Port Times Record

Comsewogue board of education President John Swenning and the rest of the board unanimously passed a resolution to establish a $32M bond referendum in May. File photo by Erika Karp

Comsewogue School District is going to ask taxpayers for a little more when they head to the polls in May.

The board of education approved a resolution with a unanimous vote at its March 5 meeting to officially add a referendum on a $32 million spending plan recommended by the district’s Facilities Committee in February. The list of slated upgrades and improvements is more than 100 items long and addresses areas in each of Comsewogue’s six buildings. If passed, the money would go toward improving health and safety, infrastructure, academics, arts and athletics.

“The proposed facility improvements preserve the integrity of the school buildings, address repairs, improve
instructional resources for all and upgrade athletic facilities,” district administration said in a statement.

The list of areas in need of improvement was the byproduct of several meetings and discussions by the committee, a group of 21 professionals from across the Comsewogue community including members of the board, administrators, architects, engineers, former teachers and civic association members. The group was assembled in early January and had been tasked with presenting recommendations to the board.

“I just want to say thank you to the Facilities Committee that spent a lot of time going through our buildings,” board president John Swenning said during the meeting. “This bond was brought to us from the community members. They found what they felt needs to be addressed and they came and presented it to the board. We’re going to accept it just as the committee has submitted it to us.”

Some of the projects include required upgrades to achieve compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act; repairing parking lots and sidewalks; adding security vestibules at all of the district buildings; fixes to exterior and interior building infrastructure; improving athletic fields and facilities; and kitchen upgrades. If approved by voters, the bond would have a 15-year life with about $3 million in interest. Some of the higher-priced projects included in the committee’s recommendation are: a new roof with solar panels at Terryville Road Elementary School; interior work at John F. Kennedy Middle School, including some classroom and hallway renovations; and upgrades to the high school concession stand building. If passed, the average taxpayer would see an increase of about $120 annually to their school tax bill, based on conservative state aid estimates, which won’t be known until the spring.

“We’ve really touched everywhere that your child could be, from safety in the parking lots and curbs, to every elementary classroom getting a face-lift,” said Stephanie Jaklitsch, a former teacher in the district who also has children attending Comsewogue schools. Jaklitsch is a member of the Facilities Committee and was among the contingent who presented recommendations to the board Feb. 12. “Our students are going to see changes all the way through their education.”

The bond vote will be held at the same place and time as the annual operating budget vote and school board trustee elections. Polls will be open at Comsewogue High School May 15 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The district has suggested it will hold informational meetings going forward to get the community up to speed on the contents of the bond.

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Port Jefferson 126-pound senior Vin Miceli maintains control over his opponent. Photo from Section XI

By Desirée Keegan

Down 7-0 in the state wrestling semifinal with 50 seconds left, a switch flipped for Vin Miceli, leading to him wrestling his best, most exciting match of his career when it mattered most.

Vin Miceli embraces head coach Mike Maletta, on right, and gets a pat on the back from brother Nick, on left, after his semifinal come-from-behind win. Photo from Vin Miceli

“I remember watching a match a week prior to states when another wrestler was down six points in the third period with short time left, and ended up coming back and winning the match,” the Port Jefferson senior 126-pounder said. “So I said to myself, ‘Why can’t I do this?’”

He started letting his opponent get up for one point, only to take him down for two. Doubling up on points, he finished the match ahead 12-10, guaranteeing himself at least a second-place finish.

“It was one of the best feelings ever winning that match,” Miceli said. “Something I will never forget.”

The No. 3 seed was taken down twice early in the final and pinned in 1:33 by Schuylerville’s Orion Anderson, who won his third straight state title at Albany’s Times Union Center Feb. 24. Even knowing his challenger’s pedigree, the Bloomsburg University commit didn’t let Anderson’s credentials stymie his confidence, or his eagerness to get out on the mat and wrestle in the last match of his high school career.

“I knew my opponent was going to be a challenge, and I knew he was going to come out at me aggressive, so I had to do the same back,” Miceli said. “I was super excited to be able to wrestle in the New York state finals, but was also a bit sad knowing that was my last high school match ever. Being able to wrestle on that stage is not an opportunity everyone gets, so I was definitely pumped to be there.”

