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Huntington school district

District administrators to review security plans March 13; have plans to install more cameras

Huntington High School. File photo.

With Florida’s school shooting still in recent memory, Huntington school officials are taking the tragedy as a reminder to review their own security plans.

Parents were given a thorough rundown of Huntington Union Free School District’s plans to keep its nearly 4,600 students safe and planned security upgrades at the Feb. 26 board of education meeting.

“Any district that would say they are well prepared to deal with any and all contingencies that could occur would be stating something that is not true,” Superintendent James Polansky said. “I believe in this district we are as actively thinking what can and may happen as any other district out there. You have to be as many steps ahead as any district can be.”

Any district that would say they are well prepared to deal with any and all contingencies that could occur would be stating something that is not true.”
—James Polansky

Kathleen Acker, Huntington’s assistant superintendent for finances and management services, walked parents through the district’s general safety plans, which can be found online, in addition to informing them that a districtwide plan and highly-detailed building specific plans exist and are filed with state and local law enforcement.

“The plans are very dynamic and always change in response,” Acker said. “We will be doing a review on March 13 to see how comprehensive it is, but there’s always room to add a bit more.”

School officials have used part of the district’s $1.4 million Smart Schools Bond Act funds from the state to upgrade existing security cameras at the high school and install additional ones districtwide this year, according to Acker. She said the district has also recently partnered with Intralogic Solutions, a security technology provider, to pilot a new safety system. The Alert Domain Awareness System focuses security cameras on fire alarms to provide a view of who pulled the trigger, a method which was employed by the Parkland shooting suspect, to determine if it’s a credible alarm.

The assistant superintendent said the district will spend approximately $100,000 to replace old doors at two elementary schools with doors that can be locked from the inside. It’s a process referred to as door hardening, according to Polansky, and it’s recommended classroom doors are locked at all times.

“Just a locked door serves as a deterrent,” he said. “If there’s a threat, they’ll keep moving.”

Huntington school district has hired one additional security guard, currently in training, and plans to review its deployment of guards throughout the district. The state has approved the district’s plans to construct a security vestibule at Jefferson Elementary School this summer, according to Acker. School officials are also waiting for state approval to build similar booths at Nathaniel Woodhull School and Southdown Primary School.

“If we can’t keep students and staff safe, nothing else matters.” 
— James Polansky

Last year, each building had video monitors installed at every greeter station so staff members could see visitors looking to gain entrance. Visitors are required to show photo identification.

The superintendent said he believes a key piece of ensuring student safety is preventative measures which have included anti-bullying programs and adding support staff — a social worker, a psychologist and more guidance counselors.

“They are not teaching kids in the classroom, but the services are indispensable,” Polansky said.

The Huntington superintendent said he had a meeting scheduled with 10 other school administrators across Huntington and Smithtown townships Feb. 27 to discuss the best ways to communicate and share security strategies in light of the recent shooting.

“Safety is our No. 1 priority,” Polansky said. “If we can’t keep students and staff safe, nothing else matters.” 

District faces larges cost increases in employee health care benefits, state Teachers' Retirement System contributions

Huntington High School. File Photo

Huntington school district administrators will be counting every penny to reduce their drafted 2018-19 budget by more than $2.64 million to come in under the state tax levy cap before May.

Huntington Superintendent James Polansky gave residents their first look at the district’s suggested $132,294,449 spending plan for next school year at the Feb.26 board of education meeting. The drafted budget represents a 4.82 percent increase from the current year’s budget,  significantly more than its 3.14 percent cap.

“A budget-to-budget change of over $6 million, that is not where we are going to land,” Polansky said. “That is not going to fly.”

The main driver of the Huntington school district’s increased expenses are non-discretionary costs, according to the superintendent, which includes teacher and staff salaries, employee health benefits, pension contributions, transportation, building maintenance and utilities. In total, the district’s non-discretionary costs are anticipated to increase by 5.66 percent.

“Salaries are a part of that, but the biggest chunk is health care insurance,” Polansky said. “We do have some alternatives we can look at in the teachers’ contract and we have work to do there.”

The district will be hit by a mandated increase in its contribution to the state’s Teachers’ Retirement System. Its rate is expected to increase from 9.8 percent up to 10.63 percent of its payroll. That will cost Huntington approximately $800,000 more per year, Polansky said.

