Kids

Enrollment soars above school district's estimates

School board President Robert Sweeney explains the full-day kindergarten enrollment in Mount Sinai. Photo by Giselle Barkley

When Mount Sinai school board members proposed full-day kindergarten, they didn’t expect 160 students to enroll.

But the new program brought an enrollment increase of more than 40 percent, according to numbers the Mount Sinai Board of Education examined during a recent meeting, leading the district to hire another teacher.

By the end of the 2014-15 academic year, which had half-day kindergarten, there were around 112 students enrolled. With the 2015-16 enrollment, Mount Sinai had to bump up the number of teachers to seven.

Superintendent Gordon Brosdal explains the full-day kindergarten enrollment in Mount Sinai. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Superintendent Gordon Brosdal explains the full-day kindergarten enrollment in Mount Sinai. Photo by Giselle Barkley

In May, the board estimated that 125 students would enroll in the full-day program, but by mid-July, there were 151 students.

“All year long … we promoted full-day K at a number around 125 and [aid Mount Sinai received from the state] was based on that number,” Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said. The increase “was a little bit alarming to the board and myself.”

Brosdal said the new program could be popular because full-day kindergarten is easier for a parent’s schedule. He expects several more children to enroll before class starts on Sept. 8, pushing kindergarten enrollment past 160 students.

According to Linda Jenson, assistant superintendent for business, the extra teacher the district had to hire added $85,000 to the budget, bringing the total program cost to $635,000.

Despite that increase, residents will not see taxes go up, Jenson said. Officials dug up the extra money from within the approved $56.7 million budget for 2015-16.

Mount Sinai lengthened the kindergarten day to give young students more time to learn subjects like language arts, math, social studies, science and music.

“We wanted to give our kids and our teachers adequate time to address Common Core, the demands of the curriculum,” Brosdal said.

In half-day kindergarten, students were in school from 8:55 a.m. until 11:05 a.m. With the full-day program, they will stay in the classrooms until 2:58 p.m.

The Girl Scouts of Suffolk County and the Little Scientists club joined county Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), Heritage Trust, the Long Island Native Plant Initiative and members of the Cornell University Cooperative Extension to plant local native species in Anker’s Educational Agriculture Support Initiative pilot garden Tuesday at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai.

The Girl Scouts, alongside their younger counterparts from the Little Scientists club, got down in the dirt and planted several native plants, including various types of milkweed which attract monarch butterflies and other native pollinators to the area.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, monarch butterflies and other native pollinators to Long Island have decreased in numbers by more than 80 percent in the past two decades. Native bee populations are also on the decline. With this decline in native pollinators, Anker hopes to educate people about the importance of native plants and pollinators in the environment.

But before members of the LINPI and Cornell Cooperative Extension helped the Girl Scouts and Little Scientists plant flowers and plants in the pilot garden, Anker gathered the children and tested their knowledge on the importance of native plants and pollinators.

Michelle Skoblicki created the Little Scientists club four years ago. The program caters to children from pre-K to fifth grade, and its goal, according to Skoblicki, is to provide these kids with a means to expand their knowledge about science through hands-on activities, literature and art.

Skoblicki recently taught the kids about life cycles using butterflies, and hopes to release the butterflies they raised in the pilot garden by the end of the week.

“We were hoping to have them ready for the garden but they were still in their chrysalises,” Skoblicki said.

Members of the Girl Scouts also helped plant native plants in the garden; and Maris Lynch, who is involved in her third event as a Girl Scout, was simply happy to help.

The launch was the first event for Girl Scouts Analynn Bisiani and Lindsey Galligan. Bisiani said she was happy to participate and was having fun.

“I would definitely do this again,” Bisiani said.

Galligan was one of several kids who grasped Anker’s message.

“Plant are … a very important part of our community,” Galligan said. “They help insects which help us — and that’s that.”

Anker was excited for the launch and hopes to continue spreading the word about the importance of pollinators and the native plants they need.

