Community

Port Jeff Village officials honor code officers, Michael Hanley, third from left, Brent Broere, James Murdocco and John Vinicombe, far right, for saving a life using Narcan. Photo by Alex Petroski

When Port Jefferson Village code officers James Murdocco, Michael Hanley, Brent Broere and John Vinicombe arrived for their shifts Dec. 22, little did they know they would each play a vital role in saving a life.

The four constables were honored by the Port Jefferson Village mayor and board of trustees during a public meeting Jan. 3 for the roles they played in resuscitating with Narcan an unresponsive victim. Narcan is used to block the effects of opioid drugs and to reverse overdoses.

“On Dec. 22, 2017, officer James Murdocco responded to a call at the Fairfield Apartment complex and upon arrival, officers found an unconscious man in a vehicle,” the proclamation honoring Murdocco read in part. Hanley, Broere and Vinicombe were also each given matching proclamations. “All four officers, while working together, cleared the scene and administered two doses of Narcan to the patient which resulted in bringing him back to life. The actions of these officers are well deserving of an official recognition and are positive role models in the community as these officers are not merely giving out tickets, but are there to save lives also. Therefore as the Mayor of Port Jefferson Village, I do hereby recognize James Murdocco, on this 3rd day of January, 2018 for your act of heroism and many years of public service. You are truly a valuable asset to our community and we appreciate and applaud you.”

According to code Chief Wally Tomaszewski, when the officers arrived on the scene the victim’s skin was a shade of purple, and as far as he was concerned he thought the man was dead. He said the actions of the officers were heroic and saved a life.

Mayor Margot Garant was visibly moved emotionally while presenting the officers with the proclamations. She thanked them for their service and dedication to the community.

Tomaszewski indicated this was not the first time members of his constabulary were called into action to save a life using Narcan, and that Port Jeff code officers are encouraged to undergo Narcan training on their own time should it be needed in the line of duty.

Murdocco and Vinicombe were honored by the board in 2016 after they responded to an opioid overdose at the Islandwide Taxi stand near the Port Jefferson Long Island Rail Road station. Garant said when honoring them during a February 2016 meeting that the officers were told the young victim was dead, and they found no pulse or respiration. Murdocco and Vinicombe each administered the anti-overdose medication Narcan and Murdocco performed CPR.

Tomaszewski also indicated the importance in code officers receiving Narcan training because in situations involving overdoses time is of the essence, and they are able to be on the scene of an incident faster in most cases than Suffolk County police. Tomazewski encouraged all members of the public to undergo Narcan training to be ready in the case of an emergency.

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Suffolk County Leg. Kara Hahn and recovering alcoholic and addict David Scofield answer questions posed by concerned parents at a past Three Village Drug & Alcohol Awareness meeting. File photo by Donna Newman

An outpatient facility slated to open on Technology Drive in Setauket is prepared to provide relief for those suffering from various types of addiction.

Lauren Grady, a private practice clinician and social work investigator for the New York State Department of Health, works at B.E.S.T. PLLC located in Deer Park, which she said will be expanding to Setauket in late February or early March. Grady will be speaking at the Jan. 25 Three Village Drug & Alcohol Awareness Program held at The Bates House and will answer questions about the services offered by B.E.S.T. and what families can do when a loved one suffers from an addiction.

Practitioners at the facility, which treats those 18 and older and provides counseling for family members who have a loved one addicted to alcohol or drugs, follow the belief that patients have an underlying mental illness.

Lauren Grady, a private practice clinician from B.E.S.T. PLLC, will be on hand for the Jan. 25 Three Village Drug & Alcohol Awareness Program to answer questions about a new facility in Setauket. Photo from Lauren Grady

“Not only do we want to free the addiction, but we believe the addiction is actually the function of an underlying mental illness that has never been treated,” Grady said, adding the facility utilizes intensive psychotherapy and psychopharmacology.

She said the facility has tailored new programs based on clients’ needs including nondenominational and scientifically oriented recovery groups for those who don’t like traditional faith-based anonymous groups.

The clinician, who has worked at B.E.S.T., which stands for Behavioral Enhancement and Substance abuse medicine Treatment, since 2016, said it has been opened in Deer Park since 2013. In the future, the hope is for the organization to open more facilities in Middle Island and outside of New York in Michigan, Tennessee and Ohio. B.E.S.T. is owned and operated by Dr. Tom Tuzel, who is on the psychiatric team at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown, and the facility accepts most insurances and Medicaid.

