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Harborfields high school

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By Bill Landon

The Harborfields girls varsity basketball team traveled to Bay Shore for a nonleague match where the Tornadoes squeezed out a 45-41 victory Dec. 7.

Senior Casey Nickerson led her team in scoring with 17 points that included three treys, while senior Celia
Argiriou tacked on 12, and senior guard Colleen Dwyer banked 9 points for her team.

The Lady Tornadoes will be back in action Dec. 13 as they host Eastport/South Manorville at 6 p.m.

Harborfields High School’s Class of 2018 didn’t let a little rain put a damper on its commencement ceremony June 23.

Senior members of the high school choir performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the start of the ceremony, which was followed by words of encouragement and lessons from Superintendent of Schools Dr. Francesco Ianni. He spoke to the graduates about the importance of time and to have character and determination in everything that you do.

Salutatorian Sarah Katz also addressed her fellow graduates, calling the Class of 2018 a family and acknowledging the greatness within them.

“Sitting among this great crowd are great minds, leaders, soldiers, musicians, doctors, writers, dreamers and people who I believe can change the world or at least light the spark that does,” Katz said.

Valedictorian Emma Johnston also focused Harborfields’ being a tight-knit community and class, adding how moving to the district changed her life.

“I learned that Harborfields is truly a magical place,” Johnston said. “It is a place of support and mass synergy and it is a place where every walk of life can come together as a community to bring out the best in each other.”

Class president Christopher Burney spoke about his time in the district and wished his fellow graduates the best while encouraging them to take advantage of every opportunity that comes their way. Featured speaker Casey Sturm, English teacher, addressed the graduates while speaking about when he was in their shoes as a Harborfields High School student.

“I can’t wait to see how you change the world,” he said.

Principal Timothy Russo presented each graduate with an evergreen tree, symbolizing the foundation and roots of their support system.

“Let this be a reminder to you of Harborfields and what you’ve meant to us,” Russo said.

Before the presentation of diplomas, Russo took a special moment to honor Maggie Schmidt, a member of the Class of 2018 who passed away in June 2017 after her courageous battle with cancer. The Schmidt family was present to accept her diploma on her behalf.

Pushing through the early morning cold and rains on Sunday, Huntington residents raced to support organ and tissue donations.

“I think we did fantastic for a first time run,” said Michele Martines, run organizer and mother of a heart transplant recipient. “For the cause, we’re going to save some lives.”

Roughly 130 runners helped to raise nearly $5,000 for LiveOnNY, a nonprofit association dedicated to recovering organs and tissues for transplants in the New York metropolitan region, at the 5K Race to Save Lives held April 29 at Harborfields High School. The event was sponsored by  Simply Fit Health and Wellness gym, which has locations in Centerport and Huntington,  Huntington Hospital and several Huntington Town officials.

The event recognized two donor recipients including Councilman Mark Cuthbertson’s (D) son, Hunter Cuthbertson, who had to receive a bone marrow transplant in 2017, and Martines’ son, Christian Siems,who celebrated the third year after his heart transplant April 25.

A lot of people don’t know about organ transplants, that or they have misconceptions and they just assume things.”
 Christian Siems

Hunter Cuthbertson was diagnosed with aplastic anemia during a precollege physical in 2016. Aplastic anemia is a failure of the bone marrow to produce the necessary amount of red blood cells. Though the chance of finding a perfect match in bone marrow with a relative is only 25 percent, the younger Cuthbertson found that his brother was a perfect match.

“I was elated when I learned he was a match, I dropped to my knees and I was crying,” he said. “But he’s one of the lucky ones. The other 75 percent need to go the unmatched registry. The larger the registry the larger the chance that someone’s going to get saved.”

He underwent a week of chemotherapy before having a bone marrow transplant performed in March 2017.

Siems learned his heart was beginning to fail before he turned 21. He had an external defibrillator installed and tried to move toward college, but after getting progressively more tired and sick he was airlifted to Westchester Medical Center where he was told he would need a heart transplant. Luckily for Siems in just six months he received a call that they found a donor.

“I’ve known [Siems] since I’ve moved here, and it’s been hard watching Christian go through what he has,” Joe Bertolini, Siems’ neighbor and overall winner of the 5k, said. “He’s come to talk to us at our school about what he’s been through. It’s inspirational.”

Siems has taken up publicly speaking about the need for organ donors to local schools and community organizations.

Only about 32 percent of New Yorkers are registered to be donors, in some states its over 56 percent.”
 Karen Cummings

“A lot of people don’t know about organ transplants, that or they have misconceptions and they just assume things,” he said. “I go out there and talk to kids, the next generation and I educate them on what it is, and not to be scared of it. It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give.”

