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Children play in the prekindergarten playground at Nassakeag Elementary School. File photo

By Andrea Moore Paldy

After a heartfelt send-off of its high school graduates, Three Village school district prepares to welcome its newest and youngest students to prekindergarten at Nassakeag Elementary School.

SCOPE at Three Village Prekindergarten will expand to welcome three-year-olds this fall and make some tweaks to the district’s fledgling program.

The new three-year-old program, offered for the first time in September, will meet three days a week for 2.5 hours. It will cost $215 a month.

Kristin Rimmer, formerly Nassakeag’s assistant principal and preschool liaison for the tuition-based program, told the school board that parents and children have responded positively to the program for four-years-olds.

She said parents surveyed said they would recommend the program or send their younger children.

The collaboration between Three Village and SCOPE Education Services offers a “play-based” curriculum that “supports students’ cognitive, social and emotional learning” and helps prepare them for kindergarten in the district, Rimmer said.

Each class is led by a state-certified teacher and assistant, and incorporates New York State’s Prekindergarten Foundation for the Common Core.

Students are introduced to “Fundations” — the phonics programs used in Three Village — guided reading, and foundational math and technology skills, Rimmer said. SCOPE Education Services, which runs both universal (free) and fee-based prekindergartens across the island, staffs and runs the day-to-day operation.

A majority of the 32 students enrolled in the first year attended the half-day classes. The price of a full-day — $1,100 a month — was a deterrent for families, Rimmer said.

So, in the coming year, there will only be half-day classes. Eliminating the full-day option will lower tuition because the program will no longer have to cover the pricey full-day certification fee that is paid to the state Office of Children and Family Services.

The cost for a four-year-old to attend five days for 2.5 hours a day will be reduced to $300 instead of $400 a month.

The new three-year-old program, offered for the first time in September, will meet three days a week for 2.5 hours. It will cost $215 a month.

The three-year-old program, Rimmer said, will be similar to the four-year-old program in its approach and will prepare students for the four-year-old class.

Rimmer said another area that will see improvements is pickup and drop off, which some parents felt was a missed opportunity for parents to connect with teachers.

Rimmer commented, “I am optimistic that the changes we are proposing will make prekindergarten more accessible to all, while continuing to reach the level of programmatic success we achieved this year,” she said.

Residents from all over Long Island flocked to parades and firework celebrations happening in from Brookhaven to Huntington, in honor of Independence Day.

This map depicts the new territories for Tackan and Mount Pleasant elementary schools. The teal and lime green sections were formerly Branch Brook territory. The purple section represented Mount Pleasant territory before the changes. The orange section represented Tackan territory before the changes. The purple and teal sections will make up Mount Pleasant territory beginning in 2017-18, and the orange and lime green will become Tackan territory. Image from Smithtown administration

Branch Brook parents finally have some clarity after months of debate, anger and sadness.

Since November 2015, it has been unclear where Smithtown school district residents who send their kids to Branch Brook Elementary School, one of the district’s eight currently open elementary schools, will be sending their kids when Branch Brook closes ahead of the 2017-18 school year. At a board of education meeting Tuesday, Superintendent James Grossane announced which of his five proposed plans and one parent-proposed sixth option he would be selecting, which he was charged with doing by the board after they voted to close Branch Brook in February.

Grossane chose Option 4, which has been amended since the options were introduced about eight months ago, but includes most of the main points. Fifty-nine percent of current Branch Brook families will be attending Mount Pleasant Elementary in the fall of 2017, while the remaining 41 percent will move to Tackan Elementary School, according to Grossane.

Branch Brook territory is currently bordered to the east by Southern Boulevard, which meets the southern border at Townline Road. The northeastern corner of Branch Brook territory is the corner of Smithtown Bypass and Southern Boulevard. A few neighborhoods north of Smithtown Bypass and east of Terry Road are currently Branch Brook. The western border includes a large chunk of Smithtown Bypass, then splits and heads directly south to meet Townline Road near Helen Avenue.

The new district lines will use Terry Road, which becomes Smithtown Boulevard south of Smithtown Bypass, as a dividing line. Homes east of Terry Road that were Branch Brook territory will now be Tackan, while the west side of Terry Road will be Mount Pleasant, with some exceptions.

Grossane left the door open to the possibility of keeping students who would have been fifth-graders in Branch Brook in 2017-18 together, sending them all to Tackan for that year, though he said that is not ideal.

“There’s going to be quite a few students from Branch Brook in either building in each classroom, so no one will be alone,” Grossane said, which should somewhat ease a concern parents of Branch Brook students raised throughout the process, that changing schools could be traumatic and difficult for young kids.

