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High school

Participants from a previous Relay For Life at the high school take a lap. Photo from Alyssa Patrone

The fight to raise money and awareness for cancer research reaches far and wide, and on June 4, Northport High School’s track and football field will host nearly 900 people dedicated to doing their part to eradicate the disease.

Northport High School has held Relay for Life events since 2009, making the one this year its eighth annual. The popular American Cancer Society fundraiser starts with teams raising money from local businesses and individuals to be donated for the cause. During the event, which can last up to 24 hours, at least one participant from each team circles a track, usually at schools or parks, at all times as a reminder that cancer never sleeps. Campsites are set up for each team and laps during the relay are dedicated to various survivors and those who died of the illness.

Alyssa Patrone, the American Cancer Society representative overseeing Northport’s event, said Northport participants have raised more than $121,000 so far this year, bringing the total raised in eight years to about $1.3 million.

“There are so many incredible events that happen in our community, but Relay For Life really gives the Northport-East Northport community a place to gather and rally behind those who have been affected by cancer,” Patrone, a Northport resident herself, said in an email. “The volunteers that work to put the event together make sure that the Northport-East Northport community knows that if you’ve ever been touched by cancer in any way, we are here for you. At the event there really is a feeling of hope in the air that’s almost tangible. It’s hard to put into words, but it’s something truly special.”

Currently Deborah Kelly is listed as the top fundraiser on Northport’s page on the Relay for Life website, with more than $6,000 for her team “Steps for Christine.” Kelly’s page on the website says she is participating in the relay for “my sister and all the people who are battling this terrible disease.”

Ashleigh Basel of “Team Rainbow” has raised more than $4,000 for the cause. She also explained why she’s participating in the event on her Relay for Life page.

“I know there are a lot of worthy causes to support, but I think participating in an event that helps save lives from cancer is about as worthy as it gets,” she wrote.

The American Cancer Society has invested more than $4.3 billion in cancer research since 1964, according to its website. The organization estimates that in 2016 more than 1.6 million new cancer diagnosis will occur, and nearly 600,000 people will die.

For more information about Relay for Life or to make a donation, visit www.relayforlife.org.

Paul Lasinski, center, smiles with Harborfields High School Athletic Director John Valente, left, and Principal Rory Manning. Photo from Hansen Lee

Paul Lasinski of Greenlawn has been an athletic trainer and health teacher at Harborfields for nearly 20 years, and in less than two weeks he will walk the halls and fields of the high school for the last time as he prepares to retire.

It was about 18 years ago when Lasinski, or “Ski” as he’s known at school, took the position of athletic trainer. Ever since then, he has been a mainstay of the HF athletic program.

“I try to treat the student-athletes like I would want my child to be treated,” Lasinski said in an interview. “The kids here at Harborfields are really great. If you treat the students well and they know that you’re there for them, they know you’re giving your all for them, then a bond will come.”

Lasinski said he will be moving to South Carolina soon, and his replacement has already started training. Rachel Jersky, currently the athletic trainer at Bayport-Blue Point High School, will take over from him.

Lasinski’s history
• Hofstra athletic trainer in 1976, when men’s hoops first went to NCAA tournament
• Two sons graduated from HHS
• Was athletic trainer at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy
• Has been at Harborfields since ’97

“Not having Paul roam the sidelines in his infamous trainer’s cart, or watch him tapes hundreds of ankles throughout the year, will be difficult to get used to,” said John Valente, Harborfields director of health, physical education, athletics, medical and nurse services. “[He] has left his mark on so many that he can never be replaced for who he is and what he has represented to the Harborfields Central School District.”

Lasinski said his favorite moments over the course of his HF career have been the times when he worked closely with the students. He said he was not looking forward to saying goodbye.

“The last week is going to be so difficult for me,” he said. “Being around the kids … and watching them play was such a highlight for me.”

He said one of his favorite memories was when the boys’ basketball team won the New York State championship in 2012. Lasinski was on the bus coming home with the team from Glens Falls when he said members of fire departments in the town reached out to him because they wanted to orchestrate a welcome home ceremony for the boys. He let the head coach know, and they decided to keep it a secret from the boys to surprise them.

“When we pulled around the corner … and the boys saw the sirens and the American flags, it was mayhem. That was a special moment,” he said.

Valente said it’s no secret the athletic director shares a bond with many student athletes.

“Behind this talented professional is a man revered by students, staff, parents and the entire community,” he said in an email. “Paul … gives of himself freely. He has been known to travel to athletes’ homes to check on an injury or provide care. It has always been inspiring and touching to witness the interaction that Paul has with the student athletes. They genuinely love Ski.”

