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|John Jay High School|
60 North Salem Road
New York 10518
|Type||Public high school|
|School district||Katonah-Lewisboro School District|
|Principal||Steven T. Siciliano|
|Student to teacher ratio||12.35|
John Jay High School is a public high school located in Lewisboro, New York. It is the only high school in the Katonah-Lewisboro School District. The school, which opened in 1956, is named after John Jay, a Founding Father of the United States, and first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who lived nearby. Over the years, the school mascot, the Indians, has been controversial, and it was decided in November 2019 to retire the mascot in favor of a new one.
This school opened in 1956, having moved from its location in Katonah, which is now Katonah Elementary School, still part of the Katonah-Lewisboro School District. Prior to the settler colonialism of the late 17th century, this land belonged to Chief Katonah, sachem of the Ramapo Indians and the primary proprietor of the lands around Bedford, including the lands upon which John Jay High School was constructed. Katonah sold this land as part of a sale of 20,000 acres of Ramapo lands for 100 Pounds Sterling to the "Proprietors of Ridgefield".
John Jay briefly made national and international news in March 2007 when three students, Hannah Levinson, Megan Reback, and Elan Stahl, faced punishment after reading a poem from the play The Vagina Monologues at an Open Mic Night, an event open to the community. The extract included the word "vagina", and the girls had been asked to edit the word out because of the expected crowd which was expected to include young children. They said they would follow this order but then disobeyed (they underlined the word by saying it in unison). The school gave them a one-day suspension - not for what was said, but for their insubordination. The girls decided not to appeal their suspension. They agreed they had been insubordinate, but the incident was widely reported and the original order criticized as an act of censorship. Many students protested the punishment to no avail. However, many students also protested the media's portrayal of the situation, believing that the school had acted correctly and that the girls deserved to be punished for their insubordination, for they had previously agreed not to say the word. The play's author Eve Ensler gave the students her support and was invited by parents for a school visit. The suspension was put on hold while policies were reviewed and eventually rescinded.
The aforementioned history of the land prior to the arrival of European colonizers led to the inspiration for John Jay High School's current mascot, the Indians. John Jay High School has utilized Chief Katonah as their mascot since their founding. Significant debate has surrounded this choice since the late 1980s. In October 1989, after six months of debates in assemblies and classrooms, John Jay Campus Congress, a coalition of students, parents and faculty, voted to abandon their mascot, Chief Katonah. They claimed that the imagery, including feathers, tomahawks, headdresses, and loin-cloth clad natives spearing buffalo, perpetuated negative stereotypes about Native Americans and created false associations of violence and savagery that were then applied as generalizations onto indigenous people as a group. The October 1989 decision to eliminate the Indian mascot was ultimately rejected, as the community was particularly swayed by a Cherokee faculty member who argued that the mascot was a means to honor the chief. The school principal at the time, John A. Chambers, also argued for the importance of maintaining tradition and school spirit, and the Indians remained intact.
Almost 30 years later, in 2017, the controversy came to the fore of public discussion once more. On December 19, 2017, John Jay High School students took a poll aimed at gauging opinions on the mascot's potential removal. Prior to the poll, numerous student and news publications posted articles surrounding the debate, either outlining an overview of the debate in general or articulating arguments against the maintenance of the current mascot on the grounds of cultural appropriation. These students cited cultural appropriation as harmful, claiming those who support the mascot trivialize historical oppression by claiming it "honors" Native Americans. Not only that, but arguments have been made that the presence of this mascot, as seen through the lens of cultural appropriation, enables privileged individuals to commercialize the stereotypical imagery, as seen through the numerous sweatshirts, caps, and athletic gear emblazoned with images of arrowheads or headdresses, but simultaneously remain prejudiced against those same individuals off whom they are profiting. Finally, student activists have cited that the use of an "Indian" as a mascot mirrors a larger-scale issue at hand: the district's lack of consciousness related to Native American history. Ultimately, despite these arguments, the results of the poll showed that 58% of students were in favor of keeping the mascot.
Two years later, on October 17, 2019, a Board of Education meeting created further discussion surrounding the removal of the mascot. In this meeting, the Board agreed that the mascot was dated and not politically correct, and requested the School Superintendent, Andrew Selesnick, make a change on the grounds of adherence to fundamental school principles of inclusion. In response to this meeting, Selesnick composed a letter on October 18, sharing his thoughts. In this letter, he suggests that the mascot is no longer appropriate and that additional discussion regarding the topic should be encouraged. He cites the need for the school to uphold its adherence to the Dignity for All Students Act, which seeks to provide all students with a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment, and bullying. Thus, if a student expresses that the school's actions are causing harm, the school is responsible to change its behavior. He also emphasizes the ability to maintain school spirit and tradition without causing offense. Following this letter, a public conversation was hosted on October 28, 2019, open to community members, district residents, and KLSD faculty and administrators, regarding why the Indians mascot has been a conversation in our District since the late 1980s, why it is again today, and possible steps to move forward. Information regarding the contents of this meeting has yet to be released. Discussion continued at another school board meeting on November 7, 2019, where it was decided the mascot would be dropped. The district established a Mascot Committee of parents, students, and district personnel that narrowed community-submitted names down to two finalists: the Wolfpack and the Ravens, pending a vote of district students and personnel on 22 June 2020. Wolfpack was the initial winner -- but didn't end up being the final choice. Concerns were raised due to the use of the word wolfpack in connection with the Central Park Five case in 1989. Ultimately, on or about July 9, 2020, the committee decided that Wolves was the best choice, citing to strong connection that wolves have to the community (the Wolf Conservation Center, founded in 1999, is located within the school district in South Salem).
