Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

School Board elects new president and approves salaries

Superintendent Mauricio gave school year recap at July 2 meeting

Students may be on summer vacation, but the Peekskill City School District Board of Education is not.

Veteran Trustee Michael Simpkins was elected President of the 2024-25 Peekskill City School District Board of Education, at the Board’s July 2 organizational meeting. Simpkins has been on the board since 2002, and previously served as President in 2008. Trustee Eric Rekeda and Trustee Amy Vele were absent from this meeting.

School Board President Michael Simpkins. Simpkins is entering his 22nd year as a trustee.

In addition, re-elected Trustee Allen Jenkins, Jr and the newest Board member, Christina Washington, took the oath of office along with Superintendent of Schools Dr. David Mauricio and staff members. Jenkins was elected Vice-President of the Board.

The Board voted on salaries of Non-Unit and Confidential Personnel Work Agreements for the 2024-25 school year, presented at the June 18 meeting and approved as part of the consent agenda at that meeting. The approved salaries are:

  • Dr. David Mauricio, Superintendent of Schools: $302,357 
  • Cynthia Hawthorne, Assistant Superintendent for Business: $248,676 
  • Eudes Budhai, Assistant Superintendent of Secondary: $217,300
  • Rebecca Aviles-Rodriguez, Assistant Superintendent of Elementary: $217,300
  • Jamal Lewis, Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Services: $217,300
  • Carmine Crisci, Director of Facilities: $191,864

  • Austin Goldberg, Director of Physical Education, Health, Athletics: $187,200
  • Ellen Gerace, Director of Special Services: $187,200

  • Janice Reid, Director of Technology: $165,540
  • Andrew Weisman, Director of Food Service: $163,551
  • Felecia Mighty, District Treasurer: $132,600

  • Laura Belfiore, Public Relations Assistant: $129,812
  • David Santiago, Director of Security: $129,480

  • Marc Matatia, School Business Administrator: $124,800
  • Jennifer Sampson, Assistant Supervisor of Transportation: $103,026

2023-24 Year in Review 

Dr. David Mauricio gave his annual year in review presentation, to showcase the work and vision of the School Board, staff and district officials, parents, and community partners. 

Areas of continued growth

Mauricio discussed the core areas of continued growth within the district, starting with social and emotional support for students. “You cannot learn if you are not well, both physically but also in an emotional state,” said Mauricio. He added that this is the district’s number one priority and thanked clinical staff partners and student support services for their work. 

Mauricio said a close second are literacy and math, specifically making sure students read and write and engage in and enjoy STEAM work. “Certainly an area of continued growth for us, not only on achievement metrics but also in the areas that are not numerical but parents saying that their children enjoy school, they enjoy writing, they enjoy reading.”

Finally, Mauricio spoke of the district’s support for English language learners and expansion of college network opportunities. “When I first arrived here, we were just under twenty percent [of] English language learners. We are now over 30 percent in just six years.”

“We welcome our newcomers and want to make sure that we provide the support that they need and the time that they need to excel and reach the dream that they had when they came here.”

High School Sports

Peekskill High School is once again an athletic powerhouse, emphasized Mauricio in his presentation. Mauricio praised the students and coaches behind the recent resurgence in Peekskill sports, recalling two historic moments this past school year.

First, in November, the PHS Boys’ Varsity Football team won the Hudson Valley Football Tournament, beating Tappan Zee in the finals. The last time the boys’ football team reached the championship finals was 1994. The team was led by Coach Demetric Gardner. 

Also, the PHS Boys’ Basketball team, Red Devils, ended an 11 year championship drought back in March, when they won the Section 1 championship final against Suffern. The boys’ basketball team made it to the regional finals, where they lost to Our Lady of Lourdes. The Red Devils were led by Coach Tyrone Searight. Mauricio said, “Our basketball team is back where it used to be and we are certainly proud.”


Peekskill’s Boys’ Basketball Team after winning their first championship in 11 years.

Briefly mentioned were the PHS Boys’ Varsity Wrestling team, which featured several individuals who had outstanding seasons. Two wrestlers, Martin Palomeque and Naseer Johnson, will continue their academic and athletic careers at the college level for Hunter College and Nassau Community College.