Lucas Woodhouse, point guard of the 2012 team and now a key member of the Stony Brook University basketball roster, said Lasinski was an important piece of the group.

“[He] played a huge part in our team’s success over the years,” Woodhouse said. “He was great to be around, so much that people would go to just hang with him and talk about anything. It was great to have him be a major part of the team every year.”

The Greenlawn resident said he has enjoyed his time as a health teacher and said the most important part of teaching high schoolers is maintaining an open conversation, whether the topic is drugs, nutrition or sexual activity.

“You have to talk about it [with the students],” he said. “You really have to tell them what’s going on and make them aware of the choices they could make and how they affect them.”

Lasinski drives his golf cart around the grounds at Harborfields. Photo from Hansen Lee
Lasinski drives his golf cart around the grounds at Harborfields. Photo from Hansen Lee

As an athletic trainer, Lasinski would be looking over nearly 300 student athletes each day during the busier sports seasons.

“Thank God they don’t all get injured at once,” Lasinski joked.

He said a Saturday in the fall could have him working up to 12 hours, between soccer games in the morning and then football games in the later afternoon.

“You need to have a good wife,” he said of his wife Bonnie, who was a support system when he would work extra hours at the school. “She spent a lot of Saturdays without me, but she knows it’s what I love. This is what I do best. This keeps me young.”

And his efforts did not go unnoticed across the district. Valente said Lasinski has gone above and beyond his work responsibilities throughout his years of service.

“Paul works many hours and never looks at his watch,” he said. “It is not uncommon for him to be treating students as early as 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning, and then work over 10 hours throughout the day being at all of the contests.”

The science, technology, engineering and math program, in which students work with Stony Brook University professors to further their education, will return to the district. File photo

Students in the Mount Sinai and Port Jefferson school districts will keep taking their talents to the next level.

Thanks to state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) securing more funding, the joint science, technology, engineering and math program will be staying around for another year.

LaValle got $25,000 for each district to continue its partnership with professors at Stony Brook University to further the students’ learning and better prepare them for the future.

“I think the world today and the jobs today are in the STEM areas,” he said. “So we want to make sure that they have a good running start so that they can, when they apply to college, have an easy transition.”

Port Jefferson superintendent, Ken Bossert, said he’s happy the senator has been a strong supporter of the program, and said that so far the partnership with the schools has gone seamlessly.

“I think it’s a tremendous opportunity for our students,” he said. “The program has been extremely well received and well attended. There’s been a good deal of collaboration and a good deal of learning is taking place. It’s given by Stony Brook professors and they use equipment in the labs and are exposed to higher levels of learning that we can’t replicate on the high school level.”

The Mount Sinai superintendent, Gordon Brosdal, said after meeting with the senator to discuss the future of the program, he found out that his district and Bossert’s would be able to receive the same amount of funding they’ve received the last three years, to be able to maintain it.

“I would like to praise Sen. LaValle for being on the ground floor of this program, encouraging and supporting those partnerships like the Mount Sinai-Port Jeff STEM project,” he said. “We’ll keep up the partnership. It’s very positive and he is very supportive.”

LaValle said he likes the enthusiasm for the program in both school districts.

“There’s interest — that’s why we’re going to continue it,” he said. “It’s popular with the administrators and, most importantly, with the students and their parents.”

Bossert appreciates the senator’s support.

“Without the grant money that Sen. LaValle has made available for us, we would’ve had a difficult time initiating any program like this,” he said. “I think it’s something that has gone very, very well and has the opportunity for even further growth, so I’m hoping that the positive trajectory continues.”

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Superintendent James Grossane file photo

Smithtown high school students may soon be collectively rejoicing everywhere.

A committee assembled in 2015 to examine the pros and cons of moving back the start of the school day for ninth-  through 12th-grade students provided an update to the board of education, district administration and the community on their findings at a meeting Tuesday.

The School Start Times Steering Committee is comprised of district administrators, parents, students and teachers. District Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Jennifer Bradshaw led the discussion Tuesday. Bradshaw said the committee watched a New York State School Boards Association webinar about the Glen Falls City School District’s shift to a later start time a few years ago and the drastically positive impacts it has had on student behavior. They also consulted with the district’s athletic director, guidance counselors, parents and principals from other schools who have made the change for their input on the impact of a later start time.

“We have an obligation to look at this for our students,” Bradshaw said. Currently Smithtown’s high schools start first period at 7:20 a.m. “Physiologically, biologically they’re not ready to learn.”

