Westhill Foundation Awards Record Amount of Grants for 2019

Syracuse, NY (December, 2018) This year, a record number of grants were submitted to the Westhill Educational Foundation from teachers across all grade levels for creative programs involving the arts, music, STEM projects and more. As a result, the Foundation approved a record $40,000 to fund 17 programs.

“This year we were truly overwhelmed with the outstanding ideas and innovative projects our teachers and staff came up with, and it made it extremely difficult to choose,” said Chris Centore President of the Westhill Educational Foundation. “We were also excited to have more grants that cross-over more than one school group. We are so fortunate to be able to bring these great programs to our students each year because of the incredible generosity of our Westhill community and the hard work of our volunteer board and committees.”

Work on these grants will begin in December 2018. This is the fifth round of grants awarded by the Foundation. In just these few short years, the Foundation has donated more than $150,000 for 81 grants to the Westhill district.

This year’s winning grants are:

Walberta Park Elementary School:

  • Bricks 4 Kidz

This grant was submitted by the kindergarten and first grade teams at Walberta Park School. Theresa DeMatties, Peggy Byrne, Stephanie Merritt, Mary Klee, MaryPat Hoag and Angela McShane, Marilou Francisco, Patricia Vercillo, Heather York, Megan Vertucci, Jennifer Stanton, Wendy Snyder, and Katrina Balla. They will supplement their STEM curriculum using the Bricks 4 Kidz physics and space modules. The students will learn science, technology, engineering and math concepts along with problem-solving and team-building skills through creative play with Legos.

  • It’s the Little Things

This grant was submitted by Principal Beth Kramer on behalf of the entire staff for the student body at Walberta Park School. This program will be presented by musician John Farrell to support the Positivity Project with songs that focus on character building and character strengths.

Cherry Road School

  • Potsdam Pitches Performance and Master Class

This grant was submitted by elementary music teacher, Sarah Colaluca. As a supplement to her music program, this grant would bring in the Potsdam a cappella singing group to perform for the whole school and allow fourth grade choir students a chance to attend a master class led by the Potsdam Pitches and their director.

Onondaga Hill Middle School:

  • Insights and Inspirations

This grant was submitted by librarian Penny Feeney, english teachers Karen McPeak and Desiree Wight, art teacher Margaret Feyerabend, and Principal Mark Bednarski. The middle school will host John David Anderson, author of several books for teens including “Ms. Bixby’s Last Day,” named a Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of the Year for children. In addition to building-wide activities that include reading and writing seminars and an art project, this year’s event will also include dinner with the author at the Onondaga Public Library.

  • Westhill Master Artist Series

This grant was submitted by music teacher Elizabeth Buell for 6th through 8th grade band students. Similar to last year’s program, there will be six professional musicians coming to the middle school to meet with different sections of the band. These classes would take place after school.

  • VEX IQ Robotics

This grant was submitted by technology teachers Scott Crowell and Jim Maniccia. This grant proposes to expand the Intro to Technology program at OHMS by purchasing 16 robotics kits. The students will use the kits to learn real world applications of robotics and coding. Students will incorporate these skills into a design challenge which will prepare them for potential team competitions.

  • OHMS Weather Station

This grant was submitted by 8th grade science teacher Tracy Derrenbacher. Funds will be used to upgrade the current weather station to meet the new curriculum requirements for the 8th grade science program. The weather station will allow students to interact with real-time data, develop models and analyze past, current and future weather conditions. These activities will help develop globally-minded students who have a greater understanding of climate-related issues.

  • Virtual Learning For Physical Education Students

This grant was submitted by middle school physical education teacher Jason Clavijo and is the first grant submitted by a teacher from that department. Integration of this technology will allow for new and creative ways of presenting instruction and increase learning and participation. Students who are injured would be able to participate using apps specific to the P.E. curriculum. Students who are homebound would benefit from the use of videos and photographs taken during instruction. Students will also work together to create videos of their own performances to analyze their skills.

Onondaga Hill Middle School and Westhill High School:

  • Westhill Day of Jazz

This grant was submitted by music teachers Elizabeth Buell, Corey Riley and Erin Tapia for middle school and high school jazz ensemble students. The music department has invited the jazz education faculty from SUNY Potsdam to a day of in-house rehearsal. In addition, the Crane Jazz Ensemble will sit side-by-side with the students as they participate in master class sessions. Follow that up with a community-wide performance at the 41st annual Westhill Senior Citizens Concert on April 3rd.  This is a very successful and rewarding experience for students as well as for the seniors in our community, and is the third year for this successful grant.

