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Commack School District

Commack School District celebrated its commencement ceremonies June 26.

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

By David Luces

Students, teachers and parents in Commack recently went bald for a cause.

For the 10th year running, members of the Commack School District and surrounding community gathered at the high school March 1 to shave their heads in support of childhood cancer research. Over 100 people participated to raise money for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a not-for-profit whose goal is to raise funds to find cures for childhood cancer. 

In the past nine years the district has held the event, Commack has raised over $650,000. This year the district raised close to $45,000, with some teams donating well over $10,000. 

The annual event is organized by Commack High School teachers Lee Tunick, Bill Scaduto and Dan Revera. Since its inception, close to 1,000 people have shaved their heads in solidarity to those suffering childhood cancer. Hairdressing students from Eastern Suffolk BOCES donated their time to cut the participants hair.

The idea for the fundraiser came about through a cancer awareness club that Revera and Scaduto ran at the high school for quite some time. 

“Bill Scaduto and myself have been working in this building for 20 years,” said Revera. At that time St. Baldrick’s didn’t exist as we know it today. When we first found out about St. Baldrick’s, we would go to a school in Northport and a colleague of mine thought why don’t we host our own event here [at the high school].” 

Now with the event in its 10th year, Revera said it is great to see Commack School District students and community come out to support this.  

“One of the main influx of people [that come here] are the elementary students,” the high school teacher said. “Anything that we can do to generate [money] to help these kids who are going through this is great.” Revera added that the students that came to the event have shown bravery, have stood up for what’s right and are dedicated to a good cause. 

“That’s why we are here,” he said. “Just the thought of a family going through something like this and dealing with their child battling cancer — I can’t even imagine. If providing one day where we can support them and try to help however we can, it’s the least we can do.”

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Patrick Musumeci. Photo from SCPD

A former worker at the Commack School District has been indicted for the alleged illegal possession of weapons and drugs following an investigation by the Suffolk County Police Department.

“It’s very concerning to have an individual who has access to a school allegedly be in possession of drugs and illegal firearms,” Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D) said in a statement. “Residents in the defendant’s neighborhood saw something, said something, and the Suffolk County Police Department acted swiftly to investigate and arrest this defendant.”

Patrick Musumeci, 30, a former maintenance worker for Commack School District, was charged with four counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fourth degree, criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fifth degree, five counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree, four counts of criminal possession of a firearm, criminal possession of stolen property in the fourth degree and several misdemeanors.

On Feb. 6, at approximately 5:35 a.m., Suffolk County police detectives from the 5th Squad Special Operations Team and officers from the Emergency Service Section and 5th Precinct Gang Unit executed a search warrant at Musumeci’s residence, located at 57 Wilmarth Ave. in Patchogue. The search warrant was executed pursuant to a narcotics investigation into alleged drug dealing at the residence, which was reported to police through the Suffolk County Crime Stoppers hotline.

Commack school officials reacted to news of Musumeci’s arrest by posting a letter to district residents on its website.

“The district has found no evidence to date that he ever brought a weapon or drugs onto school property,” reads the district’s statement. “To date, we have not found any suspicious activity on school property.”

Musumeci was allegedly in illegal possession of four assault weapons and four additional firearms, namely a Bee Miller 9 mm semi-automatic rifle, a .233-caliber Bushmaster Remington semi-automatic rifle, a .233-caliber Smith and Wesson Remington semi-automatic rifle, a .22-caliber CBC long rifle semi-automatic rifle, a .40-caliber Glock Smith and Wesson semi-automatic pistol, a .40-caliber Taurus Smith and Wesson semi-automatic pistol, a .22-caliber Sturm, Ruger & Co. revolver and a .38-caliber Smith and Wesson special revolver. Musumeci also allegedly possessed brass knuckles.

Two of the handguns recovered during the search warrant were previously reported stolen.

Musumeci is also alleged to have possessed quantities of oxycodone; methadone; Xanax; morphine; concentrated cannabis, known as THC, in e-cigarette cartridges; marijuana; a digital scale; and packaging materials consistent with narcotics sales.

