Monticello Board Awards honor remarkable individuals; scholar athletes

At its Jan. 16 meeting, the Monticello Board of Education held its semi-annual “Board Award Ceremony,” to recognize staff and students who exemplify excellence and a commitment to the Monticello Central School District community.

Read more about these fine folks, as described by their nominator(s), below. 

Ms. Jennifer Unverzagt Nominated by William Frandino, Chase Principal

Jenn stands with the Board President Superintendent and Principal holding her certificate “Jennifer Unverzagt is a long-time fifth grade teacher at Chase. Jen’s own children attended Chase and are now in college. With Jen’s children both in college it seems that Jen has extra time on her hands that she is choosing to put toward many activities and responsibilities for Chase and the district.

Jen serves as a co-building representative for the teacher’s union. This position allows Jen to maintain contact and close communication with Chase teachers as well as a connection to the other teachers in the district.

Jennifer is also in her second year as the Chase Parent Teacher Organization president. In this position Jen keeps in close contact with a core of building parents and facilitates events such as our Halloween Dance, Holiday Craft Night, Book Fair, Candle fundraising, the Holiday store; and more. Additionally, Jen is situated ideally to facilitate the end-of-the-year grade-5 trip event funded by our PTO.

The theatric arts are close to Mrs. Unverzagt’s heart. As such, Jen has collaborated with Jane Sorensen from EPIC and Holly Budd from Rutherford elementary to facilitate a fall student performance event at Chase. This year the students presented a children’s version of “A Christmas Carol” that was high quality. In addition, Jen is leading an effort to obtain replacement curtains for the back space of our stage and already has a lead on possibly getting the curtains donated.

Jennifer Unverzagt is a hub of many of the activities that take place at Chase. Jennifer consistently seeks input from stakeholders, develops shared solutions, and treats everyone with kindness and respect. Jennifer is a vital member of our school community and we are lucky to have such an energetic seasoned educator. Jennifer’s dedication to students and the school community is worthy of recognition.

Ms. Donna Leyden Nominated by Stephen Wilder, Monticello High School Principal

Donna Leyden is standing and holding her certificate Donna Leyden is a consummate professional who routinely goes above and beyond expectations to help make Monticello a great place to work and learn. Donna has been a pillar of professional reliability and contribution at Monticello High School for many years and continues to be a mentor and inspiration to many around her.

Over the past years Donna has supported our school community as a class advisor, advisor for the National Honor Society, and the department instructional leader for our foreign language department. Donna is a loving, hard-working, and collaborative professional who regularly puts in the effort to help our students be successful.

As the department instructional leader for our foreign language department, which has experienced challenging times the past few years, Donna has been consistent in her commitment to provide students with opportunities to be successful, supporting colleagues to improve their practice, and collaborating with administration to find solutions. This year is no different as she demonstrates her commitment to remaining flexible and accommodating as we work to provide a successful foreign language experience to students in the absence of certificated Spanish teachers. Donna regularly mentors the teachers on special assignment who are coordinating the online Spanish program for our students. Donna always remains positive, optimistic, and resilient in her belief that things will work out. We are fortunate to have Donna’s leadership and experience during this challenging time.

Donna continues to be a valued member of the Monticello team and family. Her actions are in keeping with the high expectations we have for our professionals in the Monticello Central School District.”

Assistant Principals Ms. Rachel Blount Nominated by Dana Taylor, Executive Director of Special, Summer and After School Programs

Rachel Blount stands with colleagues and holds certificate“Appointed in the Fall as the new My Brother’s Keeper Coordinator, Rachel is a true change agent who believes ALL students are entitled to equitable educational experiences and that it is our responsibility as educators to ensure the appropriate supports and programming are in place to meet the diverse needs of our learners. The MBK Milestones drive every decision she makes as a leader while ensuring that our K-12 programming is delivered with fidelity to the program’s overall goal to improve the outcomes for young men of color.

The transition of MBK Coordinators has been smooth and includes additional fundraising and increased community partnerships to focus on a sustainability plan for when the grant funding ends August 31, 2020. Her innovative ideas such as Toastmasters, MBK Saturday Academies and Dress for Success will provide MBK students additional opportunities to reach their full potential.

As a great MBK Leader has said, “It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish”. Under Rachel’s leadership MBK students will finish strong. She truly is, “MBK ALL DAY”. 

Ms. Samantha Acito Nominated by Stephen Wilder, Monticello High School Principal

Samantha Acito stands with colleagues and holds her certificate Samantha Acito is the kind of professional that really is exceptional. Her kindness, sense of humor, and willingness to go the extra mile to make sure things are not only done but done well have made a positive difference for our students and entire school community.

