Haldane Launches Alternative High School

Haldane Academy opens at St. Basil on Sept. 1

By Michael Turton

The Haldane Central School District will open an alternative high school on Sept. 1 at the St. Basil Academy in Garrison for as many as 12 students who will attend afternoon classes there.

The program is designed for students “who don’t do their best work in a traditional setting,” explained Superintendent Diana Bowers. “It’s a unique, hands-on, experiential program in a more relaxed environment.”

The classes held at St. Basil will focus on environmental science as part of a Career Technical Education Program led by an instructor from Putnam-Northern Westchester BOCES, which offers vocational support to 18 districts, including Haldane.

From left, Rebecca Pearsall of St. Basil, Haldane teachers Gabriel Horn and Patty O'Rourke and St. Basil Dean of Education Sylvia Kenny in front of the building that will house the  Haldane Academy. (Photo by M. Turton)

From left, Rebecca Pearsall of St. Basil, Haldane teachers Gabriel Horn and Patty O’Rourke and St. Basil Dean of Education Sylvia Kenny in front of the building that will house the  Haldane Academy. (Photo by M. Turton)

“It’s perfect for teaching environmental science,” Bowers said of the 252-acre property on the Hudson River, which includes forest, trails, a stream and a waterfall, as well as a pool, gym and library.

The Haldane Academy will be overseen by newly hired high school principal Peter Carucci and Tony Showay, a student support services specialist. Patty O’Rourke will teach English and Social Studies for academy students during morning classes at the Mabel Merritt building at Haldane, while in the afternoon Gabe Horn will provide instruction in math and science at St. Basil, which is located on Route 9D south of Boscobel. Alexis Smith will be the teaching assistant.

Haldane plans to add a landscape architecture component to the academy “in which students design, create and rehabilitate a space on the Haldane campus,” Bowers said. “They’ll look at everything from soils to topography.”

Non-traditional learning

There is no “typical” student who chooses to attend an alternative high school, Bowers said; there can be any number of social or academic reasons a student functions better in a non-traditional classroom. The initiative “provides what’s best for the kids and what’s best for the district.”

The fall semester will include 10th and 11th grade students but the program may be expanded during this school year or the next to include students from outside the district. “For now it’s a Haldane program,” she said, but it could be overseen by BOCES. “We’ll modify the program depending on who else [enrolls].”

Haldane Academy's morning classes will be held in the Mabel Merritt Building. (Photo by M. Turton)

Haldane Academy’s morning classes will be held in the Mabel Merritt Building. (Photo by M. Turton)

Students at the academy will follow the same academic calendar as Haldane. Busing will be provided to Haldane for the morning classes and to St. Basil for the afternoon sessions. Buses will return academy students to Haldane at the end of the school day.

What it saves

The Haldane Academy will save taxpayers between $70,000 to $120,000 a year, Bowers said, by reducing the costs Haldane now pays for programs outside the district. If the academy expands to include students from outside the district, Haldane will also benefit from tuition revenue.

Rebecca Pearsall, the director of education and clinical services at St. Basil, which was founded in 1944 by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, shares Bowers’ enthusiasm. “It’s innovative, not just in terms of education but also in how the district’s budget is used,” she said. She described the environmental science curriculum as “expedition learning.”

New Haldane Staff, 2016-17

Peter Carucci, Principal, HS
Anthony Showah, Student Support Specialist
Chris Ciboso, Social Studies (Leave Replacement), HS
Erin DeMartino, Grade 1 Teacher (Leave Replacement)
Calvin Dinio, Teacher Aide, ES
Melissa Frabotta, Music
Gabriel Horn, Teacher, Haldane Academy
Janine Junjulas, Attendance Aide/Greeter, ES/MS
Christi Kelly, Teacher Aide, ES
Carolyn Llewellyn, Teaching Assistant/Garden Educator, ES
Megan Lyons, Teacher Aide, ES
Daniel McGroarty, Music
Kristen Mosco, Guidance Counselor, HS
Lisa Needleman, Special Education Teacher, ES
Kathryn O’Hara, School Nurse
Patty O’Rourke, Teacher, Haldane Academy
Dawn Rossano, Psychologist
Alexis Smith, Teaching Assistant, Haldane Academy
Kristen Spooner, Grade 5 Teacher (Leave Replacement)
Amy Sylvester, Mathematics (Leave Replacement), HS

HS = High School; MS = Middle School; ES = Elementary School

In return for Haldane’s use of its facilities and grounds, St. Basil will receive a credit of $65,000 for Haldane services, including special-education testing and tuition for St. Basil students who attend Haldane High School. There are currently 22 students, from preschool to college age, living at the St. Basil Academy, whose mission is to “provide love, shelter, food, education, protection and a home for orphans, children of chronically ill or destitute parents or children from broken homes.”

Grade-school students who reside at St. Basil attend Bishop Dunn Memorial School on the campus of Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh. Four teenage residents attend Haldane High School, for which St. Basil pays the district $13,176 in annual tuition for each.

Student input

Bowers said Haldane students helped plan the academy. “We asked what their perfect school program would look like,” she said. Bowers emphasized that students participating in the program are still able to take part in all extracurricular activities. “They are still Haldane students,” she said. “But for part of the day they will be learning in a different environment that just offers them more.”

Bowers said the district began looking for an off-campus space for the academy because it had no room at the high school. Academy students will take morning classes in Haldane’s Mabel Merritt Building. Afternoon sessions at St. Basil will be held in a former school building there. “There wasn’t a lot that had to be done,” Bowers said. “Renovations were minimal … mainly having to do with meeting fire regulations.”

St. Basil Academy was once the estate of Jacob Ruppert, owner of the New York Yankees. (Photo by M. Turton)

St. Basil Academy was once the estate of Jacob Ruppert, owner of the New York Yankees. (Photo by M. Turton)

St. Basil sits on part of the former estate of Jacob Ruppert, a brewer and Congressman who owned the New York Yankees from 1915 until his death in 1939. Babe Ruth was a frequent visitor to the property, known as Eagle’s Rest. The 500-acre estate sat empty for five years after Ruppert’s death until the church purchased it; in 1976 St. Basil sold 250 acres, mostly marshland, to the Audubon Society. It was named for St. Basil, who founded orphanages, hospitals and homes for the elderly in fourth-century Caesarea in Asia Minor.

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