Authors Posts by Alex Petroski

Alex Petroski

Alex Petroski

Some question why district’s proposed plan covers less

Northport High School. File photo

After a lengthy battle, Northport-East Northport school district’s security greeters have been offered health care benefits. But the fight may not be over.

Although the district has presented health insurance plans to the nine full-time greeters, some say the plans are expensive and don’t treat them the same as other district employees.

The duties of a greeter, also known as a security monitor, include monitoring who is coming and going from a school building, assisting in late arrivals and early releases and helping parents get forgotten items to the students, among other day-to-day tasks that may arise. The position was established about 10 years ago, according to the district supervisor of security, and the district employs one full-time greeter for each of their six elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school.

Under the plans, the district would pay 60 percent of the greeters’ health coverage, according to Diane Smith, the greeter who has led the charge for benefits.

Contracts on the district’s website indicate that it pays 75 percent of superintendent Robert Banzer’s coverage, 82 percent for administrators, 79 percent for teachers and 86 percent for security guards.

Diane Smith has been asking for health care benefits for her and her fellow employees for months. Photo from Smith
Diane Smith has been asking for health care benefits for her and her fellow employees for months. Photo from Smith

Smith said she is grateful the district granted greeters health care coverage —“I’m happy to get that, it’s fabulous to have any kind of a break,” Smith said in an email — but she wants treatment equal to fellow employees, specifically security guards.

When asked about the difference between greeters and security guards, the district said in a statement, “Security guards and security monitors are civil service appointments. Both positions require security certifications and the ongoing completion of security training.”

As is, the employee contribution for the greeters’ proposed insurance on a family plan “will cost us exactly every other entire paycheck,” she said. “How did they come up with that [number]?”

Smith’s salary is $20,000.

According to Smith, the greeters were offered more affordable plans, one of which would have covered 75 percent of health care costs, but they wouldn’t have provided coverage for families. She said in addition to working as a greeter full time, she has been working a second job part time to pay for private health insurance for herself and her two kids.

“Each year the district examines its policies in an effort to further benefit our valued employees,” Banzer said in a statement through the district’s public relations firm, Syntax. “Through prudent budgeting and research with our providers, we are pleased to offer multiple health care coverage options to our greeters. Although the district has not provided this coverage in the past, as it is not required, we felt it was an important step to make this available to them.”

Despite her criticism, Smith expressed gratitude.

“It’s still really good,” she said in a phone interview Monday. “I would not turn it down. It would help my income for sure.”

Smith had a meeting with a district insurance specialist on Wednesday to get some more questions answered and ultimately decide on a plan.

According to her, the greeters must sign up by Feb. 1 to begin getting coverage.


Jim Polansky file photo by Rohma Abbas

New federal and state education rules are trickling down to the local level, and Huntington school district is figuring out how to adapt.

In a presentation to the school board Monday night, Superintendent Jim Polansky led a discussion about the state’s changes to the Common Core curriculum and the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act and what they mean for the district going forward.

President Barack Obama (D) signed the act in December 2015, to succeed Republican President George W. Bush’s controversial No Child Left Behind Act of 2002. The new act emphasizes college- and career-readiness and shifts more responsibility on testing from the federal level to the states.

“Board members asked me what implications this holds for New York,” Polansky said. “I’m not sure. New York is right now in a position where things have to be addressed in a manner that this act dictates, and we’ll be watching very carefully as to exactly what happens here.”

Although No Child Left Behind and more recently Common Core have been controversial with educators and parents, board trustee Emily Rogan said she doesn’t want the original spirit of the 2002 act to be forgotten.

“One of the things that was really positive about No Child Left Behind was that it drew the spotlight onto where there were true achievement gaps, in terms of parity in education,” Rogan said during the presentation. “I think it’s important that we recognize that. I think there were kids that were being completely ignored. I’m not saying here at Huntington — I’m saying across the nation. There were kids that were just falling through the cracks, literally.”

On the lower level, as some of the kinks in the curriculum get worked out, Common Core will be an option for states to use as a “challenging academic standard,” but not a requirement, Polansky said.

A task force assembled by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) back in December recently released a report that called for, among other things, a moratorium on using standardized test scores as a means to evaluate students, teachers and administrators.

Polansky expressed concerns, however, about the state simply casting Common Core aside.