Grady said she hopes Three Village residents will feel comfortable visiting B.E.S.T. when they need help.

“When people think of outpatient facilities, they think of methadone clinics, and we’re not,” Grady said. “We’re more medically based. So it would be more like you’re walking in to go see a primary care doctor or maybe even your therapist.”

She added staff members are approachable, and B.E.S.T. is a place where addicts can come and talk even if it’s just because they had a rough day.

For the clinician, who said she lost a friend to drug addiction, helping others with substance abuse problems is personal. She said many addicts are trying to feel normal and balance moods by self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, when medical attention should be sought to treat conditions such as depression and anxiety. Due to her friend’s death, Grady said she understands the greater consequences of drug use.

“It’s not just about the addict,” she said. “This is an epidemic that is affecting everybody. Mental illness addiction is affecting the family, the friends, the employer and the employees. It hits everybody.”

Grady said she encourages loved ones to talk honestly with addicts and not be afraid of the consequences, such as the person ceasing to talk with them, because she said there is a potential to lose the person to overdosing.

Merrit Hartblay, a substance abuse counselor who leads the series of Three Village Drug & Alcohol Awareness educational programs, said he is optimistic about the facility coming to the area. He hopes having a center such as B.E.S.T. in Setauket will begin to remove the stigma of drug addiction in the area and more residents will feel comfortable addressing the issue and attending discussions like the ones presented at The Bates House. He said he feels it’s important for residents to do everything to embrace and combat the drug problem that he feels has reached epidemic proportions in the Three Village area.

“You have to get rid of the shame and the guilt and say, ‘No, we’re here because we want people to come and move to this community because they know that we are being proactive instead of reactive,’” Hartblay said.

He hopes loved ones of addicts will take advantage of the family counseling at the facility, even if their child is too young to be treated there, feeling discussions are beneficial to everyone in the addict’s life.

“Once you can get family members engaged and explain to them about the disease of addiction, and how it affects family, that it’s not just the addict but the whole family
becomes addicted to the addict. Once the family can embrace that, my three big words are always prevention, intervention, education,” Hartblay said.

Hartblay encourages Three Village residents to attend the Jan. 25 meeting and to feel comfortable asking questions in what he describes as a safe and open forum.

“You need to come out so we can hear from you, and you can understand and hear the things that we are going to do to make this community a safer community that can deal with drug addiction, that can be more proactive instead of reactive,” Hartblay added. “Deal with the issues before they become a problem. We want this to be a safe community. We want this to be a community that other people look to and say look at what the Three Village community is doing.”

The Jan. 25 meeting will be held at The Bates House located at 1 Bates Road in Setauket at 7 p.m. Heather Reilly, Three Village Central School District certified drug and alcohol counselor, will also be in attendance to answer attendees’ questions. For more information about the meeting, call 631-689-7054. For more information about B.E.S.T. call 631-392-4357.

6,000-square-foot home would be built on Cuba Hill Road in Greenlawn

A conceptual rendering of the proposed K.I.D.S. Plus adult group home in Greenlawn. Photo from Facebook

By Sara-Megan Walsh

A Northport advocate and Cuba Hill Road residents will have additional time to reach an understanding over a proposed Greenlawn adult home.

Huntington Town Board voted to unanimously Jan. 3 to extend the time to make a decision on whether K.I.D.S. Plus Inc. should receive a special use permit to operate an adult home off Cuba Hill Road for those with physical and developmental disabilities age 21 and over.

Dozens of residents have spoken up with concerns about the proposed 6,000 square-foot building since the town’s Oct. 17 public hearing, citing concerns about traffic, landscaping, overall size of the home and density of group homes in the area.

“The homes tend not to be very large; the properties are large, that’s why we like to live there,” said Taylor McLam in October, a Cuba Hill Road homeowner who said his residence is approximately 1,200 square feet by comparison. “Seven times the size of my house seems a little much.”

Cuba Hill resident John Wilson presented the town with a petition signed by approximately 30 residents at their Jan. 3 meeting.

“One of the conditions is it shouldn’t change the character of the neighborhood,” he said. “This neighborhood is a section of Cuba Hill Road between Manor and Little Plains Road, that isn’t very built up. The houses are generally on more than an acre.”

