Education

Harborfields High School. Photo from Google Maps

The Harborfields Central School District will host its capital improvement bond referendum vote on Tuesday, Dec. 3. Polls will be open from 2-9 p.m. in the Oldfield Middle School auditorium.

The majority of projects proposed in the new bond referendum are basic infrastructure upgrades such as replacing outdated boilers, repairing cracked sidewalks, improving fresh air intake and replacing deteriorating ceiling and lighting fixtures. Not only have many of these systems exceeded their useful lifespan, but they are no longer compliant with code.

With an increased focus on student and staff safety, a number of security enhancements are also included in the proposal, including the construction of security vestibules at every school. Original doors and hardware will also be replaced to enhance building security.

The proposal includes a number of academic improvements for students, including the renovation of school libraries at TJL, OMS and HHS. The new spaces will provide students with modern environments for group collaboration, while using the latest in educational technology. A new general science classroom will also be added at TJL. A number of physical education and athletic enhancements are also included in the proposal, such as the construction of a new outdoor play area at Washington Drive Primary School and the renovation of the South Gym and the installation of a synthetic turf field at high school.

The proposed bond would cost approximately $20.4 million. Even with the community’s approval of these expenditures, residents will see a decrease in their taxes due to the timing of this bond to overlap with two expiring bonds. This is due to the fact that the district has approximately $52.7 million in debt that will be retiring in 2021 and 2023 from the bonds issued to construct Washington Drive Primary School. The new debt associated with this proposal would essentially “replace” a portion of the old debt.

All eligible residents are encouraged to vote. For information on voting including absentee ballot information, as well as a complete listing of projects proposed through the referendum, please visit the district’s website, www.harborfieldscsd.net.

SUNY Empire State College cut the ribbon on its new $14 million Long Island campus in Selden on Nov. 13. 

Located at 407 College Road, the 6.6-acre learning center features public nature trails that will connect to Suffolk County’s comprehensive hiking and biking trail network, and provides students with cutting-edge learning facilities for both in-person and distance learning. It will also be equipped with performing arts spaces for programming under the college’s Arts Empower initiative. 

SUNY Empire currently serves more than 1,300 students in Suffolk County through both online and in-person instruction. 

“We’re proud to offer this incredible new learning facility and beautiful campus to our students on Long Island as well as the broader community,” said SUNY Empire State College President Jim Malatras. “I’m grateful to Governor Andrew Cuomo, the State Legislature, including the effort of Senator Kenneth LaValle, and the leaders in Suffolk County who helped make this happen. We look forward to making this campus a hub for both our students and the community, so stay tuned for upcoming events.” 

 Photo by Heidi Sutton

“This new state-of-the-art campus will connect thousands of Long Island students with world-class learning opportunities for decades to come,” said NY State Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. “When we provide New Yorkers with 21st century learning facilities like the SUNY Empire State College Long Island campus, we are helping them reach their full potential and preparing them for the jobs of tomorrow, today.” 

“With cutting edge technology and instructional methods, SUNY Empire under the leadership of President Malatras is committed to providing educational opportunities for working professionals across Long Island,” said SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson. “Our new Long Island hub will expand those opportunities, foster innovation, and build community partnerships, all of which advance SUNY’s broad mission of connecting students to an affordable, high-quality education that meets their specific needs. Thank you, Governor Cuomo, and everyone involved in making today a reality.”  

Senator Ken LaValle, ranking minority member of the NY State Senate Higher Education Committee, said, “This Grand Opening is a culmination of hard work of many people over a number of years. I’m excited that the Long Island Campus will bring leading-edge technology here for SUNY Empire students. The state-of-the-art Immersive Cloud learning will enable real time interaction between students and faculty between campuses and expand learning opportunities. This facility will meet critical needs for SUNY Empire students across Long Island. I am pleased to be a part of the process.” 

“With the grand opening of the SUNY Empire State College Selden Campus, students of all ages and background across Suffolk will now have the opportunity to study and learn at one of New York’s premier educational institutions right in their backyard,” said County Executive Steve Bellone. “We have already begun to partner with Empire State College and I look forward to continuing our work to ensure Suffolk remains a hub of innovation and higher learning.”    

“Having SUNY Empire State College here in Suffolk County, and more specifically in my legislative district, is a very welcomed addition to our community,” stated Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore. “Changes in lifestyle and technology have made education more accessible to nontraditional students, and I am grateful for the collaborative efforts of all involved with bringing this state-of-the-art facility to Selden.” 

