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Middle Country

BOE President Karen Lessler seeks sixth term

Karen Lessler is running unopposed for the Middle Country Board of Education. File photo by Erika Karp

When hitting the ballots in May, community members will be voting on more than the budget. They will also vote for Middle Country Board of Education trustees who will run the school board, help shape future budgets and make sure proper programs are in place. There are three seats open this year and three incumbent board members are running unopposed.

Karen Lessler
President Karen Lessler is up for re-election and the 15-year veteran said she is seeking another three years in office.
Lessler has held the position of president since 2003 and said being on the school board is a passion of hers.
“I’m very committed to being a child activist,” Lessler said in a phone interview.
The Kings Park school district teacher has been living in the community for 34 years and has had a son and stepson graduate from Centereach High School.
Lessler has been vocal about the fight to keep public education alive and critical of recent changes in education proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).
If re-elected, Lessler said she would continue to be fiscally responsible for the community and fight for students.
“I think the issues I continue to focus on are the needs of students and making them good citizens,” Lessler said.

James Macomber is running unopposed for the Middle Country Board of Education. Photo from Middle Country school district
James Macomber is running unopposed for the Middle Country Board of Education. Photo from Middle Country school district

Rev. James Macomber
James Macomber moved to Centereach in 2010 and has served on the board for the last three years.
Currently, Macomber is chair of the educational advancement commission, which spearheaded the science, technology, engineering and math program, which is commonly referred to as STEM. Macomber has been very involved in the STEM program as he feels it provides students with the tools they need to be successful.
Macomber is seeking re-election as he enjoys the community he serves and the board he works with. He called it one of the strongest board of educations around.
“It’s a satisfying way to give back to the community,” Macomber said. “I’ve always been a fan of public education.”
If re-elected, Macomber said he would continue his work to advance the STEM program and work to create partnerships and internships through local businesses for the students in the district.
Macomber, a Vietnam veteran, previously taught business at the University of Tennessee, and has lived in Ohio, Tennessee, New Mexico and Georgia. He has four adult children who have graduated from other school districts.

Arlene Barresi is running unopposed for the Middle Country Board of Education. Photo from Middle Country school district
Arlene Barresi is running unopposed for the Middle Country Board of Education. Photo from Middle Country school district

Arlene Barresi
Arlene Barresi has been on the board for the last nine years and is seeking a fourth term.
Barresi said she has enjoyed her time on the board and is hoping to get a chance at another term.
“We’re in a good place now,” she said. “We have our bond and I want to see it through.”
Last November, the community approved an approximately $125 million bond for capital improvements and security upgrades to the district’s 15 schools.
“We’ve come through very hard times and now we’re doing good, and I want to be a part of that,” Barresi said.
In the past, the district has faced aid cuts, which forced the board and the district to make some cuts. The district, like many across Long Island, is beginning to slowly restore offerings and Barresi hopes to be part of it. On her wish list: an art and music teacher for kindergarten students. Currently, kindergarten teachers provide instruction on the subjects.
Barresi added that she would like to provide younger students who are struggling with additional help, instead of letting problems progress. In addition, she wants high school students to be prepared for life after they graduate, regardless of their path.
“I would like to see more technology programs so people are not only college ready but career ready,” she said.

Kyle Konecny mugshot from SCPD

Police arrested a man just a few hours after he allegedly robbed a Bank of America in Selden on Monday morning.

Kyle Konecny, 25, was arrested and charged with second-degree robbery after he allegedly entered a Bank of America on Middle Country Road, displayed what appeared to be a handgun and demanded cash from the teller, police said. He then fled on foot at about 10 a.m.

Suffolk County Police Department 6th Precinct police officers were able to track Konecny to the Elmwood Road area thanks to a GPS tracking device from the bank.

Konecny, of Selden, will be arraigned in Suffolk County District Court in Central Islip on April 21.

Attorney information for Konecny wasn’t immediately available.

Detectives are asking anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS.

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Middle Country’s Zach Harned puts on the breaks as he looks for an opening in front of East Islip’s net, in the Mad Dogs’ 8-5 win over the Redmen Saturday. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

The Middle Country boys’ lacrosse team scored four quick goals in less than three minutes and continued to fire off shots and find the back of the cage to claim an 8-5 victory over East Islip, Saturday.

