Tags Posts tagged with "Kevin Redding"

Kevin Redding

by -
0 2493
Albert G. Prodell Middle School students study abroad with Madrid 2017 classmates. Photo from Marc Dinowitz

By Kevin Redding

A total 3,521 miles separates Shoreham-Wading River and Madrid, Spain, but thanks to a long-running school program, the two regions couldn’t be closer.

Every February since 1983, a pack of eighth-graders studying Spanish at Albert G. Prodell Middle School travel to Madrid for an immersive and unforgettable exchange program. Nineteen students will embark on the 35th annual trip Feb. 9, during which they will be matched with host families, attend school at IES Santamarca and tour the expansive city for two weeks — relying on and strengthening their foreign language skills along the way. In April, following tradition, the school will welcome students from the Madrid school, who stay with their corresponding host families in Shoreham and absorb American culture through the lens of Long Island. Although the program’s locations have remained the same for nearly four decades, the itineraries of the trips are always unique — being based on the parents and students involved.

Shoreham, the only public school district in the nation with this kind of program, has held onto it against several odds. Even in 1991, in the midst of the Gulf War when people were afraid to travel, enough support for the program existed to send four students abroad.

“It’s so deeply rooted in the community — I’m so proud,” said Barbara Gaias, who started the program after being hired as a Spanish teacher at the middle school in 1981, and maintains her involvement even in retirement. “Now we have students going whose parents went when they were younger. People say they want to take Spanish instead of French because they know they have the chance to go to Spain. Their Spanish skills are just unbelievable upon returning.”

Throughout the trip, Gaias said Shoreham students are expected to make orders while in restaurants and regularly communicate with strangers.

“We try to put them in uncomfortable situations — we want them to be able to use their language ability,” she said. “When they come back, the kids are so much better, particularly in listening skills. As a result of the trip, they really serve as leaders not just in Spanish class, but in the school. They’re junior ambassadors.”

Marc Dinowitz, whose daughter Jillian went on the trip in 2014, volunteered as coordinator of the exchange program in June 2017. Together, with a band of parents, he spearheaded fundraising efforts to pay for the events that take place during the two weeks in April. This year, 20 Madrid students will be visiting Shoreham. In past years, Shoreham’s fundraising efforts have gone toward providing the visiting students with a tour of the Montauk Lighthouse and museum, a ride on a water taxi around the Statue of Liberty and tickets to a New York Yankees baseball game.

The trip to Spain is paid for by each individual participant. Dinowitz and four chaperones will be joining the Shoreham students this year.

“It’s all worth it for me to watch the kids’ transformation by the end of the program,” Dinowitz said. “And getting to see them integrate into those families and then having the other kids come back and become part of our families — these are lifelong bonds and friendships.”

Kim DiPaola, a 1993 Shoreham graduate, said she had an incredible experience when she took part in the program, and was immediately supportive when her daughter, Isabella, expressed interest in going this year.

“I hope that she more or less experiences what I did,” DiPaola said. “I learned so much about Madrid’s culture, and just got to experience such a different way of life.”

Isabella said she’s been geared up to go to Madrid for a while now, between her mother’s experience there and seeing some friends’ pictures of their trip from previous years on social media.

“I’ve been looking forward to it since I was in sixth grade,” Isabella said. “I’ve honestly never been more excited for something in my life.”

Shoreham-Wading River’s Gay-Straight Alliance Club members get excited about positivity week. Photo from Rose Honold

A student-run club at Shoreham-Wading River High School that aims to create a safe space for LGBT students and supporters recently got funds to expand its mission.

The Gay-Straight Alliance, launched in the 2014-15 school year as a localized version of a nationwide
program, received a $500 grant from the Long Island Language Arts Council (LILAC) to purchase books promoting awareness and compassion for people who are different. The yet-to-be-selected books will address challenges that gay and transgender youths face in the educational system and will be used by club members for group discussions and a large project during the club’s annual Positivity Week events in April. During the week, the club, which is made up of 20 members with a 50/50 balance of gay and straight students, extends its reach to educate other students in an effort to help others be more inclusive.

“We can expose our members to diverse experiences to bridge the empathy gap and foster acceptance and understanding for diverse individuals.”

— Alana Philcox

The club’s co-advisors — English teachers Alana Philcox and Edward Storck — developed the idea for the books and wrote a proposal to LILAC to be considered for its annual grant.

“As English teachers, we understand the critical role that literature can have in starting a dialogue,” Philcox said. “By integrating bibliotherapeutic strategies into instruction and selecting texts with authentic depictions, we can expose our members to diverse experiences to bridge the empathy gap and foster acceptance and understanding for diverse individuals.”

Philcox and Storck said they are still in the process of choosing books depending on the students’ interests, as the texts will be matched to the needs of individual club members. The teachers said they hope the books provide students with protagonists and characters that help he or she better understand themselves.

“We’re hopeful that this will give students empathy as it relates to all diversity,” Philcox and Storck said in an email.

