Education

Laurel Hill Road at Elwood Road in Northport. Photo from Google Maps

A traffic study of Laurel Hill Road conducted following a serious September accident found that drivers’ “poor behavior” makes roadway conditions significantly worse outside Northport High School, according to Town of Huntington officials.

The town’s Department of Transportation and Traffic Study conducted a study following the Sept. 4 accident involving 14-year-old Miles Lerner. Miles was an incoming freshman walking to cross-country practice at Northport High School when he was struck by a 2005 Honda sedan traveling eastbound on Laurel Hill Road at 8:06 a.m., according to Suffolk County police. He was airlifted to Stony Brook University
Hospital with a traumatic brain injury.

Following the incident, Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R), a citizen’s advocate and town employees met with members of the Northport-East Northport school district and Suffolk County Police Department’s 2nd Precinct Sept. 14 to discuss the accident and pedestrian traffic in the area. As a result, the town decided to undertake a traffic study of Laurel Hill Road, which is in the town’s jurisdiction, the result of which was shared with school officials and police officers at a Nov. 27 meeting.

The next steps are to meet with the school district’s architect, Suffolk County and residents to discuss the town’s traffic study and plans for improvements along Laurel Hill Road and on the school property.”

— Scott Spittal

“Our Traffic Safety team has been carefully analyzing the data they collected from vehicular as well as pedestrian bicycle traffic to formulate a recommendation that will make our roads safer for student walkers, reduce driver frustration and achieve an overall traffic calming effect, especially during those critical pick-up and drop-off times,” Lupinacci said.

From Sept. 19 to 27, town employees placed traffic counting devices along Laurel Hill Road and the driveways that provide access to and from the high school to collect data on traffic volumes and speed. The data showed an average of 420 vehicles traveled eastbound and roughly 500 vehicles westbound on Laurel Hill Road during the peak morning hour of 7 to 8 a.m. weekdays, compared to an average of 40 to 50 cars on weekends. The 85 percentile of vehicles were clocked traveling at approximately 45 mph eastbound and 39 mph westbound, nearly twice the school speed zone restriction set at 20 mph. The average number of vehicles counted traveling on Laurel Hill Road during the peak 2 to 3 p.m. hour was between roughly 220 to 240 cars in each direction.

“Conditions are made worse due to poor driver behavior that was observed, including drivers speeding, dropping off students in the westbound Laurel Hill Road shoulder area and travel lane, and using the westbound Laurel Hill Road shoulder to bypass the queue of vehicles waiting to enter the school’s westernmost driveway along Laurel Hill Road,” read the town’s report.

In addition, Huntington transportation and traffic employees noted that buses and vehicles made “precarious” left turns out of the school’s easternmost driveway on Laurel Hill Road, close to the intersection with Elwood Road.

Based on these findings, the town had produced a concept plan that suggests adding an exclusive westbound left turn lane on Laurel Hill Road to reduce driver frustration for westbound motorists looking to travel through the area, which would be achieved by reducing the width of the existing shoulder areas on both sides of the roadway. This would have the added benefit of eliminating the ability of drivers to use the shoulder to bypass the travel line and drop off students in the westbound shoulder of Laurel Hill Road, according to the town’s report.

“The next steps are to meet with the school district’s architect, Suffolk County and residents to discuss the town’s traffic study and plans for improvements along Laurel Hill Road and on the school property,” said Scott Spittal, Huntington’s director of transportation and traffic safety.

One downside to the Town of Huntington’s proposed concept plan is it would eliminate on-street parking in the eastbound shoulder of Laurel Hill Road, or approximately 25 spaces.

“The superintendent is appreciative of the town’s efforts in conducting the traffic safety study, however, it is too early to render any reaction since the preliminary recommendations were just released Nov. 27,” Mike Ganci, spokesman for Northport school district said in a statement.

Northport-East Northport school district. File photo

Northport-East Northport school district trustees voted decisively 6-1 against arming its school guards with firearms after nearly nine months of intense debate.

