Authors Posts by TBR Staff

TBR Staff

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

Featuring two nationally recognized groups in folk music and an open mic filled with 10 local singer-songwriters, the Northport Arts Coalition’s StarLight Concert Series ended its season with a bang on Friday.

A packed house was captivated by the intertwined harmonies of singer-songwriters Chuck E. Costa and Mira Stanley of The Sea and the Sea and the old time up-tempo music of Jan Bell and the Maybelles, a cornerstone in the Brooklyn folk and country scene.

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Comsewogue’s David Nodeland takes a cut in the Warriors’ 9-4 victory at Sayville Thursday, to win the series 2-3. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

These Warriors are still the superior League VI team.

Despite giving up a 1-0 lead to trail 4-1 in the fifth inning, the Comsewogue baseball team put together an eight-run rally in the top of the seventh to claim a 9-4 victory over Sayville Thursday and take the series by winning two of out three games.

Dan Colasanto crossed the plate first courtesy of Mike Stiles’ stand-up double to take an early lead, but both teams struggled to bring runners home over the next three innings.

Comsewogue pitcher Dan Colasanto hurls a pitch from the mound in the Warriors’ 9-4 comeback win over Sayville Thursday. Photo by Bill Landon
Comsewogue pitcher Dan Colasanto hurls a pitch from the mound in the Warriors’ 9-4 comeback win over Sayville Thursday. Photo by Bill Landon

“We were all scrappy in the beginning — we had a couple of errors, a couple of bad plays,” Stiles said. “[We just needed] to get a couple of hits, a couple of walks together, and that’s just what we did in that last inning.”

Sayville’s bats came alive in the bottom of the fifth with a four-run rally to take its first lead of the game, which stood until the final inning.

Comsewogue head coach Mike Bonura told his team it’s just a three-run deficit, and to keep their composure.

“Let’s have some quality at bats,” he said to his athletes. “It’s just three runs. We just got to get to first base.”

Despite the deficit, Colasanto went back to work in the sixth inning and retired three in a row.

“We just had to keep our heads in the game and I knew my job was to throw strikes,” Colasanto said. “I knew if I could keep it in the strike zone we’d have a chance, because I have a great field behind me.”

Bonura was pleased with his player’s efforts.

“Dan didn’t get rattled after he gave up three runs in the fifth,” Bonura said. “He just stayed the course and didn’t let anyone’s mistakes in the field effect the way he pitched, and everyone feeds off of that. Dan’s been with me four years — he had a great game, he’s a senior captain who’s a team leader.”

In the top of the seventh, Comsewogue’s Vin Velazquez chopped an infield hit that fell into no man’s land to get him to first in time to load the bases with no outs.

James Mimnaugh followed with single that drove home Ryan Szalay to cut the deficit to two, and teammate John Braun smacked the ball into shallow right field for a two-run hit that drove in Robert Dattoma and Jake Sardinia, to even the score at 4-4.

David Nodeland helped the Warriors claim the lead after Braun and Sardinia crossed the plate off of his deep hit, to give his team a 6-4 advantage.

Comsewogue’s Ryan Szalay makes a grab at the warning track in the Warriors 9-4 comeback win over Sayville Thursday. Photo by Bill Landon
Comsewogue’s Ryan Szalay makes a grab at the warning track in the Warriors 9-4 comeback win over Sayville Thursday. Photo by Bill Landon

“We all just stayed in it,” Nodeland said. “Everyone stayed alive on the bench and kept it going. Once the hits started coming they just kept rolling, so it was a nice little rally we had.”

Trying to stop the Warriors in their tracks, Sayville made its fourth pitching change of the game, but to no avail.

Colasanto ripped one deep for a stand-up double, driving in Nodeland, and after scoring a run earlier in the inning, Szalay helped Colasanto earn a run of his own with a short fly ball in the gap,

With a full count against him, Velazquez drew a walk with the bases loaded for the final run of the game and the 9-4 win.

