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Paul Casciano

Danielle Turner was previously the assistant principal at North Country Road Middle School in Miller Place. File photo from Danielle Turner

Athletics in the Port Jefferson School District reached unprecedented heights during the last few school years, and now one of the people who oversaw part of the rise is moving on.

Danielle Turner, the district’s director of physical education, health, athletics and nurses since 2016 will not be returning to the district this fall. She said in an email she had accepted a similar position in the Locust Valley School District.

“I would like to thank the board of education, district staff, students and this great community for taking a chance on me as a new AD,” Turner said. “I am confident that the tools, knowledge, and skillset I’ve acquired here in Port Jefferson will serve me well at my new home in Locust Valley, and throughout my career. Port Jefferson will always have a special little place in my heart, and I could not be more thankful that my career has led me through it.”

During her time with the Royals, the girls varsity basketball and soccer teams each reached New York State championship rounds, with the soccer team bringing home its second straight trophy in 2016. It was the team’s third straight appearance in the finals. The basketball team fell just short in the 2017 title game, though it was the first time it had won a county crown since 1927. Quarterback Jack Collins broke numerous school records and became the first football player in school history to be named League IV Most Valuable Player. The wrestling team went undefeated and won the League VIII championship during the current school year. Shane DeVincenzo put Port Jeff’s golf program on the map, winning the Suffolk County individual title in 2017.

Turner was the assistant principal at North Country Road Middle School in Miller Place prior to taking the position in Port Jeff. She received her first teaching and coaching positions at Longwood Middle School, where she was a physical education teacher and varsity volleyball coach from 2008-12, while also coaching lacrosse and basketball at different levels. She later served as assistant principal at Eastern Suffolk BOCES’ Premm Learning Center and Sayville Academic Center.

While at Port Jeff, she was known for attending nearly every sporting event, posting updates on social media and serving as a promoter of the district’s athletes.

Superintendent Paul Casciano wished Turner well in her new endeavor in an email.

“We’ll miss her energy and vision,” he said. “We thank her for her contributions to our successes over the past two years.”

The district will conduct a search for a new athletic director.

District hoping for details on Brookhaven, LIPA settlement before finalizing 2018-19 spending plan

Superintendent Paul Casciano and board president, Kathleen Brennan, listen to members of the public during an April 10 board of education meeting. Photos by Alex Petroski

An announcement by Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) April 3 was supposed to provide clarity, but it has done anything but.

Romaine announced during his State of the Town address Brookhaven had reached a settlement with the Long Island Power Authority, which would end the legal battle being waged since 2010 regarding the assessed valuation and property tax bill the public utility has been paying on its Port Jefferson power plant. While in the midst of preparing its 2018-19 budget, Port Jefferson School District officials said in a statement they were caught off guard by the announcement and, as a result, the board of education moved to delay
adopting its proposed budget during a meeting April 10. The board will hold a special meeting April 18, when the budget will be presented before a vote to adopt. School budgets must be submitted to New York State no later than April 20.

“We don’t know what the terms of that agreement are — as a matter of fact, there is no agreement.”

— Paul Casciano

“When you plan to make reductions, you need to know how much to reduce,” Superintendent Paul Casciano said during the meeting. “That is the problem with what the town announced, because essentially what the town announced was that they reached a tentative deal. We don’t know what the terms of that agreement are — as a matter of fact, there is no agreement. That’s what we have learned. There are a lot of things that have been talked about at the town level. We have been spending a lot of time trying to find out what the details are.”

Town spokesman Kevin Molloy refuted Casciano’s claim that a deal is not in place.

“We have an agreement in principle, it has not been finalized or signed,” he said in a phone interview. “The town has sought state aid as part of this agreement. This state aid was not included in the recently adopted budget. We are continuing to work with LIPA for a settlement to this case that is fair for our residents and uses any funds from this settlement to reduce electrical charges to ratepayers.”

The town has not shared details about the agreement in principle publicly.

Casciano was asked by resident Rene Tidwell during the April 10 meeting if the district had long-range plans to address the likelihood it will be losing a chunk of the annual revenue the district receives as a result of the power plant’s presence within the district.

“I’m deeply concerned that this potentially devastating issue has not been more proactively addressed in the years since it was first initiated,” Tidwell said during the public comment period of the meeting.

Casciano strongly pushed back against the idea the issue hasn’t been a top priority for the board and administration.

“We have an agreement in principle, it has not been finalized or signed.”

— Kevin Molloy

“The plan is very simple — you cut staff, which results in cutting programs,” he said, though he also put the onus on residents to prepare for possible future tax increases. “There comes a time where it’s not all going to be the school district
cutting programs and cutting staff. At some point, taxpayers — and it may be this year — are going to see an increase in their taxes. We don’t assess. The town assesses. The village assesses.”

Board president, Kathleen Brennan, also disagreed with the idea the board has not been prepared to deal with the LIPA situation.

“I’ve been a board member for eight years,” she said. “Going back those eight years on that board and every subsequent board, this board has addressed the issue head on and has done things that you haven’t read about on our website.”

Board member Vincent Ruggiero first motioned to remove budget adoption from the BOE agenda.

“Given the uncertainty and the fact we don’t have a clear answer from Brookhaven, we have a week that we can adopt this budget, I’m just proposing that we wait as long as we can for some type of response, although we probably won’t get one, and hold the vote next week,” he said.

The public portion of the special April 18 meeting of the BOE will begin at 6:30 p.m.

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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Paul Casciano is no longer Port Jefferson’s interim superintedent after the school board approved his permanent appointment. Photo from Port Jefferson school district

The Port Jefferson School District has named a new — yet familiar — superintendent.

