Authors Posts by Alex Petroski

Alex Petroski

Alex Petroski
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The Smithtown Central School District is gearing up for another budget season, but officials say this year might not be as financially difficult as administrators had anticipated. File photo

Budget season has arrived in Smithtown, and district administrators said they anticipated a bigger budget to be matched by more state funding.

The Smithtown Central School District held a business affairs committee meeting recently with district administrators and board of education representatives to mull over potential budgetary options facing them. Board member Grace Plourde presented the discussions from that meeting to the public Feb. 9 along with a first draft of the pending $233,476,414 school district budget.

The projected budget for the 2016-17 school year is about $4 million higher than the budget for the current school year, she said. That increase, however, would be covered in large part by a projected 0.8 percent increase in the tax levy and an increase in state aid from a partial restoration of money lost to the Gap Elimination Adjustment, a policy enacted for the 2010-11 fiscal year which cut into state aid for New York State school districts in an effort to close a large budget deficit.

An increase in funding from the state would mean a smaller increase in taxes for Smithtown residents.

“We may find that we’re not in the kind of trouble that we have been in in prior years,” Plourde said. “Our preliminary budget is looking pretty stable. We’re anticipating that at this point we’re not going to have to make the kinds of painful cuts that we’ve had to make in prior years, but again it’s not because we’re getting the kinds of revenue we need to get.”

A rise in salaries for district employees accounts for the majority of the $4 million increase from the 2015-16 budget, according to Andrew Tobin, the district’s assistant superintendent for finance and operations.

The district is currently in the midst of a heated debate over potential cost-saving measures while grappling with declining enrollment and a potential deficit in the near future, Tobin added.

Plourde said that stability in the projected 2016-17 budget could be attributed to a low number of required retirement payouts, which is not to be expected every year.

“We’re continuing to hope to hang on to the kind of quality programing that we’re used to around here, but we need to be smart,” Plourde said. “We need to always be looking ahead.”

Superintendent James Grossane has recommended closing at least one of the district’s eight elementary schools, an option that would save the district about $725,000 annually, he said. Parents in the district, however, have said they would prefer that the district sold or repurposed their administration headquarters located on New York Avenue, Smithtown instead. The building hasn’t been used for instruction in several years.

The next budget workshop will be held on Tuesday, March 1, at 7 p.m. at the New York Avenue headquarters. A decision on the fate of the district’s elementary schools is expected in the coming weeks.

2016 Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame inductees Tom Combs, Chuck Downey and Rich Cimini pose for a photo at the induction announcement press conference. Photo by Alex Petroski

The Suffolk County Sports Hall of Fame announced on Wednesday that they will be inducting eight new members in 2016. The class includes Setauket resident Rich Cimini, the New York Jets beat reporter for ESPN; Commack resident Chuck Downey, the first Stony Brook University athlete to sign a professional sports contract; and Setauket resident Tom Combs, the athletic director at Patchogue-Medford High School and a standout football star for Smithtown, among others.

Television and radio host David Weiss introduced the inductees at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Hauppauge during the press conference.

“It’s an honor to be associated with such great inductees, great athletes and coaches,” Cimini said during the press conference after he was introduced. “I’m just a guy who got cut from his varsity baseball team by Bill Batewell. At least he’s a Hall of Famer, so I can say that I got cut by a Hall of Fame coach.”

Cimini graduated from Sachem High School in 1981. He has covered the Jets for Newsday, the Daily News and now ESPN during his long career as a reporter.

“It has been such a great ride that I have a fear that I’m going to wake up one day and realize it’s just been a dream, and that I actually have to go out and get a real job,” Cimini said.

Downey, who is currently a Battalion Chief for the FDNY, credited his parents for instilling values of hard work that led him to be successful in life. His father Raymond, who was also an FDNY firefighter, was killed in the line of duty on Sept. 11, 2001.

“Suffolk is very special, and to be here today with these other inductees — thank you very much,” Downey said during the press conference. He was a three-sport athlete at Deer Park High School, before playing football at Stony Brook University, and ultimately signing an NFL contract with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1988.

Combs has played, coached and been an athletic director in Suffolk County dating back to the 1970s. He is also a member of the Hall’s board of trustees.

“This is quite a talented class,” Combs said. “I’ve been involved with the Hall of Fame for the last five years and I can honestly say this is a very intimidating group with some amazing accomplishments.”