“[We didn’t want to do] anything big, just make sure you get on base, and that’s what we did,” Braun said.

On Sayville’s last at-bat, Bonura said Colasanto wanted to close the game out, but was pulled after his pitch count reached 100, to prevent the risk of injury.

Szalay took the mound in place of Colasanto, and finished the job his teammate started,

With the win, Comsewogue improves to 8-1 atop the League VI leaderboard. The team will travel to Westhampton Beach on Tuesday to take on the No. 2 Hurricanes, at 7-2 in the standings, at 4 p.m.

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Lowered tax levy increase allows district to deliver classroom upgrades, restored programs, positions

Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich says next year’s budget will allow for more balanced and smaller classroom sizes in the Three Village School District. File photo

By Andrea Moore Paldy

It was welcomed news for Three Village residents when they learned the community’s school district lowered its projected tax levy increase for the upcoming school year. The good news continued with the balancing and lowering of class sizes and restoration of some programs that fell victim to previous budget cuts.

The announcement came at the district’s most recent board meeting, during which the Three Village school board adopted a $188 million budget for the 2015-16 school year. Three Village will be able to lower the tax levy increase because of a $1.65 million bump in aid — $830,000 more than previously budgeted — assistant superintendent for business services Jeff Carlson said. Originally set at 2.93 percent, the district’s new cap on the tax levy increase is 2.79 percent.

Aid from the state includes a $1.86 million restoration of the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA), a measure that deducts money from aid packages to fund the state’s budget. Three Village will still see a loss of $3.3 million to the state. Over the six years since the institution of the GEA, the district has lost $32,422,271 — the equivalent of $2,398 for the average taxpayer, Carlson said.

While the .81 percent budget-to-budget increase works out to about $1 million more in expenses, the tax levy will go up $3.89 million. This is because the district will be depending less on its applied fund balance, Carlson said. Instead of budgeting $6.5 million from the district’s reserves, Carlson said last month that he would budget only between $2 million and $2.5 million.

Decreases to major expenses like contributions to retirement systems and healthcare are also responsible for the district’s positive financial forecast. Next school year, Three Village will see a $3.6 million drop in its retirement contributions and a $1 million decrease — that’s 5 percent — in its health insurance costs.

Three Village also benefits from increased revenue from tuition for non-residents attending its special education programs and the Three Village Academy. This year’s tuition generated $1.2 million.

Though declining enrollment in the elementary schools would allow the district to shed seven to eight teaching positions, the administration is choosing to balance class sizes instead.

“We believe in the importance of balancing class size and lowering those class sizes that are in the 25, 26, 27 range,” Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich said. “It is not helpful in any way to our younger students.”

Three classroom positions, along with the two positions from the Pi enrichment program that ends this year, will be converted to STEM specialist positions.

“Enrichment should be for all children in grades K through 6,” Pedisich said.

The appointed science and math specialists will be in each school to work with classroom teachers and provide both enrichment and remediation for students who need it, she added.

The administration is adding another .9 full-time equivalent (FTE) position, so that health — currently only offered to sixth graders — can be taught to fourth through sixth graders.  And an additional .5 FTE social worker position is being added so that each elementary school can have a full-time social worker.

This move is “critical to issues such as bullying” and preventative work, Pedisich said.

There will be small staffing increases at the junior and senior highs to balance classes, decrease study halls and increase electives, she said. Carlson said the cost for these additions will be covered by retirements.

Departments that will benefit include technology, English, foreign language, guidance, health, math, science and social studies.

The American Sign Language class, which was popular before it was cut two years ago, will again be offered by the foreign language department, while a computer programming class will be added to the math department. The district will also add 1.2 FTEs for English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers — to comply with a new state mandate — and it will add another 1.3 FTE to guidance for counseling.

There will be additions to the clerical staff, as well as to maintenance and operations, in order to lower overtime costs and outside contractors, Carlson said. There will also be additional security during the day and for evening activities, he added.