The district’s Gay-Straight Alliance was formed after LGBT students and their friends said they felt there wasn’t an outlet to express themselves in school. When the club was established in Shoreham-Wading River, it had already been successful in multiple districts across the county, including Riverhead and Mattituck.

Wherever you look, there will be opposition, but also, there’s a lot of beauty and acceptance among people.”

— Rose Honold

“Generally, we talk about ways to better our school in the ways of acceptance of the LGBT community,” said Rose Honold, a Shoreham senior who became president of the club as a sophomore. As a lesbian, Honold said she was searching for her place in the school, and found it immediately upon joining the club. “In Shoreham, it’s very mixed. Wherever you look, there will be opposition, but also, there’s a lot of beauty and acceptance among people. The administration especially has been wonderful in terms of acceptance towards the students. The only thing that I hope to change is the way some of the other students treat students in the club.”

Honald said she would like the inclusive books to one day be part of the school’s regular English curriculum.

Her friend Alyssa Hernandez, who was a member of the Gay-Straight Alliance as a junior in 2016, said after Honold came out to her, she joined the club to “learn more about how to be a good, supportive friend.”

“I had other friends in the group that were gay too, and I just wanted to be able to understand them more, because I didn’t know a lot,” she said. “In high school, you only know what you see on TV. For the most part, Shoreham-Wading River is a really good district when it comes to being accepted for who you are.”

On the Gay-Straight Alliance and its recent grant, district Superintendent Gerard Poole said he likes how the club supports a well-rounded education.

“[The club] prepares students for the world around them,” he said. “[It teaches] tolerance, perspective, advocacy and collaboration. I hope it promotes peace in their lives and in our schools and communities.”

Mount Sinai High School. File photo by Barbara Donlon

As Mount Sinai school district outlines the first part of its budget for the 2018-19 school year, administrators hope to roll out a capital project bond to tackle what board of educations members say are immediate repairs needed across its three buildings.

The proposed $59.6 million budget aims to maintain current programs and stay within the 2 percent tax cap, and includes a transfer of $4.2 million from the district’s unallocated fund balance to pay for emergency repair projects. The transfer — $3.6 million needed for fixes that cannot wait, and extras currently being reviewed to bring the total to $4.2 — will need to be approved by the public.

Mount Sinai school district Superintendent Gordon Brosdal speaks to residents about the proposed budget plans. Photo by Kevin Redding

A bond referendum advisory committee made up of board of education and community members was formed in spring 2017 to prioritize the district’s requested projects list and make recommendations to the board of education based on an architect’s evaluation of the elementary, middle and high school buildings, which began more than three years ago.

Major proposed projects include a partial repair to the high school’s roof, multiple renovations to the building’s auditorium and replacement of its turf. The field hasn’t been improved upon in 15 years, well beyond the average lifespan of turf fields, and the bleachers are currently not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

School board and bond committee member Edward Law said while the district has several dozen projects to tackle — “over $50 million worth of requests” — the group will whittle the priorities down to what it think the community can support at this time.

“The committee is about the district’s facility needs and not just a wish list of everything we might want,” Law said, stressing the repairs in the proposed bond will not go forward without the public’s approval during a referendum vote in May. “At the end of the day, it’s not up to the advisory committee or the board of education. It’s up to the community because it’s theirs and our collective tax dollars we’re talking about.”

Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said using the unallocated fund balance for the repairs will help satisfy directives made by the state’s comptroller during an audit to bring down the balance’s amounts to 4 percent of the annual operating budget. The current fund balance is estimated to $9.9 million, or 16.7 percent of the annual budget.

“Since we have the money, let’s do it and make it happen,” Brosdal said.

District officials said updates on the bond referendum will be presented to the public over the coming months. The next board of education meeting will be held Feb. 28 in the middle school auditorium at 8 p.m.

The William Miller House had a new roof installed to protect the historic building. The renovation was made possible with local donations. Photo by Kevin Redding

When it comes to saving the oldest existing house in Miller Place, the community has it covered.

In its 298th year, the William Miller House on North Country Road stands stronger than ever thanks to a brand new, $18,300 roof made possible by donations from residents, local businesses and community groups. The roof’s installation, by Patchogue-based Ultimate Exteriors, began Dec. 26, 2017, and was completed the following week.

Miller Place-Mount Sinai Hisotrical Society Vice President Antoinette Donate and
historian Edna Davis Giffen show off some of the old shingles. Photo by Kevin Redding

Replacing the historic structure’s dilapidated roof has been a top priority for the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society members since 2015, when a campaign was launched to complete all needed repairs in time for the house’s 300th anniversary in 2020.

“The roof was open partially — you could see the sky when you were in the attic,” said Antoinette Donato, vice president of the historical society. “It’s so nice to know that the community supports us and understands the importance of this house, because it’s not just Mount Sinai and Miller Place history, it’s American history.”