“I will tell you that whether you agree or disagree with the Common Core standards in their basic form, the district has spent quite a bit of time, effort, money and professional development in making this transition,” Polansky said. “I think there will be a lot of argument in terms of just throwing them in the garbage, because of all of the work that has been done.”

School board vice president Jennifer Hebert voiced a similar sentiment.

“It’s such a stark contrast to what’s been going on over the last seven years,” Hebert said. “After all of the money that’s been spent on Common Core [and] they’re going to just up and abandon it?”

A major criticism of Common Core was an apparent lack of involvement from educators in establishing testing standards, Polansky said. That does not appear to be a problem with Obama’s federal act.

No Child Left Behind policies will remain in place at least until July 1. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s website, the department will work with states and school districts to begin implementing the new law over the next few weeks.

North Shore Jewish Center presented a debate about Jewish Heroes with Heather Welkes as moderator. Photo by Alex Petroski

Modern Jewish heroes were recognized at an event at the North Shore Jewish Center in Port Jefferson Station last Wednesday.

A group of eight sixth- and seventh-graders held a debate to decide who is the most influential modern Jewish hero, in front of their families and other Hebrew school classes.

The event was called “Hagiborim Shelanu” which is Hebrew for “Our Heroes.”

Heather Welkes, who is in her first year working as the coordinator for experiential learning for the NSJC, coordinated the event, though it was student-run. Welkes has been teaching at the Synagogue for three years.

“I really wanted it to be student-led because I feel like if the students choose how to guide the curriculum they’re going to take ownership of that and it’s going to be that much more meaningful for them,” Welkes said in an interview after the event.

Each student had an opportunity to introduce their hero and provide an opening statement to make their case.

Then they had to answer questions from the moderator — Welkes — to strengthen their arguments.

The students were given some suggestions as to what format they wanted for their presentation. In an election year, the decision was easy.

“Since the students are aware of the presidential debates going on, they are the ones who decided that they would like to present their findings in a debate format,” Welkes said.

The heroes that were chosen came from a wide variety of fields and walks of life. Director Steven Spielberg, Major League Baseball players Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg, Adam Sandler, Holocaust survivor Jack Gruener, Anne Frank, Albert Einstein, Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon and the Boston-based band Safam were the debated heroes. A similarity among their cases for the most influential modern Jewish hero was their pride in being Jewish.

“See, like Ilan Ramon, my generation, no one knows about him,” a student who participated in the debate said. “People like Adam Sandler, some people don’t know that he’s Jewish. They just know he’s ‘that guy, he’s funny.’ Now that people know he’s Jewish, it’s better. It’s important to recognize Jewish people,”

Sandler was his hero.

Two of the participants said they had fun speaking in front of the crowd about something they were proud of. One student fought through some nerves and delivered an informative case for her hero, Anne Frank.

“I don’t like a lot of people listening,” she said after the event.

The debate was too close to call. Welkes declared it an eight-way tie, though a parent could be heard upon the conclusion saying there were more suitable presidential candidates on this stage than in the real debates.

“The kids were really engaged and we wanted to do something innovative and exciting and I think we accomplished that,” Welkes said.

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The Rinx in Port Jefferson is a favorite spot for Suffolk County hockey fans. Photo by Alex Petroski

Through 45 games, the New York Islanders sit in second place in the National Hockey League’s Metropolitan Division, one point ahead of the New York Rangers. On the ice, the first half of their inaugural season in Brooklyn has looked similar to the past few years for the Islanders — they look like a playoff team with the potential to make a run at the Stanley Cup in the spring.

Off the ice is a different view: With 25 of the team’s 41 regular season home games in the books, the Islanders are 28th out of the NHL’s 30 teams in average attendance, drawing a little more than 13,000 people per game, according to approximate figures reported by media outlets, including ESPN.

The league does not confirm official attendance statistics until the end of the season, but reported that the Islanders drew more than 15,000 fans on average during their final run at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, in the 2014-15 hockey season.

The trip from Smithtown to Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, where the Barclays Center is located, takes more than an hour and a half by car. Taking the train from the Long Island Rail Road’s Smithtown train station takes about two and a half hours, including a change at Jamaica Station.

In an unofficial TBR Newspapers poll of Islanders fans from Suffolk County, most people said they had not yet been to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to watch the Islanders this year.