Port Jefferson senior Vin Miceli sizes up his opponent. Photo from Section XI

Head coach Mike Maletta pulled his varsity athlete up from middle school in eighth-grade, after he went 11-0 the year prior. Miceli is one of the youngest wrestlers to exceed 20 wins in Port Jefferson history as an eighth grader, and finished his Royal career with 140 wins, second to 2016 graduate Matteo DeVincenzo (148).

“When Vin gets beat, he gets up, stands tall and comes back for more,” Maletta said. “That semifinal match was a culmination of that work. He said he wasn’t going to be denied. For him to get the reward for what he’s worked so hard for is satisfying for all of us. He knew it was his time.”

By the end of his career, Miceli evolved from the young varsity grappler he once was. He earned a spot in the state tournament his freshman year, but went 1-2. He lost in the county finals his sophomore and junior years, missing a bid to states, but this time around, he knew he was ready for a different result. The 126-pounder said he wrestled 80 offseason matchups, squeezed in double practices and private lessons on Sundays, and even saw a nutritionist to make sure he was strong and healthy at the weight he was competing at, while cutting his weight the right way, because he’d struggled with that in the past.

“I knew I was well prepared for this moment and I wasn’t letting anything stop me from getting on that podium,” Miceli said. “I knew I did everything I could to make sure I was 100 percent ready to go up there and compete.”

Vin Miceli has his arm raised after a state tournament win. Photo from Section XI

His father, Joe Miceli, said what he enjoyed most was seeing his son Nick, a former Port Jefferson wrestler, out on the mat by his brother’s side as an assistant coach, especially during the semifinal match.

“Seeing the two of them out on the mat celebrating after that win was really special,” Joe Miceli said. “Losing was frustrating in his sophomore and junior years, and he wanted to make sure he put the work in to get back up there again. Wrestling and dedicating himself the way he has, built a lot of character in him and made him very self-dependent. It’s sink or swim out there, and he developed well. This season was more than anyone expected.”

Vin Miceli said the sport has taught him many valuable lessons, and he’ll remain proud to don the purple and white, even if he was in Section XI blue and white up on the podium.

“Wrestling has made me the person I am today,” Miceli said. “Wrestling is not only a sport, but is something that will help you grow and mature as a person and change the way you look at things in life. I was able to make bonds with friends that will never be broken, and memories that will never be forgotten. Winning matches has been one of the best feelings, but it’s more about knowing that all that work you have put in has paid off. Being on that state podium is always something I dreamed if and worked for, and now I can say that standing up there is an awesome feeling.”

Port Jefferson’s Vin Miceli, third from right, stands atop the Division II 126-pound podium. Photo from Vin Miceli

Cast of Theatre Three's 'Nunsense'. Photo by Brian Hoerger, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

By Heidi Sutton

Theatre Three continues its 48th season with the heavenly musical comedy “Nunsense.” The show, which opened on the Mainstage last Saturday evening, catered to a packed house ready to sit back, relax and have some fun. And judging by the rip-roaring laughter all night, it did not disappoint.

With book, music and lyrics by Dan Goggin, the original Off-Broadway production opened in 1985 and ran for 3,672 performances, becoming the second-longest-running Off-Broadway show in history. By the time it closed 10 years later, “Nunsense” had become an international phenomenon, having been translated into over 20 languages with more than 8,000 productions worldwide.

TracyLynn Conner, Sari Feldman and Jessica Contino in a scene from ‘Nunsense’

Now the congregation has taken up residence at Theatre Three and although Catholics will most identify with this hilarious show, audiences of all faiths are sure to have their spirits lifted as well.

The Little Sisters of Hoboken are in a bit of a pickle. While 19 of the nuns are off playing Bingo, the convent’s cook, Sister Julia, Child of God, accidently poisons the remaining 52 nuns by serving them a batch of botulism-laced vichyssoise. As one nun quips, “For 52, bon appetite was also bon voyage.”

After a successful greeting-card fundraiser, 48 of the sisters are laid to rest. Thinking there is plenty of money left over, Mother Superior spends the rest of the money on a plasma TV, leaving no money to pay for the last four burials. While the remaining deceased are temporarily stored in cold storage, five of the nuns decide to stage a variety show in the Mt. Saint Helen’s School auditorium to raise the rest of the money. “We’ve just got to get those girls out of the freezer,” they lament.

Sister Mary Regina (Phyliss March) and Sister Robert Anne (Sari Feldman) share a moment.