More than 100 Northport parents, students and concerned residents attended the Nov. 28 board of education meeting at Northport High School where the community members were given one last opportunity to give their opinions on whether to hire armed security personnel in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February that killed 17 people. The majority of those who took to the mic to voice an opinion stood overwhelmingly against the proposition.

“The evidence is clear: If you put armed guards in our schools you are making the children in this community feel less safe, you will not deter crime, you are not avoiding a school shooting, and you will be escalating a dangerous situation not de-escalating it,” Greg Perles, of East Northport, said.

The evidence is clear: If you put armed guards in our schools you are making the children in this community feel less safe…”

— Greg Perles

Andrew Rapiejko, president of Northport-East Northport board of education, said district trustees have received an outpouring of emails from the community over the past several months, voicing their opinions on the issue of hiring armed security guards.

“I did note that some of the comments were kind of short and to the point, on quite a number of them I did note that people took a lot of time to write a number of paragraphs, not using a form letter but their feelings and describing their opinions, researching and looking at options one way or another,” he said. “I want to say I really appreciate that and thank you for that.”

David Stein, vice president of the school board, had put forth a proposal for the district to hire 10 armed security guards, one for each of the district’s buildings, for a trial period of 120 days with instruction to Superintendent Robert Banzer to provide an in-depth analysis of the program after 90 days for the board of education to review.

“That’s ridiculous, with all due respect,” trustee David Badanes said. “If there’s no incident in 120 days does it prove armed security guards work? We have many school districts that don’t have armed security guards and have not faced an issue. It proves nothing.”

That’s ridiculous, with all due respect.”

— David Badanes

Badanes said he was “touched” by emails a number of recent Northport graduates and students who, he said, spoke out unanimously against armed guards. He felt armed security personnel also negatively impact students of minority racial groups or low-income families and lead to an increased likelihood of arrests for low-level offenses such as disorderly conduct.

There are approximately five Suffolk County school districts, including neighboring Kings Park, that have moved forward with a decision to arm security personnel with firearms. Donna McNaughton, a Northport board member, said it was “the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make” but opposed doing the same.

“I am not comfortable as a member of a school board that I could craft an RFP, or proposal, and sanction how you could arm someone properly to protect students,” she said. “I cannot in good conscious put a weapon in a school on a person I cannot be confident is trained properly.”

If the district had moved to hire 10 armed guards, trustee Lori McCue said it would have cost the district approximately $450,000 for one full school year.

“I cannot in good conscious put a weapon in a school on a person I cannot be confident is trained properly.”

—Donna McNaughton

“So many people will say we cannot put a price on the safety of our students, and I 100 percent agree with you in theory,” McCue said. “Unfortunately, we sit up here every year at budget time and have to put a price on every single thing we do for our students. That is a very large number for something we cannot predict the outcome of.”

Stein, who has law enforcement background and is a retired lieutenant from New York Police Department, was the sole vote in support of the district hiring armed guards. The board member said his decision was based, in part, on learning that Suffolk County Police Department reported an average response time of five minutes to an emergency at the district’s Oct. 11 security forum and had never conducted a full-scale drill in any of the district’s buildings. One notable exception he said is Ocean Avenue Elementary School, which often has a police officer on site or less than a minute away, who knows the building and has drilled on site.

“As a board and district, how do we address that disparity between how different schools are being protected? How do we reconcile it? I don’t know that we can,” he said. “We have to protect our schools in some fashion now while lobbying Suffolk County for additional programs and support.”

I am just completely relieved that they decided to follow through, and after consideration they decided to vote no on the armed guards.”

— James Connor

Several parents asked the board to move forward to improve security by constructing security vestibules at each school building, ensure all doors are closed and armed at all times, trim hedges and bushes away from windows and entryways, ensure staff members are trained in first aid and tourniquet use, and make sure both teachers and students take lockdown drills seriously. Several Northport High School students had said their peers often laugh, chat and text on their phones during drills.