The other inductees include Jillian Byers, a thre-sport standout from Northport who went on to become a four-time All-American in lacrosse; Frank Romeo, who was a longtime boys’ basketball coach at Comsewogue High School who was inducted into the New York State Basketball Hall of Fame last year; and Laura Gentile, Maria Michta-Coffey and Isaac Ramaswamy, all of whom went to Sachem.

Richie LoNigro, owner of Port Jefferson Sporting Goods, will also receive a Special Recognition Award for his dedication to the athletes of Suffolk County. He is one of only six people in the country to receive the Rawlings Sporting Goods Silver Glove Award, which has been given to some of the most respected people in the sporting good industry

The ceremony for the 2016 inductees will take place on May 6, also at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Hauppauge. Tickets are $95. For more information visit http://www.suffolksportshof.com.

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Huntington’s 4x400 relay state championship team of Kyree Johnson, Lawrence Leake, Infinite Tucker and Exzayvian Crowell continue to reach new heights. Photo by Darin Reed

Huntington boys’ track and field head coach Ron Wilson had an idea that he could have a strong team for the 2015-16 winter season, but the success they’ve enjoyed was beyond even his expectations.

“We knew that we had quite a few kids returning this season, which would put us at the forefront in Suffolk County,” Wilson said. “We didn’t know that we would be one of the top teams in the state of New York.”

That’s exactly what the Blue Devils were this winter: one of the most electrifying track and field squads in the state. The team is led by their “Fantastic Four,” the nickname given to Huntington’s state champion 4×400-meter relay team from last winter. All four members returned this year. Infinite Tucker, Kyree Johnson, Lawrence Leake and Exzayvian Crowell captured numerous state, county, league and Long Island accolades as a team and individually last year, and this year hasn’t been much different.

The team took the gold in the 4×400 relay at the Suffolk County Championships on Jan. 31 at the Suffolk County Community College campus in Brentwood. They also qualified for Nationals, which will take place on March 11 in New York City. Huntington’s 4×200 relay team also qualified, as did Tucker and Johnson in numerous individual events.

Wilson said it hit him how special this team was at a meet on Jan. 16 at the Molloy Stanner Games at the New Balance Track and Field Center at the Armory in Manhattan.

“We were grooving,” Wilson said with a hearty laugh. On that Saturday in Manhattan, Tucker ran the best time in the country for the winter season in the 600 dash, and Johnson set the mark nationally for the 300 dash, while Leake posted the fourth-best time of the year in the 300. The times were announced to a standing ovation, according to Wilson.

Wilson said one of the biggest surprises of the season was Leake’s performance.

“My time in the 300, I was very proud of,” Leake said.

Johnson indicated that he could tell fairly early on how special the Blue Devils might be.

“Around the first couple of meets, everybody started to show how good they are and the ability they had,” Johnson said.

Johnson credited advice from his older brother Tyreke, who also ran track at Huntington, as being helpful in keeping his competitive edge, despite enormous success.

“The number one thing is to remain humble and don’t look at anybody like they’re not as good as you,” Johnson said. “I have to work my hardest.”

Wilson has been a part of some special teams at Huntington in his nine years leading the high school squad. He coached in the district on the junior high level from 1998 to 2007, when he became an assistant for the high school team under Dennis Walker. Wilson was also a member of the team in 1993 and 1994, when he attended Huntington.

“I didn’t run; I was a thrower,” Wilson said. “I was too big to run.”

The head coach didn’t hesitate for a second when trying to compare this Blue Devils’ team to the numerous versions that he’d had a hand in previously.

“This is by far the best team that I’ve coached,” he said.

Assistant coach Eli Acosta, who said this is his 49th year in the Long Island track and field world, reiterated Wilson’s assessment of the team.

“I can say that this is the best track and field that I’ve ever coached in terms of talent,” Acosta said. “We have very talented athletes, that goes without saying. They also work quite hard.”

Wilson said his team is focused and driven, without being too uptight.

“It’s a well-rounded team,” he said. “They’re nice boys. They can be silly at times, but once they get on the track, it’s always business.”

Tucker and Johnson are undoubtedly the team’s most talented members, though the role of leadership is a shared duty among the entire roster, according to Wilson.

“It’s kind of fun,” Tucker said of his relationship with Johnson. “It’s like running with your brother.”

Acosta admitted that he and Wilson pit Johnson and Tucker against each other in certain events and in practice as a tactic to motivate the star athletes.

