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Harborfields

Northport High School. File photo

Students at Huntington, Northport-East Northport and Harborfields school districts put in strong efforts this year to come out at the top of their classes. The valedictorian and salutatorian of each district answered a few questions to let their community get to know them a little better. The graduates were asked the following: (1) What were you involved with at your high school? (2) What college are you attending and what are you studying? (3) What is your favorite high school memory? (4) What are you most excited for in college?  (5) What will you miss most about your school?

Huntington

Salutatorian: Miranda Nykolyn, 17

1. I was involved with Key Club (secretary), varsity rowing, varsity tennis, Mathletes, and Science National Honor Society (treasurer).  Science research is among my favorite activities.

2. I am attending Stanford University and majoring in mechanical engineering/applied mathematics.

3. My favorite high school memory would have to be winning the New York State Scholastic Rowing Championships in the Women’s Varsity Single.

4. I am most excited to be living on my own, and being responsible for my own actions. College is a great time to grow and find a healthy balance between schoolwork and fun.

5. I will miss most the amazing people in my community and the great programs offered. Huntington High School has many AP classes and a variety of extracurriculars that allow for any interest to be fostered.

Valedictorian: Steve Yeh, 18

1. I was involved with Stocks Analysis Club, Math Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, Social Studies Honor Society, Chinese Foreign Exchange Club, Quiz Bowl and Science Bowl, piano, tutoring at Huntington Station library and Natural Helpers.

2. I am attending Cornell University next year majoring in math and economics and minoring in physics.

3. I don’t necessarily have one favorite high school memory, but as a whole I loved being around my friends, having meaningful discussions and debates in history and government courses and helping out my classmates with academics and regular daily problems and vice versa; this makes it more of a community rather than just a school.

4. I am most excited about meeting new people who come from diverse backgrounds and also being able to study a variety of courses across a breadth of disciplines while also learning more in-depth about respective content material.

5.   I will miss my friends and teachers the most.  I have learned so much about various subjects, but more importantly, I have learned more about myself.

Northport-East Northport

Salutatorian: Sarah Abodalo, 17

1. I was involved with varsity soccer (captain), named All Conference and All County (2015, 2016) and Newsday Top 50 Players (2015, 2016). I also was All County SCMEA (2014, 2015), NYSCAME for Voice (2016), NYSCAME for horn (2015), marching band, symphonic winds, tour choir (officer), pit orchestra, and Tri-M Music Honor Society.

2. I am attending the Honor’s College at Hofstra University, with majors in English and French language and education.

3. My favorite high school memory was when I toured England and Scotland with our tour choir in the summer 2015.  Performing in some of the most historical places in the world was one of the most gratifying experiences I have had the opportunity to partake in.

4. Next year I will be playing on the Hofstra University women’s soccer team. I am beyond ecstatic and honored to be playing at such a high level with such talented individuals.

5. I will greatly miss being a part of the fantastic music program that Northport provides its students. Choir and band have been a major part of my life and I am sad to have to say goodbye to all the wonderful teachers I have had over the years.

Valedictorian: Cybele Laisney, 18

1. I volunteered at the Atria, provided free tutoring for those in need, and at the Huntington YMCA. I was in French Club (president), Grandfriends (vice-president), National Honor Society, World Language Honor Society, and Technology Honor Society. I also played varsity tennis.

2. I am attending Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a major in bio-engineering.

3. I will remember meeting with Martha, a resident at the Atria, to sit down and chat every Tuesday. She offered a lot of wisdom and always encouraged me to pursue my dreams. I’ll miss her a lot next year,

4. I’m most excited to be surrounded by new people in the Cambridge/Boston area. I know the people I will be surrounded by will only inspire me to push myself further.

5. I’ll miss the people I’ve met along the way. I’ve gotten to know some truly wonderful people throughout high school, and although it is heartbreaking to be apart from the people I’m close to, I know they will do bigger and better things in college.

Harborfields

Salutatorian: Ishaan Lohia, 17

1. I was involved in the Harborfields Theatre Company, National Honor Society, science research and Mathletes.

2. I will be studying physics at Northeastern University.

3. My favorite memory is senior playfest.

4. I am most excited to study the things that I love at college.

5. I will miss the friends that I have made at Harborfields.

Valedictorian: Casandra Moisanu, 18

1. I was involved in All-County girls varsity soccer, National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society and Mathletes.

2. I’ll be studying environmental science at Cornell University.

3. I’ll remember being a part of the soccer team here at Harborfields High School.

4. I am most excited to learn new things at a higher level.

5. I’m going to miss the family feel that we have here in Harborfields.

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.

Harborfields High School. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Harborfields Central School District is looking to improve how teachers teach and students learn, with Tech 2.0, an education initiative meant to equip the district with technology-driven learning aids.

As soon as Superintendent Francesco Ianni took over at Harborfields, he said, he started to work with the administration to roll out this plan, which involves students and teachers using Chromebooks, lightweight laptops, with lesson plans.

“The nice thing about this plan is it’s a wonderful opportunity for the entire district,” Ianni said in a phone interview. “We’re not only providing Chromebooks, but a plan for teachers’ curriculum to revamp how we teach and learn here. We want to make sure these are meaningful changes, not just another machine we’re bringing in.”

