Authors Posts by Rita J. Egan

Rita J. Egan

Rita J. Egan
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Sometimes one gets by with a little help from their friends, or in other cases, book lovers, foodies and wine aficionados.

Times Beacon Record News Media hosted the Cooks, Books & Corks Fundraiser at The Bates House in Setauket June 12. Attendees had the opportunity to sample a variety of dishes from restaurants and caterers from across the North Shore, meet local authors and sample wines from Whisper Vineyards. The proceeds raised from the event will underwrite a summer internship with TBR News Media for a student from Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism.

Howard Schneider, founding dean of SBU’s School of Journalism, talked to the audience about the importance of the summer internship and journalism in today’s world. He referenced a recent Gallup poll where 60 percent of Americans said it’s difficult to decide what’s true, and they are overwhelmed by the information and misinformation they read.

“So, I tell you this because the fundraising portion of this dinner is to support a young journalist who will work with the Times Beacon Record newspapers, who will learn their craft and also do some important local journalism,” he said. “Because good journalism is not only about Albany and Washington, it’s about holding our local officials accountable for how they spend our money; it’s about whether we’re drinking safe water here in this community; it’s about whether our children are safe in school. And we need good journalists on the ground, starting here, to do that.”

The event featured keynote speakers Carl Safina and chef Guy Reuge. Safina, the first endowed professor for nature and humanities at SBU, has written several books about what he calls the nonhuman world. Reuge, owner of Mirabelle Restaurant in Stony Brook, recently penned the book, “A Chef’s Odyssey.”

Safina read an excerpt from his most recent book “Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel,” a piece he said he picked to honor Father’s Day. He said part of the book is about wolves, which he said are very instructive.

Reuge spoke to the audience about the process of writing and publishing his book with his wife’s uncle Philip Palmedo, which he said was rewarding in many ways.

“It was easy,” he said about the writing. “It took about seven or eight months to do. It really wasn’t that difficult.”

He said the recipes were tricky though, because one has to be precise, and he wanted to make sure he included some from his restaurant.

One of the authors who had a table at the event was TBR News Media proofreader John Broven. He said he appreciated the opportunity to chat with potential readers and listening to the speakers.

“It was a privilege to be a part of such a harmonious evening for an excellent cause,” he said. “Howard Schneider’s stirring speech in defense of real journalism was appropriately thought-provoking during the fundraiser.”

Publisher Leah Dunaief said TBR News Media looks forward to the second Cooks, Books & Corks next year. The event was coordinated by Evelyn Costello and sponsored by Michael Ardolino, George Rehn, The Bates House and Simple Party Designs. For more photos, visit www.tbrnewsmedia.com.

Poquott residents will vote for mayor and two trustees June 19. File photo

As residents prepare to vote in the Village of Poquott June 19, candidates still see a proposed dock and communication among the village’s biggest issues.

Dee Parrish

Incumbent Dee Parrish is running for a third term as mayor on the Future ticket along with current trustees William Poupis and Chris Schleider. Both were appointed by the mayor in 2017 after former trustees, Michael Schaefer and John Mastauskas, resigned.

Sitting board member John Richardson is challenging Parrish for mayor and is running on the We the People ticket along with trustee candidates, Felicia Chillak and Dianna Padilla.

Parrish, an accountant, said she has not raised village taxes for the last three years. When she entered office in 2014, she said there was $86,000 in the village’s account and now there is nearly $154,000, a savings the board accomplished while improving village parks, roads and drainage.

“I actually ran the village for the last three years like a business, because [my husband and I] have our own business, because that’s what really needed to be done to keep us on track on the budget, to keep spending to finally doing things cheaper,” she said, adding her family owns an environmental consulting company.

Richardson, a New York City firefighter, said his reason for running for mayor this year is the same reason he ran for trustee in 2017 — he feels residents cannot speak freely at public hearings.

John Richardson

“I feel that people should have more say in what’s going on,” he said. “I know we elect our officials to make decisions for us. But if people are griping about it … and they’re not being heard, maybe there’s more to it.”

Chillak, a realtor, and Padilla, a Stony Brook University ecology professor, want residents to feel comfortable speaking up, something they feel some villagers are hesitant to do. One issue they say needs more community input is the proposed community dock.

Parrish, who is in favor of the dock, said due to bids coming in at more than the $150,000 originally expected, the board is holding off on a vote. She said the idea of a dock developed from a simple pier, where people could fish and dock boats, to a bigger project due to the village having to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act and required lighting.