Huntington officials also estimated its transportation costs will increase by 3.35 percent, or more than $380,000, due to annual cost increases in addition to paying for more student aides and bus monitors.

“Buses are an extension of the school,” Polansky said. “If something happens there, it’s treated like something that happens in a classroom.”

The district is working with a transportation consultant to review its bus routes in the hopes of increasing efficiency, according to the superintendent. Any cost savings measures the consultant may be able to suggest for next year have not yet been factored into the district’s draft 2018-19 budget.

Under the current draft budget, the average Huntington taxpayer’s school tax rate would increase by 5.65 percent. It would also require a 60 percent supermajority approval by voters to be adopted, as is standard when budgets pierce the tax levy increase cap. Polansky repeatedly referred to the $132 million proposal for 2018-19 as a starting point.

“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done,” he said. “It is a concern at a time when we have a lot of needs to be addressed both educationally and in security.”

The district will need to reign in its discretionary spending, according to Polansky, which covers staffing, textbooks, supplies, technology, sports and co-curricular activities.

In the upcoming weeks, school administrators will give several budget presentations, including March 12 on employee benefits, debt service and capital funding; and March 26 on instruction and staffing. The district has pushed back its final review and workshop to April 9. Polansky said the decision was made to give as much time as possible for final state aid figures from Albany before adopting a proposed budget to go before voters May 15.

Huntington High School. File Photo

Huntington school district has started to address the 2018-19 budget early, admitting there may be challenges ahead for the district.

Superintendent James Polansky gave a presentation at the Jan. 9 board of education meeting to outline how the potential impact of newly approved federal tax laws, the state’s budget deficit and the district’s increasing costs could significantly affect Huntington students and parents.

“There are a lot of question marks this year right now, making predicting the budget a little more difficult than it has been in the past,” Polansky said.

Among his top concerns are the impact of President Donald Trump’s (R) Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, as homeowners are limited to a $10,000 write off for state and local taxes — which includes property taxes. The superintendent said he believes many homeowners will wind up paying high income taxes due to the new limits on deductions.

“It’s no secret that school budgets make up the bulk of property taxes,” he said. “How will that impact voter consideration with regard to the school budget?”

Complicating matters further, Polansky said Jan. 9 he expected the district to get little to no increase in state aid for the 2018-19 school year given New York has a more than $4.5 billion shortfall.

Contrary to Polansky’s prediction, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) unveiled a $168 billion state budget Jan. 15 in which he proposed increasing state aid for elementary and secondary education by 3 percent for the 2018-19 school year. Cuomo’s proposed budget has until April 1 to be adopted by state legislators.

Polansky said Huntington school district is facing a number of factors that could lead to higher operating costs in the next school year, including increasing costs of employees’ contractual salaries and benefits. The district also will be subject to an increasing contribution rate from 9.8 percent up to between 10.5 and 11.8 percent of its payroll to the state’s Teachers’ Retirement System.

“For a district of our size or larger, that’s not an insignificant expense,” the superintendent said. “We are
obligated to pay into it just like every other school district in New York.”

The district’s presentations on the 2018-19 year will kick off Feb. 5 when Polansky said he will walk step-by-step through the process of calculating the district’s tax levy limit. This will include a discussion on growth of the tax base in Huntington, which he noted is a positive factor.

“Huntington for the last couple of years has been well below the tax levy limit,” he said. “I anticipate there is a good chance we will be well below that limit this year.”

In May 2017, voters approved a $126.2 million budget for the 2017-18 school year — with 1,022 ‘yes’ to 148 ‘no’ votes — that featured expanded enrollment for Advanced Placement and high school elective courses, upgrades to facilities, and additional summer enrichment classes.

Proposed budgetary changes for 2018-19 capital projects will be discussed March 12, followed by instructional and staff changes March 26. A full recap of the proposed budget will be given April 9, before expected adoption by the board April 16. 

“My goal is to get as much straightforward, concise and simplistic information out to my residents,” Polansky said.

Chris Kelly and David Steinberg smile after their victory. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Harborfields

Budget: $84.2 million

The 2017-18 budget is about $1.6 million more than last year’s total, with a tax levy increase of 1.68 percent. It passed with 1,224 yes votes to 249 no votes.