Ron Carlson, a Port Jefferson resident and former village recreation director who had season tickets to the Coliseum for about 10 years, said the trip is too far by car and “I’m not a train person.” He has not been to a home game yet this season.

Erin Morano, of Shoreham, who regularly used to take her family of five to games in Nassau, hasn’t been to a game in 2015-16 either.

“It’s not as convenient,” Morano said. “Parking is tough and expensive in Brooklyn.”

Brittney Skarulis, of Smithtown, used to attend Islander games as a fan and an employee, but not so far in Brooklyn.

“It’s too far to go and the traffic is terrible,” Skarulis said. “I was a guest Islander ice girl when the games were in Nassau Coliseum. It was more convenient to go there than the Barclays Center.”

Some parents, like Ken Hayes from East Setauket, said it’s hard to bring their kids to game due to the long ride home — when games begin at 7 p.m. and end anywhere between 9:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., they would get home too late.

Hayes went to his first game in Brooklyn in January. He said that it was fairly quiet for a hockey game.

Distance, lack of convenience, lack of parking and expense of the travel were the most common explanations for those who haven’t yet taken in a game this season. No one had a bad thing to say about the brand of hockey that the Islanders are putting on the ice. With a young core of talented players, the team is trending in the right direction. But fans from Suffolk County are not there to witness it as frequently in 2015 and 2016.

From left, Chris Barba, Matt Irving, John Petroski and Alex Petroski have fun at the 2015 Cotton Bowl at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Photo from Alex Petroski

College football fans that live on Long Island might as well live on a deserted island. A Long Islander looking to take in a major college football game on a quick Saturday trip has two options, and sadly, at the moment, neither is very appealing.

Rutgers University plays their home games in Piscataway, New Jersey, which is about a two and a half hour drive from the Times Beacon Record office located in East Setauket. Under three hours isn’t a terrible ride to see a Big Ten football game, but the Scarlet Knights’ 4-12 conference record since joining leaves a bit to be desired for five hours round trip.

The University of Connecticut in East Hartford is about the same distance from East Setauket as Piscataway, New Jersey, with the help of the Port Jefferson ferry. Though a $75 each way ferry ticket is difficult to justify to see a team that saw a dramatic improvement to go 6-7 overall this year, up from their 3-9 and 2-10 2013 and 2014 records, respectively.

Rather than use up my time, energy and money to make one or more treks to Piscataway or East Hartford to see struggling teams, I went with my brothers and a couple of friends to games in the newly minted College Football Playoffs the last two seasons. On New Year’s Day 2015, a year ago, I was at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, to see Florida State University play the University of Oregon. On New Year’s Eve 2015, I attended the Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, where the University of Alabama met Michigan State University. The games were moved from New Year’s Day to New Year’s Eve this season, so technically both games took place in 2015.

It may be premature to call a two-time occurrence a “yearly tradition,” but they have to start somewhere, and I think that is what my brothers, friends and I have created — a yearly New Year’s Eve/Day tradition.

As far as New Year’s Eve plans go, traveling to Texas to see a football game might seem comprehensive and overwhelming. But if you consider what goes into planning some of the “all-inclusive” catering hall-type events that are closer to home with a large group of people, the difference in legwork is negligible. When compared to bustling into Manhattan to see the ball drop in Times Square, I’d argue this is even simpler and easier.

I can’t recommend highly enough for college football fans living on Long Island to try and make it to one of the three playoff games next season. We flew out of LaGuardia Airport on the evening of December 30th, landing in Dallas and checking into our hotel in enough time to explore the area around the vast AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys and the largest video board known to man. We stumbled upon a local sports bar with infinite televisions and beer-on-tap choices to go along with some excellent Texas style barbecue. On game day, the 31st, we explored the stadium, which can’t remotely be captured in words, and attended the game.

College football fans have a reputation for being ravenous and boisterous, so imagine about 100,000 of them packed into some of the nicest venues in the country and worked into an absolute fever. The two games I’ve attended were experiences unlike any other, let alone sporting events.

Both years, we booked flights home for the day after the day after the game, leaving us a day to do some modest exploring in a new city. Dallas did not disappoint. We visited the site of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, which is now a museum. We stood and looked out the window down to the road from the perspective of Kennedy’s killer and saw the same view that he saw on that day. We drove the same path that Kennedy’s motorcade took. It was a breathtaking experience.