The superintendent said that the district will restructure its current administration to create new roles without the need for additional staff. Some positions expected to be restored include the coordinating chair for music, an assistant director for health and physical education, an assistant director for pupil personnel services, coordinating chair for junior high foreign language and district-wide ESL and an assistant director for instructional technology.

The assistant director for instructional technology will help the district prepare for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, as well as help determine how to spend the money Three Village receives from the Smart Schools Bond that passed in November.  The $2 billion bond is earmarked for pre-K classrooms, wireless and broadband systems, safety and security technology and classroom technology across the state. Carlson said the district’s share will be close to $3.4 million.

An approved government efficiency plan that shows a 1 percent savings to the tax levy — while also staying within the tax cap — will make residents eligible for another tax rebate check, Carlson said.

The budget vote will take place from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., May 19 at the district’s elementary schools.

In other news, the board voted to reappoint the superintendent for another three years.

“I have to say, never in all my years have we had a superintendent of schools as respected and beloved by this community as Cheryl Pedisich,” said school board President Bill Connors, who has served on the board for 15 of the past 21 years.

Pedisich, who started in Three Village in 1984 as a guidance counselor at Ward Melville High School, was visibly moved by the standing ovation she received.

“I really am very overwhelmed,” she said. “I have spent my entire career here and I could not think of a place I would consider going…. My heart and my soul belong to this community, and you definitely have me 110 percent.”

Police are investigating the death of a Huntington woman after a car crash on Saturday afternoon.

According to the Suffolk County Police Department, Tracymarie Verme, 44, was driving a 1997 Lexus west on Central Street in Huntington, west of Clinton Avenue, at about 4:30 p.m. when she hit two parked cars.

Verme was pronounced dead at Huntington Hospital, police said.

The parked cars were unoccupied at the time of the collision.

Police impounded the Lexus for a safety check. Detectives from the SCPD’s 2nd Squad are investigating the incident.

Anyone with information is asked to call the squad at 631-854-8252.

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‘Past Tense,’ by William Grabowski

The Huntington Arts Council recently announced the winners of its latest exhibit, a self-portrait show titled “I See Me.”

Juried by Lynn Rozzi, director of the Firehouse Plaza Art Gallery at Nassau Community College, the “I See Me” prospectus requested artists to respond to the challenge of sharing their interpretation of questions and statements behind self-portraiture: “Who are you? How do you see yourself? Let everyone in on your personal vision of you. Self-portraits rule the day!” The response, reflected in the exhibition of works, consists of a diverse mix of media including but not limited to oil, digital photo, watercolor, graphite/gouche, ink and pastels.

Participating artists include Anu Annam, Christopher Arvans, Robyn Bellospirito, Mark Belton, David Benson, Pamela Best, Marlene Bezich, Elizabeth Cassidy, Beth Costello, Katherine Criss, Judith Davidson, Jessica Dayan, Emily Eisen, Paul David Elsen, Jessica Faro, Jim Finlayson, Nicole Franz, Susan Geffken Burton, William Grabowski, Donna Grossman, Dan Guido, Kirsten Hadjoglou, Rodee Hansen, Samantha Hernandez, Sofie Hoff, Lori Horowitz, Caroline Isacsson, Kate Kelly, Lauren  Miceli, Margaret Minardi, Denis Ponsot, Robin Rosen-O’Leary, Lauren Ruiz, Jim Scovel, Constance Sloggatt Wolf, Jackie Stevens, Janice Sztabnik, Bobbie Turner, Tracy Vaccarino-Guzzardi, Chuck Von Schmidt, Pamela Waldroup, Lois V. Walker, Randy Weisbin and Fahiym Williams.

“‘I See Me’ employs the very interesting and up-to-the-minute concept … The Selfie … with the theme of self-portraits. And it seems to have touched the funny bone of a lot of artists who had a really good time picturing themselves in interesting, psychologically insightful and incredibly artful ways. This is a show not to be missed,” said Linda Louis, a member of the HAC board of directors and exhibition committee.