“When your kids, when your grandkids or great grandkids are here at the park, I want them to experience everything that I’m experiencing now,” the county legislator said. “If we don’t do something now, we’ll loose this forever.”

By Rachel Siford & Heidi Sutton

Thirteen-year-old Jessica Finger has loved dolphins all her life. Now, in celebration of International Dolphin Day, which is held every year in September, she is giving back by organizing a unique fundraising event on Sunday, Aug. 30, to help them. Titled Dogs for Dolphins, the event is part of her Bat Mitzvah community service project.

Jessica Finger. Photo from Beth Finger
Jessica Finger. Photo from Beth Finger

It is customary for a community service project to go hand in hand with a Bat Mitzvah, along with Hebrew school and learning about the Jewish faith. Her Bat Mitzvah is scheduled for October.

Jessica has a very strong stance on anti-captivity of these beautiful sea creatures. “I’ve been passionate about helping dolphins and whales since I was really little,” said Jessica. “I started to like them because of SeaWorld, but then I realized the truth and now I am an activist against [SeaWorld].”

“[Dolphins] are just more intelligent than other mammals … they live with their families for their entire lives and they are very interesting,” said Jessica, adding that killer whales (orcas) have a special place in her heart. Her favorite book is “Behind the Dolphin Smile” by former dolphin trainer Richard O’Barry.

Her mother Beth said that Jessica became even more passionate about saving dolphins after watching “The Cove.” The 2009 documentary shows O’Barry exposing Japan’s massive dolphin slaughter that takes place in the town of Taiji by local fisherman annually from September through April. The group Whale and Dolphin Conservation has stated that, since 2000, more than 18,000 dolphins from seven different species have been either killed or taken into captivity during the Taiji hunt.

According to the teenager, “it changed my life ever since. I now use Instagram to be an activist for dolphins in captivity and for giving updates about the infamous ‘Cove’ in Japan,” she said.

Barry went on to found The Dolphin Project, which aims to stop the murder and exploitation of dolphins around the world. Jessica found out about this organization about a year ago through social media and decided to raise money to support this noble cause. With a goal of $750, she has already raised $336.

Jessica and her mother completed a six-hour training course at the Long Island Aquarium this summer and now volunteer at the Riverhead tourist attraction where they interact with guests and provide them with interesting facts about the animals there. Jessica’s favorite job is working at the touch tank where visitors can have a hands-on encounter with sea stars, clams, whelks, hermit crabs and horseshoe crabs.

“I agreed to volunteer with Jessica since it’s something that she desperately wanted. I have to admit that I am enjoying it very much and look forward to it as much as she does. I am constantly amazed at how knowledgeable she is about marine life. We are excited to volunteer at a seal release on Monday, Aug. 31, at Cedar Beach in Mt. Sinai,” said her mother, adding “It’s also a great way for us to have some meaningful mother-daughter time.” Members of the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation will be at the event to speak about how they rehabilitate marine life.

A true animal lover, Jessica lives in Nesconset with her parents, two younger brothers, a dog named Summer, two rabbits, three tortoises, a frog and tropical fish. Jessica said her goal in life is to “be either a marine biologist or a member of The Dolphin Project.”

“I am very proud of Jessica for her compassion for all animals. She has deep integrity at such a young age. Her love for animals led her to become a vegetarian when she was only eight years old — she will not wear leather or even enjoy marshmallows and S’mores with her friends because there is gelatin [an animal product] in them,” said Jessica’s mom. Her stance has “inspired several of her friends to become vegetarians too,” she added.

“It is appropriate that the occasion of her Bat Mitzvah, when she takes on the role of being a responsible young adult, was the impetus for Jessica to bring the community together to help make the world a better place. In Judaism, we call that Tikkun Olam, and I can’t think of a better way for Jessica to launch this next chapter of her life as a Bat Mitzvah,” said her mother proudly.

