronald McDonald House

Emerson J. Dillon Middle School student representatives of the National Junior Honor Society pose for a group photo outside the Ronald McDonald House in Syracuse. The students raised money and provided meals to Ronald McDonald House guests. Pictured are Shay Altman, Francesca Goodell, Lilly Roberts, Allison Mainville, Noah Gordon, Thomas Uhl, Jock Li, Andrew Quinn, Liam Sweeney and Ciera Harvey.

With a desire to help others, Phoenix National Junior Honor Society members recently hosted a fundraiser benefiting the Ronald McDonald house of Syracuse.

Students held a “lap-a-thon,” along the indoor track and solicited sponsors for each completed lap during a 30-minute time period. Fifth-grader Jason LaRonde was the top earner and raised $240 for the nonprofit organization, which serves families who travel from across the region to get medical care for their loved ones at area hospitals.

According to NJHS adviser Jennifer Mainville, members of the organization organized every facet of the fundraiser. They made phone calls seeking donations, organized participants, printed fliers and worked as a team to accomplish their goal. Ultimately, the students raised enough money to buy dinner from Fajita Grill for 40 families staying at the Ronald McDonald House. They also presented the organization a check for $300.

StoryFaces provides Phoenix students with unique art lesson

1.	Artist and storyteller Christopher Agostino poses for a group photo with Emerson J. Dillon Middle School eighth-graders whose faces were transformed into characters during a recent “StoryFaces” performance.

History, culture and art were weaved into several stories that captivated an audience of Emerson J. Dillon Middle School students during a recent presentation.

Artist and storyteller Christopher Agostino met with sixth and eighth-graders to infuse arts in education with his “StoryFaces” show. Agostino told a variety of stories while simultaneously transforming the faces of student volunteers into the characters. His stories ranged from traditional folktales to original works.

“I hope these performances inspire the students,” Agostino said. “I want them to get a sense of what’s possible in the arts. It’s also a way to get them to think about other cultures and other people. It shows the unity of human culture.”

The students learned about modern art and African art as Agostino created asymmetrical designs and pattern to transform the students’ faces. His work used inspiration from Picasso and cubism to create the StoryFaces characters.

“Art functions for all cultures the same way,” Agostino said. “It’s meant to make you think … not only about yourself, but the world around you too.”

Concert features Phoenix students’ jazz talents

The Phoenix Central School District music department recently presented an evening of entertainment featuring the middle school and high school jazz bands.

In separate performances, each band played six songs ranging from jazz classics to today’s hits. The Emerson J. Dillon jazz students opened the evening with “The Star Spangled Banner,” followed by blues tunes and other numbers.

“These students have worked so hard in such a short amount of time,” said EJD jazz band director Dave Frateschi. “I’m so proud of what they have been able to accomplish.”

Under the director of Liza Grethel, the high school jazz band kept the music going with an array of songs such as “The Last Lap,” “Feeling Good” and “Make me Smile.” John C. Birdlebough High School student Sean Sievers was a featured soloist while Zachary Thompson showcased his vocal talents.

In each of the past seven years, the Phoenix Central School District’s music program has been named one of the Best Communities for Music Education. The recognition, awarded by the National Association of Music Merchants, honors districts that have demonstrated a commitment and access to music education.

‘Parents in PE’ a success at MAM

Parents and grandparents in the Phoenix Central School District recently joined elementary students in physical education (PE) classes.

The annual “Parents in PE” program began several years ago at the suggestion of Alice Benjamin, a PE teacher at Michael A. Maroun Elementary School. Since then, hundreds of parents have participated and learned a variety of exercises to use at home.

“I try to change the activities and make sure they can do some of these things together at home,” Benjamin said.

This year, participants climbed the rock wall (funded through Box Tops for Education) and worked their way through agility courses, team activities and cardiovascular exercises.

“It’s awesome to see the kids and their parents/grandparents exercising together and having fun,” Benjamin said. “This is something that they look forward to every year.”

Hundreds of athletes participate in Oswego County Olympiad Invitational

Phoenix students parade around the JCB track prior to the Oswego County Olympiad Invitational
The John C. Birdlebough track and field area was bustling with excitement May 11 as dozens of volunteers and hundreds of spectators cheered on athletes in the 2017 Oswego County Olympiad Invitational.

More than 450 student-athletes -- representing all nine component school districts in the county, as well as the Center for Instruction, Technology & Innovation -- participated in the third annual Olympiad. Participants wore school colors and displayed school spirit while parading around the track to begin the day.

“This is such an awesome day,” said Angie Neiss, a teacher at JCB who helps coordinate the Olympiad. “Everywhere you look, all you see is smiling faces. There’s nothing better than that!”

Fulton native Tim Conners, a cancer survivor who lost his sight while battling T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, served as emcee for the event. He encouraged participants to strive for the seemingly impossible and to overcome adversity one day at a time.

“It’s impossible until you do it,” Conners said as the Olympiad got underway.

Inspired by Conners’ words, student-athletes took to the track for their respective events. In addition to distance races, participants tried events such as shot put, softball throw, long jump and other activities.

“So many people helped make the Olympiad a success,” Neiss said. “Our student-athletes, volunteers, spectators and donors made this possible. What a great event!”