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Newfield High School

Jon-Michael Lasher, of Selden, died of brain cancer April 22. He was 45.

Lasher, Connetquot Central School District’s director of fine arts and music, began his tenure in the district, his alma mater, as a band teacher in 2003 and was promoted to director in 2009. Right before his time at Connetquot, he was the band director at Newfield High School. From 1998 to 1999, he was band teacher at Sewanhaka High School in Floral Park.

Jon-Michael Lasher

Dean Mittleman, assistant superintendent of Connetquot schools, notified parents and students of Lasher’s passing in a letter posted to the district’s website. He described the director as “the type of educator that instilled a love of learning in so many, and surely has helped to develop some of the world’s emerging talents.”

Mittleman credited Lasher with spearheading many initiatives and encouraging “young artists to pursue their passions.”

“A graduate from Connetquot, Mr. Lasher worked in the district for many years and was known to many as a champion for music and fine arts education,” Mittleman wrote. “As a young student, he possessed a true love of the subject, and therefore it was only a natural progression that he became an educator and worked to help shape the lives of the next generation of student-musicians and artists. His tenacity for a fine arts education resulted in elevating our robust programs to new heights and his unmatched dedication to his colleagues and students is one that stemmed from the heart — the best sign of a great educator.”

Mittleman’s sentiments were echoed by many on the Connetquot High School Band Facebook page, including John Leddy, Stony Brook University Athletic Bands director emeritus.

“Jon was a gifted and dedicated student, an inspirational teacher and an innovative administrator,” Leddy wrote. “He served the music program, a program that thrived under his guidance. He was a leader of consequence and significance. Connetquot is diminished with his passing as it was elevated with his presence. This is a sad day for our community.”

Leddy was a music faculty member when Lasher was a student at Connetquot, and later the two became colleagues. Leddy said in an email, when he retired, Lasher asked him to be an artist in residence for the jazz program at the high school for a week, something that meant a lot to Leddy. 

Lasher grew up in Bohemia and earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from SUNY Potsdam, where he met his wife, Susan. He earned a master’s degree in music performance from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, and a certificate in school district administration from Long Island University.

Ten years ago, Lasher began showing neurological signs and was diagnosed with a brain tumor, according to his wife. He was the founder of Tumor Tacklers, which raises funds at the Long Island Brain Tumor Walk. Tumor Tacklers has raised more
than $30,000.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by his daughter, Maggie, 16; son, Thomas, 12; parents John and Lucille Lasher of Bohemia; and siblings Laurie Tramuta of Fredonia, Jacqueline Rizzuto of Bohemia and James Lasher of Hauppauge.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of East Setauket. A funeral Mass was held at St. Margaret of Scotland R.C. Church in Selden April 27. Visit www.bryantfh.com to sign the online guest book.

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By Bill Landon

Centereach and Newfield high schools’ fencing teams competed in the Suffolk County championships Feb. 9.

It was Newfield foilist Jake Hempe who stole the show winning his third straight Suffolk County title at Newfield High School where his team finished second overall falling to Ward Melville in the final round.

The Cougars as a team finished sixth overall.

Former newspaper adviser Edward Wendell, center, is pictured with MCPL director Sophia Serlis-McPhillips and Comsewogue Public Library director Debbie Engelhardt.

By Karina Gerry

Middle Country Public Library librarians Stephanie Vecchio and Carol Gray look through issues of The Quadrangle from the 1970s. Photo from MCPL

A retired Newfield High School teacher’s forgotten files turned out to be a treasure for Middle Country Public Library.

Edward Wendol donated original issues of The Quadrangle to the library last month in hopes of preserving a unique piece of history. The Quadrangle, the Newfield High School paper, was supervised by Wendol during 1970-76. Wendol kept the papers all these years in a file in his attic, where he admits he forgot about them until he stumbled upon them one day.

“With the popularity of items being digitized today, I thought this would be the perfect item to be digitized at the Middle Country Public Library [in the district] where I worked,” Wendol said. “I thought it would be the most appropriate place to bring them.”

During his 27 years with the school district, Wendol worked as an English teacher and volunteered to serve as the adviser to The Quadrangle after having a positive experience at his own high school newspaper.

“I had students that were with me their entire high school career,” Wendol remembered fondly. “I think several of them may have even ventured into the journalism aspect.”

Wendol, who has served as a trustee on the Comsewogue Public Library board since 1972, Debbie Engelhardt, director of the Comsewogue library, and Sophia Serlis-McPhillips, director of MCPL, met in December at the Middle Country library so Wendol could hand over his original editions of the paper.

Copies of Newfield High School’s The Quadrangle, above, were donated to Middle Country Public Library in December by Edward Wendol.