On the district’s website Superintendent Ianni thanked all the residents who voted to approve the budget.

“Thank you for all the support that you have given throughout this budget process,” the message said. “This would not be possible without your help.”

A household with a $2,000 assessed value will see a tax increase of $85.22. Someone who makes $75,000 or less is eligible for a tax rebate of $314.85, and the rebate is reduced by $84 in each of three higher salary brackets.

With two seats and four candidates at the Harborfields district this year, half of the candidates came out victorious.

Incumbent and Vice President David Steinberg easily maintained his seat on the board with 800 votes cast in his name.

Chris Kelly and David Steinberg smile after their victory. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

“It’s a pleasure and honor to be able to serve again,” Steinberg said after the results were announced Tuesday night. “It’s such a great community, we’ve done such great work over the last three years and I look forward to continuing that work over the next three.”

As for newcomer Chris Kelly, it seems the third time was the charm, as the resident has tried the past three years to win a seat. He came in second with a close 741 votes.

“I’m honored and humbled and I can’t wait to get to work,” Kelly said after his victory.

Residents Lauri Levenberg and Anila Nitekman were unable to win a seat for themselves, with 623 votes and 476 votes respectively.

Northport-East Northport

 Budget: $163.5 million

The 2017-18 budget is about $1.6 million more than last year’s total. It passed with 2,074 yes votes and 636 no votes. The estimated increase for a $3,800 assessed value household is $122.

Proposition 2, which involved capital reserve expenditures, also passed with 2,197 yes votes to 512 no votes. This proposition 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, and more.

For Northport residents the message was clear: they’re not interested in change. Incumbent Donna McNaughton was able to beat out challenger Thomas Loughran for another term on the board.

Donna McNaughton will continue to serve Northport-East Northport. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

McNaughton came away with 1,750 votes and Loughran with 769 votes.

“I’m very humbled by the support from the community,” McNaughton said after  it was announced she won. She added she was excited to continue to work for the district.

McNaughton was the only one of three incumbents who ran for re-election this year, as a petition last year passed to reduce the size of the board from nine members to seven.

Huntington

Budget: $126.2 million

The 2017-18 budget has a tax levy  increase of 1.35 percent. It passed with 1,022 yes votes to 148 no votes. A home assessed at the district average of $3,600 would see an increase of $111.24.

A second capital reserve proposition to authorize the creation of a new building improvement fund also passed by a vote of 998 yes votes to 176 no votes.

In the Huntington school district things went according to plan, as the two incumbents running unopposed won another term. Vice president Jennifer  Hebert and Trustee Xavier Palacios will both continue to serve their community, winning 1,037 votes and 978 votes respectively.

Hebert said in her candidate statement she believes in listening to all sides of every issue. She is particularly passionate about public school education and believes the learning experience offered to Huntington students should be the finest in the nation.

Palacios said in his candidate statement he has strived to be a problem-solver and to use his legal expertise to contribute to solutions regarding pressing issues facing students, teachers and taxpayers.

Harborfields High School. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Harborfields

The Harborfields school district has two seats to fill this May and four candidates. The school runs an at large election, meaning the two candidates with the most votes will fill the two seats.

Vice President David Steinberg and Trustee Nicholas Giuilano’s terms are up, however only Steinberg has chosen to run again, with three resident challengers looking for a first term on the board.

Chris Kelly is running for a third-time, hoping to finally secure a seat. Kelly has been working in the market data business for the past 19 years, and said he wants to bring his professional skills to add something “unique” to the board.

“I deal with a lot of changing variables and big budgets, and I need to anticipate what the future is going to hold,” he said in a phone interview. “I see this aligning with the school district perfectly.”

He has volunteered for the Harborfields Get Out the Vote committee and the Parent Teacher Association.

Anila Nitekman said she moved from Manhattan to Greenlawn because of the strong reputation the district had.

She’s the founder of Tiny Bites Food Shears, and has worked for Cablevision, American Express, and the city of New York after 9/11.

“I have worked to develop and cultivate collaborative partnerships,” she said in a phone interview. “And I think I could create a unique opportunity to bring new partnership opportunities to the district.”

She said she wants to partner students with industry leaders to help kids with their future careers.

Steinberg said he is eager to continue the work of the board, which he said has been very successful lately, including the creation of a new technology initiative.