Built in 1720, the house is the ancestral residence of the family the town was named after, and is on the National Register of Historic Places, significant for its lack of interior changes over the centuries.

Historical society members said they saw a spike in community donations in May 2017 after their goal was reported by local news outlets. On the day the story got out, a resident who wished to remain anonymous approached the society and promised to donate a dollar for every two dollars it raised. Local residents pitched in, as well as large contributors,including the Suffolk Federal Credit Union and PSEG Long Island.

“It’s so nice to know that the community supports us and understands the importance of this house, because it’s not just Mount Sinai and Miller Place history, it’s American history.”

—Antoinette Donato

According to members, the most memorable donor was 12-year-old Jack Soldano, who rushed to the society’s rescue by selling 1,000 comic books over the summer at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai. In the end, he raised more than $1,220 for the project, which, at the time he presented the check, brought the repair fund to $7,500. He said he did so because of his strong connection to the town landmark, as he and his family were regulars at its annual Postman Pete and Spooky Lantern Tour events.

“I remember when I was younger and having so much fun” he said. “I want the younger kids to be able to experience that too.”

Gerard Mannarino, treasurer of the historical society, announced the historical society reached its $18,300 goal in December, and shingles were delivered right before Christmas.

Society board member Edna Davis Giffen said she couldn’t believe her eyes as construction crews began the repair.

“We’d been talking about this for years — wanting to get this roof done — and never had the money to do it,” Giffen said. “Now, all of a sudden, here it was. And now it’s all done. It’s just so wonderful.”

The historical society hopes to tackle its second priority, restoring the house’s 16 windows, as soon as possible.

Crews looking for Nikola Tesla’s famed "death ray" come up empty

Crews working with Discovery Channel dig under the Rocky Point Fire Department in Shoreham in search of underground tunnels. Photo from Discovery Channel

After detecting something under the surface of the Rocky Point Fire Department in Shoreham using ground-penetrating radar, a duo of explorers asked permission to dig a 16-foot-deep hole on the property.

It was October 2017 and segments of a new Discovery Channel program “Tesla’s Death Ray: A Murder Declassified” were being filmed at the fire station, located just five minutes away from Wardenclyffe —
Nikola Tesla’s last standing laboratory.

With the go-ahead granted by Rocky Point Fire District Secretary Edwin Brooks, and then the rest of the district’s board, an excavation crew dug out the hole in hopes of finding the remnants of tunnels Tesla was rumored to have built under the grounds of his laboratory that connected to surrounding areas in the early 1900s.

Filming and research was also conducted on the property of the Tesla Science Center
at Wardenclyffe, but digging there was prohibited due to contamination on the site from previous tenants.

Hosts Rob Nelson and Stefan Burns of Science Channel’s Secrets of the Underground look over some findings. Photo from Science Channel

“We were definitely interested in what’s going on, and if there were some tunnels here, we’d like to know about it,” said Brooks, who was also interviewed for the show.

The multi-episode docuseries, which premiered Jan. 2 with new episodes every Tuesday,  follows military investigator Jack Murphy and Tesla historian Cameron Prince on their quest to decode some of the mysteries and urban myths surrounding the Serbian-American inventor. The two aim to track down Tesla’s innovations and research that may have gone missing from his safe after he died in a hotel room in 1943 — including a supposed formula for a particle beam, or “death ray.” Murphy and Prince theorize that designing the fatal weapon could have caused someone to murder Tesla.

“I think that’s really far-fetched, and I don’t believe that’s the case — it’s all very speculative,” said Tesla Science Center President Jane Alcorn, who, along with other board members, allowed the crew to shoot on their premises last September. “But it’s been an interesting experience.”

Alcorn said the site receives many requests a year from film and television companies, as well as documentarians from all over. In addition to Discovery Channel’s show, the Science Channel also recently shot and aired a two-part episode for its “Secrets of the Underground” show with the subtitle “Tesla’s
Final Secrets,” which similarly tested the ground beneath the laboratory in search of clues for the death ray invention.

Before filming began, Alcorn said both companies had to fill out an application, which the Tesla Science Center board reviewed to ensure its shows met their requirements for science-based content. As the programs featured testing on the grounds using magnetometers and ground-penetrating radars, they were allowed to proceed.

“We can’t control what they do with their footage or what they find, but since they’re using this equipment, if they were to find anything, it was important that it is based on science and data,” Alcorn said. “Both shows were very cooperative and we had no problem with them. We had them on-site for a couple days — they would come in the morning, do their filming and testing, and then they would leave. They were also all excellent in terms of hiring good companies, with bonafide technicians that look for voids in the ground as a means to discover whether or not there’s something underground — not just for film projects but mining companies, too.”