Under the skillful direction of Jeffrey Sanzel, the show’s über-talented cast is given the freedom to bring out the strong personalities of their characters and have a blast doing it. At the beginning of the production, the group sings, “Though we’re on our way to heaven, we’re here to raise some hell.” Blessed with wonderful harmonic voices, great comedic timing and a seemingly inexhaustable amount of energy, they put on quite a show.

The incomparable Phyllis March plays uptight Mother Superior Sister Mary Regina who loosens up quite a bit at the end of the first act in one of the funniest scenes in the play, and Linda May is wonderful as the second-in-command Sister Mary Hubert who has higher aspirations.

TracyLynn Conner is hilarious as the wide-eyed Sister Mary Amnesia who lost her memory when a crucifix fell on her head. “She just a big mess,” mutters Mother Superior under her breath. Conner steals the show with her duet with a puppet in “So You Want to Be a Nun.”

Sari Feldman is Sister Robert Anne, the streetwise understudy from Brooklyn who “Just wants to be a star” and finally gets the chance to shine brightly in Act Two. Jessica Contino rounds out the cast as the sweet Sister Mary Leo who dreams of being the first nun ballerina.

The brilliant script is full of hilarious puns — “How do you make holy water?” “I don’t know, how DO you make holy water?” “You boil the hell out of it!” — along with double entendres and every nun joke out there. The wonderful songs, 20 in all, are accompanied by the terrific Mt. Saint Helen’s School Band under the direction of Steve McCoy.

Vichyssoise anyone?Linda May, Phyliss March and TracyLynn Conner in a scene from ‘Nunsense’

A nice touch is the constant audience participation, which is strictly voluntary. Before the show and intermission the nuns greet the patrons and pose for photos, and during the show the audience takes part in a quiz with a chance to win prizes. A short film by Ray Mason and Sanzel starring the five sisters of Hoboken in the second act is just the icing on the cake. From the initial Mt. Saint Helen’s cheer to the final amen, “Nunsense” is simply divine and should not be missed.

Enjoy a drink at Griswold’s Café on the lower level of the theater and take a chance at 50/50 during intermission. The theater, more specifically, the nuns will be collecting donations for Hurricane Maria on behalf of Direct Relief at the end of the night.

Sponsored by Bridgehampton National Bank, the production is dedicated to the memory of Carolyn Droscoski who passed away suddenly on Feb. 5 at the age of 61. “Our hearts and our stage will be a little emptier.” Droscoski was a constant presence at Theatre Three, appearing on the  Mainstage, cabaret and children’s theater for over 40 years. According to the theater’s website, the actress appeared Off-Broadway and traveled the country in the various incarnations of “Nunsense” and is one of the few actresses to have played all five roles.

Theatre Three, located at 412 Main St. in Port Jefferson, will present “Nunsense” through March 24. The season will continue with “12 Angry Men” from April 7 to May 5 and the musical comedy “Curtains” from May 19 to June 23. Tickets are $35 adults, $28 seniors and students, $20 children ages 5 to 12. For more information or to order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

All photos by Brian Hoerger, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

Discussion also comes in wake of Parkland, Florida shootin

The Port Jefferson School District community attends a meeting in the high school auditorium on school safety Feb. 26. Photo by Alex Petroski

School districts and communities have been forced to reflect in the days since a shooter at a high school in Parkland, Florida killed 17 people.

Port Jefferson School District’s self-examination included a look at the reaction to a social media threat by a now former student the day after the Feb. 14 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy. Improving school safety going forward, and a give-and-take between Superintendent Paul Casciano and concerned parents, highlighted a two-hour community meeting inside a packed Port Jefferson High School auditorium Feb. 26.

Casciano shared some details about the district’s handling of the student and the threat, which played out during the final days before mid-winter recess, frequently reminding attendees that he was not at liberty to discuss many of the factors that played into the timeline.

“He doesn’t have access to weapons.”

— James Strack

He said district administration became aware of a social media post at the end of the school day Feb. 15 when two students came forward with concerns.

“Although there was no indication that there was an imminent threat to the safety of our students and staff, we take any threat of violence very seriously, and we immediately contacted the police,” the superintendent said.

He said Suffolk County Police Department’s 6th Precinct thoroughly investigated the matter into the night of Feb. 15 and most of the day Feb. 16. He said information, much of which was false, has been spread by parents and members of the community, stemming from a parent.

