Countdown To the Edgewood Fair

Get ready to race those horses. At the start of this year’s old-time themed Edgewood Fair on Saturday, May 11 from 11am to 3pm, classes will watch their decorated styrofoam horses in a Derby. Think: a game board sprint where each class spins to advance their horse. Winning class gets an ice cream party and extra recess!

Fingers crossed for good weather because fair organizers Sara Farnsworth and Sam Carter have invited a stiltwalker and an accordion player to perform. There will also be a selfie booth — say cheese in your Derby hat. Expect all of the usual activities — sand art, spin art, etc. — but with some new crafts, too. Kids are invited to make toys Edgewood kids played with 100 years ago, like Cat’s Cradle and Jacob’s Ladder.

“It will be clean old-time fun,” says Sara. “We’re going for nostalgia.”

The eats are the draw, featuring street foods. You’ll find the usual stands and more, like a nacho bar, grilled Mexican corn, a fruit kebab stand, a funnel cake stand, an Italian ice station, even fresh-spun cotton candy. And there won’t just be a bake sale. There will be a rice balls station as well as a candy table featuring vintage sweets.

And for those wanting to boost school spirit, don’t miss the Edgewood Fair Shop. There are new items are up for sale, like a blue pennant advertising Edgewood School and a blue “E” kickball.

Don’t skip the carnival games — or the Gaga pit. Says Sara: “We’re going to have a lot more games than in previous years.”

Centennial Celebrations Continue!

This April, the centennial celebrations continued with an Alumni Career Fair on Friday, April 5. A school-wide assembly featured two alumni, Ray Dotoratos and Billy Reilly, who spoke about their Edgewood experience. Later, students had the opportunity to interact with visiting alumni to learn more about their careers and how their lives have been influenced by their experiences growing up in Edgewood

There were a variety of  alumni who shared their stories. Laura Neale of Black Kettle Farm drove all the way down from Maine to speak to the students about being an organic farmer. Another alum, Anne Cefola, spoke to students about being a poet.

Tours of the school’s pop-up museum took place that afternoon. The tours were given by third, fourth and fifth grade docents, who led visitors around the building to examine artifacts from the time capsule, maps of the neighborhood through the years, and other fascinating pieces of Edgewood history.

The Edgewood Gala took place the next evening, Saturday, April 6, at the Westchester Country Club. The sold-out event was a hit, with guests dressed to the nines (or like it was 1920) and dancing late into the evening in front of the live band.

Click here to check out many more photos from the event! If you’re interested in reprints of the photos taken by the Scarsdale Inquirer, please contact the photographer, Charles Wiesehahn, directly. He can be reached via email or at 914-629-7427.

Books Are Magic

Last year, Edgewood parent (and former PTA co-president) Sara Farnsworth had a novel idea: To organize a book swap at Edgewood School. Many of our kids read numerous books only to stack them on a shelf soon after to gather dust. “What if every parent donated a stack of books and other Edgewood kids could take them home?” Sara thought.

The first Edgewood Book Swap was a success, and inspired a new tradition at the school. This year’s second annual Book Swap, held in March, collected about 2,000 books, ensuring that every child who came to the event left with a book.

It was a feat to organize the massive selection of chapter and picture books into categories. Yoko Hayashi, the co-chair of the swap, worked tirelessly with library volunteers to categorize the titles. Once that job was complete, children were invited in to browse the selection with their classroom and buddy class.

“We had so many kids come in with their jaws dropped, saying, ‘These are free!?'” says Sara, who organized the swap with Yoko. “They were so excited.”

Every child could pick a few books, but the organizers were careful to make sure that first few classes of children didn’t clean out the entire selection of, say, Dog Man or Geronimo Stilton books. As the day wore on, children were encouraged to take additional books and since the swap was held on a half-day,  parents were invited after-school to select books as well. There was some worry, Sara says, that all of the books wouldn’t find a home, and they would need to find an organization to donate the rest.

In the end, all 2,000 books went.

And since so many of the books were stamped with an Edgewood Book Swap stamp, they expect they’ll see many of the same books cycle back through future swaps. Says Sara: “A book swap really shows kids that there’s value in sharing.”


Scenes from the Multicultural Fair

With more than 50 countries represented in the student population of Edgewood, it’s no surprise that the school’s Multicultural Fair is a big hit every year. Parents who want to share about their family’s culture set up elaborate presentations to give the students a taste of what life is like in other countries of the world.

Each class at Edgewood attends the fair for half an hour, and the students are given “passports” that they can get stamped at each table.

This year, the activities offered at the stations were a huge hit. The kids got to play games, try on clothes and masks, do some arts and crafts, hold cultural artifacts, and play instruments. Here are some scenes from this year’s Multicultural Fair.

Feeling the Edgewood Connection

Most families living here would agree that Edgewood is a special place. The connection that people feel in the community and at the school is something that’s truly unique. So when one Edgewood mom, Laura Bower, was tasked with writing the lyrics for a song to be performed at a school staff appreciation lunch, she decided to base it on the idea of how Edgewood is “a school more like family.”

