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Retirement

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Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died Feb. 13, 2016. With the presidential election 269 days away, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and his caucus set a new precedent, refusing to hold confirmation hearings or a vote on then-President Barack Obama’s (D) nominee Merrick Garland because they believed the American people were mere months away from truly having a chance to weigh in on the decision.

This week Justice Anthony Kennedy, viewed by many as the center-right fulcrum of an otherwise politically balanced bench, announced he would retire. As a result, President Donald Trump (R), with two- to six-and-a-half more years left in the White House, will get his second bite at the Supreme Court apple, having already appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch last year.

If we are to set aside the hypocrisy of Senate Republicans pledging to plow forward with the nomination and confirmation process before the midterms, jus—-t 124 days from now, we don’t think it’s too much to ask for them to consider a few things as they begin the process.

First, can our current political climate handle the nomination and appointment of a partisan justice bent on say, being the deciding vote in overturning Roe v. Wade? Yes, it would score political points with the president’s Republican base and enflame liberals even more than they already are, which seems to be one of the few pillars guiding the right. Do Republicans in Congress truly believe they don’t have a role to play in restoring some shred of compromise and unity in our politics? Would nominating a hard-line pro-life justice this close to what was already likely to be possibly as heated a campaign season our country has ever seen (outside of 2016, of course) really do anything to advance our country’s discourse to a better place than we’re in now?

Further, beyond Roe v. Wade, are Republicans comfortable with the current discourse regarding the free press and the First Amendment? Will Trump be vetting his nominee about their stance on critical issues pertaining to his own legal situation, which includes probes into his personal attorney’s alleged pay-for-play White House access business structure and a special counsel investigation into Trump’s alleged campaign ties to the Russian government and its meddling in our election? Everyone involved is innocent until proven guilty, but if the president intends to impose a litmus test on his nominee for a question like, “Can the president of the United States legally pardon himself?” that should be a red flag to anyone who claims to believe in the rule of law.

We don’t feel it’s too much to ask for Republicans to consider a nominee that could serve as a unifier in as desperate a time as any for a little compromise, even assuming they’ve made up their mind on tearing up the McConnell Rule before the proverbial ink from 2016 is even dry. Both sides like to stake claims to a mythical moral high ground. Republicans, as they cheerlead things like tearing up the Affordable Care Act and labeling the free press as the enemy of the American people, could do more to stake an actual claim to that high ground than they have since Trump burst onto the scene with a nominee in the form of an olive branch.

Kings Park Principal Lino Bracco gasps as he's given a standing ovation at the June 21 graduation ceremony. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Lino Bracco has become a member of the Class of 2018 by announcing his retirement as principal at Kings Park High School. Bracco has served the school district in this position for the last eight years.

“Mr. Bracco has done an amazing job moving the high school forward academically during his tenure as high school principal,” Kings Park Superintendent Timothy Eagen said. “He will be sorely missed.”

Bracco has had a nearly 40-year career in education, out of which he has spent 20 years as a high school building principal. He was given a standing ovation by the students, their parents, teachers and faculty attending the district’s graduation ceremony June 21.

“I am immensely grateful and humbled to know that my life’s work has bettered the lives of others in some small way,” Bracco said in his retirement letter to the members of the Kings Park board of education. “By continuing this mission of challenging our students’ minds with rich academia embedding choice and challenge, they will continue to find success.”

The Kings Park board of education members, students and staff of Kings Park High School are what he will miss the most, Bracco said in an email. But he is looking forward to spending more time with his wife Sandy and their three grandchildren.

His retirement will take effect Aug. 31. Jason Huntsman, assistant principal of Smithtown High School West, will be filling Bracco’s position. Huntsman has served as an assistant principal for four years, according to Eagen.

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Terryville Road Elementary School principal, April Victor, with some of her students. Photo from April Victor

By Sabrina Petroski

Goodbyes are never easy, especially when a school district has to say it to a dedicated, longtime advocate for students.