A conceptual sketch of the interior layout of K.I.D.S. Plus proposed Greenlawn home for individuals with physical and developmental disabilities. Rendering from K.I.D.S. Plus.

K.I.D.S. Plus founder Tammie Murphy Topel, a Northport resident, said she has hosted two community meetings since October 2017 to hear and address the Greenlawn residents’ concerns, in addition to one-on-one meetings. Based on their feedback, Murphy Topel said she’s made revisions to her proposed building plans.

“We want to know what’s going on in the community, we want to be good neighbors,” she said. “We don’t want to be adversarial in any way.”

One of the most cited issues, according to Murphy Topel, was the appearance of the originally planned 26-foot-wide driveway for vehicles. After speaking with Huntington officials, changes have been made to narrow that to 20 feet, the width of a standard two-car
garage, according to Murphy Topel.

She said significant work has been put into the landscaping of the outside of the building, sharing an artistic rendering showing a variety of indigenous trees planted postconstruction to help obscure view of the building from Cuba Hill Road and its neighbors. The outdoor lighting will feature gooseneck barn lamps to direct the light downward instead of out, according to
Murphy Topel, with some subtle ground lighting along the driveway.

Murphy Topel hopes to share these new renderings and changes with concerned Greenlawn residents at a community meeting set for Jan. 19, from 7 to 9 p.m. at Harborfields Public Library. She said she has invited all town board members, town planning officials and any residents.

One thing she won’t consider is downsizing the 6,000-square-foot size of the home featuring suites for eight individuals, she said, which is all one level.

“These are people with disabilities looking at this as a forever home,” Murphy Topel said. “We are looking into the future when there will be ambulatory issues. We don’t want them to be navigating stairs.”

Even the K.I.D.S. Plus founder had to admit though, the parcel she purchased  on Cuba Hill Road is less than ideal for constructing the home, due to its hilly nature, the amount of grading and retaining walls that will be required.

“By designation in the [town] code, we have to have a two-acre piece of property and in the town of Huntington, there’s not a whole lot of two-acre pieces of property that are affordable,” Murphy Topel said. “If someone else can find me a two-acre piece of property for $400,000, I would take it, flip this land and build elsewhere.”

Leif Cocks with an orangutan
Plans visit to Sachem and Cold Spring Harbor libraries

The Nature Conservancy is co-sponsoring an event along with The Orangutan Project to help educate citizens and raise awareness of the plight of threatened orangutans at two public events this month — Sachem Public Library in Holbrook on Monday, Jan. 22, and Cold Spring Harbor Library on Tuesday, Jan. 23. Both events will be held at 7 p.m.

The program will be presented by Leif Cocks, founder and president of the international charity, The Orangutan Project, who has worked for more than three decades to save humanity’s “orange cousins” from extinction. Cocks will share the fascinating inside story of his personal journey with these creatures who captivated his heart and mind and ultimately formed his life’s work, a recently published book titled “Orangutans, My Cousins, My Friends.”

Part personal history, part philosophical discussion, part scientific case for conservation, and a call to action for all who wish to help save the orangutan, this talk will inspire, inform and touch hearts.

“Orangutans share 97 percent of our DNA — they are one of our closest living relatives,” explained Nancy Kelley, director of The Nature Conservancy on Long Island. “More than 85 percent of the world’s orangutans live in Borneo (in Indonesia and Malaysia) where they require large tracts of healthy forest for survival. Unfortunately, industrial timber, mining and the rapidly growing oil palm industry are destroying the orangutan’s forest faster than anywhere else on earth, and the orangutan’s very existence is at risk. Among other efforts, The Nature Conservancy has a dedicated team of forest guardians and is hard at work to protect the orangutan and its forest forever,” she said.

Adult orangutans are frequently killed as the forest is cleared and any infants that survive usually end up in captivity as illegal pets. Although Bornean orangutans are currently listed as Critically Endangered with approximately 55,000 remaining, it is estimated more than 5,000 are killed each year.