The redrawing of lines will also alter the feeder system to the district’s two high schools, though Grossane said he will give families the option of keeping their younger children on track to attend one of the two high schools if the family already has older kids at one, to avoid having a family with kids in different high schools.

Grossane said both Tackan and Mount Pleasant will be operating at about 93 percent of their capacity during 2017-18, but the class sizes for both schools should remain below the district’s preferred average size of 28 students.

At least one Mount Pleasant parent and PTA member was glad to hear students in no school other than Branch Brook would be displaced as a result of the closure and subsequent redrawing of district lines.

“Thank you very much Dr. Grossane for not removing any Mount Pleasant students who are currently enrolled, and I want to say welcome to the Branch Brook family,” Deb Phillips said during the meeting Tuesday. “You are going to love Mount Pleasant. … There’s so many great things, and we welcome you with open arms.”

A transitional committee will begin meeting in the coming weeks and months to handle the mechanics of the changes. The committee will include administrators and principals from all three applicable elementary schools.

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Garret Warren, left, celebrates the largest fish ever captured at the tournament. Photo from Carole Paquette

By Joseph Wolkin

The bait came out and so did smiles across the faces of 43 children on Saturday, June 11.

The 14th annual Friends of Caleb Smith Preserve’s Junior Angler Fishing Tournament was a big catch for Smithtown’s youth. As the bait flew into the water, the kids battled one another to see who would catch the most fish, the largest pan one, along with the biggest “other” fish.

One of two natural preserves on Long Island, Caleb Smith State Park Preserve sits amidst 543 acres in Smithtown. Named after Caleb Smith, who was a judge for the Court of Common Pleas of Suffolk County, along with being a member of the state assembly in the 18th century, the property was dedicated in his name when it was acquired by the state in 1963.

At the end of the tournament, Garrett Warren, 11, came home with the largest fish of the day. Warren set a record for the largest fish caught in the tournament’s 14-year history, catching a 19.5-inch bass and shattering the previous record of approximately 15 inches.

“The fish cooperated and nearly every child caught a fish,” Tom Tokosh, president of the tournament, said. “Last year, we were in the neighborhood of maybe 32 [kids]. It goes year-to-year. I think we did better with marketing this year. I went to some trade shows and put flyers out and stuff.

“We also had a high participation rate. Last year, we had 25 people sign up for the afternoon session, but only 18 showed up. It depends on the weekend I think.”

10-year-old Erik Trovitch ended the day with the most fish caught, reeling in 17 creatures during the afternoon session for kids 9 to 12.

Parents were not allowed to help their children during the afternoon session. However, during the morning round, parents could cast the line, but the children needed to reel the fish in and bring them to shore.

During the morning session, which featured children from ages 5 to 8, 6-year-old Anderson Martinez won first prize for catching a morning-high 12 fish. Additionally, Veronica Leitner, 5, caught the largest “other” fish, bringing home a 14-inch bass.

“All of the fish were released,” Tokosh explained. “We might have hurt a few getting the hooks out, but basically, all of the fish were released. The kids had a great time, and it’s a good experience for them with their parents to bond and do stuff together.”

At the completion of the tournament, 204 fish were caught, measured and released, breaking the previous record of just under 200 fish caught during the tournament, according to Tokosh.

Among those also winning trophies were 9-year-old Gianna Valenti in the largest pan fish category and Brendan Lee-McGraw, 6, in the same section but during the morning round.

A scene from the Gersh Academy’s field day at West Hills Day Camp last Friday, June 10. Photo from Corbett Public Relations

More than 120 North Shore students with autism, in grades K through 12, attended a field day at West Hills Day Camp in Huntington last Friday, June 10. The event was designed to give students with autism the chance to experience fun athletic and recreational activities within a safe and positive environment, while providing them a forum that fosters growth and development.

Celeste Gagliardi, principal of Gersh Academy, said the day was a complete success and a wonderful experience.

A scene from the Gersh Academy’s field day at West Hills Day Camp last Friday, June 10. Photo from Corbett Public Relations
A scene from the Gersh Academy’s field day at West Hills Day Camp last Friday, June 10. Photo from Corbett Public Relations

“Today is the day they get to show how much they’ve grown,” Gagliardi said after the event on Friday in a phone interview. “It was wonderful to watch all of these kids just be themselves.”