“Since the investigation was still in progress, I was unable to get any information at that time,” Casciano said. “I was assured that there would be a police presence at the school the next day. We were allowing the 6th Precinct to do their work. We weren’t looking to start spreading the news.”

The superintendent sent out an email to district residents just before midnight Feb. 15 to let parents know a threat had been made, a law enforcement investigation was underway and that extra precautions would be taken to ensure students and staff felt safe during the Feb. 16 school day. He said he elected not to notify parents via a prerecorded phone message because of the late hour.

“Wake us up,” several parents said in response to Casciano’s rationale behind email notification as opposed to a phone call as to not disturb families.

“Although there was no indication that there was an imminent threat to the safety of our students and staff, we take any threat of violence very seriously, and we immediately contacted the police.”

— Paul Casciano

“I think vague is better than zero,” another parent responded to Casciano’s contention that the presence of an ongoing investigation tied his hands.

Many parents said during the meeting they didn’t see the message until after they had sent their children to school, and as erroneous rumors began spreading on social media of a lockdown or evacuation, parents began pulling students out of school. Casciano sent out a second email around 1 p.m. Feb. 16 with the stated mission in part to dispel a “firestorm” of rumors on social media pages frequented by district parents. The second communication reiterated that an investigation was ongoing, which prevented the superintendent from being able to fully brief parents on the situation and that the district buildings were safe.

“Your imagination tends to run a little wild, and I think that’s part of the reason why people were looking for an answer,” one parent said of the environment in the hours after rumors began to spread. “I think it would’ve been nice to get a little articulation from you before this.”

Casciano said at the time, he was advised by the SCPD that there was no credible threat of violence, a point that was backed up by 6th Precinct Police Captain James Strack, who attended the meeting and fielded a handful of parent questions.

“He doesn’t have access to weapons,” Strack stated when asked about the status of the investigation. He said the student and his family were extremely cooperative, and none of the evidence presented to the district attorney’s office met a criminal threshold.

Casciano said he was assured the student was supervised and “receiving proper care.” The student, who is not a Port Jefferson resident, attended by paying tuition, and was not arrested following the incident. The child will not be returning, though Casciano declined to specify if the decision was entirely the district’s.

“I’d like to think it was mutual,” he said.

In addressing increased safety options for the future, the superintendent was clear about a plan being discussed across the country, including at the highest levels of the United States government.

“Teachers with guns make me nervous.”

— Paul Casciano

“Teachers with guns make me nervous,” Casciano said. The sentiment was met with applause from the attendees.

The superintendent mentioned suggestions he’d received from parents, which included arming teachers. Other proposals included installation of bullet-proof windows, enhancing the number of security personnel, conducting backpack checks or banning them altogether, adding metal detectors, arming security guards and monitoring students’ social media accounts.

Casciano also detailed some of the safety practices the district employs, including shooter drills and training for staff and students and identification checks for visitors. He also stressed the district’s commitment to mental health awareness.

One parent, Karen Sullivan, pointed to Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit established by relatives of victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, which offers support, strategies and suggestions to familiarize onself with signs that could indicate a student might be troubled.

“I recently signed up to be a promise leader,” she said. “I’ve been in contact with them over the last three or four days, and they have a slew of programs that would be free to our district. They are ready, willing and able to come here to help, and I’m offering my help and my support.”

Casciano said the district will review submitted suggestions as soon as possible while also examining the feasibility and practicality of any option before eventually submitting any further safety recommendations to the board of education.

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Repair work to strengthen bulkheads protecting the pier used by The Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat ferry company is slated to be finished in June. Photo by Alex Petroski

It’s a common question lately for anyone within earshot of the Port Jefferson ferry: what’s that sound?

The Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company, which docks its vessels on the shores of Port Jefferson Village, is in the midst of a repair project that is addressing critical infrastructure, but it’s also causing residents to wonder aloud when they might have some peace and quiet.

Chesterfield Associates, a privately-owned contracting firm hired by the ferry company, is in the process of replacing sheet steel panels that make up the bulkhead, or retaining wall that protects the infrastructure below the pier, according to Jeff Grube, the general manager of the firm. Grube said the loud noise residents are periodically hearing is caused by a vibratory hammer, the machinery being used to drive the steel sheets into the underwater soil. If something obstructs the sheet from being driven into the soil — like in one case a submerged barge, according to Grube — that’s when the decibel level is loudest near the waterfront.