“Starting with my time at a zoo, I found myself so intrigued by the primates, I would spend my lunchtimes in the orangutan enclosures, eating my lunch with them. I felt no fear when I was with them, just a calm sense of awe and appreciation. Over the years, I was no longer able to see the orangutans, or any of the great apes, as being other or different to me and had come to the conclusion that they were not only sentient beings but persons in the true sense of the word,” said Cocks. “My recently published book is infused with inspiring and at times challenging stories of the many orangutans I’ve worked with over the years.”

In his book, the author recounts powerful stories including getting a giant diabetic alpha male to willingly allow him to undertake daily blood tests and insulin injections; sleeping with an injured orangutan to nurse her back to full health; witnessing births of newborn orangutans and the privilege of holding them just days after birth; to the orangutan with an uncanny obsession with fellow redhead, Nicole Kidman.

Cocks will discuss his memoir of his experiences in Borneo working with this critically endangered species and hopes to inspire, inform and touch hearts, whether one is an animal lover, environmentalist or simply looking to be enlightened and maybe even change the way one sees and acts in the world. A book signing will follow. This program is free and open to all but registration is requested by calling 631-588-5024 (Sachem) or 631-692-6820 (CSH).

'Country Ride,' taken in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, edited with oil painting effect

By Melissa Arnold

For more than 40 years, John Spoltore has immersed himself in his love of photography. It has taken him all over the world, earned him scores of accolades and allowed him to nurture hundreds of budding Long Island shutterbugs through teaching. But it all began with an unfortunate accident.

John Spoltore

In 1975, Spoltore was enjoying an exotic honeymoon in Montego Bay, Jamaica, with his new bride Barbara. The couple spent one afternoon exploring the beautiful Dunn’s River Falls, but in a split second, Spoltore dropped his tiny camera with its precious photos of the trip from the top of the waterfall.

That trip led to a better replacement camera and a desire to capture the world. Now, Spoltore is sharing some of his favorite photos in an exhibit at the North Shore Public Library in Shoreham throughout the month of January.

“I always enjoyed taking pictures, but it wasn’t until after I was married that I really got bit by the [photography] bug,” said Spoltore, 64, of Port Jefferson Station. He originally went to school to become a teacher but ended up working for the Nassau County Department of Social Services, helping those in need access welfare and food stamps.

In his spare time, he read every book about photography he could get his hands on and attended local workshops.

‘Eagle Eyes,’ an image of a bald eagle in captivity (sky photo edited in) taken in Skagway, Alaska

One day, Spoltore walked into a photo studio and asked to help them shoot weddings. They took a chance, and soon he was shooting his own weddings and portraits. Eventually, Spoltore launched a successful career with companies including Tiffen and Canon. He has also taken thousands of photos of railroad life while working in public affairs for the Long Island Rail Road. Many of these photos are framed and hang in stations around the Island.

While portraits, weddings and event photography pay the bills, Spoltore loves to shoot landscapes. His favorite style focuses on highly saturated photos of colors that pop, as well as infrared and combinations of color with black-and-white palettes. He also likes to manipulate photos so they resemble oil paintings.

Spoltore takes much of his inspiration from the famous wedding and portrait photographer Monte Zucker and creates images based on Zucker’s quote, “I don’t photograph the world as it is. I photograph the world as I would like it to be.”

‘All Aboard,’ an image taken with infrared digital camera at Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada.

“I think digital technology makes things a lot easier since you can see your photos right away instead of waiting for your film,” Spoltore said. “Many of my students are intimidated by digital photography because of all the options. But when you see a really gorgeous picture these days, it’s (mostly) digital manipulation. You’ve got to be a good photographer, but you also have to be good on the computer.”

Spoltore’s teaching career began with a simple class he offered for adults in continuing education at Comsewogue High School. When that program ended, one of his former students approached the Comsewogue Public Library about letting him teach there.

The popularity of Spoltore’s classes exploded, and he now offers classes at 34 libraries on Long Island, in addition to private lessons. More than 800 people receive his weekly email newsletter featuring photos and articles about photography, and he’s also contributed a column to local newspapers for the past several years.

“Seeing the ‘aha’ moment on the faces of my students makes me so happy — they would say how easily they understood what I was explaining to them,” Spoltore said. “I can’t tell you how many people I’ve never met have emailed me with questions or problems. I’ve had people come to me with a camera still in the box become really great photographers.”