Pictured in top photo, from left, Erin Young, Selden faculty academic coordinator; Ellyn Okvist, SUNY Empire State College student; Marion Conway, chair of the SUNY Empire State College Foundation Board SUNY; Kevin LaValle, Town of Brookhaven council member; Gregory Blower II, director of communications for Sen. Kenneth LaValle; Jim Malatras, president of SUNY Empire State College; Thomas Muratore, county legislator; Rob Basedow, SUNY Empire State College student; Jason Richberg, clerk of the Suffolk County Legislature; Robert Haelen, senior vice chancellor for Capital Facilities and general manager of the State University Construction Fund; Diane Conard, interim director of facilities and capital projects at SUNY Empire State College; Dennise Waters, SUNY Empire State College student; and Meg Benke, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at SUNY Empire State College.

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Rocky Point natives Gerard and Diane Hahn are honored along with three other siblings for service in the armed forces. Fifty other veterans were honored on the high school Veterans Wall of Honor. Photo by Kyle Barr

In Rocky Point, it’s hard to find a family without at least one armed service veteran as a family member.

As the Rocky Point High School band played out military tunes during a Nov. 15 assembly honoring vets, Rocky Point VFW Post 6249 Commander Joe Cognitore read off each branch of the armed service based on the music playing. Veterans and their families stood up, but it wasn’t just the visitors, students stood up as well. For both the men in service caps to the kids in T-shirts and jeans, service to country runs deep.

People take pictures and point to names of family members on Rocky Point HS Wall of Honor. Photo by Kyle Barr

It’s a testament to the number of veterans and veteran families in Rocky Point that this year the district added 50 additional names to the high school’s Wall of Honor, which was constructed last year with just under 60 names of veterans who were from Rocky Point or graduated from the district.

Social studies teacher Rich Acritelli was the major driving force between the wall and its update. He sunk considerable time and resources into fundraising and getting the updated plaques on the wall, working alongside fellow teachers, administrators and the school’s Varsity Club.

“In less than two years, the entire main hallway of the social studies wing will be full of people from the armed forces who sat in the same chairs, played in the same gym and fields, performed in school plays, band and chorus as you do,” Acritelli said to the assembled students. “These are people who played on the same blocks as you did.”

Some families had more than one person in the armed services. The Hahn family, all Rocky Point natives, had five siblings whose pictures now hang up on the wall. Gerard and Diane Hahn flew back home to their roots to accept the honor on behalf of their family.

“Our reason for entering the armed forces was different for each of us,” Gerard Hahn said, who after high school had joined the Air Force as a munitions specialist. 

“For various reasons and in different branches of the service, we wanted to serve our country,” he said. “Regardless of which branch, we were all proud of our service and our combined over 40 years in the military.”

Diane Hahn, Gerard’s sister joined the Army after she graduated in 1982. She said she joined the military, already having an interest in computers, spending five years in active duty and six as a reservist in data. She now works as a government contractor with her own IT company in Washington, D.C.

The brother of Gregory Brons, a veteran who graduated Rocky Point in 1996 and studied physics from Syracuse University, said his brother joined the U.S. Army in the signal corps both at home and overseas. He moved to southern California to work in defense research and has become an activist for the LGBTQ community.

Greg Hotzoglou honors his brother Taylor, a veteran who died trying to stop an armed robbery. Photo by Kyle Barr

“He is a champion for the freedoms we live under,” he said.

This year’s updated wall also included the names of faculty, some who served and some whose families had been in the armed forces. Jerry Luglio, athletic trainer, came to the podium to calls of “Jerry,” by students. He served in the U.S. Submarine Corps during the Cold War. Anthony Szymanski, a business teacher at the high school, died in 2014 but was remembered for his service to both the school and U.S. Army.

Many veterans whose pictures hang on the wall in Rocky Point High School have given much, but some have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Taylor Hotzoglou was honored by his brother, Greg, who said the young man joined up and served in the 101st Airborne Division in 2007 and had been fearless in his wanting to protect his fellow soldiers, often volunteering for the gunner’s seat in Humvees, known to be the most targeted and dangerous position a soldier could take in a vehicle. Hotzoglou died when he returned to the U.S., as he tried to stop an armed robbery while outside of Fort Campbell Army Base in Tennessee.