“We have to look at everything before we decide how this is going to impact residents in the future,” Parrish said, adding she will be affected by the decision too.

Richardson, Chillak and Padilla said the dock should be put to a referendum, so residents can vote on it instead of the board making the decision.

Felicia Chillak

“I believe everybody should have a voice, whether you agree with me or don’t agree with me let’s talk about it,” Chillak said.

Both Schleider, a teacher, and Poupis, vice president of operations for a nationwide drilling company, said they feel the board is open to residents’ comments on the docks and other issues. Poupis said he hopes to put a procedure in place to make it even easier for them.

“I just wish for every complaint [that] you had three potential ways to repair it,” the current trustee said he asks critics.

While Padilla said she believes residents should have more input when it comes to a dock, she is against it. The challenger said it can be environmentally damaging, including disrupting living creatures at the bottom of the water during installation and its shade negatively impacting fish and shellfish.

“There is no need for this dock,” she said. “There are nearby docks that people can use. This is not going to be a place where people can tie up their boats. It will be for loading and unloading only.”

All three challengers also have concerns as to whether or not the dock is financially responsible, especially with the board considering taking $34,000 from the village’s fund balance for the first installment of a five-year note.

“I’m not saying the dock is not an option,” Chillak said. “I’m saying let the people decide, and we will openly discuss.”

Chris Schleider

Schleider, who said he became trustee to show his kids the importance of civic responsibility, is in favor of the community dock.

“I think that the village hasn’t spent money on something like this in a long time,” he said “It’s nice to have a centerpiece for the village to utilize.”

Poupis said the dock would draw more people to the village and possibly increase real estate values.

“It’s being able to look at the village and trying to project out where it’s going to be in five or 10 years,” he said. “That’s where you really separate someone who is just sitting in the mayor’s chair versus someone who is actively looking at the growth of the village.”

The We the People ticket said many who have spoken out against the board have received code violations. While they don’t deny that violations exist in village homes, some infractions are similar to neighbors who haven’t been reported.

Parrish said the building department, code enforcement, public works and the board meet every week. The mayor said any complaints the village clerk receives from residents are given to code enforcement, which inspects the problem and decides what to do. Parrish said everyone is given an appropriate amount of time to address the issue.

Dianna Padilla

Richardson said he was targeted after running for trustee last year. When he applied to renew a permit to work on his balcony, he said he received it and then the permit was rescinded by the village attorney. He said he needed an extension because once he started working on the balcony it needed more work than anticipated. He alleged code enforcement is unfairly cracking down on people. While he believes there are issues that need to be addressed, he feels there is overregulation, and the village should reach out to residents before penalizing them to fully understand what is going on.

“There’s always a different side to every story,” he said about reaching out to potential code violators. “I think in a village with only 357 households we have the capacity to do that as a village and a community.”

Parrish said when Richardson asked for an extension to continue working on his balcony, the village court discovered he never closed out a 2003 permit for a second floor on his home and therefore he doesn’t have a current certificate of occupancy. Richardson said the building inspector approved and signed off on his CO April 20, and he is waiting for the village to approve it.

William Poupis

All the candidates are in agreement that improvements need to be made to Walnut Beach. Parrish said they are cleaning the beach up and are thinking of bringing in sand to replenish it. Padilla said replenishing the beach with sand may not be the answer as it’s environmentally unsound because dredge spoils can smother anything aliveunderneath it.

Incumbent Schleider said the beach brings back many happy memories for his in-laws, and he hopes the spot will be preserved for his children to visit one day.

“It’s one of the things I am most passionate about is maintaining that shoreline we have,” he said.

The Village of Poquott will hold its annual election Tuesday, June 19, at Village Hall, located at 45 Birchwood Ave. The polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m.

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Three Village students work at interactive, virtual reality consoles. Photo from the Three Village Central School District

By Andrea Paldy

To those still traumatized by the time they had to dissect a frog in biology class, something better is on the horizon. And, that something has already arrived in some Three Village classrooms.

At the June 6 board meeting, Kerrin Welch-Pollera, executive director of instructional technology, spoke of the most recent tech upgrades in the district, including the district’s new virtual reality workstations, known as zSpace. She also pointed out that benefits of zSpace, which is up and running at all of the secondary schools, already are evident in Ward Melville’s general labs and anatomy and physiology classes — that’s where the frogs don’t come in.

