Education

Principal Robert Grable speaks at the 2019 high school graduation. Photo by Bob Savage

Mount Sinai High School Principal Robert Grable passed July 19. He was 49.

Mount Sinai High School Principal Robert Grable addresses the graduating class of 2015. Photo by Erika Karp

Grable joined the school district in 1998, teaching fourth, fifth and sixth grade before moving up to assistant middle school principal and in 2005 to middle school principal. He would become high school principal in 2010, during a reshuffling of staff where TBR News Media reported at that time he was there to help facilitate a “diversity of staff.”

In his earlier years, before he entered into education, Grable played Major League Baseball for the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies. He can be found in the Suffolk sports hall of fame. He was a lifelong resident of Connetquot and father of three girls.

“The community, school district and its teachers, administrators and staff are devastated by his untimely loss,” the school district said in a statement.

But if his true calling was education, it showed, according to both those who worked with him and those students he guided.

Lynn Jordan, a Mount Sinai resident who had been on the board of education since 2007 until this year, said the high school is where he truly thrived.

“That was his building — that was where he belonged,” she said, only a few hours after learning of his passing.

The high school principal would be instrumental in several programs that saw the high school thrive, Jordan said, including a “collegial observation process” that had teachers sit in on other’s instructors classes, having them learn from each other. While the program met with some initial resistance, it soon became an important part of teachers mentoring each other, especially for those just coming into the district.

“Teachers are very funny about having other people in their classrooms while they’re teaching,” she said. “It grew tremendously, I think about every teacher was participating in the collegial rounds eventually.”

Scott Reh, the district’s athletic director, knew Grable for nearly 20 years, having been one of his closest comrades. He said the principal cared about the students like they were his own children.

“He had a vision — he was a presence in the high school,” Reh said. “If you look at the Mount Sinai high school, rob created that, he made it.”

Vincent Ammirato, who taught and coached alongside Grable, would later work under him as principal. He said he remembered joking, saying Grable once worked for him, and he was now his boss. Even with him moving up in the district, Ammirato said the principal never lost that personal connection to his students.

“The kids loved him, the parents loved him, the teachers loved him,” he said. “It’s very rare that you find that in education or any walk of live to be loved by so many people.”

Students who took spent years with the principal, both in the middle and high schools, would come to see him as more than just an administrator.

Daria Martorana, a Mount Sinai native who graduated in 2014, said she had travelled the road from middle to high school with Grable, adding he was magnanimous to her and the other students.

“To say Mr. Grable was a passionate and dedicated educator is an understatement,” she said. “He has always been the one who his students could go to for a laugh when we were down, guidance when we were lost, and help when we were confused… he would even escort us to class so we didn’t get in trouble for not having a late pass.”

To those who paid attention to his methods, Grable took a look at teaching like a coach would on the baseball field, seeing how each individual student has strengths that had to be pushed and nurtured. He was adamant that students just looking to coast through easy courses should challenge themselves.

“They mentored them all through the year, making sure they were really getting what they needed,” Jordan said. “He worked with kids, he tried to make the final outcome better.”

“That was his building — that was where he belonged.”

— Lynn Jordan

Grable spoke at the 2019 senior commencement ceremony just last month, June 28. Jordan said that, even though he had spent nearly 19 years in the district and could have moved up higher in administration, he considered the high school his home.

“Robert Grable was so much more than a principal,” said Gabriella Conceicao, a 2014 Mount Sinai graduate who would later become a teacher in the district. “There are few educators who take the time to get to know their students on a personal level and he was one of them. He built relationships that would last far beyond high school and he touched the lives of countless students and faculty members… I feel so lucky to have known him as a principal, friend, mentor, and coworker.”

Community reaction to the news on Facebook was swift in its condolences, with one resident calling him “one of the most compassionate educators Mount Sinai has ever had.”

The school district announced it would be closed at 3 p.m. Friday, July 19 until Monday July 22 in observance of Grable’s passing.

“There are no words to show the impact Mr. Grable has had on each and every one of his students,” Martorana said. “We are so lucky to have had him as a mentor and teacher but more importantly as a friend.”

*This post was updated July 19 with additional information and quotes.

** This post was updated July 22 with additional quotes

Commack School District celebrated its commencement ceremonies June 26.