“His attitude was, if it’s not me, then somebody else is going to have to go over there and suffer,” Greg Hotzoglou said. “He said, you know what, it should be me, I should go.”

Cold Spring Harbor Central School District

On Tuesday, Nov. 19 residents of the Cold Spring Harbor Central School District approved a proposed scope of work totaling $34.4 million, which will be funded utilizing $1.2 million from the current capital reserve fund and a $33.2 million bond. The bond passed with a vote of 534 Yes and 398 No. The board of education and Superintendent  Robert C. Fenter would like to thank all community residents who participated in this vote.

“Our community continues to demonstrate their commitment to provide our students with a quality education that will provide the skills needed to be successful in the future,” said BOE President Anthony Paolano. “We appreciate their support and look forward to building upon our current success to create an improved learning environment that is focused on the future.”

The scope of work in the bond will benefit all schools including:

• Construction of a new science learning center at CSH Jr./Sr. High School with four newly constructed science classrooms and a marine wet lab, featuring the district’s unique Coral Reef Project.

• Construction of a new STEAM suite at CSH Jr./Sr. High School including a new redesigned robotics space.

• Installation of full-building generators at all schools to avoid disruption of instruction and to ensure school openings during local power outages.

• Installation of new sound and energy-efficient LED lighting systems in the CSH Jr./Sr. High School Performing Arts Center.

• An expanded kitchen, renovated cafeteria and additional parking at West Side Elementary School.

• Renovated music space at Goosehill Primary School.

• Improved security for classroom doors in all schools.

• Current weightlifting room in the basement of CSH Jr./Sr. High School will be relocated and renovated for use as a physical education/sports training space.

 • Additional parking spaces will be created at CSH Jr./Sr. High School to accommodate parking needs during sporting events.

For a more detailed breakdown of the complete scope of work, visit the district website at www.csh.k12.ny.us.

The district will keep the community informed on the progress of the approved work.

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Last year 55 students from Port Jeff took the polar plunge. This year 70 students have dedicated to jump into North Shore waters Nov. 23. Photo from Deirdre Filippi

The Port Jefferson high school varsity club raised around $9,500 for the Special Olympics last year. This year, as the club’s number of students swell, club advisers hope to do even better.

The annual Polar Plunge, which takes place at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai, is back again Nov. 23. Last year, the club sent 55 students into freezing cold waters, plus two advisers. 

“As a club in its fourth year, doing it we had a really good experience,” said Jesse Rosen, club co-adviser and social studies teacher. “The level of ownership in helping another human being is an awesome thing.”

For this year’s event, the club has taken on some new recruits. This year 70 students will take the plunge, which represents close to 25 percent of the overall ninth through 12th grade population.

The Polar Plunge is run by the Special Olympics, where the money raised from the event goes toward supporting a Special Olympics athlete in sports training, and health and inclusion programs for individuals with intellectual disabilities looking to compete. The organization advertises that $400 will give enough funds for one athlete to train for a year.

“We were so proud to help sponsor over 20 people to compete in the Special Olympics,” Rosen said.

The growing participation has both club advisers excited about this weekend’s event.

“I think Jesse would agree that we are thrilled to have so many student athletes taking part in this year’s Polar Plunge,” co-adviser Deirdre Filippi said. “We couldn’t think of a better organization to support and we are ecstatic to see so many of our students rallying behind such a great cause.” 

In addition to the Polar Plunge, the senior varsity club has been involved in the recent Powder Puff flag football game between the classes of 2020 and 2021, volleyball tournaments and assisting young people with special needs from the League of Yes, which creates baseball programs for kids with disabilities.

While the club does not have the final word on how much money it has raised this year, club advisers said they hope it continues to build even more after this year’s event.

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Stock Photo

The Three Village Central School District is standing up to New York State regarding a proposal to mandate one vaccine in New York.

District officials sent a letter dated Nov. 18 to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), as well as state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport). The letter, signed by Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich and board of ed President William Connors, stated the board was opposing the proposed amendment to Section 2164 of the public health law. The amendment will require that all students born after 2009 receive the human papillomavirus vaccine as part of the state’s mandated school immunization program.

“While we recognize that changes in the health law are often necessary in order to protect the public at large against health crises or to mitigate exposure to a communicable disease in open spaces, we are clinically opposed to adding the HPV vaccine to the required vaccination program for myriad reasons,” Pedisich and Connors said in the letter.