At the end of the 2017-18 school year, April Victor will be retiring from her position as the principal of Terryville Road Elementary School in the Comsewogue School District. Victor, who began in January 2001, said the past seventeen-and-a-half years have been some of the most rewarding in her life.

She said she made it her mission to turn her school into a family, an effort that has encouraged parents, teachers and students alike to work together to foster a safe and happy community.

“That’s what makes leaving so hard, because I’m leaving a family,” she said.

Victor said her proudest achievement was making the school a place where the children are put first, and the teachers and parents have a say in decision making. Once a month the district’s parent teacher association celebrates students who are seen as outstanding citizens, an initiative inspired by the longtime principal. Nominated by their teachers, each student receives a certificate and their picture is put up in the hallway of the school.

“We have to celebrate them, build the kids up,” she said. “We have to be kind and thoughtful, and care about our school.”

Comsewogue Superintendent Joe Rella praised Victor as being a brilliant educator and leader, with the ability to build a great community. Rella’s grandson attends Terryville Road Elementary School, giving the superintendent multiple reasons to keep a close eye on the school’s goings on, and the district leader beamed when asked about the work Victor has been doing in her school.

“April Victor has such a tremendous impact on the district and school community,” Rella said. “She will be missed beyond words and is a truly wonderful person.”

In 2007, Victor was named a TBR News Media Woman of the Year in education, for her leadership skills and her efforts to make sure her kids got every opportunity to fulfill their potential. Her peers spoke in glowing terms about their departing colleague.

“Ms. Victor has long had a positive effect on all who have had the opportunity to pass through the halls and classrooms of Terryville Elementary School,” said Robert Pearl, principal of Boyle Road Elementary School. “From children to faculty and staff, she has always been a remarkable anchor within the Terryville community. Her educational expertise, ability to understand the needs of her students and her compassion have enabled her to make a difference in the lives of her students each day. Personally, she has been an outstanding role model for me as I transitioned from teacher to principal.  She truly is the epitome of what every administrator strives to be.”

Victor delivered one final message to the Comsewogue community.

“Thank you for the opportunity to be with your kids and to lead them,” she said. “It’s been a blessing and I hope I made a difference. I’ll miss the energy from the children, and being able to witness their hard work and laughter. I will continue to pray for the community, for safety, joy and love.”

Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone is honored by the Suffolk County Legislature for retiring after 40 years as a public official. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said his farewells as the prominent leader of the Town of Huntington, but not without — as he said it best and “straight” — a crypt and an alleyway.

Petrone led his final town board meeting Dec. 13 as he was honored and recognized by his fellow council members and residents for his 24 years of service as town supervisor. Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia presented the town’s chain of office, a 1-pound, 11-ounce chain featuring several medallions including some made of wampum, for Petrone to wear on the momentous occasion.

Supervisor gives one final farewell address to residents

Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) offered a public farewell speech to residents at the Dec. 13 town board meeting, upon receiving accolades for his accomplishments after 24 years of service. Below is an extended excerpt of his remarks:

Thank you all. It’s been a real experience, a real trip — if I can call it that — a highlight in my life. Actually 24 years is a career in itself, and it’s been made possible because of you.

I give it to you straight. Some people never liked it, didn’t like it,  but it’s always been given to you straight on how I felt and what I thought was best for the entire community or residents at large. Sometimes, maybe, I was not all right, and I made sure it changed and we changed that. You guided me and you gave me that opportunity. I am a rich man, as a result of this, a very rich man full of heart and love you have given me. I share you inside, all of you. I shared a board with 20-somewhat council people. I could share some stories, but I won’t.

But, I think I want to thank this board for really capping this career for me. We’ve really reached new heights during these past several years. I’ve thanked each and every one of them. I’ve given them awards tonight and everything that was said is true — all those pieces add up. Mark [Cuthbertson] has been a partner for 20 years, someone who suffered with me through tough financial times right there plugging along and making the hard decisions that I will forever be grateful for.