Currently the district has a certain amount of Chromebooks teachers can sign out in advance for a class lesson. But Tech 2.0 would create a plan where every lesson has possibilities with Chromebooks to enhance the class. Ianni said the initiative is expected to begin in the 2018-19 school year, when every student and teacher in the high school will have a Chromebook, and right now the district is using a pilot program for selected teachers to get a jump-start on learning how to use the technology effectively with their students.

“We don’t know what the future will look like but we want to give the students every opportunity to learn and be prepared,” Ianni said.

Administrators have sat in on several classes involved in the pilot program, and said they have already noticed exciting new ways students are getting involved in lessons.

Jordan Cox, executive director of instructional services, said students have been able to go on virtual field trips, take polls on events and take quizzes attached to the end of a presentation.

“The students have the ability to look at 3-D objects and interact with classmates on Google Docs, which is especially helpful if a student is out sick and needs to work on a group assignment,” Cox said in a phone interview. “This changes the learning landscape.”

He sat in on a class of students learning about World War II and the Holocaust, and the kids were able to take a virtual reality tour of a concentration camp.

Ianni said he observed a lesson recently, in a class learning about applying to college and applying for financial aid. He said the students were able to use Google Earth to go on virtual tours of the campuses of schools they were interested in. He also said this plan will help teachers see what students are understanding in real time. In a math class he sat in on, the students were taking a quiz and the teacher was able to look at the grades right away, instead of taking them home to grade that night. She saw a majority of the class was struggling with a certain question, and she was able to go over it again with the class right then.

Rory Manning, assistant superintendent for administration and human resources, said another benefit of using the Chromebooks comes with the price tag.

“We used to have desktops in certain classrooms, but with these Chromebooks it’s cheaper,” he said in a phone interview. The district is now able to offer more resources than before, he said.

Administration is not the only supporter of Tech 2.0

The Harborfields Alumni and Community Educational Fund, a not-for-profit established to support educational programs in the district, made a $50,000 donation to the initiative, which is going to help purchase more Chromebooks for the classrooms.

In April HACEF hosted a Mardi Gras gala with members of the Greenlawn community, which raised $34,000 in a single night. HACEF then decided to donate $16,000 of its own funds to help bring the total to $50,000.

“It’s amazing the support from the community,” Karin Fey, vice president of HACEF, said in a phone interview. “This is the wave of the future, and we wanted to give something significant to show how important we think this is.”

Harborfields' Grace Zagaja hugs coaches Mary Santonmauro and Kerri McGinty following the win. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

For the first time in four years, the Tornadoes are touching down on semifinal turf.

With a 14-7 win over Comsewogue May 23, the No. 4 Harborfields girls’ lacrosse team advances to take on No. 1 Eastport-South Manor May 25 at 4 p.m.

Harborfields’ Falyn Dwyer shoots. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“The whole season we’ve had a team first mentality,” senior Falyn Dwyer said. “We win as a team, we lose as a team. We knew it was a do or die situation, so we really picked up the intensity.”

That passion showed. In the first 10 minutes, Harborfields was already up 4-0. At the 13:41 mark, Dwyer scored her hat trick goal. Senior Katherine Alnwick followed her up with back-to-back goals less than a minute apart, and soon the Tornadoes were ahead 7-0.

“Last time we faced them we had a lot of trouble scoring, so we worked on a lot of offenses to capitalize on finding the open girl,” Dwyer said. “A lot of the time [my teammates] clear out for me if I have the ball and they know I have a lane. They do a good job of letting me use my speed. We moved the ball a lot better than we have in the past and we put our plays in well.”

Comsewogue junior Hannah Dorney found the back of the net with 9:13 left in the first half to put the Warriors on the board, freshman Olivia Fantigrossi set up eighth-grader Ava Fernandes off a free position and Dorney scored again off an assist from senior Julia Tuohy to cut the lead to 8-3 at the end of the first half.

Comsewogue’s Hannah Dorney moves the ball across the field. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The successive goal scoring seemed to work well for the Tornadoes, and sophomore Hallie Simkins kept it going with back-to-back goals to open the second half.

“Coming off the draw strong really helps us get the momentum going, and getting a few goals boosted our confidence,” she said. “It’s great that we even got here, so the fact that I got to put a few goals in the back of the net just makes it an even more amazing feeling.”

Harborfields head coach Kerri McGinty also thought her team was resilient from start to finish.

“We had a mind-set when we stepped out on the field today and it carried through,” she said. “We took smart shots, we finished, we had some huge defensive stops that led to goals — so it was that culmination of everything happening together. All of the girls were playing for each other. That’s the best thing you can ask for a team.”

Harborfields’ Hallie Simkins crashes into Comsewogue’s Hannah Dorney as she carries the ball into the Warriors’ zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Senior Grace Zagaja’s turnover led to her second goal of the game, and junior goalkeeper Erin Tucker made half of her eight saves in the game’s final minutes to halt the Warriors’ threat. Zagaja and senior Kailey Broderick were also key to grabbing ground balls that gave the Tornadoes extra possessions, which led to even more goals in the final minutes.