“The district has very strong momentum,” he said in a phone interview. “With a new superintendent and Tech 2.0, there is a lot of great work happening here. Why wouldn’t I want to continue to work with this community?”

He said the support from the community has been great, like the $50,000 recently raised for Tech 2.0 by a Harborfields organization.

Lauri Levenberg has been a district resident for more than 20 years, and said she has the insight to help lead the school in a positive way.

“The most important issue facing Harborfields is how to provide an education for the whole child while remaining fiscally responsible to the community,” Levenberg said in her candidate statement.

She works as a speech therapist in the Three Village school district, and has served on the board of religious organizations including Temple Beth El in Huntington.

Northport-East Northport

With only one seat available at large, this is a unique year for the district, as the board will see a reduction of two members thanks to a petition filed two years ago by United Taxpayers of Northport-East Northport to reduce the number of trustees.

The petition was made into a proposition which voters approved during last year’s vote to bring the board from nine members to seven.

Trustees Donna McNaughton, Regina Pisacani and Jennifer Thompson were all at the end of their terms, however due to the petition only one of the three seats can be filled. Pisacani and Thompson have both decided not to seek another term on the board.

Pisacani said the decision was not an easy one.

“I dedicated an enormous amount of time to my board of education duties,” she said in an email. “It was many hours away from my family and many hours away from my own professional development.  My motivation for joining the BOE was to assist in bringing change and stability to this school district.”

Thompson did not return calls for comment.

However McNaughton is still eager to continue serving her community.

“I still have a passion for it,” she said in a phone interview. “We should be taking enthusiastic 5-year-olds and making them into  enthusiastic 18-year-olds.”

She said the district is going in a positive direction, with plans like the recent bond approval which will see infrastructure and athletic facility improvements.

“We’ve had seven one-term board members, there has been a lot of instability and I want to continue to work with the superintendent to help bring his vision to fruition.”

The incumbent said the district will face many challenges in the future, including the ongoing LIPA lawsuit, decreased enrollment and more, and she wants to work to find solutions.

Challenging the current trustee is East Northport resident Thomas Loughran, an attorney who only recently got involved in the district board affairs.

Loughran said he started attending school board meetings in February when the board was able to approve the nearly $40 million bond.

“I’m a paralegal and my firm deals with school districts all the time so this is right in my wheelhouse,” he said in a phone interview. “My voice is beneficial to the board. I know community members and teachers within the district.”

The challenger said he has an extensive background that would lend itself to a positive collaboration with the board. He has dealt in his profession with legal matters, civil rights issues, discrimination issues and more involving school districts.

Huntington

In the Huntington school district things are business as usual, as two incumbents are running unopposed for another term. Vice president Jennifer  Hebert and Trustee Xavier Palacios are both running for third terms.

Hebert and her husband have lived in Huntington for 20 years, and have two boys attending district schools, as well as a third in college.

A Long Island native, Herbert worked as a public school kindergarten teacher in Massachusetts for several years and is currently the director of the pre-school program at St. John’s Nursery School in Huntington village.

She volunteers for the Huntington district in the Parent Teacher Association and has served as  president and treasurer.

Hebert has served on various district committees through the years, including the long range planning committee.

Hebert said in her candidate statement she believes in listening to all sides of every issue. She is particularly passionate about public school education and believes the learning experience offered to Huntington students should be the finest in the nation.

Palacios is an attorney and a Huntington district alumni himself. He and his wife have three children, including a daughter who was a member of Huntington’s Class of 2016.

In 2008, Palacios purchased and renovated a distressed property in Huntington Station where he established a satellite law office along with a community revitalization non-profit organization.

Palacios volunteered in each of the past two years to serve as the high school mock trial team’s legal advisor, training students in the art of courtroom skills and strategies. He has spent hours working behind the scenes with coaches and athletes to help spur participation and promote excellence in the Blue Devil athletic program.

Palacios said in his candidate statement he has strived to be a problem-solver and to use his legal expertise to contribute to solutions regarding pressing issues facing students, teachers and taxpayers.

Noah Helburn wants to use FaceTime and Skype to tutor kids. Photo from Noah Helburn

One Huntington student is trying to make a splash in his new community, after moving there this past summer, by starting a tutoring program to raise money for a local charity.