Less than a minute into the game, junior midfielder Kyle Stemke scored first for the Mad Dogs, and senior midfielder Brandon Thomas followed with a goal of his own a minute later to jump out to a 2-0 lead.

Middle Country’s bobby Emerson cuts around East Islip defenders as he makes his way up the field in the Mad Dogs’ 8-5 win over East Islip Saturday. Photo by Bill Landon
Middle Country’s bobby Emerson cuts around East Islip defenders as he makes his way up the field in the Mad Dogs’ 8-5 win over East Islip Saturday. Photo by Bill Landon

“We played a solid team with a solid defense today who have a lot of offensive power,” Stemke said, as his team made eight of its 21 attempts at a goal. “We made some goals when we had to and we were able to shut them down defensively at the end.”

Middle Country head coach Kenneth Budd said his team has struggled at the faceoff position lately, but that wasn’t the case for the Mad Dogs in this matchup.

Junior midfielder Declan Canevari won his third possession of the game and dished the ball to senior attack Bobby Emerson, and Canevari followed with his fourth faceoff win, and took the ball down the right sideline, cut to the inside and buried his shot between the pipes to give Middle Country a four-goal advantage.

Budd said his faceoff specialist was the difference-maker in the contest.

“Declan was phenomenal at the ‘X’ today,” Budd said. “When you control ‘X’ you get possession, and that’s how you win games.”

Middle Country senior attack Zach Harned assisted in his team’s first goal of the second quarter when he fed the ball to junior midfielder Cole Demaille, who found the back of the cage. Stemke crossed the ball over to Emerson next, who sent home his second goal of the game to take a commanding 6-0 lead.

“We knew their goalie was good, but we came out firing and we were really amped when we went up 6-0,” Harned said. “We came out clean, we maintained possession and we played hard.”

East Islip wouldn’t go quietly though, and rattled off three unanswered goals in less than three minutes late in the half, to keep Middle Country’s defense on its toes.

Harned halted the Redmen’s scoring spree, and blasted a shot to the back of the cage to bring the halftime score to 7-3.

Middle Country’s Kyle Stemke races downfield and winds up to fire a shot at the cage in the Mad Dogs’ 8-5 nonleague victory over East Islip Saturday. Photo by Bill Landon
Middle Country’s Kyle Stemke races downfield and winds up to fire a shot at the cage in the Mad Dogs’ 8-5 nonleague victory over East Islip Saturday. Photo by Bill Landon

East Islip found the cage late in the third to trim the deficit to three, and Middle Country failed to find the cage until halfway through the final quarter when Stemke moved down the right sideline, crossed to midfield and scored his second goal of the game to double East Islip’s score to lead 8-4.

East Islip tallied one more goal with three minutes left to play, and despite Middle Country being a man down off a penalty with 2:45 left to play, the Mad Dogs defense stood its ground.

“We stepped it up on offense and then our goalie made a big defensive stop at the end of the game,” Emerson saidå.

With the nonleague win, Middle Country ended its five-game losing streak and improved to 3-5 overall, while maintaining a 2-4 League I record.

The Mad Dogs will host Lindenhurst next, on Wednesday, at 7 p.m., where the team looks to continue its success to move up in the league ranking.

“The key to the game was us getting out to a 4-0 lead in the first quarter,” Canevari said. “Even though they came back, we gave ourselves a sizable margin that we could work with. I just focused on getting possession at the X; we haven’t been doing that lately — to get possession, get the ball to our attacker’s sticks to win the game.”

Nikki Ortega grabs the ball off the draw and crosses into Ward Melville’s zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan

These Mad Dogs are showing their teeth.

In a dogfight between two of the top teams in Division I Monday, visiting Ward Melville dominated the beginning of the first half, edging ahead to a 4-1 lead, but the Middle Country girls’ lacrosse team found its groove and bounced back to prove why it’s undefeated.

With the 17-12 comeback win, the Mad Dogs improved to 6-0 to remain in sole possession of first place, while the Patriots dropped to 4-2.

“We have a big week ahead of us so to get one out of the way is a good feeling,” Middle Country head coach Lindsay Dolson said. “We kept our calm. We knew that we could score. We had a bunch of pipes in the first couple of minutes so that took a little wind out of our sails, but they did a great job coming back.”

Amanda Masullo races toward the cage for Middle Country. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Amanda Masullo races toward the cage for Middle Country. Photo by Desirée Keegan

After Ward Melville jumped out to a 3-0 lead, Middle Country senior midfielder and attack Nikki Ortega scored off a foul for the team’s first point with 15:21 left in the first half.