Dwyer finished with four goals, Broderick had two goals and two assists and Alnwick added two goals and an assist.

“There was a lot of hustle and a lot of heart,” Dwyer said. “Now we have one day to prepare, so we have to put in a lot of work tomorrow.”

Simkins said if the team plays like it did against Comsewogue, they’ll be successful in the next round.

“It was a good team win — we put all the pieces together,” she said. “It’s nice when everyone shows up, and I’m confident in the way we play when that happens. Getting this first-round win is a major barrier we finally climbed over.”

The evening of May 16 was a good one for school boards across New York State, as residents cast their ballots overwhelmingly in favor of district budgets.

According to the New York State School Boards Association, the average proposed school district tax levy increase in 2017-18 will be 1.48 percent, more than half a percentage point below the acclaimed 2 percent property tax cap. It is the fourth consecutive year the tax cap growth factor will be below 2 percent.

Here’s how school districts on the North Shore of Suffolk County fared:

Commack
According to the Commack school district’s website, the district voted 2,019-555 in favor of the $187,532,818 proposed budget. Carpenter edged out Janine DiGirolamo 1,363 votes to 1,059, and Hender narrowly beat April Pancella Haupt 1,240 to 1,148.

Comsewogue
Comsewogue residents voted 789 in favor and 208 not against the $89,796,337 budget. Incumbents Ali Gordon and Jim Sanchez won back their seats in an uncontested race, with 882 and 846 votes, respectively.

Harborfields
Members of the district voted 1,224 to 249 for the $84.4 million budget. In a tightly-contested race, David Steinberg and Christopher Kelly won the two open seats with 800 and 741 votes, respectively. Sternberg won back his seat, while the third time seemed to be a charm for Kelly. Laura Levenberg finished with 623 votes while Anila Nitekman totaled 467.

Hauppauge
The Hauppauge school district passed its $107,965,857 budget 811-308, and its capital reserve fund proposition 869-248, according to the district’s Facebook page. James Kiley and Lawrence Craft were elected to the board of education, with 803 and 797 votes, respectively.

Huntington
Residents passed the $126.2 million budget and capital reserve proposition, according to the district website. Trustees Jennifer Hebert and Xavier Palacios were re-elected to three-year terms.

Kings Park
The Kings Park community passed its $88.5 million proposed budget with 1,360 yes votes to 533 no. Incumbent Joe Bianco won back his seat with 989 votes, while challengers Katy Cardinale and J.P. Andrade finished with 733 and 110.

“I just feel great,” Kings Park Superintendent Tim Eagan said. “The budget passed with 72 percent approval. I’m just happy that the community is very happy with what we have going on here, and it’s just great to have their support. We’ve been fortunate the last couple of years. We’ve been 70 percent passing or higher.”

Middle Country
Residents chose to pass the $243,590,487 proposed budget 1,658-418. Runners Dina Phillips (1,523), Ellie Estevez (1,380) and Doreen Felmann (1,512) won their uncontested board of education seat races, with 17 write-in votes.

Miller Place
Voters passed the $126.2 million budget 763-162. With no challengers, Lisa Reitan and Richard Panico were elected with 726 and 709 votes. Other write-in candidates totaled 23 votes.

Mount Sinai
The $59,272,525 budget was overwhelmingly passed by residents, 1,007 to 251 and the library 1,111 to 144. Incumbents Robert Sweeney (1,013), Edward Law (866) and Peter Van Middelem (860) won back their seats, while Michael McGuire almost doubled his total from last year, finishing with 597.

“I’m very happy that it passed,” Mount Sinai Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said. “We have great programs here. We can maintain those programs. We made the AP Honor Roll two years in a roll. Almost every team right now is in the playoffs, our music program is better than ever, so to keep those programs is great, but we’re not resting on that. Now we can get to work on our elementary reading program, bolstering that, we have a new principal coming in who has high expectations. There are programs we want to put in place that a lot of our kids need in the elementary school.”

He was disappointed with the turnout, though.

“I’m not happy,” he said. “We’re 200 lower than last year. We have 9,000 eligible voters. I’d like to see 500 to another 1,00 approve it so we have everyone together.”

Northport-East Northport
Northport-East Northport residents said “yes, yes, yes.” With 2,074 votes for and 636 against, the $163,306,840 budget passed, while support was also strong for the capital reserve expenditure, with 2,197 votes for and 512 against. This will allow the district to use capital reserves to fund additional projects including resurfacing/replacing two tennis courts and replacing the fence at William J. Brosnan School, installing new operable gymnasium windows at East Northport Middle School, replacing circuit panels at Northport High School, replacing auditorium seating at William J. Brosnan School and replacing classroom ceilings at Dickinson Avenue Elementary School. Donna McNaughton beat out Thomas Loughran for the lone seat up for grabs with 1,750 votes to Loughran’s 769.

Port Jefferson
Community members passed the nearly $43 million proposed budget 338-74. Renovations and upgrades using the capital reserve funds was also passed, 368-43. Incumbents Adam DeWitt and David Keegan were re-elected to serve three-year terms, with 357 and 356 votes, respectively.

