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Sara-Megan Walsh

Sara-Megan Walsh
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Huntington Manor Fire Department members unveil the new sign at the entrance of the newly-named Depot Road Richard W. Holst Memorial Park. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Eight years after the tragic death of a Huntington Manor firefighter, a town park has been renamed to honor his service to the community.

Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) and the town board announced Depot Road Park is now officially Richard W. Holst Memorial Park, renamed after the late fire police captain, chaplain, and posthumous honorary chief of Huntington Manor Fire Department.

“It is our honor to rededicate this park in his name for his heroic efforts and his giving to this community, continuously,” Petrone said.

Noreen Holst, Huntington Town Board members and Huntington Manor Fire Department members unveil a memorial plaque dedicated to Richard W. Holst. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Holst, a U.S. Navy veteran, joined the Huntington Manor fire department in 1978. He served for 31 years, spending 26 of those as the department’s chaplain and captain of the fire police. Prior to his death, Holst was elected chief chaplain of the New York State Association of Fire Chaplains in 2008. His fellow firefighters affectionately called him, “the Rev.”

“As chaplain, Rich spent countless hours looking after, comforting and at times consoling members and families of the Huntington Manor Fire Department,” said Jon Hoffman, first assistant chief of Huntington Manor Fire Department. “Today, we dedicate this stone and plaque in honor of Richie. It will stay here for years and watch over the people in this park as Richie did for us for so many years.”

In the early morning of Sept. 9, 2009, Holst was walking to 7-Eleven on Depot Road when he saw smoke rising from the adjacent shopping center. He reported the fire and immediately went to the scene to begin evacuation of the stores and checking for possible trapped occupants. Shortly after firefighters arrived, Holst suffered a heart attack and died.

The fire was determined to have started in Uber Cafe, a bagel shop, and police later ruled the incident arson, Petrone said. One of the shop’s owners pled guilty to attempted arson, the second owner was later convicted of arson.

Depot Road Park in Huntington was renamed for former Huntington Manor Fire Department member Richard W. Holst.

The newly renamed Huntington Station park off East 20th Street is only a few hundred feet from the site of the fatal fire. It features a playground and Little League baseball fields. 

“Depot Road Park is a special place, it’s a hidden gem in our park system,” Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) said. “I think like many of you firefighters who knew Chief Holst, he was a hidden gem in our community. He was someone who was there to serve, dedicated his life to service in the [U.S.] Navy and in the fire department, then the important role of chaplain. So much of his time was dedicated to others.”

In addition to the park’s new signage, a large stone was unveiled bearing a memorial plaque with Holt’s image, notes about his accomplishments and details about his death. Deacon Edward Billia from St. Hugh of Lincoln Roman Catholic Church said a blessing over both the sign and memorial stone.

Noreen Holst appeared deeply touched by the tribute paid to her late husband. While she declined to speak publicly, she clutched a tissue in hand while Huntington Manor Assistant Chief Chuck Brady thanked all those who attended Saturday’s ceremony on behalf of the family. 

Huntington Manor Fire Commissioner Chris Fusaro encouraged the young members of the organization to take a long look around at those gathered and ask to hear personal stories about Holst’s exemplary life. 

“For all you who don’t know what firefighters do, it’s day and night, holidays and weekends when you get up from the table, get out of bed to go and respond,” Fusaro said. “Rich did that. He did it willingly and always from his heart.”

Huntington Manor firefighters salute their former colleague. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

A rendering of what the front of the proposed new St. James firehouse would look like. Image from St. James Fire District

St. James residents are being asked to vote Sept. 19 on whether to fund a new fire department building.

St. James fire commissioners are proposing a $12.25 million capital bond project to build a new 22,458-square-foot Jefferson Avenue facility.

The proposed Jefferson Avenue facility would be more than three times the size of the existing 7,407-square-foot building. The additional space would include spaces to serve as accommodations for firefighters and community members during storms or major emergencies, in addition to a meeting room for district and public use. It would be built in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, as the current firehouse is not.

The estimated cost of the proposed plan to consolidate to one Jefferson Avenue facility would be an increase of approximately $118 to $198 a year for taxpayers based on their home’s assessed value.

Polls will be open Sept. 19 from 3 to 9 p.m. at the Jefferson Avenue firehouse, located at 221 Jefferson Ave. in St. James. Residents in Election District 79 can vote at the Fairfield Condos in St. James.