“They pick each other up,” Wilson said. “It’s more of the team that leads us, that drives our success, especially amongst our relay team.”

Despite their success, Wilson said he hasn’t seen any lull in the team’s drive or motivation.

“When these kids are able to stay humble and stay low, they’re always able to seek improvement,” Wilson said. “If the competition is not there, you have to compete against yourself.”

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Cause Four Paws co-director Jason Fluger with his dog Brooklyn. Photo by Alex Petroski

The Smithtown Animal Shelter and Adoption Center is joining with Commack Middle School and Dr. Michael Good, the founder of an initiative called Homeless Pet Clubs, in an effort to find homes for animals. Good flew in from Atlanta, Ga., to speak to a group of about 30 Commack middle schoolers on Thursday afternoon in the school’s auditorium.

Good, a veterinarian, formed the Homeless Pets Foundation — a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization — in 1998, according to its website. In 2010, Good started Homeless Pet Clubs as an adjunct to his foundation. The clubs are meant to encourage and organize students and community members to spread the word about specific animals that are in local shelters, in the hopes of finding suitable homes for adoption.

In an interview after the presentation, Good told the story of how he was inspired to start Homeless Pet Clubs a few years ago. He was attending an event for kindergarten age students designed to answer questions about a veterinarian’s job and what it entails. After about two hours of young children telling stories about their pets, rather than asking questions about becoming a vet, Good was hit with a stroke of inspiration, he said.

“What if we could get millions of kids all over this country telling stories about animals that don’t have homes?” Good asked. “That was the foundation of my Homeless Pet school clubs, and it has worked fabulously.”

The idea for Good’s clubs is fairly simple; Introduce homeless pets to middle school, or if Good has his way even younger-aged kids, allow them to spend time with the animals and take photos, and then empower the kids to spread the word about the animals. Kids are then made aware of when an animal is adopted, and given positive reinforcement for their role in saving a life. Commack’s version of the club will be the first on Long Island, although Good is always interested in expansion.

Renee Landsman and Jason Fluger teach at Commack Middle School, but they also run Cause Four Paws, an after-school club that meets monthly to educate students about animals and how to train them safely.

“Children love animals, and I think they should be encouraged to love animals,” Landsman said. Many Cause Four Paws students were in attendance for Good’s presentation, though they were not the only ones. Landsman and Fluger hope to make Good’s vision a schoolwide cause.

Smithtown animal shelter Director Susan Hansen also attended the event. She met Good at an event two years ago, she said. One of her first actions after beginning as the shelter’s director in August was to register on Good’s website to be a shelter rescue partner.

“At the shelter we’re approached on a regular basis by various Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, youth groups and individual kids that come to the shelter and say ‘I want to volunteer,’” Hansen said in an interview. “Unfortunately a lot of them are under 16 and at the shelter you need to be older to interact with the animals. I recognized that when you exclude that young population, you’re really discounting a tremendous resource, because as Dr. Good advocates, they can promote these animals virtually.”

Hansen believes in Good’s assertion that young students and social media can be valuable assets in finding homes for animals.

“Maybe you can’t give them a home, but maybe you know someone who can,” Hansen said about the importance of including youth in the effort to find homes for animals. “Spread the word and make a difference.”

For more information visit www.homelesspetclubs.org or call the Smithtown animal shelter at 631-360-7575.

Heather Johnson has been at the helm of The Northport Historical Society for the past five years. Photo by Alex Petroski

The Northport Historical Society is searching for a new director, as Heather Johnson, who has held the position for five years, is moving on to a new job with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

“Her enthusiasm for her job radiates from her and has enabled the Northport community to become much more supportive,” society board of trustees President Steven King said about Johnson in an interview Tuesday. “All of our events that involve social interaction have improved because she enjoys doing things for people, helping people, takes pride in Northport community and that’s been very helpful over the past five years to make the historical society a more successful institution in the village.”

Johnson, whose last day is Feb. 11, arrived in January 2011 with nearly two decades of experience in various departments at Hofstra University. She spent time in their public relations department and in the office of international admissions, taught art history and even spent time working in their on-campus museum.

Johnson also had a unique upbringing, spending years living in New York City, Jacksonville, Florida, and England while her mother pursued an opera career. She returned to Long Island in 1989 and currently lives in Smithtown.

Above, the Northport Historical Society. Photo from Heather Johnson
Above, the Northport Historical Society. Photo from Heather Johnson

Her journey prior to landing in Northport, coupled with some of her own personal interests, made the position at the historical society a fit too perfect to pass up.

