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TBR Staff

TBR Staff
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TBR News Media covers everything happening on the North Shore of Suffolk County from Cold Spring Harbor to Wading River.

Miller Place officials proposed a driver's education program for next year. Stock photo

The Miller Place school district plans to bring a driver’s education program back to the district after roughly 10 years without it.

At the Feb. 25 budget meeting, Superintendent Marianne Higuera included a summer pilot driver’s education program in the budget — at no cost to the district. She said course fees would cover the cost of the self-sustaining program.

The district decided to add the program back as there is no location in Miller Place for students to take driver’s education. Currently, they must travel to neighboring districts or schools to participate.

No details have been made regarding the program, but the district expects to have more information at the end of May.

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Jay Matuk

As a high school principal for the past 17 years, I am deeply troubled by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau’s recent decision approving the labeling of a new form of powdered alcohol called Palcohol. This substance can be easily mixed with water or any other beverage, making it a camouflaged cocktail drink that is as easy to make as lemonade or iced tea. On so many levels, I find this decision by the manufacturer, Lipsmark LLC, to market this product a truly disturbing one.

Schools across the nation are engaged in an ongoing struggle to address the rampant alcohol and substance abuse issues that plague our communities. Each year, educational leaders and support staff must be able to identify in our students the physiological symptoms caused by the latest “designer” drugs; each year, it seems some new pharmaceutical grade substance becomes popularized in mainstream teenage culture, and before you know it, you have an epidemic on your hands. Just look at the impact that misuse of opiates has had on young adults over the past few years. I know of far too many school districts that have seen current students or graduates succumb to this or other narcotics. I weary of attending more gut-wrenching funerals for children lost to this plague. Now we have the addition of a powdered alcohol mix, which can be added to any bottled beverage while hundreds of students occupy a cafeteria. There is just no level of adult supervision that could prevent the creation of such a cocktail in school. Adolescents being risk-takers by nature, one can only imagine the out-of-school “drinking game” opportunities this new substance would create as well.

For the last three years, I have served on the Board of Directors of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (LICADD). This organization provides outreach and counseling services to thousands of individuals and families facing addiction issues on Long Island and in New York City. LICADD also works with dozens of school districts to provide training, counseling and program assistance to overwhelmed support staff employees (counselors, social workers, psychologists) who are valiantly attempting to address alcohol and drug dependence issues in students as young as 12 years old. We are appalled that such a product has the potential for sale in New York State. Since Palcohol has already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, it is now solely in the hands of individual states to legislate this new product and keep it off the shelves of the convenience stores that no doubt would be a prime location for its marketing and sales campaign.

If there has been one constant that I have observed in my 33 years in public education, it is that our schools have always functioned as a laboratory for observing the impact of all that ails us as a society. Financial struggles, broken families, mental illness, domestic abuse, overuse and abuse of prescription medications, teenage and adult alcohol/drug dependence, the rapidly increasing use and public acceptance of marijuana — we see it all.

To be candid, the weight of these issues dwarfs our ongoing public debate regarding Common Core education and the use of standardized testing for student and professional evaluations. I have shared with parents for years that nothing, not even getting into the best colleges, is as important as the safety and well being of our children. We cannot sit by and allow the emergence of yet another product, FDA-sanctioned or not, to add to the growing list of destructive substances that are afflicting our students and their families.

Jay Matuk, a member of the LICADD Board of Directors, also serves as the principal of Cold Spring Harbor Junior/Senior High School and is an adjunct professor at the C.W. Post Graduate School of Education Department of Educational Leadership.

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum has received a grant of $135,000 from The Robert D. L. Gardiner Foundation to support the restoration of the museum’s extensive marine collection, the largest privately assembled collection of sea specimens from the pre-atomic era.

William Vanderbilt (1878-1944) created his Marine Museum, which he called The Hall of Fishes, in 1922. He stocked it with marine specimens collected during voyages to the Galapagos Islands and opened it to the public for a few hours a week. He added to the collection after his circumnavigations of the globe in 1928-29 and 1930-31.

