Village Times Herald

Fire departments from Wading River to Mount Sinai came to the 9/11 Community Memorial in Shoreham Sept. 11, 2019 to commemorate that fateful day. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Rich Acritelli

Sitting down to write this story about 9/11, there is the constant reminder of how beautiful this day was with brilliant sunshine, warm weather and the buzz in the air of people going about their daily responsibilities.  It seems like yesterday that this same sort of memory that was some 18 years ago completely changed the course of American history. As people were handling their daily routines of putting their children on the bus and going to work, people in Manhattan and Washington, D.C., endured harrowing terrorism that shook the foundations of those cities. In the rural area of Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the wreckage and the remains of Flight 93 were found.

Fire departments from Wading River to Mount Sinai came to the 9/11 Community Memorial in Shoreham Sept. 11, 2019 to commemorate that fateful day. Photo by Kyle Barr

Some 18 years later, families and friends still struggle with getting through this particular day. While there are students in our local schools who were not yet born when these attacks occurred, this terrible moment is still with us. As many of our students did not see the constant news coverage about the attacks waged on our nation by Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, 9/11 essentially became one of the longest days ever in our country. It remained with us for months and years, as our mind flashed images of the two planes that destroyed the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and Flight 93 that would have been used to target the Capitol or the White House.  

Americans were shocked at the news reports of the failed attempts of the shoe and underwear bombers to destroy other commercial airlines and anthrax that was sent to noted journalist Tom Brokaw. Today, young adults that like to attend popular concerts at Jones Beach do not remember the military presence in the Atlantic Ocean near the venue. The federal government ordered aircraft carriers that were in view of the amphitheater to fly fighter missions over major cities, including New York, to guard against the potential use of civilian aircraft that could possibly target major buildings and landmarks. In a total sense of shock, Americans were reeling from the earliest moments of terrorism that had clearly impacted our way of life.

Never before had Americans repeatedly watched the news coverage of citizens on American soil desperately running for their lives away from buildings that were collapsing around them. In many cases, they did not stop moving until they were across the Brooklyn Bridge, covered in dust and debris, with looks of despair on their faces. For months, North Shore rescue and demolition workers sifted through the wreckage of lower Manhattan to search for survivors and the remains of lost ones. In the tristate area there were daily reminders of 9/11 through the numerous funerals that were held for many of the 2,977 people that were killed.  And it was almost 19 days after the terrorists hit the U.S. that the military struck the Taliban and its allies in Afghanistan. Just this week alone, as peace talks continued between America and the Taliban, a car bomb derailed the negotiations and our soldiers are still operating to guard against terrorism in Afghanistan. While many local people are concerned that other parts of this country have forgotten about this date, 18 years ago showed the iron spirit of American resolve and willingness to help each other.

The Sound Beach Fire Department held its annual 9/11 ceremony Sept. 11. Photo by Greg Catalano

This was an attack that had never been waged against the U.S. before, but the American people presented an immense amount of comradery; caring for fellow citizens who were struggling from the attacks. At once, there was an outpouring of patriotism. Walmart was unable to keep up with the demand of its customers who wanted to purchase American flags.  People wrapped yellow ribbons around porches and trees and patriotic signs hung in businesses, schools and churches honoring the rescue workers at ground zero. Fire and emergency crews from every corner of this nation and Canada descended on Manhattan to help the New York City Fire Department. Both the New York Yankees and Mets participated in raising the spirits of the recovery workers by having their players meet with them in Lower Manhattan and honoring their tremendous sacrifices when baseball came back to America at Shea Stadium in Flushing, Queens. Huge flags were presented by the military that covered the length of Giants Stadium during the national anthem. When motorists crossed over the George Washington Bridge, it was done under a flag that could be seen for miles.   

