Dobbs Ferry Union Free School District
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|Dobbs Ferry Union Free School District|
|Type||Public school district|
|Grades||K to 12|
|Chair of the board||Tracy Baron|
Dobbs Ferry Union Free School District is a grades K-12 school district based in Dobbs Ferry, New York in the Hudson Valley, approximately 20 miles north of midtown Manhattan. The district is small compared to most districts in Westchester County, New York, with approximately 112 students per grade in three schools: Springhurst Elementary School; Dobbs Ferry Middle School; and, Dobbs Ferry High School.
The combination of small size and emphasis on educational excellence results in a district that offers a "private school experience in a public school setting".
The governing body of the school district is the elected board of education, which contains seven members each serving 3-year terms. The board members elect a president and vice-president for 1-year terms. The president for the 2014–2015 school year is Tracy Baron, and the vice-president is Robert Reiser. The board of education hires the superintendent of the school district. The current superintendent is Lisa Brady.
Springhurst Elementary School
The school's intimate size and corresponding small class sizes (averaging 20–22 students per classroom) allows for significant personal attention from teachers and staff.
Music is also thoroughly integrated into the curriculum. A major example was an original piece about the Hudson River written collaboratively with the fourth-grade teachers, music teacher George Swietlicki, and playwright and Springhurst parent Laurence Holzman.
Nationally, Springhurst is known best for its select chorus, The Harmonaires. The chorus is led by the legendary Springhurst teacher George Swietlicki, who trained at the Vienna Academy of Music in Austria. The Harmonaires have travelled throughout the country for decades, singing at major venues including: the White House; the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC; Disneyland in Anaheim, California; Radio City Music Hall, in Manhattan; and all the arenas and stadiums in the New York metropolitan region.
The full chorus has also performed at many venues in the New York area, including annual performances in Midtown Manhattan venues.
Dobbs Ferry Middle School
In 2014 and after a long, consultative process involving the community, the Board of Education voted to adopt the International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Programme (MYP) in the Middle School through 10th grade. According to Superintendent Lisa Brady as quoted in the March 2014 Foundation Forum newsletter, "MYP focuses on inquiry-based learning, encourages deeper understanding over rote memorization and values diversity and different learning styles, helping every student develop the 21st Century skills that they will need to further their education."
The district has a strong commitment to integrating computers into classroom work. As a result, 2013 saw all seventh graders in the Middle School provided with Chromebooks paid for by the district.
Dobbs Ferry High School
Dobbs Ferry High School is a coeducational public high school and IB World School. In 2013, Dobbs Ferry High School had an enrollment of 446 students in grades 9–12 and boasts small class sizes in all academic areas. In addition, DFHS has a strong arts program, offers over 15 elective courses in visual arts and music, 27 extra-curricular clubs for students to choose from, and an impressive program in science research. The high school also features a new Advisory Program that provides students with an opportunity to work in small groups with "mentor" teachers to further develop academic, organizational, and study skills.
The school's commitment to academic excellence, professional development for teachers, and equity/access for all students has resulted in top national rankings. In 2018, US News named the school a Gold School and ranked it 28th in New York State and 198th in the nation. In 2013, The Washington Post ranked DFHS #19 in NYS and in August, 2013, the New York State Education Department named it a "Reward" school. This is the top distinction that a school can earn and it was given to only 250 K–12 public schools in New York State.
The district has a strong commitment to integrating computers into classroom work. As a result, 2013 saw all ninth graders in the High School provided with Chromebooks paid for by the district.
97% of the graduating class goes on to higher education.
International Baccalaureate (IB)
In 1997, Dobbs Ferry High School became the first school in Westchester to become an IB World School and offers the International Baccalaureate Diploma to students in Grades 11–12. The IB Diploma Program is a rigorous two-year college preparatory program that includes courses in each of the six respective academic groups, Theory of Knowledge (TOK), the Extended Essay, and Community/Action/Service (CAS).
Approximately 98% of students enroll in at least one of the rigorous IB courses before graduating and over 30% of the 2012–13 senior class received the full IB Diploma.
Students taking the IB Film course won "The Chester" (Westchester's version of the "Oscar"), at the Future Filmmaker's Festival in 2014. The winning film was "Change" directed by Thomas Newman. Also selected for screening at the Festival were films by IB student directors Sean Grogg and Nate Flaks. All the films feature student actors, editors, cinematographers, and directors.
Dobbs Ferry High School has an intensive Science Research program. All students are exposed to research opportunities, and many choose to pursue a Science Research option whereby they work with scientists doing real-life research, typically in the New York region. Aware of the shortage of women in science careers, Dobbs Ferry High School brought the girls and boys in the Science Research program to the Inspring Women Scientists conference at the CUNY Graduate Center—the only Westchester school to participate.