Jennifer Attonito, executive director of the foundation, said, “The Vanderbilt Museum is a Long Island gem and a major anchor of local history. We are proud to help preserve this valuable collection to benefit museum visitors and to help raise awareness of Long Island’s heritage.”

The Gardiner Foundation, established in 1987 in Hampton Bays, supports the study of Long Island history, with an emphasis on Suffolk County. The foundation was inspired by Robert David Lion Gardiner’s personal passion for New York history.

Stephanie Gress, the Vanderbilt’s director of curatorial affairs, said, “The Gardiner Foundation grant will help us to restore and preserve many rare specimens in our Marine Museum that have long needed critical attention. Our marine collection is the foundation for several key Vanderbilt education programs that serve Long Island schools.”

The Vanderbilt marine collection of 13,190 specimens is housed in the Marine Museum, Habitat and Memorial Wing. Of these, she said, 919 are invertebrates in fluid (displayed in “lots” — from two to many in a single display container); 719 dry fish specimens; 1,746 wet fish specimens in lots and 9,806 dry marine invertebrates (shells and corals). Dry specimens are exhibited on the first floor of the Marine Museum, wet specimens on the second floor.

The two largest marine specimens are a 32-foot whale shark — caught in 1935 and restored in 2008 with a federal Save America’s Treasures grant — and an imposing manta ray, caught in 1916 and restored many years ago, with a 16.5-foot wingspan. William K. Vanderbilt II called it the “Sea Devil.”

Gress said cartilaginous fish, such as sharks and rays, which have spines of cartilage instead of bone, are the most difficult to preserve. Another problem is the age of the collection — many of Vanderbilt’s earliest specimens are nearly 100 years old. When preservation fluid (ethanol and distilled water) in specimen containers degrades the wax seals, comes in contact with air and evaporates, specimens can decompose, she said.

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum is located at 180 Little Neck Rd., Centerport. For more information, call 631-854-5579 or visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

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Residents make their way through a Culper Spy Ring tour in East Setauket. File photo

In 1954, at the age of 15, I read “The Man Who Never Was” by Ewen Montagu. I loved this 160-page book about a successful intelligence operation, called Operation Mincemeat, that used a dead body as a fictitious British Marine Officer to convince Hitler and the German generals that the invasion of southern Europe would take place in either Sardinia or Greece instead of in Sicily, where the actual amphibious landing took place in 1943.

This year, I just completed the book “Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured and Allied Victory.” Published in 2010 and written by Ben Macintyre, this 400-page book brought to life the declassified details that were still secret until very recently.

Along the way, Macintyre enumerates the many intelligence operations that were conducted during World War II. He details the German spies who were turned to work for the British and provide false information back to Germany. He also elaborates about the spies in Spain, Germany, Italy and France who worked for the Allies, as well as the spies and intelligence leaders who worked for the Axis.

As a youth, I loved the stories that came out of World War II including “Reach for the Sky” by Paul Brickhill, published in 1954, a true story about Douglas Bader, a fighter pilot who lost his legs but continued to fly with artificial legs. I also loved the “Hornblower” series, novels by C. S. Forester, the historical novels of France in the 17th and 19th centuries by Alexandre Dumas and the American novels of the period from the Revolutionary War through the War of 1812 by Kenneth Roberts, especially the novel “Rabble in Arms.”

One of the books that really got my attention was “The Spy” by James Fenimore Cooper, written in 1821. In the introduction, Cooper noted that the man in charge of a secret committee for Congress, later determined to be John Jay, employed a spy, a common man of no great wealth, “but cool, shrewd, and fearless by nature,” who penetrated the center of British military activity in America and kept a steady stream of intelligence flowing to General Washington. I always had an idealistic idea that this spy was a member of the Setauket-based Culper Spy Ring if not its leader. The novel, “The Spy,” however, transfers the location of activity to Westchester County, Cooper’s home territory and the no-man’s land between British and American lines. This was exactly where Dragoon Major Benjamin Tallmadge, who ran the operations of the Culper Spy Ring, operated for much of the war.