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Catholic Guardian Services supports the needy, providing food and shelter. One preparing to move into Smithtown will house disabled adults. Photo from Facebook

There’s a new neighbor preparing to move onto Long Hill Road in Smithtown, but residents have troubling concerns as to whether an adult group home will fit into their quiet community.

Long Hill Road residents presented a petition to Town of Smithtown officials at their Sept. 5 meeting to voice their concerns about a property recently purchased to build a group home for six developmentally disabled adults.

“This is not against the group home or the people in it, it’s against the location,” said Long Hill Road resident Richard Troise. “It’s the fact the town didn’t even look at the location. It’s not a good location for the amount of cars and traffic.”

Catholic Guardian Services, a religious nonprofit that provides a wide array of services and support for the needy in New York, purchased the Long Hill Road property in mid-August for approximately $440,000 to house six women, according to Executive Director Craig Longley. He said the women are “profoundly disabled,” all diagnosed with a developmental disability, in addition to being blind or visually impaired, deaf, and even wheelchair bound.

Troise and several of his neighbors are opposed to the development, concerned it will negatively impact the quality of life on their dead-end street. They point to medical personnel entering and exiting the property as a potential increase to traffic and safety hazards on a block where several families with young children reside.

“One of the reasons given to decline this group home is the nature and the character of the surrounding area would be substantially altered,” said Joan Zipfel, a Long Hill Road resident. “[It will create] frequent traffic continually driving up and down the cul-de-sac, which by nature necessitates a turn around. The negative impact of allowing this particular group home should have been addressed.”

Residents’ objections may be too late to make a difference. Smithtown residents want to know why town officials never informed them of the proposed plans for a group home on the end of their block.

Catholic Guardian Services sent a letter dated March 17 to town officials providing notice of the organization’s intention to purchase the property for a group home in accordance with state law, Longley said. The letter gave a 40-day time frame for the town to either object or respond with any concerns.

“When I got the letter, I called to speak to the director of the agency,” Supervisor Patrick Vecchio (R) said. “I called and asked them if they were going to be doing outreach to the community. I was told they would notify residents.”

Troise said he and his neighbors never received a letter or any contact from Catholic Guardian Services prior to closing on the property.

Longley said there may have been “some miscommunication” between parties. He said it is not within his organization’s standard practice to notify individual residents of new developments, but rather reach out to a community board or government to see if there are concerns. If issues are raised, the nonprofit hosts a community forum, presents their plans and answer any questions.

“In the absence [of a response], we assumed there was no opposition or no concerns,” Longley said. “We would be happy to meet with the community to share who we are and our intention of being the best of neighbors.”

Longley said the nonprofit plans to spend approximately $600,000 to renovate the property.

The group home will have three staff members per eight-hour shift, with three shifts per day. Additionally, there may be transport vehicles to get residents to and from daycare programs, but Longley said he didn’t expect ambulances or other medical vehicles to be traveling to and from the adult home on a regular basis.

Catholic Guardian Services will plan for an open house in the future, according to Longley, and invite those concerned to tour one of their other group homes on Long Island.

Former Huntington Councilwoman Tracey Edwards won the Democratic town supervisor primary. File photo by Kevin Redding

The risky decision by Huntington Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) to run for town supervisor rather than seek re-election to the town board has paid off so far following her primary night victory Sept. 12.

Edwards beat challenger and Centerport resident Darryl St. George (D), 3,482 votes to 1,664 votes, in the primary to become the Huntington Democratic Party candidate for town supervisor, based on the unofficial election results posted Sept. 13 by the Suffolk County Board of Elections.

Darryl St. George

Winning more than 60 percent of the overall vote, Edwards is already looking forward to the general election.

“I am ecstatic,” Edwards said. “You are always a little nervous, of course. But I was ecstatic to receive the confidence of the Democratic voters.”

The councilwoman said she had already reached out to St. George Wednesday morning to speak to him about working together in the runup to the November general election. 

“I would like to call on Darryl and his supporters to join forces,” Edwards said. “We must work together to advance our Democratic and Progressive goals. Division will not lead us to victory.” 

St. George could not be reached for comment.

Edwards was elected to the town board in 2014, after serving 10 years on the board of education in the Elwood school district. She previously served on the board of directors of the Long Island Association and worked for 37 years at Verizon, starting as an operator and climbing the ladder to regional president of network operations.