‘Glacier Moon’, taken from a cruise ship in Alaska with moon edited in

This month’s exhibit at the North Shore Public Library is Spoltore’s 10th on Long Island. It will feature 25 framed prints of his favorite photos that showcase a variety of styles. Each photo is printed on metallic paper to enhance its color. Visitors to the exhibit can expect to see visions of Long Island’s North Shore, Alaska, Canada as well as Pennsylvania’s Dutch Country, to name a few. A photo of an Amish father and son riding a horse and buggy titled “Country Ride” is among Spoltore’s favorites.

“John Spoltore has a great and beautiful heart,” said Lorena Doherty, art exhibit and adult program coordinator at the North Shore Public Library. “I have attended his classes and am astounded at the level of knowledge that he has to share. He enjoys working with people. It gives him such great pleasure to share his talent, knowledge of people and wisdom with all. Please come and view these colorful iconic images.”

The exhibit will also be the photographer’s farewell to Long Island — Spoltore plans to relocate in a few months to Florida, where he hopes to continue spreading his love of photography to anyone willing to learn. His absence will be felt by many including the library where it all began.

“John has taught photography programs at the Comsewogue Library since 2010, and we are sad to see him leave the Island,” wrote the library’s Adult Services Librarian Christine Parker-Morales in a recent email. She continued, “John’s classes were always beloved and well-attended. In 2015 we ran a Geek the Library campaign at the library and John was our go-to guy for a patron portrait shoot included in the activities. He also took part in our library’s 50th Anniversary celebration, providing digital professional-quality family photos free of charge to those who participated. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors and will find his shoes here at Comsewogue hard to fill.”

“Photographs by John Spoltore” is on display through the month of January at the North Shore Public Library, 250 Route 25A, Shoreham. For hours and more information, visit www.northshorepubliclibrary.org or call 631-929-4488. Learn more about John Spoltore at www.swedephoto.com.

DEEP FREEZE Elisa Hendrey braved the cold on Jan. 7 to snap this photo on her iPhone of an icy pier at Cedar Beach in her hometown of Mount Sinai. She writes, ‘It was so cold when I took this photo, but it was a striking scene that I was glad I did not miss.’

Send your Photo of the Week to leisure@tbrnewspapers.com.

Lucille Betti-Nash. Photo courtesy of Reboli Center

Save the date! Scientific illustrator Lucille Betti-Nash will be the speaker at The Reboli Center for Art and History’s next Third Friday event, Jan. 19 from 6 to 8 p.m. Betti-Nash will talk about the importance of communicating science and how science and art have been interconnected throughout history.

Betti-Nash studied art, printmaking and design with Robert White, Edward Countey and Jim Kleege at Stony Brook University in the late 1970s. During her student years studying fine arts she began working for the Department of Anatomical Sciences as a scientific illustrator where she has been employed full time since 1978. The department is home to a variety of world-renowned scientists working in many different disciplines ranging from human evolution to paleontology.

Betti-Nash’s illustrations have appeared in many scientific journals such as Science, Nature, Science Times and PLOS ONE, as well as in National Geographic, Natural History Magazine and several other scientific publications in print and online.  She has illustrated several books on human and comparative anatomy, primate behavior, ecology and evolution and numerous scientific papers and manuscripts on subjects as diverse as dinosaurs, extinct mammals and amphibians from Madagascar and hominid fossils from Africa, as well as providing human anatomical drawings for teaching students in the School of Medicine at Stony Brook.

In the past she and her husband, who is also a scientific illustrator, taught a class at Stony Brook called Anatomy for Artists, started by Ed Countey and Randy Susman. More recently they have been teaching nature drawing workshops in Peru and Brazil.

In addition to drawing the natural world, she is involved with Four Harbors Audubon Society where she leads bird walks every second Saturday in Avalon and Frank Melville parks. Future art projects include illustrating Long Island native plants, birds and insects that visit her Stony Brook garden.

The Reboli Center for Art and History is located at 64 Main Street, Stony Brook. Its Third Friday program is free to the public and reservations are not required. For more information about the event, visit www.ReboliCenter.org or call The Reboli Center at 631-751-7707.

Above, Humphrey Bogart and a young Robert Blake. Photo courtesy of Fathom Events

Nothing is more special for a movie fan than seeing their favorite classics on the big screen — and in 2018, Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies will present 13 classic movies in theaters nationwide as part of the TCM Big Screen Classics Series.