On Aug. 30, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Jessica invites the community to bring their dogs along with friends and family to the Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard, 2114 Sound Ave., Calverton, for a walk through the trails of the vineyard to support a great cause.

The walk will be followed by lunch, a pie tasting, activities for kids and dogs, crafts and wine. Patrons will be able to decorate bandanas for their dogs and play games. Massage gift certificates, gift cards to restaurants and cooking classes at Sur la Table will be raffled off during the afternoon.

The event is sponsored by Animal Health and Wellness Veterinary Care in Setauket, Pet Supplies Plus and Long Island Iced Tea, and patrons can expect an endless supply of free ice tea and pet treats.

There is a $10 per person suggested donation at the door (includes lunch) with 100 percent of the proceeds going to support The Dolphin Project (www.dolphinproject.net). There is no rain date. Advance registration is available by  visiting www.crowdrise.com/dogsfordolphins. For more information, please call 917-414-4526.

Stony Brook’s 100,000th baby Luca Michael Picarella cries in his mother’s arms at Stony Brook University Hospital. Photo By Giselle Barkley

It’s a boy. It’s also a major milestone.

Katie Picarella of Rocky Point was wheeled into the room with her new bundle of joy and her husband Mike and daughter Gianna, 5, to celebrate the birth of Stony Brook Hospital’s 100,000th baby, Luca Michael Picarella on Thursday, Aug. 20. And by the time she was wheeled out, she had much more than a new member to her family.

The hospital presented blue cupcakes surrounded several pink cupcakes that spelled “100K,” in the Stony Brook University Hospital’s lobby in celebration of the event.

Todd Griffin, chair of the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive medicine, said he expected Katie Picarella to give birth near the end of August, and he was right. Attending OB/GYN and former Stony Brook student Julie Welischar delivered Luca the morning of Monday, Aug. 17.

Until a week ago the Picarella family was unaware of the news that Stony Brook was expecting its 100,000th birth.

Members of the hospital arranged blue and pink cupcakes to celebrate the 100,00th birth at the Stony Brook University Hospital. Photo By Giselle Barkley
Members of the hospital arranged blue and pink cupcakes to celebrate the 100,00th birth at the Stony Brook University Hospital. Photo By Giselle Barkley

“A friend of ours told us [that they] had been following this,” Mike Picarella said. “I started looking at it and [the friend] said, ‘you guys are getting close. It’d be funny if you guys are the couple.’”

But the expecting father said he was still surprised when the doctors informed him that his newborn son was the 100,000th baby.

The family didn’t just leave with their new baby boy, they also left with a gift basket, which awarded the Picarella family with $10,000 scholarship from the Island Federal Credit Union, a $2,500 scholarship toward tuition at the North Shore Montessori School, a $500 shopping spree among other gifts for the parents and their newborn.

Luca’s older sister Gianna, who was also delivered at Stony Brook, was also awarded with a brand new American Girl doll.

“Truly from the bottom of our hearts and all of our family’s hearts, we greatly appreciate it,” Mike Picarella said.

The entire Picarella family said they were thankful for the gifts and shocked by the news that they were the couple who birthed the 100,000th baby.

“Stuff like this doesn’t happen to us,” Katie Picarella said when speaking to the media. According to Picarella, the birth was scheduled for Friday after doctors realized Picarella’s baby would come before the end of August. But Picarella rescheduled the C-section delivery date because she wanted to have enough time to recover in order to attend her daughter’s Kindergarten screening.

The family of four also had the opportunity of meeting Jeff Solomon, who was the first baby born at Stony brook University Hospital on May 28, 1980 at 8:15 a.m. Solomon’s father Bob Solomon and step-mother Hope also attended the conference and met the family.

Before the family prepared to go home, Griffin highlighted the importance of the birth.

“For years the number of births on long island have been going down,” Griffin said. “We’re actually starting to see in the last year or two that the births have been going up.”

