Spartan Spotlight: Vol. 1, No. 3

A message from our superintendent

Lisamarie Spindler smiles for the camera

As my first school year as the superintendent of the Florida Union Free School District comes to a close, I am grateful to our amazing faculty and staff, students and community for engaging minds, empowering futures and excelling together.  

We had many opportunities to celebrate students this year and were happy to invite families to join in as we highlighted their work. Thirteen students were inducted into the National Junior Honor Society, and six into the National Honor Society. A variety of art shows, concerts, theatrical performances, the TREP$ marketplace and other activities highlighted student creativity and presentation skills. Our student-athletes worked hard on and off the court, with seven playoff appearances this year. Many teams and individual players earned NYSPHSAA scholar-athlete recognition and other awards throughout the year. 

I am proud to share that the district has secured multiple grants this school year with the help of our principals and staff. The Helping Kids Mini Grant from the School Superintendents Association helps the district meet our technology and connectivity needs. A grant from the Children’s Institute to fund Primary Project at Golden Hill will help students adjust to school through play. In addition, we will expand our universal pre-K program with a grant from the New York State Education Department. As our computer science class offerings grow, the Orange & Rockland STEM Classroom Grant for micro:bit technology will enhance the student experience. Researching and applying for these grant opportunities helps us achieve the goal of optimizing resources set out in our Blueprint for Excellence. 

At both the elementary and upper levels, I held Superintendent’s Council meetings with students during which they provided insight and feedback on things that would improve their school and experience. Meeting with the students helped the district maintain and increase extracurriculars and distance learning opportunities at S.S. Seward and create plans for playground equipment and flexible furniture and spaces at Golden Hill.  

There is so much to look forward to in the coming school year, including the introduction of intramurals, a new pre-K playground for our youngest students and the transition to an enhanced school-to-home communication platform, ParentSquare. 

On June 29, we will celebrate our seniors on the Great Lawn. Please join me in congratulating our outstanding graduates as they start a new chapter. Remember that you will always be Spartans! 

 — Dr. Lisamarie Spindler

In our schools

Seen at Seward

9 seniors give back to the community through unique projects

students participating in ISP this yearAt the beginning of this school year, seniors Kendall Guerra and Stephanie Reicherter realized that there might be fewer students trying out for the varsity soccer team in the coming years. In an effort to drive more interest in the sport and encourage youth to one day play for the Spartan’s soccer teams, the two worked together on an Individual Student Project (ISP), using their skills to teach the next generation of soccer stars.

Guerra and Reicherter are two of nine students who completed an ISP this year, under the guidance of teacher Barbara Scheibling.

“This is a unique opportunity open only to our seniors,” Scheibling shared. Students elect to be part of an ISP, where they can put their passions into action and give back to their school or community. This yearlong project can be a continuation of a project previous seniors have started and can also be a completely new idea. Students keep a log of their activities and wear a sash at graduation that denotes their accomplishments.

“We advertised a soccer workshop to fifth grade students at Golden Hill,” shared Guerra, whose sibling attends the elementary school. The students also got advice from a local recreation director and had help from two Seward graduates when it came to planning drills and activities.

Guerra and Reicherter say they learned time management and organization skills as well as how to utilize community connections to make events like this happen. Reicherter also drew a connection between the project and her future major: health and fitness science.

Angelina Vargas poses with a sign about her bracelets
Angelina Vargas raised $622 for the JED Foundation

Other students used the project as an opportunity to raise money for various causes. Alicia Ward collected can tabs for the Ronald McDonald House, Angelina Vargas sold bracelets to raise funds and awareness for the JED Foundation, and Brook Irizarry raised money for Pets Alive in Middletown.

Like Reicherter, Irizarry’s project connects to her future. The current BOCES animal science student will continue her pre-veterinary education at SUNY Cobleskill in the fall. For over six months, Irizarry collected plastic water bottles from the Seward community in boxes across the school, returning the bottles and donating the money to the charity. “I chose Pets Alive because I’ve volunteered for them in the past,” she shared. “They are a no-kill shelter and they take in all animals – cats, dogs, horses, donkeys – literally any animal that needs help.”