Noah Helburn, 16, traveled from South Salem in Massachusetts to the Huntington School District, and said he wanted to find a passion project that could help him get to know his new home better.

“I wanted to do something meaningful with my limited free time to benefit my new community,” he said in a phone interview.

So Helburn decided to start with what he knew: tutoring. He had been part of a tutoring club at his old high school, and wanted to start a similar program in his new community.

The high school junior said he has always enjoyed tutoring. “I like seeing kids succeed,” he said. “It’s a team effort and I feel very proud of the kids I’ve helped when I see them achieve their grades.”

But Helburn wanted to combine his fondness for tutoring with another angle.

“I wanted to do something that helped my community while also getting kids better grades, so I researched local charities to see which one I could work with,” he said.

He discovered Toys of Hope, a Huntington nonprofit organization that sponsors kids and families throughout the year, distributes toys during the holidays for needy families and more.

“I reached out to them and they loved the idea,” Helburn said. And thus Tutoring For a Cause was born. The plan didn’t come without bumps in the road. He said he was surprised with how many logistical problems he ran into trying to get his tutoring program off the ground. First he had trouble securing a location, then when he tried to create a club at Huntington High School, transportation of himself and the kids, insurance and liability became other issues he couldn’t seem to solve.

“So then this idea of video tutoring came to me,” Helburn said. “Kids don’t have to leave their home, and I can offer the same quality of help through the screen. It works easier because now no one has to go anywhere to get tutoring.”

Tutoring For a Cause is offered for students in third to eighth grade in science, math or social studies. “My plan is to video tutor students in the Huntington area via Skype and FaceTime,” he said. “By video tutoring, it eliminates all the issues I’ve run into this past year with finding a space and advisor, logistics and insurance, etc.”

Ronald Feuchs, a family friend from back home in Massachusetts who is helping Helburn get his idea off the ground, praised the 16-year-old’s drive. “Noah’s persistence and desire to make a positive impact on his new community are impressive,” he said in an email. “He is the kind of person that is determined to make a difference wherever he is, whether it be in his new hometown or a college campus.”

But Helburn is still looking for ways to get his message out and find more students in need of tutoring.

“As the school year is winding down and finals will soon be upon us, this is the perfect time to help students at a time and place that is most convenient for them and their families,” he said. “I am asking for a suggested tax deductible donation to Toys of Hope of $10 to $20 per video session, but families are free to donate whatever amount they feel comfortable with directly to Toys of Hope.”

Those interested in using the Tutoring For a Cause program can email tutoringforagoodcause@gmail.com or call 914-413-5710.

Huntington middle school students smile with math teachers Christine Lofaro, far left, and Susan Llanes, far right. Photo by Kevin Redding

Huntington students taught the community a thing or two about computer science and coding at a board of education meeting Dec. 12.

Sixth-grader Sarah Crowin, along with fifth-graders Samantha McGloin, Ben Edgar McNerney and Uma Shtrom, showed those in attendance how they were able to make “math move” and come to life in creating their own mazes and games.

They explained how this new passion has helped them in other areas.

McGloin, a student at Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School, said coding helped her become a better problem solver.

“When you’re coding, it’s all trial and error,” she said at the meeting. “If something doesn’t work, there’s no pop-up explaining what to do … you have to know your lines of code and what you wrote to see what you did wrong and learn from it. It helps with perseverance because you have to work on something and there’s no such thing as overnight success.”

She said coding has taught her to put all of her effort into something — otherwise it won’t work out the way you want it to.

Shtrom, also a student at Jack Abrams, said coding changed the way she thinks.

“When I see video games like Minecraft or Temple Run, I think about the coding conditions behind the game,” she said. “Coding had also helped me to better understand math concepts … like grid coordinates … x and y coordinates … and angles.”

Back in October, students at Woodhull Intermediate School and the STEM Magnet School started using the platform called kidOYO, or Kid On Your Own, in the classroom to create coding scripts and explore learning outcomes in the fields of computer science, engineering and entrepreneurship education.

This program, which Huntington has implemented in grades kindergarten through eighth, encourages students to demonstrate knowledge and problem solving skills through various programming tools.

Students of all ages within the district are able to access kidOYO from home as well as school, and so far they said they’ve been excited to learn and utilize this new language of code.