President George W. Bush, through a heightened security presence, was at the World Series that had been pushed back due to the 9/11 attacks. He attended the New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks game where he stood on the pitcher’s mound, presented a thumbs up to the crowd and threw a strike to the catcher. At this time, former New York Jet’s coach Herm Edwards was asked football questions about an upcoming game and he told the reporters with tears in his eyes that sports is not everything. As the Meadowlands is within sight of the city, the Jets could see the smoke rise from the wreckage. He stated his team’s thoughts and prayers were with the rescue workers at ground zero.  Today, you can visit the National 9/11 Memorial in New York City and see a powerful sports exhibit that is connected to these attacks and how our local teams used athletics to help provide a sense of comfort and distraction during this tragic time.

Fire departments from Wading River to Mount Sinai came to the 9/11 Community Memorial in Shoreham Sept. 11, 2019 to commemorate that fateful day. Photo by Kyle Barr

Just recently, local leaders from the FEAL Good Foundation were in Washington, D.C., to lobby the government to prevent the discontinuation of the Zadroga Bill.  Retired New York City Police Officer Anthony Flammia strenuously worked with other rescue workers to promote the importance of this legislation to congressional members from every part of the U.S. The organization was determined to pass legislation that continued to help rescue workers suffering from 9/11-related health conditions. Longtime comedian Jon Stewart stood next to men and women from the FEAL Good Foundation to place pressure on congressional leaders to put their differences aside and pass this vital bill. Stewart openly wondered how our government was prepared to turn its back on survivors that unflinchingly answered the call on this date. Shortly after speaking to a congressional committee, NYPD Detective Luis Alvarez passed away from the poor health condition that he had gained as a result of his time at and near ground zero.

Over the course of American history, there have been many serious events that our nation has had to rebound from through the will of its citizens. 18 years ago, this dynamic character of our country rose out of the darkest moments of terrorism to show the world that Americans will always stand together. May we always remember our rescue workers, War on Terror veterans and those Americans that are currently struggling with 9/11-related illnesses. 

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College.

The use of Narcan is demonstrated on a dummy during a training class. File photo by Elana Glowatz

At Stony Brook University Renaissance School of Medicine, a new generation of doctors and dentists are involved in a novel approach to managing the opioid epidemic. The training includes instruction from reformed narcotic users, who act as teachers.

A 25-year-old woman recently explained to the first-year students how she became addicted to opioids at the age of 15, when a friend came over with Vicodin prescribed by a dentist after a tooth extraction.

Addiction, she said, is like having a deep itch inside that desperately needs to be scratched.

“There was nothing that could stand between me and getting high,” said the young woman, who wants to remain anonymous. “Most of the time it was my only goal for the day. At $40 a pill, I quickly switched to heroin which costs $10.” 

The university’s Assistant Dean for Clinical Education Dr. Lisa Strano-Paul, who helped coordinate the session, said that “patients as teachers” is widely practiced in medical education. This is the first year reformed narcotic users are participating in the program.

“People’s stories will stick with these medical students for the rest of their lives,” she said. “Seeing such an articulate woman describe her experiences was impactful.”

Gerard Fischer, a doctor of dental surgery candidate from St. James, took part in the patient-as-teacher session on narcotics.

“You learn empathy, a quality people want to see in someone practicing medicine,“ Fischer said. “People don’t choose to become addicted to narcotics. So, you want to understand.”

After working in dental offices over the last several years, he’s noticed that habits for prescribing painkillers are changing.

“Dental pain is notoriously uncomfortable because it’s in your face and head,” he said. “No one wants a patient to suffer.” Pain management, though, requires walking a fine line, he added, saying, “Patient awareness is increasing, so many of them now prefer to take ibuprofen and acetaminophen rather than a prescription narcotic, which could be a reasonable approach.”

Hearing the young woman tell her story, he said, will undoubtedly influence his decision-making when he becomes a practicing dentist. 

An estimated 180 medical and dental students attended the training last month. Overall, Strano-Paul said she’s getting positive feedback from the medical students about the session. 

The woman who overcame addiction and shared her insights with the medical professionals, also found the experience rewarding. 

