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President Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of education Betsy DeVos has been met with opposition from North Shore educators. Photo from Senate committee website

Many North Shore superintendents and educators are concerned with President Donald Trump’s (R) nominee for secretary of education: Betsy DeVos, chairman of The Windquest Group, a privately-held investment and management firm based in Michigan, to serve as secretary of education. According to her website, the Michigan resident has a history in politics spanning more than 35 years. She was elected as chairman of the Michigan Republican Party four times, and worked in a leadership capacity for campaigns, party organizations and political action committees, her website states.

DeVos went before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions for a confirmation hearing Jan. 17.

“Any programs and initiatives that attempt to weaken public education by diverting funds away from it … do not have my support.”

—Paul Casciano

“I share President-elect Trump’s view that it’s time to shift the debate from what the system thinks is best for kids to what moms and dads want, expect and deserve,” DeVos said during her opening remarks at the hearing. “Why, in 2017, are we still questioning parents’ ability to exercise educational choice for their children? I am a firm believer that parents should be empowered to choose the learning environment that’s best for their individual children. The vast majority of students in this country will continue to attend public schools. If confirmed, I will be a strong advocate for great public schools. But, if a school is troubled, or unsafe, or not a good fit for a child — perhaps they have a special need that is going unmet — we should support a parent’s right to enroll their child in a high-quality alternative.”

DeVos’ views on public education created a stir around the country, and superintendents from the North Shore and county as a whole joined the chorus of those skeptical about the direction she might take the country’s education system.

“I have devoted my entire adult life to public education and believe it is the bedrock of our democracy,” Port Jefferson school district Superintendent Paul Casciano said in an email. “Any programs and initiatives that attempt to weaken public education by diverting funds away from it or that offer alternatives that are not subjected to the same strict standards and scrutiny that public schools must live by, do not have my support.”

Kings Park Superintendent Tim Eagen echoed many of Casciano’s concerns.

“I find President Trump’s nomination for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, to be unacceptable,” he said in an email. “Education in this country is at an important crossroads. As an educational leader and parent of two public school students, it is my goal to provide our children with a globally competitive, rigorous, relevant and challenging education that will prepare them to be active, contributing members of society.”

“As an educational leader and parent of two public school students, it is my goal to provide our children with a globally competitive, rigorous, relevant and challenging education.”

—Tim Eagan

Eagen also has concerns about DeVos’ qualifications.

“I believe that Betsy DeVos is unqualified to run the U.S. Department of Education,” he said. “She is a businesswoman and politician without any experience in public service or public education. She does not have an education degree, has no teaching experience, has no experience working in a school environment, never attended public school or a state university, and did not send her own four children to public school.”

Middle Country Central School District  Superintendent Roberta Gerold stressed that she does not support the appointment of DeVos, stating that she believes all of DeVos’ actions to date evidence a lack of support for, and understanding of public education.

“I was disappointed with her answers during the hearing – she didn’t appear to do much, if any, homework,” Gerold said. “She couldn’t seem to, for example, understand or explain the difference between growth and proficiency — very basic concepts. And her answer to whether guns should be allowed in schools — please.”

The superintendent said, though, that she is most disappointed that DeVos would even be considered for the position.

“It seems clear to me that this is purely a political appointment, not an appointment that recognizes merit or values authentic education,” Gerold said. “John King — who I don’t believe was a great champion of public education, at least had credentials that deserved respect. The new nominee does not. It’s worrisome and disconcerting….and insulting to the public education system, K–12 and beyond.”

She said her teachers, several who are community residents, are preparing a petition that requests the board of education adopt of resolution in opposition to the appointment.

“I was disappointed with her answers during the hearing – she didn’t appear to do much, if any, homework.”

—Roberta Georld

“I believe that our board will be supportive of that request,” she said. “I know that our board president is in agreement with opposing the nomination.”

The Miller Place school district’s administration and board of education drafted and passed a resolution opposing DeVos’ appointment. Superintendent Marianne Cartisano addressed the appointment in an open letter on the district’s website.

“Our concerns are twofold,” she said. “The first reservation we have is regarding the candidate’s lack of first-hand experience as an educator or administrator within the public school system. Since the majority of the children in the United States are currently being educated within the public school system, we feel that this experience is very important for an effective Secretary of Education.”