Huntington Town hosts 4th Annual Sand Castle Contest

Five teams competed in Huntington Town’s 4th Annual Sand Castle contest, held at Crab Meadow Beach on Wednesday, Aug. 19. The event, hosted by Councilman Mark Cuthbertson’s (D) office, included lifeguards as judges and teams won awards for designs that were most creative, most original and more.

The Errante family celebrates with a cake to mark 10 years since a life-changing surgery. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Ten years ago, at Stony Brook University Hospital, a life-saving operation was performed on a mother of triplets.

Michael, Samantha and Joseph Errante were born on Aug, 29, 2005, in an emergency cesarean section, after it was discovered that their mother, Roseann, had an aortic dissection.

“Technically, they saved my life,” Roseann Errante said. “I would’ve never felt the amount of pain if I wasn’t pregnant.”

The family gathered at the hospital on Monday, Aug. 10, so that the triplets could meet the doctors and nurses that saved their lives, and also have a surprise tenth birthday party thrown in their honor by the hospital.

Roseann Errante said she felt overwhelmed and grateful being back.“We never thought we’d be here 10 years later.”

In 2005, Roseann and Joe Errante arrived at Stony Brook University Hospital because she was complaining of intense chest pains. They had already been sent home from another hospital after being told it was just heart burn, however once the pain persisted, the couple decided to go to Stony Brook.

“They told us ‘we don’t know what’s wrong with you, but you’re not leaving until we find out’ which was so reassuring,” Roseann Errante said.

Dr. Frank Seifert, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Stony Brook, was soon operating on her for an aortic dissection, which is a tear on the inside wall of the aorta. If untreated, this disease can kill within the first 48 hours, and 95 percent are dead within a month.

But before Seifert could begin, Roseann Errante had to undergo a caesarean section, so that the triplets could be born as safely as possible.

“Forget Stephen King, this was much more terrifying than anything else I’d ever heard,” Joe Errante said of his wife’s diagnosis and emergency surgery.

The multi-hour surgery was a success, and while one of the triplets, Joseph, had to undergo two surgeries shortly after he was born to repair a burst intestine, all three babies and Roseann Errante returned home completely safe and healthy.

“I’m sure I speak for all the health care providers, seeing this right now is the ultimate satisfaction. Seeing patients go out and do so well, and then wanting to come back and express their thanks, it’s really heartwarming,” said Dr. Richard Scriven, who worked on the triplets and both of Joseph’s surgeries.

Both parents praised everyone in the hospital for how they treated them during that tough time, from the doctors and nurses to the workers in the cafeteria.

Now, as Michael, Samantha and Joseph turn 10, they have all grown into healthy kids, and enjoy playing sports, watching their favorite television shows and attending camps together, along with their older brother Anthony.

“We like the batting cages, playing European handball, running bases,” the triplets listed off together.

The Errante family resides in Hauppauge. The triplets are about to start their last year at Forest Brook Elementary School, and Anthony is in Hauppauge Middle School.

“I tell her, we’re never going to win the lottery because we used every bit of luck we had right then and there, and it was all worth it,” Joe Errante said.

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Black Cherokee “Hermina” Fashion Boots ($27.99) at Target. Photo by Talia Amorosano

By Talia Amorosano

Summer is mostly over, and according to most retail stores, that means fall (and Christmas) is right around the corner.  While you do still have ample time to go back-to-school shopping, you might as well beat the rush and stock up on these style essentials before you have to race another customer to grab the last purple backpack off the shelf.

1 Statement backpack. A backpack is an obvious back-to-school essential, and I recommend it over a one-shoulder book-bag because two straps provide better weight distribution and make carrying tons of books less of a huge cramp-in-one-shoulder situation and more of a slight-overall-cramp situation (which, trust me, is preferable). Because a backpack is something that will be carried everywhere, in any weather, paired with any outfit, make sure to choose something durable and versatile. Neutral colors like black, white, beige and brown usually lend themselves to interesting patterns that won’t look out of place with most outfits, while solid bright bold colors can add a fun pop to your style without overwhelming the eye.