James Connor, a sophomore at Northport High School who advocated against armed guards at several board meetings, said he was relieved by the school board members decision.

“I am just completely relieved that they decided to follow through, and after consideration they decided to vote no on the armed guards,” he said. “Regarding school security, there are a lot of steps left to take, but in my opinion armed guards are not one of them.”

His sentiments were also echoed by his  mother, Amy — relief at the board’s decision.

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One of six Mount Sinai High School science rooms slated to be renovated with proposed bond. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

kyle@tbrnewsmedia.com

Residents will soon be asked to take the trek down to the Mount Sinai school district campus to vote on a $25 million bond proposal, one that district officials hope will give its buildings long-term stability.

“The campus is the heart of the community, everything happens between these three buildings,” Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said. “You got to fix things otherwise it will become more expensive.”

In May residents voted 787 to 176 to use $5 million of the district’s capital reserve funds for a capital project that renovated the high school turf football field and track, replaced a portion of the high school’s ailing roof and created a new fencing around the perimeter of the school campus. The district is still in the midst of creating new gates at both the entrance on Route 25A and North Country Road that will match the new black iron fencing, and Brosdal said the planned new bleachers, which were slated as part of the capital project, will be installed in summer 2019.

Mount Sinai residents have recently criticized the district both in board meetings and online for its spending practices. In June the New York State comptroller released an audit saying the district had amassed millions of dollars in its unrestricted fund budgeted higher than the legal max of 4 percent of the district’s overall budget. District officials said they have made efforts to create a rainy-day fund that could support them in case of an emergency, but they have said they would be establishing a capital reserve of $750,000 to reduce that fund balance, which could go toward additional capital projects in the future. Brosdal said the new bond is completing work that couldn’t be paid with capital funds.

District officials calculated the tax impact on local residents to be $240.29 more for a house assessed at $3,700 and $370.54 more for a home assessed at $5,700. The district has a calculator on its website where residents can calculate their taxes if the bond passes.

“To give our kids the best opportunity to succeed we need to upgrade our facilities,” high school principal Robert Grable said.

If the bond passes, the district would renovation the air conditioning systems in every school building on the campus as well as adding interior door security modifications and additional security cameras throughout the district. Every building would also see upgrades to their bathrooms.

The bond vote will be hosted Dec. 11 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the elementary school back gym.

There is parking in the front of the building as well as handicapped-accessible parking in the back. Votes will be counted directly after 9 p.m.

High School: $8,415,559

The biggest expense for the high school is finishing the roof renovations that were started with the 2018 capital project. District officials and those who work in the high school said the roof leaks, causing constant damage to ceiling tiles and flooring throughout the building. The next biggest expense is the renovation of six science labs as well as the greenhouse, which Andrew Matthews, the district director of math, science and technology, said they badly need an overhaul of the science desks and sinks which tend to leak as well as a complete restructuring of the layout of some rooms. The bond would repave the parking lot in front of the high school as well as add barriers and fencing to increase security.

Middle School: $7,714,685

The middle school would receive a complete window replacement to restore broken and aging glass for $1.6 milllion. The auditorium would receive upgrades to its lighting, controls and sound as well as giving its ceiling a new coat of paint. The middle school library and interior offices would be renovated to create a STEAM lab and install a new security entrance like those in the elementary and high schools. In addition, the bond would replace the flooring in 47 classrooms as well as the gymnasium.

Elementary School: $3,911,369

The elementary school would receive renovations to its front exterior adding nonballistic darkened glass to the front vestibule and remodeling aging wood, paint and concrete around the front entrance. The bond would also replace windows around the kindergarten rooms and corridors and provide replacements for exterior doors.

Athletics and Grounds: $5,289,885

While the costliest renovation is to the high school locker rooms sitting at about $2.4 million, the most substantial changes to Mount Sinai’s athletics would be the creation of a new synthetic turf multipurpose field at the high school and the creation of a new girls varsity softball turf infield and boys varsity baseball turf infield.