The school officials went on to say other required vaccines “aim to safeguard children against diseases that are easily contracted in a public school setting.” The letter cited diseases such as measles and pertussis, which can be spread through poor personal hygiene or airborne respiratory droplets. This differs from HPV, which according to the American Cancer Society, is passed from one person to another by skin-to-skin contact associated with sexual activity and not from toilet seats, casual contact and recreational items such as swimming pools and hot tubs.

The district added that data from independent health news site MedShadow, which focuses on the side effects of medicines, shows “post-marketing safety and surveillance data indicate that Gardasil 9 is well tolerated and safe, still many physicians have hesitated to recommend it based on its potential side effects.”

The school officials said in their letter students don’t engage in activities that spread the disease.

“As our public schools are not places where students would engage in the activities found to make one susceptible to contracting or spreading HPV, why then should it be mandatory that students be inoculated with the vaccine in order to attend school?” officials wrote.

Before the letter was posted on the district’s website, members of the Facebook page Three Village Moms began to chatter about the district’s proposed message.

Three Village parent Jenna Lorandini reached out to TBR News Media when she heard the board was taking the stance and said she was disappointed.

“I view the mandate as a necessary public health initiative whose purpose is to protect our children from a communicable disease as adults,” she said in an email. “If the advancements in science and medicine are available to us, mandating the vaccine would create widespread protection. The easiest way to do that is in the public school sector as timing of the vaccine is pertinent to the prevention of a cancer-causing virus. This doesn’t infringe upon my parental rights when its intent is to preserve life before a child can consent to that protection.”

Nichole Gladky, another Three Village parent, said she felt the district was moving too quickly and reacting to “the loud and staunch voices of those who partake in the Anti-Vaxx movement.” She said she will do what her pediatrician recommends.

“I wish the vaccination was available to me at the time,” she said. “There is a lot of easily consumable media of misinformation available on the Internet, social media, TV, etc. Everyone needs a proper dose of education on this vaccine — and disease control in general — and it could start with the school district before any action is taken.”

Dayna Whaley, whose daughter is unable to attend kindergarten at Arrowhead Elementary School due to not having vaccinations that New York State made a requirement earlier this year, said she thinks the letter is a good idea, even though she wishes the school would do more to oppose mandate vaccinations. She and her husband chose not to get vaccinations for their daughter on religious basis and after watching her suffer a spinal tap at four days old after getting the vitamin K shot.

“Requiring vaccines for sexually transmitted diseases as a requirement for school attendance as with hepatitis B and now Gardasil is just plain wrong,” she said.

In the case of requiring Gardasil to attend school, Whaley said that she feels even pro vaccinating parents will be willing to pull their children from public school.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HPV is estimated to cause nearly 35,000 cases of cancer in men and women every year in the U.S.

Approximately 20 school buses park overnight on the grounds of the Northport Middle School, where the district fleet refuels. Refueling takes place before and after school, unless it is an absolute necessity, the district stated. Photo from Close Northport M.S. Facebook page

At its Nov. 7 school board meeting, parents of Northport Middle School students asked school board members and school district officials, if the district did in fact have a bus depot stationed next to the school building, where 600 children attend classes. Many parents knew about the refueling station and were appalled, but many residents did not. 

“This is just alarming to me,” said Jamie Marcantonio, who said she had three children go through the school system. “We’re talking about toxicity.  How is it even possible that an affluent community like Northport is saying its okay to have a fuel station where our kids go to school.”

“This is just alarming to me.” 

Jamie Marcantonio

In response to ongoing air quality and health concerns among parents and former teachers at the Northport Middle School, and questions about the bus depot, the Times of Huntington-Northport has obtained copies of the most recent Petroleum Bulk Storage inspection for the Northport Middle School site. 

The Feb. 20, 2019 report indicates that the district is in violation of laws governing petroleum bulk storage.

During the announced inspection, though no evidence of spillage or release to environment were found, health officials were unable to confirm that the tanks’ leak detection, corrosion prevention and overfill protection systems were operating properly,  largely because the district has failed to maintain required self-inspection records for at least the last three years. 

One 4,000-gallon tank stores gasoline, another 4,000-gallon tank stores diesel fuel and a third fiberglass tank holds up to 15,000 gallons of #2 fuel oil, which is typically used for heating in furnaces and boilers.