Permission was asked of the Rocky Point Fire Department to dig for potential underground tunnels relating to Nikola Tesla’s Wardenclyffe lab. Photo by Kevin Redding

As for Alcorn’s verdict of the shows themselves: Neither program led to any concrete discoveries, she noted, and both had the air of reality shows with repetitive material and cliffhangers before commercial breaks, which  she “wasn’t crazy about.” But she said she and other board members are grateful that expensive testing was conducted and paid for by an outside company as they themselves had long been curious about what, if anything, was under the site’s surface. Now there’s a body of data that the board can examine if it wishes, she said.

“It was an opportunity for us to save some money and get some information,” Alcorn said.

Response to the shows has been mixed among residents. Some were happy to see Shoreham and its famous scientist represented, while others dismissed the shows as sensationalized and inaccurate.

“It’s great for people to learn who [Tesla] is and bring some knowledge of Wardenclyffe to the public so we can have it turned into a proper museum and erase some of the eyesore that is there,” Wading River resident Erich Kielburger said in a closed Shoreham-Wading River community group page on Facebook.

Amanda Celikors said her 7-year-old son watched the Discovery Channel show and was fascinated by it.

“He’s learned so much about Tesla and his impact on science,” she said. “We joked that the tunnels could lead to our house. I think it’s great.”

But Rob Firriolo was less than impressed.

“Typical reality TV trash,” he wrote on the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe Facebook page. “Contrived and melodramatic, with annoying camera work and even more annoying music trying to gin up tension where there obviously is none. … We will get hours of fluff, hype and speculation with a payoff at the end as rewarding as Geraldo [Rivera] in Al Capone’s vault.”

Shoreham resident Nick Renna said in an interview he watched the Science Channel program, and enjoyed it as it shed some light on the historical value of the Wardenclyffe property.

“I thought it was really cool to see our own neighborhood on television,” Renna said. “Exposure is huge for that property. When most people hear Tesla, they think about the car, but in reality, without him, there would be no electricity, remote controls, radio waves — the guy was a historymaker. And that property is an incredible asset that we’re able to call home, to some degree.”

Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep lead an all-star cast in Steven Spielberg’s film about the release of the Pentagon Papers. Photo courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

By Kevin Redding

Like a reporter punching away at keys to hit a deadline, “The Post” is fast paced, reflective and inspired in its depiction of the most pivotal moment in American journalism: In the summer of 1971, the Washington Post risked it all to publish the Pentagon Papers, a decision that exposed the lies of political leaders surrounding the Vietnam War and firmly protected the First Amendment against suppression by the occupant of the White House.

Carried by a terrific ensemble of seasoned actors and actresses — including Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Bradley Whitford, Bob Odenkirk and Sarah Paulson — this docudrama is an incredibly entertaining, pulse-pounding and extremely timely work by a legendary filmmaker who proves he’s still at the top of his game.

A scene from ‘The Post’

In the beginning of 2017, Steven Spielberg was antsy. Antsy because he was sitting around in postproduction limbo, waiting for the special effects to be assembled on his upcoming blockbuster, “Ready Player One.” Antsy to get back behind the camera and do what he does best. And perhaps a little antsy in observance of the state of America around him, in which the president of the United States wages war on the media on a day-to-day basis via Twitter and continually discards foolproof facts as “fake news.”

Enter “The Post,” a film whose screenplay Spielberg read in February, began shooting in May and released nationwide in late December. “When I read the first draft of the script [written by newcomer Liz Hannah], this wasn’t something that could wait three years or two years,” Spielberg said in an interview with USA Today. “This was a story I felt we needed to tell today.”

A fitting entry in Spielberg’s recent arsenal of films celebrating “American values” (“Lincoln,” “Bridge of Spies”), “The Post” is certainly not subtle in its intentions as a reflection of today’s climate, championing the merits of the press and villainizing leaders who wish to stamp it out. This is all done through the masterful vision of Spielberg, who moves the camera like no other director, knowing exactly when to hold on a moment and when to deliver a visual treat for the audience.

The Washington Post reporters in the film — seen schmoozing in cigarette smoke-filled newsrooms, racing to track down sources, and click-clacking away on typewriters in an effort to make the public aware that their leaders knew the war in Vietnam was a losing battle for decades, yet continued to let young soldiers die mostly to avoid the humiliation of an American defeat — are the heroes, “the small rebellion,” as Odenkirk’s Ben Bagdikian calls them.

Meanwhile, President Richard Nixon is portrayed only as a dark silhouette in a voyeuristic shot through the windows of the White House as he barks into a phone to administration officials that “The press is the enemy” and must be silenced with an injunction. He also asserts that no reporter from the Washington Post is ever to be allowed in the White House.

As stated in the movie by Ben Bradlee (Hanks), the famously tough, feather-ruffling editor of the Post: “We have to be the check on their power. We don’t hold them accountable, my God, who will?”

The heart and soul of the movie lies with the working relationship between Bradlee and Katharine Graham (Streep), the Post’s publisher who inherits her family’s newspaper after her husband — Philip Graham, publisher since 1946, who succeeded Katharine’s father — dies, catapulting her into a position neither she nor anybody else ever expected her to fill. Throughout the course of the film, Graham finds her voice and becomes a leader in the male-dominated business, a journey that’s handled beautifully and satisfyingly. And, like everything else, hits a poignant note in modern times.