“My priority No. 1 is the safety and protection of families,” Edwards said. “What we want to put together and what we want to share is our bold platform which focuses on safety by tackling the gang problem and eliminating the opioid and heroin epidemic in our town.”

Tracey Edwards

Over the last three years, Edwards spearheaded the creation of Huntington Opportunity Resource Center, a program that offers assistance with job hunting and career training for unemployed and underemployed residents. She has also been an advocate for Huntington Station revitalization, a plan which includes construction of veterans housing, art space, stores, sidewalks and a parking garage, while also working to stamp out crime.

Edwards has more than $150,000 available in her war chest to spend in the lead up to the Nov. 7 election, according to the 11-day pre-primary financial disclosure report filed with New York State Board of Elections.

The Town of Huntington supervisor race is wide open as incumbent Supervisor Frank Petrone (D), 72, announced in April he would not be seeking re-election. He has served for nearly a quarter of a century, as he was first elected to the position in 1993.

Edwards is running on the Democratic, Independent, Working Families and Women’s Equality lines. She will face-off against Republican candidate, state Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R) and a Green Party candidate, pending the outcome of the Sept. 12 primary.

The Town of Smithtown will have a different look in 2018. File photo by Phil Corso

No clear winner has emerged in the Smithtown Republican primary for town supervisor as a narrow 39-vote margin at the close of polls Sept. 12 left the outcome undecided, pending a count of absentee ballots.

Smithtown Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) holds a razor-thin lead on incumbent town Supervisor Patrick Vecchio (R), 2,822 votes to 2,783, in the unofficial election results posted Sept. 13 by the Suffolk County Board of Elections.

“By definition, it’s too close to call,” said Nick LaLota, the Republican commissioner for the county board of elections. “The number of paper ballots outstanding exceeds the margin of victory by machine. It is literally too close to call.”

LaLota said the board of elections has received 322 absentee ballots as of Sept. 13. He said he expects the county may still receive a few dozen additional ballots over the next week. Absentee ballots must have been postmarked by Sept. 11 and received by the county by Sept. 19 to be valid.

“I am confident that we will remain victorious once they are opened,” Wehrheim said Wednesday morning.

The councilman said his campaign, along with Smithtown Republican Committee Chairman Bill Ellis, ran an extensive absentee voter outreach campaign leading up to the primary race.

“A lot is going to depend on how the absentee ballots go,” Ellis said in a phone interview. “We worked aggressively and I believe a lot of the absentees we had contact with voted for the entire team.”

LaLota said he anticipates by Sept. 25 the Suffolk County Board of Elections will have all the voting machines and paper ballots to be checked, and will have given sufficient notice to both campaigns in order to begin counting absentee votes.

The process of counting paper ballots involves opening each absentee envelope, allowing the ballot to be reviewed by a board of elections inspector and campaign observers, potentially including attorneys representing the campaigns. If there are any objections to the validity of a ballot it will be recorded.

The final outcome of the primary race may remain unknown until late September.

“With 300-plus ballots, I’d assume it’s going to take a few days,” LaLota said. “Attorneys have been known to gum up the process.”

Vecchio wrote the primary’s outcome was “still questionable” in an email statement, and that he was uncertain about the odds of being declared the Republican candidate after the absentee ballots were counted.

This is not the first time Vecchio has been challenged by his own party in a primary for town supervisor. In 2013, he faced off against former town councilman Robert Creighton (R) and prior to that, Jane Conway in 2005. In both of these primaries, Vecchio had a decisive victory at the polls.

“Against both Jane Conway and Bob Creighton, the results were substantially in Mr. Vecchio’s favor,” Ellis said. “Never has he lost on the [voting] machines to anyone.”

If Wehrheim remains victorious, he will be running for Smithtown town supervisor on the Republican, Conservative and Independent party lines in November.

Wehrheim currently has approximately $59,000 available in his war chest to spend on the general election, according to the 11-day pre-primary financial disclosure report filed with New York State Board of Elections.

“We won’t start campaigning until [the absentee ballots] are opened,” Wehrheim said. “Once they are open and the decision is finalized, then we will begin to carry on for the general election if we are the successful candidate.”

The winner of the Republican town supervisor primary will face off Nov. 7 against Democratic Party candidate William Holst and Kristen Slevin, running under her own None of the Above campaign.

Huntington residents proudly marched in the annual Huntington Awareness Day parade Sept. 9, celebrating this year’s theme “unity in the community.” The annual parade and fair, sponsored by the Huntington Awareness Community Partnership, aims to raise awareness and foster a sense of solidarity among community members. Parade goers stepped off from Huntington High School, down Oakwood Road to Stimson Middle School where there were carnival rides, food and games to enjoy.