Other amenities include a districtwide phone system for $491,625.

Elaine Gross, Christopher Sellers, Crystal Fleming, Miriam Sarwana and Abena Asare speak about race at ERASE Racism forum. Photo by Kyle Barr

In a politically charged time, race is seen as a third-rail issue, one that if touched leads to political headache in the case of a politician or a rough time around the holiday dinner table for everyday folks.

Which is why Elaine Gross, president of Syosset-based ERASE Racism, which wishes to examine and make meaningful change to race relations in New York, said Long Island was the perfect time and place to start meaningful conversations about race and racism, both in the overt and covert displays of prejudice.

“Even though we are becoming more diverse, that doesn’t mean we have what we want going on in our schools,” Gross said. “Long Island is home to 2.8 million people so we’re not a small place, but tremendously fragmented.”

The nonprofit, which was originally founded in 2001, made its first stop at Hilton Garden Inn, Stony Brook University Nov. 29 during a five-series Long Island-wide tour called How Do We Build a Just Long Island? The mission is to start a dialogue about meaningful change for race relations in both Suffolk and Nassau counties. Four panelists, all professors and graduate students at Stony Brook, spoke to a fully packed room about their own research into the subject and took questions from the audience on how they could affect change in their own communities.

Christopher Sellers, history professor and director of the Center for the Study of Inequalities, Social Justice, and Policy, has studied what he described as “scientific racism,” of people who look at the superiority and inferiority of other races as an objective truth, an idea that was born during the enlightenment and colonial period used to justify conquering nations overseas. It’s a form of understanding identity that lives on in many people, Sellers said.

“It’s as old as western society itself,” he said.

Race is an important issue in a county that is very segregated depending on the town and school district. An image created by the nonprofit and compiled with information from the New York State Department of Education shows a district such as Port Jefferson is made up of 80 percent white students, while in the Brentwood school district 79 percent of students are Latino and 12 percent are black.

Panelists argued that racism exists and is perpetuated through local policy. Abena Asare,
assistant professor of Modern African Affairs and History said that racism currently exists in the segregated schools, in lack of public transportation, zoning laws and other land-use policies created by local governments.

“Many of the policies on our island that insulate and produce structural racism are based on a false narrative on what Long Island was, who it is was for, and the fear of where it is going,” Asare said. “Creating new futures requires that we expose the version of the past that justifies or separates an unequal status quo.”

Crystal Fleming, an associate professor of sociology at Stony Brook, spoke about how historically the idea of white supremacy is ingrained in America’s social consciousness, that lingering ideas of one race’s entitlement to security and citizenship over other races have helped perpetuate racist ideas and policy.

“When we talk about systemic racism, it’s not black supremacy, it’s not Native American supremacy, it’s not Asian supremacy, it’s white supremacy,” Fleming said. “We need to be brave and talk frankly about these matters.”

Miriam Sarwana, a graduate student in psychology at Stony Brook, said after the civil rights movement of the 1960s racism did not simply die, but it became subtle, only used in the safety of the home. This is compounded by the lack of interaction between races on a daily basis.

“These biases are influenced by the social, societal and cultural [elements] in our lives, and can be influenced both directly and indirectly,” Sarwana said. “A white adult has little or no interaction with African-Americans, and then starting childhood this person may be exposed to negative images of African-Americans.”

The panelists said that the extreme segregation in school districts has resulted in an even greater disparity of resources and attention for nonwhite races. The issue, Asare said, after the forum, was that the 125 public school districts on Long Island have remained insular, leading to communities becoming disparate and inclusive. She said the best way to deal with this is to consolidate school districts, even along town lines, which could lead to bigger savings for school districts, more resources to less-served districts and allow for better cross-pollination of races between schools.

“The fact that those types of discussions are not normally occurring here speaks to a larger issue, that segregation works for a lot of people around Long Island,” Asare said.

