Tags Posts tagged with "Kids"

Kids

By Kevin Redding

A beloved Mount Sinai administrator, whose kindness and compassion have served the district for nearly four decades, is retiring at the end of the year — leaving behind huge shoes to fill.

Mount Sinai Elementary School Principal John Gentilcore dresses up on Election Day in 2008. Photo from John Gentilcore

Every morning for the last 17 years, principal John Gentilcore has stood in front of Mount Sinai Elementary School to greet his students with his warm trademark smile as they hop off the bus.

As part of his daily routine, he also makes a point to put time aside in his administrative schedule to visit classrooms and engage with the kids, oftentimes sitting, legs crisscrossed on the floor with them. When lunchtime rolls around, Gentilcore pulls up a chair and eats with them in the cafeteria, making sure to sit at a different table each day.

“I definitely get more from the kids than they get from me … they’re so genuine,” the principal said, adding that there’s something about the kids that brings a smile to his face.

When Gentilcore became principal in 2000, kindergarten teacher Willow Bellincampi noticed right away just how much the kids loved him.

“Sometimes with the principal, kids are afraid, but when John comes through the door, they’re so happy,” she said. “He’s always around, he gets down to their level, looks them in the eye when talking to them and not a lot of adults do that. ‘I’ll send you to the principal’ is never a threat to them because they love him. He’s compassionate.”

At 60, Gentilcore admitted although it wasn’t an easy decision, retiring at this point in his career will give him more time to spend with family and friends, and travel.

“I definitely get more from the kids than they get from me … they’re so genuine.”

—John Gentilcore

“I’ve been really proud to be part of the Mount Sinai district and I will miss the people, the great faculty, staff, and, first and foremost, I will miss the children,” he said.

Before becoming principal of the elementary school, Gentilcore taught several grade levels and coached girl’s varsity soccer at Friends Academy, a private school in Glen Cove, after graduating from SUNY Oneonta.

As the son of a superintendent — his father — and an elementary school principal, Gentilcore said he received informal education at the dinner table with them.

He was first named principal at the school in 1987, before being named the assistant principal at Mount Sinai Middle School in 1991, and principal in 1995. Ultimately, he landed back at the elementary school in 2000, where he said he “felt at home.” In 2003, he received his doctorate from Hofstra University.

Mount Sinai Elementary School Principal John Gentilcore dresses up in pajamas with students. Photo from John Gentilcore

“There’s something about kids that is very refreshing,” he said. “The elementary school is where their educational journey begins and it’s where we can start a real foundation together. Throughout the day, if a little one needs my assistance, I’ll conference with them. I try to make each day a little bit better than the day before.”

Although reluctant, the school board voted to accept Gentilcore’s August retirement.

“He is the consummate elementary school principal, a gentleman who deeply cares about his students, and we will miss him as a board and a school district,” Board trustee Robert Sweeney said during the Feb. 15 meeting.

Assistant principal Elizabeth Hine considers Gentilcore the best mentor she could ask for.

“I can’t say enough about how wonderful he is as a boss and a principal,” she said. “He taught me how to handle students, parents, everything … he’s just amazing. He enjoys what he does. It’s all about the kids, and he keeps that in the forefront of his mind and that’s how he makes all his decisions. It’s going to be a challenge for a lot of teachers to come in on a daily basis knowing he’s not going to be there.”

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The first time we hold them, they fit into the corner of our arms with room to spare. Their impossibly small pink toes fit neatly in our eyelids as we kiss their wiggling feet.

We lower their grocery-sack-sized bodies gently into their cribs. During the day we bring food to their toothless mouths, and their bodies process the food as they take what they need and leave the rest for us to clean and remove.

Suddenly they are coasting, looking into the side of a couch, a chair or our legs, standing for the first time. Amid the cheers and squeals, they fall and we rush to the floor near them and congratulate them. Before long we’re bending down, gently holding tiny hands engulfed in our oven-mitt-sized palms.

From their first walking steps, they progress to trotting. It’s a wonderful yet terrible transition, as their developing minds can’t process dangers at the same rate that their feet propel them. We keep up or race ahead, making sure they don’t step off a curb until all movement on the street has stopped.