Humphrey Bogart in a scene from ‘The Treasures of the Sierra Madre’. Photo courtesy of Fathom Events

Kicking off the New Year in celebration of its 70th anniversary, “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” will return to 600 select cinemas nationwide on Sunday, Jan. 14 and Tuesday, Jan. 16. The special screening of the 1948 classic will include exclusive insight from TCM host Ben Mankiewicz.

Director John Huston’s unforgettable drama follows desperate prospectors, Humphrey Bogart, Tim Holt and Walter Huston, who set off to find gold in the rugged Mexican wilderness. Instead, they find trouble — not the least of which is the temptation of greed.

While countless films deal with the subject of money and greed, and the deadly combination the two can create, “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” stands out for its artistry, including John Huston’s direction, the performances of Bogart and Walter Huston (John’s father) and the stellar camera work of Ted McCord. It’s an uncompromising look at the dark side of human nature.

Participating movie theaters in our neck of the woods include Island 16 Cinema de Lux, 185 Morris Ave., Holtsville, at 2 p.m. on Jan. 14 and 7 p.m. on Jan. 16; AMC Loews Stony Brook 17, 2196 Nesconset Highway, Stony Brook at 2 and 7 p.m. both days; and Farmingdale Multiplex Cinemas, 1001 Broadhollow Road, Farmingdale, at 2 p.m. on Jan. 14 and 7 p.m. on Jan. 16. Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.fathomevents.com or at participating theater box offices.

The exciting film series will continue in February with “The Philadelphia Story” starring Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart; “Vertigo” starring Jimmy Stewart in March; “Grease” with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in April; Billy Wilder’s “Sunset Boulevard” in May; Mel Brook’s “The Producers” starring Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel in June; “Big” starring Tom Hanks in July; the Coen brother’s “The Big Lebowski” and “South Pacific” with Rossano Brazzi and Mitzi Gaynor in August; “Rebel Without a Cause” with James Dean in September; “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” with James Stewart in October; “Die Hard” starring Bruce Willis in November; and for the holidays, “White Christmas” with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye in December. For exact dates, locations and times, visit www.fathomevents.com

Superintendent states minimal changes will be made

Rocky Point school district will hold a technology meeting Jan. 26 to gain public input on the preliminary Smart Schools Bond Act spending plan and how to spend leftover funds. File photo by Desirée Keegan

The Rocky Point school district isn’t wasting any time getting its future finances in order, kicking off the new year with a workshop meeting on the proposed budget for the 2018-19 school year.

District Superintendent Michael Ring and board of education members met prior to their regular BOE meeting Jan. 8 to evaluate priorities, expectations and projected figures within the budget, which Ring anticipates will be “a very positive one” for the school and community. Although he said it’s too early in the process to present a total budget — a specific total will be presented in March — Ring stated that the 2018-19 budget will be tax cap compliant, as the 2017-18 budget was, and will maintain the growth in tax levy within the cap. The district also plans on keeping existing instructional and cocurricular programs, as well as performing arts and athletic programs, at all levels.   

Rocky Point Superintendent Michael Ring. File photo by Erika Karp

“Nothing’s being lost,” Ring said. “That’s always a concern, particularly among members of the community who have children in the schools. That and sticking within the tax cap are things we strive for. I think those are things people in the community want from us, so hopefully that will result in general positive acceptance of this budget.”

In the 2018-19 school year, the second half of bonding for capital projects totaling $16 million, approved by voters in 2016, will take place. The first half of the bond — roughly $7 million — funded projects completed this past summer, including, but not limited to, districtwide asbestos removal, the installation of air conditioning in the high school auditorium and multiple renovations within the Joseph A. Edgar Intermediate School, from making its bathrooms compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act to replacing boiler, burners and old piping.

The second half of the capital projects list — costing $9 million —  will fund the installation of energy-efficient ceilings and light-emitting diode lights throughout the district’s schools, bathroom renovations in the high school and Frank J. Carasiti Elementary School, modifications to the heating and ventilation systems and replacement of the public address and clock systems districtwide, among other things. The board plans to begin the improvements after school lets out this June, working throughout the summer for a before-fall completion date.

“It’s a lot of little things that need to be done,” Ring said. “[It happens] when facilities reach 30 to 40 years old.”