After The New York Times receives and publishes several top-secret pages of the Pentagon Papers, the Nixon administration hits it with a lawsuit, prompting the courts to rule that the Times cannot publish any more of the documents or any of its findings.

Not one to be outdone by the New York Times, Bradlee encourages his assistant editor, Bagdikian, to chase down the Times’ source for the leak, who delivers to the Post a total 7,000 pages of the documents. In an especially thrilling scene, Bradlee hosts a small team of reporters in his living room to sift through and make sense of the piles of papers, all while his wife (Paulson) serves sandwiches, his daughter sells lemonade, and a pack of lawyers and newspaper investors balk at their plan to undermine Nixon’s authority and publish them, fearing it will result in the paper’s demise.

Graham must decide whether or not to allow the documents to be published. By doing so, she risks the legacy of her family’s newspaper and also the friendships she has with many Washington, D.C., players, including Robert McNamara, secretary of defense under President Lyndon Johnson, who is largely involved in the deception of the American public. Although we, the audience, know the outcome of the film’s events, it’s great fun to watch it unfold, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s a history lesson presented by some of the finest actors, and the greatest director, that ever lived. It’s an incredibly human and powerful story that serves as a great reminder that the voices of the governed should always be louder than those of the governors.

Rated PG-13 for “salty language,” “The Post is now playing in local theaters.

The Briarcliff building at 18 Tower Hill Road in Shoreham, was formerly the Briarcliff Elementary School until it closed in 2014. File photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

Some residents see it as a magical place full of rich history and memories that deserves preservation, others consider it a tax burden that should be sold and disposed of. The future of Briarcliff Elementary School, a shuttered, early-20th century building on Tower Hill Road in Shoreham, is currently up in the air as the school district looks to community members to weigh in on potential options.

A dozen voices were heard Jan. 9 during a public forum held by Shoreham-Wading River’s board of education to decide the fate of the beloved historic school, which has sat vacant for the last three years. The nearly 27,000-square-foot manor was built in 1907, expanded on through 2007 and closed permanently in 2014 as part of the district’s restructuring plan.

David Madigan, a Tesla Science Center board member and a former Briarcliff student, pleads his case to the board as to why it should preserve the school building. Photo by Kevin Redding

Administrators made it clear during the meeting that the board has no plans for the property at this time and, due to declining enrollment throughout the district, does not foresee it will be used for instructional use anytime soon — be it a pre-K or BOCES program. Board members said it will determine the best course of action for the building based on input from the community in the coming months.

“The board will not be making any decisions tonight on the future of the Briarcliff elementary school building, we’re only listening to residential statements,” said board president Robert Rose. “We recognize the importance of input from the entire community.”

This year, the annual operating costs for the property are estimated to total $95,000, which are expensed through the district’s general fund and includes building and equipment maintenance; insurance; and utilities, according to Glen Arcuri, assistant superintendent for finances and operations.

A presentation of the pricey upkeep didn’t dissuade several residents from speaking passionately about the school’s place in the history of Shoreham, pleading with the board to neither sell nor redevelop it for condominiums, as one speaker suggested.

“It was such a wonderful place — the children loved the building,” said Bob Korchma, who taught at Briarcliff for a number of years. “To lose such a great part of our community for housing and any other endeavors would be crazy. It has such history and working there was one of the best parts of my life.”

Debbie Lutjen, a physical education teacher at the school for 10 years, echoed the sentiments, calling the building “special,” and encouraged the board to move the two-floor North Shore Public Library that is currently attached to the high school to Briarcliff.

“If we sell, it’s a one-time influx of cash and we’re never going to get it back again. I think we should work together to keep it as an asset for Shoreham-Wading River.”

—Colette Grosso

“The majority of my teaching career in the district was at the high school, and when they put the public library there, I believe it created several security problems where the general public was on school grounds during the school day,” Lutjen said, suggesting that the freed up space at the high school could be used for classrooms, a larger cafeteria, a fitness center and testing rooms.

Residents also pushed the idea to designate the building a historic landmark and pursue grants, potentially from U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), to restore it. David Kuck, whose son went to Briarcliff, said on top of making it a historic site, the district should turn it into a STEM center for students across Suffolk County, as it stands in the shadow of inventor Nikola Tesla’s famous Wardenclyffe Tower.

David Madigan, a Tesla Science Center board member and a former Briarcliff student, outlined the building’s history for the board — three generations of the prominent Upham family, including a veteran of the Civil War, built and owned the school in three different phases — and urged that covenants be filed on the property that says the building could never be taken down.

“The exterior must be kept in its historic state,” Madigan said. “It’s a very valuable and historical asset for our village. And it’s the most important thing to preserve as a resident.”