Smithtown Town Hall. File photo

Four Republican candidates — two incumbents and two challengers — are ready to face off Sept. 12 to get their name on the party line this November. There are two seats that are up for grabs on the Smithtown town council, each for a four-year term.

Bob Doyle. Photo by Nicole Garguilo

Bob Doyle

Doyle, 66, of Nesconset, has 37 years in law enforcement under his belt. He  is a former Suffolk homicide detective and served in the U.S. Army during Vietnam. He created what became the Suffolk County gang task force and has spent most of his career bringing MS-13 gang members to justice.

As president of the Country Pointe Homeowners Association, he  has experience running a large sewer treatment plant. Doyle said he is determined to bring sewers to the three downtown hamlets.

If elected, Doyle said he wants to restore the town’s infrastructure — including its curving roads and sidewalks — bring in smart business development to the downtown areas, and create a more transparent town board.

“Don’t you want to elect a new team that has the leadership, the vision and the energy to accomplish that?” Doyle said. “I’m hoping, ultimately for a clean slate because we need to get the job done for the citizens of Smithtown. I’m ready to hit the ground running once I’m sworn in.”

Tom Lohmann. Photo by Johnny Cirillo

Tom Lohmann

The former member of the New York City Police Department and current investigator for the county district attorney’s  insurance crime bureau said he’s stepping into the political arena for the first time because he’s unhappy with how his town’s government has operated in recent years.

“Smithtown used to be the town that most townships wanted to emulate,” Lohmann, 59, a Smithtown native, said. “We had bustling downtown districts and it was just a great community. But over the years, I don’t think the town has kept up with the influx of people and our streets, ball fields and marinas are not what they once were.”

Lohmann said he hopes for a more transparent, committed and cohesive town board if elected.

“We still don’t even have sewer systems,” he said. “In good conscience, I was no longer going to stand by. I have the work experience and leadership to do things. I’ve always been a doer and the time for talking is over, it’s now the time for action.”

Tom McCarthy. File photo

Tom McCarthy

McCarthy, a former local business owner who has served on the town board since 1998, wears a lot of hats at town hall. He has spearheaded multiple recent projects, such as planting more than 100 trees throughout Smithtown, pushing the infrastructural rebuilding of Lake Avenue in St. James, and has been evaluating the possible purchase of the administrative building from the Smithtown school district.

The Nesconset native also serves as deputy town supervisor and is actively working to develop sewers with $40 million in state funds, which will be split between Kings Park and Smithtown.

He said he would look forward to another four years on the board with Supervisor Patrick Vecchio (R) and Nowick.

“We just want to continue making Smithtown greater,” McCarthy said. “Financially, we’re in the best shape the town has ever been in, we have a triple A bond rating, and a tax decrease coming up in 2018. There’s so much positive going on right now and it is not time for a change.”

Lynn Nowick. File photo

Lynn Nowick

A lifelong resident of St. James, Nowick, a former county legislator and tax receiver for Smithtown, followed in the footsteps of her father, the late Councilman Eugene Cannataro (R), when she ran and was elected to the town board in 2013.

In her 22 years as an elected official, Nowick said she has been a strong advocate for open space and preservation, in areas like Head of the Harbor and the Nissequogue River. She championed much of the current sewer project and revitalization efforts in Smithtown, Kings Park and St. James.

If elected, Nowick said she wants to continue to keep taxes low, get sewers into the downtown areas and maintain Smithtown’s quality of life — which she considers to be a major priority among residents.

“When it comes down to it, it’s about the parks, the beaches, the golf courses, sidewalks, roads, and if we can get sewers and our downtowns back up, it’s going to be a bonanza for the town,” Nowick said.

Go Vote

Polls will be open for primaries Sept. 12, 6 a.m. – 9 p.m. Town of Smithtown residents are eligible to vote in the town council race if: you are a registered Republican, are at least 18 years old, have lived at your current address at least 30 days before the election, and not been in prison or on parole for a felony conviction.

To double check if you are registered to vote, check on the state’s website at voterlookup.elections.state.ny.us/votersearch.aspx.

Huntington Town Hall. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Two hopefuls will face off in the Sept. 15 primary to win the Democratic party line in the wide-open race for the Huntington Town supervisor seat. For many, it is the first Democratic primary for town supervisor they can vote in.