Rocky Point
Rocky Point residents voted to pass the $83,286,346 budget with 663 saying yes, while 246 said no. The district also sought voter approval to access $3,385,965 million from its capital reserve fund in order to complete facility renovations across the district. For that proposal, 600 voted for and 312 against.

“We are extremely grateful for the community’s support of our proposed budget and capital improvement plan,” Rocky Point Superintendent Michael Ring said. “The educational enhancements included in this budget are ones that we believe will further support the needs of Rocky Point students while also providing them with opportunities to succeed at even greater levels, while still maintaining our commitment to fiscal responsibility.”

Incumbent board of education member Sean Callahan and newcomer Joseph Coniglione, who is principal of Comsewogue High school, were elected with 713 and 641 votes, respectively.

Shoreham-Wading River
Voters approved the $74, 842,792 budget 1,112 for to 992 against, and passed the capital reserve fund with 1,282 yes’ to 813 nos. The people are calling for change, as Katie Anderson (1,318), Henry Perez (1,303), Erin Hunt (1,279) and Michaell Yannuci (1,087) won seats, while James Smith (1,015), Jack Costas (563) and John Zukowski (524) missed the mark. Yannucci, who has previously been on the board, will be taking the one-year seat left by Michael Fucito, and both incumbents have been ousted.

Smithtown
The community passed the proposed budget with 2,241 yes votes to 693 no. Incumbents Gledy Waldron and Joanne McEnroy, who were running unopposed, won back their seats with 2,095 and 2,090 votes, respectively.  Matthew Gribbin defeated incumbent Grace Plours with 1,835 votes to Plourde’s 1,155.

Three Village
Three Village residents voted 1,708 for to 719 against the proposed $204.4 million budget. With no challengers, incumbents Jeff Kerman, Irene Gische and Inger Germano won back their seats with 1,805, 1,794 and 1,753 votes, respectively.

Stock photo.

Northport

The Northport-East Northport school district has proposed a $163.3 million budget for 2017-18, which includes a slight reduction in staff due to a consistent trend of decreasing enrollment and several projects to improve school grounds and facilities. The budget stays within the school’s state-mandated tax levy cap — increasing the tax levy by 1.57 percent — and is a 1.22 percent increase from last year’s total budget.

Northport-East Northport Superintendent Robert Banzer. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

The district has presented multiple budget presentations throughout the month of April, which have focused on personnel and benefits; administrative and instructional changes; and buildings and ground changes.

Superintendent Robert Banzer said during the March 16 meeting the district expects to see an enrollment drop of 146 students next year, with the largest decreases in grades four, six, and 11. This has led the district to propose eliminating a teaching position at Fifth Avenue Elementary School, two at Norwood Elementary School, one at Ocean Primary School and two at East Northport Middle School for grade six. The change would result in an increase in class sizes for elementary school classes.

One health position and four positions from the art, music and physical education realm will be removed, as well as a few staff support positions. In total the proposed 2017-18 budget includes funding for seven fewer positions than the current year’s budget.

Several Northport-East Northport residents and parents of students wrote to their board, pleading for class sizes not to be changed.

“I am writing to request that class size remain the same and not be increased,” Colleen and Kevin Mahoney said. “Both [of our] children have had a wonderful education in our district. I believe this to be due to smaller class size. As a teacher, I know first-hand every extra child in a class means less individual attention to others.”

Parents Caryn and Jonathon Ciaio shared the same concerns.

“This is very disappointing and we feel strongly this decision would not be in the best interests of our children or the community,” they said. “We feel very strongly that smaller class sizes has been extremely beneficial for our children and allows for an appropriate balance of time and attention between students.”

Nearly 100 parents of third-grade students at Fifth Avenue Elementary School signed a petition to keep class sizes the same.

The buildings and grounds budget is proposed to decrease by $3.7 million or 13.6 percent from last year’s total. The budget includes plans to repair and reseal tennis courts at East Northport Middle School, repair driveways and sidewalks, replace bleachers at William J. Brosnan School, and more. The 2017-18 transportation budget includes the purchase of one new bus.

Middle schools students will see new educational opportunities if the proposed budget is passed, with plans to create robotics and automation study units for seventh- and eighth-graders; bring advanced manufacturing technology for wood and metal technology education; and the purchase of mini 3-D printers. Robotic electives and engineering courses are also in the budget.

But one Northport resident and former board of education candidate doesn’t think the current budget offers enough STEM opportunities for students.

“Northport-East Northport is trailing behind other districts when it comes to introducing STEM opportunities in the lower grades, especially in middle school,” Shawne Albero said in a letter to the board. She urged the board to offer more robotic clubs for younger students.

For art and performing arts students, the budget includes the purchase of a high performance potter’s wheel, a digital soundboard and wireless microphone system for the high school auditorium.

The board will hold a hearing on the finalized budget May 4, and the community will have the chance to vote May 16.

Harborfields

Harborfields Superintendent Francesco Ianni. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

After submitting and passing a cap-piercing budget last year which required 60 percent support from district residents on election day, this year the Harborfields Central School District has proposed a budget that stays within the state-mandated cap, while maintaining current programs — including the recent addition of full-day kindergarten. The proposed $84.4 million budget is about  $1.6 million more than last year’s total. If passed the tax levy will increase by 0.16 percent. Superintendent Francesco Ianni said at a March 22 meeting the district is expected to receive about $16 million in state aid.