The song she eventually wrote, called “The Edgewood Connection,” was sung at the lunch in March by PTA co-presidents Susie Smith and Heedan Chung-Goh, accompanied by Edgewood dad Ray Dotoratos on viola.

Here’s our Q&A with Laura on how she was inspired to write the song, followed by the complete lyrics and a video of the actual performance.

How did you get involved in this project?
I was speaking with PTA co-president Susie Smith, and she mentioned they wanted to do a song for the staff appreciation luncheon called “The Edgewood Connection” (based on the song “The Rainbow Connection”). I offered to help out if she needed it, and she took me up on my offer!

What is your background with writing?
I have always been interested in writing. I have stacks and stacks of journals that I started writing in when I was about eight. I took some creative writing/poetry classes in college. When I graduated from college I got a job at a public relations firm where I was constantly writing press releases, backgrounders, website content, etc. In the past few years, I have been focusing on more creative writing, and so I was happy to get the chance to work on the lyrics for the song.

What inspired you to choose the words that you did? 
Susie and Heedan had collected some key phrases about Edgewood from the administration, teachers, and students. I wove those sentiments into the lyrics for the new song. One of the things that was said over and over in the comments was how Edgewood feels like a true community, and everyone looks out for each other, so I decided to make “a school more like family” part of the refrain.

What was the writing process like?
I pulled up “The Rainbow Connection” on You Tube (sung by Kermit himself!) and wrote down the lyrics, word for word. Then I swapped in the new lyrics, making sure they fit into the beat and rhythm of the song.  Susie and Heedan did a great job performing it, with a beautiful accompaniment by Ray Dotoratos on the viola, at the luncheon.

The Edgewood Connection
By Laura Bower

Why aren’t there more schools
schools just like Edgewood?
A sea filled with blue and white pride.
Families have stayed here
and new families move here
to make Edgewood a stop on their ride.
So we’ve been told and we all now believe it
that Edgewood’s like no other school.

We know we’ve found it
The Edgewood Connection
A school more like family.

We’re lucky our wishes
have been heard and answered
a school filled with kindness and charm.
The assemblies and concerts,
the Edgewood time capsule,
the garden and spring school fair.
A school so idyllic, filled with great teachers
and with good people who care.

We know we’ve found it
The Edgewood Connection
A school more like family.

Someday we’ll leave it,
but never forget it.
A home that’s been etched in our hearts.
We’ll always be eagles with wide open wings,
who’ve learned to soar on our own.
We’ve heard it too many times to ignore it.
It’s somewhere that we’re supposed to be.

We know we’ve found it
The Edgewood Connection
A school more like family

La Lala la Lala la la La la la la la la

Donate to the Edgewood “Wine Cellar”

Edgewood parent Debby Franco is into collecting fine wines these days, but it’s all for a good cause — the wine raffle at the Centennial Gala. As part of her fundraising efforts, she set up a “wine cellar” on her front lawn to collect bottles of wine to raffle off. On the night of the big party, if you buy a $10 raffle ticket, you’ll have a chance to win one of these wine baskets stocked with a nice selection of vino.

There’s only one catch: She needs more wine for the raffle to be a success. The raffle is always a big fundraiser for the PTA, but as of Friday, Debby had collected only 10 bottles.

If you could pick up a bottle at the store and drop it at what Debby is jokingly calling her “wine cellar,” she’d be forever grateful. Leave the wine on her front lawn at 34 Edgewood Road, next to the gigantic nutcracker wearing an Edgewood T-shirt and crown. Ring the cow bell to celebrate your donation!

Let’s Party Like It’s 1920!

Hand-rolled cigars and long-stranded pearls as accessories. A craft beer tasting from a brewing company owned by an Edgewood alum. A live band. A red carpet with plenty of photo ops. And, of course, a speakeasy password to get in. Welcome to the Edgewood Centennial Gala!

This year’s special edition Edgewood Social promises to be more fun and festive than ever, styled as a Roaring 20’s affair in celebration of Edgewood’s 100th birthday. In addition to the special touches mentioned above, there will be the usual wine raffle, silent auction, and live auction, not to mention excellent food and drink. 

Guests are encouraged to wear black tie with a 1920s flare. “If people want to dress in the flapper style, that would be awesome,” says gala co-chair Moira Bandsma. But she also adds that there’s no pressure to do so.

The event will be held at the Westchester Country Club and promises to be an evening to remember. The early bird special rate ends this Friday, March 22! Click here to purchase your tickets now.

Behind the Scenes of the Edgewood Talent Show

On stage, the music is blaring and the lights are shining as two students belt out “Don’t Stop Believin’.” They’re later followed by a string duo, a troupe of dancers dressed as pink ladies, and a third-grade drummer keeping the beat to “We Will Rock You,” among other acts. There’s no lack of talent and enthusiasm at the triannual Edgewood Talent Show — but it’s not limited to just the performers. 