Interactive, virtual reality consoles were recently introduced at Three Village schools. Photo from the Three Village Central School District

Pollera explained that students use special glasses and a stylus to manipulate virtual organs and subjects from various angles and distances so that they can “interact directly with the content.” She added that zSpace can be used to teach students various topics, like forces of motion and virtual 3-D sculpting, and enables them to do things they could not do in a regular lab, such as see and dissect a human heart, manipulate DNA, or take apart a car engine.

Additionally, Kevin Scanlon, assistant superintendent for educational services, said summer curriculum writing projects will work to further incorporate zSpace into courses.

Pollera, who was recognized during the meeting for receiving the honor of District Administrator Award from the New York Library Association–Section of School Libraries, also spoke about new Chromebooks in elementary classrooms and the installation of interactive, virtual reality workstations at the secondary schools.

As part of the district’s one-to-one device initiative, ninth-grade students at both junior highs received the first wave of Chromebooks in March. After summer break, the notebook computers will be returned to students for use in 10th grade, while next year’s seventh- through ninth-graders will also receive Chromebooks to use at home and at school. Pollera said the district is awaiting approval from the state for its Smart Schools funding, which finances improvements to educational technology, to cover the cost of more Chromebooks, which will be issued to 11th- and 12th-graders.

Three Village students work at interactive, virtual reality consoles. Photo from the Three Village Central School District

In other news, the board approved several administrative appointments, including new principals at P.J. Gelinas Junior High and Setauket Elementary School. Corinne Keane, assistant principal at P.J. Gelinas, was named principal of the school, where she has taught or been an administrator for 15 years. She will take over for William Bernhard, who will be the new principal at Ward Melville High School. Current principal Alan Baum will leave his position at Ward Melville to become the district’s executive director of secondary curriculum and human resources.

Setauket Elementary School will welcome Kristin Rimmer, acting principal at the school this year, as its permanent head. Rimmer began teaching in the district in 2004 and was previously assistant principal and preschool liaison at Nassakeag Elementary School.

Also appointed were Nathalie Lilavois for the position of districtwide director of elementary curriculum and Kerri Golini for director of foreign language and English as a new language.

Benner’s Farm shared the sweetness of late spring with its annual Strawberry Fair June 9 and 10. Attendees enjoyed old-fashioned games, live music and strawberry treats, including chocolate-covered ones. Children took turns learning how to make ice cream, visited with Benner’s animals and enjoyed the farm’s big swing.

Members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America held a press conference in Hauppauge June 1 before the illumination of the H. Lee Dennison building to commemorate Gun Violence Awareness Day. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Suffolk County is showing its support for a national movement using light.

On June 1, the H. Lee Dennison Suffolk County headquarters building in Hauppauge was illuminated in orange — the color adopted by activists working to reduce gun violence. The illumination will last until June 5 and began the night before Suffolk County’s Gun Violence Awareness Day. The event was designated to honor the lives of gun violence victims through legislation cosponsored by county legislators Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood), William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) and Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville).

The H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge illuminated in orange to commemorate Gun Violence Awareness Day. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Before the initial illumination June 1, members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America gathered in the building’s lobby for a press conference. Hahn said orange was chosen by high school students in Chicago in 2013 after their friend was murdered because they knew hunters wear orange to prevent being shot by others.

The legislator talked about the day of the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012 when she returned home after visiting with her daughter’s kindergarten class and heard the news. Hahn said the tragedy inspired her to author legislation requiring Suffolk County law enforcement agencies to cross reference the names and addresses of suspects transported to Stony Brook University’s Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program with the county’s pistol license registration. She said the bipartisan legislature unanimously passed the piece of legislation in 2013.

“There is no reason this country can’t have stronger laws,” she said. “We can have the 2nd Amendment, and we can have stronger laws that protect our children.”

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn addresses attendees at a Gun Violence Awareness Day event in Hauppauge June 1. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Moms Demand Action advocate Gemma Saylor discussed the importance of speaking up.

“We all have a voice, and we must use it,” she said. “We have a voice, and we can use it to provide comfort to grieving families. We have a voice, and we can use it to raise awareness about the enormous number of lives taken by gun violence every single year, every single day.”

Shenee Johnson, of Queens, and Paul Guttenberg, of Commack, were in attendance to share their stories of losing loved ones to gun violence. In 2010, Johnson’s 17-year-old son, Kedrick Morrow, was shot and killed at a party. She said while she feels it was once believed gun violence only happened in certain neighborhoods, unfortunately tragedies like Sandy Hook and Parkland have made Americans realize otherwise, and the victims’ families have become one in the fight against gun violence.

“We are the vanguards, we’re on the frontline, and we’re going to do everything we can,” she said, adding no parent should be fearful when dropping his or her child off at school.