“It’s wonderful to see students engaged in this,” Christine Lofaro, a Huntington Response to Intervention math teacher, and one of the facilitators of the program said.

She said even though not all the students participating in the program are necessarily heavy academic students in terms of math and science, they love to do this and it’s never a chore to get them involved.

“I was in a kindergarten class on Friday and was thinking, “How am I going to do this with kindergarten students?” she said. “They were totally in it, totally in the game and excited, right from the get go.”

She and fellow Huntington RTI math teacher Susan Llanes had the opportunity to attend the “kidOYO Summer Experience” at Stony Brook University for three days in July and while there, they trained alongside computer science instructors and learned a lot about the benefits of the program, especially for young students.

They immediately brainstormed how they were going to bring this back to their school.

Lofaro and Llanes emailed principals and the district’s Director of Elementary Mathematics Marybeth Robinette about how to roll this out as soon as school was back in session in the fall.

Robinette said every 21st century student should have a chance to learn about algorithms, how to make an app, and learn how the internet works, just as they should know what photosynthesis and H2O are.

“Right now, there’s no expectation in our schools that students should even have a basic understanding of these concepts, even though they’re driving a large part of our society,” said Robinette.

The director of elementary mathematics said computer science is foundational and affects every field in residents’ lives. Whether it’s navigation systems on the road or computing breakthroughs in health care, every single day ,the trend of coding is growing in every single industry.

She explained that right now computing jobs are the number one source of new wages in the U.S.

“There are more than 500,000 job openings [in this field], but we’re not graduating kids from college with computer science degrees,” Robinette said. “One of the reasons is that kids don’t really know how computers work and think it’s really difficult and scary. But through kidOYO … we’re showing that all kids can participate in this.”

Huntington High School marked its 155th annual commencement on Saturday, June 25.

The Blue Devils celebrated in style, marking the occasion with a processional, speeches by a number of students and school officials, words of wisdom from valedictorian Rachel Carpenter and salutatorian Olivia Stamatatos, and much cheer from excited parents. Principal Brendan Cusack also delivered some warm words to the graduates.

Harborfields High School. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

By Victoria Espinoza

Harborfields

Sabrina Qi and Trevor Jones are the valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively, of the Harborfields graduating class of 2016.

Sabrina Qi. Photo from Harborfields central school district.
Sabrina Qi. Photo from Harborfields central school district.

Qi was named a scholar in the 2016 National Merit Scholarship Program, she received the National School Development Council Academic Growth & Student Leadership Award and was presented the Daughters of American Revolution Good Citizenship Award. She is enrolled in six Advanced Placement courses and one college-level language class. She is a member of the National Honor Society, Global Justice Club and Science Research Club. Qi will attend Duke University in the fall with plans of majoring in biomedical engineering and biophysics. “I think Harborfields has truly prepared me for the future with all the classes I have taken,” Qi said. “As long as you take the classes that you are interested in, the teachers will prepare you for what you want to study in college.”

Trevor Jones. Photo from Harborfields central school district.
Trevor Jones. Photo from Harborfields central school district.

Jones is also enrolled in six Advanced Placement courses at Harborfields and is the class president. Among his high school experiences, he interned for U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), worked at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and North Shore-LIJ to conduct medical research, and he served as the student representative at the board of education meetings. He will attend Boston College on a full scholarship with plans to major in biology or public policy.

“I am going to miss the community,” Jones said. “The classes and teachers are great, but at the end of the day, what I am going to miss most are my peers, my friends and the environment we have here.”

Northport

Ian Buitenkant is this year’s valedictorian at Northport High School, with Emily Labruna following as salutatorian.

Ian Buitenkant. Photo from Northport-East Northport school district.
Ian Buitenkant. Photo from Northport-East Northport school district.

Buitenkant is a National Merit Commended Scholar, and has been the math department’s Student of the Month. He interned at the Academy of Information Technology last summer with SeniorNet, an organization that teaches computer skills to retired and elderly people. The valedictorian enrolled in 10 AP courses throughout his four years and was awarded the AP Scholar with Honors in 2015. He is a member of the high school Mathletes Team, and his junior year had one of the highest cumulative scores among all participants in a multi-week competition sponsored by the Suffolk County Math Teachers Association. Outside of the classroom, he can be found at a chessboard. He was named the Suffolk County High School Chess champion in 2013, and is also the president of the high school Chess Club. Buitenkant was also on the high school varisty tennis team for three years. He plans to attend Stony Brook University’s Honors College, majoring in computer science as a member of the Honors Program, and hopes to become a software developer in the future.