“I’m a history buff,” Johnson said in an interview Tuesday. “I’ve always loved history, since I was a little kid.” She laughed and added, “There are not many little girls who are interested in history.”

Johnson saw a 20 percent increase in membership in her first year alone, bringing the society’s total membership to more than 400. She maintained that number during the rest of her five-year tenure. The group also has a new website.

The outgoing director was adamant that she accomplished nothing on her own.

“I’m not going to take credit for anything that’s happened around here,” Johnson said. “It really is a team. What we have is people who are really dedicated and who really love Northport, and are very interested in the historical society, or history in general.”

During her time, Johnson was responsible for scheduling programs and exhibits for the museum, recruiting members and creating events. Some of her favorites that she mentioned were a Civil War cooking class and an educational and social tour of Northport Harbor.

“My mantra has been to educate and to entertain,” Johnson said. “When you can put those two things together, it’s a beautiful thing.”

King was not as dismissive of Johnson’s impact and accomplishments as she was.

“I don’t think that there’s any way to replace personality traits that Heather has,” King said. “We hope to settle on a final candidate who has some of what Heather has brought to us, but perhaps a different set of capabilities that will enhance our mission in the future.”

“There are not many little girls who are interested in history.”
— Heather Johnson

Johnson shared an emailed letter from a community member that she received when news of her imminent departure got out. The sender preferred to remain anonymous.

“We have learnt a lot about the village, its history and its people — and always in a welcoming and congenial setting,” the email reads.

Johnson plans to maintain a relationship with the historical society as a member of the fundraising committee and their gallery committee. She also insists that she’s not leaving the community that has become such a large part of her life, mainly due to the close bond she feels.

“This village, and Northport in general, they just really know how to come together for each other,” she said. “I plan to eat, play and shop in Northport for the rest of my life. It’s just a really, really incredible place.”

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NYPD detective and NY Finest Speakers’ Thomas Grimes, with Miller Place school board President Johanna Testa and Superintendent Marianne Higuera, spoke to parents about the dangers of social media Tuesday. Photo by Alex Petroski

Retired NYPD detective Thomas Grimes made a two-hour presentation to Miller Place school district administrators and parents at the high school on Tuesday night about the dangers of Internet use for children. Grimes’ presentation focused on the aspect of being vulnerable to predators online, but also the peer-to-peer cyber bullying that has resulted in far too many tragic situations.

“Parents, we need to shut up and stop trying to blame somebody else for what our kids are doing to one and other,” Grimes said about the harm that is done on social media between people who aren’t even strangers.

Through his program, NY Finest Speakers, he stressed the fact that cultivating a safe community is a responsibility that we all share.

“What we need to do is take responsibility and delegate that responsibility to our children as well,” he said. “It’s our responsibility as a community, as a family and as a school district.”

Grimes told stories that were horrifying for the roughly 50 parents in attendance about what can happen if a child is interacting with a stranger on a social media site or application. Grimes did a presentation for North Country Road Middle School students on Tuesday, and for Miller Place High School students on Wednesday.

“I told your kids today, if you’re in a conversation with somebody that gives you the creeps, trust your instincts,” Grimes said. “We have to empower our children to trust their instincts. We’re all born with instincts, we just need to learn to trust them.”

Grimes called this generation of middle school and high school students the first “naturalized generation” when it comes to growing up with Internet and social media use. District Superintendent Marianne Higuera expressed a similar sentiment after the presentation.

“As adults, we live in a world of Facebook, and students are so beyond Facebook,” Higuera said. “Fifteen years ago it was ‘Don’t put your child’s name on their jersey.’ Every time your child signs on to social media sites you’re putting their jersey name on these sites, so even if their screenshots show ‘Panthers,’ or ‘Miller Place’ or ‘Long Island,’ they’re susceptible to somebody who wants to do harm to them and can find them. I think that sometimes as adults we don’t understand the technology that our children use so we tend not to face those facts until there’s a problem.”

Grimes made some suggestions to the parents in attendance about ways to ensure that their children are using the Internet safely.

“If you never went in the ocean after you saw ‘Jaws’ for the first time, I give you permission to go home and throw out your computer,” Grimes joked, but he stressed to parents that the technology is not the problem, but rather the kids behavior in using the technology that needs to be monitored or modified.