Cartisano elaborated on her other issues with DeVos.

“Her record also shows a clear bias towards private, parochial and charter schools and the use of vouchers to attend these schools,” Cartisano said. “This bias leads us to our second overarching concern with Betsy DeVos as a candidate for Secretary of Education. The concern is that Betsy DeVos has been a strong advocate for the use of public funds to attend private schools through vouchers, and this would have a direct negative impact on our public school system’s fiscal stability if it is put into effect on a national level.”

The committee will vote to either approve or deny DeVos’ nomination Jan. 31.

Victoria Espinoza and Desirée Keegan contributed reporting.

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Tiffany Slicklein leaps up to the rim. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Kingsmen are a powerhouse full of offensive threats — and as has been the case all season, senior Tiffany Slicklein and junior Sam Schultz stole the show this week.

The dynamic duo scored 20 points each in a 74-54 win over East Islip Jan. 24. Kings Park girls’ basketball head coach Tom Edmundson said the victory was just what the team needed after a pause in performance last week.

Sam Schultz carries the ball into East Islip’s zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“It was tough,” the coach said of the two games against Hauppauge and Bellport, the first resulting in a loss and the second a close-call win. “We were talking about picking up the intensity, picking up the pace and coming out and playing well, and I think we did. I was telling the girls they need to build off this. We’re kind of right there on the doorsteps, so we need to start playing our best basketball. This was a pretty good example of that.”

The team has five more games before playoffs start. The next matchup will be a home contest against a tough Half Hollow Hills West team. When the Kingsmen saw their opponent last, Jan. 3, they pulled away with a close 63-60 win.

“This is definitely a confidence booster” Schultz said, who added eight rebounds and four assists. “Everyone got on the board today, everyone was taking shots, so hopefully that translates to the game against Half Hollow Hills West — we had a tough game against them last time — and to the rest of the season.”

Slicklein and fellow senior Selena Ubriaco traded baskets for the first few Kings Park scores, Slicklein scoring six points and Ubriaco tallying five, before Schultz got the ball rolling. After grabbing a put-back on Slicklein’s missed extra-point attempt at a three-point play, she scored the next two field goals for Kings Park. At the end of the first quarter, the team had a 10-point lead, 21-11.

Taylor Slicklein moves the ball around a defender. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Schultz continued her scoring streak in the second, adding a field goal, three-pointer and free throw, all the first points for Kings Park in the next eight minutes.

“She can knock down the three, she can get to the rim, she makes free throws, she has a complete game,” Edmundson said of his athlete. “She’s the kind of player that will definitely play at the next level, and she’s only a junior. She’s just fantastic.”

But Schultz credits her teammates for her scoring.

“This is my fourth year on the team and I can always count on them to get me the ball if I’m open or communicating on offense, seeing the extra pass, being unselfish — and I think that helped me personally get my shots,” she said. “But it really helps us all as a team.”

Schultz had 17 first-half points, and Slicklein added 14. The pair played in the third quarter, but Edmundson continued to get his bench players time on the court, and had all starters except sophomore Sam Hogan sit in the fourth.

“I’m not looking for one girl to score all the time — although it does happen to work out that way — but our offense is geared toward everybody,” the head coach said. “I think we have a very good team, I think we have one of the best teams in the county and I think we’ll be right there with a chance to win a county championship. I think we have the ability to and I think we have the talent to.”

Slicklein, who scored her 1,000th career point last week, had a double-double in the game with 10 rebounds and also had seven blocks.

Sam Hogan drives to the basket. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We call her LeBron James because she can do everything,” Edmundson said. “She’s leading the team in rebounds, steals, assists, points, although Sam [Schultz] might have just taken over because they’ve been neck and neck all year, but she does it all. It’s very rare that you have a girl that has the ability to score on every possession, but is also willing to give it up and distribute the way she does.”

Shultz also shares the wealth. Slicklein said she’s enjoyed working alongside her teammate.

“We know exactly where each other are, we’ve been playing together for a while and it’s good to play with a girl who knows how to play like that,” she said. “It’s always fun.”