Joan Jacobs, a Shoreham resident for 40 years and former teacher, explained to the board how the building was the model for the mansion in the “Madeline” children’s books by Ludwig Bemelmans, who worked at a tavern on Woodville Road.

Joan Jacobs gets emotional talking about her connection and history with Shoreham’s Briarcliff Elementary School. Photo by Kevin Redding

“It’s so rich and having taught there for 14 years, having a daughter go through there, there’s an awful lot there,” an emotional Jacobs said. “It’s a shame to throw away our history.”

Both Bob Sweet and Barbara Cohen, members of Shoreham Village, advocated that the school be redeveloped as a residence for seniors in the area.

“I care about this building and sorely miss when the school buses coming up the road to drop the grade schoolers off,” Sweet said. “I admonish you don’t sell the property and explore the notion of turning this into condos for retired village members.”

But Colette Grosso, a special education aide at Miller Avenue School, said she hopes the community works toward a solution where the building remains an asset within the district for educational purposes as opposed to housing.

“All-day daycare and aftercare services could be done there, and there are other organizations besides BOCES that would love to use the facility to serve special education, which is an underserved population,” Grosso said. “If we sell, it’s a one-time influx of cash and we’re never going to get it back again. I think we should work together to keep it as an asset for Shoreham-Wading River.”

Further discussions with community members on Briarcliff will occur at the next board of education meeting Feb. 13 in the high school auditorium at 7 p.m.

Superintendent states minimal changes will be made

Rocky Point High School. File photo by Desirée Keegan

The Rocky Point school district isn’t wasting any time getting its future finances in order, kicking off the new year with a workshop meeting on the proposed budget for the 2018-19 school year.

District Superintendent Michael Ring and board of education members met prior to their regular BOE meeting Jan. 8 to evaluate priorities, expectations and projected figures within the budget, which Ring anticipates will be “a very positive one” for the school and community. Although he said it’s too early in the process to present a total budget — a specific total will be presented in March — Ring stated that the 2018-19 budget will be tax cap compliant, as the 2017-18 budget was, and will maintain the growth in tax levy within the cap. The district also plans on keeping existing instructional and cocurricular programs, as well as performing arts and athletic programs, at all levels.   

Rocky Point Superintendent Michael Ring. File photo by Erika Karp

“Nothing’s being lost,” Ring said. “That’s always a concern, particularly among members of the community who have children in the schools. That and sticking within the tax cap are things we strive for. I think those are things people in the community want from us, so hopefully that will result in general positive acceptance of this budget.”

In the 2018-19 school year, the second half of bonding for capital projects totaling $16 million, approved by voters in 2016, will take place. The first half of the bond — roughly $7 million — funded projects completed this past summer, including, but not limited to, districtwide asbestos removal, the installation of air conditioning in the high school auditorium and multiple renovations within the Joseph A. Edgar Intermediate School, from making its bathrooms compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act to replacing boiler, burners and old piping.

The second half of the capital projects list — costing $9 million —  will fund the installation of energy-efficient ceilings and light-emitting diode lights throughout the district’s schools, bathroom renovations in the high school and Frank J. Carasiti Elementary School, modifications to the heating and ventilation systems and replacement of the public address and clock systems districtwide, among other things. The board plans to begin the improvements after school lets out this June, working throughout the summer for a before-fall completion date.

“It’s a lot of little things that need to be done,” Ring said. “[It happens] when facilities reach 30 to 40 years old.”

Greg Hilton, school business official, explained that, because of the bond, total debt service within the preliminary 2018-19 budget is at a peak $4.28 million, compared to $3 million in 2016-17. It won’t stay that way though, he said.

“This is the top,” he said. “And we’re expiring smaller debt in its place.”

“Nothing’s being lost. That’s always a concern, particularly among members of the community who have children in the schools.”

— Michael Ring

A “special recurring item” in the budget is a proposal to hire a full-time equivalent additional teaching assistant at the middle and high school level to support the classrooms that have a high population of students with disabilities, including first-level foreign language classes in the high school.

Ring said due to scheduling, coursework and graduation requirements, certain noncore courses end up having 50 percent or more of its students needing special education. When the ratio of students with disabilities in a classroom reaches 50 percent, the new hire would be utilized to assist the general teacher, modifying instruction and helping those students.

One-time proposals may include a $34,000 purchase of a van to help the district’s maintenance mechanic transport tools and parts efficiently, rather than forcing him to carry items to a job; an $80,000 renovation of the high school’s weight room; $20,000 for a small turf groomer for interim maintenance on the district’s athletic field while utilizing The LandTek Group for the bigger jobs; and $50,000 for upgrades to the high school auditorium speakers and wiring, prompted by resident complaints over the sound quality in that room.

The next budget workshop will be held Feb. 5 at 6 p.m. at Rocky Point High School.

Smithtown resident Tom Lohmann takes the oath of office after accepting appointment to Smithtown Town Board. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

In Smithtown, a new year brings with it new chances.