“I thought it was absolutely incredible that Mr. Wendol kept all those papers from way back when,” Serlis-McPhillips said. “To have the foresight to do that and the fact that he wanted to give them to the library, I just thought was tremendous that he cared enough about working at Newfield and working at Middle Country school district.”

While the library’s website has a digitized photo collection of the old pictures they’ve received in recent years, this is the first time, in Serlis-McPhillips time at the library at least, that they have been given any type of periodical or newspaper.

“We’re just in the process of cataloging them and putting them on our website so that anyone can share them,” Serlis-McPhillips said. “You know it’s interesting to go back and look at the ads and the events that they were doing, and it kind of gives you a picture of history.”

With his donation, Wendol’s biggest hope is that past students are able to see their work.

“The reason why I brought it to Middle Country where the school district is located is to see if there are students who still live in the school district,” Wendol said. “If they have access to the public library and are willing to say, ‘Hey, let’s see what you have regarding my old high school newspaper at my old high school that I attended.’”

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By Bill Landon

Newfield went toe to toe with West Islip Dec. 18 in a home game that wouldn’t be decided until the final seconds. The Wolverines fell just short losing a League III matchup 27-26 at home.

Sophomore guard Chinelle Nelson led her team in scoring, netting five points from the charity stripe along with a field goal for seven points. Freshman guard Megan Spina along with senior forward Oliva Bond, both banked triples and a field goal for five points apiece.

The Wolverines are back in action when they hit the road against Huntington Dec. 20. Tip-off is at 4 p.m.

By Bill Landon

Ward Melville squared off against the Newfield Wolverines out on the strip Dec. 8 in a three-way bout with Brentwood. The Patriots had their hands full with a surging Newfield squad but edged the Wolverines 16-11 to remain unbeaten 3-0 in Suffolk League II.

The Patriots are back out on the strip Dec. 13 where they’ll host Centereach starting at 5 p.m. at Ward Melville High School. The Patriots and Wolverines will also compete in a holiday tournament invitational Dec. 15 at Brentwood High School. First bout scheduled for 9 a.m.

Smithtown High School East trampled over the Newfield Wolverines, 38-24, to claim victory at their Sept. 29 homecoming.

The Bulls’ offense came in ready to play, picking up 17 points in the first half. The Wolverines countered with three points, putting the score at 17-3 going into halftime. The offense for Smithtown East continued to do well in the second half, scoring another 21 points to put the game away.

The win improved the East Bulls standing to 3-1 as they hit the road to take on Deer Park Oct. 5 at 6 p.m. Newfield falls behind with the loss to 1-3 for the 2018 season and will host the Huntington Blue Devils Oct. 5 at 5:30 p.m.

One Newfield high school student is driving in style thanks to Make-a-Wish Foundation of Suffolk County.

Right before Newfield High School’s homecoming game Sept. 22, the nonprofit presented 17-year-old Conor Wesch with a special wish — his grandfather’s 2006 Chevy Impala SS restored. The Newfield senior was referred to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Suffolk County after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in December. The nonprofit grants the wish of those between 2 ½ years- and 18-years-old and battling a critical illness.

Kellie Ryan, community relations manager for MAW in Suffolk County, said Wesch was told his grandfather’s car, which had sentimental value for him, wouldn’t be completed until a few weeks later. The nonprofit wanted to surprise him at homecoming because the Middle Country Booster Club and members of the community raised funds for the car refurbishment.When Wesch heard the announcement before the homecoming game to come down to the field, Ryan said he sprinted to his car and was surprised and delighted.

In addition to the Middle Country Booster Club making Wesch’s dream possible, local businesses contributed time and material to refurbish the Impala. Michael Calvitto, owner of Class Act Auto Collision, restored the vehicle, while Pioneer USA, Grand Prix Auto Stereo & Alarm, Reliable Rim Repair Inc., and Miller Place Auto Upholstery have contributed to its restoration which included new upholstery, rims and a stereo sound system.

Wesch, who received his driver’s license in July, envisions himself driving his new car to the beach and enjoying road trips with friends, according to a MAW press release.

By Amanda Perelli

The recognized valedictorians and salutatorians of the Middle Country school district were active community members who set a positive example for this year’s graduating class. The driven students excelled in and outside the classroom, engaging in several extracurriculars and college-level classes.

Centereach valedictorian Anthony Roman and salutatorian Olivia Zhu. Photos from Middle Country school district

Centereach High School 

Valedictorian Anthony Roman graduated with a 98.2 GPA and was recognized by the college board as an AP Scholar with Distinction and a National Merit Scholar. He was enrolled in 14 AP classes at Centereach and four other college-level courses.

Roman was a member of several clubs and organizations within the district, including the Thespian Honor Society, Italian Honor Society, National Honor Society, the school newspaper and Science Olympiad team.