Ianni said the proposed plan maintains class size guidelines, advanced placement and elective courses, music performing groups, athletics and full-day kindergarten. The budget would also add grounds staff for long-term maintenance, expand science research, special education programs, as well as enhancing the curriculum plan and initiatives, including the Harborfields 2.0 Technology Initiative, which is described as a plan to strategically align resources for longer-term sustainability.

“Through this spending plan, resources have been reallocated so that the district is able to enhance certain programs and services without incurring additional costs,” Ianni said in a statement. “There are a lot more science programs going to the high school, and we’re very proud of that,” he said at the March 22 meeting.

Ianni explained expanded science research would include adding three more sections to the introductory class, and the district’s special education program would be extended to make it a true 12-month program, so students no longer have to go off-site during the summer months. He also said Harborfield’s  tech initiative, which supports the integration of more technology throughout the district, would include launching a Google Chromebook pilot program for four ninth-grade teachers to integrate the use of Chromebooks into the curriculum. The devices are laptops powered with Google applications and are ideal for collaborative classroom work. The district hopes to have Chromebooks fully integrated into the school’s curriculum by the 2021-22 school year.

The budget will be adopted April 19, and the public hearing is set for May 9. District residents will have their chance to vote May 16.

Huntington

Huntington school district’s proposed $126.2 million budget would expand enrollment in Advanced Placement and high school elective courses, upgrade facilities, add summer enrichment classes and more. The district’s state-mandated tax levy increase cap is set at 1.86 percent, and the district comes in below that at a 1.42 percent tax levy increase. The total budget calls for a 2.42 percent increase from last year’s total. Unlike other schools in the area, Huntington is experiencing an increasing trend in enrollment, which will help revenue going forward.

Superintendent Jim Polansky. File photo by Rohma Abbas

The largest chunks of cost increases come from instruction and employee benefits. Other budget cost drivers include increased traffic costs, computer technologies, network maintenance and increased utility costs. Construction of a security vestibule at Flower Hill Elementary School is a $100,000 proposed project, and other specific costs outlined in the budget include $30,000 for a teacher’s center, and $25,000 for computer equipment.

Along with the budget, voters must also weigh in on two other propositions the school board has presented. Proposition 2 asks voters to approve release of funds already in the district’s capital reserve fund for completion of state-approved projects. This would have no impact on the tax levy or tax rate, and if the community does not vote for it, the money remains in the capital reserve fund but can’t be used for any other purpose. Proposition 3 asks voters to approve the creation of a new building improvement fund in the capital reserve, with the purpose of completing district-wide renovation and reconstruction projects.

“Use of the district’s building improvement funds have helped considerably to keep 60-year-old buildings in top shape with needed improvements and upgrades, all of which are delineated within a long-term capital plan,” Superintendent James Polansky said. “Establishment of a new fund will allow the district to continue such work responsibly, as well as to keep debt levels at their currently low levels.” This action would also have no impact on the tax levy or tax rate.

Budget adoption is set for April 18, and the public hearing is May 8. Residents will be able to vote for or against the budget and the two propositions May 16.

By Bill Landon

Four of the five starters on Mount Sinai’s girls’ basketball team helped the soccer squad score its first Suffolk County title last fall. This winter, the Mustangs brought those winning ways from the field to the court.

Winning has become a tradition at Mount Sinai. The Mustangs went nearly undefeated in League VI play, going on a 17-game streak before a 44-33 loss to Shoreham-Wading River. Despite that, Mount Sinai was able to grab a piece of the league title for the first time in school history. Then, the road to the Class A finals began.

The Mustangs crushed Bayport-Blue Point 91-48 before outscoring Sayville 68-54. The No. 1 seed ultimately found itself up against a familiar foe in No. 2 Harborfields. The two schools had also faced off as the top-seeded teams during the Suffolk soccer finals, and, in front of a near-capacity crowd of 500 at Riverhead High School Feb. 24, Mount Sinai pulled away with another crucial win, 54-42, for its second county crown of the school year.

“Our defense was the key in getting stops and rebounding, and turning those into points.”

—Veronica Venezia

For seniors Victoria Johnson and Veronica Venezia, the win was a long time coming personally and for the program.

“It feels amazing to be Suffolk County champions — Veronica and I have been on the team since eighth grade, so we started a long time ago,” said Johnson, who scored 11 of her 16 points in the second half. “Back then we didn’t win many games, and here we are — it’s a dream come true.”

Sophomore Gabriella Sartori had the hot hand in the first quarter, scoring 10 of her team-high 18 points. First, she swished a free throw to successfully complete a three-point play, and hit a shot from beyond the arc soon after to help her team double its opponent’s score with an 18-9 lead at the end of eight minutes. She also added six rebounds and two assists in the win.

“From the beginning of the season I just wanted to play at this level,” she said. “I’ve been with this group since the seventh grade and to reach this point and watch this team grow is just amazing.”

Behind 31-19 heading into the locker room, Harborfields head coach Glenn Lavey said the 12-point deficit put his team in unfamiliar territory.