We respect her request to remain anonymous and are grateful that she has decided to share her story with TBR News Media. For the rest of this article, we shall refer to her as “Claire.” 

Faith, hope and charity

“I told the doctors that recovery has nothing to do with science,” Claire said. “They just looked at me.”

Claire was addicted to drugs and alcohol for seven years and went to rehab 10 times over the course of five years. 

“I did some crazy things, I jumped out of a car while it was moving,” Claire said, shaking her head in profound disbelief.

She leapt from the vehicle, she said, the moment she learned that her family was on their way to a rehab facility. Fortunately, she was unharmed and has now been off pain pills and drugs for close to six years. She no longer drinks alcohol.

“Yes, it is possible to recover from addiction,” Claire said. 

People with addiction issues feel empty inside, Claire explained, while gently planting her fist in her sternum. She said that once her counselor convinced her to pray for help and guidance, she was able to recover.

“Somehow praying opens you up,” she said. 

Claire was raised Catholic and attended Catholic high school but says that she’s not a religious person. 

“I said to my counselor, “How do I pray, if I don’t believe or know if there’s a God?” 

She came to terms with her spirituality by appreciating the awe of nature. She now prays regularly. Recovery, she said, is miraculous.

Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12-step regimen, first published in 1939 in the post-Depression era, outlines coping strategies for better managing life. Claire swears by the “big book,” as it’s commonly called. She carefully read the first 165 pages with a counselor and has highlighted passages that taught her how to overcome addictions to opioids and alcohol. Being honest, foregoing selfishness, praying regularly and finding ways to help others have become reliable sources of her strength.

Spirituality is the common thread Claire finds among the many people she now knows who have recovered from addiction.

The traditional methods of Alcohol Anonymous are helping people overcome addiction to opioids.

Medication-assisted therapy

Personally, Claire recommends abstinence over treating addiction medically with prescription drugs such as buprenorphine. The drug, approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration since 2002, is a slow-release opioid that suppresses symptoms of withdrawal. When combined with behavior therapy, the federal government recommends it as treatment for addiction. Medication alone, though, is not viewed as sufficient. The ultimate goal of medication-assisted therapy, as described on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website on the topic, is a holistic approach to full recovery, which includes the ability to live a self-directed life.

“Medication-assisted therapy should not be discounted,” Strano-Paul said. “It improves the outcome and enables people to hold jobs and addresses criminal behavior tendencies.”

While the assistant dean is not involved with that aspect of the curriculum, the topic is covered somewhat in the clerkship phase of medical education during sessions on pain management and when medical students are involved in more advanced work in the medical training, she said. 

The field, though, is specialized.

The federal government requires additional certification before a medical practitioner can prescribe buprenorphine. Once certified, doctors and their medical offices are further restricted to initially prescribe the medicine to only 30 patients annually. Critics say no other medications have government-mandated patient limits on lifesaving treatment. 

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, considers the therapy to be “misunderstood” and “greatly underused.” 

In New York state, 111,391 medical practitioners are registered with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to prescribe opioids and narcotics. Only 6,908 New York practitioners to date are permitted to prescribe opioids for addiction treatment as at Aug. 31.

Strano-Paul for instance, pointed out that she can prescribe opioids, but is prohibited from prescribing the opioid-based drug used for addiction therapy. 

The narcotics education program is still evolving, Strano-Paul said. 

New medical student training now also includes certification for Narcan, the nasal spray antidote that revives opioid overdose victims. 

“It saves lives,” Strano-Paul said. 

In Suffolk County in 2017, 424 people died from an opioid overdose, which was 41 percent higher than the state average, according to a study titled “The Staggering Cost of Long Island’s Opioid Crisis.” The county is aware of 238 potentially lifesaving overdose reversals as of June 30 attributed to Narcan this year alone. Since 2012, Narcan has helped to save the lives of 3,864 people in the county. 

As for Claire, now a mother, she delivered her children through C-section. In the hospital, she was offered prescription opioids for pain. 