Greg Hilton, school business official, explained that, because of the bond, total debt service within the preliminary 2018-19 budget is at a peak $4.28 million, compared to $3 million in 2016-17. It won’t stay that way though, he said.

“This is the top,” he said. “And we’re expiring smaller debt in its place.”

“Nothing’s being lost. That’s always a concern, particularly among members of the community who have children in the schools.”

— Michael Ring

A “special recurring item” in the budget is a proposal to hire a full-time equivalent additional teaching assistant at the middle and high school level to support the classrooms that have a high population of students with disabilities, including first-level foreign language classes in the high school.

Ring said due to scheduling, coursework and graduation requirements, certain noncore courses end up having 50 percent or more of its students needing special education. When the ratio of students with disabilities in a classroom reaches 50 percent, the new hire would be utilized to assist the general teacher, modifying instruction and helping those students.

One-time proposals may include a $34,000 purchase of a van to help the district’s maintenance mechanic transport tools and parts efficiently, rather than forcing him to carry items to a job; an $80,000 renovation of the high school’s weight room; $20,000 for a small turf groomer for interim maintenance on the district’s athletic field while utilizing The LandTek Group for the bigger jobs; and $50,000 for upgrades to the high school auditorium speakers and wiring, prompted by resident complaints over the sound quality in that room.

The next budget workshop will be held Feb. 5 at 6 p.m. at Rocky Point High School.

Theatre Three will present a sensory-friendly performance of “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” on March 11.

By Jennifer Sloat

Sensory-friendly performances are now part of the marquee at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson. The shows are modified to provide a more comfortable setting for children with special needs. The theater’s artistic director, Jeffrey Sanzel, said they have been providing sensory friendly shows since October 2016 and the feedback he is receiving has been very positive.

“A parent contacted us and asked us if we would consider doing it,” said Sanzel. “We want to be inclusive and so I started looking into it.”

A sensory-friendly performance of “Goldilocks — Is That You?” will take place on June 3.

Sanzel, who previously taught high school for two years, reached out to a former student who works with autistic children to get her feedback and assistance in making the modifications. He began the work in June 2016 and the first sensory sensitive show was performed in October of 2016.

Families who attend the show can expect house lights to remain up and special effects and sound levels to be lowered. The music is quieter and there are no strobe lights. Actors do not run through the aisles and instead do a slow motion chase. Kids can also move freely about the auditorium during the show, lowering stress levels for parents who are concerned about disturbing fellow audience members.

“Knowing that we would not be frowned upon in the event my son could not contain his excitement made it an enjoyable event for all of us,” said audience member Lisa Clark. “[My son] Christopher loved the show and did not want to leave. When a cast member realized we were having trouble getting him to the lobby to take pictures with the rest of the cast, she summoned the cast to gather around him. How awesome is that?”

A sensory-friendly performance of “Rapunzel: The Untold Story!” will be held on Jan. 21

A social story, provided on the theater’s website, is also used to lessen anxiety that kids may be feeling about attending the show. The online picture book can be reviewed by the children beforehand, providing a virtual walk through of attending a live show. It includes photos of the outside and inside of the theater, the box office and a picture of who will be giving them their tickets. Kids will see the path they will take to their seats, where they will sit and what the stage looks like. They will also see pictures of the actors in and out of their costume

“The thing that has been amazing is that ninety-nine percent of the kids have stayed the entire show; only twice did a child have to leave the show for a bit and come back up,” said Sanzel. All throughout the show the children are engaged, laughing and cheering. “We write our own shows and it is wonderful that they clearly are enjoying it.”

Perhaps most comforting of all is the opportunity for parents, caregivers and children to be in the company of others with whom they have something in common.“Families love it,” said Theatre Three company member Jessica Contino. “They are so thankful afterward. We stand in lobby for a meet and greet [after the show]. A young man in wheelchair stopped us last year said it was their second show. You just feel so good about it. It really hits home for some.”

Theatre Three is located at 412 Main Street in Port Jefferson. Sensory-friendly children shows are typically offered on the first Sunday of every month. Upcoming shows include “Rapunzel: The Untold Story!” on Jan. 21, “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” on March 11, “Stand Up! Stand Out! The Bullying Project” on April 29 and “Goldilocks — Is That You?” on June 3. All performances are at 11 a.m. All seats are $10. For further information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

All photos by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

 

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