Slicklein’s twin sister Taylor finished with 11 points and eight rebounds. Hogan had eight points.

Schultz said she’s hoping the total team success can propel the team further into the postseason this year. Tiffany Slicklein said she thinks if any Kings Park team can do it, it’s this one.

“We’re getting ready,” Schultz said of the team preparing for playoffs. “Each and every practice we’re working hard, getting better, working on the little things and it’s all coming full circle — with good timing, too.”

From left, Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Kings Park Chamber of Commerce Vice President Linda Henninger pose with a check for money to fund revitalization efforts. Photo by Kevin Redding

As a result of recent state and county funding, community leaders and advocates will finally see the culmination of their hard work in planning a revitalization of downtown Kings Park and downtown Smithtown.

It was all smiles at the Kings Park Long Island Railroad Station last week as Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) announced construction of a $20 million sewer system long sought after in the hamlet’s downtown is now able to move forward as a result of recent allocations from N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and Suffolk County.

Just days after Cuomo said in his State of the State speech he would invest $40 million to build local sewer systems in Kings Park and Smithtown, the county executive presented Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) with a $200,000 check made out to the Town of Smithtown from Suffolk County to advance the community’s proposed Revitalizing Kings Park Downtown action plan, as well as a finalized draft plan developed by Vecchio and his planning team.

Bellone joked, of course, that the governor “had to come in with a slightly bigger check” than the county’s before pointing out the true movers and shakers of the revitalization plans.

“Credit doesn’t belong to any politician,” Bellone said at the event. “I’m certainly not taking credit … the credit belongs to the community. This does not happen without the community. The fact that several levels of government are coming together and funding efforts to revitalize in Kings Park and Smithtown in the downtowns reflects that the community has led the way with engaged community-based planning.”

Regarding the development of a sewer system in downtown Smithtown, Bellone said he’s directed the Suffolk County public works commissioner to begin securing an engineering and design team and have a design made up within the next six to eight weeks.

Bellone said the revitalization team of Kings Park accomplished the hard part of coming together and building a consensus around the plan and, in doing “the nitty-gritty grassroots work,” the governor took notice and it now has the resources necessary to get the job done.

“These county and state funds will help [Suffolk County] achieve our number one economic development goal: make our region once again attractive to young people by building vibrant downtowns,” he said. “These are the high knowledge, high skilled individuals we need in our region to create good paying jobs and build a 21st century economy.”

Sean Lehman, president of the Kings Park Civic Association, called the hamlet a special place to live and said with the development of its downtown it will be even better.

“There’s a reason why Kings Park and Smithtown are two of the most popular areas for people to move to in Suffolk County and that’s because of our assets,” Lehman said. “We have it all here — the people, open space, two state parks, town parks, terrific municipal workers. What we were lagging in was our downtown.”

Vecchio, with whom Bellone toured downtown Smithtown last year as the supervisor laid out his broad-based vision for revitalization, told Bellone he was grateful for all he’s done.

“Thank you for those accolades but I have no doubt in my mind that it was your intercession with the governor that brought the $40 million to the Town of Smithtown and Kings Park,” Vecchio said to the county executive. “I know everybody here is thinking at this moment … when will we get the check?”

A view of the downtown Kings Park area. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

The Kings Park revitalization effort received inspiring news this week, as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced his intention to invest $40 million to build sewers in Smithtown and Kings Park.

“These major, transformative investments in Long Island’s core infrastructure invest in the future resiliency and strength of the region,” Cuomo said. “Vital water infrastructure projects will support environmental sustainability and bolster economic growth. With these projects, we equip Long Island with the tools and resources to drive commercial activity, create jobs and build a stronger Long Island for generations to come.”

Sean Lehman, president of the Kings Park Civic Association, said before the governor’s announcement that revitalization of the Kings Park downtown seemed impossible without enough money to build a sewer system there.

“Any movement depends on [Kings Park] getting sewer money,” Lehman said in a phone interview. “Everything hinges on it.” Lehman estimated the hamlet would need “between $16 and $20 million just to bring sewage to the business district in Kings Park.”

Kings Park Civic Association Vice President Linda Henninger said this money marks a new chapter of the revitalization effort.