Deniz Sinar has earned the title of academic leader at Commack High School, which is given to the two students with the highest weighted GPA upon the completion of high school. Sinar graduated with a 104.57 weighted GPA. She will be attending Cornell University in the fall as a biological engineering major. She has won several awards, including a National Merit Scholarship. She was involved in the National Italian, Tri-M Music and Science Honor societies, and was the secretary of the Math Honor Society and varsity math team. Sinar raised money for Long Island Against Domestic Violence and volunteered to visit nursing home residents through Commack’s Glamour Gals Club. She was also a member of the chamber orchestra for three years and took part in the Future American String Teachers Association Club and the Pathways freshman art and literary magazine.

Kings Park School District held its senior graduation June 27.

Merrick Cai and Eric Mitchko were named 2019 valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively, for Kings Park High School. Cai was the captain of the math team, varsity tennis and quiz bowl team and served as co-president of the independent science research and secretary of Italian Honor Society. He graduated with a 107.36 weighted GPA. He will attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study mathematics. 

Mitchko was the captain of the quiz bowl team and treasurer of the math team as well as a member of Kaleidoscope, an art magazine club. The senior placed fifth in Suffolk County in the county high school math league. Mitchko graduated with a 106.92 weighted GPA. He will attend Stony Brook University in the fall to study chemical and molecular engineering.   

All photos by Rita J. Egan

The Northport School District celebrated its graduation June 29.

Nathaniel Wang is the 2019 valedictorian for Northport High School. He will study computer science at Columbia University. Katie Sierra is the 2019 salutatorian and she will study neurobiology at Harvard University. 

Smithtown East celebrated the 2019 graduation June 26.

Thomas Fanning addressed the 2019 Smithtown West graduation as honorary speaker. While attending high school, Fanning participated in Italian Honor Society, Social Studies Honor Society, robotics, pit orchestra and winter track. He will attend Stony Brook University studying computer science.

Shoreham-Wading River's 2019 commencement exercises. Photo by Bill Landon

We congratulate each and every one the 2019 high school graduates in our circulation area. These students were born 18 years ago, at a time when planes deliberately took down the World Trade Center in New York City and crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a hillside in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. At around the time these children turned 8 years old, the U.S. and world economy collapsed after the financial industry bundled and sold bad mortgage debt. Currently, the nation and countries of the world are coping with election systems troubled with interference from foreign adversaries, whose interests aim to make people question the efficacy of democracy as a form of governance.

As we look forward, and put the past behind us, let’s make sure we take time to remind these graduates of the greater good of humankind. We should also celebrate the good nature within themselves to reassure these young adults that the future is perpetually full of hope and opportunity.

Over the last several decades, despite the tragedies, we have also seen many remarkable achievements. A nation elected its first black president, and we’ve seen women march for their rights and run and be elected to public office at historic rates. Aside from politics, over the last 20 years, scientists have sequenced human DNA, which is helping to develop effective treatments for cancer and other potentially deadly diseases. We’ve also watched the world change as the home computer and telecommunication turned mobile. Consequently, it’s become easier than ever to stay in touch. With the touch of a finger, we can access and enjoy the music, stories and performances of a world full of talented artists, writers and filmmakers.

Adversity and tumultuous times somehow, thankfully, spark creativity and inspire people’s inner goodness. Think of the ’60s, and how that peace and love-conquers-all theme galvanized a culture. It’s an age-old message, really, of biblical proportion. High school graduates should know that as caring human beings they already hold the core qualities they need to thrive.

A scene from the 2019 Newfield graduation ceremony. Photo by Greg Catalano

Loui Chen

As Newfield High School valedictorian, Chen graduated with 51 college credits and an unweighted GPA of 98.12. The valedictorian also has been a member of the pit orchestra, chamber orchestra, the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra and SCMEA All-County orchestra. Athletically, he served as captain of the varsity fencing and soccer teams and helped lead the soccer team in his position as goalie to the Suffolk County League III title.

Chen said Newfield High School prepared him well for the future.

“I think the biggest lesson I took away from Newfield was being accountable for my own actions,” he said. “The teachers and coaches I’ve had have always allowed us to grow at our own pace and while they did push us to become better — a lot of the motivation had to come from ourselves as the students. They have taught us the importance of taking responsibility for our own actions and being accountable for both our successes and failures. Newfield has given us a step in the right direction, but still allowed us to take that step on our own feet so that we are able to continue walking on our own after we leave Newfield.”