2 Something black, something blue, something white (condition: new). Unlike the old wedding rhyme, these items don’t really symbolize anything more extensive than a fresh start to a new school year, but hey, that’s still pretty significant. You’d be surprised by how far a few new basics will go. Black and white clothing items go great with any everyday outfit and come in handy for school concerts and formal events, while a standard pair of comfortable blue jeans will become your literal other half when you can’t find anything simple enough to offset a bold shirt.

3 Vest for success. You may be wondering, what’s so functional about a clothing item that covers approximately half of someone’s torso and leaves appendages to freeze in the cold?  First of all, you know all those long-sleeved shirts that you spilled coffee down the front of, the ones that now live in the back of your closet? Well now they can see the light of day again because a vest is perfect for selectively covering unfashionable areas of fashionable shirts. Also, just like fall, a vest represents that not-too-hot, not-too-cold weather, easy to take off and put on again and possible to layer over almost anything. It’s a true fashion essential.

Coral peaches Trans by Jansport backpack with built-in laptop sleeve ($34.24) at Target. Photo by Talia Amorosano
Coral peaches Trans by Jansport backpack with built-in laptop sleeve ($34.24) at Target. Photo by Talia Amorosano

4 The best boots. Give your flip-flops the actual boot by investing in a functional pair of boots.  Sturdy boots made from quality leather come in all shapes and sizes, at least one of which is sure to match your personal style. From cowboy to combat, ankle to knee-high, quality boots keep feet warm and dry, whether they’re accompanied by a dress or denim jeans. In this instance, quality beats quantity. These shoes are a worthwhile investment.

5 Nice sweats. This phrase may sound like an oxymoron, but contrary to popular belief, it is possible to roll out of bed and look like you didn’t just roll out of bed. A pair of nice, comfortable sweats can look stylish if done right.  Sweatpants called Joggers usually have an adjustable drawstring waist, are loose-fitting, tighten around the ankle area and come in many different styles and colors. And a long, cotton maxi-skirt is just as comfortable as old sweatpants but looks dressed up.  Finally, instead of a typical pullover hoodie, opt for a zip-up sweatshirt and pair it with any T-shirt or tank.  With nice sweats like these, you can keep yourself warm and still look cool.

If you’re not sure about what your personal style is or want to change your look, check out the “What should you wear on your first day back to school?” quiz at www.seventeen.com or the “Fall Fashion Guide” on www.Refinery29.com. Happy shopping!

From left, Dana Bush, Michael Giordano, James D. Schultz, Frank Gilleece, Amanda Geraci and Sue Anne Dennehy in a scene from ‘The Pied Piper’ at Theatre Three. Photo by Sari Feldman/Franklin Inc.

Currently in production on the Mainstage, Theatre Three’s Children’s Theatre brings us a kinder, gentler musical version of the classic fairy tale “The Pied Piper.” Written by Jeffrey E. Sanzel and Kevin F. Story and adapted from “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” by the Brothers Grimm, it tells the tale of a town that has a bit of a rodent problem. Millions of rats, some the size of toasters, have taken over every nook and cranny. Even the cats are afraid of the rats!

The mayor decrees that anyone who can come up with a successful plan to rid the town of the rats will receive 100 gold pieces. A mysterious stranger appears and convinces the mayor to pay him 974 gold pieces. With a handshake and a promise, a deal is made and the Pied Piper lures the rats away by playing his magical flute. When the mayor has a change of heart and refuses to pay the full amount, the piper seeks revenge by placing the children under a magical spell and leading them out of the town and into a mountain.

With six talented adult actors at the helm, the cast also includes 45 young actors from the theater’s summer Dramatic Academy workshop who portray the children of Hamelin. Frank Gilleece plays Mayor Bruce Armbuckle who does whatever his wife, Mrs. Hilda Arbuckle, played by Sue Anne Dennehy, tells him to do, which includes going back on his word. James D. Schultz plays the bumbling Police Chief Henry Kahnstible and his wife, Mrs. Natasha Kahnstible, is played with aplomb by Amanda Geraci. Dana Bush as Mrs. Lavinia Brewster, the richest woman in town, is terrific.