It’s not by myself, it was done with other people. I mentioned my board members who are leaving and their accomplishments. I want to thank Gene Cook for all he’s done and everything that he means. I’ve learned some good lessons from Gene. You are going to go forward now. You have a new team to work with, and I think you are excited for that. I think we are all excited there’s a team coming in that’s going to bring Huntington to other heights, which is so very, very important. We’re thankful for that, that’s what service is all about. We should be thankful.

“It’s been a real experience, a real trip — if I can call it that — a highlight in my life, actually, 24 years is a career in itself, and it’s been made possible because of you,” Petrone said. “I am a rich man, as a result of this, a very rich man full of heart and love that you have given me.”

The outgoing supervisor joked he feared Raia was going to present him with an urn or burial plot. Petrone explained when he expanded the town clerk’s archival vault he had promised to do so on one condition: a future spot set aside for his urn.

“We will still have that available, but you have many long years ahead of you,” Raia said.

Petrone was praised by Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D), who has served alongside him for 20 years, for taking the town, which was on the brink of bankruptcy when he took office in 1994, to fiscal stability.

“He is a consistent builder, a mentor; he is someone who put his heart into the job and gave of himself,” Cuthbertson said. “I believe in my heart of hearts this town is so much better for his service.”

The town board members gave a proclamation to the outgoing supervisor that they will rename Irwin Place, the alleyway adjacent to town hall, Frank P. Petrone Way, in honor of Petrone’s accomplishments.

“Such a record of accomplishments warrants a special recognition to cement Supervisor Petrone’s legacy and inform future generations of how much of a debt we owe Supervisor Petrone,” Cuthbertson said. “Such a recognition would traditionally take the form of naming a street after the deserving person. However, a clear policy was set by Petrone to reserve street naming for the deceased, which he fortunately is not.”

Renaming Irwin Place was chosen as Petrone was well known for his habit of parking his car on alleyway, carefully pulling it up onto the sidewalk alongside the building.

“Seeing Supervisor Petrone’s personal car parked in his special spot was a visual signal to all who visit town hall that their government was open for business,” Cuthbertson said.

Petrone thanked each member of the town council for serving with him, including Raia, and noted that even his wife Pat, was in the audience attending her very first town board meeting. He received a standing ovation in recognition of his more than two decades in office.

Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) was joined by Legislators Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) and Lou D’Amaro (D-Huntington Station) to give Petrone a proclamation at the Dec. 19 county legislative meeting for his 24 years as town supervisor and more than 40 years of public service as an elected official.

Petrone wears Huntington’s chain of office. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“I can say without hesitation that in just about every conversation I’ve had over the last 12 years with residents in my community and in the greater Huntington community, they say ‘Things might be tough out there but in this town, things are pretty good,’” Stern said. “Some part of that is due to the leadership and steady hand of Supervisor Petrone for so many years.”

Petrone was lauded by the legislators for his sound fiscal management, innovative and affordable housing projects, preservation of open space and launching a revitalization of Huntington Station.

“Supervisor Petrone is a role model for all of us,” D’Amaro said. “I will always remember if you went to him and you needed something, and you needed to work together he was always cooperative, always willing to help no matter what the issue was … Mr. Supervisor, I wish you the best of luck in the future.”

Petrone said his first plans upon retirement are spending the next few months at his Florida home with his wife, and enjoying time with his first grandchild.

Ring 10 raises money to help abandoned fighters, those down on their luck

Ring 10 boxers smile during a fundraiser. Photo from Facebook

By Kevin Redding

It was one of the few times Howard Davis Jr.’s wife saw him cry in public.

The Glen Cove native and Olympic gold medalist who made history in 1976 as the first amateur boxer to win the New York Golden Gloves tournament four years in a row had just about lost hope that he would ever get back his coveted awards, which were stolen from him and sold at a garage sale.