“Projects should include some type of shielding to prevent residences being rattled like this.”

— Facebook poster

“The old sheet piling was corroding to the point where they were starting to lose a lot of fill behind the bulkhead,” Grube said. He added that structural issues could arise if the repair work were not completed, causing a hazardous situation for anyone using the pier. Grube said Chesterfield Associates constructed the dock in the ‘80s, and thanks to regular upkeep by the ferry company, the bulkhead hasn’t needed to be addressed until now, but it was time for the repairs in order to strengthen its critical infrastructure. The general manager said the project is progressing as initially expected, and should be completed by the end of June. The ferry company first submitted an application to the village’s building department Sept. 1, 2017, which estimated the total cost for the project to be nearly $10 million.

The area behind the bulkhead is below the vehicle holding area for the ferry, according to Linda DeSimone, the senior structural engineer for Greenman-Pederson, Inc., the design firm overseeing the plan.

“I don’t understand how the village residents are defenseless to this latest issue,” a poster on a closed Facebook group comprised of Port Jeff village residents said Feb. 20, referring to the loud noise. “Projects should include some type of shielding to prevent residences being rattled like this. I wouldn’t expect to pay for my room downtown, and the noise has to be hurting all village businesses. Get that thing shut down and keep it shut down ‘til they provide a plan that protects the residents and businesses. No one wants to live in or spend money in the middle of a noisy shipyard construction project.”

Others joined the poster in questioning when a projected end date for the construction is, and if the noise violated village code. The village does have a section in its code dedicated to noise pollution, which states specific decibel levels not to be exceeded Sunday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. A lower decibel threshold exits for all other hours.


One of the exceptions in the noise pollution section of village code is for construction activities, which are permitted to take place only from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. For this project, the village passed a resolution Sept. 18 allowing the repair work at the ferry to be conducted from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday.

The added hours were approved to expedite the completion of the project.

“The hours of relief requested are on the bookends of the workday, so those hours would be mostly for setup and breakdown,” Village Mayor Margot Garant said in September.

Garant said in an email the village has not received many complaints about the noise.

“It’s unfortunate, but this work needs to happen — the ferry is an important, integral part of our harbor,” she said. The mayor added the village has no plans to revisit the section of its code pertaining to noise pollution, but instead will “stay the course and hope they complete [the work] ahead of schedule.”

The ferry company also addressed the repair work in a November 2017 Facebook post.

“The terminal improvements should improve traffic flows and help us to stage vehicles more efficiently,” the post said. “Thank you for your continued patience and please know how much we appreciate you using our service.”

This post was updated Feb. 26 to include an updated photo and video.

New cellphone antennae should make reception stronger at near Port Jefferson Village Hall and the country club. File photo by Heidi Sutton

They say in life communication is key.

Those in the vicinity of Port Jefferson Village Hall and the Port Jefferson Country Club should soon expect to see improved cellphone signal reception thanks to an action taken by the village board Feb. 5. The board unanimously passed a resolution approving the design of the two Verizon antennae.

According to village Mayor Margot Garant, the antennae will not resemble the controversial cellphone towers being debated in places like the Village of Old Field. The mayor described Port Jeff’s new signal boosters in an email as “completely non-invasive and hidden.” She said they are small boards that will be placed behind wood in the cupolas, or small domes typically adorning the roof of a building. She said the devices will strengthen cellular reception in the vicinity of the two locations and would net the village about $13,000 annually in revenue per unit.

She added that the installation was desired in part as a way to alleviate an ongoing issue of inefficient cell service at and around the country club and village beaches, each located in the northeastern corner of Port Jefferson.

“We need cell service at the country club and beaches desperately for emergency related services,” she said.

Board Trustee Stanley Loucks, who also serves as the board’s liaison to the recreation department, expressed similar concerns about signal strength at the club.

“There are many areas on the country club property where there is absolutely no service,” Loucks said. “You can actually move a few feet and lose service. This has been a problem for many years and presents a dangerous situation. Golfers, tennis players, maintenance workers and club guests can and have experienced situations where assistance was needed, and they could not make contact with anyone. This becomes more of a problem when you are on or near our beaches.”