Backstage, student stage crew members dash around, making sure the curtains go up in time and all the right performers are on deck. They’ve been training for this moment for more than a month, giving up their recess periods to learn their jobs.

There are about a dozen committees that make up the stage crew, from lighting to backstage interview to set design. Fifth grader Elena and third grader Lucy monitor the mics. Fourth grader Bhargava is in charge of the curtain. Fifth grade stage manager Laura and her fourth grade manager-in-training Leah scurry back and forth, loudly whispering instructions to crew members. A big part of her role, Laura says, is “making sure people aren’t goofing off.”

We caught up with the masters of ceremony this year, fifth graders Tessa and Phoebe, on what’s involved with their roles. Do they write their own material? “We actually don’t write anything down,” Phoebe says. “We have a list of the performers, and that’s it. We make up everything on the spot.” Tessa chimes in, “We want to keep things fresh.”

In the balcony above the auditorium, fifth grader Grace is poised to take photos of each act. Fourth grader Jacob and fifth grader Noah occupy the lighting and sound booth. And high above the stage, the sign that proudly states “100 Years of Talent” was created by a set design team led by art teacher Mr. Fitz.  

The production of the talent show is overseen by about a dozen faculty members, including Mr. Yang, Mr. Tomizawa and Mr. Cadalzo. Teachers like Ms. Pagel, Ms. Aberman and Ms. Meyer help to choreograph group performances. But the adults are only there to provide guidance. The show is really run by the students — they’re the ones setting up the equipment, doing the sound check, and making sure everything goes smoothly. Since the inception of the talent show in 2010, it’s always been understood that “students would need to be responsible for taking a lead in the production,” says Dr. Houseknecht.

The talent show began as a suggestion by a student council member named Joaquin a decade ago. That first production didn’t have as many roles, but some traditions started then have continued. “Joaquin was the emcee for every show that first year,” Dr. Houseknecht recounts. “He also started the tradition of everyone who works in the show goes on stage to dance at the conclusion.”

“What I love about the talent show,” Dr. Houseknecht adds, “is how supportive our students are of all the performers, how serious our student crew is about their role, and how interest has grown with the faculty.”

Students can apply for stage crew positions by writing a letter to Mr. Yang. Once hired, they’re involved for the rest of the year, honing their skills for three separate performances. They’re assigned runner or assistant roles when they start out in the younger grades, then get promoted to more involved positions. Older students who’ve held these positions for years mentor younger students who will eventually take over. 

This year’s projector operator, a fifth grader named Dean, started working with the stage crew as a second grader four year ago. Now he’s training second grader Kyle to take on his position as he prepares to head off to middle school. The hardest thing about his job? “Getting the images up on time,” says Dean. But for this performance, at least, everything goes off without a hitch.

Dr. Houseknecht’s First Year

When Dr. Houseknecht was hired as principal at Edgewood Elementary in the summer of 1990, he rented a house on Lyons Road near Davis Park. He only lived there a month, but it gave him insight into the tight-knit community where he would spend the next twenty-nine years. Dr. Houseknecht, who now lives in Greenwich, recently announced his retirement.

At his first Edgewood Picnic, a tradition that was already in place, he made a point of being visible to parents and students — and accessible. He tried to meet as many members of the community as he could and approached students to ask them about themselves. “The kids always told me I was all over the place trying to be everywhere at once, and it was true,” he says.

A young idealist in his mid-30s, Dr. Houseknecht says he didn’t want to get caught up in a principal’s administrative duties all day. He’d earned his doctorate in education so he could spend time with kids and make a difference in their lives, so that’s what he tried to do: He walked the school hallways, stopped into the library and gymnasium, sat with students and asked about what they were learning. He began organizing more assemblies to promote school spirit.

During his first year, he also started what would go on to be one of his proudest achievements: the Student Involvement Council, a student government program, to help develop students’ leadership skills and give kids a say in school decisions and policies. “Teachers didn’t seem to care if I pulled kids out of the classroom as long as it wasn’t during lesson time,” he says, “so we decided to meet during lunch.”

He says that the Student Involvement Council has had as much of an impact on the Edgewood faculty as it has on students.

“It keeps us honest and balanced,” he says. “It encourages us to check in with kids and reminds us that this school is about them.” Student Involvement Council still meets during lunch about eighteen times during the school year, and over the years, Dr. Houseknecht says he uses it to test ideas and gain feedback from the kids.

At the end of his first year at Edgewood, he asked students on the Council to list the twenty best parts of their school year. He was surprised what turned up: a fourth grade science test (this shocked him), activities where the kids were able to manipulate objects, field trips (less surprising). He’s gone on to ask kids to talk about the best parts of their school year every year since. He finds it helpful when it comes to informing his job and those of his colleagues. “It helps us see the school day from the child’s point of view,” he says. “We often take what we hear and consider how to incorporate more of it into the school day.”