New Technological Initiatives

Virtual Reality (VR) has arrived at Peekskill schools. Earlier this spring, the Peekskill City School District began to implement ClassVR, a virtual reality program, for students in elementary to high school. Virtual Reality is a computer-generated environment with scenes and objects that appear to be real, making the user feel they are immersed in their surroundings. The district is also implementing an integrated MergeCube, which is an age-appropriate Augmented Reality (AR) technology, where virtual elements are superimposed onto our vision of reality (like Pokémon Go). 

Peekskill students using virtual reality to better understand the workings of things.

According to a letter sent out by the district, this innovative technology will provide students with immersive and engaging learning experiences, allowing them to explore and interact with virtual environments that align with their curriculum and foster a deeper understanding of the subjects they are studying by enhancing STEAM opportunities and enrichment experiences for students of all ages and abilities. 

“My own daughter in first grade came home and talked about VR and had a whole book of learning about it and was able to talk about the experience she had,” shared Mauricio. He added, “We will continue to grow as technology advances.”

Mauricio also informed audience members that Hillcrest students have begun to learn about and operate drones: “Our kids are learning about drones, they’re putting together drones, they’re learning how to fly them.”

Upcoming Capital and Solar projects 

Uriah Hill and Hillcrest Elementary Schools will have new playgrounds in the near future. In his presentation, Mauricio announced that the playground at Uriah has been taken down and a new playground is coming soon, but he did not provide a date. 

Rendering of a school playground for Uriah Hill and Hillcrest.

These enhancements are a part of the capital projects that were passed by voters in December. Other renovations include new unit ventilators to increase AC capabilities at Uriah Hill and PHS, a new entry way into the high school with a secure vestibule, new hallways, renovated classrooms with LED lighting, outdoor classrooms with solar charging stations, new Hillcrest parking lot, new roofs and solar panels at Hillcrest and PHS, repurposing unused space at the Administration Building for additional PHS classes, and much more.

When referencing the Hillcrest parking lot, Mauricio said, “I think we’re going to cut a ribbon on that parking lot because it’s so well needed.” 

In his final weekly letter for the school year, Maurico announced that the next round of improvements will include the Peekskill Middle School and High School libraries, which will be transformed over the summer.

Smart Scholars and P-Tech coming to PCSD

The first cohort of Peekskill High Students enrolled in the district’s inaugural Smarts Scholars program will begin their academic journey with Westchester Community College in a few weeks, said Mauricio in his presentation. Seventy-five students from different districts are participating in this program. 

The Smart Scholars program is a four-year program where students can earn between 24 to 60 college credits through dual enrollment at Westchester Community College. This program is a way for students to accelerate their learning and advance their academic careers early.

Through partnerships with local business partners, students will gain hands-on experience, job shadowing and internship opportunities. Fields include: Performing Arts, Computer Science, Computer Information Technology, and Cybersecurity. 

Interested eighth graders were notified of their acceptance into the program last month, after submitting applications in May. Students who met the requirements but were not selected were put on a waiting list.

And, the district’s P-Tech program will soon be underway. P-Tech is a program that blends high school and college education with real-world work experience. In partnership with Westchester Community College and other partners, P-Tech offers a comprehensive six-year pathway where students will get the opportunity to earn an Associate Degree along with their diploma. This program is designed to help students be the first in line for jobs with participating business partners in high-wage, high-skill, and high-demand career areas. 

The partners involved in this program include the Ossining Union Free School District, Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES, Sun River Health Center and Open Door Family Medical, and both Peekskill and Ossining Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

Parent Engagement & Programs 

Students are not the only ones who are being presented with new opportunities. Mauricio stated in his presentation that the district is seeking $300,000 in grant funding to bring a new ‘parent university’ to the district. The proposed initiative would offer courses in English and Spanish on careers, financial literacy, pathways to citizenship, English as a New Language (ENL), a GED program, and Spanish as a Second Language.

This past school year, Dr. Bridget Holloman and Family Resource Center staff offered parents an ESL/Inglés como Seguna Lengua (ESL) program, Raising a Reader program for parents to obtain literacy skills and inspire love of reading in their children, Technology Bootcamps,“Welcome to Peekskill” workshops, and more.

To view the Superintendent’s full presentation, click here

About the Contributor
Jeffrey Merchan
Peekskill native Jeffrey Merchan is a 2022 graduate of Peekskill High School. He is the Collegiate Journalist at Peekskill Herald, funded by a grant from the DJ McManus Foundation. He is currently enrolled at Westchester Community College where he is studying journalism. As the inaugural recipient of the McManus grant, he will be covering city government, schools and feature stories with a focus on Peekskill’s growing Hispanic community.