Residents’ concerns about the safety of stronger cellphone signals in close proximity to communities have abounded during the Village of Old Field’s public discourse about a proposed tower at a public park, known by many as Kaltenborn Commons, located at the intersection of Old Field Road and Quaker Path.

Oleg Gang, who works at Brookhaven National Laboratory, said during a hearing on the proposed Old Field cellphone tower he lives in close proximity to the proposed location and was among those who voiced opposition due to health risks.

According to the website of the American Cancer Society, there is currently very little evidence to support the idea of cellphone towers increasing the risk of cancers or other health problems.

Others in Old Field have also balked at the proposal because of the look of the tower. The proposed tower is similar to one installed in Belle Terre Village in recent years, according to Tanya Negron, founder of Elite Towers, a Long Island-based company that develops wireless telecommunications tower sites and is working on the Old Field project.

In August 2016, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) revealed a list of areas on Long Island deemed to be “dead zones” for cellphone service. The list was compiled through a crowdsourcing campaign and included Crystal Brook Hollow Road in Port Jefferson Station, North Country Road in Port Jefferson and Norton Avenue in Terryville.

“A heavily populated region like Long Island shouldn’t be home to over 200 dead zones,” Schumer said at the time, adding shoddy cell service could be a deterrent for individuals or businesses looking to move to the area.

Port Jefferson High School. File photo by Elana Glowatz

Just days after a shooting killed 17 at a high school in Florida, a threat was made via social media against Port Jefferson High School, according to an email sent to parents in the district by Superintendent Paul Casciano.

“Today our high school administration was made aware of an alleged threat via social media,” Casciano’s email said. The message went out just before midnight Feb. 15. “An investigation was conducted and all appropriate protocols were followed, including the involvement of law enforcement authorities. School will be open tomorrow as planned. Extra precautions will be put in place to reassure our students and staff that they are safe. Thank you for your cooperation and understanding.”

The district sent out an update to parents on the situation Friday afternoon and posted the message on its website.

“While I know that there are many questions that you may have, please understand that there is a limit to the amount of information we are permitted to share publicly about this type of situation,” Casciano said in the notice to parents. “Please know that the individual responsible for the threat has been identified and that our district is complying with the Suffolk County Police Department with their ongoing investigation into this matter. Our top priority is the safety and security of our students and staff and we are working diligently to ensure that all of our available resources are deployed as extra precautions.”

The superintendent’s message sought in part to dispel what her referred to as “a firestorm of rumors,” on social media.

“At no time today or yesterday were any of our campuses on lockdown/lockout, no evacuation occurred and no bomb threat was made against any of our school facilities,” he said. “The police presence on campus was intended to put our parents and students at ease and was a direct result on the before mentioned ongoing investigation.”

Casciano shared details about the district’s preparedness for an active shooter situation prior to the news about the threat.

“It is important for us to establish an environment for students and staff that is safe and secure physically, mentally and emotionally,” he said. “We conduct drills on a regular basis with our staff and students. We have security guards in place and question visitors to our schools. Our staff knows to report any suspicious people on or around our school property. Security cameras exist throughout our property. We are working collaboratively with the Suffolk County Police Department to identify areas for continued attention moving forward … Internally, we are working with students through a variety of programs and strategies to address their social-emotional health.”

The Suffolk County Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. School will be closed next week for mid-winter recess.

This story was updated Feb. 16 to include Casciano’s Friday afternoon update.

This story will be updated as more information is available.

Reporting contributed by Kevin Redding.


Günther Lützen. Photo from Lisa Viscovich

By Fred Lützen

Günther Lützen, former Long Island delicatessen owner and entrepreneur, of Plano, Texas, formerly of East Northport and Coram, died peacefully Jan. 27 at the age of 85.

Günther is survived by his wife Ingrid Lützen of Cape Canaveral, Florida, and their five children and ten grandchildren: Harold Lützen of Taylor, Michigan and his wife Jennifer and their children Sabrina and Thomas; Fred Lützen of Manlius, New York and his wife Nicole and their children Frederick and Riley; Lisa Viscovich of Glen Cove and her husband Gregory and their children Calvin and Emery; Linda Francis of Cutchogue and her children Julia and Samuel and her husband Donald; Stefanie Summers of Celina, Texas and her husband Daniel and their children Günther and Tanner; and by his brother Volkert Lützen of the City of Wyk, Island of Föhr, Germany; and his sister, Christa Storm, of Kayhude, Germany. He is preceded in death by his father Friedrich Christian Lützen, his mother Christina Dorothena [Freiberg], his brother Friedrich [“Freddy” or “Fiete”] Lützen and his brother Werner Lützen.