Despite the two young men’s luck in finding donors, they are not the average case. New York State is currently ranked last in terms of number of residents who are registered as organ donors, according to LiveOnNY’s website. There are currently 9,359 people waiting on organ donations in the state.

“Only about 32 percent of New Yorkers are registered to be donors, in some states its over 56 percent,” Karen Cummings, a public and professional education specialist for LiveOnNY said. “We are the fourth fastest growing registry, but New York is still at the bottom of the list.”

A number of people who raced were the recipients of organ or tissue donations. Huntington resident Hal Strauss, who in August 2017 collapsed as he was doing his regular bike exercise. He was rushed to Huntington Hospital where he learned he needed a new liver.

“You just wait by the phone,” Strauss said. “I was able to get my organ in seven months, but I’m an anomaly. For other people it can take years.”

New York residents can register as organ donors whenever they visit the DMV, register to vote, register for health insurance through the health benefits exchange or
online at LiveOnNY’s website

Event will be held April 29 at 8:30 a.m. at Harborfields High School in Greenlawn

Hunter Cuthbertson, center, with his siblings while hospitalized for his bone marrow transplant in 2017. Photo from Cuthbertson family

Huntington residents are being asked to lace-up their sneakers for a 5K race aimed at raising awareness that April is National Donate Life Month.

Town of Huntington council members Joan Cergol (D) and Mark Cuthbertson (D) are co-sponsoring the first 5K Run to Save Lives April 29 at Harborfields High School along with Simply Fit Health and Wellness gym, which has locations in Centerport and Huntington. The event aims to raise awareness for the importance of organ and tissue donation, an issue that hits close to home for Cuthbertson.

The councilman’s son Hunter said he was surprised when blood tests came back  abnormal during his routine precollege physical in 2016. The younger Cuthbertson said further testing led him to be diagnosed with aplastic anemia, or bone marrow failure, an affliction causing his body to not produce enough blood cells.

“They said I could try to go back to school, but I would need a bone marrow transplant at some point,” he said.

“Nationally, 23 people die every day because they don’t receive an organ.”

– Christian Siems

Luckily for the councilman’s son, his younger brother was tested and wound up being a perfect match, despite just one-in-four odds. He underwent a week of chemotherapy before receiving his bone marrow transplant March 21, 2017.

“My treatment went really well,” the younger Cuthbertson said. “But it was really a perspective changing experience.”

He has since become a strong supporter of bone marrow donor drives, encouraging others to get tested to see if their tissue could be a potential match. Representatives from LiveOnNY, a nonprofit association dedicated to recovering organs and tissues for transplants in the New York metropolitan region, and Be the Match, a 501(c)(3) organization that matches patients with marrow donors, will both be at the April 29 event to encourage people to sign up.

“I think everyone who has the time to get their cheek swabbed, which takes 15 seconds, should do it,” he said. “Even if you are not the match or don’t have the time to do it today, a couple years down the road you might be the match to save someone’s life.”

Cuthbertson is one of the two individuals who will be recognized at the 5K race alongside Christian Siems, a 2012 Harborfields High School graduate. Siems said he considers himself one of the lucky ones. It was during one of the school’s annual blood drives that a nurse detected an issue with his heart.

“When she listened to my chest, she said, ‘You have a heart murmur,” but I hadn’t been diagnosed with a heart murmur; I got it checked out,” Siems said, indicating he later went for testing to St. Francis Hospital. “It was probably one of the scariest days of my life.”

Christian Siems. Photo from Michele Martines

Siems learned that his heart was starting to fail before age 21. He underwent surgery to have an internal defibrillator implanted and attempted to move forward with his plans to attend college.

But when Siems started feeling constantly tired, was pale, struggling to walk and even having difficulty talking, he was rushed to Huntington Hospital. Doctors had him airlifted via helicopter to cardiac specialists at Westchester Medical Center who informed him he would need a heart transplant.

“I was told I had to sit in the hospital and wait for a heart,” Siems said. “It could have been six months; it could have been a year.”

Doctors decided to risk performing an open-heart surgery to install an assistive device that would allow Siems to wait for his much-need transplant at home. He received a phone call after only six months that a donor was found. Siems celebrated the third anniversary of his successful heart transplant April 25.

“Nationally, 23 people die every day because they don’t receive an organ,” he said. “In New York, if you get too far out [on the list] a lot of times a doctor will tell you to move to another state to get an organ faster.”

New York state also has the third-lowest donor registration rate in the country, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, a section of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“There’s no general knowledge about organ donation out there,” Siems said. “A lot of people don’t know what it is, there’s a lot of myths and misconceptions.”