“Spotting them a lead like that is not our style — we’re kind of a running football team if you will — we’re not a spread offense,” he said. “We had some breakdowns in the first eeight minutes of the game and we didn’t execute some things we needed to early.”

“I’ve been with this group since the seventh grade and to reach this point and watch this team grow is just amazing.”

—Gabriella Sartori

Despite the lead, Mount Sinai head coach Michael Pappalardo said he warned his team that the Tornadoes weren’t going to run out of steam that easily.

“Harborfields, they’re aggressive,” he said. “We told the girls this is going to be close. You don’t think that team is going to let you walk out of here giving you the championship.”

Harborfields senior Grace Zagaja scored on a putback, and teammate Kate Tardo hit a long-distance shot in the third, but Mount Sinai’s defense swarmed.

With 10 seconds left in the quarter, Johnson went to the line and sank both to make it a 10-point game, but Harborfields senior Falyn Dwyer came through with a buzzer-beating triple that helped her team cut the deficit to 40-33.

With just over four minutes left in regulation, Venezia came up with another putback (she finished with a double-double on 12 points and 15 rebounds) to re-extend the Mustangs’ lead, 45-36.

“They’re definitely a challenge — they always have been the past years we’ve played them,” Venezia said of Harborfields. “But our defense was the key in getting stops and rebounding, and turning those into points.”

Tardo, who tied with Dwyer for eight points, drained her second triple of the contest to make it a six-point game. Two minutes later, eighth-grader Madison Brady (seven points) picked off an in-bounds pass, went straight to the rim for the score and made it a four-point game, 45-41, with 3:10 left to play.

After Harborfields missed its final five shots from the field, Johnson went 7-for-8 from the free-throw line in the final 31 seconds to put the win in the record book.

“It is ironic to win back-to-back titles against Harborfields — they’re a great team, but we worked really hard to be here.”

—Brooke Cergol

“We always talk about it in practice in every game — everyone’s going to have their ups and downs,” Johnson said. “You’ve got to be prepared for both. We had to fight our way through adversity to get here.”

Also on the championship-winning soccer team besides Johnson, Sartori and junior Olivia Williams, was sophomore Brooke Cergol, who rounded out the scoring with eight points.

“It feels amazing — especially after soccer,” she said. “It is ironic to win back-to-back titles against Harborfields — they’re a great team, but we worked really hard to be here. It was crazy, it was a really tense situation, but we pulled together.”

Mount Sinai moves on to face Mattituck for the Small School champion title at Suffolk County Community College Brentwood Feb. 28 at 5 p.m. The winner will face off against the Class AA qualifier for the Section XI title. That game will be played at Suffolk’s Selden campus March 5 at 5 p.m.

Regardless of the outcome of those games, Mount Sinai has the opportunity for another first, when the Mustangs take on the Section VIII Class A champion March 11 at SUNY Old Westbury at noon for the Long Island title.

By Bill Landon

The Tornadoes are already beginning to blow through the bracket.

The eyes of the storm, seniors Alex Merhige and Kyle Stolba, racked up 29 points each as the No. 1-seeded Harborfields boys’ basketball team, which totaled a lucky 13 3-pointers in the win, knocked out No. 8 Mount Sinai, 86-53, in the Class A quarterfinals Feb. 17.

Fresh off a thrilling overtime win the night before, a 70-63 win over No. 9 Comsewogue, the Mustangs’ season comes to an abrupt end.

From opening tipoff, the game was never in question. The Tornadoes flexed their muscles, racking up point after point — draining six 3-pointers in the first quarter alone.

Merhige, who finished the game with 12 rebounds and five blocks, wowed the crowd with his second dunk of the game in the second stanza. Stolba, who had a triple double with 10 assists and 10 rebounds, hit his fourth trey of the game, and the Tornadoes took a 30-point lead into the halftime break, 56-26.

“They’re always good competitors — they work hard even when they got down in the first quarter they never gave up on us,” Stolba said of Mount Sinai. “The coach had to wake us up a little in the second just to keep going, we caught fire and I think we showed why we’re the No. 1 seed.”

Stolba started the scoring for the second half with a pair of field goals, senior Joe Kelly hit a 3-pointer and Merhige drained his fourth trey for a 73-37 advantage heading into the final eight minutes of play.

“We played great — we moved the ball really well, our defense in the first half was unbelievable,” Merhige said. “We only missed like two three’s in the first half, but our next game definitely won’t be so easy.”

Harborfields head coach John Tampori pulled his starters and the bench took the team to the finish line.

Senior David Maitre answered the call with a field goal and a shot from beyond the arc to help put the win in the record book.

Mount Sinai head coach Ryan McNeely said he was proud to see his boys make it as far as they did.

“Some people counted us out when we were 3-6 in the league, but then we won five out of six before this game,” he said. “We knew they were an excellent team and they shot the ball much better than we saw watching tape, but I’m very proud of our guys in how we finished the season.”

Senior Harrison Bak led Mount Sinai with 13 points, and classmate Nick Rose followed close behind with 11.

Senior Shane Wagner made a pair of field goals and three triples to place him second in scoring behind Stolba and Merhige with 13 points.

Harborfields head coach John Tampori said he liked what he saw from his team, and hopes that the boys can keep up the good work.