They no longer want to sit in the car seat. They arch backs that are shorter than our arms, making it impossible to buckle them in. We distract them enough to close the clasps, run to the front seat and bring the car to a high enough speed that they sleep.

We take them roller skating, skiing or ice skating. We start them early so they’ll become naturals. Brilliant idea, except that they need us to put our hands under their armpits to keep them upright. After a time far too short for our kids’ liking, our backs scream to stop. We can’t bend down or our spines will go on strike. At that point, these small people want hot chocolate or the chance to try skiing, snowboarding or rollerblading on their own.

We stand on a field, tossing a ball lightly near their gloves. They throw the ball back in our general direction, discouraged that they haven’t discovered the magic of a catch. We get down on one knee, look them in the eye, pull up their small chins and smile, hoping we can teach the mechanics of throwing before they become too upset to keep trying.

We protect their heads from colliding with the tops of tables, reach for glasses from the cabinet, and help them into the seats at restaurants where their feet dangle far from the floor.

Pretty soon, they want to ride a bike. We promise to hold on but our backs, yet again, have other ideas. They shout at us for letting go or, maybe, they decide they want to do it on their own because they saw Timmy down the street on his bike.

Their faces, arms and legs get longer, they pick up speed everywhere they go and, before long, their heads are above the level of the kitchen table. They reach down to pet the neighbors’ big dog, and they sit in restaurant chairs with enormous feet that rest on the floor and which we wouldn’t dare put anywhere near our eyelids.

We no longer have to bend our necks to kiss the tops of their heads. In fact, with their braces gleaming in the sun, they stare or glare from under the long hair of adolescence directly into our eyes. Pretty soon we hope, as we go to sleep each night, they will be taller than we are.

Wonderful as that moment is, maybe — just for an instant — we remember that the head perched atop this growing body is the same one that fit so snugly into our arms all those years ago.

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Extended family has that wonderful yet terrible ring to it. When we gather with family we may not have seen in years, we get the chance to reminisce, to share details about our lives, and to face the horror of seeing someone who insists on reminding us of something we said or did that we’ve spent years working to forget.

Recently, we gathered with a large group of family and got to watch our children, who are now in middle and high schools, face the same treatment I recall all too well from my youth.

“He’s so grown up and handsome,” is one of the more innocuous statements about my son.

“He has your dimples,” another offered, which would be flattering except that I don’t have dimples. That lady insisted, however, that the laugh lines on the sides of my face were like dimples, to which my son and I blinked our long eyelashes, which he did get from me, and moved on.

“The last time I saw you,” one friend started, “you must have been no more than this high,” she suggested, holding her hand around mid-knee level. “Do you remember?”

No, how could he remember? When you’re that small, you barely remember your own name.

Back when I was a kid, older relatives used to approach my cheeks as if they were fruit they had to squeeze to make themselves prune juice. Between thumb and index finger, they’d grip tightly while spitting into my face something about how cute I’d become. I’d focus on not letting the tears spill down my sore cheeks as these distant relatives couldn’t keep their distance.

Other people’s kids grow up incredibly quickly because we don’t have to take care of them when they get sick at night, drive them to sports or music practices, or push them to do their homework. We don’t have to battle with them when they decide that everything anyone who is more than 20 years old says is absolute nonsense and that they don’t want to live by anyone else’s rules.

We can look at other people’s children as if they are a part of some longitudinal study or as if we are flipping through the pages of a picture book that spans several years.

When I see some of these children who drift in and out of my life every few years, I’m tempted to tell them stories that wouldn’t interest them, about how incredibly shy they were 10 years earlier, or how their laugh used to be like a bubble machine, filling the room with happy suds. For the giggling girl who became the taciturn teenager, those stories are as welcome as persistent questions about the boys in her grade or events that occurred during the day in school.

I can’t stop myself from commenting on how much taller the kids are getting, in large part because many of these teenagers, who I used to get on one knee to see eye to eye, are now towering over me. I even made one of them smile when I asked if he wouldn’t mind bending down to hug me.