“No one will ever see me again, if you give me those pills,” she said.                

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Geoffrey Girnun hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Photo supplied by Geoffrey Girnun for a previous article

An associate professor from Stony Brook University, who has been placed on administrative leave, is pleading not guilty to charges that he allegedly stole thousands from funds that were allocated for cancer research.

The United States Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of New York, announced Sept. 12 that Geoffrey Girnun, an associate professor at Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, had been arrested and indicted for stealing more than $200,000 in cancer research funds, allegedly using the stolen funds in part to pay his mortgage.

One of Girnun’s attorneys, Steven Metcalf II of Metcalf & Metcalf P.C. in Manhattan, said in an email statement that he is asking that the public does not rush to judgment.

“Mr. Girnun’s defense team, including attorney Steven Siegel and my firm, are still putting all the pieces together,” Metcalf wrote. “We will continue to challenge the validity of these charges and whether the facts are fundamentally flawed. Once all the smoke clears there will be a completely different picture of Mr. Girnun, who is a family man, a loving husband and a Harvard-educated professional entirely devoted to his family and work.”

SBU officials are shocked over the alleged actions.

“The university is outraged and appalled by the allegations that led to the arrest of Geoffrey Girnun today,” an official statement from the university read. “This alleged behavior is absolutely contrary to the ethical and professional standards expected of our faculty. The university has fully cooperated with the investigation and at this time is considered by the FBI as a victim in this matter.”

The professor was charged in a seven-count indictment with theft of state and federal government funds, wire fraud and money laundering. He allegedly submitted fraudulent invoices for research equipment to SBU from sham companies he created to conceal his theft of funds from cancer-related research grants issued by the National Institutes of Health and SBU.

“Professor Girnun’s alleged theft of federal and state grant funds earmarked for cancer research can be explained in two words: pure greed,” said U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue in a statement. “He will now be held to account in a federal courtroom.”

Scott Lampert, special-agent-in-charge from the U.S. inspector general’s office,was in attendance when the charges were announced.

“Taxpayers fund medical research with the hope that promising scientific breakthroughs will result in much-needed treatments and cures for patients,” Lampert said. “Because the money for medical research is limited and the need for scientific advances is great, it’s incredibly important to clamp down on those who would steal such grant money for personal gain.”

If convicted, Girnun faces up to 20 years imprisonment.

Girnun was featured in a March 25, 2015, TBR News Media article. At the time, the researcher was exploring the role of different proteins that either promote or prevent various cancers. The one particular protein in the liver cell he was studying is one that classically regulates the cell cycle, according to the article.

Girnun discovered that the protein promotes how the liver produces sugar, in the form of glucose, to feed organs such as the brain under normal conditions. In diabetic mice, the protein goes back to its classic role as a cell cycle regulator.

Girnun made the move to SBU from the University of Maryland in 2013 and said at the time he was inspired by the opportunity to create something larger.

“I want to build a program in cancer metabolism,” he said. “I want to build something beyond my own lab.”

At the time of the 2015 article, Girnun was temporarily commuting from Maryland. The statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office now lists him as a resident of Woodmere.

Girnun is scheduled to return to court Oct.4 after being released on $250,000 bond.

This article was updated Sept. 18 to add a statement from Girnun’s attorney.

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The Setauket Fire District hosted its annual 9/11 memorial ceremony at its Nicolls Road firehouse.

Firefighters, residents, legislators and scouts gathered in the district’s Sept. 11 Memorial Park to remember those who lost their life on Sept. 11, 2001.

After Chief Paul Rodier’s introductory remarks, state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) addressed the attendees. The ceremony culminated with a candle lighting ceremony.

 

 

Gallery North in Setauket hosted its 54th annual Outdoor Art Show & Music Festival on Sept. 7 and 8. The two day event showcased the work of artists and artisans and featured live music, kids activities and food. Awards were granted for best in show for each art category, including crafts, fiber art, glass art, jewelry, painting, pottery, and more.

