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First Royal Division IV MVP break school records this season

The Port Jefferson Royals’ outgoing quarterback is officially royalty.

Jack Collins is the first Port Jefferson football player to be named MVP of Division IV. But if he had his way when he was young, the Royals senior wouldn’t even be a quarterback.

“I was a wide receiver,” he said, explaining how he played the position for almost two years before being told the middle school team was in need of a field general. “We had a little contest, and I ended up getting the job.”

Port Jefferson quarterback Jack Collins broke three school records this year and became the first Royals football player to be named the most valuable player in Division IV, an honor bestowed by the results of a vote by the division coaches. File photo by Bill Landon

Collins didn’t want to be a quarterback because being the center of attention seemed like too much for him. He said he was quiet and reserved by nature, qualities not normally associated with successful quarterbacks. But as the years passed he grew to love it, and others respected the way he played the position, too.

In his senior season, Collins broke school records for touchdowns (18), completions (143) and yards in a season (2,261). Being the first Division IV MVP from the Royals squad, which is voted on by division coaches, also qualifies him for the Hansen Award, which goes to the most outstanding high school football player in Suffolk County, and the Boomer Award, which is awarded to the top quarterback in the county. The winners will be announced at a Section XI dinner Dec. 4 at the Hyatt Regency Long Island in Hauppauge.

“We knew Jack had all the capabilities to handle the physical part of the position,” Port Jefferson head coach Andrew Cosci said. “What stood out even more was his maturity mentally. We knew he could handle anything we threw at him, and his work ethic early on was just one of those un-coachable things.”

Collins was called up to the varsity team his sophomore year and played in a handful of games toward the end of the season before being named the starter as a junior. He said the honor was unexpected, but felt encouraged after being recognized.

“I worked hard in the offseason — put my heart and soul into it — and getting called up made me feel more comfortable and prepared to be the leader of a team,” he said. “I think my coach made the right decision. It was a good learning experience.”

Cosci said the coaches immediately began tailoring routines and strategies so that the offense revolved around Collins. The quarterback had worked with an outside coach to enhance his accuracy, power and consistency, but also learned about leadership. The changes were noticed immediately.

As a result of the MVP nod, Jack Collins is automatically in the running for the Hansen Award and the Boomer Award, which will be given out at the Section XI football dinner Dec. 4. File photo by Bill Landon

“Jack is like no other quarterback I’ve played with,” senior wide receiver Marquis Feldman said. “He knows everything that’s happening on the field before it happens. It’s honestly like playing with a college quarterback.”

The senior’s head coach went one step further in his praise of Collins.

“He watches tons of film, tries to understand things better and fully, he never rests on his laurels — he thinks about what he has to do to get better and he continues to get better because of that,” Cosci said. “As a true leader and a true great player does, he made everyone around him better.”

Marquis said he saw his teammate develop on the field firsthand.

“Everyone on my team gave 110 percent every snap of every game — we were relentless,” he said, adding that he only just moved to the district in August. “To see Jack get recognized for his efforts is phenomenal, because we all knew he was an MVP. I couldn’t be more proud to call him my quarterback and already a very close friend on and off the field.”

To Collins, success is not about him, but more a reflection on his coaches and teammates, he said.

“At first, I didn’t see the good in it as much as I was afraid of the bad,” he said of taking on the quarterback role. “My teammates made me see it’s not that bad. It’s awesome to see the other coaches respected what we were doing, but honestly, we’re all putting in the work together and our coaches are putting game plans out that work. I’m the one that gets a lot of the credit for it, but it was definitely a team effort.”

Collins’ successes have also served to shine a light on the program.

Jack Collins broke school records for touchdowns (18), completions (143) and yards in a season (2,261). File photo by Bill Landon

“You can always look at the bigger schools and shake your finger and say ‘We’re too small, we’re never going to win anything,’” Collins said. “But we’re proving everyone wrong. We played with the big boys and it was a really good time. I just really hope this helps the program grow.”

While the extra attention could add pressure for any high school student, Port Jefferson athletic director Danielle Turner said nothing ever seemed to phase Collins.

“I’ve watched Jack from afar for two years now — on the field, in the hallways — and for as great of a football player he is, he’s an even better person,” Turner said. “He doesn’t say much, but his work ethic and the way he carries himself speaks volumes as to the type of person Jack is.”

Another important aspect of being a varsity football player is having young kids on the sidelines at games, according to Collins. They reminded him of himself when he first watched the Royals, wishing to one day emulate what he saw.

“I wanted to be like them in every single way,” he said. “I hope when the kids look at me they think that and that I set a good example.”

It’s a mentality he has already instilled in all facets of the program, according to Cosci.

“Jack has been the cornerstone for us in taking the next step,” he said. “He’s definitely more of a lead by example, but when Jack opens his mouth everyone listens. He never really talks about himself, he’s grounded, and it’s refreshing. The first thing out of other coaches’ mouths was ‘What a quarterback you have.’”

Huntington Town Hall. File photo by Rohma Abbas

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Huntington homeowners can anticipate to see taxes increase in 2018, but town officials have pieced together a plan that won’t require piercing the state tax cap as opposed to 2017.

Huntington Town’s budget will slide in just under the state-mandated 1.84 percent tax levy increase cap with its proposed $194 million spending plan for 2018..

Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) presented his last and final budget proposal at the Sept. 15 town board meeting, calling for a $4.2 million spending increase compared to 2017.