Students were able to access numerous athletic and recreational facilities, including several swimming pools, ziplines, supervised rope activities, bounce houses, a playground and an arts and crafts center. The different activities helped develop students’ mental and emotional growth among their peers, while learning skills in athleticism, socialization, teamwork and hand-eye coordination.

The day also included Gersh Academy students enjoying a barbecue lunch prepared and served by individuals with autism between the ages of 18 and 23, who are participants in Gersh Experience. The program offers young adults on the autism spectrum life skills, along with social, psychological and educational support, while they develop their independence. Three of the students will be working at the West Hills Day Camp this summer.

It’s beautiful to see them interact … it’s the cherry on top of the year,” Gagliardi said.

Gersh Academy is a private school for children with special needs in K-12. They have several locations across the Island, including Hauppauge and Huntington.

The Boater’s Maritime Festival returned to Port Jefferson on Saturday and Sunday, bringing boats of all shapes and sizes as well as fun harborside activities for kids.

A pirate gives a young boy a high-five after a treasure hunt during Port Jefferson's annual Boater's Maritime Festival on June 7, 2015. Photo by Bob Savage
A pirate gives a young boy a high-five after a treasure hunt during Port Jefferson’s annual Boater’s Maritime Festival on June 7, 2015. Photo by Bob Savage

In celebration of its rich maritime heritage, the Incorporated Village of Port Jefferson in partnership with the New York Marine Trade Association, will present the 5th Annual Port Jefferson Boater’s Maritime Festival on June 11 and 12 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The festival will take place throughout the entire village and will specifically showcase Port Jefferson Harbor, one of the most popular deep-water harbors on Long Island.  Boaters appreciate the prime location with easy access, deep draft local shops, restaurants and entertainment just a short walk from the marina docks. 

This two-day festival will host the Port Jeff Boat Show with over 50 boats on display and dozens of fishing vendors at one of the island’s only outdoor shows. Sailing demonstrations will take place on the harbor as well as a  regatta planned on Sunday afternoon. Maritime-related attractions, museums and organizations will be present along with free open demos of kayaks, inflatable boats and paddle boards. 

New this year and kicking off the weekend is an outdoor Crossfit Throwdown sponsored by Crossfit Hidden Pond Park. Crossfit participants will gather for the Throwdown on the Sound scheduled for Saturday, June 11, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Jeanne Garant Harborfront Park. 

Also debuting this year is Chick-Fil-A’s family-friendly addition to the event … the Eurobungy!  Up to three participants can experience the thrill of bungee jumping in this ultimate interactive entertainment feature.

Returning this year is the Paddle Battle Long Island Port Jefferson Race on Saturday, June 11. The 2.5-mile recreational race includes kayak and stand-up paddle boards, each in separate categories. This fun-filled day of races helps raise money for not-for-profit organizations such as United Way of Long Island’s VetsBuild program, the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation and the East End Tourism Alliance. Registration will take place at the Village Center on East Broadway from 10 a.m. to noon.

Saturday night offers After Hours at the festival from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., featuring a Sunset Paddle, live music and food and beverage at the Harbor Bistro.

A paddleboard race takes off in Port Jefferson Harbor during the annual Boater's Maritime Festival on June 6. Photo by Bob Savage
A paddleboard race takes off in Port Jefferson Harbor during the annual Boater’s Maritime Festival on June 6, 2015. Photo by Bob Savage

In addition to exhibitors from the Maritime Explorium, Riverhead Foundation and the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center, the festival will feature art and photo exhibits,  craft vendors and live music.

Sailing demos (from noon to 5 p.m. on both days) and clam eating contest (on June 11 at 2 p.m.) are among the exciting and interactive events taking place at the Port Jefferson Boater’s Maritime Festival along with food and drink at the Harbor Bistro food court offered by local eateries, Fifth Season, C’est Cheese, Gourmet Burger Bistro, LI Pour House and Junior’s Spycoast.  Pirate shows and treasure hunts will round out the entertainment for the entire family. Best of all, admission is free!

For a full schedule of events and more information, visit

Sofia Pace of Smithtown shows off her catch of the day — an 18 inch largemouth bass caught at Willow Pond last summer. Photo from Paul Pace

By Rita J. Egan

Once the warm weather arrives, it can be a challenge when it comes to keeping children busy. Teaching them how to fish is a fun way to get them outside and have them connect with nature. Fortunately, for Long Islanders, in addition to water surrounding the region, the area is home to the Nissequogue River as well as other fish-filled waterways.

During fishing season, budding anglers can bring their poles and barbless hooks to the north side of Caleb Smith State Park Preserve in Smithtown and fish in the park’s Willow Pond, which empties into the Nissequogue.