William Grabowski captured first place for his digital photo, “Past Tense.” Beth Costello garned second place for “No Language Barriers Here,” ink/oil pastel/paper on panels, and third place went to Margaret Minardi for her “Self Portrait,” colored pencil.

Awards of excellence were given to Marlene Bezich  for “Under Cover Artist #1,” oil; Donna   Grossman for “When One Door Closes,” oil/door panel; Jessica  Dayan for “Mirror,” oil/linen; and Mark Belton for his untitled self-portrait, acrylic/canvas.

“I See Me” will be on display in the Main Street Gallery through April 27, 2015. The gallery hours are Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. For more information, call 631-271-8423 or visit

The Greening of 25A Committee wraps up another successful cleanup event at the Stony Brook Railroad Station last week. Photo from Kara Hahn

By Kara Hahn and Shawn Nuzzo

The Greening of 25A Committee had an absolutely beautiful day for our 2015 spring cleanup at the Stony Brook Railroad Station. The sun was shining and volunteers worked hard to spruce up this important and extremely visible gateway to our community.

Our appreciation goes out to all the civic and community volunteers: Councilwoman Cartright, Jennifer Martin, Gretchen Oldrin-Mones, Herb Mones, Paul Willoughby, Jesse Davenport, Makenzie Gazura, Graham Ball, Alyssa Turano, Zach Baum, Charles Tramontana, Donald Amodeo and Elizabeth Zamarelli. Special thanks to the Long Island Rail Road, Frank Turano and Ron Gerry for lending us garden tools, along with other supplies and equipment that made the event possible.

Special thanks to the Three Village Chamber of Commerce and their volunteers David Woods and Bruce Reisman for opening up their office in the beautiful station house and to chamber member David Prestia of Bagel Express for the tasty bagels and coffee.

This year, we had an extremely large, contingent of undergraduate volunteers from Stony Brook University — more than 50 students participated, and thank you to Emily Resnick and Joy Pawirosetiko of Commuter Student Services and Off-Campus Living for help with recruiting the student participants.

Once again, we also had volunteers from Ward Melville High School Key Club — thank you to Kyra Durko, Ashley Donovan, Gianna Forni, Ben Sullivan, Jack Kiessel, Shannon Dalton, Josie Wiltse, Alyssa Abesamis and Dylan Buzzanca.

Thank you to the Town of Brookhaven Wildlife and Ecology Center for donating flowers.

As always we could not hold the clean up without the support of Town of Brookhaven Superintendent of Highways Dan Losquadro and his highway crew, who truly make our event possible.

Thank you to everyone involved, we could not have done it without you.

Legislator Kara Hahn represents the 5th District in the Suffolk County Legislature and Shawn Nuzzo is president of the Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook.

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Stock photo

By Joan Nickeson

I read with interest the recent opinion article by Comsewogue school board trustee Ali Gordon (Team up to starve New York’s testing machine, March 12). I applaud her efforts. She explains how the governor tied his latest education policy to our state budget, a game where no one wins.

As an occasional contributor to this paper, I share thoughts on the organics of life: water conservation and wildlife, civic engagement, writing love letters, and about my daughter preparing for college — all untidy ventures. But being a student is untidy. Educating children is an organic experience; a hands-on, creative occupation. Our teachers tend to our children all day long. Not unlike rangers, they patrol for danger. Like gardeners, they employ means by which to rid the soil of invasive species. Ms. Gordon has shed light on the parasites.

Education’s root word, “educe,” means bring forth or draw out. It is untidy business. As adults, we know children grow at their own pace. A few bloom early, boldly. Some reach for help; others need coaxing. Some never extend themselves. Having tools and space helps to “bring forth” the students, and adequate funding is necessary for this organic endeavor. Forcing children to take poorly-worded standardized tests doesn’t help. Linking teachers’ employment and the health of school district to the results of any test should be actionable.