“This can happen to anyone and anywhere. This could happen here to us, and it already happened to me.”

— Paul Guttenberg

Guttenberg’s niece Jaime was killed during the Parkland shooting Feb. 14 when a shot from the killer’s AR-15 rifle severed her spinal cord. He detailed the depth of emotion he felt the day of the shooting. At first, Guttenberg said he had hoped his niece had left her phone in a backpack when he first received news his nephew arrived home safe and sound, but his brother and sister-in-law hadn’t heard from Jaime. Later that hope turned into despair when he received the news she was one of the victims who was fatally shot.

“How could this have happened,” he said. “I remember hearing about mass shootings on the news, but you never think you’ll be so affected until you are. This can happen to anyone and anywhere. This could happen here to us, and it already happened to me.”

Guttenberg has spoken at a number of rallies on Long island, and his brother Fred, Jaime’s father, has become an activist for stricter gun legislation.

“Jaime’s murder is now a national tragedy, but for my family it is deeply personal and unsettling,“ Guttenberg said. “We are strong. We are resolute, and we will make Jaime’s memory a blessing.”

P.J. Gelinas Junior High School Principal William Bernhard will take Alan Baum’s place as Ward Melville principal in August. Photo from Three Village Central School District

By Rita J. Egan

Some junior high school graduates will see a familiar face among staff members at Ward Melville High School in September.

P.J. Gelinas Junior High School Principal William Bernhard will take on the role of high school principal when Alan Baum moves to the school district’s administrative office to start his new position as executive director of secondary curriculum and human resources in August.

“This is a truly wonderful community where the primary emphasis is on our kids.”

— William Bernhard

Bernhard has been principal at Gelinas for four years and has worked for the Three Village Central School District for 21 years. Before becoming principal of the junior high school, Bernhard said he was a math teacher and mathematics chairman in Ward Melville. He also has lectured at Stony Brook University’s mathematics and applied math departments for more than two decades. His work at SBU earned him the State University of New York’s Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Adjunct Teaching for the academic year 2016–17.

The Stony Brook resident said he was excited when he heard he was going to be the new principal at Ward Melville.

“This is a truly wonderful community where the primary emphasis is on our kids,” Bernhard said. “I look forward to working with the school’s outstanding faculty.”

Working with exceptional co-workers is something Bernhard is familiar with, and he said he will miss the staff members at the junior school.

“There are amazing people at Gelinas who do so much for students,” he said. “They have inspired me.”

Three Village Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich said Bernhard’s previous experience in the district will be an asset in his new position.

“Mr. Bernhard is a dedicated leader who is able to make strong connections with parents, students and staff.”

— Cheryl Pedisich

“Mr. Bernhard is a dedicated leader who is able to make strong connections with parents, students and staff,” she said in a statement. “Given his previous work at Ward Melville and passion for education, we are confident that he will enable our district to continue the tradition of providing an excellent education befitting the Three Village community.”

In his new role as high school principal, Bernhard said he hopes “to continue to strengthen the academic program of this historic institution.” To help him with these goals, Baum offered some advice.

“Ward Melville is a great institution filled with incredible students and amazing staff,” he said. “Be sure to include them in your decision-making process and never lose sight of your objective: To help provide a well-rounded, enriched educational experience for all students. Stay open-minded, be fair and, above all, enjoy this professional opportunity to grow.”

The Three Village school district is currently searching for a replacement for Bernhard. In his new role, the principal said he looks forward to seeing Gelinas students in the near future.

“I will be waiting for you at our wonderful high school to take on exciting new endeavors,” he said. “Keep the spirit of Gelinas alive by practicing kindness and wisdom.”

One of several signs that have been placed in front of homes near Kaltenborn Commons located at the intersection of Old Field Road and Quaker Path. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Residents who live near an open space on the border of Old Field and Setauket have noticed something new popping up, and it’s not flowers.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, signs appeared in front of houses in the vicinity of Kaltenborn Commons, a small park located at the intersection of Old Field Road and Quaker Path, protesting a cellphone tower proposed for the location by the Village of Old Field. The signs read: “Save Kaltenborn Commons, say no to cell tower and equipment corral.”

Residents and nonresidents of Old Field are protesting the proposed plan to install a cellphone tower on the grounds of the park known as Kaltenborn Commons saying it will be unaesthetic and create possible health consequences. Photo from the Village of Old Field website

Charles Catania, who lives across from the commons, said he wasn’t sure who put the signs up, but he didn’t mind that there was one in front of his house.