If you have not visited the exhibit SPIES! at the Three Village Historical Society, this might be a good time to see the exhibit and learn the true story of the Culper Spy Ring. The story will be dramatized, sometimes wildly, for the second year on the AMC cable network beginning on Monday, April 13, 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. The television series is called “Turn.”

Beverly Tyler is the Three Village Historical Society historian.

Group would also determine costs of repairs

Above, a view of Northport High School's grass field. Parents have been calling for athletic upgrades at the district's facilties. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Northport-East Northport school board member Regina Pisacani has spearheaded a new committee that would advise the board on the conditions and the potential needs of the district’s fields and the athletic facilities.

The board approved creating an Athletic Facility Advisory Committee at its Monday night meeting. Pisacani said she’s currently working on attracting candidates for the positions by putting ads in the paper and reaching out to community members. The application process is underway and the due date to apply is April 30.

This committee will focus on inspection and evaluation of the present state of athletic facilities and grounds and rehabilitation versus replacing fields, equipment and facilities. It is charged with reviewing, analyzing and summarizing the state of the district’s athletic facilities in a written report to the school board and creating a list in order of safety and importance of recommended repairs and/or replacements.

Other tasks of the group include determining the costs of the recommended repairs and analyzing outside funding opportunities to help pay for upgrades.

The committee must present a five-year plan to identify priorities for the board by Dec. 14, 2015. It must also prepare a presentation for the 2016 budget meeting.

Membership will total at least 13 people, with at least six residents appointed by the school board; two parents appointed by the president of the PTA Council; one teacher appointed by the president of the United Teachers of Northport union; two support staff members selected by their peers; one school board member appointed by the board’s president; and one administrator appointed by the superintendent. Also, the superintendent of building and grounds as well as the athletic director would be present at each of the meetings as requested.

The committee would expire on June 30, 2016.

Parents have been calling for upgrades to the district’s athletic facilities at recent meetings. In January, 27 people emailed the school district on the matter, saying the current state of the facilities at the district is “embarrassing.”

“I have to say that I am disappointed in the sports facilities (with the exception of Vets Field), particularly at the high school,” Steve Kils wrote in an email at the time. “For example, lighted football/soccer/lacrosse/field hockey fields with either well-groomed grass or, preferably, artificial turf is the standard. Our children are competing with others throughout the country with these basics, and I believe strongly that we need to make these upgrades a priority for our community and school district.”

Rohma Abbas contributed reporting.

Narcan, a drug that reverses opioid overdoses, can be administered either through the nose or intravenously. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) is hosting a free Narcan training seminar later this month, with the goal of teaching local residents how to administer the drug that reverses opioid overdoses.

At the Comsewogue Public Library on March 31, starting at 7 p.m., community members will also learn how to identify an overdose and administer the lifesaving medication.

The seminar will take place in the community room of the library, located on Terryville Road in Port Jefferson Station, and participants must be 18 years or older.

Hahn said in a press release that the training is important “because it is often the family and friends of a victim who are first on the scene when someone is overdosing.”

Those who wish to attend must pre-register by calling the legislator’s office at 631-854-1650.

The property is adjacent to Cordwood Landing County Park off of Landing Road in Miller Place. Photo by Erika Karp

By Jenni Culkin

A parcel of wooded land next to Cordwood Landing County Park in Miller Place is up for grabs, and the community isn’t letting the land be developed without a fight.

The 5.4-acre parcel, which backs up to the more than 64-acre county park off of Landing Road, has value to the residents of Miller Place, and according to Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), constituents have been making it clear that the land needs to be preserved.

A website and Facebook group, operating under the name Friends of Cordwood Landing, was launched a few months ago, and the group has been advocating for the land’s preservation. A representative from the group could not be reached for comment.