The law essentially requires that metal tanks, piping, dispenser sumps and containment systems for petroleum storage utilize a technique to slow or stop corrosion called cathodic protection. The inspector noted in the report that operators were unaware of the requirement for cathodic protection and testing for the two 4,000-gallon metal tank dispenser sumps. 

To comply with Suffolk County Sanitary Code, the record-keeping and testing of cathodic protection must be rectified, health officials stated in a Nov. 13 email. 

The same report notes that one of the probes in the tank’s alarm system for leak detection was defective. Facility staff provided documentation to the inspector showing that they already had a work order in place to have the item repaired. 

The county requires prompt correction to violations and had provided a phone number to call to arrange for reinspection in its report to the district. But the county health department’s Office of Pollution Control states that no reinspection has been requested, despite the fact that the department followed up and sent a warning letter to the district in April. 

District officials did not return phone calls and board members did not respond to requests for interviews through email. 

In a Nov. 7 meeting, the school voted to test the soil on the site sometime this winter  to address concerns of ongoing complaints of odors and reports of diseases among students and former teachers. It’s unclear if the testing will include areas where tanks are located. 

In an email, Superintendent Robert Banzer stated that the district is in the process of forming a 13-member subcommittee. He advises all community members to visit the messaging center on its website for updates. Relocating the bus depot is an issue that the pending board of education subcommittee may decide to do,  according to Banzer.

Suffolk County Health Code states that violations are subject to fines not to exceed $2,000 for a single violation. The health department said that the matter has not gone beyond the warning letter stage. A proposed fine has not been calculated. 

Violations to the New York State Petroleum Bulk Storage regulations are subject to civil, administrative and/or criminal penalties up to $37,500 per violation per day. It’s unclear which entity enforces this law. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation directs all regulatory compliance issues for diesel fuel storage tanks to Suffolk County.  

The February 2019 inspection report also noted that the district could not prove that it had a current statement of insurance coverage to remediate spills if one would occur. The county said that most single station owners need to demonstrate $1.5 to $2 million in coverage. 

The county stated that it only reports the issue and does not enforce it.

In a last minute response to questions raised in this report, the district states that it has insurance coverage of $1 million for each occurrence for spills for the period July 1, 2019, to July 1, 2020. The coverage is also reportedly retroactive to July 1999 for the 15,000-gallon heating oil tank and to Feb. 18, 1994, for two 4,000-gallon diesel and gasoline tanks, the district stated.

Banzer stated that the district is unaware that it is in violation of laws governing petroleum bulk storage. 

The district provided a copy of its permit to operate a toxic or hazardous material storage site issued on July 1, 2019. The permit states that it is subject to compliance with provision of the Articles 12 & 18 of Suffolk County Code and 6 NYCRR Part 613.

 The Suffolk County Health Department said that it will conduct another inspection in December 2019. 

 

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The mosaic includes the Comsewogue logo and the notorious cherry tree. Photo by Leah Chiappino

By Leah Chiappino

Comsewogue High School’s lobby will soon receive a unique face-lift. The Art Honor Society and students in the advanced studios and murals class are putting the finishing touches on a mosaic that spans the entire center of the room. Fully designed by students, it consists of intricately placed pieces of hand-cut glass that reflect in the light of surrounding windows, making the whole piece sparkle.

The high school’s Art Honor Society with art teacher Gina Melton and Assistant Super Joe Coniglione on the right. Photo by Leah Chiappino

The project, which began construction three years ago, was the brainchild of Assistant Superintendent Joe Coniglione. 

“It has been a labor of love,” he said

The area on which the mosaic now sits was once a pit where students could sit and socialize. Eventually, it was filled in with concrete and a mural was painted over it. However, over the years the floor aged and the concrete began to crack, prompting Coniglione to push for something sturdier. 

“My thought process was rather than to paint it and have it crack again, we could have our amazingly talented student do a mosaic,” he said.

He brought his vision to Gina Melton, an art teacher at the high school, who ran with it.

“Both [Coniglione] and I are Italians so we appreciate mosaics,” she said jokingly. “However, mosaics are beautiful, and we figured if they could last through Pompeii, hopefully they will last through Comsewogue.”

Students then began the design process, making sure they included the school’s warrior logo, and aspects of the surrounding area of Port Jefferson Station, including the signature cherry tree outside the school’s window. They also added a starry night sky, as homage to Vincent Van Gogh’s painting, “The Starry Night,” which is a favorite among many students.