He encouraged local residents to come to the event and learn more about signing up to become an organ donor. Race registration costs $25 for adults and $10 for students. All proceeds will go to LiveOnNY. Register online at www.LivingSimplyFit.com/5k.

Harborfields High School held a student-organized HF commUNITY Summit as an alternative to National Walkout Day March 14. Photo from Twitter.

Harborfields students came together to share their feelings on school shootings and gun violence Wednesday, rather than walking out.

Harborfields High School hosted a student-organized HF commUNITY Summit in the gymnasium at 10 a.m. March 14 rather than participating in National Walkout Day, a planned demonstration in which students across the United States exited schools in protest.

“Our schools are very safe and not just because we have enough security guards, cameras or buzzers,” said Superintendent Francesco Ianni in his March message to the community. “Our schools are safe because we believe in the importance of letting children speak about their feelings and emotions as a result of the events that surround us. We are always there to support and guide our students in appropriate freedom of expression.”

Harborfields principal Timothy Russo said the schoolwide event was scheduled after he was approached by many students who expressed a desire to “do more than simply walk out of a building and congregate somewhere,” in an undated letter to the community. Student organizers led the summit that allowed any students to publicly speak about the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida Feb. 14 that killed 17 people and the ensuing, heated national discourse.

“No one should feel so unsafe in a place of such community and security,” said student speaker Sophia Braunstein. “Regardless of what political ideology you stand for, I think we can all agree that America has a problem.”

Braunstein, a senior, remembered how she was in seventh grade when the Sandy Hook elementary school shootings occurred that killed 20 children and six adults in 2012.

Harborfields senior Sophia Braunstein speaks at the schoolwide rally March 14. Photo from Twitter.

“I was left with a fear that never left,” she said. “The day after the Parkland shooting, that same feeling resurfaced and my anxiety grew so bad I asked my mom several times to leave school.”

Braunstein said even she could see the differences in the national discussion in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting, where the victims were elementary school students, compared to Parkland’s high school students who are utilizing social media to call for change.

“For students in Harborfields who feel discouraged by adults saying you shouldn’t have a voice, or we don’t know what we are talking about, don’t be,” Braunstein said. “History repeats itself.”

She cited the leadership shown by the Little Rock Nine, a group of nine African-American students who, escorted by federal troops, led the desegregation of public schools at Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas in 1957. Braunstein’s comments also touched on college students impact on public opinion of the Vietnam War in the 1960s.

“We can be and will be the generation that can say we ended mass shootings in America,” she said.

Olivia Espinoza, a student at Harborfields, said she really enjoyed hearing the passionate speeches from her peers Wednesday.

“This rally showed a beautiful side of our generation that isn’t afraid to stand up for what we believe in, contact our local senators, participate in protests and marches, and make a difference in the world,” Espinoza said. “I am confident we are on the road to change.”

Harborfields school administrators were not immediately available for comment on the event.

Dressed in green and white cap and gowns, Harborfields High School seniors made their way across the high school gymnasium and received their diploma on June 24. The celebration, which traditionally takes place outdoors, was based inside due to inclement weather but did not dampen the spirits of the proud graduates.

Family members, friends, staff, board members and administrators gathered for the momentous occasion which marked the end of an era for retiring Board President Nicholas Giuliano and a first for Harborfields High School Principal Timothy Russo and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Francesco Ianni.

The stands of the high school gymnasium were filled with anticipated guests as the graduates made their entrance to “Pomp and Circumstance” by Sir Edward Elgar, played by the high school band. The ceremony kicked off with the Pledge of Allegiance, a performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” from the senior members of the high school choir and the Alma Mater.

Russo welcomed those in attendance and Dr. Ianni addressed the graduates. During his speech, he gave special recognition to the board president for his commitment to the board of education for the past 15 years.

“Mr. Giuliano, this is your class,” he said. “The students that you see in front of you were in Washington Drive Primary School when you started and they were the direct recipients of the many decisions that you and the board made during your time at Harborfields. What you have in front of you is one of the best graduating classes that Harborfields has to offer.”

Russo also commended him for his consistent direction and support in the district. He proudly presented him with the first diploma of the ceremony.

Salutatorian Ishaan Lohia addressed his fellow graduates and offered a humorous speech about his high school experience and what he learned over the years, while class president Sean Tully wished his classmates the best of luck in their future endeavors.

In addition, valedictorian Casandra Moisanu spoke to the Class of 2017, reflecting back on their high school years, their outlook for the future and the strong connections made within the graduating class.

“I want everyone to remember that no matter where we end up, we are still an HF Family,” she said. “I know we would all like to see each other succeed and I trust that we will be there for each other in the future.”

Voted on by the graduates, featured speaker and social studies teacher Daniel Greening offered his best wishes, while Russo shared his own praises and encouragement. To leave the students with something to hold onto, Russo gifted each of them with an evergreen tree to help them remember their roots.

