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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Woodland Hills Expands Volunteer Program

By: H.U.G.S. Leadership Team

The H.U.G.S. (Helping Unconditionally by Giving Support) Volunteer Program was launched in the spring of 2017 and was the creation of Dr. Deborah Vereen, the Assistant to the Superintendent (Family and Community Engagement). 

H.U.G.S mission statement:

The Woodland Hills School District will embrace the strengths of enthusiastic family members, community leaders, and neighborhood partners who are committed to teaming with us to develop and maintain volunteer initiatives throughout the district. 

Dr. Vereen recruited and trained 16 volunteers to give the program a great start in the district.  Upon the retirement of Dr. Vereen this summer, a group of H.U.G.S. Volunteers concerned about the life of the program offered to continue to develop and implement H.U.G.S. for the 2017-2018 school year.  These volunteers have attended Woodland Hills Community Day, as well as the Back-to-School Night events at each building and have now recruited over 40 new people for the program!  There will be several H.U.G.S. training events in the upcoming weeks to go over the program guidelines and to discuss scheduling.  After they are trained, the new volunteers will be ready to actively volunteer in all Woodland Hills buildings in various capacities.  
Possible volunteer opportunities will include interacting with students (reading with them, going over flash cards, etc.), clerical tasks (copying, cutting, laminating, etc.), building support (greeters, hall monitors, lunch room support, etc.), and special events support (field trips, classroom parties, community events, etc.), as well as district sporting events.  More volunteer opportunities will be added as the program grows and evolves.

The volunteers will set their own schedules and are under no obligation to volunteer for any minimum amount of time.  Some volunteers will be in the buildings weekly/monthly and will coordinate their activities more closely with classroom teachers and building administrators, while others will fill more of an “on-call” role and will be contacted periodically by the H.U.G.S. Leadership Team when one-time/special events arise. 

Enrollment for the program will be ongoing and training will be offered regularly while new people continue to sign up.  You are not required to be a H.U.G.S. Volunteer to be an active parent in your child’s classroom or PTO/PIE group.  H.U.G.S. merely offers a different/additional level of volunteerism and support to our district.  The district is dedicated to becoming a more open and welcoming place to families and community members.  For more information and to sign up for yourself, please visit our website:

Friday, June 2, 2017

A Senior Looks Back

by Alex Havrilla

My name is Alex Havrilla. I am a senior who is graduating from Woodland Hills on June 2nd, 2017. I was approached some time ago to make a post. I would have liked to write something sooner, but
this overly-perfectionist mindset I have caused me to reject most ideas I had. Then it hit me: I can use this opportunity to express my immense gratitude towards Woodland Hills for the role it has played in my life. While this isn’t exactly original, I think it is appropriate for me and potentially beneficial for those who may read this.

I’ve been in the Woodland Hills School District from kindergarten onward. I started at Wilkins Primary, graduated to Ben Fairless in 4th grade, and then made the transition to the Academy in 5th grade, from which I entered the high school in 9th grade. During these 13 years, my love and thankfulness for the district has grown tremendously. This is due to a variety of factors, the greatest of which are the Woodland Hills teachers.

I think my parents and I began to appreciate this even in kindergarten, when Mrs. Marino gave me puzzles to do during naptime because I was too fidgety to rest. When, in 3rd grade, Mrs. Gallagher moved me into a group with a couple other 3rd graders to do extra-difficult multiplication problems. I vividly remember sitting on the floor of her classroom and attempting to multiply two 7 digit numbers, and laughing even though I got the answer wrong because I was having such a great time. I remember in 4th grade when Ms. Gratton gave me practice with cross-multiplication of fractions and Mrs. Pearson gave me the opportunity to conduct an independent study of Catal Huyuk, an ancient Sumerian city.

Now I will admit, I am the kind of student who enjoys school and is eager to learn. These last few months have caused within me sorrowful nostalgia. Come June 2nd, I will be one of the most self-conflicted people standing (with some luck with the weather) on the soccer field behind the high school. I recognize that it is important to move on. But the times I have had, and the transformative growth I have experienced at Woodland Hills, make it impossibly difficult to let go.