Almost two months after Tom Lohmann (C) was trounced in the race for Smithtown Town Board, the former New York City Police Department member was sworn in to fill the vacant council seat left by new supervisor, Ed Wehrheim (R).

Lohmann, 60, a special investigator for the Suffolk district attorney, came in sixth place receiving 9.31 percent of the votes as candidate on the Conservative ticket Nov. 7. He was appointed councilman at the Jan. 9 town board meeting.

His appointment officially took effect Jan. 10, and he will serve through Dec. 31. Lohmann will need to campaign in November if he wishes to fill the remaining year of Wehrheim’s term through December 2019.

Tom Lohmann. Photo by Johnny Cirillo

“I wasn’t expecting this,” Lohmann said of his appointment by Wehrheim, rumblings of which were heard at the end of December. “It’s a big privilege and I’m honored that the board saw fit to give me this opportunity. Over the next 11 months, the people in this town will see the type of person that I am — my word is my bond and I look forward to working for the people in this community.”

Lohmann said he intends to make good on his campaign promises to revise and update Smithtown’s “antiquated” code and redevelop a comprehensive master plan to include all hamlets, in consultation with civic groups and local businesses, to create a better, more transparent government. During the campaign, he said he would like to start up quarterly community meetings in different hamlets so town officials could sit with residents to gauge their concerns and get feedback. He will also be the only town councilmember from Smithtown as the others reside in St. James and Kings Park.

During the meeting, three members of the board — Wehrheim, Lisa Inzerillo (R) and Thomas McCarthy (R) — voted to appoint Lohmann with councilman Lynn Nowick (R) abstaining. Nowick said she wanted an
opportunity to vet all the interested parties for the position and hear community input before making her decision. The town board had about four résumés for the council seat to review, Wehrheim said.

“I would like to have had a longer, more thorough vetting process,” Nowick said. “I wanted to first hear the public possibly at this meeting or the second meeting this month, because I answer to them. But I have no problem with Mr. Lohmann. We’ll work together fine.”

Many residents took to the podium to confront Wehrheim and the rest of the board about their decision to appoint Lohmann instead of Democratic candidate Amy Fortunato. Fortunato placed third in the general election, behind the two incumbents in the election with 17.60 percent of the votes.

“Amy received almost double the amount of votes as Mr. Lohmann,” said Maria LaMalfa, a Smithtown resident of 33 years. “We have 23,000 Democrats, 35,000 Republicans and 2,000 minor party registered voters and we all want the same things in our town. I think the way to accomplish what we want is to work together as a coalition. We have not had that in all the years I’ve lived here.”

“I would like to have had a longer, more thorough vetting process”
—Lynne Nowick

Another resident, Elizabeth Isabella, echoed these concerns.

“I hope in the future we can dialogue across party lines and I want you to know I do congratulate you, but I am very disappointed that Amy’s votes were not taken into consideration,” Isabella said. “And I do wonder what the conversation was as you made your decision.”

Wehrheim pointed out that two major appointments made to the Conservation Board made earlier in the meeting were given to Democrats.

“We do intend to work across party lines,” Wehrheim responded.

Following the meeting, the new supervisor further defended his decision to bring Lohmann aboard, claiming he was a perfect fit for the board.

“We needed to find someone who is thinking the way we’re thinking moving forward so the government can be cohesive and all on the same page,” Wehrheim said. “I also believe there’s a distinct advantage of having someone on this board with a law enforcement background. I think he’ll be an asset when it comes to interacting with [police] and dealing with the opioid epidemic.

Mount Sinai resident Kevin Foley fulfilled a lifelong dream of being on ‘Jeopardy!,’ posing with Alex Trebek to commemorate the experience. Photo from Kevin Foley

Since he was 10 years old, Kevin Foley dreamed of going on his favorite television show, standing behind a podium and giving answers in the form of a question. Last month, the 58-year-old Suffolk County police captain from Mount Sinai finally got his wish as a contestant on “Jeopardy!” where he won a total of $18,000.

“It was the culmination of a lifelong effort,” Foley said of his appearances on two “Jeopardy!” episodes, which aired Dec. 27 and 28. He won his first appearance, raking in $16,000, and fell short of victory in the second, taking home a $2,000 consolation prize for second place. Although he “kicks himself” for the minute error that cost him a win in the second game, failing to risk enough in the final Jeopardy round, Foley said it was an experience he’ll always cherish.

“It was definitely something to check off my bucket list,” he said. “It took me 30-something years to get on there, but I never stopped trying. It’s very satisfying.”

In the late 1960s, Foley, a student in the Plainedge school district at the time, came home for lunch every day and watched “Jeopardy!” with his mother, transfixed by the high-stakes quiz competition then hosted by Art Fleming. The two would bounce the show’s clues off one another, trying to decode them before the contestants did — a routine that continued into the next decade. He said early days with his mother, Dolores Foley, fed right into his already voracious appetite for trivia and knowledge.