Irizarry’s fellow BOCES students Elianna Ford and Karina Zambrano used the ISP opportunity to apply the skills they learned from their Digital Filmmaking and Post Production class. They created a documentary of senior year including interviews with seniors and footage from important events. The film will be played at the senior barbeque following graduation rehearsal. 

“We want to show what the school and community has done for us in one video and get to showcase that and have it to look back on in the future,” shared Ford. The two hope a senior might create a similar project for their class in the future.

Milo Janata and Derrick You sought to pay it forward, continuing a senior project that they benefited from last year. Janata and You planned a trip to Mount Saint Mary College and the Purple Heart Museum for the junior class.

“For the juniors who haven’t started looking at colleges, this is a great trip to get them familiar with the process,” shared Janata. “I know it was the first college visit for me last year.” 

“These projects create a sense of accomplishment for students as they finish their time at S.S. Seward and offer students a way to give back to the community,” shared Scheibling. 

Computer science projects teach eighth graders robotics and resilience 

Students draw with robotSamantha Vargas and Emerson Dazi couldn’t help but smile as the robot they programmed together drew hexagons on their paper.  

On just their first day working with the robots, the students worked through initial challenges by trial and error to attain this success. “Working with robots is fun and unique. I didn’t know you could code a robot to draw whatever you want,” shared Vargas. 

This exercise is part of a 10-week project students in eighth grade computer science explorations have been working on with computer science and special education teacher Evan Lally.  

The project started out with what the class calls robot curling; students had the goal of getting their robot to a target area and had to navigate around other robots. Second, students programmed the robots to draw, coming up with a variety of shapes and patterns. Using these new skills, students worked together to guide the robot through a maze. These sections of the project were completed using a Cue Robot, which allows students to practice increasingly advanced programming.  

Next, students got comfortable with Edison Robots, which have more autonomous abilities including sensing lines and walls. Students added Lego-like pieces to customize their work. Some students completed a second maze, using the first robot to lead the second through a maze.  

student builds robot

How do the students achieve this? 

“It’s up to them,” shared Lally. “This is what I love about all kinds of robotics and computer science. There are a thousand ways to get from point A to point B. The students use their own creative process, teamwork, trial and error, and pattern recognition to find a unique solution.” 

In their sixth and seventh grade computer science classes, students focused on learning the basics through programs like Scratch, a visual programming language. This year, students enjoyed working hands-on with the new technology.  

“At first, I didn’t want to take computer science, but Mr. Lally brings it to life,” shared Dazi.  

This is the first eighth grade class to attend computer science, and Lally is impressed with their progress and the resilience they’ve built through trial and error.  

He shared that some students even began working with micro:bit technology, programming the robots to follow a light. The program received a grant to bring more of this technology into the classroom next year. Eighth graders will continue to build their skills as the program expands to high school classes in the fall.

Before then, the eighth graders will put their robots to the test during a game of robot soccer on the last day of the school year.

Read more from S.S. Seward Institute here:

Golden Hill happenings

Egg drop sparks student creativity

Students are exuberant when they discover their egg was intact after the fall

“Drop that egg! Drop that egg!” Fifth and second graders eagerly repeated this chant, waiting for teachers to drop the next group’s contraption from the ledge. Would the egg placed carefully inside survive the fall?

The annual egg drop, this year on June 13, brings the two grades together to collaborate, using their imagination to create something to protect an egg when falling from large heights. On the first day of the project, students met their group members and began sketching ideas and discussing what materials they wanted to bring from home to bring the idea to life. Building took place on the next day and students could practice dropping their creation from a chair without the egg to see what types of adjustments they wanted to make.

students pose with contraption and group for egg drop. Their work includes plastic bags and balloons as a parachute for the egg attached to a box.Fifth grade teacher Michele McPhillips shared that the project allows students to employ “trial and error, problem-solving, teamwork and collaboration skills,” and discover that “it’s OK to fail and try again.” Students learn to listen to other’s ideas and opinions through the project as well.