I recall that in 5th grade Mrs. Morse gave me extra reading to do with books such as Windsurfer because she thought I would enjoy them. (I did, Mrs. Morse). In 6th, 7th, and 8th grade I had the dynamic trio of Mr. Endler, Nash, and Forgie, who put together projects asking us students to write about traveling abroad to a foreign country while analyzing multiple factors including the weather, travel options, finances, hotels, sightseeing, and many other things I am surely forgetting. It was also during this time that my teachers began expressing concern to my mother about my admittedly poor social skills. I was the kind of student who would read during lunch and recess, and who would barely talk beyond answering a question. They approached me on several occasions, asking about me and my life, I guess to see if anything was wrong, and to get me to go out and play with the rest of my class.

It was really in high school where all the opportunities I was presented with exploded into so many directions I simply cannot write about about all of them without taking hours. Ninth grade arrived and I got my first taste of the high school gifted program. Tenth grade gave me the opportunity to take AP Biology with the help of Mr. Booth, Mr. Snyder, and Mrs. Blasi, because I had enjoyed 9th grade biology so much. High school also saw me take full advantage of the AP course selection at Woodland Hills, as well as the many extracurriculars including Marching Band, Science Olympiad, Science Bowl, FBLA, Tennis, Musical, Golf, Peer Tutoring, and so much more. In all of these clubs, I met wonderful people who changed and strengthened my knowledge as an academic, and my character as a person.

Finally, it would be a crime to not discuss the High School Mock Trial program. I participated my freshman and sophomore years after falling in love the first day. I had the opportunity to practice Mock Trial in 4th, 5th, and 7th grade, again thanks to teacher involvement, but I was blown away in 9th because of the level of intensity and complexity required by the club. I credit this atmosphere largely to its two adult sponsors: Jamie Glasser and Kevin McGuire. I could go on and on about the things we did in Mock Trial. These range from the courses on the insanely complicated rules of courtroom objections (particularly the Hearsay rules), to deeply analyzing near hundred-page packets of law and testimony, to logical argumentation, public speaking, and even discussions on morality and the basis of justice and the justice system itself. I owe so much in particular to Mr. Kevin McGuire, who I consider a close friend and extremely influential person in my life.

Of course there were dozens more teachers in Woodland Hills who have changed me for the better. Unfortunately I cannot outline every way I was affected. But realize that I do remember and am forever grateful. If I did not name you, the least I can do is this:

Thank you:
Mrs. Bear, Mrs. Kopko, Mrs. Kummer, Ms. Manny, Mrs. Libel (I still have all the crafts), Ms. Marchi, Mr. Kotts, Dr. Vereen, Mr. Hickman, Mrs. Mann, Mr. Donofrio, Mr. DeIuliis, Mrs. Tabb, Mr. Yeager, Mr. R Rodriguez, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Coleman, Coach Bear, Coach Schuller, Coach Mike, Ms. Balas, Mr. Arnold, Mr. Barnett, Mr. Vranka, Mr. Steinmetz, Mrs. McDonough, Mrs. Nyapas, Mrs. Fisher, Mr. Neff, Mr. Donley, Mr. Kowinski, Ms. Wall, Mrs. Silverman, Mrs. McClinchie, Mr. M Rodrigues, Coach Lersch, Mr. Coles, Mrs. Coles, Mr. Kevin (for Philadelphia in particular), Mrs. Hart, Mrs. Colleen, Mr. Mariani, Mr. Morinello, Mr. Heffner, Mr. Maloney, Mrs. Reese, Ms. Shook, Ms. Nestico, Ms. Tanski, Mrs. Tiboni, Mrs. Priore, Mr. Crone, Ms. Giove, Mrs. Lugar, Mr. Shaw, Ms. Miller, Mr. Hopkins, Dr. Flanders, and Mr. and Mrs. Zollner (as you both already know, words cannot express).

Even after that, it feels as if I have only scratched the surface of the Woodland Hills teachers who helped shape me into the person I am today. I know that there are many teachers I owe whom I can picture as I write this whose names I simply cannot remember. Thank you.

And it is of course not just these teachers that make me so grateful to Woodland Hills. I am greatly thankful to the other staff members, administration, and various people who indirectly make it possible for those named above to directly affect me in such a profound way. So thank you Woodland Hills. Thank you for everything.