Back in December 2014, Anker began the process of acquiring the land from its owner, Rocky Point developer Mark Baisch, of Landmark Properties. The legislature unanimously voted to start the acquisition process so that the county could protect the area, which Anker described in a phone interview on March 17 as “residential,” from possible commercialization or industrialization.  The county has hired appraisers to determine the land’s worth. According to law, the county can’t pay any more than the appraised value.

Anker said she would like to see the land become a part of the waterfront property of Cordwood Landing.

“I am a true environmentalist,” Anker said. “I will do everything I can to advocate and move this parcel forward through the acquisition process.”

According to Town of Brookhaven planning documents, Baisch submitted a request for a subdivision back in January. In a recent phone interview, Baisch said he would like to build homes on the land. However, if the county’s offer is sufficient, he said he would sell the land.

Anker said the proposal to acquire the land is currently in its early stages and is awaiting approval from the Environmental Trust Fund Review Board. If approved, the proposal will head to the Environmental, Planning, and Agriculture Committee, of which Anker is a member. She expects the proposal to get there by April.

In 2013, the county tried to purchase the land from its original owner, but the owner refused to sell.

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Gordon Brosdal addresses parents about full-day kindergarten on Wednesday. Photo by Erika Karp
A small contingent of parents erupted into a round of applause at Mount Sinai’s Wednesday night school board meeting, as Superintendent Gordon Brosdal announced that full-day kindergarten is included in his 2015-16 budget proposal.
Gordon Brosdal addresses parents about full-day kindergarten on Wednesday. Photo by Erika Karp
Gordon Brosdal addresses parents about full-day kindergarten on Wednesday. Photo by Erika Karp

The meeting marked the first time district administrators committed to making the jump from half-day kindergarten. However, they were quick to remind parents that the move helps more than just the youngest students.

“It’s not a full-day K budget,” Brosdal said. “By giving our kids full-day K, you’re benefiting our entire program.”

The school board still must vote on whether to adopt the budget next month before it goes to a community vote on May 19. The proposed $56.7 million plan increases spending by a little more than 3 percent over the current year and stays within the school district’s tax levy increase cap of 1.86 percent.

Last month, a group of residents spoke in support of full-day kindergarten, saying students need the additional classroom time to meet the new Common Core Learning Standards.

Supporters of the plan had previously expressed concerns that students would fall behind under a half-day program, as there isn’t enough time to cover all the topics required by the Common Core. This was also a worry for Brosdal, who said under a full-day program students would have extra time to learn and would benefit down the line, as would their teachers, who will no longer have to worry about playing catch-up.

Last month, Renee Massari, one of the parents who supported the full-day plan, said she supported full-day kindergarten because she is seeing her son struggle this year as a first-grader who went to a half-day program. On Wednesday, she thanked the district administrators for proposing the change.

“I think I am speaking on behalf of plenty of people when I say thank you and we are excited.”

While the district is receiving $459,125 in state aid to help implement the program, it will still have to spend $90,000 of its own funding to cover the cost. In past budget presentations, officials had estimated a higher district cost.

At previous meetings, school board members agreed that full-day kindergarten was important for student success, but were hesitant to propose the change, as they wanted to make sure the district’s current Kindergarten through 12th grade offerings were maintained and the full-day program would be sustained in the future.

“The board and myself annoyed you perhaps, but you have to look at the budget down the road,” Brosdal said.

On Wednesday, school board President Robert Sweeney spoke about some of the challenges in budgeting for the upcoming school year, as the district grapples with a dwindling surplus, which could run out by 2017-18.

Even so, he said he remained optimistic about the future, as the school board members advocate for additional education aid and legislators move to restore the Gap Elimination Adjustment, a reduction in aid for each school district that was once used to plug a state budget deficit.

Sweeney thanked residents for their patience, but was blunt about the importance of voting in the future.

“Where will you be in the future, as a community, in terms of supporting your school?” he asked.