“We really wanted the egg not to break so we made cushioning,” shared second grader Cameron Lawrence. One of her fifth grade partners, Birdie Rogowski, added, “We put bubble wrap in the box, cotton pads in there where the egg would lay and confetti on top. We used pipe cleaners and old packaging to make a parachute, and we used toilet paper rolls to make legs.” The students called their creation the Alien Ship.

Their faces were filled with excitement and joy when the egg emerged from the Alien Ship intact. “We learned that it doesn’t matter how big it is. You can make something small and it can still protect the egg.” shared fifth grader Kimberly Gonzalez-Barragan.

Materials from other groups included balloons, foam noodles, plastic bags and more.

students prepare for egg drop

Second grader Ava Morgan said she enjoyed the egg drop so much that she couldn’t pick a favorite part. “I liked making new friends,” she shared, referring to the fifth graders she met while working on the project.

Morgan and many of her classmates, including Tristan Choinski, are already looking forward to working on the project again in fifth grade. Some are excited to work with their siblings who will then be in second grade.

“It was so much fun,” shared Choinski. “Everybody won!” 

5th grade collaboration space offers flexibility to students

students work on project together in collaboration spaceFifth grade students are benefitting from a new space outside of their three classrooms. The area includes flexible seating and a large white board, perfect for small groups, collaborating on project assignments and even as a quiet space for independent work.  

“It’s really interactive and fun to work with other people out here,” shared Madison Lyons. “You can sit in different spaces and use the whiteboard to share your ideas.”

The idea for the space came from students on the Superintendent’s Leadership Council. “When we had our first meeting with the Superintendent, we talked with her about how we would like a space where we could study and work together,” shared Payton Conklin.

students work on project together in collaboration space“At the next meeting, she gave us photos of furniture options for the space and we all talked about what we liked,” said Lyons. “We liked the couch and the colors of the seats since they are our school colors.” 

“Our meetings allow students to provide me with insight on things they want to see in their school and we work together to make their ideas come to life,” shared Superintendent Lisamarie Spindler. “We had this empty area that wasn’t being used, and we thought it would be the perfect spot for the fifth graders to have the collaboration space,” added Principal Starla Ciarelli.

The students on the council are from the Safety Patrol, a group that students apply to and interview for with the adviser, Kristin Risedorph. In addition to being part of the council, the patrol helps out during arrival, holding the doors for the other students and ensuring they walk when getting off the bus. Christopher Arcidiacono shared, “I applied to be part of the group because I like being helpful.”

students work on project together in collaboration spaceArcidiacono added that he has enjoyed using the space so far. “I sat out there when I did my diagnostic test. It was peaceful for me to do my work and I like that it’s by the outlets for me to plug my Chromebook in if I need to.”

Payton Conklin, also on the council, shared how much she appreciated the work that went into creating the space. “It’s really awesome. We watched it develop day by day, and the janitors spent time making it perfect.”

Conklin added, “I think the fourth graders are really going to enjoy using the space throughout the year when they become fifth graders.”

Read more from Golden Hill Elementary here:

Athletics update

Three students celebrate commitments to college athletics

Three seniors recently celebrated their decision to play sports at the collegiate level during a Signing Night event at S.S. Seward. 

“It was a great event to recognize all the hard work these students have put in and celebrate that they are going to apply their skills to that next level of athletics,” shared athletic director Joe DiMattina.

Adriana Joy

Adrianna Joy gets ready for a gameAdriana Joy will be missed as a point guard on the varsity basketball team. When she moves the tassel on her cap at graduation, her time as a Spartan will be complete, but her journey as a Colt on the SUNY Orange women’s basketball team will just be beginning. 

Joy will cherish the memory of her recent senior night. “One of my best friends in eighth grade did a speech for me and it was really nice,” she shared. “It was great to see all of us improve day by day,” she added about the season.

Joy will study law, and looks forward to meeting new people on and off the court.