John Jay has a Cross Country team. In 2013 the girls' section of the team were the State of New York Cross Country Federation Champions. These athletes gathered the school's first ever federation athletic title.
In 2017, the boys team won several invitationals, including the Warwick Wave Invitational, the Wilton Invitational, the Section 1 League 2B Championships, and the Westchester County Championships. John Jay sent their first ever boys team to the New York Federation Championships that year.
John Jay's Varsity bowling team was accepted into county-wide sectionals in the 2008 season. The 2009-2010 boys' team won the league title.
Over the last seven years, John Jay wrestling became Section 1 dual meet champions and #2 in the section. In the 2007-2008 season John Jay wrestling had a record of 27-1. They also won every tournament except the section 1 tournament where they came in 2nd. However, in 2016 JJW became both #1 in the Section 1 Dual Meets and at the Section 1 open tournament.
The boys' soccer team is historic sport at john jay. They have made it to at least the section semi-finals 8 out of the last 10 years. In those 8 years, they have won the section 7 times and went on to two regional championships, along with 3 state titles.[when?]
The football team has reached the section finals for the three of the previous five years.[when?] The team won their first Section 1 title in 2018, beating Rye 21-14.
John Jay High School's lacrosse team is nationally recognized and has been ranked in the top 25 in the country in multiple polls for the majority of the past 6 years.[when?] They have been NYS Section 1 Champions 7 times since 1997, including a streak of 4 years in a row from 2005-2008. In 2007 John Jay was the New York State runner up in Class B to Jamesville-Dewitt High School after ending Huntington High School's 63-game winning streak in the State semifinals.
John Jay High School's Ultimate Frisbee team, Air Raid, was re-formed in 2007 by students who, in that same year, coached themselves to a 2nd-place finish losing 15-10 against Beacon High School in the inaugural New York State Championships tournament. Since that time they have earned multiple first place titles starting with a return in 2008 to defeat the raining champions Beacon High School. Their second came when Air Raid in the 2011-2012 season, the team won their 3rd state championship and tied for 5th at the Northeastern Regional championships. During the 2012-2013 season, the team began including female students on the roster of both their A & B teams.
John Jay High School's ice hockey team is a Division II program competing within Section 1 of the NYSPHAA. Since their inaugural season in 1999 John Jay has won the Section 1 championship 3 times (2013, 2018, 2019) and have made 1 state finals appearance in 2013. The team hosts home games off campus at the Brewster Ice Arena located in Putnam County, New York. The program is funded through both the school district and the non-profit organization, Friends of John Jay Ice Hockey.
Beginning in sophomore year, students in John Jay High School can choose to enroll in the science research program, which guides the student in conducting meaningful scientific research. The program is coordinated by AnnMarie Lipinsky, who, along with other science faculty, advises each student and guides each student through the challenges of conducting research for their first time. Planet 25511 Annlipinsky was named in honor for mentoring a finalist in the 2009 Intel Science Talent Search. Students are tasked with finding a mentor in a field of their choice and collaborate with their mentor to conduct a research project. Students have participated and shared their projects with success in the Regeneron Science Talent Search, the county and nationalIntel Science and Engineering Fair, and the Junior Sciences and Humanities Symposium. Alumni from the research program have gone on to successful careers in research, medicine, and engineering.
John Jay High School's Vocal Jazz ensemble, directed by Steven Morse, has competed at Berklee College of Music's High School Jazz Festival every year but one since 2003. The group, ranging from 15-35 students and accompanied by a rhythm section, placed 2nd in the nation in the 2013 competition by only one point out of all Division 1 schools. In the 2012 competition, three of John Jay's students were recognized for Outstanding Musicianship. The group finished in 3rd place at that competition. In the 2019 competition, the ensemble placed 1st, winning by 11 points.
John Jay High School has three a cappella groups, one all-female (The Noteables), one all-male (The Rolling Tones), and one co-ed (The Treble Makers). All three a cappella groups perform at various local venues throughout the school year, including school concerts, community service performances, and seasonal events.
Since the early 1990s, John Jay has reached the quarter-finals of the Westchester County Tournament. In 2005, John Jay set the record for winning a match by the largest margin of victory in New York State Mock Trial history (John Jay:55, Hackley:12). In 2007 and 2018, JJHS Mock Trial Team advanced to the semi-final round of the Westchester County Championships.
The John Jay Model United Nations Club, has been gaining popularity in recent years. In 2014, the club hosted their first conference, called JJMUNC, that had over 200 delegates. For the Model United Nations Club, the President also serves as the Head Delegate and Secretary-General. The Secretary-General of JJMUNC I was Jeffrey Steckler, and Secretary-General for JJMUNC II in 2015  and JJMUNC III in 2016 was Daniel Gordon. The Model UN Team competes at several conferences per year.
John Jay High School has attended the New York State Science Olympiad final - usually held at West Point - every year but one since its founding. In 2010, a new event called "Protein Modeling" was created, and John Jay finished first in the state for an "extraordinary construction of [influenza] surface proteins."
Led by Linda Burke, PhD, John Jay High School attended the state tournament in 2011 and 2017. In 2011 the team achieved 5th Overall and 1st in the Forestry category. JJHS brought two teams in 2017 placing in 5th and 6th place respectively.
John Jay High School's theater program typically produces two major performances per school year: a drama in the fall, and a musical in the spring. In the 2013-2014 school year, JJHS put on Tom Stoppard's The Real Inspector Hound and Eugene Ionesco's The Bald Soprano in the Fall and Jonathan Larson's Rent in the Spring.
The Wind Ensemble traveled to Williamsburg, VA, to compete at Heritage Festivals on April 23-26, 2009, where it won a total of four awards.