“Mount Sinai is well coached and they’re a scrappy team that put forth a great effort,” he said. “We’re not that much better than they are, it’s just that tonight was our night. They had a tough overtime win last night and to come here the next day and played us hard and that’s a credit to them.”

Harborfields will play No. 5 Wyandanch at home Feb. 21 at 5 p.m. Wagner said if his team plays like it did against Mount Sinai, they’ll be ready.

“They came out hot, but we came out hotter,” Wagner said of Mount Sinai. “We were hitting shots. I don’t think we missed a shot in the first quarter, maybe a 3-pointer. For the next round, we are definitely mentally ready, and we’re physically ready.”

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Kate Tardo passes the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Harborfields’ Kate Tardo is the core of her team’s defense, who according to head coach Glenn Lavey is always tasked with guarding the opponent’s leading scorer. True to form, the senior held her opponent to just one basket in Harborfields’ crushing defeat of Amityville, 73-32, on the road Feb. 7.

Christiana de Borja drives the lane. Photo by Bill Landon

“She’s probably the most unsung hero probably in the county,” Lavey said of Tardo. “She has an assignment to guard really good players — [La’Niya Clark] is a 1,000-point scorer and Kate held her.”

Clark went on to score 13 points.

Lavey added that his All-County player does things behind the scenes that are an integral part of the team’s success.

“It’s like noticing an offensive lineman — no one notices the right tackle, they notice Tom Brady, so she’s the one that protects Brady, but all they write about is Tom Brady.”

Harborfields led 19-5 after eight minutes of play, and jumped ahead 41-21 by the halftime break.

“Our energy — we just kept pushing the ball,” Tardo said. “We were tiring them out and getting them frustrated. We kept up our pace and our intensity the entire game. We played a full 32 minutes.”

The defense held the Warriors at bay at every turn, as the shot clock worked against the home team. This is a tactic Lavey said his team has employed effectively all season.

Falyn Dwyer scores. Photo by Bill Landon

“We haven’t given up more than 37 points in a game all season,” he said. “That’s why we know we have a chance to go all the way — it’s because of our defense.”

Even after swapping his starters for bench players, Amityville couldn’t close the gap.

Senior Christiana de Borja led all scorers with 16 points and had seven assists. Eighth-grader Madison Brady, who hit a pair of 3-pointers, six free-throws and a field goal was close behind with 14 points, and senior Grace Zagaja finished with a double-double on 13 points and 11 rebounds.

“We kept our composure throughout the game,” Zagaja said. “We kept our energy up and that frustrated them. We kept picking at them until they [made mistakes], and then we started to make baskets, and that’s kinda how we do it.”

With the win, Harborfields, at 15-1 overall and 12-1 in League V, secured at least a share of the league title. Sayville currently sits at 11-2, so if Harborfields doesn’t win its final game of the regular season, a home game against Islip on Feb. 9, and Sayville wins its matchup, the two would share the top spot. Weather permitting, tip-off for the game against Islip is scheduled for
6 p.m.

Grace Zagaja looks for the rim inside the paint. Photo by Bill Landon

Lavey said although he’s not looking past Islip at home, his team needs to transition into playoff mode.

“What we want to get better at is running the floor and getting easier baskets,” he said. “We attack the rim, but we want to get the ball up the court, reverse and attack and not let our opponent set up its defense.”

Floor general de Borja, who is good at controlling the tempo this way, said she believes if the team keeps doing what it’s been doing, it’ll be successful.

“We definitely have the will to win, we just need the will to prepare in this home stretch,” she said. “And if we do that, I think we’ll have a good playoff run.”

The big guns brought it home for Mount Sinai.

John Parente won by a major decision, 12-0, at 195 pounds, and Bobby Christ edged his opponent, 4-3, in the finals to propel Mount Sinai to a second-place finish behind Half Hollow Hills West at the Bob Armstrong wrestling tournament at Port Jefferson Jan. 21.

“I told them if you want to wrestle in the county tournament this is the last time to show us what you’ve got,” Mount Sinai head coach Matt Armstrong, who is also Bob’s son, said he told his team. “A freshman that just came up, Adam Shata, had a big win at 160 pound with a solid pin, so we have some freshmen that are really stepping up.”

Jahvan Brown at 138 pounds and Neil Esposito at 145 pounds, made some noise and, according to Armstrong, are wrestling well for this time of year despite their inexperience. Although neither made it to the finals, four other Mustangs did. The team had nine place in total.

“We’re turning it around here toward the end of the season.”

—Robert Alberti

Northport finished with 168 points, just behind Mount Sinai, which finished with 174.

Unlike the Mustangs, the Tigers brought it home in the finals, as all three representing the blue-and-gold took home tournament titles.

“We’re turning it around here toward the end of the season,” Northport head coach Robert Alberti said. Seven of his other wrestlers placed.

Junior Jake Borland, a 113-pounder, is currently ranked sixth in the county in his weight class. He topped Mount Sinai’s Matt Campo, 9-2, who is a returning county champion.

“We expect him to win every time he goes out,” Alberti said of his grappler. “It was a good test for him leading up to counties.”