Grimes suggested that parents sit down with their kids and look at all of the social media platforms and apps for which they have a profile. Any “friend” or “follower” that the child cannot identify should be deleted. He also suggested that parents encourage their kids to make their social media profiles something that they can be proud of and use as an asset, rather than something that is hidden from adults.

Additionally, Grimes suggested that if parents are concerned that their kids might have applications or programs on their mobile devices that the parents aren’t aware of, they should bring the device to the service provider and ask them to reveal everything that is on the phone.

For more information or to book a presentation, Grimes and his company, NY Finest Speakers, can be contacted at nyfinestspeakers.com.

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A community and school district stalwart will be returning to his position for at least one more year, following a unanimous school board vote to extend his contract.

“I know where I’m going next year now, thank you,” Superintendent Joe Rella said to applause when the board vote to extend his contract passed at Monday’s board of education meeting. “Nowhere.”

Rella has opposed extending his contract any further than the 2016-17 school year, according to Susan Casali, the district’s assistant superintendent for business.

The extension came with a 2 percent pay raise, bringing Rella’s salary to $212,160 for the next school year. His health care contributions are remaining the same, with him kicking in 17 percent to his premiums.

Many Comsewogue residents as well as those within the greater Long Island and New York State areas know Rella for his vocal opposition to state testing and the Common Core Learning Standards. He has hosted or attended numerous protests and forums on the topics, and spoken against the standardized testing practices that he says are harmful to children.

The superintendent started working in Warriors country as a music teacher at John F. Kennedy Middle School. Before becoming a district administrator, he served as the Comsewogue High School principal.

Holtsville Hal, his handler Greg Drossel and Master of Ceremonies Wayne Carrington make their way onstage to cheers and applause on Groundhog Day. Photo by Alex Petroski

To the delight of about 100 people in attendance on Tuesday, it was announced that famed Brookhaven groundhog Holtsville Hal did not see his shadow, indicating spring would come early this year.

Excited Holtsville Hal fans collected streamers as a keepsake from Groundhog Day. Photo by Alex Petroski
Excited Holtsville Hal fans collected streamers as a keepsake from Groundhog Day. Photo by Alex Petroski

Hal made his yearly Groundhog Day appearance at Brookhaven Town’s Holtsville Wildlife and Ecology center at about 7:30 a.m., before a crowd with fresh memories of being walloped with more than 2 feet of snow in a recent blizzard.

Tradition says that if Hal — or, as he’s known in the Town of Brookhaven as a throwback to the classic Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day,” the Great Prognosticator of Prognosticators — sees his shadow when he wakes from hibernation on Groundhog Day, the community is in for six more weeks of winter.

“As I stood by my burrow and looked to the ground, there was no shadow for me to be found,” Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) read from a large scroll as Hal was presented to the mass of onlookers. “So kids and their families, put away your sleds and snow blowers.” There were raucous cheers.

Holtsville Hal is presented to a group of young onlookers on Groundhog Day. Photo by Alex Petroski
Holtsville Hal is presented to a group of young onlookers on Groundhog Day. Photo by Alex Petroski

Holtsville Hal was handled by Greg Drossel as he posed for photos with Master of Ceremonies Wayne Carrington, Councilmen Neil Foley (R) and Dan Panico (R) and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D), members of the Holtsville Fire Department and many others. He even posed for a selfie with one young admirer.

Last year, Hal also predicted an early spring. This year he might be right, if only just for Tuesday, as those who woke up early to attend the event were treated to a mild, sunny morning by the time the groundhog made his much-anticipated appearance.

With the viewers in good spirits, Carrington reminded the crowd to donate whatever they could to the ecology center to support its programs.

This version corrects the spelling of Councilwoman Valerie Cartright’s name.

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Team “Extra” Ordinary poses for a photo before jumping into the cold water of Cedar Beach during the 6th annual Polar Plunge last November. Photo from Robert Fitton

A 12-year-old student from North Country Road Middle School in Miller Place raised over $5,000 for the Special Olympics. All that Robert Fitton had to do was jump into the near-freezing Long Island Sound at Cedar Beach last November.

That’s exactly what Fitton and his team of 16 middle school students did as part of the 6th annual Polar Plunge, a yearly tradition around the country where people sprint into freezing waters to raise money for various causes. Fitton was recognized and honored at the Miller Place School Board meeting last week, accompanied by his mother Concetta; father, Robert; sister, Mary; and brother, Thomas.