However, it is the amazing Michael Giordano as the Pied Piper who steals the show. Making his entrance toward the end of the first act, he commands the stage with his wonderful rendition of “I Can Rid You of the Rats.” The audience is entranced as he sings and dances and performs his signature one-handed cartwheel.

While all the young actors did a fine job, special mention should be made of Jamie Terlecki, as Lydia, the lone child left behind. A bright future awaits her on the theater stage.

Accompanied on piano by Steve McCoy, the songs are playful and fun. Choreography by Sari Feldman is top notch, especially with “Hope Springs Eternal” and “The Blame,” as are the costumes, designed by Amanda Geraci.

Sanzel and Story’s play goes beyond the traditional tale of the Pied Piper with messages about keeping your word, cheating, forgiveness and, for the parents, that children are more valuable than gold. And that is the real magic behind this wonderful production.

Meet the cast in the lobby after the show and take a selfie. Next on the agenda is “Squawk: The Live Bird Show” on Aug. 23, a brand new musical titled “Alice’s Wonderland Adventures” from Oct. 3 to 30 and a Halloween Party for ages 4 and up on Oct. 24.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “The Pied Piper” on Aug. 7, 8, 14 and 15 at 11 a.m. and Aug. 8 and 15 at 2 p.m. Tickets are only $10 each. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

Residents of the Huntington area gathered at the annual East Northport Volunteer Fire Department’s fair last weekend. The fair had rides for all ages, games with prizes, raffles, live music and food for all to enjoy.

BOCES center builds labyrinth to promote mindfulness

The new labyrinth opened at the end of May. Photo from Charlie Tedesco

By Rachel Siford

Eastern Suffolk BOCES’ Centereach Academic Center has taken a creative approach to promoting mindfulness.

The center, which caters to students who require special education or who have severe behavioral issues and learning disabilities, recently opened a labyrinth on its grounds. A labyrinth is a type of maze, or purposeful path, that promotes reflection and meditation within a structured environment.

Principal Susan Goltz said students can get easily frustrated and will sometimes leave the classroom because they are so overwhelmed with their feelings. She and her staff wanted to find a more acceptable way for the students to cope.

“We felt that having a labyrinth on school grounds would give them the opportunity to deal with feelings and teach them mindful strategies,” Goltz said.

Goltz added that students’ emotional issues could lead to interruptions in their education, causing them to fall behind in some subjects.

The school’s faculty and staff want to teach students to use the labyrinth while in crisis.

Mindfulness, which promotes a meditative practice with Buddhist roots, has been a growing trend in the mental health field. It is the state of being aware of the present moment and being able to acknowledge one’s feelings and thoughts.

The labyrinth’s official ribbon cutting was May 29. Goltz said feedback from students to date has been very positive. She plans on giving out a survey to students before and after their use of the labyrinth when school is back in session.

Charlie Tedesco, guidance counselor, had a pivotal role in the research and planning of the labyrinth.

“Sometimes it’s only a matter of having a small challenge to set off a student’s emotional frustration,” Tedesco said in a press release. “The labyrinth project was initiated so students could do something by themselves or they could be accompanied by a counselor. The walking area helps relieve stress and has a calming effect.”

Research from Boston’s Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, which researches, treats and prevents stress-related illnesses, has shown mindful walking can help reduce anxiety and stress.

“There are several statistics that point to individuals becoming grounded, more centered and focused when they do mindful walking,” Tedesco said.

The labyrinth was designed by the staff and was based on other examples they had seen. Middle Island-based William Moloney Masonry won the bid to construct the labyrinth, and the center secured $25,000 in state funding with help from state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport).

“It is a tool that our students will benefit from,” Goltz said. “Learning how to use mindful thinking in a controlled environment is something they can take into life.”

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