Incumbent Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D), 72, announced in April he would not be seeking re-election.. He has served for nearly a quarter of a century, as he was first elected to the position in 1993.

Town Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) will compete for votes against community leader Darryl St. George (D), of Centerport, to determine who will attempt to fill Petrone’s shoes.

Tracey Edwards

Edwards has made the decision to step forward and run for supervisor, rather than seek re-election to a second term as a town council member. If she does not win the Democratic primary, she may no longer serve Huntington as an elected official.

“I chose to run for town supervisor versus running for re-election,” Edwards said. “This is not about me. This is about what I believe is best for Huntington.”

Tracey Edward

Edwards was elected to the town board in 2014, after serving 10 years on the board of education in the Elwood school district. She previously served on the board of directors of the Long Island Association and worked for 37 years at Verizon, starting as an operator and climbing the ladder to regional president of network operations.

Over the last three years, Edwards spearheaded the creation of Huntington Opportunity Resource Center, a program that offers assistance with job hunting and career training for unemployed and underemployed residents. She has also been an advocate for Huntington Station revitalization, a plan which includes construction of veteran’s housing, art space, stores, sidewalks, and a parking garage while also working to stamp out crime.

“The biggest issue is public safety and safe neighborhoods,” Edwards said. “That is always No. 1.”

If elected supervisor, Edwards said her primary goal is to improve public safety, making more affordable housing for millenials and seniors, working with families to address ever growing opioid and heroin dependency, and expanding the town’s environmental initiatives.

“I think what [voters] have to do is really decide who has the business experience, the civic experience and governmental experience to make the changes necessary to take the town forward,” Edwards said. “We have work to do.”

Edwards will be attending Huntington Awareness Day, Sept. 9 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Stimson Middle School, located at 401 Oakwood Road in Huntington Station

Darryl  St. George

St. George was one of the first to announce he would seek election as town supervisor in February, prior to Petrone’s announcement he would not seek re-election. He said he previously contemplated running for town board in 2015.

“The political landscape from February till now has shifted dramatically, what has not shifted is my resolve,” St. George said.

St. George works as a Northport High School teacher, where he is the co-advisor of Northport High School branch of Students Against Destructive Decisions and the advisor of Project Vets, a club that works to improve the lives of veterans once they return home. He previously taught at St. Anthony’s High School in Huntington.

Darryl St. George

St. George is a U.S. Navy veteran who served a nine-month tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2011. Upon returning home, he served as the president of Greenlawn Civic Association for three years. In that role, St. George said he addressed public safety issues and opioid and heroin addiction.

“I was proud to be in that position,” St. George said. “I felt we were able to grow the civic association and get a lot of young people involved.”

If elected supervisor, St. George said he would focus on improving public safety by addressing in addition to opioid addiction, gang issues, protection of the environment and democratic reform to make town government more accessible for people to become involved.

“The real difference between the supervisor and the town board is a supervisor must be a leader,” he said. “A leader should have a vision and be able to communicate that vision clearly, build consensus on the town board and in the community so the vision can be translated into action. I have a track record of doing that as a teacher, as a veteran who served in the U.S. Navy,  as a civic leader and as an activist.”

St. George will be holding a fundraising event Sept. 9 at 6:45 p.m. at the Conklin Brush Barn, located at 2 High Street in Huntington.

Polls will be open for primaries Sept. 12 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Huntington Town residents are eligible to vote in the supervisor race if you are a registered Democrat,  at least 18 years old, have lived at your current address at least 30 days before the election, and have not been in prison or on parole for a felony conviction.

To double check if you are registered to vote, visit the state’s website at voterlookup.elections.state.ny.us/votersearch.aspx.

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Smithtown Town Hall. File photo

Two elected Republican officials will face off against one another in the Sept. 12 primary to see who will get the party line in this November’s election for Smithtown town supervisor.

Incumbent town Supervisor Patrick Vecchio (R) is being challenged by Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) who received the Smithtown Republican Committee’s official nomination at the party’s convention May 30.

Pat Vecchio. File photo

Patrick Vecchio

Vecchio, 87, is the longest-presiding town supervisor in the history of New York state. First elected in 1977, he announced his intention to seek re-election to his 14th term in May.