Musumeci was also allegedly in possession of several hand-pressed pills made to resemble oxycodone. An analysis of the pills revealed they were actually composed of a mixture of fentanyl, methamphetamine and tramadol.

Information on Musumeci’s attorney was not available.

Musumeci was arraigned on the indictment Feb. 28 by Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Mark Cohen. Bail was previously set at $100,000 cash or $200,000 bond. He is due back in court March 19.

If convicted of the top count, Musumeci faces a maximum sentence of up to nine years in prison.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Nicole Felice of the Narcotics Bureau.

Commack HIgh School. Photo from Google Maps

Suffolk County police officers arrested a man who works as an evening custodian for the Commack School District after a search found he had a stash of illegal guns and drugs inside his Patchogue home.

Patrick Musumeci, 30, was arrested Feb. 6 by police officers and faces 24 drug- and weapons-related charges.

Patrick Musumeci. Photo from SCPD

Following an investigation, Suffolk’s 5th Squad Special Operations Team and Emergency Section Service officers along with 5th Precinct Gang Unit officers executed a search warrant on Musumeci’s home on Wilmarth Avenue at approximately 5:35 a.m.

In the raid, officers found 16 guns inside the Patchogue home, including one Glock semiautomatic handgun, a Taurus semiautomatic handgun and four assault rifles, with ammunition. Two of the guns, a Smith & Wesson pistol and Ruger pistol had both previously been reported stolen. In addition to the guns, officers seized five sets of brass knuckles and a switchblade.

In addition to the weapons, Suffolk County police officers seized quantities of both prescription opiates and illegal drugs from the Patchogue home. The drugs found included oxycodone, Xanax, concentrated cannabis, marijuana, morphine pills and packaging materials.

Musumeci is charged with three counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fifth degree, six counts of criminal possession in the seventh degree, two counts of criminal use of drug paraphernalia in the second degree, criminal possession of marijuana in the fourth degree, five counts criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree, four counts criminal possession of a firearm, criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree and one count of grand larceny in the fourth degree.

Commack school officials reacted to news of Musumeci’s arrest by posting a letter to district residents on its website.

“The district has found no evidence to date that he ever brought a weapon or drugs onto school property,” reads the district’s statement. “To date, we have not found any suspicious activity on school property.”

Prior to being hired, Musumeci was fingerprinted and underwent a background check by New York State, according to the district. He was cleared, and state law would have required the district to be notified of any subsequent arrests, of which they claim to have received none.

Commack school officials said the district also has conducted an extensive search of the employee lockers, areas of the buildings the evening custodian was responsible for overseeing and reviewed buildingwide video footage in the wake of the allegations.

“The district and its outside security consultant will continue to review its safety and security plans and determine whether or not additional precautions are warranted,” read the district’s statement.

Musumeci was arraigned Feb. 7 in 1st District Court in Central Islip. He was ordered held in lieu of $100,000 cash or $200,000 bond, which had not been posted as of Feb. 13.

Commack school officials said their investigation into the matter is ongoing and the district is fully cooperating with the Suffolk police department.

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Commack HIgh School. Photo from Google Maps

A teacher is suing the Commack school district stating it has fostered an atmosphere of racial harassment and discrimination against her for more than 17 years.

Andrea Bryan, of Bay Shore, filed a lawsuit Dec. 19 in the U.S. District Court of Eastern New York against Commack Union Free School District saying administrators “exhibited a deliberate indifference” when she reported her fellow faculty and students were racially harassing her, according to the lawsuit.

Bryan, who is described only as a “black female of Caribbean descent” in the lawsuit, has worked as English teacher at Commack High School since 2002. She alleges the racial harassment began prior to 2015, when a faculty colleague first told her a bag of peanuts was “for whites only.” The teacher said she reported a complaint with her supervisor, according to court records.