The preserve’s environmental educator, Linda Kasten, said the park has offered children’s fishing since it opened in 1974, and little anglers can take home a fish depending on its size. A sign by Willow Pond lists the requirements that fish must be nine inches or larger, except in the case of a trout or largemouth bass, which must be more than 12 inches. Anglers who catch smaller fish are required to release them back into the river. 

Kasten said families who come to the preserve for a day of fishing are asked to sign in at the Caleb Smith House on the property and then return at the end of the session to let the staff know what fish they caught and how big.

From left, Sofia and Angelina Pace of Smithtown with a bluegill they caught last summer at Willow Pond. Photo from Paul Pace
From left, Sofia and Angelina Pace of Smithtown with a bluegill they caught last summer at Willow Pond. Photo from Paul Pace

When a child catches a fish, the educator said, “They think it’s the coolest thing.”

The park employee said she has seen children catch pumpkinseed fish, bluegills, largemouth bass and occasionally rainbow trout. Most of the fish that the junior anglers catch at the park are the panfish variety, which are small enough to cook in a pan yet still large enough to meet the requirements of fishers not having to release them back in the water.

Depending on the age of the child, fishing could keep them busy for a couple of hours or more, according to Kasten. “When they come with friends, they’ll sit out there for hours,” she said.

Last year the educator said there was a group of five young teenagers who would come to the park practically every weekend, and they always caught fish. “They were so excited just to be with each other, let alone fishing and catching stuff,” Kasten said.

Smithtown resident Paul Pace has been bringing his two daughters, Sofia (7) and Angelina (3), to fish at the park for the last two years. It was during a visit to the preserve, which features walking trails and a nature museum in the Caleb Smith House, that the father, a fisherman himself, saw the sign and thought it would be a great idea to teach his girls the sport.

Pace said his daughters will spend a good two hours fishing. He said he loves that, “it gets them away from computer-driven things. It’s real life. They breathe in the fresh air, see some animals, plants, birds, and do some exploring.”

However, he said they don’t find a lot of time to explore the preserve because they are very lucky fishing there. “We catch a lot of fish so there’s always some action,” the father said.

Pace said one day last year, his oldest caught an 18-inch bass, and they were able to keep it and cook it. He said his daughters are developing a love for the sport and can’t wait until they are older and can fish from a boat. “They get really super excited. They love it; they’re reeling them in. Especially that big one — they both freaked out!” he said.

Besides fishing being a fun family activity, Pace also believes that it can teach children some important life lessons. “To cast the line takes a lot of practice and patience and determination. Sofia, she was casting last year … really good. There’s always something to accomplish,” Pace said. 

’[Fishing] gets [kids] away from computer-driven things. They breathe in the fresh air, see some animals, plants, birds and do some exploring.’
—Paul Pace

Each year before the season begins, the preserve offers fishing clinics so young anglers can learn some useful tips. The Friends of Caleb Smith Preserve also hosts an annual Junior Angler Catch and Release Tournament at the park. For $15 per participant, children 12 years and under can compete for prizes for the most fish caught and largest fish reeled in. This year the event takes place this Saturday, June 11, when children  ages 5 to 8 will compete in the morning and kids ages 9 to 12 will cast their poles in the afternoon.

Fishing season at Caleb Smith State Preserve Park, 581 W. Jericho Turnpike, Smithtown, runs from April 1 to Oct. 31. There is no charge for fishing; however, a parking fee of $8 is in effect, except for Empire Passport holders. Children do not need a fishing license but are required to bring their own equipment. Fishing at Willow Pond is for anglers 15 years and younger, and children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. For more information about fishing at the preserve or the Junior Angler Catch and Release Tournament, call 631-265-1054 or visit

M.E. Junge (Ariel) sings “The World Above” in a scene from "The Little Mermaid." Photo by Lisa Schindlar

This summer, families will have the opportunity to swim under the sea with Ariel and all her friends as The Noel S. Ruiz Theatre presents one of Disney’s most beloved classics, “The Little Mermaid.”

Gregg Sixt as King Triton in a scene from "The Little Mermaid." Photo by Lisa Schindlar
Gregg Sixt as King Triton in a scene from “The Little Mermaid.” Photo by Lisa Schindlar
Ronnie Green as Scuttle in a scene from "The Little Mermaid." Photo by Lisa Schindlar
Ronnie Green as Scuttle in a scene from “The Little Mermaid.” Photo by Lisa Schindlar

The full-length musical, which opened last Saturday night at the CM Performing Arts Center, brings the ocean to life on the Oakdale stage and follows Ariel’s adventure to find true love — and her voice. The show delights children and adults with a dazzling production, special effects and unforgettable music.