The final Erase Racism forum in this series will be held Dec. 10 at the Radisson Hotel in Hauppauge at 6 p.m. Visit www.eraseracismny.org for more information or to register for the event.

Rocky Point High School unveiled its new Alumni Wall of Honor Nov. 16 in recognition of the many graduates of the district who have entered the armed services over the years.

High school students and teachers were joined in an assembly honoring those on the wall by veterans families, local veterans from VFW Post 6249 in Rocky Point with Cmdr. Joe Cognitore, Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) and county Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai).

The wall features close to 60 graduates of recent years and those who graduated from many years ago. Also on the wall are bronze plaques emblazoned with the emblem of each branch of the U.S. military.

Jack Schaedel with students through the years at Norwood Elementary School. Photo from Joanne Grzymala

Comsewogue School District is widely regarded as a haven for quality education and its community feel by those on the inside and outside. One of the people who played a role in fostering that reputation died Oct. 10, but his spirit won’t be vacating the schools’ walls, or broader community, any time soon.

Jack Schaedel, 78, was a teacher at Norwood Elementary School from 1969 to 1999, though his influence was not confined to his classroom. Schaedel ran the school’s store for years, conditioning the students to raise money to fund class trips or donate to worthy causes. Years of holiday gift sales and other fundraisers paid for trips to Washington, D.C., foreign countries and donations to UNICEF drives, thanks to Schaedel’s leadership.

Schaedel is honored during a chamber of commerce celebration. Photo from Joanne Grzymala

He also spent three decades as an active participant and board member on Port Jefferson Station’s chamber of commerce, on Theatre Three’s board of directors, served as the teachers union’s representative, and as a trustee on Comsewogue Public Library’s board from 1974 to 2000 — a time period that saw the public pillar grow exponentially in size.

Through all of his community involvement and duties as a teacher, the 1999 Port Times Record Man of the Year raised a family with his wife Anne of 58 years, and his family members speak as glowingly of him as his colleagues and students do.

“He was the most positive, happiest person you could meet,” said his daughter Joanne Grzymala, who went on to become a teacher herself. “Within minutes of meeting him he would already be cheering you on, inspiring something inside of you to feel good about yourself. His presence was felt the second he walked into a room. His enthusiasm for life was contagious.”

Comsewogue’s Joe Rella took over the role of Superintendent shortly after Schaedel retired, though the two maintained a relationship. The district’s head said Schaedel’s influence was felt long after he left.

Rella has led the way instituting a problem-based learning curriculum in the district, a method that closer resembles a college thesis format than the standardized teach-to-the-test model characterizing education in recent years. The curriculum is offered to all Comsewogue students this year following a small rollout last school year, which saw PBL students score higher in most cases on state tests than their peers learning in traditional classrooms.

“Long before problem-based learning was on the radar — I’m talking 25 years ago — Jack was doing [the same thing] with his fifth-grade class,” Rella said. “He was a master, he was like the Pied Piper. He got children excited about learning. While they were excited he snuck in the learning.”

In the 1999 Man of the Year feature written about him, then Norwood principal Andrew Cassidy praised Schaedel as a completely dedicated teacher, and board of education member Peter Cario called him singularly focused on the betterment of education.

During his years as a Comsewogue library trustee he worked closely with trustee Ed Wendol, who said as a pair their goal was to craft programs for residents of all age groups aimed at enjoyment and educating.

Jack Schaedel with students through the years at Norwood Elementary School. Photo from Joanne Grzymala

“I found him to be a true professional, really interested in educating, and making sure Comsewogue Public Library become the educational cultural and social center of our community. We felt that to be very important,” Wendol said.

Richard Lusak, the library’s first director who shepherded the facility through major expansion to the community hub it is today, called Schaedel a unifier on the board of trustees relentlessly dedicated to the Port Jeff Station area. “Jack worked very hard with us on all of our programs,” Lusak said. “He was a good man and a good trustee.”

Schaedel is survived by his wife Anne; sisters Cindy Davis and Dixie Schaedel; daughter Joanne Grzymala (Chris) and son Jack (Jackie); five grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter.