“The Commack school district takes any allegation of discrimination seriously and, as a matter of policy and practice, acts swiftly in response to any claim,” district spokeswoman Brenda Lentsch said.

Bryan alleges that the racial discrimination against her, as “the only black teacher in the entire school district,” has only escalated since then.

We can say that all of her claims were investigated and, to the extent appropriate, promptly addressed.”

— Brenda Lentsch

In the lawsuit, she details an alleged incident where she was asked to “translate slave talk” by the same co-worker while English students were studying Arthur Miller’s play, “The Crucible,” which features a character named Tituba who is an enslaved black woman.

Bryan also claims to have received a bottle of hand sanitizer during a Secret Santa gift giving between co-workers with a $50 spending limit, that she took indicated the co-worker thought she was “dirty” due to her race.

The district’s spokesperson said that the school’s administration have been made aware of the incidents alleged by Bryan over recent years.

“We can say that all of her claims were investigated and, to the extent appropriate, promptly addressed,” Lentsch said in a statement. “Several of these allegations were first raised many years ago and were resolved at that time. Many of the allegations in the lawsuit are false.”

While unwilling to discuss specific details citing privacy requirements, the district’s spokeswoman said Bryan’s claim that she is the only black teacher in Commack school district is “incorrect.”

But the English teacher said the racially motivated insults and harassment she experienced went beyond the faculty and administration, and began to trickle down to students in her classroom. Bryan alleges a student once came to school in blackface makeup dressed as Aunt Jemima, a caricature of “a devoted and submissive plantation slave” depicted on a line of pancake syrup and breakfast foods put out by The Quaker Oats Company. For several years, the teacher claims students have called her Aunt Jemima in the school’s classrooms, hallways and cafeteria causing her to be “greatly humiliated, embarrassed and degraded.”

Commack school district’s Code of Conduct states that “intimidation or abuse based on a person’s actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender (identity or expression), or sex” will not be tolerated, according to Lentsch.

Through the lawsuit, Bryan is seeking monetary damages from the district for the racial
discrimination, though the documents don’t specify a dollar amount. Her attorney, Peter Romero of Hauppauge, said he had no comment given the matter is currently pending litigation. A jury trial has been demanded.

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The Obadiah Smith House. File photo

Two organizations in the Town of Smithtown have been selected to receive more than $13,000 in grants to plan for future preservation of two local landmarks.

The Preservation League of New York State, a nonprofit organization that works to preserve historic structures across the state, announced Oct. 3 it has awarded funds to both Commack Union Free School District and the Smithtown Historical Society.

Commack school district received a $7,620 grant to hire a consultant to perform a full building report on the Marion Carll farmhouse, which was given to the district in 1969 for historic and educational purposes.

“It’s really quite extraordinary,” said Erin Tobin, vice president for policy and preservation at the Preservation League.

This is such an incredible time capsule that has tremendous educational potential.”

— Erin Tobin

The Marion Carll Farm is a historic location of potential statewide significance, according to  Tobin, as the nine-acre property located on Jericho Turnpike consists of an 1860s farmhouse and several outlying buildings and retains many of the objects and possessions of its original owners, the Carll family of Commack.

“It’s a very intact site,” she said. “So many historic buildings on Long Island have been over restored and lost their original material and integrity of the historic building, the plaster, the wall paper and such. This is such an incredible time capsule that has tremendous educational potential.”

Huntington-based Steward Preservation Services, run by architect Joel Snodgrass, has been hired to evaluate the farmhouse and create a plan for the building’s preservation tasked with compiling a list of recommended steps. Tobin said she is aware of some issues in the farmhouse’s kitchen as well as some necessary roof repairs, but the report may uncover additional problems. The report will be done in compliance with standards set by the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

“There’s a lot of opportunity out there for partnerships,” Tobin said. “It will be interesting to see what the school district moves ahead with. This report might help inform what they want to do next.”

The Smithtown Historical Society also received a $5,800 grant in order to conduct a building report on the Obadiah Smith House on St. Johnland Road in Smithtown. Priya Kapoor, executive director of the Smithtown Historical Society, said she’s thrilled to have been selected to receive the funds.