It was actually the third time that Fitton had taken the courageous dive into unfathomably cold water. In 2013, inspired by the birth of Thomas that July, Concetta Fitton convinced him to give it a try. Thomas was born with Down syndrome. Fitton said the idea to raise money for the Special Olympics was easy because Thomas might one day take part in the games. For now, Fitton see’s his younger brother as a budding football, wrestling or baseball star.

“You can always give back,” Fitton said. “It’s personal to me because he’s so cute. It was really supposed to be a fun thing at first, but it got more serious once it progressed. In general you can always give back.”

The harsh water temperature wasn’t enough to slow Fitton down after his first plunge in 2013.

“The first year was by far the worst,” Fitton said. “The day we did the plunge it was frigid. Last year was really cold, too. Once you get into that water you don’t really feel it.”

Fitton’s parents are proud of their son for turning the event into a yearly cause. Fitton told his dad in 2013 that he didn’t want him to join him in the freezing water because “I want to do this for my brother, I’m doing this myself,” according to the elder Robert.

“I never thought that he got what it was to tie it into the Special Olympics,” Concetta Fitton said about her son’s first plunge. “I didn’t think he put two and two together, but then he’s running into the water yelling ‘this is for Thomas,’” she said.

Team “Extra” Ordinary—
Ella & Nathan Botticelli
Spencer Bruno
Isabella DiGregorio
Robby Fitton
Ryan Gilbert
Casey Gilbert
Justin Klein
Andrew Marino
Gregory Marino
Katie Marino
Patrick McNally
Ann McNulty
Matthew Petrie
Denise Pizzo
Hannah Rathburn
Julia Schreck
Dominic Testa
Michael Vallary
Nicholas Vallary

Back then it was just Fitton and one of his cousins taking the plunge. However, inspired by the costumes and celebratory nature of the event, Fitton decided to approach the 2014 plunge from a leadership role. He registered a team and got together about eight friends, according to Concetta Fitton.

In 2015, the number of teammates Fitton lead doubled, and after hanging flyers, calling family and friends and posting on social media asking for sponsors.

The team calls themselves Team “Extra” Ordinary, a nod to Thomas and the extra chromosome associated with Down syndrome. The team also wears blue and yellow to each event, to represent the colors for Down Syndrome Awareness.

Fitton wanted to be clear that he did not accomplish this on his own. He said that without his teammates, he wouldn’t have come anywhere close to the $5,000 mark.

“We don’t do enough to recognize somebody that goes above and beyond,” North Country Road Principal Matt Clark said as he presented Fitton with his award at the board of education meeting. “This is well above and beyond in my opinion … with his leadership skills and his ability to facilitate a team, they did a fabulous job. I want to recognize Robert for his endeavor and his dedication to his brother as well.”

Clark added that he doubted this would be the last time that Robert would be acknowledged by the district for doing something admirable. His mother said that he felt guilty that his friends weren’t recognized for their efforts in raising the money at the meeting as well.

“You always want to think that your kids are awesome,” she said. “Just to know he’s doing this, taking the leadership role and doing this for his brother, it’s amazing … He’s a good kid and he’s doing this for a great cause. We’re extremely proud of him.”

Her husband agreed.

“I was very happy because, anytime you volunteer to give back to the community is very important, and the fact that he did it for my other son is extra special,” he said. “If you get them to do this at a young age hopefully they continue to do it and give back.”

Senator Chuck Schumer is taking wireless network companies to task for poor service in areas of Long Island. File photo by Elana Glowatz

The dangers of social media and overall Internet use for children will be the topic of conversation at a parent workshop at Miller Place High School on Tuesday night.

Thomas Grimes of NY Finest Speakers gives a speech. Photo from Grimes
Thomas Grimes of NY Finest Speakers gives a speech. Photo from Grimes

Retired NYPD detective Thomas Grimes will be the speaker at the event, which is open to all parents in the district, from elementary through high school.

“The goal of the parent Internet safety workshop is to understand potential life-threatening scenarios, social networking and how to protect your child from innocent behaviors that predators utilize to plan the perfect ambush,” a press release from the district about the event said.

Grimes was a 20-year veteran of the NYPD and now owns “NY Finest Speakers,” a company which was formed in 2007 and is made up of former detectives and a former secret service agent, according to their website. Those officials are “dedicated to educating and protecting today’s young people and their parents from threats posed by Internet usage and drug involvement,” the release said.

During his 20 years in the NYPD, Grimes spent time in various task forces focused on organized crime and drug trafficking.

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