Günther was born May 21, 1932, in Wyk on the Island of Föhr, Germany. He has always loved flowers, plants and vegetation, so as a teenager in Germany he studied botany and received a certification in botany at the age of 19.

He moved to the United States in 1951. He then began his German delicatessen career and his American Dream. After working relentlessly toward his goals, he became a delicatessen and business owner within a few years, and then married Ingrid by the late 1960s, and they started a family together. Günther and Ingrid worked hard in the delicatessen business for years and raised five very proud children.

One of his longer tenures was owning the Se-Port Delicatessen in East Setauket, which he owned for two separate stints through the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.  The Village Times published an article in the 1980s about Günther and his hard work ethic that focused on his success with the Se-Port deli, and the devotion and discipline required of him to operate such a business so successfully. Günther and the  deli received a “4 Pickle Rating” award (out of a possible four) from the paper, which was the only “4” rating amongst all of the local North Shore delis that were reviewed. He still had the award with him in Texas when he passed away.

Günther and Ingrid are examples of how hard work pays off. Günther truly lived the America Dream, and his family is extremely proud of his accomplishments. Günther was a man of integrity, a gentleman, and a kind, loving, and devoted father and grandfather. Opa will be missed.

A post-cremation visitation and memorial service is scheduled for Feb. 17 at O.B. Davis Funeral Home, 4839 Nesconset Hwy., Port Jefferson Station. Visitation will be from 10 a.m. until 12 p.m., and the ceremony will be at 1:30 p.m. followed by additional visitation ending at 3:30 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Children’s Cancer & Blood Foundation. The family would like to thank The Legacy at Willow Bend in Plano and their caregivers, the Vitas hospice caregivers and the caregivers at The Bristal at East Northport assisted living for their efforts and dedication.

Carolyn Droscoski. Photo from Theatre Three

A cherished member of Theatre Three, and by extension the Port Jefferson community, was lost this month.

Carolyn Droscoski, 61, of Port Jefferson Station died suddenly of an aneurysm, according to her close friend Vivian Koutrakos, managing director at Theatre Three. She was a lifelong resident of Port Jefferson Station and a graduate of Comsewogue High School.

“Anyone that you spoke to would say the same thing — it was just her voice, her vocals,” Koutrakos said of what she would remember most about her close friend, along with her beautiful smile. Koutrakos said she’d heard Droscoski described as having “leather lungs,” a tribute to her booming, powerful singing voice. “She was a powerhouse, a powerful, powerful singer and performer.”

“She helped me foster a love of theatre and performing. I am forever grateful for her friendship and am feeling extremely sad to hear this news.”

— Debbie Schwartz McGinley

Droscoski had 40-years-worth of history at Theatre Three. She performed in dozens of productions, including memorable performances as Rose in “Gypsy,” Mother Abbess in “The Sound of Music,” Cass Elliot in “Dream a Little Dream,” and many incarnations of “Woodstockmania: Woodstock in Concert,” according to Theatre Three’s website.

Times Beacon Record News Media reviewed her 2013 performance in “Barnaby Saves Christmas” as Mrs. Claus: “Santa and Mrs. Claus, played by Stephen Doone and Carolyn Droscoski, are in numerous scenes and steal the show. Every appearance on stage had the children sitting up straight and pointing. During a recent Saturday show, many children cried when the lights came up for intermission, thinking the show was over and wanting to see Santa just one more time. Doone and Droscoski also double as Andrew and Sarah, the nice Jewish couple who teach Barnaby and Franklynne all about Hanukkah, and switch roles effortlessly. The musical numbers are terrific and are accompanied on piano by Quattrock, who also wrote all of the music and lyrics. ‘Still with the Ribbon on Top,’ sung by Hughes, reveals Barnaby’s struggle to fit in; ‘Miracles,’ sung beautifully by Droscoski as Sarah, will touch your heart and ‘S.B. Dombulbury’ will have you tapping your feet.”

Droscoski traveled the country in an off-Broadway production of “Nunsense,” a show in which she played five different roles. She also performed and toured with her band, Everyday People, which performed countless shows in Port Jefferson. She even appeared in promotional materials for the snack Cracker Jack.