The Patriots tacked on another goal before Ortega’s younger sister, Jamie, a sophomore midfielder, netted back-to-back goals to pull within one, 4-3.

“We knew that we were down, but we always tell each other not to freak out; to talk to each other,” Jamie Ortega said. “I was frustrated because I knew we were the better team, so us down got me motivated.”

The teams traded goals, and after being down 5-4, Middle Country tied it up 5-5 with 4:39 left until the halftime break.

With the offensive sides strong on both ends of the field, the two teams traded another goal apiece to bring the score to 6-6 at the end of the first, and continued to trade goals until the game was tied 9-9.
From there, the Mad Dogs raced ahead to a 14-9 lead before Ward Melville senior attack Alex Vignona scored from 10 yards out, and followed her showing with an assist, as she passed the ball to sophomore attack Kaitlin Thornton who scored overhead in front of the net to close the gap to 14-11.

Jamie Ortega netted one next, taking the ball all the way up the field and, from the right side, crossing the ball in front of the net and into the left corner with 4:08 remaining in the game. Middle Country scored again, and Ward Melville sophomore midfielder Madison Hobbes scored her team’s final point before Nikki Ortega passed the ball to eighth-grade defender Sophie Alois off a shooting space foul with 16 seconds on the clock, for the final goal of the game.

Jamie Ortega maintains possession of the ball with a Ward Melville defender on her back. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Jamie Ortega maintains possession of the ball with a Ward Melville defender on her back. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We knew this was our time, this was our game and we had to step it up, and that’s what we did,” Middle Country junior defender Jordynn Aiello said. “I knew stepping on this field today we were going to come out with this win no matter what. One thing I love about my team is that we stay calm under pressure; we don’t break.”

While the team ran into trouble winning possession off the draw and the defense struggled with the slides, defenders, like Aiello, forced some crucial turnovers.

Vignona, Nemirov, Thornton, Hobbes and junior attack Holly Regan scored two goals apiece for the Patriots, while sophomore midfielder Hannah Hobbes and senior midfielder Cat Smith rounded out the scoring with a goal each.

“I never thought we’d get this far and I knew that they were going to give us a hard game,” Jamie Ortega said of Ward Melville. “I knew that if we came back and played how we usually play we’d end up on top.”

The sophomore midfielder led the Mad Dogs with six goals while her older sister Nikki finished with four.  Sophomore midfielder Amanda Masullo tacked on three goals, while her twin sister Rachel, Alois, senior midfielder Allison DiPaola and sophomore attack Ava Barry added a goal apiece.

“She did a great job,” Dolson said of Jamie Ortega. “I spoke to her before the game and I said ‘Jamie, I feel it. You’re going to have a day today.’ And she did.”

Ortega said her team works well to pass each other the ball and stay connected, and Aiello said Middle Country’s ability to work together should take them far.

“There are no individuals on this field, it’s a team, and everybody has a job on this team and we get it done,” she said.  “I have a lot of faith in my team, I believe in us and I believe that if we continue to work on enhancing and perfecting our game, we’ll be unstoppable.”

Arshad Syed Humzah mugshot from SCPD

A man allegedly exposed himself to a teenager but was caught after the girl got his license plate number and told her parents.

According to the Suffolk County Police Department, the suspect, Arshad Syed Humzah, was driving a 2010 Nissan north on Boyle Road in Selden, at Strauss Avenue, at about 5 p.m. on April 10 when he approached a teenager walking along the road. The man allegedly asked the girl, 15, if she wanted a ride and when she declined, he allegedly kept following her with his car. Police said he then stopped again and asked the teenager for directions.

When the girl approached him, Syed Humzah allegedly exposed his genitals to her.

Police said the teen noted his license plate number and told her parents when she got home. Her parents called the police and the suspect was arrested shortly afterward.

Syed Humzah was charged with endangering the welfare of a child.

Attorney information for the defendant was not immediately available. He was scheduled to be arraigned at a later date.

New programs and services included in $15.2 million plan

Library visitors do work at the Middle Country Public Library’s Centereach location. File photo by Barbara Donlon

An average Middle Country resident will see an increase of less than a dollar a month under the Middle Country Public Library’s proposed $15.2 million 2015-16 budget.