The single largest driving factor behind the town’s budget hike is high health care costs for town employees, according to Petrone. Town personnel salaries and benefits “is the single biggest influence on municipal budgets,” reads the proposed 2018 budget, citing it accounts for more than 50 percent of the town’s major expenditures. The state has predicted health care insurance premiums will rise by 8.3 percent, which would cost the town an additional $22.5 million in 2018.

To help cut back these costs, Petrone has proposed to reduce the number of full-time town employees through attrition for a second year. So far this year, the town has eliminated six positions, for a savings of $400,000 in paid salaries and benefits, according to town spokesman A.J. Carter.

“I continue to advocate for changes to the Tax Cap Act that will allow the Town of Huntington to expand upon existing successful programs such as the continuation of the Town Open Space Bond Act.”

— Frank Petrone

Successful changes in two of the town’s ambulance districts — Huntington and Commack — will result in residents seeing decreased taxes for ongoing services. Commack Volunteer Ambulance Corps began billing patients’ insurance companies in 2016, a move that was followed by Huntington this year and resulted in a significant increase to its revenue. Carter said residents without health care insurance will not be billed by either company, as those costs continue to be covered by the town.

The preliminary budget calls for $16.6 million in capital spending on local projects, holding steady at 2017 levels. These capital projects include $3.75 million to begin construction of the James E. Conte Community Center at the former Armory in Huntington Station and $3 million to construct a new animal shelter adjacent to Mill Dam Park in Halesite.

Town officials have already unveiled plans to build its first of two spray parks, or interactive water playgrounds, in 2018 — one in Elwood Park in memory of New York City Police Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo who was killed in the line of duty in 2017, and one next to the Conte Community Center.

Other major projects included in the 2018 preliminary budget are improvements to Manor Park in Huntington Station, restoration of the waterfront bulkheads in Halesite and $1 million toward improvement of the Huntington sewers.

In issuing his final budget, Petrone called for changes to the state’s Tax Cap Act.

“I continue to advocate for changes to the Tax Cap Act that will allow the Town of Huntington to expand upon existing successful programs, such as the continuation of the Town Open Space Bond Act, and to develop new economic drivers, like the formation of special improvement districts which deal with issue-specific concerns and solutions, and the establishment of new Business Improvement Districts to further enhance our small business communities,” the supervisor said.

Petrone called for specific programs or capital projects to be approved by voters in a town referendum vote, then excluded from tax cap calculations, otherwise he feared programs could be discontinued to stay under the cap.

For 2017, Petrone got residents’ support in piercing the tax cap by approving a 2.85 percent tax increase for his $191 million budget. The supervisor had claimed it was necessary in order to maintain the town’s services along with social, youth and art programs without severe cuts.

Residents will have the chance to share their input on the proposed 2018 budget at the Oct. 17 town board meeting.

Some question why district’s proposed plan covers less

File photo

After a lengthy battle, Northport-East Northport school district’s security greeters have been offered health care benefits. But the fight may not be over.

Although the district has presented health insurance plans to the nine full-time greeters, some say the plans are expensive and don’t treat them the same as other district employees.

The duties of a greeter, also known as a security monitor, include monitoring who is coming and going from a school building, assisting in late arrivals and early releases and helping parents get forgotten items to the students, among other day-to-day tasks that may arise. The position was established about 10 years ago, according to the district supervisor of security, and the district employs one full-time greeter for each of their six elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school.

Under the plans, the district would pay 60 percent of the greeters’ health coverage, according to Diane Smith, the greeter who has led the charge for benefits.

Contracts on the district’s website indicate that it pays 75 percent of superintendent Robert Banzer’s coverage, 82 percent for administrators, 79 percent for teachers and 86 percent for security guards.

Diane Smith has been asking for health care benefits for her and her fellow employees for months. Photo from Smith
Diane Smith has been asking for health care benefits for her and her fellow employees for months. Photo from Smith

Smith said she is grateful the district granted greeters health care coverage —“I’m happy to get that, it’s fabulous to have any kind of a break,” Smith said in an email — but she wants treatment equal to fellow employees, specifically security guards.

When asked about the difference between greeters and security guards, the district said in a statement, “Security guards and security monitors are civil service appointments. Both positions require security certifications and the ongoing completion of security training.”

As is, the employee contribution for the greeters’ proposed insurance on a family plan “will cost us exactly every other entire paycheck,” she said. “How did they come up with that [number]?”

Smith’s salary is $20,000.

According to Smith, the greeters were offered more affordable plans, one of which would have covered 75 percent of health care costs, but they wouldn’t have provided coverage for families. She said in addition to working as a greeter full time, she has been working a second job part time to pay for private health insurance for herself and her two kids.

“Each year the district examines its policies in an effort to further benefit our valued employees,” Banzer said in a statement through the district’s public relations firm, Syntax. “Through prudent budgeting and research with our providers, we are pleased to offer multiple health care coverage options to our greeters. Although the district has not provided this coverage in the past, as it is not required, we felt it was an important step to make this available to them.”

Despite her criticism, Smith expressed gratitude.

“It’s still really good,” she said in a phone interview Monday. “I would not turn it down. It would help my income for sure.”

Smith had a meeting with a district insurance specialist on Wednesday to get some more questions answered and ultimately decide on a plan.

According to her, the greeters must sign up by Feb. 1 to begin getting coverage.

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