Alex Havrilla is a member of the Woodland Hills Class of 2017. He will attend Carnegie Mellon University in the fall and intends to major in Mathematics.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Intermediate School 2nd Annual Maker Fair

by Cathie Gable

Woodland Hills Intermediate School hosted its second annual Maker Faire, titled "Remake Learning: Parents Explore Making" on Thursday, May 25, 2017.   

Approximately 100 members of the community came out to "explore." Participants made marble paper, marble mazes, and kinetic sand, and  got to take a ride on a student-made hoverboard!  In addition to these classroom-inspired activities, the Consortium for Public Education and the Prime Time Program at WH Junior-Senior High School sponsored workshops on creative art expression. The Saturday Light Brigade Radio Show and Assemble helped families make "light-up" badges.  The Tech Gyrlz and STEM Stars demonstrated the use of air pressure in "launching" rockets.  

As families munched on pizza, fruit and vegetables, they were treated to a demonstration of the WHI Ballroom Dancing ensemble that has been performing around the greater Pittsburgh area over the past two months.

Take a look at the video to see all the fun!

Cathie Gable is a 6th grade teacher at Woodland Hills Intermediate School.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017


by Owen Venesky

Run [ruhn] . verb: to go quickly by moving the legs more rapidly than at a walk and in such a manner that for an instant in each step all or both feet are off the ground.

There are several definitions for the word run, but this one is my favorite. It is the most elemental. Running, or to run, by definition is a very simple task. To some, simple is boring. To others, simple is nearly perfect. Whatever your thoughts are on “simple” it does, undoubtedly, leave plenty of room to take it, whatever it is and put your own spin on it. For me it is running.

The appeal running has for me is not just the simplicity, but the truths it can help us reveal to ourselves. There is no hiding in running. You cannot hide in the uniform, hardly ever on the course, and without exception Never from the results.

Running has been a hobby and lifestyle for me. It is something I’ve practiced and lived for 12 years, although not always. After running in high school and college, I transitioned, like most, into adulthood where obligations cloud the busy day. Running took a back seat, not just the back seat of a car, but at times it was like running was in the back row of a Greyhound. Running was simply not a priority.

At the start of the 16 -17 school year which was my first year in the district and my first year as the Cross-Country coach, running was seated in the back row of that Greyhound. Running and training to race was just something I knew about from experience and rarely did anymore. It was the enthusiasm I saw in our handful of harriers (runners) at Woodland Hills that gave me a familiar feeling. Like reuniting with an old friend, running was back, though, not all at once. It took a few months to become familiar with the little aches and pains, tiring runs, and frankly the difficulty that comes along with being a new runner again.

The 2016 team doesn’t know it yet, but I credit them with reintroducing me to the old friend I had missed for a while: Running. And for that I owe them a BIG thanks.

Now, every morning, evening, or both when I lace up for that simple task of running I can’t help but be excited. I’m not always excited about the next race, or that maybe the legs feel good and the run feels easy, because that doesn’t always happen. But, what does always sneak into my mind when I run is the fact that I am here at Woodland Hills, where we have so many stellar students with limitless potential, and I can introduce them to running. A simple, challenging, and rewarding pastime which has given me so much. That is my consistent motivation. My goal is to get as many students out for cross-country as possible so they can give running a go. Who knows, maybe running will become their it, which has potential to lend balance, focus, and satisfaction to anyone who is willing to try.

So, having said all of that, don’t be afraid to try a new challenge. Come and be a part of the 2017 Woodland Hills Cross-Country team. Jump in with both feet because, like I said before, there is no hiding in running. The watch does not lie and neither do the results. But, no matter where you are in the pack, you may find an important piece of yourself along the way.

Owen Venesky is the 7th and 8th grade Art teacher at the Woodland Hills Junior Senior High School, and the Head Coach of the Woodland Hills Cross Country Team. He recently finished 33rd in the Pittsburgh Marathon and qualified to run in next year's Boston Marathon.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Edgewood Kindergarten Grows!