Whatever nutritive or non-nutritive fuel contributes to children’s abilities during the day, it is the work of the educators to draw out. They know children have learning challenges that are unrelated to curriculum or tests. I think we all know some come to school on empty stomachs. We know some have family trauma. Many lack confidence. Some are angry and conflicted. Some are bullied and, during math, plan how to get on the bus without being confronted. Some at school are ill and unfocused. Some are dreamers engaged in internal dialogs instead of listening. Others are preoccupied about professional sports teams, because that’s the focus of a parent. We know some whose first languages are not English, who risk their lives to cross the U.S. border to connect with a parent living in our districts. Education is fraught with immeasurable obstacles.

But let me see — in the words of Joe Pesci in “My Cousin Vinny” — what else can we pile on? The tax cap! Which could lead to budget cuts to academics, requiring placement of more and more of our budding children into a single classroom. Do it five periods a day. Do it 180 days a year. Force educators and administrators to douse children with tests created by businessmen who have an eye on their ledgers and the charter school lobby, who are literally banking on our students failing the test. It is unconscionable.

Yet our teachers were predominately evaluated effective or highly effective last year in a New York State Education Department-approved evaluation process.

We need to demand participation in state policy through open legislative debate. We need to opt out of the Common Core-linked standardized tests so our teachers can get back to the organic pursuit of education.

Washington, D.C., trip ties pieces of nation’s past to North Shore, including famed Culper Spy Ring

A panda enjoys bamboo at the National Zoo. Photo from Beverly Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

What do spy codes, a Setauket officer’s saber, cherry blossoms, pandas and a postal museum have in common?

This past weekend my family, including eight grandchildren, traveled to Washington, D.C. to visit our nation’s capital together and discover new things. The trip began with a visit to the National Cryptologic Museum about 30 minutes north of Washington.

Here, the story of the secret world of intelligence is detailed with interactive displays and cipher technology from the 16th century to today. One section details the activity of spies during the Revolutionary War, especially General Washington’s Culper Spy Ring, and allows visitors, especially children, to “Create Your Own Secret Cipher,” “Hidden Message,” “Invisible Ink Secrets” and “Make a Secret Code with a Dictionary.”

There is also a “CrypoKids Challenge,” with messages to decode throughout the museum. There is, of course, much more to see here, including captured German and Japanese code machines.

Cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. Photo from Beverly Tyler
Cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. Photo from Beverly Tyler

The recently renovated Smithsonian National History Museum along the National Mall includes the exhibit “The Price of Freedom: Americans at War.”

Covering the period from the French and Indian War to the present, “exploring ways in which wars have been defining episodes in American history,” the exhibit includes a stunning array of artifacts, including a dragoon saber belonging to our own Major Benjamin Tallmadge, General Washington’s chief of intelligence and son of the Setauket Presbyterian Church minister.

A late spring provided an April 11 blooming for the cherry trees around the Tidal Basin at the Jefferson Memorial. More than one million people attended the cherry blossom festival in Washington, D.C., however we all went to the National Zoo to watch the pandas play and eat bamboo. A great choice considering the crowds and we did get wonderful pictures of the blossoms the day before.

We spent one morning at the National Postal Museum across the street from Union Station. This may be the best museum in D.C.; it is definitely the most interactive Smithsonian museum.

Visitors can sort mail in a postal train car, ride in a postal truck, select routes to deliver mail across the country and follow a new mail route from New York City to Boston in the 17th century, which became the Boston Post Road decades later. Other activities include letters written home during the many wars and conflicts of the past three centuries and the opportunity to follow these letters as they travel from place to place.

In one simulation of a post office, people come up to the postal window and interact with the clerk. One young girl came up to the window and asked that the Christmas list she was carrying be sent to Santa at the South Pole.

The clerk responded that Santa was actually at the North Pole. The young girl said, “Oh, that’s all right, this is my brother’s list.”

There are many other wonderful stories in the postal museum, including poignant letters written home during the Civil War. There are also real stories about mail fraud, letter bombs and how the security system of the United States Post Office Department dealt with crime.