“This is really the beginning of not only revitalization of our hamlet, which holds so much potential, but we shouldn’t forget the positive impact it will have on the environment,” she said in an email. “Sewering is not only important for economic reasons, but also environmental. We’re very happy and look forward to rolling up our sleeves and continue to work hard for and with the community.”

Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) agreed hearing of the possibility of receiving funds is a step toward bettering the Kings Park and Smithtown communities.

“It’s a great thing,” he said in a phone interview. “I’ve been asking the county for the last three years for sewers in Kings Park and Smithtown.”

At a recent civic association meeting, the group was also enthused by news that Suffolk County put forward an economic stimulus package including $200,000 in grant money for Kings Park revitalization efforts.

“We’re excited by this,” Lehman said. “Anything that can help us move forward is good, and we appreciate the county’s effort.”

Vecchio said the town has not yet drafted a specific plan on how they will use the $200,000 grant from the county, intended to study traffic impacts and parking for revitalization, since no real specifics have been given to the board yet.

In November of last year, the civic association presented the Smithtown board with its plan for revitalization, created by Vision Long Island, an organization that works to create more livable, economically stable and environmentally responsible areas on Long Island. The plan studied the demographics, and commercial areas of Kings Park, and includes recommendation and suggestions from the many meetings the organization had with Kings Park residents.

Kings Park's Paul Cooper dribbles down the sideline. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Kings Park’s boys’ basketball team nearly doubled Huntington’s second-half score to remain atop the League IV leaderboard with a 69-49 come-from-behind win Dec.30.

The Kingsmen jumped out to an 8-1 lead before the Blue Devils rattled off 15 unanswered points for a 16-8 advantage at the end of the first quarter. Senior Kevin Lawrence netted nine of those points on four baskets and a free throw.

Kings Park clawed back to trail by five with just under four minutes left, a one-point lead minutes after, and senior guard Paul Cooper helped his team take the lead, 23-22, by banking four of six free-throw attempts on fouls.

Kings Park’s Richie Price scores a layup. Photo by Bill Landon

“In that first half we weren’t communicating, and then guys started to talk and make each other accountable,” Cooper said. “So we got on track, and played good defense and that leads to open shots.”

The teams traded scores, and Huntington junior guard Mekhi Harvey let the clock unwind before scoring a field goal, to give the Blue Devils a 26-25 edge heading into the locker room.

Kings Park opened the second half with a different defensive look. The Kingsmen swarmed with a full-court press as Huntington turned the ball over and paid the price each time. Harvey said he wasn’t surprised.

“We don’t take any team lightly’ and their defense was pretty rough going into the second half,” he said.
Kings Park head coach Christopher Rubé said he told his team they might get outplayed, but told the

Kingsmen to make sure they didn’t get out worked. They took it to heart.

“We increased the intensity in the second half,” Rubé said. “We’re 6-1 but I told them ‘you have to earn it every night,’ and I think they got that message.”

Kings Park senior Jeff Li hit a big three-pointer for his first points of the game to put his team back in front, 28-26, and next was senior Richie Price, who scored his third trey of the game. Junior guard Jason Hartglass followed with his third of the game,as the Kingsmen jumped out to a 45-31 lead, and Price struck again from three-point land to put his team out front 48-31.

“When you’re in the zone you’re not thinking about your shot, you’re just letting the game come to you,” Price said. “So when the ball comes to me, I’m not thinking about it, I’m just shooting.”

Kings Park sophomore Andrew Bianco opened the scoring for the final quarter with a three-point play for a 53-35 lead. And Price followed swishing his fifth three-pointer.

Huntingotn’s Kevin Lawrence scores on a rebound. Photo by Bill Landon

Price was splitting time with Liam Thompson before an injury against East Islip the game prior sidelined Thompson. Rubé said he was proud of Price, and happy for his showing. He led the team with 17 points.

“He played great defensively, he had  great energy, played hard on our press, and that spilled over to his offensive game,” he said. “He did a great job.”

Hartglass, who scored 15 points, let one fly from the left corner while getting knocked to the court by a defender, and saw his shot make it while sitting on the floor. Matter-of-factly, he made it a four-point play from the free-throw line.