And the awards go to:

Best in Show

Eric Giles

Mixed media Craft

Outstanding award – Kathryn Nidy

Honorable Mention – Jo Ann Wadler

Wood craft

Outstanding award – Barry Saltsberg

Honorable Mention – Michael Josiah

Fiber Art

Outstanding award Meryle King

Glass Art

Outstanding award – Justin Cavagnaro

Jewelry

Outstanding award – Margie & Bill Lombard

Honorable Mention -Toni Neuschafer

Painting

Outstanding award – Carmen Stasi

Pottery

Outstanding award – Gina Mars

Honorable Mention – Denise Randall

Work on Paper: Graphic and Drawing

Outstanding award – Flo Kemp

Work on Paper: Watercolor and Pastel

Outstanding award -Stephanie Pollack

Honorable Mention – Joanne Liff

For more information, visit www.gallerynorth.org or call 631-751-2676.

Photos by Heidi Sutton

A child takes part in Book Time with a Dog at Sachem Public Library

Believe it or not, people still read books.

Despite the doom and gloom and often-reiterated refrain that young people today are illiterate, the world and its modern technology has not managed to cripple the long-standing literary institution: the local library. Libraries survive by the manic activity of their employees and the attention of patrons.

But it’s no longer just physical copies. E-books, available on tablets and phones, have become a mainstay in the way people read. People at libraries can rent tablets preloaded with several books. For people on the move, a tablet can be much easier to carry than a stack of 10 books each averaging at 300 pages and weighing a few pounds.

Clearly, it won’t be its patrons that ruin libraries for everyone, but the book publishers themselves.

Macmillan Publishers, one of the top five biggest publishing houses in the U.S., announced its intent to soon limit the number of copies of its published books to one per library for the first eight weeks.

While that seems like the corporation is cutting off its nose to spite its face, for Suffolk County’s library system, which handles all of the area’s e-book rentals, it means patrons will have access to one single copy countywide for rent.

Think about who uses a library. The highest levels of patronage are enjoyed by people living in the North Shore communities, according to Kevin Verbesey, the director of the Suffolk Cooperative Library System. While there are plenty of people who use the library for its many events and other activities, many others use the system to gain insights on world events and better themselves as they enjoy free access to computers and books. They find solace during an escape into literature.

It seems cynical, ludicrous and downright greedy on the part of the publisher to limit access. It suggests the current library system, which has existed for more than a century, is now, all of a sudden, cutting into publisher’s profits. Meanwhile there is good evidence to suggest libraries help create buzz and interest for the publisher’s books. Data from the Library Journal suggests many readers will go out and purchase the same book they borrowed from a library, and even more buy a book by the same author as one they borrowed from the library.

The library system exists and is as natural as the written word itself.

Librarians across the country look at the publisher’s actions and condemn them, but their voices are drowned out by the scale of the overall operation.

While Macmillan may assume people will simply go out and buy the book instead of getting it from the library, this hurts all those who cannot afford a new book, in electronic or physical form. Even worse, other publishers will potentially copy what Macmillan has done, severely limiting access for patrons to their electronic literature.

Libraries are the backbone of culture in a community. We ask all North Shore residents show support for their local library. Start a petition. Other publishers are waiting in the wings to see what happens. Letting Macmillan’s model become the norm will only harm the collective good.

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

There’s just far too much going on personally and professionally to contain it within a singularly focused column. Strap yourselves in, because here we go.

For starters, how awesome is the start of the school year? Kids grumble, shuffle their feet, roll their eyes and sigh. But, come on. It’s a clean slate. It’s a chance to learn new material, make new friends and start anew with teachers who didn’t wonder what was wrong with you when your eyes were almost closed during the days before you got sick. It’s also a chance for parents to breathe a sigh of relief as the chaotic house, which was filled with friends coming and going throughout the summer, establishes a predictable routine.