Marz Ranieri

Marz Ranieri on the moundWhile Marz Ranieri is a multi-talented athlete, competing in baseball, soccer, basketball, football, and diving throughout the years, his passion is for baseball.

Nominated for Varsity 845 player of the week by the Times-Herald Record multiple times this season for his work on the mound, his baseball career is far from over, joining the men’s baseball team at SUNY Orange this fall.

Ranieri shared one thing he’ll always remember is spending time with the baseball team his junior year. “I’m excited to continue playing,” shared Ranieri, adding that he knows some of the current athletes at SUNY Orange. Marz will study math, with the goal of becoming a teacher or police officer.

Chase Barton

Chase Barton blocks the puck at the goalChase Barton has been playing hockey since he was six years old. A highlight of his hockey career so far was competing in the league championship in sixth grade, his first year playing competitively. “Even though we didn’t win, that game is a really special memory for me,” Barton shared. 

Most recently playing for the Mid-Hudson Polar Bears as a goalie, Barton looks forward to more experience on the ice as a Mustang at Stevenson University. While he had a few different offers, he says Stevenson felt like home. He looks forward to living with some of his teammates. Barton will study criminal justice and is considering a minor in history.

Seniors recognized at OCIAA Senior Scholar Athlete Celebration 

Joe DiMattina, Lisamarie Spindler, Derrick You, Stephanie Reicherter and Michael Maesano at the OCIAA Scholar-Athlete breakfastStephanie Reicherter and Derrick You were honored at the Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association (OCIAA) Senior Scholar Athlete Celebration on June 6 at the Country Club at Otterkill. 

To be selected, students needed to be in the top 20% of the graduating class, participate in at least one varsity sport, be an above-average athlete and demonstrate outstanding citizenship.

Reicherter served as the captain of the varsity soccer team, and also played varsity basketball and softball. Excelling in the classroom as well as on the field, Reicherter ranks fourth in her class. She is a member of the National Honor Society, acting as the treasurer, and is president of the student council. 

Reicherter volunteers at her church in many ways, including mentoring students with special needs. She is also involved with the elementary school, helping fifth graders prepare to move to Seward and teaching students new to soccer about the sport. Reicherter will attend Cape Fear Community College for health and fitness science in the fall.

“It was really cool to be in a room with athletes from across the county. Even though we play against each other, we can still come together and be one and celebrate excellence in athletics and academics,” Reicherter shared.

You, also honored at the event, is this year’s valedictorian. A strong defensive player on the varsity soccer team, he earned the United Soccer Coaches Senior Excellence Award. 

Outside of his athletic pursuits, You enjoys playing flute in the band, participating in NYSSMA throughout his years at S.S. Seward. You is also the vice president of the National Honor Society. In this role, he helps others find community service opportunities, such as tutoring, which he is involved in as well. You earned the Rensselaer Medalist Award, and will be attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for neuroscience after graduation.

“It’s important to show others that it is possible to balance work and play,” shared Athletic Director Joe DiMattina. “The event is a great way to celebrate the achievements of our student athletes.”

Florida’s Finest

These features highlight FUFSD staff who add so much to our Spartan community.

Read the most recent article here:


  • Golden Hill will host a Meet the Principal event for pre-k and new students on August 22 at 10 a.m. Pre-K and kindergarten Meet the Teacher will be held on September 4. Parents and students are welcome to attend.
  • Sixth and ninth grade new student orientation will be held on Tuesday, August 27 at 6 p.m. at S.S. Seward. Parents and students are encouraged to attend.
  • The district has adopted ParentSquare as a new form of school-to-home communication. We encourage parents to access their accounts so they can download the mobile app and update their preferences on when and how they are notified. Find more details on the ParentSquare page of the website.
  • Summer is a time when many children lose the free and reduced-price meals they get at school, and when households might need a little extra help putting meals on the table. This summer, New York will launch Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) or SUN Bucks, a new grocery benefits program to assist families with summer meals. Learn about eligibility and enrollment in the program.