The mosaic includes the Comsewogue logo and the notorious cherry tree. Photo from Gina Melton

After the design was approved, students began to install the 2 million pieces, transitioning from glass to tile over time. They have to cut the pieces, lay them out and glue them down. 

Melton admitted the project has been a learning curve. 

“The first year the students were a little hesitant because it was so new,” she said. “545 square feet of space is a daunting task, but now that they’re seeing everything coming together, they’re very proud of it. I can’t even tell you how blessed I am to have the kids I have.”

For students who built the project, the process has had its good and bad times.

 “It’s certainly resulted in many cuts and scratches over the years,” Art Honor Society Vice President Alexa Bonacci said. She added that it was worth it to be able to look back and see what was created. 

While the Art Honor Society only meets once a week to work on it, several students within the club devote their free period and time after school to the mosaic. Bonacci works on it every day. She does not participate in any sports and said most people she knows work on it at least three days per week. She estimated Art Honor Society President Gianna Alcala has worked on it for at least 70 hours.

“This is something so many people are attached to,” society secretary Maison Anwar said. “When you see all the different techniques throughout the piece it makes you feel like everybody has a piece of themselves.”

The project was delayed because of the floor crack and the group of students subsequently having to redo the backboard. The original design was thrown out over the summer, forcing students to have to design much of the  project themselves. This has led the district to host what they call “mosaic workshops,” enabling students to work on the project for entire days at a time. “We made a lot of headway in those days,” Melton said.

Coniglione praised the impact of the program on students. 

“You would be surprised if you sat in Gina’s classroom for a day and saw students who struggle elsewhere in school,” he said. “They excel in her class because she allows students to find their creativity, and finds something good in every person,” he said.

Melton struggled to hold back tears. 

“They are amazing kids,” she said.

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Photo from Comsewogue

When Mike Mosca was formally introduced as the incoming principal of Comsewogue High School at this past January’s district board meeting, he expressed his desire to revamp the school’s business department, saying he was focused on getting his students to the next step of their lives, whether it be college or straight into their careers. 

Comsewogue School District From left: Susan Casali, Jennifer Polychronakos, Michael Mosca, Joseph Coniglione and Jennifer Quinn. Photo from David Luces

Working together with Comsewogue Superintendent Jennifer Quinn, fellow teachers and administrators, collectively they have already begun making changes to the business curriculum at the start of this school year. 

In conjunction with this strategy, the high school has revitalized its School to Career Advisory Committee, which aims to help students with their career paths and become productive members of the community. The group will be made up of teachers, administrators, business leaders, local professionals, community members, students and other stakeholders.

“We think this is something we believe will get our students to the next level,” Mosca said. “We have been reaching out to professionals and asking them, ‘What are you looking for in a candidate?’ and use that help and sculpt our students to be successful post school.”

Mosca said he hopes that the revamped curriculum and committee will help bridge the gap from school to the next stage of a student’s life.

“We want to make the business curriculum focused on career readiness and want to make sure they gain the skills needed for the 21st century and their careers,” he said.

The principal of the high school said it has already begun reaching out to community members, organizations, professionals, business leaders, among others, to see who would be interested in joining the committee. 

As of now, the district has around 50 people who have pledged to join the committee. Together they will provide input on how the business courses can be improved as well as connecting students with professionals in their preferred career path. 

Mosca said they have plans on doing mock interview days with students, job shadowing opportunities, guest speakers to talk to students and set up possible internships. 

Anthony Ketterer, business education teacher, said he believes this is a great opportunity and advantageous for students at the high school. 

“We want our students to think about their careers and life after high school,” he said. “We want to bring students and professionals together … and continue the strong relationship between the community and the school.”

Ketterer said the main goal is to better educate students and teach them practical skills that they can use in the future. He also said they want to provide resources to students who chose to pursue trade and vocational careers after graduating. 

Beginning in September, administrators and teachers began the first step in the business department revamp when it began offering a virtual enterprise business class to seniors. 

The six-credit course offered through SUNY Farmingdale allows students to essentially run a virtual business, specifically a clothing business, which was chosen by the students. 

Mosca said the class is made up of 10 students and will act as a liaison for the committee on how they can further improve the curriculum for future students. 

The principal also mentioned that members of the committee donated cubicles, desks and other office materials to mimic a real-life business setting.