I spoke with a high school senior recently who was absolutely thrilled with the start of her final year of school. Not only does she want to get her grade point average up, which she was doing with a high average in her weakest subject, but she was also incredibly enthusiastic about the opportunity to apply to her favorite college. Her energy and enthusiasm were
infectious.

Keep up: Here comes another topic. The other day, after I dropped my son off at school, I passed a father who put me and so many other parents to shame. He was pushing a fully loaded double stroller with two children who were between 2 and 4 years old. Anyone who has had to push a double stroller with bigger children knows how heavy that bus on wheels can get. He also sported a younger child in a BabyBjörn carrier. That’s not where it ended. While he was pushing and carrying three children, he was walking an enormous dog. Given the size of the dog, I wondered if he was tempted to strap a saddle on the animal and put one of the kids on top of him. Yes, I know that wouldn’t actually work, but it would distribute all that child weight more evenly and would give “man’s best friend” a job to do, other than getting rid of waste products on other people’s lawns.

Speaking of dogs, yes, my family now has a dog. He’s wonderful, soft and fluffy and is also an enormous pain in the buttocks. He has two modes of walking: He either pulls me really hard — he weighs more than 80 pounds — or he completely stops, pushing his snout into grass that he tries to eat and which upsets his stomach. Look, doggie dog, I know I can’t eat dairy because of the enormous negative consequences. Does it occur to you that eating grass, dirt, plastic foam cups and pencils is bad for your digestion? Of course not because the only cause and effect you care about relates to what goes in your mouth.

So, last weekend we went to a baseball tournament for our son. The day after the tournament, the coach sent a pointed note to the parents, reminding us to contact him if we had a problem or question, rather than going straight to management. In case you were wondering, I don’t miss coaching.

Then there’s National Security Advisor John Bolton. So, he gets fired for being a hawk? Who knew he was a hawk? Oh, wait, just about the whole world. So, that begs the question: If his hawkish views weren’t welcome or wanted, why was he hired in the first place?

One more question: When did the weather or hurricane warnings become political?

Dr. Laura Lindenfeld will be the guest speaker at the 2nd annual Cooks, Books & Corks

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

You are invited on a date. The night is Tuesday, Sept. 24, the time is 6 to 8 p.m., and the place is the Bates House opposite the Emma Clark Library on Main Street in Setauket. On behalf of Times Beacon Record News Media — that’s us! — I am inviting you and your loved ones and friends to a fun community event. This one, the 2nd annual Cooks, Books & Corks, will feed both your body and mind.

Here’s the deal.

Some 18 fine restaurants and caterers are coming together to offer you delicious specialties from their menus, washing it all down with a selection of wines, and a dozen-and-a-half local authors are bringing their latest books for you to peruse and perhaps buy that evening. It’s Dutch treat at $50 a ticket, and the proceeds will go to a summer fellowship for a journalism student. In this way, you can help a young person take a paid step toward his or her ultimate career even as you help yourself to a scrumptious dinner and a literary treat that encourages local authors. And you will be helping us, the hometown news source, staff up a bit at a time when our regular team members tend to take vacations.

Here are some of the details.

The food will be supplied by these generous eateries: The Fifth Season, Old Fields, Pentimento, Elegant Eating, Sweet Mama’s, Zorba the Greek, Fratelli’s Bagel Express, Prohibition Port Jefferson, Toast Coffeehouse, Villa Sorrento, Lauren’s Culinary Creations, Sunrise of East Setauket Senior Living, Southward Ho Country Club, Sunflower Catering & Event Planning. Fishers Island Lemonade and Luneau USA will supply drinks. Desserts will be sweetly taken care of by, among others, Kilwins and Leanne’s Specialty Cakes. I’m salivating just typing the list. Start fasting. Come hungry.