“[The Obadiah Smith House is] a treasure we want to preserve and, at this point, it needs a lot of attention and a lot of care.”

— Priya Kapoor

“It’s a treasure we want to preserve and, at this point, it needs a lot of attention and a lot of care,” Kapoor said.

The Obadiah Smith House is the first historic home the Smithtown Historical Society ever occupied, according to the executive director, but now finds itself in need of some tender loving care. The building dates back to approximately 1700 and was owned by the grandson of the town’s founder Richard Smith.

“The Obadiah Smith House is one of the earliest houses on Long Island,” Tobin said. “It’s a great example of early English and Dutch building traditions.”

Kapoor said the historical society will also have Steward Preservation Services do a full report on the building’s condition to ensure it is up to code and safe. Once the report is complete, the organization will apply for additional grants and funding to make the repairs. The long-term goal is to be able to open up the Obadiah Smith House to be toured by area students learning about local history, according to Kapoor.

The Smithtown Historical Society is in the process of fixing up and reopening the Franklin O. Arthur Farmhouse’s animal barn to the public in the spring of 2019. Kapoor said she hopes to have space to add more programs and allow people to see firsthand the historic farming techniques used.

“I’m really excited about where the society is going right now with this new direction,” she said. “We’re also excited for each member of the community who is helping us.”

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Trustees decide to leave Verity’s seat vacant for 2018-19 school year, will operate with four members

Commack BOE with former trustee Pamela Verity, seated front left, pictured at the start of the 2017-18 school year.

A month after a controversial investigation led to the resignation of a Commack board of education member, the price tag on that review has finally come through.

The Commack school district spent an approximate total of $72,443.24 on the four-month investigation of former trustee Pamela Verity. The board of education announced it intends to remain at four out of five members until the May 2019 school elections.

Board Vice President Jarrett Behar initially announced the district’s special investigation cost more than $60,000 at the Sept. 6 meeting. When the total was first announced, Verity said she found that number to be low compared to what she had seen before resigning from the board.

“I saw the bills prior to being off the board, and they definitely exceeded that number,” she said.

However, school officials said the district has since received additional invoices and corrected its initial estimate bringing the total bill up to more than $72,000.  

“What was not included in those [initial] costs were the costs of legal issues leading up to the
investigation,” said Laura Newman, the assistant superintendent for business and operations. “Those costs were reflected in the April billing by Lamb & Barnosky, totaling $10,585.06. In addition, there will be an additional bill of $1,798.97 reflecting August charges from Lamb & Barnosky.”

The law firm of Lamb & Barnosky, which serves as council to the district, was paid nearly $49,000, including disbursements, from April through August for work done relating to the investigation, according to documents obtained by TBR News Media. Attorney Jeffrey Smith, who had been hired on contract as an independent investigator at a $150 hourly rate, was paid $17,550 for writing the 80-page report released Aug. 2. His fees were included in the disbursements under the June invoice from Lamb & Barnosky. 

In addition, Albany-based law firm Girvin & Ferlazzo was paid approximately $13,500 to verify information that was written in the report and to prepare charges against Verity. Lastly Philip Maier, a hearing officer, received $3,600 in fees paid to attend the first two days of hearing, which did not take place.

Superintendent Donald James confirmed the money came from the legal section of the school’s 2018-19 budget. This is out of the total 2018-19 budget of $193,222,796.

School officials accepted Verity’s letter of resignation at an Aug. 1 special meeting. This came after a four-month investigation into allegations she had disclosed confidential information privy to her as a board trustee and removing school district property from Marion Carll Farm. 

Board members discussed their options for the vacancy left by Verity at an Aug. 16 special meeting. Eugene Barnosky, the district’s attorney, said trustees could host a special election, appoint a new member themselves or leave the seat vacant. The trustees voted 3-1 to remain at four members until the next election cycle in May 2019 with member Jen Carpenter casting the lone dissenting vote.