A December tribute is being planned in his honor, and those interested can email Joanne at setrlingjo61@yahoo.com for more information.

The family is also asking to consider donating to help in Theatre Three’s recovery from a devastating September flood at P.O. Box 512 Port Jefferson, New York 11777, attention Vivian Koutrakos.

Erase Racism is holding events across Long Island. Photo from Erase Racism website

A Syosset nonprofit and a Stony Brook University department are teaming up to open up a public dialogue pertaining to one of Long Island and America’s oldest societal problems.

ERASE Racism, a regional organization founded in 2001 that advocates for public policy to promote racial equality in housing, education and more, and SBU’s Center for the Study of Inequalities, Social Justice, and Policy, a department founded in 2017 that provides a forum for the promotion of various forms of student and faculty engagement on the same issues, will co-host the first of a series of forums meant to jump start a community conversation on racial inequality.

The series of forums, entitled How Do We Build a Just Long Island? will kick off at the Hilton Garden Inn on the SBU campus Nov. 29 at 6 p.m.

“This whole thing is premised on the fact that everybody can educate themselves,” ERASE Racism President Elaine Gross said in an interview. “It’s not about anyone calling anyone a racist. It’s not a blame and shame kind of thing. Let’s make sure we have all the facts, let’s make sure we understand the context.”

Gross said so far about 400 people have registered to attend the event. She said from the organization’s inception its goal has been to identify institutional and structural racism and seek to educate the public about the history that has led to places like Long Island being so racially segregated today.

“It is embedded — it doesn’t require that all of the players be racist people, or bad people, it only requires that people go along with the business as usual,” she said.

Christopher Sellers, SBU history professor and director of the center, said part of the thinking behind the forums is to frame the conversation in a way for people not exposed to racial inequality or injustice on a daily basis to see barriers and exclusions they may not have viewed as such. He said the goal is to ultimately expand the discussion from the confines of the campus and into the community. He called Long Island the perfect place to begin this dialogue.

“Demographic change causes people to get more defensive and fall back on these racializing tool kits they may have picked up from their own past,” he said, adding that data suggests Long Island has become more racially diverse during recent decades, specifically seeing an increase in those of Hispanic descent.

Sellers said he feels a sense of urgency to begin a wide discussion on racial intolerance despite the perception from many that in the decades since the civil rights movement society has made sufficient progress in creating a just America for all. In “Hate Crime Statistics, 2017” released Nov. 13, the FBI reported a 17 percent increase in incidents identified as hate crimes from 2016 to 2017, with nearly 60 percent of those incidents being motivated by racial or ethnic bias. From 2015 to 2016 there was a roughly 5 percent increase in these incidents. From 2014 to 2015, hate crimes went up by about 7 percent.

“We need as a university to do something, we as academics can no longer sit on our hands,” Sellers said. “This is maybe a more urgent matter than we’ve considered before.”

Gross said the aim of the events is education.

“We didn’t plan to be doing this at a time when the country is so divided and there’s so much overtly biased comments, racist comments being said at the highest levels,” Gross said. “We planned this because we felt that even though with all of the work that we’ve done, we felt that was really needed was a regional public discussion and understanding of how things are connected.”

To register for the event and to get more information on the remainder of the forums — slated for Riverhead, Hempstead, Melville and Hauppauge — visit www.eraseracismny.org.

Students will now be enrolled in the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University. Photo from Stony Brook University

The day before Thanksgiving, Stony Brook University showed its gratefulness for the employees of an East Setauket hedge fund firm.

On Nov. 21, Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr., SBU’s president, announced that Stony Brook University School of Medicine has been renamed the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University. The programmatic name change honors employees of East Setauket-based hedge fund Renaissance Technologies who have donated to SBU through the decades, according to the university. Jim Simons, former SBU math department chair and co-founder of Renaissance Technologies, and his wife, Marilyn, kicked off the donations more than 35 years ago. Since then, more than $500 million has been donated by 111 Renaissance families, according to a press release from SBU.