Bradshaw quoted a recent press release from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that indicated two out of three high school students in the United States don’t get enough sleep.

Joanne Romanelli, a parent in the district who is on the start time committee and also works as a certified holistic health and wellness coach addressed the board during Tuesday’s meeting. She said that forcing teens to wake up as early as 6 a.m. creates a vicious cycle of stress, out-of-whack hormones and distorted sleeping patterns because their bodies cannot physically fall asleep before about 11:30 p.m.

“If you’re getting up earlier you’re feeling stress, you’re feeling tired, you’re not doing so well in school, you might be depressed or you have low serotonin,” Romanelli said. “There is more depression so now you’re feeling more stress. You’re having raised cortisol throughout the day. Raised cortisol makes you feel energized, it doesn’t make you feel sleepy. So now, you can’t go to sleep. So it causes more stress. It just cycles … A later start time is what’s best and it’s healthier for the students.”

School board members Louis Liguori and Joanne McEnroy said they’d like to see these updates fast-tracked from suggestions to a proposal and eventually a change because they’ve seen firsthand how difficult getting their teenagers out of bed really is.

“We pretty much have covered the gamut on all levels of educating children right down to nutritional changes that we have going on and [on a county and state level they’re] just not talking about, on a higher level, sleep deprivation or sleep patterns of our students,” Liguori said. “Who are we catering to? We’re not catering to the students at all by getting them up at 6 [a.m.].”

Some issues with pushing back the start of the high school day would include transportation, co-curricular athletics start times and changes to before and after care for elementary students if their times were affected.

Board member Jeremy Thode expressed concerns that if the high school day started later, kids would simply go to bed later and the problem would be shifted backward rather than alleviated.

“My concern as a parent and from an educational point of view is that we have some fool’s gold here in thinking they’re going to stay going to bed at 11 [p.m.] and now waking up at 9 [a.m.] or get up at 8 [a.m.], now they can stay up until 12 [a.m.], because kids are kids,” Thode said. “In an ideal world I think we’re talking about the right subject but there are some unintended consequences.”

Thode suggested that a next step could be to examine lateness patterns and grades for first and second period classes compared to the rest of the day for Smithtown high school students.

Bradshaw added she has been in contact with an organization called Start School Later Long Island, NY and that the best course of action may be for this to become a county or statewide discussion going forward. More discussion is likely to occur until the budget is adopted for the 2017-18 school year next spring.

Assistant principal Tim Russo smiles at the board of education meeting before his appointment as principal is announced. Photo by Alex Petroski

The Tornadoes have a new leader.

Assistant Principal Tim Russo was appointed principal of Harborfields High School Tuesday night at a board of education meeting.

Russo has been a part of the district for 15 years now, holding several roles over that time as an athletic coach, social studies teacher, student manager, and assistant principal.

“I think my experience in the district, being here so long, gave me an understanding of the culture of the district and the school itself,” Russo said of why he thinks he makes a good fit for the job.

Russo said he’s enjoyed his time at Harborfields and he feels like his time spent there has been an ideal scenario.

“This is the first district I ever worked in, and I couldn’t really see myself ever leaving the district,” he said. “I’m just so happy here. And this is a perfect fit for me; it felt like everything kind of aligned. You’re in the spot that you’d love to be, you get the opportunity to move forward professionally and continue to work still with all of your closest friends and colleagues.”

Current Principal Dr. Rory J. Manning is leaving the position to take over for Francesco Ianni as assistant superintendent for administration and human resources next year. And Ianni is leaving his post to become superintendent of the district, as it was announced earlier this year that Diana Todaro would be retiring in 2017.

“It has been a pleasure to work with Mr. Russo these past years in his roles as teacher, student manager and assistant principal,” Todaro said in a letter to the district. “I wish Mr. Russo much success in his new role and I am extremely confident that he will lead the high school through many new initiatives, in addition to ensuring the high standards of excellence.”

Ianni has been working with Russo for years, originally when Ianni was an assistant principal at the high school and Russo only just a social studies teacher there.

“He’s a great guy with an outstanding personality that works well with kids and the faculty,” Ianni said in a phone interview. “He’s been a great teacher, and coach, and in all of the communities here, he is very well respected. It’s always difficult to bring a great school to next level, but he has the ingredients to be successful and to provide students with the necessary support to go to the next level.”

Russo said is he up to the challenge of bringing the high school to that next level.