Carpenter said she worried that without some sort of election it could harm the board’s ability to build trust in the community.

“If there’s a way to get [information of the vote] out there — with word of mouth or on social media — if we do vote and do decide to go in that direction, you’re electing us to be here, share those decisions and be here with you,” she said.

Behar said he feared there would be low turnout for a special election, considering that only 6 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot on the district’s  2018-19 budget and, historically, significantly less people have voted in prior special elections.

“For somebody to serve for that limited period of time to get that low of a level of community participation, the cost benefit analysis is just not there,” the vice president said.

James said the district did not want to rule out community involvement in the decision process, but it did not want to spend an estimated $12,837 to host a new special election.

Several community members spoke at the Aug. 16 meeting advocating for a special election.

“It’s ridiculous,” East Northport resident Dan Fusco said. “The district didn’t want to pay $13,000 to host special elections but they’d spend [tens of thousands] on an investigation? That doesn’t make sense.”

School district releases 80-page report alleging disclosure of confidential information, inappropriate actions

Commack School District's board of education at the start of the 2017-18 school year. Photo from Facebook

A Commack schoolboard  trustee has resigned her seat after the district launched a four-month investigation into her actions.

Pamela Verity submitted a letter of resignation to Commack School District effective July 31, which was unanimously accepted at an Aug. 1 special board of education meeting. She had been the subject of a special investigation for allegedly disclosing confidential information privy to her as a board trustee and removing school district property from Marion Carll Farm.

As members of the board of education, we essentially trade in confidential information…”

— Jarrett Behar

“As members of the board of education, we essentially trade in confidential information:  confidential information about our children, confidential information about our employees,”  Jarrett Behar, vice president of Commack’s school board, said. “We cannot get to a point where we decide that the ends justify the means. There are rules in place that need to be followed and we have a duty to follow them.”

On April 24, Commack’s board voted 3-to-2 to hire attorney Jeffery Smith to undertake an independent investigation of Verity based on accusations she had disclosed confidential information on multiple occasions and taken actions that were an inappropriate use of her authority.

The school district released Smith’s 80-page report Aug. 2, following Verity’s resignation, that details his interviews with 10 individuals — all board of education members, Superintendent Donald James and four school employees — between May 2 and 18.

“This investigation was spurred by posting of confidential information on Facebook,” reads page 3 of the report.

“I made mistakes, I definitely made mistakes.”

— Pamela Verity

In his investigation, Smith said it was alleged that Verity disclosed details of a confidential personnel matter regarding harassment in the workplace on social media. The investigator said the content indicated the board member had been emailing about, texting about it and expressed her opinion in violation of both state law and district policies.

Verity said she admitted to having inadvertently made a public Facebook post on the subject while multitasking but denied it contained detailed information such as specific names.

“I made mistakes, I definitely made mistakes,” she said, but denied her actions were intentional or as malicious in intent as she felt was implied.

The report also critically examined conversations Verity had with district employees where alleged confidential information was disclosed or where her actions were considered inappropriate conduct of a trustee, according to the district.

“I wear my board hat all the time, I don’t have any First Amendment rights anymore?” she said. “If it was up to them I would not be allowed to post [on social media], I would not be allowed to support people.”

If some of these actions were genuine mistakes, they would have merited an apology and a commitment that they would not be repeated and that hasn’t happened.”

— Page 19 of investigative report

Verity said as an educational advocate with the Opt Out movement prior to joining the board, she consulted with other school trustees and lawyers for advice on handling situations and how to handle confidential matters. The Commack district, she asserted, has a much stricter definition of what qualifies as confidential information than state law requires or surrounding districts’ policies. 

Commack school officials also said Verity removed documents from Marion Carll Farm without permission. The former board member said she did pack up and take home documents while working on a fundraiser for the site for safekeeping. All were returned to the district, according to Verity. The district admitted to receiving a box of paperwork but says it did not receive a full inventory list of all items removed from the farmhouse as per its request.