“We want our students to think about their careers and life after high school.”

— Anthony Ketterer

 

“They are getting real-world experience — they are our pioneers and they are going to be working closely with the committee,” Mosca said.

He wants to make this experience accessible to all students in the district and hopes to expand it younger students down the line. 

In addition, the principal said he wants to make sure they are catering to different fields and career paths that students are interested in nowadays, adding there are “so many directions they can go in now.”

In response, administrators have reached out to professionals in the health care and medical field like St. Charles Hospital and Northwell Health. Local officials and politicians have expressed interest in contributing to the committee. 

Mosca also has plans to eventually create a senior workshop stemming off ideas from the committee. He said there are opportunities to teach students important life skills like changing a tire or filing their taxes.

The committee plans to meet several times a year and its first advisory meeting will be on Nov. 14 at Comsewogue High School. 

“Getting our students exploring these opportunities is the goal,” Mosca said. “They should be thinking about this and their careers as early as possible.”

Community gathers at Northport Middle School for 'sickout' . Photo by Donna Deddy

On the sidewalk in front of the Northport Middle School on Thursday, Nov. 7, protesters held up signs as the morning traffic passed by.

“Answers Required,” their posters and T-shirts read.

As people shared their personal stories with reporters, it became evident that something is awry with many community members clearly lacking a peace of mind. 

As the district attempts to address all of the concerns, it’s still unclear who or what government agencies or which experts will give them all the answers to all the questions that they are looking for. The district, town, county and state all have different areas of expertise and have also contacted outside authorities.

“My son was diagnosed with testicular cancer at age 20,” said Lawrence Belk. “Within 18 months of his diagnosis in 2009, we learned that two other students were also diagnosed with the disease.”

Belk also said that he has coached soccer and “half of the kids use nebulizers.”

The district reports that the school’s air quality tests normal.

Several parents during the sickout said that their child has been diagnosed with carboxyhemoglobin, an ailment caused by carbon monoxide exposure from auto exhaust and cigarette smoke exposure. 

Small amounts of carbon monoxide exposure can dramatically reduce the blood’s ability to transport oxygen, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Common conditions induced by carbon monoxide exposure include headaches, nausea, rapid breathing, weakness, exhaustion and confusion. 

The district uses the site as its bus depot and stores bus fuel in two underground 4,000-gallon diesel tanks, according to former board member Tammie Topel. Inspection information on the tanks are the responsibility of Suffolk County, according the New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation press officer.

The county’s report on the tanks were unavailable before press time. The district did not say if the building is constantly monitored for carbon monoxide.

Several parents with children with carboxyhemoglobin said that their requests to be relocated for health reasons were denied because the districts air tests did not detect unsafe carbon monoxide levels.

 “Brown water came out of the water fountain,” said student Lucas Yule. 

The district said the discoloration was caused by an iron buildup. Yule’s mother Tracy Muno said that the school sent home a letter explaining that it was flushing out its drinking water pipes.

Yule also attended classes in the K wing, where foul odors were most recently reported. 

“It smelled like puke,” he said.

Other people complained that the building smells like mold the minute you walk in the front door. The hallways in the school are known to flood. 

A letter dated Aug. 17, 2018, from New York State to the district superintendent has identified the chemical pesticide chlordane, which was banned 30 years ago, around the buildings perimeter. The state concluded, based on information from 2000, that it did not adversely impact air quality inside the school. Though two dust samples on windowsills in classrooms detected it in “low levels,” subsequent cleanings eliminated the chemical found on the windowsill. 

As previously reported [“Northport Families Plan ‘Sickout’ in Protest,” The Times of Huntington, Nov. 7], parents have identified 18 children diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma and aplastic anemia in the last 10 years. Former teachers have surveyed former staff and found 33 with cancer. 

A state public health assessment on the Northport Middle School was requested by Assemblyman Raia.  State health officials could only confirm that a study requested in spring of 2019, is being conducted on recent Northport High School graduates. The health department also stated in an email that community members are welcome to contact the Department at 518-473-7817, or via email at canmap@health.state.ny.us to discuss their concerns and provide detailed information.

The district said that it understands how issues surrounding environmental matters are unsettling. Since all testing has indicated that the building is safe, the district said in a letter to parents that its subcommittee will address the more important task of bringing people together. 

The district did not return phone calls and email inquiries about hallways flooding and the relocation of the districts bus depot.