An average homeowner with an assessed value of $3,000 will pay $0.93 extra per month, according to the library’s spring newsletter. The budget increases by 1.4 percent over the current year and stays within the library’s tax levy increase cap.

Under the plan, the library will offer a 3D printing service. Adults can put in a request to use the printer, while children can utilize the device under the supervision of a staff member.

Outdoor games for adults are also available. Games such as Jenga and lawn bowling can be rented for seven days at a time.

“We thought this could be fun for adults,” library Director Sophia Serlis-McPhillips said. “They can now check it out instead of buying it.”

In addition, the library is working to get its Music and Memory program off the ground. The program is catered toward people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Program participants will listen to music via iPods to help jog memories and improve their quality of life.

Serlis-McPhillips also noted that the notary service offered at the library’s Centereach location would expand to the Selden location in May.

“We can now offer it to our patrons in that neck of the woods,” Serlis-McPhillips said.

The children’s department will also see new things. The museum pass program is set to expand, and starting next year, tickets to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and the Children’s Museum of Manhattan will be offered.

In addition, a new initiative called 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten will commence in September. With the goal of getting kids to read 1,000 books by the time they enter kindergarten, young kids will take home backpacks filled with 10 books at a time. Participants will receive an incentive for every 100 books they read. There will also be new resources for the adult and children sections. Two new child-friendly databases called ScienceFlix and FreedomFlix, which specialize in science and American history, respectively, will be available.

For adults, a new program called hoopla, which Serlis-McPhillips called “very popular,” will be available for adults to download movies and books.

The library will continue to expand access to downloadable e-books.

“There’s been an increase in circulation for downloadable [books] instead of print,” Serlis-McPhillips said.

Despite the change, the director said as long as people continue to read, that is all that matters.
Middle Country Public Library Board of Trustees President John Hoctor said he is pleased at the work the library does every year.

“Middle Country is always on the cusp,” Hoctor said. “They are the leader in the field.”

Hoctor’s deep love for libraries is why he sits on the board. He said every time he visits the library he get’s a sense of joy.

“One of the things I love about our library are the programs for children,” he said.

The library budget vote and trustee election will take place April 14 from 9:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Centereach building. Incumbent Trustee Jacqueline Schott is running for re-election unopposed. She was unavailable for comment Tuesday evening.

First of many school improvement plans submitted for review

The Bicycle Path school will be getting a new security vestibule in the near future. File photo by Erika Karp

The Middle Country school district is ready to move forward with several capital improvement projects for some of its 15 schools but is facing obstacles as state approval for the projects could take 34 weeks.

At the April 1 school board meeting, board President Karen Lessler gave an update on the approximate $125 million bond voters approved last November. Currently, the district is looking at roof repair, resurfacing tracks, security upgrades and more.

“The obstacle that we are currently facing is that the type one projects, which are one-shot projects that are not so complex, are taking eight weeks to get through the [New York State Education Department],” Lessler said.

According to the facilities planning division of the state education department, final engineering review will take about 32 to 34 weeks. There are approximately 930 projects awaiting review. According to Saverio Belfiore, of Melville-based H2M architects + engineers, the district’s engineering firm, roof repairs and track resurfacing projects for the high schools have been submitted to the education department.

A representative from the department did not return a request for comment.

Some of the bonded money will be used to replace 4,000 windows district wide. Many windows have not been replaced in more than 20 years, officials previously stated. Window replacement qualifies as a type one project and will be replaced overnight and throughout the summer, according to Lessler.

Security is another high-priority item for the district. Currently, details are being finalized with building principals for security upgrades to each building. According to Belfiore, upgrades to the secured entry vestibule at the prekindergarten centers, Eugene Auer Elementary, North Coleman Road Elementary and Oxhead Road Elementary have been submitted.

Belfiore said many of the district’s projects are type one and should be approved in the shorter time frame, while the other projects should begin this summer.

Putting the obstacles aside, Lessler said everything is moving along.

Punched and pushed
A complainant reported being harassed by a male and a female while waiting outside a Patchogue Road convenience store in Port Jefferson Station at around 5:30 p.m. on April 4. According to police, the victim, who refused medical attention, was punched and pushed by the suspects. No arrests have been made.

Sideswiped
A man refused to press charges after he was pushed and hit on the side of the face while walking on Patchogue Road in Port Jefferson Station on March 31 at 6:33 a.m. The man didn’t require medical attention.