“If some of these actions were genuine mistakes, they would have merited an apology and a commitment that they would not be repeated and that hasn’t happened,” Smith wrote on page 19 of the report.

Verity said she doesn’t want to spend her time and energy defending herself from accusations but would rather move forward.

“I thought at first maybe if I speak my truth, this will turn around. It didn’t,” she said. “[The report] doesn’t reflect both sides at all, not at all.”

Community members at the Aug. 1 special meeting questioned how much the four-month investigation had cost the district given the independent investigator was hired at $150 an hour. The total bill was not yet available, according to Behar.

[The report] doesn’t reflect both sides at all, not at all.”

— Pamela Verity

“This procedure and process obviously did come at a cost and we do not take any endeavor where we spend taxpayer money lightly,” he said.

The district has three legal options when it comes to addressing Verity’s seat on the board of education, according to school district attorney Eugene Barnosky. The board’s choices include holding a special election to fill the vacancy within 90 days, appointing an individual to serve or leaving the seat unfilled. Verity was in her second year of a three-year term, due up for re-election in May 2019.

Behar said no decision had been made yet on how best to proceed.

“What happened today is very new,” he said. “We will make a decision, whatever decision we make will be made public. The community is always welcome to give its input.”

Verity said she hopes to continue lobbying for curriculum changes as part of the Opt Out movement against increased state testing and the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

Commack Superintendent Donald James. Photo from Brenda Lentsch

Across the Town of Smithtown, voters headed to the polls May 15 to show their overwhelming approval of their school district’s 2018-19 budgets. Many of the districts are planning to use funds to increase their security measures in schools or make critical infrastructure and building repairs.

Yet, threat of hazardous weather and early evening storms made for a light voter turnout, with fewer ballots being cast than in previous years. This disappointed school officials, who rely on their taxpayers’ votes for critical feedback and as a measurement of community involvement.

2018-19 budget 

Commack residents passed the district’s $193,222,797 2018-19 budget by 1,203 votes to 419 votes against. The approved budget contains a $3 million increase to expand college level courses at the high school while also conducting a districtwide security review.


Commack budget results
by the numbers

$193.2M 2018-19 budget: 1,203 Yes votes to 419 No votes

Board of education
Jarrett Behar: 1,302 votes 

The budget will maintain all current programs while expanding upon others. Classes that will be added include the pottery wheel classes for sixth-graders, more college level, project-based courses for high school students and a Movement in the Arts program that will attempt to give elementary students 40 to 60 minutes of physical activity during the school day.

The district’s spending plan also provides funding for replacement vehicles for the security and maintenance departments, updated computers with more antivirus and malware programs and enhancements to Wi-Fi connectivity in the district buildings.

Angela Cicalo, Commack’s PTA council president, expressed her concern about the low turnout of less than 2,000 voters.

“It’s sad that we have about 6,000 students in all of the buildings here in Commack, but only about 2,000 people normally come out and vote,” Cicalo said. “And there will probably be fewer than that this year. Sometimes the voter turnout is low when the incumbent is running unopposed and there aren’t a lot of candidates to choose from.”

Commack board of education

Voters did not have many options when it came to candidates for Commack’s board of education. There was one trustee seat up for vote, and incumbent trustee and current vice president on the board Jarrett Behar ran unopposed receiving 1,302 votes.

“I want to represent our children and our community while looking out for their best interests.”

— Jarrett Behar

Even though Behar was running unopposed, he still made the rounds before going to work: stopping at the high school first — with his two children, Jeffrey, 11, and Mollie, 6, in tow — to shake hands and introduce himself to voters.

“I’m very invested in the district,” he said. “I want to represent our children and our community while looking out for their best interests.”

For his second term, Behar said that he would “love to convince Albany to fix or abandon the Foundation Aid formula and start giving moderate wealth districts like Commack more aid, which would in turn reduce the tax burden on our community members.”

He added that he will continue to advocate “for the curtailment or abolishment of the numerous unfunded mandates that serve to further burden our community.” 