“By sharing their talents, their time and their philanthropic giving over the years, 111 current and former employees of Renaissance, almost all of whom did not graduate from Stony Brook University, have committed to Stony Brook’s success and have given generously of their time and treasure to advance the mission of New York’s premier public institution of higher education,” Stanley said in a statement. “It is fitting that we name the academic program that has a tremendous impact on so many in recognition of this generosity and vision as the Renaissance School of Medicine.”

Marilyn Simons commended the Renaissance employees for their generosity in a statement.

“Stony Brook University is an important institution in the Long Island community and it’s certainly had a significant impact on Jim’s and my life,” she said. “Support from Renaissance, particularly for the university’s work in the sciences, medical research and the delivery of health care services, has enhanced the university’s medical services to the Long Island community.”

The name change has faced some opposition in the past few months from residents of the surrounding communities, including members of the North Country Peace Group, a local activist group. Members Myrna Gordon and Bill McNulty attended a Stony Brook Council meeting in December 2017. The council, which serves as an advisory board to the campus and SBU’s president and senior officers, gave Gordon, McNulty and another community member the opportunity to discuss their reasons for opposing the name change, according to Gordon. She said eight months ago, the activist group also submitted a petition with 800 signatures protesting the name change to SUNY trustees and Carl McCall, chairman of the board of trustees.

Gordon said in a phone interview the protesters object to some of the ways Renaissance makes its money, including investing in private prison systems. They also took exception to the financial contributions to the campaign of President Donald Trump (R) and alt-right groups by former co-CEO Robert Mercer, who has since stepped down.

Despite the opposition to the new program name, Gordon said she and other NCPG members are proponents of the university and many of them attend educational, cultural and sporting events at the campus on a regular basis.

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Miller Place Superintendent Marianne Cartisano and board of education President Johanna Testa look over captial projects for the coming summer. Photo by Kyle Barr

Miller Place school district officials are looking to perform some lasting modifications to some of their schools’ infrastructure, as discussed at the Nov. 14 board of education meeting.

Summer 2019 will bring new ceiling lighting to the Laddie A. Decker Sound Beach School, a new 6,000-gallon fuel oil tank for the high school, replacing the existing 15,000-gallon tank, as well as replacing asbestos-ridden floor tiles existing in several classrooms at the high school.

The entire project will cost $500,000, with $400,000 coming from the district’s capital funds, according to officials. Another $100,000 will come from state funds secured by state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson).

Rocky Point-based architect Michael Guido, the district’s retained architect, told the Miller Place school board that with the inclusion of gas service lines recently installed in the school it no longer has need of such a large tank, thus the scale down.

Superintendent Marianne Cartisano said the existing floor tiles containing asbestos were installed back when the high school was built, and they exist in several classrooms throughout the building. While she said they don’t pose any harm to students currently, they will be removed during the summer when there are no students in the classrooms.

“It’s not a dangerous situation at all, but while we’re doing work in the building we’re going to go in and replace some floor tiles,” she said.

The new lighting at  Laddie A. Decker will include new ceiling structural support and new, brighter LED lighting.

Guido said the bids for all projects will go out from Jan. 3 through 16, and they anticipate awarding the bid Jan. 23. The work for all buildings will be done during the upcoming summer, and district officials said they would work to make sure construction does not impede summer programs.

Students in Thomas Fank’s Virtual Enterprise class at Miller Place High School work on their virtual business. Photo by Kyle Barr

The halls of the Miller Place High School are dead quiet, and footsteps echo far down the long halls. All the students are sitting down and being lectured to from one period to the next, all except one class where their raucous noise can be heard through the door.