“We definitely tightened up especially with communication,” Price said. “Not only did we play harder in the second half, we played smarter.”

Huntington had no answer.

“I would say we got more confident as a team,” Huntington junior Michael Abbondandelo said, despite head coach Brian Carey pulling his starters. “We started driving to the hole more and definitely got more rebounds. Our bench definitely earned that — they needed to go in at that point — it was right to put them in.”

With the win Kings Park improves to 7-1 overall and 3-0 in league play. The Kingsmen will face Half Hollow Hills West Jan. 3 at home at 5:45 p.m.

Harvey topped the scoring chart for the Blue Devils with 17 and Lawrence tacked on 14.

With the loss Huntington drops to 2-6 overall and  1-2 in the league and plays West Islip Jan. 3 at home at 5:45 p.m.

Sean Lehmann and Linda Henninger work to bring new life to downtown Kings Park. Photo from Sean Lehmann

By Rebecca Anzel

Three Kings Park community leaders partnered to improve and invigorate the hamlet’s downtown area.

Chamber of Commerce President Anthony Tanzi, Civic Association President Sean Lehmann and Civic Association Vice President Linda Henninger had received feedback from residents and business owners for years that the area needed to be revitalized.

Together, they hosted three meetings attracting about 300 residents each to create a vision plan representative of the community’s wishes for downtown Kings Park, which includes parts of Main Street, Pulaski Road, Indian Head Road and Meadow West. The plans included ideas for more sewers in the town to help accommodate new businesses and affordable housing.

Tanzi and Henninger proposed the completed vision to the Smithtown town board at a meeting in November. The town is waiting on a marketing study to be completed before accepting the plan.

“You just have to drive through Kings Park to see we have great bones and offer a lot,” Henninger said in a phone interview. “We can really make this the jewel it can be.”

For their leadership and commitment to improving Kings Park, Tanzi, Lehmann and Henninger are being recognized as three of Times Beacon News Media’s People of the Year.

Tony Tanzi works to bring new life to downtown Kings Park. Photo from Tony Tanzi.

“They work hard to make Kings Park a better place to live. It’s their persistence against resistance from the county, the state and the town that makes them successful — they just keep going,” Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said. “This is something that kids should look at and say, ‘These guys don’t stop and when you don’t stop, you get results.’”

Tanzi, a third-generation Kings Park resident, owns a hardware company, construction firm and several properties in the area. He said he hopes by revitalizing downtown, younger residents, including his four children, will want and can afford to stay in Kings Park.

“Younger residents not only want the ability to move around without having to get a car, they want to live in an area that has an entire community built into an offshoot of where they live,” he said.

Henninger, a mother herself, agreed that upgrading downtown Kings Park is a way to keep residents and attract new ones. She has always been active in the town. A Fort Salonga resident, Henninger has been a member of the civic association since 1992 and formed a group called Kings Park Neighbors Association, which helped prevent the sale of the Kings Park Psychiatric Center to a private developer.

That fight is how she and Lehmann met. He moved to Kings Park in 2005 and got involved with KPPC because he thought the developer’s plan to build multifamily housing would not be good for the hamlet.

One of their immediate efforts has been to hold a concert series and farmers market on Main Street, a way Lehmann said he hoped would encourage other residents to begin utilizing the downtown area.

“This is a unique community and we love it,” Lehmann said. “Kings Park has a very small town feel and plenty of open space, so when we thought about revitalizing our downtown, we wanted it to still feel quaint and fit with the character of the community.”

Henninger was quick to point out that while she, Lehmann and Tanzi helped to organize the project and make sure a plan was created, revitalizing downtown Kings Park was a group, community effort. The best part of the 18-month project, she and Tanzi agreed, was seeing residents come together to better the hamlet.

“It’s easy to get tons of people coming out to fight against something they don’t want, but it’s very rare that you can get people to come out and talk about something they do want,” Tanzi said. “We got so many people engaged and excited about it that they came out and participated.”

Henninger echoed the sentiment.

“When you’re doing something for the good of the town, of the community, anything can be accomplished,” she said.