“I think they should be all around,” he said. “I’m in favor of seeing the signs because I don’t think most people are really aware — even to this date — I don’t think most people are aware of what’s going on.”

Old Field and Setauket residents who live near the commons attended multiple Old Field village meetings this year to express their concerns over the installation of a cellphone tower in the open space. Many have cited concerns about the aesthetics of the tower, a potential decrease in real estate values and possible negative health effects.

Catania said he and his wife, Kathleen, attended the meetings in order to understand why the village trustees would want to install a tower at the location that he said many children play in and residents bring their miniature horses to. While the couple had planned to add an extension to their home, he said the plans are on hold until they find out if a tower will be erected or not.

“It’s a blight on this park,” Catania said. “I just can’t imagine that as a gateway to Old Field or anywhere, that they would want this kind of a structure on this park.”

“It’s a blight on this park. I just can’t imagine that as a gateway to Old Field or anywhere, that they would want this kind of a structure on this park.”

— Charles Catania

Former board member John Von Lintig, who lives directly across from the park, presented a petition Feb. 13 signed by 100 residents who were against the installation of the cell tower.

“The opposition of the cellphone tower, or pole as you call it, is primarily based on aesthetic reasons, which tie very closely to the impact on real estate immediately in the vicinity of the tower,” Von Lintig said at the February meeting.

After the appearance of the signs, Von Lintig said in an email that he found that opposition to the tower has grown stronger.

While a vote to approve signing a lease with telecommunications tower site developer Elite Towers LP was tabled in February until new trustees were voted in, no vote has been taken since Bruce Feller and Tom Pirro were sworn in this April. Mayor Michael Levine said the vote could possibly take place at the June 12 meeting, but the village did not confirm a date at press time.

Tanya Negron, founder of Elite Towers, said at a Jan. 9 meeting that the proposed tower would have a 50-by-50-foot footprint. A stealth concealment pole, the slim structure will have cellphone carrier antennae inside, and the only antennae that would be outside are for emergency agencies, such as the fire department, if requested. Negron said no trees will be removed, and the pole will be centralized within the property and set back from the road 132 feet on the west, 130 feet on the east and 160 feet to the south.

Catania said he hopes trustees will sit in the park to understand its beauty before voting.

“Think of what Old Field stands for,” he said. “Think about what you’re always defending in Old Field with regard to it being such a beautiful village and maintaining that character of a village. And think of the families that are surrounding the park and how this cell tower can impact everyone in Old Field.”

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Hundreds lined the streets of East Setauket to catch the annual Memorial Day parade sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars East Setauket Post 3054 May 28.

After an opening ceremony at the Old Village Green, participants marched along Main Street and Route 25A. Members that took part in the walk included those from local VFW posts, Boy Scouts and Girl Scout Troops and the Setauket, Stony Brook and Port Jefferson fire departments. Ward Melville High School and R.C. Murphy Junior High School bands played, and elected officials including U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) joined in the holiday celebration.

At the conclusion of the parade a wreath-laying ceremony was held at the Setauket Veterans Memorial Park on Route 25A.

 

 

 

 

Renovations on the Red Barn in the Frank Melville Memorial Park, including straightening the building, were recently completed. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The weather was finally ideal for Frank Melville Memorial Park trustees, volunteers and friends to celebrate the completion of much-needed repairs to a historic structure.

Workers began restoring the park’s Red Barn at the beginning of September and completed the project a few months later. The 1,056 square-foot barn needed structural restoration, which included straightening, and the building up of the existing foundation to a level where it will be protected from flooding.

“The Melville Park is a historic oasis that now has an improved focal point, the Red Barn, to use to serve a larger population and build a new audience.”

— Kathryn Curran

On May 20 guests of the trustees enjoyed a reception complete with wine, hors d’oeuvres, dinner and desserts from Farm to Table Catering, as well as music from a few of The Jazz Loft performers.

Robert Reuter, president of the Frank Melville Memorial Foundation, thanked those who played a part in restoring the barn including Kathryn Curran, executive director of the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, who helped to secure a $44,330 matching grant for the park.

“Kathryn Curran and the trustees of the foundation saw the real community value in what we’re doing here,” Reuter said. “I think they understood when they saw the application that this really is one of the centers of our community. It’s part of a large area that is rich in history, and it’s often interpreted as that by the historical society and some of the others who celebrate that history.”

