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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!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

WH Teachers being WH Teachers

As we conclude Teacher Appreciation Week in Woodland Hills, we share just one example of the ways in which our teachers and staff go above and beyond their normal duties each day. Woodland Hills is home to a fantastic and talented faculty and staff, and we are indebted to each of these fine individuals for the work that they do with our students. Thank you!

by Jason McKee

On Thursday, May 4th 2017, a staff member was happily whistling down the hallway pondering the approach of the weekend and the possibilities it held in store for him. A female student stopped him abruptly and blurted out with the shrill intensity of a teenage girl in distress, “I can’t go to prom!”

This staff member, saddened and curious if he could somehow be of assistance, asked
“Why? What could stop you from this night that you’ve looked forward to for so long?”

“I owe $75 for a textbook that I can’t find and today is the last day for me to pay. I don’t have that kind of money!” She sniffed back the approach of a tear.

“Your problem is solved,” he said. He went on to explain further as he suspected that his initial response, while generous, may not have fully explained the intricacies of his plan. “I will pay $25, I will ask your teacher to pitch in $25, and you will ask your family to contribute $25. Does that sound more affordable to you?”

The girl’s teacher, who was returning from covering another class during her prep period, overheard the tail end of the conversation. As she walked by, and with no more gravitas than insisting on paying the check for one close friend at a fast food restaurant or greasy spoon diner, she said, “It’s on me.”

The student had her textbook paid for and prom ticket in her hand in less than an hour.
THAT is what Woodland Hills is all about. THAT is the culture of love and respect that the dedicated professionals who CHOOSE to work here have for their “kids,” not their “students,” their kids.

“It’s a great day to be a Wolverine.”

Jason McKee is a Life Skills Support Teacher at Woodland Hills Junior Senior High School.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Jobs! Edgewood Kindergarten Starts Early!

by Lauren Walter

Kindergarten students at Edgewood Elementary started planning their futures early!  A job unit exposed the children to a variety of careers.  The children used dramatic play, shared writing, poetry, and songs to actively engage with the information that guest speakers presented.  The children got to meet a soldier, a farmer, a dentist, a EMT, and even a State Police K-9 Officer!  As a culminating activity the children dressed up as their career choice.  Here at Edgewood we believe that if you dream it, you can achieve it!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Working Together With Our Local Ladies of Charity Leads Students on a Pathway to the Prom

by Andrea Kennedy, CSN, and Janice Walter, CSN

In April, a Prom Dress and Accessories give away was held through a collaborative effort between the Word of God and Madonna Del Castello Ladies of Charity and the Woodland Hills Jr. Sr. High School Nurses and Social Workers. Students were invited to peruse the stunning gowns and could accessorize their outfits with an array of elegant shoes, evening bags, and sparkling jewelry. The Ladies of Charity took the lead of collecting current new and nearly new contemporary gowns and accessories and delivered them to the Jr. Sr. High School Health Office. Girls came to the Health Office during their lunch hour to try on their choices. We are proud of our students’ recognizing the importance of reusing and upcycling new and seldom worn clothing. We wish to thank our local Ladies of Charity for their continued partnership in support of our students.
Andrea Kennedy CSN and Janice Walter CSN

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Intermediate Family Fitness Night

by Marty Sharp

The Woodland Hills Intermediate Wellness Committee hosted its first annual Family Fitness Night.  Woodland Hills Intermediate families enjoyed a night of swimming, yoga, zumba, and basketball.  Participants were able to make their own delicious snacks, crafts, and get important health information from local organizations.  The new circuit training room was open and Wii Stations were up and running.  Mars our favorite therapy dog was even there! Check out the video to see a glimpse of the fun!