“I’ve been given the opportunity to take the school from being outstanding to maybe just a little bit more outstanding,” he said. “I want to be a guide, to lead the faculty and let them understand that we’re confident in everything we do in the buing and we just want to continue to do the right thing for the kids and make sure we continue to be great.”

Alex Petroski contributed reporting.

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Smithtown High School East and Smithtown High School West are ranked in the state’s top 100 schools. File photo by Bill Landon

Districts in New York aspire to have a high school on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the top 100 public high schools in the state. Smithtown did one better. Both high schools, East and West, cracked the top 100 for New York State on the 2016 list, and the top 1,000 nationwide. The list is based on performance on state assessments, graduation rates and how well schools prepare students for college.

“We are very proud of both of our High Schools for making this prestigious list,” Superintendent James Grossane said in an email Monday. “It speaks to the strength of our educational programming K-12 and to the hard work of our students and staff. These honors are also a sign of the support the entire Smithtown Central School District community provides to our schools. Congratulations to our students and staff and thank you to our community for their continued support.”

Smithtown High School West was 76th on the list for New York State and 663rd nationwide, while High School East was 94th in the state and 857th in the country. New York State is home to nearly 1,300 high schools according to “U.S. News & World Report.” West was the 20th best Long Island public high school on the list, while East was 22nd.

Neighboring high schools in Harborfields, Commack and Ward Melville are also within the top 100. Only schools that receive silver or gold medals receive a ranking.

Smithtown is facing potential future financial difficulties, with a declining enrollment and a void in adequate state aid looming, according to district administration, though they have prided themselves in being able to maintain academic excellence despite painful cuts.

“Despite all of the doom and gloom that we’ve talked about, throughout these cuts, the staff in our employ has continued to produce excellence in students,” Joanne McEnroy, vice president of Smithtown’s board of education, said at a recent meeting. “Our programs, although cut, have not suffered. Our students are performing despite this.”

The board of education voted earlier in 2016 to close Branch Brook Elementary School, one of the district’s eight elementary buildings, before the 2017-18 school year, as a cost saving method, much to the dismay of many community members.

Northport High School students practice their interview skills with exectuives from local businesses during an event thrown by the Northport High School Academy of Finance. Photo from Bob Levy

Northport High School Academy of Finance students put their interview skills to the test this month at a mock interview event where they received feedback from local executives.

About 35 administrators from Long Island companies including Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc., KPMG accounting firm, Douglas Elliman, and MetLife Premier Client Group all gave students advice on what they should be communicating in an interview, how to act professional and how to dress, according to a press release.

“Our students took all the necessary preparations for this interviewing event,” Allison Schwabish, coordinator of the school’s Academy of Finance, said in statement. “We impressed on them that in order to get the internships that they will be applying for as a part of our program they will need to polish their interviewing skills.”

Schwabish said the 80 students who participated in the event on Jan. 14 went through a series of “speed interviews” where they worked on not only interview skills, but networking skills.

“This mock interview event was the perfect taste of precisely what we will face when conducting interviews in the business world, which is something that will definitely aid use in our future endeavors,” senior Emilie Reynolds said in an email.

Jake Sackstein, a fellow senior student, echoed Reynold’s sentiments.

“A year ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed about comfortably partaking in an interview, but now personal business interactions like this come as second nature,” he said. “It showed me how valuable the program is to me and I will continue to draw strength from it in the future.”

Northport High Schools’ Academy of Finance is a part of NAF, formerly known as the National Academy Foundation, a network of career-themed academies for high school students that includes multiple industries such as hospitality and tourism, engineering and the health science industry.

Student John Charles Unser said he appreciated the opportunity to work with so many prominent businesses.

“I was able to interview with Fortune 500 companies such as KPMG and Ameriprise Financial Services,” he said in an email. Unser said he was asked many difficult questions but was “able to provide appropriate examples and answer with professionalism.”

Ethan Feuer, of East Northport, will serve as USY president for 12 months. Photo from Laurie Kamens

A Northport High School senior has proven to be a diverse and formidable leader.

Ethan Feuer was recently elected by his peers as international president of United Synagogue Youth. USY is Conservative Judaism’s premiere youth group and has taught young men and woman the values and skills they need to become exceptional leaders in their religious and secular communities.

“I want to spend this year inspiring others,” Feuer said in a statement. “Starting right now, we need to redefine USY as being about relationships. If you can change one person’s understanding of what they’re capable of, how much people care about them, or how powerful a source for change they can be, you change everything.”

The international presidency is the highest office a young man or woman can achieve at USY, and according to a statement, USY said Feuer is a leader in both his home community and at the organization, and he serves as a role model to his peers.