The Earth and Kindergarteners at Edgewood are great friends! Mrs. Frederick, Ms. Walter, and Ms. Liberati’s classes have been busy this spring planting a native plant garden. The classes learned about the importance of bees and butterflies as pollinators and met a bee expert. Together we planted seeds in our classrooms and then transferred them to our raised bed. The garden site is the perfect place for us to release the hundreds of praying mantises that we hatched from an egg sac, as well as the ladybugs that we raised from larvae. If it is good for the Earth, it is good for us!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Class of 2017 Finishes Strong

As is tradition, senior graduation presentations are in full swing for the final month of school. Previous graduating classes presented their research paper on a controversial issue to the class for ten minutes and fielded questions about their topic. Last year with their English 12 classes, David Brown and Lisa Silverman piloted a new format that included student reflections about their personal and academic achievements in high school as well as envisioning future goals. Students also created a resume and distributed it to the class on their presentation day.

“We wanted to make it more like an exit interview,” explained Silverman. “Taking these final steps into adulthood is a huge undertaking for some of these kids. It’s important for them to reflect on the process of growing up, setting goals, and moving forward. The previous presentation format limited their reflections to one research paper—one academic accomplishment; we wanted to expand that reflection process to include the entire high school experience.”

Members of the Class of 2017

This year, Tom Maloney and Lisa Silverman have expanded the pilot group to include all senior English classes, and special education teachers have adapted the presentation format for many of their students. Maloney, in his first year of teaching seniors, enjoyed creating “an opportunity for students to showcase their learning, experiences, and reflect on their growth."

Maloney and Silverman also reached out to economics teachers Rhonda Green and Rob Rodrigues to assist students in developing a personal budget consistent with their career goals for the presentation. The budget assignment is a useful exercise for students to explore adult financial responsibilities by choosing housing and transportation that is consistent with the salary they expect to receive. Green and Rodrigues emphasized the practical: the debts associated with paying back school loans or affording car insurance; the advantages and disadvantages of purchasing a used car or renting an apartment; and the importance of saving for the future.

Initially, senior Saeed Holt was nervous to present in front of his peers, but he performed far better than he expected. Holt’s advice to future presenters is simple: “Don’t believe the hype. Just buckle down, be yourself, and you’ll do fine.”

Rebecca Renner added, “After I was done, there was a huge weight lifted off of me. I can just look forward to graduation now.”

Students can invite guests to attend their presentations, including family members or friends in other classes. As a senior audience member, Addie Macioce enjoyed watching her peers present. “It’s so nice to see everybody’s presentation and reminisce about our past together.”

Although the presentations have triggered nervous jitters for many seniors, they have undoubtedly produced lots of tears, laughter, and love.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Annual CARES Open House and the Family Resource Fair

By Dr. Deborah M. Vereen

The Woodland Hills School District will host the annual C.A.R.E.S. (Connect And Resourceful Engagement with our Schools) Open House and Family Resource Fair on Wednesday, May 24, 2017 from 12:00 pm until 7:00 pm. The event will be held at the Administrative Offices at Fairless.

The purpose of this event is twofold. First of all, Woodland Hills School District families with infants will have an opportunity to get to know the members of the professional community long before their child enrolls in school. C.A.R.E.S. is an early childhood program that helps to prepare future children for the education process. The open house segment of the fair will enable qualifying families to register to be a part of this program. Secondly, The Woodland Hills School District routinely works to ensure that families have the varied resources that they need. Therefore, the event is further designed to facilitate all processes to connect families as well as community members to various resource providers according to the unique needs and desires of each guest.

All of the events for the day have been scheduled to allow those attending to schedule a time slot that fits into his or her personal schedule. This enables guests to plan to attend and participate in specific breakout sessions that have been previously scheduled.

Children are welcome to attend the event with their parents. A Children’s Fun Station will keep children occupied as they learn and have fun while families visit with various resource vendors and attend breakout sessions. A segment highlighting student performances will be held from 5:00 pm until 6:30 pm. Performers from the Woodland Hills Department of performing Arts will present musical selections and gymnasts from the Pittsburgh Gymnastics Club will be showcased. Woodland Hills student artwork will be displayed, too. Awesome raffles and book giveaways will also highlight the event.