Kings Park Superintendent Timothy Eagen speaks at a meeting. File photo
Kings Park Superintendent Timothy Eagen. File photo.

In two years, Superintendent Timothy Eagen has become the king of Kings Park’s school district.

Under his leadership, the district has created robotics clubs and educational programs for children from kindergarten up, started work on about $41 million in improvements to the district’s facilities, brought back old clubs and worked tirelessly to make sure the level of education students receive is up to par.

For these reasons, Times Beacon Record News Media has selected Eagen as a Person of the Year for 2016.

A North Shore native, the superintendent grew up in South Huntington and graduated from Walt Whitman High School. His undergraduate degree from Alfred University was in ceramic engineering, a specific education he said still helps him today.

“As an engineer you’re trained to solve problems, and that is essentially what I do for a living,” he said. “It’s not necessarily science problems, but whatever the problem of the day might be.”

He said after college he switched over to the “family business” of education. His mother and father are both retired teachers, and his sister is a high school English teacher.

Eagen worked in the South Huntington school district for 15 years, starting as a substitute teacher and working his way to assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

In 2014, he arrived at Kings Park — a community he has great respect for.

“One of the things I really like about Kings Park is the things that are important to the community and the school district,” he said. “Over the two years that I’ve been here and in my research when I was applying for the job, there were three things that stood out: Kings Park pride, family and service. Pride you hear about all the time — it’s a very proud community. And then family and service, it’s a very close-knit, family-type community. When somebody has an issue or a problem everybody comes out and helps. They really value service, whether it’s in the armed forces, police, fire, rescue or just typical service to the community. All of those things are part of what I believe in.”

Rudy Massimo, principal at RJO Intermediate School, said Eagen has had a tremendous impact on the morale at Kings Park.

“I’ve never seen teachers more impressed with a superintendent before,” he said. “He really turned around the entire district. To watch it happen is absolutely amazing. He has made [Kings Park] an amazing place to work.”

Kings Park Superintendent Timothy Eagen speaks at a meeting. File photo

When Eagen got to work, one of the first jobs he said he wanted to tackle was facility upgrades throughout the district.

“Every time we turned the corner it was another area that needed attention,” he said. “So the bond was big.” The capital project bond referendum was approved by voters in December 2015, and came in at about $41 million. Improvements like roof replacements, bathroom renovations, hardware replacements and asphalt and pavement upgrades are planned at every school in the district. Kings Park High School has some big-ticket items including auditorium upgrades, gymnasium renovations and the creation of a multipurpose athletic field and accompanying concession stand. The plan was divided into certain projects being carried out each year. This past summer the new track was installed and about $8 million in other improvements were carried out.

Eagen said he is proud of the improvements done thus far, and is eager to continue working to improve student experiences at facilities within the district.

In terms of curriculum, Eagen has assured Kings Park students are getting the most up-to-date education possible.

“Robotics has been pretty big,” Eagen said. “As well as classes focusing on programming, logic, research — things of that nature. We hear a lot about college and career readiness … there’s a lot of truth to that in concern to how competitive it is to get into college right now.”

Eagen said in his first year at Kings Park, students and parents approached him with the desire to create a robotics club, and he hit the ground running.

Through help from local legislators and school staff, the team was formed and was even able to compete at an annual competition hosted at Hofstra University in the spring.

“Under the heading of family, we all came together and made it happen,” Eagen said.

After the club was formed, Eagen began working to create a robotics program for all grades in the district. Students now work with programmable robots, that they can move, and make sing and dance. The district also offers a summer robotics camp.

“It’s just really cool,” Eagen said. “It’s the whole coding logic, it’s 21st century lessons. Really what we are trying to do is ensure every student graduates with a general understanding and some skills of programming, robotics, logic and code. It’s good stuff. Kids pick it up so quickly.”

Massimo said Eagen has created an environment for teachers and students to excel.

“He allows us to really run with our ideas,” he said. “You take pride in what you’re teaching your students. This initiative has encouraged us to return to creative academic freedom — sometimes you get lost in the testing world. He’s inspiring to everyone in the administration.”

The Kings Park school board agreed, Eagen has done wonders for the district.