Believe it or not, costs for both trips were not as outrageous as you might think. Because the venues are so large, there are game tickets to be had, and if you’re willing to leave a little before the 31st, flights are more manageable as well.

Next year, we’ll be choosing between the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, Georgia, the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona and the National Championship game in Tampa Bay, Florida. Trust me, keep it in mind.

Northport-East Northport Superintendent Robert Banzer. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Northport school district’s security greeters are on the verge of receiving health benefits — thanks in large part to the efforts of one of their own.

Diane Smith is in her seventh year as a greeter at Fifth Avenue Elementary School, and said she has never received health benefits, despite numerous pleas.

“Before this position was created, anyone could go to the office and often stroll right down to classrooms, creating a lot of interruptions,” Smith said in an interview after the meeting Thursday night. “We finally have some boundaries.”

Greeter’s duties include monitoring who is coming and going from school buildings, assisting in late arrivals and early releases and helping parents get forgotten items to the students, among other day-to-day tasks that may arise.

According to the district supervisor of security, the position of greeters was created about 10 years ago.

Over that time, the responsibilities of the job have changed, with greater emphasis placed on security in the aftermath of violent school-related incidents like the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn.

“We [greeters] know the parents, grandparents and babysitters, as well as most of the personnel that visit our buildings,” Smith said in an email on Friday.

Smith said she has been working a second job to afford health care, while continuously searching for another job that would give her benefits, though she is hesitant to leave the Northport school district because she loves the job.

Smith said she has been expressing her desire for health care for the nine full-time greeters via letters and in person for years, to the school board and to district officials. She showed up on Thursday to take her campaign to the next level.

So far her efforts have been fruitless, but that could soon change.

“[The greeters are] going to get an opportunity for health insurance,” Superintendent Robert Banzer said during the meeting. “It just happened to be so ironic that she showed up today, because we just talked about it and kind of said, ‘Yes let’s go ahead and make it right and make sure they have an opportunity for health insurance.’”

Banzer attributed the delay in providing health insurance to the greeters to a switch from part-time to full-time designation.

Smith was skeptical when she left the meeting Thursday. She said it was more of the same rhetoric she’s been hearing since she began her battle.

However, as of Friday, she is approaching the situation with more optimism after receiving an email from Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Irene McLaughlin that established Jan. 19 as a meeting date for the greeters and members of the district to sit down and discuss health care options.

“I am very guardedly optimistic,” Smith said.

Drummer Jarrod Beyer plays at a Gnarly Karma rehearsal on Jan. 12. Photo by Alex Petroski

Rocking out is the name of the game for a Huntington-based band of driven twentysomethings who are preparing for their biggest show yet.

On Saturday, Jan. 23, they’ll be headlining The Bitter End, a Manhattan music venue that has hosted the likes of Stevie Wonder, Lady Gaga and Bob Dylan.

“It’s awesome,” Jarrod Beyer, the band Gnarly Karma’s drummer, said in an interview Tuesday. “We’re all ready for the task. This is what we’ve been working for, big shows in the city.”

Initially, Beyer said the Greenwich Village venue only offered the band a weeknight spot. However, just a few weeks later, the person in charge of The Bitter End’s booking called Beyer to tell him he had heard some of their music and felt that they were weekend quality, and would have the opportunity to headline a Saturday night show.

“It’s definitely a lot of excitement,” bassist Ryan McAdam said about the gig. “I always get a little nervous a couple of minutes before, just waiting to go on stage. We put a lot of work in, so we always feel pretty comfortable going into the shows. I’m pretty confident we’re going to bang out a great set.”

Bassist Ryan McAdam, lead singer Mike Renert and saxophonist Billy Hanley practice at a Gnarly Karma rehearsal on Jan. 12. Photo by Alex Petroski
Bassist Ryan McAdam, lead singer Mike Renert and saxophonist Billy Hanley practice at a Gnarly Karma rehearsal on Jan. 12. Photo by Alex Petroski

It turns out the Huntington community set the perfect stage for this band to come together.

Beyer, 25, graduated from John Glenn High School in Elwood in 2008, and first met Mike Renert, the band’s 29-year-old lead singer and guitarist, through a mutual friend about four years ago.