Chen will attend Yale in the fall to study math, something he has loved since he was a child.

“I think I’m a very logical thinker and I love solving puzzles, so I always leaned toward math growing up,” he said. “As a major and a future career however, I am very undecided on what I want to do. The situation is more of me going to college to see what there is and see what I like rather than already knowing what I want to do. I am going with more of a blank slate and I am open to seeing all the possibilities that I may not have been exposed to in high school.”

Anaya Zaineb

Newfield High School’s salutatorian, Zaineb, graduated with nearly 40 college credits and an unweighted GPA of 98.1. Her success in AP-level courses earned her the title of AP Scholar with Distinction. She also was a member of the newspaper club, the book club, student government, environmental club, treasurer of the National Technical Honor Society, historian of the Foreign Language Honor Society and president of the National Honor Society. In addition, she was a member of the varsity fencing team, a homework helper and an assistant teacher at her Brentwood mosque.

“Attending Newfield High School has helped me find my true voice in the community,” she said. “I was presented with an abundance of clubs, activities and sports to discover myself at Newfield. The bonds I have formed with some of the teachers will forever be inseparable and have molded me into the person I am today.”

The salutatorian will be attending Stony Brook University’s eight-year dental program.

“From a young age, I always knew I wanted to study something in the medical field,” she said. “It wasn’t until volunteering and job shadowing that I discovered my true passion for dentistry. Thus, being accepted into Stony Brook’s Scholars for Dental Medicine program has been a true honor. The program’s flexibility and exposure to the dental community is perfect for my plans in becoming a dentist.”

Scene from the 2019 Centereach graduation ceremony. Photo by Bill Landon
Centereach High School valedictorian Faiza Syed. Photo from Middle Country Central School District

Faiza Syed

Centereach High School valedictorian Syed graduated with a weighted grade point average of 102.791 and completed 13 Advanced Placement classes and three college-level courses. Due to these accomplishments she earned the title of an AP Scholar with Distinction.

Syed, who has spent her entire school career in the MCCSD, was also elected by her peers to serve this year as the president of the school’s National Honor Society, was a member of the National Arts Honor Society and Italian Honor Society and was a competitor on the math team and Science Olympiad.

“I believe Centereach High School has prepared me for my future because throughout high school I have learned information along with skills that will be applicable during college and when pursuing my career,” she said. “High school has also taught me the importance of collaborating with others and the necessity of combining knowledge with creativity in order to develop solutions to problems and apply what I have learned.”

In the fall, Syed will attend New York Institute of Technology, where she will be enrolled in its seven-year medical program to become a pediatric neurosurgeon, which she said has always interested her.

“It would be an honor to be capable of helping cure children who unfortunately suffer from neurological abnormalities,” she said.

Centereach High School salutatorian Samantha Cotes. Photo from Middle Country Central School District

Samantha Cotes

As this year’s Centereach High School salutatorian, Cotes has completed 11 AP courses and four college-level courses at local universities, amounting to three semesters worth of credit. She served as the General Organization president of her class, and she was integral in coordinating and running events, including homecoming, the food drive, the toy drive, Trick or Treat Street and the Senior Citizen’s Afternoon Tea. Cotes also was a Tri-M Honor Society officer, a member of the National Honor Society, math team and Science Olympiad, and was a varsity athlete on the track and field and cross-country teams.

“My time at Centereach has given me a lot of opportunity for personal growth through the people I’ve met and the activities I’ve been involved in, which is something that will help me succeed personally and professionally,” Cotes said.

The salutatorian, who took part in Stony Brook Medicine’s Science and Research Awareness Series, will attend SUNY Binghamton where she will study medicine.

“I have always been interested in anatomy and medicine but attending the SARAS program at Stony Brook Hospital and volunteering there enforced my interests,” she said. “I don’t have a dream job, but ophthalmology excites me.”

Ward Melville High School valedictorian Elizabeth Wang, second from right, salutatorian Kelsey Ge, second from left, with Maya Pena-Lobel,left, and Megan Specht, right, were named Scholars in the 2019 Regeneron Science Talent Search, a program of the Society for Science and the Public. Photo from Three Village Central School District

One team captain and one integral member of the student-led nonprofit Mission Toothbrush graduated at the top of their class June 30.