“The only thing I could say is I loved her, and she made me happy,” her longtime partner Charlie Cacioppo said. He added she often affectionately referred to him as “Bubba” or Charles Francis.

“She was a powerhouse, a powerful, powerful singer and performer.”

— Vivian Koutrakos

She had two sisters and four brothers, as well as many nieces and nephews, according to her sister Barbara Cassidy.

“The most important thing in her life was her family,” Cassidy said. “She was the biggest cheerleader for her many beloved nieces and nephews.”

Upon Theatre Three sharing the news of her passing on its Facebook page — a post that was shared and commented on more than 50 times — admirers of her talents and friends posted condolences and memories of the beloved performer.

“She was kind, fun, caring and always treated me like a regular person — not just a kid,” a poster named Debbie Schwartz McGinley wrote, adding Droscoski had played her mother in a 1980 production of “A Christmas Carol.” “She helped me foster a love of theatre and performing. I am forever grateful for her friendship and am feeling extremely sad to hear this news. All my love to her family, friends, and especially my old school T3 family!”

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The Comsewogue board of education had a community bonding experience Feb. 12.

The school district’s six buildings are in need of upgrades and improvements, according to its facilities committee, a group of 21 professionals from across Comsewogue including members of the board, administrators, architects, engineers, former teachers, civic association members and more. The group was assembled in early January, and has been holding workshops and meetings to compile a list of projects to recommend to the board.

The committee presented a list of more than 100 upgrades considered of the highest priority and identified as the A-list. The projects would take place in each of the district’s schools if a bond referendum were passed. Some of the projects include required upgrades to achieve compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act; parking lots and sidewalks; security at all of the district buildings; exterior and interior building infrastructure; athletic fields and facilities; and kitchen upgrades among many others.

The total price tag for the A-list would be almost $32 million, paid for during a 15-year period with approximately $3 million in interest, according to the committee. If passed, the average taxpayer would see an increase of about $120 annually to their school tax bill, based on conservative state aid estimates which won’t be known until the spring.

The committee also presented two other potential propositions for the board to consider: one a $9 million B-list of items deemed to be of lower priority and the third a complete overhaul of just the district’s air-conditioning units for approximately $13 million. Members of the committee said after touring the district facilities and buildings, its initial list of projects was in the ballpark of $75 million, which it then pared down to what currently appears on the A-list.

Susan Casali, the district’s assistant superintendent for business, served as the leader of the facilities committee.

“They’ve been phenomenal,” Casali said, of her colleagues on the committee. “It has been a great process, a lot of input, a lot of knowledge. We went through a lot of things and they really worked hard.”

Casali said the committee also took public input along the way from teachers, organizations and others in the community who had requests for upgrades.

“The board needs to know, and the public should know, how very carefully we looked at what items were to make the A-list,” said Joan Nickeson, a member of the Facilities Committee engaged in several aspects of the Comsewogue community. Nickeson also praised the work on the committee of architect Kenneth Schupner and engineer Frederick Seeba.

“The engineers and the architects, I don’t know how well you know these gentlemen, but I was so impressed with their knowledge and their ability to handle a myriad of questions,” she said. “We looked so carefully at every item.”

Stephanie Jaklitsch, a former teacher in the district who also has children attending Comsewogue schools, offered her input as a member of the committee.

“We’ve really touched everywhere that your child could be from safety in the parking lots and curbs, to every elementary classroom getting a face-lift,” she said. “Our students are going to see changes all the way through their education.”

Board of education president John Swenning, and Superintendent Joe Rella each thanked the committee for its thorough work, dedication to improving the Comsewogue environment and generosity in lending each of their personal levels of expertise to the group.

Some of the higher-priced projects included in the committee’s recommendation are: a new roof including solar panels at Terryville Road Elementary School; interior work at JFK Middle School, including some classroom and hallway renovations; and athletic upgrades at the high school to the
concession stand building.

The board will vote March 5 on the recommendations, and if it elects to move forward, to establish the specifics of the bond referendum and how it would appear on a ballot. The referendum would be included as a separate proposition on the same ballot as the annual budget and school board vote to be held May 15.

The full list of project recommendations is expected to be posted and available on the district website, www.comsewogue.k12.ny.us.

This post was updated Feb. 14 for grammatical fixes.