And not to ignore the Hollywood approach, there are stories about all the movies made about every postal subject from the Pony Express to prohibition.

All in all, it was an experience for visitors of all ages.

In four days, we also visited the Natural History Museum, the Air and Space Museum, and walked around the Washington monument and Lincoln Memorial. All the Smithsonian museums belong to all Americans and admission is free.

Beverly Tyler is the Three Village Historical Society historian.

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Smithtown East’s varsity kickline team poses for a group photo after winning its second consecutive national championship title. Photo from Smithtown Central School District
Jackie Gallery placed sixth in the 3,000-meter run. Photo from the Smithtown Central School District
Jackie Gallery placed sixth in the 3,000-meter run. Photo from the Smithtown Central School District

East kickline team is national champion, again
Once again the Smithtown East varsity kickline team came away victorious at the Contest of Champions National Competition in Orlando, Fla.

Under the direction of head coach Sarahbeth Cook, the team won first place in the Small High Kick, third place in the Extra Small Contemporary and fourth place in Extra Small Jazz. The team was also awarded an Outstanding Choreography Award in High Kick.

Senior Christina Montesano was awarded for placing in the top 10 in the Junior Soloists category as well. This is the 16th time that the Whisperettes were named national champions.

East track and field stars place at states

Dan Claxton took second in the high jump at the state championship. Photo from the Smithtown Central School District
Dan Claxton took second in the high jump at the state championship. Photo from the Smithtown Central School District

Smithtown High School East winter track and field competitors Dan Claxton and Jackie Gallery impressed at the New York State Championships held at Cornell University.

Claxton, the Smithtown East record-holder for the high jump, placed second in the state with a leap of 6 feet, 8 inches.

Gallery, a sophomore, placed sixth in the state in the 3,000-meter run with a time of 10 minutes, 10.08 seconds, improving upon her previous school record.

Northport-East Northport teachers picket over contract negotiations earlier this year. Photo by Rohma Abbas

By Susan Risoli

The United Teachers of Northport union has reached a tentative employment contract settlement with the Northport-East Northport school district.

School board counsel John Gross, of the Hauppauge firm Ingerman Smith LLP, said in a phone interview Monday that a memorandum of agreement containing details of the settlement had been delivered to Sean Callahan, the NYSUT labor relations specialist, that day.

Callahan will have the opportunity to make changes or comments on the agreement, he said. After that, Smith said, he expects it will take “another week or so before it’s signed.”

After signature by the negotiating team, Smith said, the agreement will go to UTN members for ratification, then to the Northport-East Northport school board for approval “and then it becomes public.”

The union’s previous contract expired June 30, 2014.

Union President Antoinette Blanck said in a phone interview Tuesday night that the union had received a draft of the memorandum of agreement and “we’re in the middle of reviewing it.”

She sent an email to union members Tuesday to update them on the contract’s progress, she said. A meeting was set for Wednesday with Callahan, she said, to review the agreement. Callahan’s office is in the same building as Ingerman Smith, she added, which she hoped would hasten the process if there are further discussions about the agreement.

After the memorandum is signed, each of the union’s 720 members will get a hard copy to read. There will be a ratification meeting, Blanck said, at which the settlement agreement will be explained. Then there will be a ratification vote “by secret ballot, in each building” no less than five days and no more than 10 days after the meeting, she said.

Although she said she couldn’t yet speak publicly about details of the new contract, Blanck said she felt positively about the settlement.

“We would have been still at the [negotiating] table if we felt this wasn’t an appropriate settlement to bring back to our members,” she said. “We’re hopeful that the rank-and-file members agree that this is an agreement that is respectful of the membership and respectful of the community of taxpayers.”

Blanck said the settlement was a long time coming “but certainly we’ve been very happy with the process” of negotiations.

The union represents the district’s teachers, teaching assistants, nurses, librarians, psychologists and counselors.