“When you play music with someone, you know in the first 30 seconds if it’s going to work, and that just happened,” Renert said about the first time he and Beyer got together to jam. “It was one of the first times in my life that I … was just like, ‘Hey, I have this song,’ and I started playing, and he played, and it was like, ‘Whoa, that’s the first song and that was exactly what I wanted to hear.’ And it just went from there.”

Renert and Beyer’s natural chemistry inspired them to expand. Beyer had been in another band as a teenager — he called 24-year-old McAdam, another John Glenn graduate from Huntington whom he had experience with.

“He came through, and he gelled with us perfectly,” Beyer said of McAdam.

The band was still missing a little something, so when Beyer heard that Billy Hanley, 25, a saxophone player who Beyer had played with in the John Glenn High School jazz band, was running a record studio in the area, suddenly there were four bandmates.

Gnarly Karma released their first studio album, “Classic Breeze,” via iTunes in September 2015. The group has a familiar but unique sound — they could be described as a distant cousin of The Dave Matthews Band, with a punk edge.

The guys credited their small-town upbringing as a vital ingredient in their success.

“It’s very small, so you know everybody, even if you don’t want to know everybody,” Beyer said. “So it’s kind of cool that, as we got more progressive into music, people who we haven’t talked to in a long time are coming to our shows and supporting us.”

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The Smithtown board of education meets on Tuesday night to discuss potential school closures. Photo by Alex Petroski

The Smithtown school district board of education is weighing its options for ways to cut costs, and thus far parents in the district have delivered a clear message: Do not close Branch Brook Elementary School.

In a housing report released in November 2015 by the school board with Superintendent James Grossane’s name on it, the recommended course of action was to close one of the district’s eight elementary schools, specifically Branch Brook.

The report estimated that closing an elementary school would save the district about $725,000 annually, though very little data was provided to back that up. Prior to the 2012 school year, an advisory housing committee was formed and recommended that Nesconset Elementary School be closed, based on substantial data accumulated about the district and the community. Residents accepted the closure.

This time around there is little evidence that any data was used to come to the conclusion that Branch Brook deserves to be closed, according to Peter Troiano, who is a member of the Save Branch Brook group.

The organization is comprised of about three dozen parents, Troiano said in a phone interview last week, but a look at the group’s Facebook page or their petition showed support in the hundreds.

“I’m not a PTA dad, I’m not involved in the schools,” Troiano said. “When I saw this proposal I knew right away looking at it that it doesn’t make sense.” Troiano said that he’s never a fan of closing schools, though he understood the necessity to close Nesconset a few years ago based on the data and research provided by the district.

The overwhelming sentiment from the Save Branch Brook parents at the meetings has been to ask for another housing committee to be assembled, and the same due diligence done as was done prior to 2012’s closure. A housing committee was assembled in 2014 to assess the feasibility of closing another elementary school, but no specific one was chosen, Annemarie Vinas, a member of that housing committee said at Tuesday night’s board meeting. Vinas contended that none of their findings would lead them to suggest Branch Brook be closed, but that is what the board recommended anyway.

“No one wants to close a school,” Grossane said in an interview following Tuesday’s meeting. “We need to be fiscally responsible. The board asked me to look at the results [of the housing committee’s findings]. These were my suggestions. The board is listening to the community. It’s their decision. I’m not sure where they’re going to go.”

Grossane declined to get any more specific than that prior to the Jan. 19 public work session for the school board, which will be their first chance to address the specific questions and concerns that the community has presented since November.

Since that November 2015 school board meeting that made it evident closing Branch Brook was on the table for the board, very little else has emerged as a topic of conversation at multiple school board meetings, workshops and hearings.

The Save Branch Brook parents came armed not only with matching blue T-shirts sporting the group name, but also with substantial statistical data.

Parents involved in the Save Branch Brook movement who wish to remain anonymous who are also analysts put together their own presentation for the board ahead of the December 2015 meeting. Entitled “Quantitative Analysis of Smithtown Elementary School Information,” the report concluded that Branch Brook was the elementary school that made the least sense of the eight to close based on the following factors: projected enrollment decrease over the next 10 years; building occupancy; square foot per student; students per usable classroom; and utility cost.

Another area of contention is the New York Avenue district office building. The housing committee that condemned Nesconset Elementary also suggested that this building be sold, and another space in a school in the district be used for the school board. To date that has not happened, though Grossane said at Tuesday night’s meeting that the board is working with the community on a way to repurpose the building and move to save costs.