At this recent gathering, I asked my son to go around the table and name as many of the relatives as he could. The relatives were aghast at my putting him on the spot but, thoroughly enjoying the day, he recognized the request was a playful prank.

No matter what I say to other people’s kids, I make sure I don’t pinch anyone’s cheeks. Even all these years later, I can still see those feral fingers and thumbs coming at me like talons.

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Children play in the prekindergarten playground at Nassakeag Elementary School. File photo

By Andrea Moore Paldy

After a heartfelt send-off of its high school graduates, Three Village school district prepares to welcome its newest and youngest students to prekindergarten at Nassakeag Elementary School.

SCOPE at Three Village Prekindergarten will expand to welcome three-year-olds this fall and make some tweaks to the district’s fledgling program.

The new three-year-old program, offered for the first time in September, will meet three days a week for 2.5 hours. It will cost $215 a month.

Kristin Rimmer, formerly Nassakeag’s assistant principal and preschool liaison for the tuition-based program, told the school board that parents and children have responded positively to the program for four-years-olds.

She said parents surveyed said they would recommend the program or send their younger children.

The collaboration between Three Village and SCOPE Education Services offers a “play-based” curriculum that “supports students’ cognitive, social and emotional learning” and helps prepare them for kindergarten in the district, Rimmer said.

Each class is led by a state-certified teacher and assistant, and incorporates New York State’s Prekindergarten Foundation for the Common Core.

Students are introduced to “Fundations” — the phonics programs used in Three Village — guided reading, and foundational math and technology skills, Rimmer said. SCOPE Education Services, which runs both universal (free) and fee-based prekindergartens across the island, staffs and runs the day-to-day operation.

A majority of the 32 students enrolled in the first year attended the half-day classes. The price of a full-day — $1,100 a month — was a deterrent for families, Rimmer said.

So, in the coming year, there will only be half-day classes. Eliminating the full-day option will lower tuition because the program will no longer have to cover the pricey full-day certification fee that is paid to the state Office of Children and Family Services.

The cost for a four-year-old to attend five days for 2.5 hours a day will be reduced to $300 instead of $400 a month.

The new three-year-old program, offered for the first time in September, will meet three days a week for 2.5 hours. It will cost $215 a month.

The three-year-old program, Rimmer said, will be similar to the four-year-old program in its approach and will prepare students for the four-year-old class.

Rimmer said another area that will see improvements is pickup and drop off, which some parents felt was a missed opportunity for parents to connect with teachers.

Rimmer commented, “I am optimistic that the changes we are proposing will make prekindergarten more accessible to all, while continuing to reach the level of programmatic success we achieved this year,” she said.

Residents from all over Long Island flocked to parades and firework celebrations happening in from Brookhaven to Huntington, in honor of Independence Day.

The Northport Chamber of Commerce hosted the 14th annual Halloween Hayride in Northport Village Park on Sunday, Oct. 25. There was pumpkin-decorating, a petting zoo, Halloween treats and a costume contest. A hayride pulled by a Ford tractor took children on a ride through the park.

Huntington Town celebrated fall this weekend at the annual Long Island Fall Festival. The event, free to the public, is organized by the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce and spans Friday, Oct. 9 to Monday, Oct. 12. Festivities include a carnival, food courts, entertainment, vendors, animals and more.

Galip Gulmez mugshot from SCPD

Police arrested an elderly man on Monday, three weeks after they say he lured children with candy while masturbating.

The 87-year-old Lloyd Harbor man was sitting in his gray 2011 Subaru at West Neck Beach on the afternoon of Aug. 10, when he allegedly offered candy to nearby children. The Suffolk County Police Department said a woman who was at the beach with the kids went up to the Subaru to intervene and saw that the suspect was not wearing pants and was masturbating.

Detectives from the SCPD’s 2nd Squad investigated the case, and on Monday afternoon arrested Horseshoe Path resident Galip Gulmez. He is charged with public lewdness and with endangering the welfare of a child.

Attorney information for Gulmez was not available Tuesday morning.