Resource Providers Available At Tables to Answer Questions and Distribute Materials
* Woodland Hills C.A.R.E.S. (Connected And Resourceful Engagement with our Schools) – Registered families will receive a one-time CARE Package
* Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC Family Care Connections: Healthy Schools Program and Healthy Out-of-School Time
* The Woodland Hills School District College Access Office
* Mrs. Bridgett Creach, Woodland Hills Parent and RISE (Ramah International Service Enterprise) Consultant
* Woodland Hills Kindergarten Registration
* Woodland Hills Edgewood and Wilkins PTO (Parent Teacher Organization)
* Allegheny Family Network
* Circles
* Women For A Healthy Environment
* Heritage Community Initiatives
* On-Site Voter Registration
* Woodland Hills Home School Visitors: Summer Programs For Youth and Other Helpful Information (available until 3:00 pm)
* United Way
* Turner Dairy
* Gardweeno, Braddock Youth Project: Gardening
* The Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children (PAEYC)
* The Braddock Library
* Pittsburgh Gymnastics Club
* Matilda Theiss
* Word and Worship Church
* ATU (Athletic Trauma Unit) Food Truck: Healthy Food Sampling, Parking Lot
* The Woodland Hills Special Education and Pupil Personnel Services Department
* ReadyRosie (Families registered for C.A.R.E.S. (Connected And Resourceful Engagement with our Schools) will receive this early childhood on-line program)
* Glade Run
* Power Up, Adagio Health
* Greater Braddock Ministerial Association

Awesome raffles from places like the Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh Pirates, Eat N Park and many, many more will be held throughout the event! A children’s book give-away will be sponsored by Reading Is Fundamental! Student artwork will be displayed! The Children’s Fun Station will provide children with friendly entertainment!

Informational Sessions
  • Athletic Trauma Unit, Mr. Chris Edmonds “ATU Workout” *Exercise Participation 12:00 pm
  • Women For A Healthy Environment “The Battle for Healthy Water In Pittsburgh” 12:00 pm
  • Woodland Hills Home School Visitors “Attendance Matters” 12:30 pm
  • Ms. Pauline Schofstall, Wilkins Kindergarten, “Preparing Your Child for Kindergarten” 1:00 pm
  • PAEYC “The Power of Storytelling for Advocacy” 2:00 pm
  • Circles “Circles 101: Poverty In Our Neighborhoods” 2:30 pm
  • Matilda Theiss, “Ways To Handle Family Stress” 3:00 pm
  • Mr. William Marshall “The Meaning of Juneteenth and the Pittsburgh Observance” 3:30 pm
  • Mrs. Bridgett Creach, Woodland Hills Parent and RISE (Ramah International Service Enterprise) Consultant “Stick Business: Today’s Impact On Tomorrow” *Skill Development for Children 4:00 pm
  • Rev. Richard Wingfield, President, Greater Braddock
  • Ministerial Association “The Spiritual Development of the Family” 4:30 pm
  • Matilda Theiss “Coping With Family and Community Trauma” 5:00 pm
  • Women For a Healthy Environment “The Battle for Healthy Water In Pittsburgh” 5:00 pm
Special On-Stage Performances
Student Musical Presentations from the Woodland Hills Department of Performing Arts, 5:00 pm
“Preschool, Ninja, and Tumbling Showcase”, Pittsburgh Gymnastics Club, 609 6th Street, Braddock, PA 15104, 6:00 pm – 6:30 pm

WHI Students Participate in the Student Choice Awards

by Marty Sharp

On Wednesday, May 10, 2017, Students from WHI participated in a day of literacy activities at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial in Oakland, including an author visit with Jack Gantos, a battle of the books, scavenger hunt, and comic strip writing.  Some of our students even won Pirates tickets!

The Allegheny Intermediate Unit and the Allegheny County Library Association partner to present the Children’s Choice Awards. Similar to a Mock Newbery program, school and public librarians will work together to help students in grades 3-6 choose the best book of the year. 

WHI was pleased to be able to participate this program, which required students to read books in advance of the event and vote for their favorite.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

WHI Goes Fishing

by Marty Sharp

Woodland Hills Intermediate has gone fishing!

Ms. Scholze and Mr. Hauenstein took  Adam Antill, Kiara Barrack, A'miya Tippett, Jonah Ndubisi, Na'sha Luster, Mackenzie Johnson on a fishing trip to BY Park in Monroeville. These lucky children's names were entered into a drawing for demonstrating perfect attendance, behavior, and effort during the PSSAs.

Congrats to all of the awardees!