The debate seems to be just getting started, though more will be clear following the work session on Jan. 19.

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Kings Park Central School District Superintendent Timothy Eagen says the district has already responded to recommendations made by the state comptroller’s office. File photo by Barbara Donlon

Changes have been made to the way that Kings Park Central School District officials track and record fuel usage for district vehicles, following an audit by the Office of the State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

The comptroller’s report recommended that written policies and procedures be adopted to ensure that fuel inventory is measured and records maintained, especially when fuel is delivered or pumped. The district has approximately 62 vehicles, according to the report.

“New formal fuel accountability procedures were adopted and went into effect on Dec. 14, 2015,” Eagen’s response said. “The new formal fuel accountability procedures require that tank fuel levels be measured — morning and afternoon — and reconciled both daily and every 10 days. The procedures also require that any significant reconciliation issues be submitted in writing to the superintendent of schools.”

The audit was conducted from July 1, 2014 through July 31, 2015, but the results were given to the district back in December. 

“The district has embraced all of OSC’s recommendations, and as of today, all of these recommendations have been fully implemented,” said Timothy Eagen, Kings Park Central School District superintendent.

Eagen said in his statement that he was happy to report that fuel accountability was the sole focus of the audit, and not issues with the district’s budget overall. “This speaks to the high level of internal controls and budgeting procedures that are typical of the Kings Park CSD,” Eagen said.

Issues with the district’s tracking of fuel stemmed from sloppy record keeping, not a loss of fuel, which would indicate potential theft or environmentally dangerous leakage, Eagen said. 

“On both the diesel and gasoline forms, Department personnel entered the same beginning and ending inventory amount on multiple lines of the forms or entered the same beginning and ending inventory amount even when fuel use was recorded that day,” the report said. These forms were provided during the audit period, in lieu of the hand written notes that were the only real source of record keeping before the audit.

“District officials are responsible for establishing procedures to provide assurance that vehicle fuel is accurately accounted for and used for appropriate District purposes,” DiNapoli’s report said.

“To determine day-to-day use for each fuel pump, department personnel subtract the previous day’s pump reading from the current day’s reading and note the gallons pumped. No reconciliation was performed to determine if the gallons pumped agreed with the change in stick reading from one day to the next.”

Prior to the audit period, the fuel pumps and tanks at the district’s bus garage were monitored by security personnel 24 hours per day along with video surveillance, though no official written policies or procedures were in place to assist employees in accurate tracking of the fuel inventory. The comptroller also recommended that all employees who use fuel document the gallons pumped, vehicle and type of fuel.

Montesano crucial to success of Abrams after it was shut down for gun violence

Rae Montesano has served as principal at the STEM school since 2014. Photo from Jim Hoops

Huntington Superintendent Jim Polansky is searching for a new leader for the Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School following the news that Principal Rae Montesano will retire at the end of the school year.

“Rae has been instrumental in helping me to put this school in a place where it has found tremendous success, and great things have happened for children since she took over as principal,” Polansky said in an interview following Monday night’s school board meeting. “She will be missed based on all of the work and effort that she has put forth.”

Montesano has held the position since July 2014, though she served as the acting principal beginning in January of that year. She was previously the district’s chairperson of science and instructional technology for grades seven through 12.

“I’m just very appreciative of the confidence that the board had in me to make me the principal and of the wonderful opportunities here at Huntington,” Montesano said.

The Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School opened in September 2013, three years after the building, then called the Jack Abrams Intermediate School, closed in July 2010 due to recurring gun violence in the area. Between that spike in gun violence and when the school reopened with a focus on science, technology, engineering and math, police reported they had successfully reduced crime around the school.

“On a personal level if it wasn’t for Rae, I don’t know if we could have gotten this off the ground,” Polansky said during Monday’s meeting. “I know I couldn’t have done it myself. Rae has been right there with everybody every step of the way.”

Montesano has a degree in psychology from Cornell University and a master of science in education from Hofstra University, according to a press release from the district. She worked at various districts before landing in Huntington, including Harborfields Central School District.

I’m going to miss the children,” Montesano said in an interview Monday night. “I’m certainly going to miss my colleagues and the parents. Everyone’s been very supportive of me in the district.”