In 2013–14 school year, Dobbs Ferry High School students have won prestigious awards for their own science research. These include awards from Westchester Science and Engineering Fair, the American Metric Society, Yale University Science and Engineering, and the American Psychological Association among others.
The Senior Internship Program was restructured in 2012 and allows all students to apply their skills in a "real world" setting during their last six weeks of school. Students choose internships based on their interests and intended pursuits. In 2013, students participated in internships either locally, in NYC, or outside of NYS. All students participate in internship seminars, complete journals via an online blog, and create a legacy project.
The high school offers a number of clubs and extra-curricular activities, including:
- American Sign Language
- Creative Writing Club
- Dance Team
- Debate Team
- Destination Imagination (DI): The Dobbs Ferry DI Team has gone to the Global Finals of this creative problem solving competition many times, including in 2013.
- Digital Eagle (online student newspaper)
- Drama Club
- Friends of Rachel
- Gay/Straight Alliance
- Green Club: in addition to school-based activities, a representative from the High School Green Club is given a seat on the Village of Dobbs Ferry's Energy Task Force.
- Habitat Club
- International Club
- Jazz Ensemble
- Math League
- Model UN
- Orpheus (Literary Magazine)
- The RAT Pack (Stage lighting and Sound Crew)
- Select Chorus
- Student Government: Activities Branch
- Student Government: Legislative Branch
- Wilderness (Hiking) Club
- Yearbook Club
- BIPOC Student Union
Dobbs Ferry High School's small size enables a high percentage of students to join varsity and junior varsity teams. These teams have successfully competed in many sports, including basketball, baseball, cross-country, football, lacrosse, softball, tennis and volleyball. Although the boys football program gets well-deserved recognition, Dobbs boys and girls excel at many sports. In 2013, boys basketball, girls basketball, boys tennis, and girls volleyball were particularly strong.
Baseball and Softball: There are boys varsity and junior varsity baseball teams, and a girls varsity softball team. Jill Picaso is the most famous Dobbs Ferry High School Softball Alumni, having achieved multiple All Section honors throughout her High School Career.
Basketball: Both the girls and boys basketball teams advanced to the county championships in 2013. Dobbs Ferry's Girls Basketball Team advanced as far as the Section 1, Class B, finals in 2014.
Football: The highly successful high school football program has been especially notable, with successful football seasons the only ones recognized on signage along the village streets. The Eagles were named New York State's Small School "Team of the Decade" for the 1980s, playing under legendary head coach Skip Violante. After a fallow period necessitating a combined team with Hastings, the inspirational play of William “Billy” Behuniak in the late 1990s led to a resurgence in Dobbs Ferry Football. Behuniak and the ‘98 team was memorialized in the book “Fly On Eagles.” Since 2000, Dobbs Ferry has won eight sectional titles, appeared in a state-record seven state championship games, won four titles (2002, 2004, 2006 and 2011), and achieved regular season and Section-1 winning streaks of 46 and 61 games, respectively. With their 39–0 win over Jamestown Southwestern in the 2011 Class-C state championship game, Dobbs Ferry surpassed Edgemont and Rye for most state titles by a Section-1 school. From 2001 to 2007 the Eagles had a combined record of 81–4. In 2010, The Journal News named Dobbs Ferry the 'Football Program of the Decade' in Section 1. The Eagles play all their home games at Gould Park, just east of the high school. Jim Moran is the current head coach; his career record is 11–1. Football record (2000–2012): 2000: 2–6; 2001: 11–1, Section-1/Class-D Champions, Class-D State Finalists (L vs. Onondaga, 35–7); 2002: 12–0, Section-1/Class-D Champions, Class-D State Champions (W vs. Dolgeville, 38–35); 2003: 11–1, Section-1/Class-C Champions, Class-C State Semifinalists; 2004: 13–0, Section-1/Class-C Champions, Class-C State Champions (W vs. LeRoy, 14–6); 2005: 11–1, Section-1/Class-C Champions, Class-C State Finalists (L vs. Sidney, 48–21); 2006: 12–0, Section-1/Class-C Champions, Class-C State Champions (W vs. Falconer, 24–0); 2007: 11–1, Section-1/Class-C Champions, Class-C State Finalists (L vs. Bishop Ludden, 21–16); 2008: 8–1; 2009: 5–3; 2010: 4–4; 2011: 11–1, Section-1/Class-C Champions, Class-C State Champions (W vs. Jamestown Southwestern, 39–0); 2012: 6–2.