The board of education appointed Paul Casciano as the district’s new leader at a meeting Dec. 13. The Stony Brook resident and former superintendent for the William Floyd School District had been serving as Port Jeff’s interim superintendent since July.

“I thank the board for this opportunity to serve,” Casciano said in a statement. “I am looking forward to working together with our board of education, leadership team, faculty, staff, parents and community to achieve amazing things for the children of Port Jefferson.”

Casciano was at the helm of the William Floyd district for nine years, though his background in the field of education spans four decades. He retired from that position in 2015, though accepted “an offer he couldn’t refuse,” to serve as Port Jeff’s interim leader this past summer. School board President Kathleen Brennan said she was thrilled with what she saw from Casciano during his interim period after he took over for Ken Bossert, who held the position for five years before departing to lead the Elwood school district.

“The board was impressed from the very beginning when we interviewed [Casciano] in June for the interim position,” Brennan said in a phone interview. “The board thought he’d be a great fit for Port Jefferson.”

Brennan added that Casciano told her he had no intentions of being a placeholder, even if he weren’t selected to be the district’s permanent solution for the position.

“He said he can’t sit still,” Brennan said, laughing. “We have found him to be very thoughtful. He listens more than he talks. When he does speak he’s very thoughtful. He has given the issue at hand his best work in terms of bringing suggestions to the board.”

‘We have found [Casciano] to be very thoughtful. He listens more than he talks. When he does speak he’s very thoughful.’

— Kathleen Brennan

Casciano earned a doctoral degree in educational administration from New York University. At William Floyd he began as an assistant principal in 1982 and worked his way up to superintendent by 2006. He is currently the co-chair of Rep. Lee Zeldin’s (R-Shirley) Education Advisory Committee and was also previously the president of the Rotary Club of Shirley and the Mastics. His term as superintendent of Port Jeff’s schools runs through Jan. 1, 2020.

Casciano was put to the test quickly when during the summer a voluntary test of the district’s drinking water turned up traces of lead in several areas. With Casciano leading the way, the district went above and beyond required standards and replaced fixtures that showed lead levels that were below action-level amounts in some cases, to ensure the safety of Port Jeff’s students, according to the president of an environmental consulting firm enlisted to conduct the testing.

“The district response here is at the top of the curve,” Glenn Neuschwender, president of Enviroscience Consultants, said in September regarding Port Jeff’s district-wide response.

Casciano summed up the district and board’s proactive response in September.

“Anything that protects the safety of students is worth the expense,” he said.

Brennan added that on a personal level she’s found Casciano to have a great sense of humor, and said she loves how visible he has been at student functions.

“He’s been great to work with,” she said.

Paul Casciano is Port Jefferson’s new interim superintendent. Photo from Casciano
Paul Casciano is Port Jefferson’s new interim superintendent. Photo from Casciano

The new interim superintendent of the Port Jefferson School District will be attending a meet and greet Sept. 13 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Edna Louise Spear Elementary School hosted by the board of education.

Paul Casciano was hired to fill the position in June and will be available to meet parents and community members ahead of the district’s board of education meeting for September.

The school is located at 500 Scraggy Hill Road in Port Jefferson.

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Port Jefferson High School. File photo by Elana Glowatz

A longtime educator will lead the Port Jefferson school district as it searches for a permanent replacement for outgoing Superintendent Ken Bossert.

During its meeting on Tuesday night, the board of education hired Paul Casciano to serve as interim superintendent, a year after he retired as the head of the William Floyd school district on the South Shore.

Paul Casciano is Port Jefferson’s new interim superintendent. Photo from Casciano
Paul Casciano is Port Jefferson’s new interim superintendent. Photo from Casciano

“We felt that he had tremendous experience,” board President Kathleen Brennan said in a phone interview on Wednesday, referring to Casciano’s 41 years in education, from teacher to superintendent at William Floyd. “He certainly has a grasp on all levels of what it takes to run a district.”

The board hired Casciano to serve from July 1 through June 2017, during which time the board, while receiving input from staffers and other community members, will be searching for someone to work more long-term.

In a phone interview on Thursday, Casciano said although he had retired from being a superintendent, he continues to teach and work. With his wife working and his kids mostly grown, “I thought the conditions were right.”

The Stony Brook resident has education degrees from Central Connecticut State University, Southampton College, C.W. Post and New York University, according to his resume. He joined the William Floyd administration in 1982 as an assistant principal and slowly worked his way up to superintendent, a role in which he served from 2006 to 2015.

“They needed help so that they could select the best candidate to meet the needs of the school community,” Casciano said about meeting with Port Jefferson school board members to discuss the position. “It just seemed like we were all on the same page.”

He joked that Port Jefferson “made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.”

He does not want to use his time in Port Jefferson keeping things “status quo” and just sitting back and watching, he said. He is interested in “continuing to move the district forward even if it’s in the short-term.”

“How much I personally could accomplish? I’m not sure,” Casciano said, but he hopes the superintendent who succeeds him will keep moving forward.

On a personal note, Brennan called Casciano “a very nice guy — very down to Earth.”

Bossert announced his plan to leave Port Jefferson earlier this year and become the new superintendent in Elwood. He had been at the helm for five years, during which time there have been other changes in leadership throughout the district. Tom Meehan was brought in as the elementary school principal, first on an interim basis and then as the permanent leader, then Antonio Santana and Matthew Murphy were hired as principals of the middle school and high school, respectively, when those two buildings’ combined principal, longtime leader Roseann Cirnigliaro, retired.

Both Santana and Murphy have since moved on to other schools, with Robert Neidig replacing Santana and Christine Austen replacing Murphy.

“With the current leadership team in place, I know that the district is in very capable hands,” Bossert said in his farewell letter to the community.

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