“The board continues to be impressed with Dr. Eagen’s leadership and vision for the Kings Park Central School District as well as the Kings Park community at large,” members said in a joint email statement. “He is a constant advocate for our children — whether it be striving for advancements in our curriculum, our facilities and our programs or leading advocacy groups at the regional and state level on behalf of public education. Dr. Eagen is also a constant presence at community events — whether it be school concerts, plays and sporting events, or local events like parades or group meetings. We are fortunate to have him leading our school district.”

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The Kings Park cheerleading team leaps into the air during the Small School Division I competition. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Kings Park’s cheerleading squad has been battling since opening day, when seven of the team members dropped out. And now the girls are struggling to stay healthy.

The team took to the mat, competing for the top spot in Small School Division I against 10 other teams Dec. 18 at Comsewogue High School, and even with two members sidelined, the girls were able to stay solid through the two-and-a-half-minute performance in front of a near-capacity crowd.

The Kings Park cheerleading team performs different stunts while getting the crowd involved in the cheering during the Small School Division I competition. Photo by Bill Landon

What has made matters more difficult is getting used to the differences between the Long Island Cheerleading Association and Section XI rule book and scoring sheet, since cheerleading has been recognized as a sport.

“We had to change our routines and it’s a drastic change,” said Kings Park head coach Jennifer Ford. “Section XI caused us to fundamentally change how we do it.”

Kings Park senior Alyssa Ambrosia, a two-year varsity starter, said she’s only known the new scoring system, so for her, that’s an advantage.

“We’ve had to overcome a lot this season,” she said. “We were strong in stunting, but I think we can all improve on our tumbling.”

The Kingsmen finished outside the Top 5, but four-year veteran Jamie Barbarino sees nothing but prospect.

“I know that every single person on our team has potential,” she said. “We can be really, really good out there on the mat, but we need to get better with our [end of the routine] pyramid.”

Senior Olivia Nicoletti has been cheering since ninth grade, and has seen the difference between the two scoring methods.

“You have to do certain types of jumps, certain tumbling, and you do stunts differently,” Nicoletti said. “All the points are awarded differently in individual sections, so it’s much harder. We had some challenges today, [another] one of our girls got hurt, so we had to [animate] one stunt.”

Kings Park looks to put on a better performance once they’re at full strength on Jan. 15 at Mount Sinai High School at 9:15 a.m.

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Jason Hartglass shoots from the paint. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

In his third year as Kings Park boys’ basketball head coach, Christopher Rube looks to turn the corner after two losing seasons, and will rely on his core of returning players to do so.

Co-captain Paul Cooper, a returning All-Conference player brings experience and senior leadership to the court in his fourth year on the varsity team. He is on track to score his 1,000th career point this season.

Paul Cooper leaps up to the rim during practice. Photo by Bill Landon
Paul Cooper leaps up to the rim during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

Rube said that his player is an excellent ball handler who has a nose for the rim. Cooper, who has received two All-County nods while on the football team, is being actively recruited by Division III colleges to play both sports.

“I see a lot of improvement — we were competitive in my freshman year, but the last two years we’ve been rebuilding,” Cooper said. “Everyone’s getting used to the new coach and now everyone is buying in and we should have a good season.”

Rube said the last two years have been steppingstones. The Kingsmen finished 5-10 last year, and 4-11 the year before. Rube indicated his returning players have improved drastically over that time.

“Compared to where we were the last two seasons, we’re at a spot where we should be much more competitive,” he said. “I’m pleased with our efforts defensively — their unselfishness and willingness to pass the ball and find the open man. This year they did more work in the offseason than the previous two years, and they’ve developed a work ethic.”

He’s also looking forward to what co-captain Richie Price will bring to the court.

“This year it’s serious — everyone is invested in the program and no one’s selfish,” said Price, who is a three-year varsity returner. “This season everyone’s focused about the success of the team. Our defense has come a long way, so if we can be a solid defensive team we’re going to be hard to beat.”

Andrew Bianco scores with a jumper. Photo by Bill Landon
Andrew Bianco scores with a jumper. Photo by Bill Landon

Bolstering the core of this year’s squad is returning sophomore Andrew Bianco, who started as a freshman. Rube expects big things from his player.