Local authors include Jeannie Moon, Marcia Grace, Jeannine Henvey, Susan Van Scoy, Angela Reich, Ty Gamble, Dina Santorelli, Elizabeth Correll, Suzanne Johnson, Joanne S. Grasso, Rabbi Stephen Karol, Kerriann Flanagan Brosky, Michael Mihaley, Carl Safina, Mark Torres, Michael Hoffner and Linda Springer. People will be able to meet and greet with the authors and request book signings. Why would anyone want to write a book? How does one go about the process? Getting it published? Having it distributed? Would they recommend doing so to would-be authors? This is an awesome assortment of local talent to have in one room at one time.

A few remarks will be shared by Laura Lindenfeld, the interim dean of SBU School of Journalism and executive director of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. Gentle background music will be handled by the talented Three Village Chamber Players. And there will be the usual basket raffles.

A special and huge thank you to Laura Mastriano of L.A. Productions Events.

Now we need you!

To purchase tickets, please visit our website tbrnewsmedia.com or our TBR News Media Facebook page to pay with PayPal.

We also need sponsors who would like to support and be associated with this “high tone” event — as one of the vendors put it last year — to please contact us. Sponsorships may be had starting at $125 and will feature your name and logo in our newspapers, social media and our website, including a major “thank you” ad after the event. First one just in is Andy Polan, talented optician and owner at Stony Brook Vision World. And a big thank you to Camelot Party Rentals for their in kind donation. We would welcome your call at the newspaper office at 631-751-7744 or email events@tbrnewsmedia.com.

So come share in a delightful and satisfying event with lots of good food, good drink and good conversation. We hope you will follow up with visits to the participating eateries and caterers who have given of their time and specialties, and that you will enjoy reading your new books. We think when you leave the beautiful Bates House, you will be proud that you live in the area. And it certainly beats cooking dinner on a Tuesday night.

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Board of education listens to pleas to let students begin school later in the day

Parents, including Barbara Rosati, who organized residents, talked to the Three Village board of ed about the benefits of teenagers starting school later in the day. Many wore stickers that read, “It’s about time.” Photo by Andrea Paldy

By Andrea Paldy

It’s about time. That’s what a group of parents told the Three Village school district board and administrators last week when they asked for later start times for the district’s three secondary schools at the Sept. 4 board of education meeting.

They wore their conviction on stickers that said, “It’s about time: Three Village parents for a later start time,” and filled rows in the board room to show their support for the cause.

School board members and administrators listened, with board president William Connors promising that the discussion would continue.

Parents, including Barbara Rosati, talk to the Three Village board of ed about the benefits of teenagers starting school later in the day. Many wore stickers that read, “It’s about time.” Photo by Andrea Paldy

Parents, fortified with research and statistics to illustrate the consensus within the medical community, spoke about the toll sleep deprivation takes on the physical, emotional and mental well-being of adolescents.  

“Unlike other districts that have nonetheless successfully implemented the shift, you have our full support,” said Barbara Rosati, research assistant professor in physiology and biophysics at Stony Brook University.

The mother of a P.J. Gelinas eighth-grader and founder of the recent movement in the Three Village district, Rosati went on to say, “We encourage you to reexamine this issue today in a different socioeconomic context and with the renewed attitude of asking, not whether this can be done … but how this will be done here.”

Since first bringing the issue to the board in June, Rosati has organized two parent information sessions and launched an online petition that went live this week and gathered over 500 signatures in the first 24 hours. In addition to her request for a later start time, she has also asked the district to sponsor sessions with sleep experts for the school community and to include sleep hygiene in its health curriculum.

Marlo Dombroff, the mother of two secondary students and a clinical assistant professor and chief physician assistant in the division of gynecologic oncology at Stony Brook University, reiterated the dangers of sleep deprivation in young people, which she said, “negatively impacts their ability to learn, weakens the immune systems, leading to more missed school days, causes anxiety and depression, which leads to increased risk of suicide, increases accidents … and later in life, causes increased risk of hypertension, diabetes and obesity.”