He said in addition to the foundation’s endowment, the community’s support also played a big part in the restoration. Trustee Greg Ferguson’s family foundation and another trustee who wished to remain anonymous created a $10,000 matching challenge. Reuter said the trustees’ friends exceeded the goal and came close to matching the Gardiner grant. He said the balance needed for the barn came from park funds that were budgeted for park repairs.

Curran said the Gardiner Foundation seeks out projects through community outreach that advance regional history.

“The Melville Park is a historic oasis that now has an improved focal point, the Red Barn, to use to serve a larger population and build a new audience,” she said.

Curran said she and the foundation board members were pleased with the completed project. Scott Brown was chosen to work on the renovations by the FMMF board and has worked on other Gardiner projects including the Ketcham Inn in Center Moriches, the Modern Times Schoolhouse in Brentwood and the Caroline Church of Brookhaven’s Carriage Shed in Setauket.

“As a restoration carpenter Scott’s empathy to our historic sites is rooted in respect for their traditional construction,” Curran said. “His work helps bring these buildings back to life for their newly designated purposes.”

Principal Alan Baum addresses attendees at the 2017 Ward Melville graduation. Photo by Andrea Paldy

By Rita J. Egan

As Ward Melville High School seniors graduate this June, they won’t be the only ones moving on to new endeavors in the fall.

Alan Baum, who has been the high school principal for 10 years, will be transitioning to a new position within the school district in August. He will be taking on the role of executive director of secondary curriculum and human resources in the district office, while William Bernhard, current P.J. Gelinas Junior High School principal, will take over in the high school.

Alan Baum, current Ward Melville principal, will begin a new position in the school district’s office starting in August. Photo from Three Village Central School District

Baum began his career in the Three Village Central School District in the middle of the 2003-2004 school year when he became assistant principal. The Three Village resident said he taught at Commack High School, and before pursuing a career in education, was a lawyer.

Baum said he always had an interest in working in administration, and when the chance came he took advantage of it.

“The opportunity to fulfill these professional goals was presented, and I wanted to take advantage of utilizing the expertise I have developed over my many years as a secondary school teacher and administrator, as well as my knowledge as a former attorney,” Baum said.

District Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich is supportive of the change.

“Dr. Baum possess a strong skill set and professional background — both in the classroom and as part of our administrative team — that will enable our district to develop initiatives to enhance our overall program,” Pedisich said in a statement. “He is committed to ensuring that our students as well as staff are supported in a way that promotes personal growth, and we are confident that he will be a true asset in this new role.”

When it comes to starting his new position, Baum already has goals in mind.

“This new role gives me the opportunity to work more closely with our superintendent and district leadership in helping our district enhance our instruction and resources to promote even greater successes and achievements,” he said.

While the principal is looking forward to his new role, there are aspects he said he will miss of his current position, like the students and staff.

“The day-to-day interactions, excitement and vibrancy of everything that is Ward Melville,” he said he’s going to miss.

During his tenure at the school, Baum tackled difficult issues, including the opioid crisis and introducing gender-neutral graduation gowns.

“Ward Melville is a great institution filled with incredible students and amazing staff.”

— Alan Baum

In a previous interview with The Village Times Herald, he said he never shied away from the local drug problem. In 2014, he was trained to administer Narcan, a medicine used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. After his experience, he had the high school staff trained in its use. Now, all elementary and secondary school staff members in the district have also been trained.

When it came to the debate over gender-neutral graduation gowns in the winter of 2017, while many students and parents were against the district abandoning the tradition of males wearing green gowns and females wearing yellow ones, and switching to green gowns for all students, Baum showed support for the school district’s decision.

“In addition to creating a unified senior class, it is our hope that creating a unifying color scheme will eliminate the anxiety that is caused by forcing a young adult to wear a gown that labels them differently from how they identify,” he wrote in a March 2, 2017, letter to Three Village parents.

When it comes to navigating the issues and concerns that a high school principal may encounter, Baum had advice for Bernhard.

“Ward Melville is a great institution filled with incredible students and amazing staff,” he said. “Be sure to include them in your decision-making process and never lose sight of your objective: to help provide a well-rounded, enriched educational experience for all students. Stay open-minded, be fair and, above all, enjoy this professional opportunity to grow.”

The principal said he is proud of the students of Ward Melville and also had some parting words for them.

“I would like our students to always feel empowered to do their best in whatever they chose to do and always do the right thing — to be positive ambassadors for change not only in our community but our world,” he said. “I would remind them that their actions today can have great ripple effect on our future and to embrace the strong system of support they have not only at our high school, but within our school district and broader community.”

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