Samantha is a team player who makes everyone feel welcomed and valued. Whether she is managing students who come into the Assistant Principal’s office, juggling phone calls, or addressing concerns, she has a professional, yet light-hearted attitude that makes everyone feel at ease. She makes the coordination of the often unpredictable schedules of two Assistant Principals appear effortless, while continuing to manage the never-ending needs of students. Her careful attention to detail helps her to complete her tasks well while keeping the office as a whole running smoothly. Perhaps even more remarkable is that she is always seen smiling and seemingly full of joy with her unyielding optimism and “joie de vivre”, or joy of life, which we all benefit from.

Samantha is devoted, kind, and tenacious. She continuously looks to improve the way things are done and her efforts to do so have made the school environment better for everyone. Samantha has a way of diffusing any situation to create a more peaceful environment for both students and adults. Many students count on her to be caring and honest with them about their behavior and expectations. Monticello High School is fortunate that Samantha Acito has chosen to serve in its building, and we look forward to many more years of her service.”

Mr. Michael Rojas Nominated by Stephen Wilder, Monticello High School Principal

Michael Rojas stands with colleagues and holds certificate“Michael Rojas is a new and valuable contributor at Monticello High School. If you spend even a short amount of time with Michael it becomes clear what a dedicated, responsible, and dependable professional he is.

As our student services liaison, Michael is consistently reliable in following up with our students, and their parents/guardians, who are not attending school regularly and on time. He is professional and articulate in his speech, demonstrates bearing and tact in his demeanor, and balances care and concern with accountable discussions with students and their families.

As a colleague, Michael has quickly earned respect and appreciation from his peers and supervisors. He is approachable, collaborative, responsive, considerate, and takes his responsibilities seriously without taking himself too seriously. Michael demonstrates a friendly professional demeanor that is results oriented. He can be counted on to follow through on assigned tasks and will take the initiative whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Michael has quickly become a valued member of the Monticello team and family. His reliable effort and personable demeanor help to make Monticello shine. His actions are in keeping with the high expectations we have for our professionals in the Monticello Central School District.”

Scholar Athlete Awards

The following group of students have been honored by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association as “Scholar Athletes”. To achieve this honor, they must, as a team, maintain a grade point average of 90% or greater, they will receive a certificate and a pin. The Monticello teams that have achieved this distinction are as follows:

Girls Cross Country 96%

Coach: Richard Sternkopf

The girls cross country team is standing and holding their certificates

Gabrielle Acosta-Herrera

Shelby Burns

Kayla Colon

Taina DeJesus

Sasrika Rajan

Aubrey Soller

Boys Cross Country – 93.45%

Coach: Richard Sternkopf

the boys cross country team is seated with their certificates

Steven Bello

John Creighton

Quentin Cruz

Christian DeJesus

Francis Giorgianni

Noah Hicks

Alan Lin

Brandon Mancroni

Luke Norton

Robert Pape-Laucella

Dylan Price

Michael Simonov

Thomas Vaeth

Evan Waterton

Volleyball – 91.97%

Coach: Stacey Schriro

Members of the girls volleyball team are standing and holding their certificates

Katelyn Babcock

Nyreka Forrest

Lauryn Grodin

Fiona Hajdaraj

Cayshla Herrera

J’nya Jaquez

Emily LaRuffa

Ayahana Lysiak

Maya Pacheco

Renee Schreiber

Gabriella Vieira

Girls Soccer – 91.67%

Coach: William Stento

the girls soccer team is seated and holding their certificates

Jessica Blakesley

Gabriella Boothe

Jenna Borko

Kylie Caudy

Meg Cruz

Amalia Decker

Natalia Diaz

Yamillette Escobar

Najah Garvey

Gianna Giglio

Ahliyah Hart

Jenna Hendricks

Gianna Kinne

Dana Kurthy

Julia Kurthy

Lucja Lalewicz

Holly McFarland

Jenna Merton

Karen Perilla-Buitrago

Krystal Pupo

Drew Taylor

Harly Taylor

Mia Valencia

The following students have been honored by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association as “Scholar Athletes”. To achieve this honor, they must, as an individual, maintain a grade point average of 90% or greater, they will receive a certificate and a pin.

The Monticello students that have achieved this distinction are:

Boys Soccer

Coach: Luis Velasco

members of the boys soccer team are standing and smiling

Adam Cavello

Hunter Fein

Anderson Herm

Elder Lopez Genis

Eric Sanchez-Surman

Frank Skala Jr.

Bairon Velasquez Osorio

Evan Waterton


Coach: Arthur Waiters-Johannes Coach: Sean Reuss

members of the boys football team are standing and holding their certificates

Jaykim Abraham

Michael Babcock

Krishna Foster

Joshua Gattling-Roque

Isaac Hernandez

Kevin Hurney

Andrew Lounsbury

Elijah Rausch

Girls Tennis

Coach: Urvashi Gupta

members of the girls tennis team stand and hold their certificates

Hannah Kaplan

Rosalie Sheppard

Olivia Steigler


Coach: Felicia Ortiz

Katriona Faison

Samsara Torres