Borland placed third in the Armstrong tournament last year, and brought his A-game this time around. He won his first match with a pin, and the next two by technical falls.

“I feel confident scoring points,” he said, adding that he knew he had to have a strong mentality and wrestle smart to win in the finals, using his fireman’s carry, duck under and high crotch to help him gain points.

Borland said he can see improvements in his game from last season.

“I got better at getting out on bottom, because last year I struggled with that,” he said. “Now I get right up. Right after [Campo] took me down I got out and took a shot, and I got him right to his back and scored. I got two for a takedown and three for back points and from there I started scoring.”

“[Kenny Cracchiola] wants to make an impact and he’s really done it. He’s beaten some really good guys and overall, matchup-to-matchup, he continues to be a dominant wrestler.”

—Garry Schnettler

At 132 pounds, junior Chris Esposito clinched the championship title with a 9-2 decision over Ward Melville’s Rafael Lievano, who is currently ranked third in the county. Esposito beat his opponent last weekend as well.

“That was a good statement for Chris to come out and beat the kid for a second time in a row,” Alberti said. “He’s showing the county that he’s here to wrestle, and he’s not going to be happy without winning.”

Esposito was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler after recording the most pins in the least amount of time. He pinned his first opponent in 20 seconds, his second in 59 and his third in 1:30, before sizing up his final foe. He said he came into the match knowing what he needed to do, and he wanted to prove that his win last weekend wasn’t a fluke.

“I knew the first time I wrestled him I didn’t wrestle as good as I could,” Esposito said. “Mentally, every time I go out to a match I’m calm, no matter what. I always want to score first, but even if I get scored on I never lose it; I remain calm and keep working.”

Billy Shaw was the final champion for Northport, who won 6-5 over Mount Sinai’s Joe Goodrich at 152 pounds. It was the grappler’s first tournament win.

“He had a tough match at North Babylon on Friday wrestling the No. 1-ranked kid in the county — he got beat up a little bit,” Alberti said. ”So for him to come out the next day and win his first tournament as a varsity wrestler is good for him. For him to turn around is a testament to his hard work.”

Ward Melville finished fourth with 136 points. In a unique and rare scenario, Kenny Cracchiola beat teammate Richie Munoz by a technical fall, 16-0.

Cracchiola went 4-0 on the day, winning three of his matches by technical falls and the other by a pin.

“I shoot single legs to take them down and on top I do a variety of different tilts for back points, which rack up points for me pretty quickly,” he said.

“Even before I step on the mat I’m always focused on wrestling, nothing else distracts me.”

—Vin Miceli

Unfortunately, he had to use these moves against his teammate, but he said he liked seeing two Patriots make it to the finals in the same weight class.

Port Jefferson followed in fifth place with 126.5 points, and sent seven to the podium.

Vin Miceli edged Centereach’s Luis Fernandez, 6-4, and was named the Champion of Champions. He had two pins as he battled his way through the bracket.

He said he focused to be able to bring home the gold.

“Even before I step on the mat I’m always focused on wrestling, nothing else distracts me,” he said. “I put in a lot of work in the off-season, so it really shows how much you can get out of the work you put in.”

Joey Evangelista edged Half Hollow Hills West’s Joe Costa, 3-0, for his title at 145 pounds. He pinned his first three opponents, but said his finals match was tough.

“My coaches have preached mentality is everything, so I’ve been working on strengthening that,” he said.

According to head coach Mike Maletta, the junior has been a finalist in every tournament this season, and won two.

“As long as they both stay aggressive and take smart shots and pushing the pace, they’re going to be real successful in three weeks when they’re up in Albany,” Maletta said of the possibility of the Royals competing for state titles. “The excitement is that some guys are starting to exceed expectations.”

Centereach finished in seventh with 93 points. Jett Tancsik outscored his Half Hollow Hills West opponent 9-4, for the 160-pound championship title.

Centereach head coach Ray Bruno said he was pleased with his team’s performance. He said the tournament is a good tune up to get ready for the Cougars’ matches in the League III tournament.

“This is probably the 10th year for this tournament and I appreciate them doing it keeping my dad’s memory alive.”

— Matt Armstrong

Rounding out the scorers in the top 9 were No. 8 Harborfields with 88 points, and Comsewogue with 39.

According to Matt Armstrong, his father coached at Port Jefferson from 1969 to 1990, where they were league champions for eight years and won the New York State championship cup in 1986.

“They had some very successful teams here at the time,” he said. “It’s great to come back here as I see a lot of people I haven’t seen in a long time. Many of the kid’s parents wrestled for my dad. This is probably the 10th year for this tournament and I appreciate them doing it keeping my dad’s memory alive, it’s Mike Maletta who keeps it going, and he does a great job.”

Borland said his Northport team has exceeded his expectations, and he’s looking forward to rounding out the season with the final dual meet of the season Jan. 27 at Smithtown West at 6:45 p.m., before heading to Syosset for the Battle of the Belt tournament the next day.

“Coming into this year I thought we were going to be absolutely terrible,” he said. “I thought we were going to have three good kids and we were going to be that team that gets beat up on, but I realized we have a few freshmen that are going to make very good wrestlers. We’re a young team, but we’re doing damage.”

Bill Landon contributed reporting