“I was the kid that the librarian had to keep telling, ‘No, you can’t take that book out, it’s too advanced for you,’” he said, laughing. “I’ve always read a heck of a lot and retained what I read. My mom was the same way.”

In between the show’s initial cancellation in 1975 and reemergence in 1984 with its new host Alex Trebek, Foley applied to the Suffolk County Police Department, trained in the academy and became an
officer within the 3rd Precinct, officially starting in 1983 when he was 23.

Throughout his career, Foley has served in multiple precincts and was involved in the rescue of a 2-year-old girl who had fallen to the bottom of an in-ground pool. For the past year, Foley has been a precinct delegate for a group called Brotherhood for the Fallen, which sends members of the police department across the country to funerals for law enforcement officers who have been killed. It also provides funds to family members to help with immediate financial needs.

But his desire to be on “Jeopardy!” never went away.

After the show returned to airwaves in 1984, he and his mother would drive to Resorts International in Atlantic City where contestant tryouts were held throughout the year.

“But we never made it past the initial stages,” Foley said of passing the preliminary 50-question written test.

Since the ’80s, he said he swam in the contestant pool for “Jeopardy!” roughly 10 different times — always close but ultimately never chosen. In December 2000, he was one of eight people in the preliminary rounds on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” but never hit the hot seat.

This past May, Foley, like clockwork, took the show’s annual timed, 50-question qualifying exam online, covering the wide range of categories found on the show, with 35 being a passing score. In July, he was called in for an appointment in the show’s Manhattan offices for further tests; mock rounds of the game for evaluation of on-air stage presence and interviews with producers and members of the production staff. In August, he was asked if he was available for tapings in Los Angeles in September.

Foley, who said he reads two or three books a week and “knows a little bit about a lot,” had amassed a collection of “Jeopardy!” books, filled with facts, and studied them every night leading to September.

“He also watched the show every day, he bought a physical at-home version of the game and I constantly quizzed him,” said his wife Joan Foley, who was in the audience during the taping. “It was nerve-wracking to sit there among all these other people and everybody else on the show was so smart. I was so proud of him.”

She said that her husband’s mother, who passed away three summers ago, would have been too.

“His mom is definitely smiling down on him now,” she said.

On Foley’s first night, despite trailing behind in third place with $4,400 to the other contestants’ $5,000 and $7,600 after the first round, he quickly bounced back as champion by the end of the Double Jeopardy! Round, finishing with $16,000 to the others’ $8,799 and $0. He said he most surprised himself during the game by correctly answering with “Drake” to a question in the category of Hip Hop and R&B 2017. “Everyone was like, what is this 58-year-old doing answering this one?” he said laughing. He said it was difficult to process what Trebek said to him during the commercial break as he was too concentrated on the game.

“You kind of get engrossed in it all,” Foley said, adding that the show’s host is not as intense and standoffish as he assumed. “He’s very polite and good-natured — much more personable than I expected him to be.”

While in the lead in his second game against a new batch of contestants, Foley got caught in the show’s strict “to the letter” rules. The category was “Only The Lonely” with the clue reading: “This 12-letter word often followed ‘Miss’ in romantic advice column titles.” Foley answered, “What is Lonelyheart?” to which Trebek responded “yes,” which he retracted seconds later.

“No, sorry,” Trebek said on the heels of the judges’ reevaluation. “We have to rule against you. It’s Miss Lonelyhearts, not Miss Lonelyheart.”

While that one-letter difference cost him $1,600 and a potential second win, his take-home money is making possible a trip in the spring to Yellowstone National Park, a longtime dream destination for he and his wife.

Not to mention Foley’s “Jeopardy!” success has made him a celebrity among friends and co-workers, many of whom were unaware of his appearances until they were about to air. Nearly 100 people attended a viewing party for the episodes, held at Tommy’s Place in Port Jefferson.

“It was so exciting,” said Foley’s longtime friend Roger Rutherford, general manager of Roger’s Frigate, of seeing his 10-year friend’s face up on the big screen. “The place was packed and the second ‘Jeopardy!’ announced who was on the show, the crowd went wild. And every time Kevin’s name was mentioned, the crowd roared with cheers and claps and booing the other competitors. Because of the environment, you would think there was a football game on.”

Jack Catalina, Foley’s best friend and former partner on the force, said he wasn’t surprised by how well he did.

“He’s always looking to show everybody how smart he is,” Catalina said, jokingly. “I was so happy for him, and I think he did very well. He’s always been very good at these types of trivia games.”

So much so, Joan Foley said, that he serves as designated host during family game nights, as it would be too unfair to have him compete.

Foley himself laughed at this, before quoting Herman Edwards, the former head coach of the New York Jets.

“You play to win the game,” he said.

Social

9,197FansLike
0FollowersFollow
1,123FollowersFollow
33SubscribersSubscribe