“For 40 years I’ve stood on these steps to be sworn in [and] you may be wondering why,” Vecchio said in May. “I do it because I love to help people and truly love what I do, and each day that I go to work has been a pleasure. [Sure], there have been times I’ve thrown the phone book on the floor and slammed the telephone down, but I still love what I do and want to continue working with these people to make this the best town, not only in Suffolk County but maybe in New York state.”

Under Vecchio’s leadership, Smithtown stands as one of the most fiscally stable municipalities in the county with a triple-A bond rating. There was no tax increase on residents in 2017, and it’s predicted that there won’t be a tax hike in 2018 either.

The Town of Smithtown was also the first municipality in the state to pass the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, giving credit to Vecchio’s environmental record. The supervisor has also passed several initiatives to provide affordable housing for senior citizens.

Ed Wehrheim. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Ed Wehrheim

Wehrheim has served on the town board since April 2003 when he was first appointed by Vecchio to fill the seat left by state Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James). He now seeks to unseat the man who appointed him.

“I believe people are ready for a new beginning, and that’s across the gamut,” Wehrheim said.

The councilman has served as the director of parks, building and grounds in the Town of Smithtown managing an $8 million budget and frequently works with other departments.

However, he said over the last eight-to-10 years he’s seen a gradual deterioration of the parks and community spaces within the town.

“We need to begin to levy our triple-A bond rating and low debt to begin to upgrade our parks and recreational facilities,” Wehrheim said.

If elected supervisor, his other goals including bringing greater transparency to town government and the implementation of a business advisory council to aid in the creation of new development plans. Much of this, Wehrheim said could be possible with recent state funding given to the town.

“We need an energetic, full-time town board to begin to wisely use that money to improve Smithtown wisely,” he said.

Go vote

Polls will be open for Sept. 12 primaries, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Town of Smithtown residents are eligible to vote in the supervisor race if a registered Republican, are at least 18 years old, have lived at the current address at least 30 days before the election, and not been in prison or on parole for a felony conviction.

To double check if you are registered to vote, check on the state’s website at voterlookup.elections.state.ny.us/votersearch.aspx.

Elwood Middle School’s new principal Christina Sapienza meets and greets students Aug. 24. Photos from Elwood school district

Elwood Middle School students are kicking off the new 2017-18 school year with a new principal at the helm.

Christina Sapienza, the newest middle school principal met sixth- to eighth-graders for their first day Sept. 5. She was  appointed to the position by Elwood’s board of education over the summer.

“We knew we needed to find a real all-star for the students of Elwood Middle School,” said Superintendent  Kenneth Bossert in a statement. “Dr. Sapienza was a candidate who didn’t just want a job, she wanted a position in a district where she felt she could really be successful and make a difference. I am confident that she is the right person to do that here.”

Sapienza said she grew up in Huntington and went to St. Joseph’s College in North Patchogue. She received her doctorate degree in educational leadership from Concordia University in Chicago.

“I’ve always been very passionate about working with middle school-aged students,” she said. “It’s a unique time in their development where they need strong, trusting, loving adults in their lives that can help support them as they develop their sense of self.”

Elwood Middle School’s new principal Christina Sapienza meets and greets students Aug. 24. Photos from Elwood school district

Sapienza has extensive experience as an educator and nearly a decade of administrative experience. In her career, she previously worked as a special education teacher in the Plainview-Old Bethpage Central School District and was an assistant principal for Oceanside schools in Nassau for six years. Sapienza is coming to Elwood from her most recent role as assistant principal at Commack Middle School for three years.

“What I recognized very quickly about the Elwood school district is it has a strong sense of community, which I am really excited to be a part of,” she said.

Over the course of the summer, Sapienza said she’s had the opportunity to meet Elwood’s teachers and staff in preparation for her new role. Middle school students and their families were invited to a special meet and greet with the new principal Aug. 24.

The first thing I hear from everyone I meet is, ‘You are going to love it here,’” Sapienza said. “People could not be kinder or more supportive.”

As the new principal, Sapienza said one of her main goals is to get Elwood’s parents, teachers and staff immersed in learning more about the adolescent development of middle school-aged students and how that influences providing instruction and support to them.

This has been a focus of Sapienza’s career as a member of the national Association for Middle Level Education. She has traveled across the country for more than five years as a AMLE presenter teaching other educators about the best practices for teaching middle school-aged children given their stage of psychological and physiological development.

“I hope to bring my passion and passion for middle school learning to everyone who speaks to me,” Sapienza said. “I want to spend this year learning about the Elwood culture and community.”

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