Lacrosse: Dobbs Ferry High School added girls and boys lacrosse in the mid-2000s to its roster of sports teams, even though neighboring high schools offered lacrosse for decades. In spite of this short history, Dobbs Ferry teams have performed well. The girls varsity lacrosse team made it to the sectional playoffs in 2013. The boys varsity lacrosse team, started in 2011, has a high participation rate, leading to media recognition of a growing "lacrosse culture" in Dobbs Ferry.
Volleyball: The Dobbs Ferry girls volleyball team has become a County powerhouse, recording an undefeated (18–0) season in 2013. The team advanced in the 2013 playoffs, before ending its season in the Class C regional final.
Parent and community support of school district
Parents and other district residents are heavily involved in helping the district's students in achieving their educational goals. There are a number of support organizations, including:
- Dobbs Ferry Parent-Teacher-Student Association (PTSA): known elsewhere as the "PTA" but including high school student representatives, the PTSA is the formal body by which parents support the students.
- Dobbs Ferry Schools Foundation: raises funds through an annual gala to supplement school programs and teacher training.
- SPRING Community Partners: ensures that all children in the district have the resources they need to succeed in school and beyond.
- Dobbs Ferry Trailguides: a support and advocacy group for children, founded by parents of children with special needs.
Teacher professional development
The school district places a strong emphasis on ongoing teacher training. For the 2013–14 school year, additional early dismissals were added to the school calendar to provide more time for training. Superintendent Lisa Brady explained the need for "comprehensive professional development activities, longer after-school faculty meetings and longer blocks of time for researchers to work together." At a recent teacher training, "[e]ach workshop was taught by a member of the DFHS staff and provided all teachers with practical strategies that will have a direct and positive impact on the classroom instruction."
Walking and bicycling to school
Drawing on research emphasizing the benefits of active transportation in getting to and from school, the Dobbs Ferry School District has been a leader in pursuing efforts in line with the federal government's Safe Routes to School program.
The district won a highly competitive federal grant in the first Safe Route to School funding round to rebuild an abandoned outdoor staircase connecting the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Dobbs Ferry with the Springhurst Elementary School. The district then rebuilt another abandoned staircase connecting the Middle School and High School campus with the Old Croton Aqueduct Trailway; this innovative project is considered a "bicycle staircase" since a channel for bicycles was integrated into the design.
The Village of Dobbs Ferry supports the district in providing safe routes to schools. The Village employs eleven crossing guards on school days to protect students from motor vehicles. In 2012, the Village passed a Complete streets policy to govern the construction and rehabilitation of its streets. In 2013, the district supported the Village of Dobbs Ferry's successful application for yet another Safe Route to Schools grant to examine safety concerns along the Broadway corridor. Various village committees have successfully advocated to provide trails and rights-of-way through public and private property to enable children to walk safely to school. New fences erected have been required to have gates that are kept open during school hours. And a "paper street" that was in jeopardy of being closed by adjacent property owners has been turned into a village trail.
The Dobbs Ferry school district's boundaries are not identical to those of the Village of Dobbs Ferry. Some residents of the Ardsley Park neighborhood of the village of Irvington fall in the Dobbs Ferry school district. All residents of the Northfield neighborhood of Dobbs Ferry, and some residents of the Knoll and Southfield neighborhoods, fall in the Ardsley school district. Residents in properties straddling borders with neighboring districts get to choose.
Niche.com ranks Dobbs Ferry #56 statewide. There are numerous inaccuracies in the report, and some think it should be placed lower, while others think it should be placed higher.
The first purpose-built school building in the village was on Main Street, built in 1857, roughly opposite the present town hall. That served until 1896, when a new building was completed on Broadway, just south of the present High School, on what had been the Appleton estate. That 1896 building was doubled in size in the early 20th century with an addition on the back. The addition became the high school and the front part was the elementary school. The building was dedicated Dec 22, 1896 and the ceremony was recounted in the Dec 25, 1896 issue of the Dobbs Ferry Register, on page 1. The present high school was a WPA project, begun in 1934 and completed in 1936. The 1896 building and the 1936 building sat side by side and comprised the entire school system until Springhurst School was building on the former F. Q. Brown estate in the late 1950s. There was a long battle in the village over whether to build Springhurst. Many times it was put to a vote and defeated, even though the old buildings were overcrowded and students in many grades were on "double session" -- meaning some went from very early in the morning until mid-day and others started at mid-day and stayed until late afternoon. After Springhurst was built, the 1896 building became the middle school, housing grades 5 through 8. In the 1960s or early 70s, Springhurst was expanded and the 1896 building, which was becoming structurally unsound, was demolished.  (Additional Source: Personal recollections as a student in the schools (James Luckett) 1955 - 1966.)
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- Dobbs Ferry Union Free School District
- High School Principal's Corner
- DFHS Facebook Page
- DFHS Principal's Blog
- The Digital Eagle, the online student newspaper