“He has improved tremendously and will be one of our primary scorers,” the head coach said. “He’s tough around the ball, he can crash the boards and can step out and shoot 3-pointers.”

Bianco agreed with Price that everyone is focused on the greater good of the team.

“We share the ball more and we have good shooting,” Bianco said. “But we’re going to need to work on our plays on offense to be ready for Bellport to open the season [at home, Dec. 20].”

Price agreed with Cooper that the two teams to beat in League IV this season will be Half Hollow Hills West and Deer Park. Bianco sees Babylon as a greater threat than Deer Park, though.

The Kingsmen will host Half Hollow Hills West Jan. 3, travel to Deer Park three days later and return home to face West Babylon Jan. 10.

“They’re at a point where they know that everybody needs to be able to shoot the ball, make the extra pass and work on being more consistent,” Rube said. “We look very good in flashes, but we need to put that together for all 32 minutes of play.”

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By Bill Landon

Lauren Kloos continues to lead the way for Kings Park.

On Nov. 12, the senior outside hitter’s 12 kills put the girls’ volleyball team back in the state semifinal game. The Kingsmen bested Floral Park in straight sets, 25-10, 25-19 and 25-22 for Kings Park’s sixth straight Long Island championship crown.

Kloos said Kings Park (19-0) was ready for Floral Park, practicing defending against the unconventional ways its opponent would end up tipping and dumping the ball.

Junior outside hitter Sam Schultz, who finished with 12 digs and seven kills, and junior middle hitter Kara Haase, who added nine digs and eight kills, were also important contributors.

It’s been familiar stages for the Kings Park, and for the past three years, the Kingsmen have also seen a familiar foe at the county level.

Prior to the Long Island win, the dynasty did it again, as No. 1 Kings Park swept No. 2 Westhampton for the third straight year, 25-10, 25-15 and 25-13 for the Kingsmen’s sixth Suffolk Class A title.

Westhampton was plagued by unforced errors throughout the matchup, committing five of them in the first set alone to fall behind 16-7. Kloos made here presence known early, and spiked a kill shot that put her team out front 18-7, as Westhampton called timeout to try and throw Kings Park off balance.

It didn’t work, and as the team spread the ball around, the powerhouse surged ahead 23-9 looking to end the set early. And it did.

“A lot of hard work goes into it — the amount of practice we have to do to be able to execute [on the court],” Kloos said following the county win. “To be able to win another [championship] for the program is just amazing.”

“As a program, we still have a lot to prove. As time evolves we have a target on our back.”

— Ed Manly

The senior earned her fourth Suffolk and Long Island titles.

Dig after dig the Kingsmen got the ball to the junior Haley Holmes, and the setter spread the wealth. She aided the team in breaking out to a 13-5 advantage in the second set.

“It takes a lot of practice,” said Holmes, who finished with 28 assists and 10 digs against Floral Park. “We come to practice every day and we were ready for this. Our defense was perfect and that made it easy for me; the hitters just killed it.”

Kings Park continued to capitalize on Westhampton’s unforced errors, and surged ahead 23-15. On a bad serve, Westhampton handed Kings Park the break point, and the Kingsmen did what they’ve done all season, and put the set away, 25-15.

“Our energy, our intensive focus — every point we were mentally engaged, we knew where we needed to be, we knew our assignments,” Kings Park head coach Ed Manly said. “It was very hard. Our girls just work tirelessly all year long to play in this game. This is why you play volleyball, and we have the best kids around.”

Junior middle hitter Erika Benson, who had five kills and two blocks in the Long Island championship game, said her group continues to pull through and win as a team.

“Every game is a challenge, ” she said. “Our energy on and off the court never stopped. We never had a dull moment.”

Westhampton managed one last kill shot before Kings Park took the county title.

Having depth and help from all over makes Kings Park a contender for the state title. The team has to get through Glens Falls first, in the state semifinals Nov. 19. The Kingsmen have yet to take home a state title in the last five years.

“As a program, we still have a lot to prove,” Manly said. “As time evolves we have a target on our back. There are times when our kids feel like they’re not given the same credit as other teams around, for one reason or another, so they’re really inspired to play solid volleyball all of the time.”

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