Check it out
A 60-year-old Port Jefferson Station man was arrested on April 3 for grand larceny and second-degree forgery after he entered the Sola Salon Studios in Port Jefferson Station and stole a wallet that contained cash, credit cards and other items. Police said the man then forged a signature on one of the stolen checks.

Got your nose
Two males got into a bit of a tiff on April 5 at around 1:30 a.m. at Junior’s Spycoast in Port Jefferson. According to police, a man was punched in the nose and neck, causing injury. No medical attention was provided, and charges haven’t been filed.

Garden of mystery
An unknown individual took two batteries from a 2007 Chevy and a 1995 GMC from the Gera Gardens property in Mount Sinai. The incident occurred between 2 p.m. on March 31 and 7:30 a.m. on April 4. One of the vehicles had a broken windshield as well.

Gone with the wind
A woman reported leaving her cell phone behind at the Miller Place Stop&Shop checkout line on April 3. When she returned, the phone was gone.

Gas station rage
A complainant reported an individual was trying to start a fight at the BP gas station in Miller Place on Route 25A. During the April 2 criminal mischief incident, the suspect damaged the complainant’s 2009 Toyota Camry by kicking the rear passenger door, causing a minor dent. Shortly before the incident, police had responded to a suspect approaching another customer at the same gas station and engaging in a verbal dispute and throwing a bottle at the complainant’s car. It is unclear if the two reports are related.

Criminal homemaker
At approximately 4 p.m. on April 4, an unknown individual stole assorted groceries and household items from the Rocky Point Waldbaum’s on Route 25A.

Talk to the hand
Police responded to an assault at the Shoreham-Wading River High School property on March 30 at around 12:30 p.m. According to police, a complainant was talking to the suspect, who didn’t like what he said and then punched the man. The complainant was treated at a local hospital.

Bad impression
A 27-year-old Wading River man was arrested in Shoreham on April 3 after he lied about his name during a traffic stop by Roswell Avenue.

Planking
A homeowner on Valiant Drive in Centereach discovered four planks missing from a fence. Police said the incident occurred between 9 p.m. on April 4 and 10:30 a.m. on April 5.

Poor home improvements
An unknown person damaged a property on Lake Grove Street in Centereach at approximately 10:45 p.m. on April 2. Police said a window and sheetrock were damaged.

Bonnie and Clyde
A male and female took merchandise from a Middle Country Road CVS in Centereach on March 31 at around 9:30 a.m. and then fled the scene.

False advertisement
An individual responding to a Craigslist advertisement of a quad for sale, posted by a resident of Avondale Drive in Centereach, drove off with the vehicle on March 30. According to police, the suspect is a white male, thin and approximately 6 feet tall. Police are still investigating.

High-way
Police arrested a 22-year-old Middle Island man in Centereach on April 1 for operating a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs. The man was heading eastbound on Route 25 in a 2003 Chrysler when police pulled him over by Wood Road for driving at an excessive speed, and observed he was under the influence.

Soda and sun
A 22-year-old Sound Beach woman and a 30-year-old Miller Place man were arrested in Selden on April 2 for stealing a pair of sunglasses and soda from a Walgreens on Middle Country Road.

Pestering phone calls
Someone reported an incident of aggravated harassment at North Suffolk Cardiology on Research Way in East Setauket on April 3 at 9:23 a.m. Police said the complainant reported a caller making harassing statements on a personal cellphone.

Makeup, wallet stolen
Someone stole a wallet and makeup from Kohl’s on Nesconset Highway in East Setauket on April 3 at about 3:34 p.m.

Harassment
A man told police he was receiving harassing phone calls on Millie Lane in East Setauket on April 3 around 4:20 p.m.

Cards swiped
Someone entered an unlocked 2005 Chevrolet parked at a home on Rack Lane, East Setauket and stole a Visa card and a Home Depot card. The incident was reported on April 2 at 11 p.m.

Hug it out
Someone claimed they were punched and shoved, but police said the individuals involved know each another and no arrest was made. The incident occurred on Christian Avenue, Setauket at 3 a.m. on March 30.

Money grab
An unknown person entered an unlocked 2011 Chevy Tahoe parked on Cabin Lane in East Setauket on March 30 at 8:16 a.m. and took money.

Hole in one
Someone entered Sports Authority on Nesconset Highway in Stony Brook and took golf clubs without paying for them. The incident occurred on March 31 at about 1:40 p.m.