Kristen Digilio and Patrick Grossman (who also serves as set designer and choreographer) skillfully direct a talented cast of more than 20 in this fun adaptation of the Danish fairytale of the same name by Hans Christian Andersen. Music is by Alan Menken with lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater from the 1989 animated film.

M.E. Junge is perfectly cast as Ariel the mermaid princess and shines in her solos, “The World Above,” “If Only (Ariel’s Lament),” and “Part of Your World.” Bobby Peterson is the romantic Prince Eric with standout vocals, and he is as handsome as can be. Kin-Zale Jackson perfectly plays Sebastian, Ariel’s lobster friend, Jamaican accent and all. His rendition of “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl” brings down the house.

Kyle Petty (Chef Louis) in a scene from "The Little Mermaid." Photo by Lisa Schindlar
Kyle Petty (Chef Louis) in a scene from “The Little Mermaid.” Photo by Lisa Schindlar

The wicked sea witch, Ursula, is played flawlessly by Erica Giglio-Pac, who commands the stage with her powerful voice and presence and is chilling during her performance of “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” Kyle Petty is hilarious as the French Chef Louis who chops and guts his way through “Les Poissons.” His chase after Sebastian through the castle draws the most laughs. Petty is a delight to watch and is on stage for too short a time.

The supporting cast does a wonderful job, with special mention to Flounder (Victoria Tiernan), Scuttle (Ronnie Green), the electric eels Flotsam (Matthew W. Surico) and Jetsam (Kevin Burns), King Triton (Gregg Sixt) and Grimsby (Andrew Murano).

Multiple sets are featured for both the above and underwater scenes with a ship, a castle, coral reef and lots of waves. Green’s costumes complement the set perfectly, with vibrant outfits, wigs (more than 40 are used during production) and tons of glitter. From Ursula’s dress, with six additional legs, to King Triton’s crown and trident, everything pulls together nicely. Lighting was designed by Allison Weinberger, with spotlighting neatly handled by Jacqueline Hughes and Marielle Greguski and the choreography was exceptional, especially during “One Step Closer,” in which Eric and Ariel dance the Waltz, and the tap dance number “Positoovity” with Scuttle and his seagull friends.

Erica Giglio-Pac (Ursula) in a scene from "The Little Mermaid." Photo by Lisa Schindlar
Erica Giglio-Pac (Ursula) in a scene from “The Little Mermaid.” Photo by Lisa Schindlar

This is a wonderfully family-friendly show and although the scenes with Ursula could be a little frightening for a younger child, the clever script — chock full of sea-themed puns, like “as long as you live under my reef, you will live by my rules” and “a squid pro quo” — as well as the singing, dancing and special effects make it all worthwhile.

As a special nod to the children in the audience, the crew turns on bubble machines during “Under the Sea“ from the sides of the theater and on stage, releasing, according to the program, 15 gallons of bubble juice during each show. Although the evening show starts at an earlier time of 7:30 p.m., it runs for two and a half hours with one 15-minute intermission, perhaps too long for the younger audience.

The Noel S. Ruiz Theatre at the CM Performing Arts Center, 931 Montauk Highway, Oakdale, will present Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” through July 9. Tickets range from $16 to $29, with VIP seats for $40.

The theater closes its 38th season with “West Side Story” from July 30 to Aug. 28. For more information, call 631-218-2810 or visit

From left, Matthew W. Surico as Flotsam, M.E. Junge as Ariel and Kevin Burns as Jetsam in a scene from "The Little Mermaid." Photo by Lisa Schindlar
From left, Matthew W. Surico as Flotsam, M.E. Junge as Ariel and Kevin Burns as Jetsam in a scene from “The Little Mermaid.” Photo by Lisa Schindlar
Kin-Zale Jackson (Sebastian) and M.E. Junge (Ariel) in a scene from "The Little Mermaid." Photo by Lisa Schindlar
Kin-Zale Jackson (Sebastian) and M.E. Junge (Ariel) in a scene from “The Little Mermaid.” Photo by Lisa Schindlar

The Maritime Explorium children’s museum in Port Jefferson hosted the Eastern Long Island Mini Maker Faire on June 4, bringing innovators from all over and loads of fun stuff for kids and adults to check out.

The fair filled up the museum, the harborfront park and all three floors of the Village Center in Port Jefferson.