Elizabeth Wang and Kelsey Ge are Ward Melville High School Class of 2019’s valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively.

Valedictorian Elizabeth Wang in front of Ward Melville High School. Photo from Three Village Central School District

Elizabeth Wang

Wang, who graduated with a 105.91 grade point average, has attended school in the Three Village Central School District since kindergarten. She attended both Setauket and W.S. Mount elementary schools and P.J. Gelinas Junior High School.

The valedictorian was a member of the girls varsity lacrosse team, and she was the captain of both the varsity field hockey and varsity girls fencing team. Off the playing field, she was president of DECA, editor-in-chief of the school literary magazine Cinnabar, head news editor of the school newspaper Kaleidoscope and confirmation teacher at St. James Lutheran Church.

Wang, who took 12 AP classes in Ward Melville, said the school prepared her well for her future.

“Ward Melville High School offers a variety of different courses, electives and extracurriculars,” she said. “It’s the perfect opportunity to try new things and learn what interests you, what you enjoy and what you may be good at. I think I learned a lot about myself by experimenting with different things at Melville.”

This fall, Wang will be attending Harvard University, where she will major in neuroscience.

“My dream career would be something that combines medical research, patient care and teaching,” Wang said. “I like the analysis in the research setting, the practical application in the clinical setting and the interactive aspect of teaching.”

Salutatorian Kelsey Ge in front of Ward Melville High School. Photo from Three Village Central School District

Kelsey Ge

Ge graduated Ward Melville with a weighted GPA of 105.40. While she started in the Three Village Central School District at Arrowhead Elementary School, in fourth grade, she switched to W.S. Mount elementary for the Intellectually Gifted program. During her high school years, she took on 12 AP classes, two of which were college-level math courses.

She was involved in Model U.N., DECA, the math team and International Cultures Club. Outside of school, she has been the president of Mission Toothbrush since 2017. The student-led nonprofit organization collects hygiene supplies to donate to local charities and shelters. She also teaches an origami class for children at Stony Brook Chinese School.

Like Wang, Ge said she feels her years in the Three Village school district have prepared her for her future endeavors.

“The teachers and staff at Ward Melville are incredibly supportive and work hard to ensure that students are granted every opportunity to succeed, both in and out of the classroom,” she said. “They help students improve not just academically, but also as individuals prepared to face challenges in the future.”

The salutatorian is planning to attend Harvard University. While she hopes to major in economics, she said she is also interested in psychology, statistics and computer science.

The future looks wide open for Ge.

“Although I’m not sure exactly what my dream career looks like, I hope to work together with people with diverse interests,” she said.

By Andrea Paldy

The Harry Potter-themed façade in front of Ward Melville High School proclaimed, “Let the Magic Begin.” And at 11 a.m. on June 30 it did.

Led by valedictorian Elizabeth Wang and salutatorian Kelsey Ge, 546 seniors in green and gold emerged from the high school as students for the last time.

Sunday’s commencement exercises for Three Village’s 50th anniversary class were punctuated by a series of firsts.

William Bernhard, who gave his first commencement address as Ward Melville principal, officially recognized the district’s first graduating class — known as the “forgotten class” because it didn’t graduate on Ward Melville grounds. Bernhard awarded proclamations and honorary diplomas to class of 1969 graduates Joellen Fehrs McNamara, Cathy Haenlein and Elizabeth Toye Aktas.

The class of 2019 also left its mark on the festivities. By bestowing bells for Ward Melville’s iconic clock tower, the graduating class gave a gift that would be “heard loud and clear” and that said, “We were here. We were important,” student government president Lauren Walters said during the presentation. The bells chimed for the first (and second) time during the graduation ceremony, bridging the past, the present and the future.

Bernhard’s wish for the graduating seniors was a touching one. He said that he hopes that after going on to the military or to college and eventually into the workforce that the graduates will someday rejoin the Three Village community and raise their families here.

And when they hear the bells again, Bernhard hopes they’ll say, “That’s Ward Melville High School. That’s where my roots are. That’s where I made my lifelong friends. That’s where I got my wings — ready to soar and succeed in life.”

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