It wasn’t me
A 23-year-old man from Central Islip was arrested in Smithtown at the 4th Precinct on April 2 and charged with aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and false information. Police said that the man told officers the driver of a motor vehicle fled the scene of an accident after crashing a 2004 Cadillac into a pole on March 28 at about 4:05 a.m. at the corner of Smithtown Boulevard and Old Nichol’s Road, when in fact he was the driver.

April foolery
A 37-year-old woman was arrested at the 4th Precinct in Smithtown on April 1 and charged with second-degree obstructing governmental administration and second-degree harassment. Police said the incident occurred at the precinct. The woman refused to comply when ordered out of a holding cell after being arrested in Shirley and charged with operating a motor vehicle impaired by drugs. Then while being assisted out of the holding cell, the woman grabbed and scratched a Suffolk County Police Department employee’s arms.

Sloppy driving
A 19-year-old man from Holbrook was arrested in Nesconset on April 2 and charged with driving while ability impaired by drugs and alcohol. Police said he was driving on Smithtown Boulevard in a 1999 Toyota when he was observed swerving from his travel lane and crossed over into the shoulder. He was arrested at the scene at about 2:30 a.m.

Jewelry thief nabbed
Police said a 24-year-old woman from Islip was arrested on April 1 and charged with fourth-degree grand larceny of property valued at more than $1,000. Police said the woman stole jewelry from a Lawrence Drive location in Nesconset sometime between Oct. 8 and Nov. 17. She was arrested on Lawrence Drive at about 3 p.m.

Faker caught
A 17-year-old male from Brentwood was arrested in Smithtown and charged with false personation. Police said that on March 27 in Commack on Jericho Turnpike at 2 p.m. he made a police report using someone else’s name, using a fake picture identification and continued to identify himself as someone else. He was also charged with falsely writing a statement.

Bad reality check
A 51-year-old man from St. James was arrested at his home on Hill Road in St. James on April 5 and charged with second-degree possession of a forged instrument. Police said he possessed a forged instrument — a Chase bank check — that he made payable to himself.

Injeanious
A 27-year-old man from Great River was arrested in Smithtown at the 4th Precinct and charged with petit larceny on April 3 at about 9:30 a.m. Police said he took jeans from Kohl’s on March 18 at about 5:32 p.m.

Street fight
A man told police he was punched several times by another person on Main Street in Huntington at about 2 a.m. on April 4. The two are not looking to file charges, police said.

Seating squabble
Two people got into a dispute about a seating area at Starbucks on Wall Street in Huntington at 9 p.m. on April 4, and one person punched the other. The two customers refused medical attention, cops said.

KO
Someone punched another person in the face at a store on East Main Street on April 1 in Huntington at about 1:53 a.m. The person refused medical treatment and refused to press charges.

On second thought
An unknown person kicked in the door of a Soundview Road home on April 1 at about 6:30 p.m. in Huntington, but fled when someone inside the house yelled. The person didn’t get inside.

Above, Kim Plaspohl fires a pitch from the mound. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Both teams stranded runners on base after several innings, but the Smithtown West softball team left fewer players stranded, to pull out a 4-0 victory over visiting Newfield on a cold, dreary Tuesday afternoon in a League II matchup.

Newfield senior Jennifer Sarcone struck first with a deep shot to left center for a standup double but was stranded at the bottom of the first.

Danielle Balsamo reached for the ball but not in time to make the out. Photo by Bill Landon
Danielle Balsamo reached for the ball but not in time to make the out. Photo by Bill Landon

Smithtown West sophomore Tara Killeen drove in senior Kassie Furr on a sacrifice fly to give her team a 1-0 lead to start the second inning, and the duo did it again in the top of the third when Killeen smacked a fly ball to right field to drive in Furr to take a two-run advantage.

“I didn’t think we came out with as much energy as we normally do,” Newfield pitcher Tabitha Butler said. “We should’ve got more lift on the ball. All we were doing is driving balls into the ground right at them so we weren’t’ finding the gaps.”

Smithtown West head coach Dave Miller sent in freshman right fielder Madison Mulder to pinch run at first, who stole second base on the very next pitch, but again, the Bulls stranded a runner on base.

Newfield head coach Jessica Palmaccio said her team didn’t execute when the opportunity presented itself.

“They were exactly what we thought they would be,” Palmaccio said. “They’re a good team. We’re a good team, but we didn’t do what we needed to do today. That’s all.”