Emily Labruna. Photo from Northport-East Northport school district.
Emily Labruna. Photo from Northport-East Northport school district.

Labruna is an International Baccalaureate Diploma Candidate. She spent two summers at Cornell University and Johns Hopkins University through the Packard Scholars Program, and her participation in these programs led her to want to continue neuroscience research in college. Labruna was a math department Student of the Month and is a National Merit Commended Scholar. She is a member of the Mathletes, the Academic Team, varsity softball, the National Honor Society, and Schools for Schools, where she has helped raise money for the education of children in poverty. The salutatorian also has a third-degree black belt in Jiu-Jitsu. She will be attending Johns Hopkins University with a major in neuroscience.

Huntington

Huntington High School’s valedictorian and salutatorian are Rachel Carpenter and Olivia Stamatatos, respectively.

Rachel Carpenter. Photo from Huntington school district.
Rachel Carpenter. Photo from Huntington school district.

Carpenter is the president of Huntington’s branch of National Honor Society, and has participated in all eight of the high school’s drama productions. “When I first moved here four years ago, I had no idea I would have been in the position I am in now,” she said. “I have the people of Huntington High to thank for my growth and success.”

Olivia Stamatatos. Photo from Huntington school district.
Olivia Stamatatos. Photo from Huntington school district.

Stamatatos is president of the school’s branch of Italian National Honor Society, a member of the Mathletes, wind esemble, and Tri-M Music National Honor Society. She also takes dance lessons at the Lynch School of Ballet in Huntington.  She plans to pursure a degree in biochemistry “in order to gain a deeper understanding of underlying factors that contribute to the curative properties in natural substances.” She credited the staff at Huntington. “The teachers of Huntington High School have not only provided me with a high quality education, but have also built strong relationships with me and have always made me feel welcome,” she said.

Huntington High School. File photo.

Two incumbents will square off against a former administrator in the race for two seats on the Huntington board of education.

Bari Fehrs is running for her second term while Bill Dwyer is seeking his third victory. Carmen Kasper, who served as the district’s director of world languages for 14 years before retiring in June 2015, is challenging the pair.

Carmen Kasper

Kasper_Kasperw“The hardest thing about making that decision [to retire] was that I was not going to work with students any more,” Kasper said in an email. But by running for the board, “I could still work for them, serve them the best I could, and serve them to the best of my knowledge by being a trustee, making decisions that would help to improve their education.”

Kasper has lived in Huntington for 10 years. She has spent her life as an educator, teaching English in Peru and Spanish in Copiague school district. She earned a degree in education from SUNY Old Westbury and a master’s degree from Hofstra University in teaching English as a second language.

Bari Fehrs

Fehrs_FehrswFehrs, a 27-year Huntington resident, was elected to the school board in 2013. She was on the board’s Safety Committee, Health and Wellness Committee, Shared Decision Making Committee and Policy Committee during her first term.

Fehrs said she is proud of several accomplishments in her first term, like the board restoring a full-day kindergarten program, which was previously cut, without piercing the state-mandated cap on tax levy increases; expanding academic and extracurricular programs; and enhancing technological infrastructure.

“I look forward to the opportunity to serve another term as a school board trustee, to continue the excellence in education that the Huntington community has come to expect while being fiscally responsible to the taxpayers of this district,” she said in an email.

Bill Dwyer

Dwyer_FilewBill Dwyer was first elected in 2008. He left the board in 2011 after his first term, and was elected again in 2013. He served as president of the board for three school years.

“I am proud of the work we have done in adding programs and services, all within the realm of responsible budgeting,” Dwyer said in an email. “I have made positive contributions to the school district during my time on the board and would be honored to continue my service.”

Dwyer has a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He started his own health publishing company called Rocket Science Publishing, which produces patient education materials to help in chronic disease management. He currently works for an educational technology company.

Polls will be open on May 17 to vote on the district’s $123 million budget and select two board members. There is another item on the ballot: the release of $2.4 million from the district’s capital reserves for infrastructure upgrades related to handicap accessibility.