  • Learning in 3D

This grant was submitted by Westhill High School Science Department Leader Marcia Cornell on behalf of the middle and high school science faculty. This grant allows for the purchase of a 3D AV Rover System and the 3D glasses needed to create and watch presentations in a 3-dimensional format. The use of this equipment will provide students with a learning experience that will help them visualize the science being discussed in the classroom and understand complex structures and abstract concepts.

  • Angst- A School and Community Film Screening

This grant was submitted by district social workers and Mental Health Committee members Tammy Hollis-Breen, social worker Beth Piorkowski, health teacher Deborah D’Angelo, and school psychologist Kim Arroyo. High School and Middle School students and their parents will be invited to a screening of the film Angst, which is a documentary about the impact that anxiety has on children and teens, as told by other children and teens. This experience will create an environment where our students feel safe and encouraged to speak up about personal issues and struggles they may be having.

Westhill High School:

  • Experiencing Storm King and Making Art

This grant was submitted by Westhill High School art teachers Jeff Allen and Jamie Ashlaw. This experience is being offered at the high school based on a successful trip to the renowned Catskills’ Sculpture Park in 2016. Students will visit the museum, sketch or photograph different works of art, and then create a piece of artwork that reflects one of the unique sculptures back at Westhill High School.

  • Brendan Kiely Author Visit

This grant was submitted by Westhill High School English teacher Sarah Fleming. Brendan Kiely, author of “All American Boys” and “Tradition” will visit the high school to speak to the student body in an assembly, to present to students in break-out sessions and to meet with selected students for a special luncheon.  The program also includes an evening with the author speaking to families from Westhill and West Genesee High Schools.

  • The Westhill Scholar Showcase: An Academic Symposium to Celebrate Student Research

This grant was submitted by Westhill High School English teacher Sarah Fleming. Ms. Fleming will create a two-part symposium where students engage in a conference-like workshop and attend student-led presentations on in-depth academic research projects.  That will be followed by an afternoon/evening event at Onondaga Community College which includes a key-note speaker, break-out sessions and a Q&A student panel. The entire Westhill community is encouraged to attend and provide feedback to our own future scholars.

  • WHS Electrathon Car Club

This grant was submitted by technology teacher Jim Maniccia to purchase a new engine for the club’s electric race car. The club meets after school and members participate in all aspects of vehicle design using their knowledge of math, science, electricity and engineering. They will race their car in the spring at the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) race at Oswego Speedway.

  • Exploring Opportunities: Mini VR Lab

This grant was submitted by Westhill High School librarian Karen Fenner. Funds will be used to upgrade and expand the library’s current Virtual Reality [VR] equipment. With the purchase of the newer, higher-end headsets, our students will have access to immersive viewing that impacts their learning and social-emotional skills. Students doing authentic work develop a capacity for working independently, collaborating, communicating as well as reflection.


  • Other People Matter: Engaging Westhill Students With Our Diverse Community

This grant was submitted by Westhill High School biology teacher Alaina Weinsztok and fellow Westhill Diversity Committee members (WHS) Sarah Starowicz, Sarah Fleming, Nancy Gorman, (OHMS) Penny Feeney, Karen McPeak, (CRS) Karin Backus, Mary Mitchell, and (WPS) Beth Kramer, Aneisa Linton, Stephanie Merritt. As an expansion of a successful pilot program in 2018, this grant will fund district-wide learning opportunities that will supplement the regular classroom curriculum, by exposing students to diverse experiences and perspectives in our school and local community. Students will select from a variety of real-life experiences including diverse music, art and dance forms, open dialogues on various global issues, as well as discussions with various non-profit organizations that raise awareness of civic actions that are grounded in empathy and kindness. These events are scheduled to take place during the winter and spring marking periods at all four district buildings.

The Foundation is an official non-for-profit organization that raises funds to help support innovative learning experiences for all Westhill Central School District students. This year’s annual fundraising event, “Chip In For Education,” will be held Saturday, April 6, 2019, at St. Ann’s Church. For more detailed information on the grants please like us on Facebook, visit www.westhillfoundation.com or email us at westhillfoundation@gmail.com.