Smithtown West lit up the scoreboard once more when Furr drilled a hit to rightfield to drive in sophomore Kaitlyn Loffman to edge ahead 3-0 in the bottom of the fifth.

“We came out knowing what to expect and we came out ready to play with good communication,” Smithtown West senior pitcher Kim Plaspohl said. “I felt confident because I knew my team would back me up.”

Furr, who defensively collected two line drives in the dirt to stop both, was there for her pitcher.
“I just knew I needed to support my pitcher and a play like that could mean the game,” she said. “So I knew when it was hit I needed to do whatever I had to do to get to it.”

Kiley Magee makes a catch. Photo by Bill Landon
Kiley Magee makes a catch. Photo by Bill Landon

Newfield’s Butler thought that her movement could’ve been better to help her team not just from the plate but from the mound.

“I didn’t hit all of my spots and that’s where they took advantage of it,” she said. “That’s where they got their hits.”

Killeen, in scoring position, was driven home by Smithtown West sophomore Amber Meystrik’s bat to take a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the sixth.

“Their energy was more than ours was today,” Sarcone said. “We had opportunities today that we didn’t take advantage of.”

Newfield threatened late, but couldn’t capitalize and fell to Smithtown West to drop to 2-3, while the Bulls improve to 2-1.

“I thought the girls played very, very well,” Miller said. “My pitcher was great. She didn’t walk anybody and our short stop [Furr] played better than I’ve ever seen her play. She’s a four-year varsity player.”

Smithtown West was scheduled to travel to Riverhead on Wednesday while Newfield was slated to host Copiague.

Buttons support public education at the Middle Country school board meeting. Photo by Barbara Donlon

A day after the state released next year’s education aid estimates, the Middle Country school district made its first presentation on the 2015-16 budget, which maintains programs and stays within the tax levy increase cap.

The almost $236 million budget, a 1.63 percent increase from this year, will continue to promote the district’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics — known as STEM — program, adds teachers to comply with a new state mandate and allocates for an extra section of pre-kindergarten. Under the plan, average homeowners with an assessed value of $2,200 will pay an extra $93.19 in taxes next year, according to school board President Karen Lessler’s April 1 presentation.

Like many other districts across the state, Middle Country is adding staff in order to comply with a state-mandated English as a second language initiative, which aims to help students whose first language is not English.

“The superintendent is working with implementing the regulations into the Middle Country school district and we’re currently looking at two to three teachers being staffed to meet this unfunded mandate,” Lessler said.

Middle Country Board of Education President Karen Lessler presents the district’s proposed 2015-16 school year. Photo by Barbara Donlon
Middle Country Board of Education President Karen Lessler presents the district’s proposed 2015-16 school year. Photo by Barbara Donlon

Lessler was pleased to share the good news that 60 percent of the Gap Elimination Adjustment will be returned to the district. The deduction began in the 2009-10 fiscal year as an effort to close the state’s deficit. The district will lose roughly $3.3 million in aid next year, which is less than the $9 million it lost this year.

“I want to be clear that this is not extra money that we’re getting,” Lessler said. “This is money that we’re entitled to have. It has been earmarked in our budget and there has been a reduction in this funding and finally this year we’re seeing some restoration of these funds.”

The board president also commented on why the district didn’t have budget meetings until April 1. She blamed Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and his lack of cooperation with releasing the state aid runs, which weren’t made public until March 31. Earlier this year, Cuomo said education aid would increase by 1.7 percent — $377 million — statewide if the state Legislature didn’t adopt his education reforms. A compromise, which included changes to the teacher evaluation and tenure systems, was reached and aid increased by about $1.4 billion.

Despite the lack of estimates in the beginning, the district put together a budget it feels will suit everyone in the community. The tax levy increase cap is about 1.75 percent, but has the potential to increase or decrease as the district crunches a few more numbers.

In regards to new programs, officials said they hope to add a science research program at the high school, which they feel will interest students. Lessler also commented on the success of the pre-kindergarten program and the need for another section.

If the budget is voted down, sports, clubs, full-day kindergarten and the pre-kindergarten program are among the offers that could be negatively impacted.

The board is expected to adopt the budget at the next board meeting on April 22. A budget hearing will be held on May 6 and the budget vote will take place on May 19.

This version corrects the budget total in Middle Country’s proposal.