According to police, the suspect was scheduled to be arraigned on Tuesday.

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Air-conditioned fun

"Cinderella's Glass Slipper" is running at the Smithtown Performing Arts Center through August 23. Photo from Smithtown Performing Arts Center

It’s really hot out there and lugging the kids, the water bottles and the snacks can be enough to bring on the whining — from you, as much as from them. So, let’s bring on the air-conditioning with some fun indoor activities.

Theater

Nothing livens up the day like a little live theatah! And the kids love hobnobbing with the cast afterwards during the meet and greets.

Theatre Three in Port Jefferson, known for its great children’s productions, is putting on “Jack and the Beanstalk” on Friday and Saturdays through August 6 and “The Pied Piper” from August 7 to August 15. Not only is the price right —$10 a ticket —it’s just the right length to keep the littlest kids from squirming. And after the show, you can grab lunch or an ice cream or even have tea at The Secret Garden nearby!

For more information, go to theatrethree.com.

The Smithtown Performing Arts Center also puts on children’s productions performed by young adults. “Cinderella’s Glass Slipper” is running from July 27 to August 23 on Saturdays and Sundays. These tickets are a little more pricey at $15 per ticket.

There’s a shopping center adjacent to the theater with many lunch-time offerings, but that’s if you get that far, since an Italian ice stand is just one door away…

For more information, go to smithtownpac.org.

Museum Row in Garden City

One of the most underrated destinations on the island, in my opinion, is the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City. From the moment you enter the glass-encased lobby, you are greeted with airplanes — a Blue Angel jet, for one — dangling from the high ceilings. Before entering the galleries, the kids can enjoy the playroom, complete with a life-size space shuttle and cockpit with buttons and levers to push and experiments to conduct. The kids also love to pretend to be airline passengers in the airline seats —taken from a real airplane — and in the remains of a real galley with pretend food.

Once you’ve dragged the kids from the playroom — and believe me, they’ll need to be dragged, even the nine-year-olds who are technically too old for the play area —you can hit the galleries, which give a history of flight and space. While the first few exhibits explain concepts like “lift,” the majority of the displays feature real airplane cockpits, military jets, a pontoon plane along with flight memorabilia from the World Wars and the early passenger jet days.

Some of the other highlights — really, there are too many to name — include a Blue Angels motion simulator ride, a lunar module prototype, as well as a replica of the lunar module that brought Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon.

Other museum offerings, at an additional cost, are a space-themed café with hot dogs and other such snacks, a Firefighter’s Museum and a planetarium and Imax theater. This museum is definitely a personal favorite, and it’s open everyday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Labor Day. For more information, go to the website at cradleofaviation.org.

Just next door to the airplane museum is Nunley’s Carousel. We always try to stop in on our way from the museum. For $2 each, you and your children can take a turn on this classic, old-fashioned merry-go-round. Check the website before you leave home for the hours!

Many are familiar with the wonders of the Long Island Children’s Museum. From it’s Tots Spot play area where the kids can pretend to drive a Long Island Railroad train, be commercial fisherman or climb to the top of the lighthouse and slide down, to its musical instrument exhibit, this is a museum that caters to all ages.

While some of the most popular exhibits are the bubbles, the “beach” area — the sand has a real allure during the winter — and the two-story climbing structure, there are a host of activities to keep the kids entertained. Many of the more sophisticated exhibits such as the building blocks and displays on communication and music are upstairs.

There is a lunchroom with vending machines, and, of course, the café over at the Cradle of Aviation. The museum is open every day until September 7, 2015 and closed on Mondays after. For more information, go to the website licm.org.

 

File photo

Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) and the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless are seeking the public’s help to provide more than 4,000 school supplies and backpacks to kids in need.

Drop off school supplies at Stern’s office at 1842 East Jericho Turnpike in Huntington, through August 10, anytime between Mondays and Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Supplies sought include backpacks, crayons, pencils, binders, erasers, sharpeners, calculators, glue sticks, pens, colored pencils, highlighters, pocket folders, compasses, index cards, protractors, composition books and more.

For more information on how you can help, visit the coalition’s website here.