Walking into business teacher Thomas Fank’s fourth-period Virtual Enterprise class is like walking into the main floor of a Manhattan business startup. There is an onrush of sound, a cacophony of fingers clacking on keyboards and students shouting across the short space of the computer room. As a stranger walks in, Miller Place High School student Andrew Friedman strides over with a hand outstretched. He doesn’t say, “Welcome to Miller Place” or “Welcome to Fank’s fourth-period.” He says, “Welcome to Amplify Audio,” the name of their virtual company that sells headphones and other audio equipment.

Students in Thomas Fank’s Virtual Enterprise class at Miller Place High School work on their virtual business. Photo by Kyle Barr

“Everyone here enjoys what they’re doing so they don’t go off topic much at all,” said Friedman, the president and CEO of their virtual company. “I look forward to this class every day.”

The business had only gotten off the ground at the beginning of October. Despite having only a 40-minute period every day, the students already have a portfolio as thick as a phone book, with sheet upon sheet of statements of goals, human resources forms, invoices and so on. The class has a living breathing website including a Spotify music playlist, a link to the virtual company’s Instagram account and a page where one can buy their products. Though the site and company are still under construction, just like a real business, Amplify Audio buys from wholesalers and then sells items for a profit, though all with virtual funds.

The business started with $150,000 in virtual investments from the renowned McNulty’s Ice Cream Parlor in Miller Place, the agrochemical company the Halex Group and Autonomous Ballistics, a Manhattan-based firearms company. All these investments were made with calls by the students themselves, and though they don’t involve actual dollars, the sales pitches are very real.

“If we didn’t have those investors, we would have had to take out a loan and we would have been in debt before we even started,” said Tyler Cohen, vice president and CEO of Amplify Audio. “This is one of the issues that a real company deals with. Where are they going to get the money?”

Virtual Enterprise classes have been becoming more and more popular in schools throughout the U.S., though Fank’s two VE classes have only been in place since the start of the school year. The business teacher said when he originally proposed the class to the school board, he expected it to be a much harder sell, but nearly everyone was on board with the idea.

Students in Thomas Fank’s Virtual Enterprise class at Miller Place High School work on their virtual business. Photo by Kyle Barr

“It’s student driven, and that’s why they like it,” Fank said. “The kids have more responsibility and more accountability than other classes, and there’s more peer-to-peer learning.”

Fank, who himself has his own small business, a wedding DJ company called Encore Events, teaches two VE classes. His fourth-period class is the Amplify Audio group, while his eighth-period class’s company is called Snap Shack, which sells photobooths for use at party events.

Everything within Amplify Audio is virtual, from the products to the money they use to sell them, though the students don’t treat it as such. Throughout the 40-minute period they have, each and every minute is spent in meetings, making sales, working on company documents, or like the much-maligned party planning committee from the hit television show “The Office,” planning for holiday events or birthday parties for every employee. Those in the human resources department complete employee evaluation forms of their fellow students as if they were real employees.

“We’re the ‘Toby’ of our office,” said Julianne Cerato, the human resources director of Amplify Audio and member of the party planning committee. “When it comes to the evaluations, they may be friends, but we’re still a business, and you have to focus on them as if they’re just a co-worker.”

Students in Thomas Fank’s Virtual Enterprise class at Miller Place High School work on their virtual business. Photo by Kyle Barr

Students on the sales team make real efforts to pitch their products to teachers and students around the high school. Alex Constantis, the president of marketing, made 10 sales alone from Nov. 5 to Nov. 9 to teachers and students he found while wandering the halls.

The next step for Amplify Audio is finishing out its business plan by Dec. 12. Every member of Amplify Audio staff has to pitch in at least three pages of a 60-page report, though this is just the start to the company’s adventure.

In October both VE classes traveled to Long Island University Post to participate in the annual Virtual Enterprise competition. Fank said his classes didn’t place, simply because of how new they were compared to other schools that have been working on their businesses for several years. He hopes by January, when the next competition takes place, his classes will make top honors.

“The accountability is the main thing I tell them about,” Fank said. “We don’t have any kids who come in here and sit on their phones. They know they have to do work because it’s part of that team-oriented feel that we have, and it really guides them to want to do well.”

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