He is attending Massachusetts Institute of Technology this fall to study mechanical engineering and computer science. 

Salutatorian Olivia Zhu, who graduated with 11 AP courses and two college-level courses under her belt, also earned the recognition of National AP Scholar with Distinction from the College Board.

A member of National Honor Society, Tri-M Music Honor Society, and Math and Science Olympiad teams, Zhu also made time for sports, competing as a member of the varsity tennis team since eighth grade. She served as captain and earned most valuable player nods from her coach the past two seasons.

She will be attending Cornell University to study computer science and engineering this fall.

Newfield valedictorian Photos from Middle Country school district

Newfield High School

Valedictorian Logan Ortiz graduated with an unweighted GPA of 98.7 and more than 40 college credits. He participated in student government, National Honor Society and Tri-M Music Honor Society and served as
captain of the Mock Trial team while also remaining president of the Video Club.

Ortiz was also busy serving as captain of the golf team.

He plans to attend Georgetown University next fall and study political science. He said he hopes to attend law school and has his eye on becoming a government official.

Salutatorian Diogo Martins finished his high school career with an unweighted GPA of 98 and more than 45 college credits.

During his four years at Newfield, Martins helped out with almost every fundraising event in the school and served in leadership roles in the Thespian Honor Society, World Languages Honor Society and National Honor Society.

Martins will attend Villanova University in the fall and intends to major in finance.

Newfield High School seniors may have had to make one last change in their schedules, but weren’t going to let a little rain dampen their mood when they took to the football field for their graduation day ceremony June 24.

Although postponed a day, parents came out in droves to cheer on the class of 2018, watching the seniors collect flowers and stop to pose for pictures after receiving their diplomas. Valedictorian Logan Ortiz and salutatorian Diogo Martins addressed the crowd for the final time as classmates.

Students also sang and showed off decorated caps before tossing them in the air in celebration of a milestone achievement.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone delivers his State of the County address May 24 at Newfield High School in Selden. Photo by Alex Petroski

In his annual State of the County address, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) touted recent initiatives while also keeping an eye on both the near and distant future. The executive spoke for more than an hour from the auditorium stage at Newfield High School in Selden in front of a crowd of county, town and village lawmakers, students and others.

“I can tell you that the state of Suffolk County — this amazing place that we all call home — is strong,” Bellone said. “I remain committed to making Suffolk County a model for effective and efficient government, a government that is as good as the people it is there to represent.  We can build a stronger economic future, we can protect our water quality, we can transform this government, and we can do big things in Suffolk County and on Long Island if we do them together.”

Though he admitted the state of the county government, “remains a work in progress,” Bellone called on both political parties to look past the issues that divide them and remember the things that unite Americans. He honored the four Suffolk County native airmen of the 106th Rescue Wing, based out of Westhampton, who died as a result of a helicopter crash while carrying out a mission in Iraq in March, including Commack resident Master Sgt. Christopher Raguso and Port Jefferson Station resident Staff Sgt. Dashan Briggs.

“These are the individuals that make our country great,” Bellone said.

The executive spent a large chunk of his speech on public safety and the work of the Suffolk County Police Department, specifically a decreasing rate of opioid related overdoses and violent crime and reported that last year 222 arrests were made in connection with the violent gang MS-13.

While discussing public safety, Bellone detailed the recently implemented SHARE initiative. The program — Sharing to Help Access Remote Entry — allows participating school districts to connect closed circuit security camera systems directly to SCPD, who can access surveillance footage in real time in the event of active shooter situations on school campuses.

He gave a nod to the students locally and across the country organizing marches and walkouts to protest for stricter gun control laws in the wake of more high-casualty school shooting incidents around the U.S.

“It has been inspiring to see young people speak out on issues, organize rallies, run for school board and demand more of their elected officials,” he said. “Your voices will be heard.”

The county executive made numerous references to the state of government and politics in Washington D.C., specifically in making a pledge that he and his colleagues “will not rest” until the State and Local Tax deduction, which was repealed as part of the federal tax overhaul bill passed in 2017, were restored. The elimination of the deduction stands to cost residents in high-property tax areas — like Suffolk County — thousands of dollars more than previous years.

Bellone stressed the importance of economic development through downtown revitalization projects — like upper Port Jefferson’s “Uptown Funk” plan — and streamlining public transportation around these hubs as a means to foster an environment in which young people can afford to live in Suffolk County going forward through the creation of quality jobs.

“We spend a lot of money educating our kids here,” the county executive said. “Too many of them have left for other parts of the country, where they are helping to power their regional economies. We have to stop that.”

Bellone called water quality a critical issue for all Suffolk County residents. The county has made funding available for septic system improvements for homeowners, which would help reduce the amount of nitrogen polluting Long Island’s waterways. He also recently implemented a recycling program for six county school districts.

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