Behar said he would also like to continue the board’s efforts in improving the district’s communication with the community.

“It has definitely gotten better, but we will continue to try to improve,” he said.

Karen Forman contributed reporting. 

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2018-19 school budget, board of education trustee vote to be held May 15

Commack Superintendent Donald James. Photo from Brenda Lentsch

The school year is almost finished, and while students are sitting at the edge of their seats ready for summer, their parents and other Smithtown residents are being asked to vote May 15 on the school budgets and board elections.

Budgets saw increases across the board as districts attempt to increase security options and offer up more school programs and courses at nearly every grade level.

The Commack School District adopted its 2018-19 proposed budget with a $3 million increase aimed at expanding college level courses at the high school while also conducting a districtwide security review. The proposed budget of $193,222,797 contains a 1.61 percent increase over this year’s budget.

“We are very proud of our budget, and have again come in lower than our tax cap through our fiscally conservative, multiyear planning process,” Superintendent Donald James said in a statement. “All of our schools’ current academic and extracurricular offerings are included in next year’s budget with no cuts in programs — along with new opportunities for exploration and learning.”

We are very proud of our budget, and have again come in lower than our tax cap through our fiscally conservative, multiyear planning process.”
– Donald James

Board Vice President Jarrett Behar said the planned security review is based on community feedback. The district plans to put in a request for proposal for a districtwide security audit to identify potential security problems in the district and potential improvements.

“We really wanted to shy away from knee-jerk reactions,” Behar said. “These events that happened were horrific, but we wanted to take a considered approach.”

The budget maintains current programs while expanding upon others. If approved, it will expand the pottery wheel classes for sixth-graders and add more college level, project-based courses for high school students, and a Movement in the Arts program that will attempt to give elementary students 40 to 60 minutes of physical activity during the school day.

The proposed budget also provides funding for replacement vehicles for the security and maintenance departments, updated computers with more antivirus and malware programs and enhancements to Wi-Fi connectivity in the district buildings.

If approved, the budget will impose a 2.51 percent tax levy increase, which falls within the state mandated tax levy cap. This budget accounts for an anticipated decrease in state aid, which saw a decrease in the amount of building aid among other financial aids.

Commack board of education

One trustee seat is currently up for vote, and incumbent trustee and current vice president on the board Jarrett Behar is running unopposed. He says the biggest problems that the Commack school district will face in the upcoming years has to do with state financing.

“Largely, it’s funding issues, mostly from the state, and we’re going to continue to fight against unfunded mandates and to get Foundation Aid formula fixed so we get our fair share of state funding,” Behar said. “The foundation aid formula is like the formula for Coke, nobody can really figure out what it is. Whatever it is, I don’t think we’re getting enough as we should.”


By the numbers:
$193.2M proposed 2018-19 school budget
1.61 percent year-to-year increase
2.51 percent tax levy increase

Behar is a 12-year resident of Commack and he has been trustee on the board for the last three years. Before that he worked on the Rolling Hills Primary School PTA and as coach in both girls and boys basketball. He currently works as a partner at Sinnreich, Kosakoff & Messina LLP in Central Islip. He believes his experience both in the community and as an attorney helps him to work with others on the board.

“The whole board starts with the mentality of what is best for the children and works from there. Couple that with the long-term planning that the board has put in place [and] I think we’ve done a really good job,” Behar said.

Board President Steve Hartman said that Behar’s legal expertise has been very helpful when dealing with any legal issues that come up in meetings.

“Mr. Behar has worked diligently with his fellow BOE members over the past three years to ensure that our children have had as many opportunities as possible throughout their school year,” Hartman said in a statement. “He also wants to ensure that our children go to school in an environment that makes them feel safe and secure. I look forward to continue working with him as we continue to improve our programs districtwide.”

Behar’s son, Jeffrey, is in fifth grade at Sawmill Intermediate School and his daughter, Mollie, is in first grade at Wood Park Primary School.

Go Vote 

Board elections and budget vote will take place May 15 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Commack Middle School and Commack High School.

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