Abdelgheni Dakyouk mugshot from SCPD

Police have arrested the man they say is responsible for an early morning hit-and-run in Coram that killed a pedestrian.

According to the Suffolk County Police Department, East Patchogue resident Abdelgheni Dakyouk, 48, has been charged with leaving the scene of a fatal incident without reporting.

Shortly after the crash on Route 112 on Saturday, March 14, police reported that the victim had been walking north between Granny Road and Route 25 when he was hit by a light-colored, possibly tan vehicle. The incident occurred just before 6 a.m. and the driver, whose car had front-end damage, fled north.

Police arrested Dakyouk on March 18, following an investigation by detectives from the SCPD’s Vehicular Crime Unit.

Attorney information for Dakyouk was not available. He was scheduled to be arraigned on March 19.

Officials have not yet named the victim, who was pronounced dead at the scene. But two days after the crash, police announced they had “tentatively identified” him as a 37-year-old Medford resident, awaiting positive identification by detectives and the Office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner. Police said they had notified the person’s next of kin.

Jack Muise, 14, is a national Tourette Syndrome Association youth ambassador. Photo from Jack Muise

A Northport teen will be standing on the steps of Capitol Hill, in Washington, D.C., this month to speak with lawmakers about Tourette’s syndrome.

Jack Muise, 14, is a national Tourette Syndrome Association youth ambassador. Photo from Jack Muise
Jack Muise, 14, is a national Tourette Syndrome Association youth ambassador. Photo from Jack Muise

Jack Muise, 14, is a ninth-grader at Northport High School. At the age of 10, Jack was diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome, a neurological disorder characterized by repetitive, stereotyped, involuntary movements and vocalizations called tics, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Sponsored through the national Tourette Syndrome Association, Jack was selected as a youth ambassador — a title that will give him the opportunity to attend a two-day training in Arlington, Va., with 39 other 13- to 17-year-olds, from March 23 to 25, to learn how to educate peers about the disorder.

Jack, who says he is very excited about the training, learned about the program through his Tourette’s syndrome support group, which generally meets once a month from September through June in Old Brookville in Nassau County.

The youth ambassador program originated from Jack’s own support group — the national group’s Long Island chapter. Jennifer Zwilling, now 24, who also has Tourette’s syndrome, started the training program in 2008.

“The goal of this exciting program is to educate children all over the country about TS, a widely misunderstood disorder,” Zwilling said in a press release. “We are following the motto ‘think globally, act locally.’ Understanding and tolerance are the program’s goals.”

Since 2008, the youth ambassador program has completed more than 1,000 activities, including presentations, interviews and training sessions and, through its combined efforts, has reached over 5.5 million people.

Following the training, all of the youth ambassadors, Jack included, will meet with their respective local representatives on the steps of Capitol Hill on March 25.

Jack will be meeting with U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), New York’s 3rd Congressional District representative, to advocate for support for the neurological disorder, he said.

“I think people don’t understand, for me personally, it’s when I say inappropriate things that I can’t control and people think I’m weird,” Jack said. “I just want to be able to explain what it is and make them aware and hopefully make them better people in general.”

After returning to Long Island, Jack, along with the three other Long Island youth ambassadors, will visit schools throughout Nassau and Suffolk County to educate children about the disorder.

Jack, who joined his support group three years ago, said that prior to joining, he never really knew or understood what the disorder was.

“Jack’s been through a lot,” Jack’s mom, Stephanie Muise said. “He’s had a lot of challenges, even just today. He’s really focused on training and how to talk to people about Tourette’s and hoping to raise awareness. He really wants people to understand him.”

Jack said that in his free time he likes to solve Rubix’s Cube and do card tricks. He also sings and is learning to play the piano.

“Over the years I’ve heard great stories about the training in D.C. and presentations the other kids have made,” Jack said in a press release. “I’m really excited that it’s my turn. It will be great to be able to share my story and educate others about a very misunderstood disorder.”

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