Christopher Patronaggio was appointed assistant principal at Harborfields High School last week. Photo from Harborfields school district

Harborfields has found the last piece to its administrative puzzle, after shuffling the staff last year when Superintendent Diana Todaro announced she would be retiring in 2017.

Christopher Patronaggio was appointed assistant high school principal at a board meeting last Wednesday, replacing Timothy Russo, who was recently promoted to principal.

He is currently the administrative dean at Walt Whitman High School in the South Huntington Union Free School District, and will officially take over the helm at Harborfields on Aug. 1.

Patronaggio lives in Nassau County with his wife and 2-year-old son, but said the family plans to make the move to Stony Brook in the near future.

“I am excited to be able to create lifelong relationships with our students and families, and assist in providing anything they need to be successful in all aspects,” Patronaggio said in an email. “In doing so, they know that I am always here for them and my door is always open. It excites me to be a part of a community that continues to produce remarkable students which progresses into productive young adults.”

He said he was able to meet the staff at Harborfields High School last week, and it only made him more enthusiastic to officially take his post in August.

“It made me… excited to begin my career at Harborfields just seeing how passionate and caring they are,” he said. “The Harborfields school district is among the best out there so I am thrilled to become part of the Harborfields family. They have a proven record in providing an unbelievable educational experience for students, which prepares them to face their future endeavors. That is a testament to the unbelievable parents and staff that help make the community such a wonderful place.”

Patronaggio joined the South Huntington team in 2015, and said he learned how to build successful and meaningful relationships while there.

Aside from working in administration, he has also coached basketball and baseball and volunteers for the Special Olympics.

“My variety of experiences — from being a coach, adviser and mentor to many — will help continue to guide our students to make the most out of their experience,” he said. “My experience working with a wide variety of diverse learners can help guide instruction and provide resources to students’ individual needs.”

Patronaggio earned a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics with a concentration in adolescent education, followed by his master’s in adolescent special education from St. Joseph’s College. In 2013, he received his certificate of advanced studies in educational leadership from the College of Saint Rose.

Harborfields High School. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Harborfields High School Principal Rory Manning was unanimously approved for a promotion by the board of education Wednesday.

He will be taking over as the assistant superintendent for administration and human resources. Francesco Ianni currently holds the position, though he has been tabbed to take over as district superintendent as of January 2017, when the current superintendent, Diana Todaro, retires.

“Dr. Manning, I have to say has performed a truly exceptional job in his position of high school principal,” Todaro said Wednesday at a board of education meeting at Oldfield Middle School. “When we began to seek a candidate for the position of assistant superintendent for administration and human resources we immediately, without hesitation, considered Dr. Manning for this position. Following several interviews and discussions our decision was confirmed, and it was clearly evident to us that he was the best candidate for this position and there was no need for us to conduct the so-called ‘nationwide search.’”

Manning has been the high school principal at Harborfields since 2012. Prior to that he spent time at Sachem High School East as both a principal and assistant principal from 2006 through 2012. He received a doctorate in education, educational administration and supervision from St. John’s University in 2011.

“I’d like to apologize to the board, because today when the proposition to hire Dr. Manning as our assistant superintendent comes up, I’m breaking protocol and saying a resounding ‘yay,’” student representative to the board of education Trevor Jones said, prior to the unanimous vote to approve Manning. “I know my vote doesn’t count, but that’s a fantastic man sitting over there.”

Jones’ address concluded with a standing ovation, and a hug from Manning.

Harborfields High School Principal Rory Manning smiles. File photo
Harborfields High School Principal Rory Manning. File photo

Manning was praised by Jones, Todaro and members of the community for initiatives relating to educational technology that he has been a part of while at Harborfields.

“It absolutely blew me away,” Manning said about the kind words shared about his new position in the district, and the work that he’s done so far. “Trevor Jones and our students, they’re just outstanding and Trevor really speaks from his heart. It really shows. Our students, my students, inspire me to be better everyday. That’s what keeps us going on the hard days, keeps us motivated on the good days. It’s just special working with these kids and their parents, the teachers, the superintendent, the board; it’s just a pleasure to work with everybody here. They call us the Harborfields family, and it really feels that way.”

Harborfields High School received a 2016 National Blue Ribbon award nomination, a distinction given to outstanding public and non-public schools by the National Blue Ribbon Schools program with the U.S. Department of Education. Winners will be selected in September, according to a release on the district website.

“Whenever Dr. Manning talks about the fact that we’ve been nominated as a Blue Ribbon school, he always talks about the students and our teachers who do amazing work,” Jones said. “He never gives himself credit. He deserves some.”