Research shows that changes in adolescents’ circadian rhythms make it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m. This is one of the reasons that the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Academy and American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommend that middle and high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later, so that students can get the recommended 8 to 10 hours of sleep their bodies need.

During a phone interview, Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich agreed that the “research is 100 percent valid.” She added, though, that there are many variables to consider when it comes to shifting the school schedule.

“This is not that black and white, and, of course, students’ health and well-being are critical to us,” she said. “We’ve increased our clinical staff throughout the district. When people were making cuts, we never touched our clinical staff because we do believe our students’ mental health is critical.”

The last time the district looked at changing the 7:05 a.m. and 7:35 a.m. high school and junior high start times, a number of issues presented themselves, said Pedisich, who was co-chair of the committee that discussed the issue in 2010 and into 2012. Both elementary and secondary parents were on the committee, which discovered among its findings that parents of elementary school children were against the idea of having their young children home at 1:30 p.m., Pedisich said.

Additional considerations were transportation, scheduling for athletics, BOCES and the elementary music program. 

Last week’s speakers noted that many secondary students don’t ride the bus because of the early start times and suggested that a time change could be an opportunity to make district transportation more efficient and cost-effective.

“You are not alone. We can and we will help you,” Rosati said, offering access to experts who could help ease the transition.

While she would be willing to hear from those experts, Pedisich said the district’s transportation needs are special, in part, because the district buses all of its students unlike other districts. She also pointed to topographical issues with the layout and square mileage of the district -— 22.5 — which present their own challenges and require the knowledge of the district’s own transportation experts. 

Three Village’s staggered bus schedule, possible because of four different start times, won the district a state Management Efficiency Grant in 2013 and saves the district $1.5 million a year, said Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services. The largest run uses about 50 buses, he said after last week’s meeting. If the junior high and the high school buses were to run at the same time to accommodate later start times, the district could pay more for buses.

Pedisich discussed other challenges, such as the nine-period high school day, which is specific to Three Village. A later start time could eat into instructional time at the high school and could also affect the ability of students to attend afternoon BOCES classes, she said.

Rosati referred to other districts like Jericho that have made the shift to a later start time and continue to have strong music and athletic programs, suggesting that the tension between athletics and scheduling can be overcome.

To Pedisich, who notes that Three Village has a particularly “robust” and competitive program, the decision is based on balancing the needs of all students. “It’s hard to say that maybe we can’t offer the same level of programs,” she said, which could be the case with a shift. For many students, athletics is their “lifeline” and connection to the school and community and is a source of self-esteem and confidence, she added.

Because many of the coaches and club advisers are teachers in the district, they too would need to be polled to see if they are willing to extend their days, the superintendent said.

Pedisich said the board would discuss the issue in a private session before bringing it back to an open meeting. Even if a task force were approved by the board, it would take a minimum of two years to reach a decision because of all of the logistics involved.

“I’m not opposed to it,” Pedisich said of a later start time. “I want to do what’s right for kids — but it can’t be for one group of kids. It has to be what’s right for all kids.”

Dombroff, who acknowledged that she like many moved to Three Village because of its reputation, said, “If it’s good now, imagine how good it would be if we let our kids get adequate sleep.”

When the applause died down, she added, “Let them function at the top of their abilities, leading to the ultimate goal of happier, healthier students.”

 

Smithtown West girls soccer scored three unanswered goals on the road handing Ward Melville a 3-0 loss in a Division I matchup Sept. 9.

Freshman standout Stephanie Schubert scored twice for the Bulls, and Nicole Menella, a sophomore, found the net for their second win of the early season. The Bulls beat Patchogue-Medford two days earlier and look to build on their winning momentum. 

Emily Wallace, a senior, had four saves in net for the Bulls, and Ward Melville’s Elyse Munoz had five, along with teammate Rebekka Dill who stopped four.

Both teams are back in action Sept. 12 when the Patriots hit the road where they’ll take on West Islip searching for their first win; game time is 4:15 p.m. The Bulls play East Islip at home with a 4:30 p.m. start.