“Each of the newly elected leaders impressed us with their vision for the future of USY. We can’t wait to work with them as they empower new generations of teens and make their dreams a reality,” David Levy, director of Teen Learning for the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism said.

Feuer is a senior and honor roll student at Northport High School, where he has worked in peer tutoring and several other extracurricular activities.

As president, Feuer will spend this year leading thousands of teens from across North America and guiding them toward the organization’s principles of social action/justice, social acceptance and inclusion, and the nourishing of their Jewish identities.

It is the most exciting, yet most humbling, experience I have ever encountered,” Feuer said in an email. “This opportunity means the world to me, since I have dreamed of leading United Synagogue Youth since the eighth grade. It is truly an honor to serve as a leader and role model to thousands of Jewish teens, and the newly elected board is already proactive and ready to be the change that USY needs.”

Stock photo

Comsewogue kids are going to get another view of their education system.

“Beyond Measure,” a documentary by director Vicki Abeles about “America’s troubled education system,” will be screened on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium, in an event hosted by TASK, Comsewogue High School’s student government. The film is a follow-up to Abeles’ 2010 documentary “Race to Nowhere,” which provided a close-up look at the pressures placed on young students in America.

“In Beyond Measure, we find a revolution brewing in public schools across the country,” according to a description on the film’s official website. “From rural Kentucky to New York City, schools that are breaking away from an outmoded, test-driven education are shaping a new vision for our classrooms.”

Comsewogue school district and its superintendent, Joe Rella, have been at the forefront of the battle against the Common Core and standardized testing, standing out as one of the strongest voices on Long Island and in New York State. In addition to appearing at local protests, the district even went as far last year as considering a proposal to refuse to administer state exams unless the state delivered more education aid and reduced the weight of student test scores on teacher and administration evaluations.

The description of “Beyond Measure” on the documentary’s website echoes some sentiments expressed by educators and parents who oppose the Common Core and state testing.

“We’re told that in order to fix what’s broken, we need to narrow our curricula, standardize our classrooms, and find new ways to measure students and teachers,” it says. “But what if these ‘fixes’ are making our schools worse? In ‘Beyond Measure,’ we set out to challenge the assumptions of our current education story.”

Screenings of the film have taken place across the United States over the past year, with more scheduled to take place in the coming weeks.

“I am thrilled that our high school students are actively playing a role in exploring education policy, and look forward to their insight,” school board member Ali Gordon said in an email. “I believe that the issue of standardized testing is central to the debate about the direction of public education all over the nation, not just here. Education policies created at the federal and state level focus heavily on data collected from standardized testing, which has resulted in a huge shift away from student-centered learning.”

Tickets to attend the screening of the film at Comsewogue High School are $10 and are available online or at the door prior to the event.

For more information about the film, visit www.beyondmeasurefilm.com.

Principal Daniel Danbusky stands in front of the Northport High School. Photo Danbusky

Northport High School has a new principal.

Daniel Danbusky was appointed by the Board of Education at the Nov. 5 meeting, effective immediately.

Danbusky has been assistant principal at the high school since 2012, and prior to that, spent 11 years as a social studies teacher, coach and Dean of Students at the Brentwood school district.

“I knew immediately that even though it was very difficult to come to the decision to leave Brentwood, I had arrived in the right place,” Danbusky said in an email. “The students here impress me on a daily basis.  Whether it is walking around the art and music wing and seeing their creativity, or attending a fundraiser or community event and seeing the philanthropic spirit that exists in the student body, is beyond humbling.”

Danbusky said he is not the type of person who does well sitting in an office — so students can expect to see his face a lot.

“There is nothing greater about working in a school than being with the students, so I want to maximize my contact with them,” he said. 

Danbunsky received a B.A. in history and a Master’s in teaching from Union College.

He is replacing Irene McLaughlin, who was recently appointed Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources.

“I think he’s a terrific guy,” McLaughlin said in a phone interview. “He has incredible integrity and has established a great relationship with the students, faculty and staff. He’s the total package.”

McLaughlin said there were about 20 candidates when the search for a new principal started.

“It was a collaborative nature, which is important because you’re selecting who will now lead the high school every day,” she said.

Danbusky said one of his favorite parts of the job is seeing the students.

“They are some of the most motivated, talented, empathetic and selfless students I have ever had the privilege to work for in my 15 years in high schools,” he said.

Looking to the future, Danbusky said he hopes to foster better relationships with the middle schools “because coming into the high school of 2000, kids can be overwhelming.”