Matt Farrago with the late boxer and Olympic gold medalist Howard Davis Jr. Photo from Karla Guadamuz Davis

That all changed Sept. 13, 2015, when he was honored by Matt Farrago and his New York-based nonprofit, Ring 10, during a gala at Marina del Rey Caterers in the Bronx.

Davis, who was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer earlier that year at 59 and was on a personal mission to retrieve the mementos for his family before it was too late, was presented with four golden pendants.

Each one was a perfect replica of his lost golden gloves pendants, made and paid for by Ring 10. Veteran fighters from the nonprofit took turns placing them around his neck.

All Davis could do was bury his head in his hands.

“It was such an emotional moment and it was all because of Matt Farrago and Ring 10,” his wife Karla Guadamuz-Davis said, adding that the organization regularly helped pay for her now-late husband’s expensive medical treatment. “After Howard passed away on Dec. 30, 2015, I called Matt and said, ‘Thank you for giving Howard some joy during the last months of his life.’”

For Farrago, 56, a former middleweight boxer who lives in Greenlawn, helping retired fighters who have fallen on hard times is what he does every single day as the founder and president of Ring 10.

Formed in 2010 with a board of directors made up of ex-fighters, a cutman and some boxing advocates that meet once a month in the Bronx, the group stands as one of the few in the world that looks out for those who have been beaten in and out of the ring. Veteran boxers who are often discarded by managers and promoters at the top of their careers have been lost ever since, and that’s where Farrago comes in.

Ring 10 founder Matt Farrago with board member Richard Schwartz. Photo from Facebook

A majority of them wind up in physical and financial ruin because, unlike other professional sports like football, baseball or hockey, protected by NFL, MLB and NHL agencies, there’s no retirement or medical plan or structure in boxing for them to rely on.

You’re by yourself in the ring and in life, Farrago said.

“This is the rare sport that doesn’t take care of its own,” said Farrago, who was a top fighter in the 1980s until he was abandoned by his manager after losing a main event at Madison Square Garden. “There’s nothing — no safety net — nothing for these guys to fall back on. In boxing, if you don’t produce, you’re of no use. That’s the manager’s philosophy.”

He explained that while most athletes are drafted into the pros based on scholarships and achievements in college, that’s almost never the case for fighters, many of whom come up from the streets.

“If they make money, they think it’s going to last forever,” Farrago said. “Then they wake up with $150 in the bank. Whatever it takes, we try and get them back on their feet. We are the most effective club like this in the world.”

One of Ring 10’s proudest success stories is that of Iran “The Blade” Barkley, the World Boxing Council middleweight champion of 1988. The only guy to beat boxing legend Tommy Hearns twice, Barkley went from top of the world to homeless in the Bronx.

Matt Farago with elebrated boxing judge and analyst Harold Lederman. Photo from Facebook

“We were literally told there’s a fighter in the subway system living only with a bag of clothes and his championship belt,” Farrago said. “When Iran retired, he had nothing. We took him in, got him settled, got him a place to live, had social services kick in and about a year and a half ago he got married to a nurse.”

Barkley now serves on the group’s board of directors, which also includes top boxers Mark Breland and Richard Burton, and celebrated boxing judge Harold Lederman.

Since its inception, Ring 10 has raised thousands of dollars through events and banquets to help more than 30 top fighters struggling around the world.

They send monthly gift cards to boxers who can’t afford groceries and clothes, and checks to the families of those suffering from illnesses such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy — an extremely common degenerative disease among fighters that’s brought on by repetitive brain trauma, also known as “punch-drunk syndrome.”

For the last six years the group has helped out former two-time middleweight champion Gerald McClellan, who suffered an aneurysm and collapsed in the ring in 1995 and is now blind and 80 percent deaf; it frequently sends care packages to Charlie “White Lightning” Brown, who was once regarded as having the fastest hands in the fight game and now resides in a nursing facility in Illinois with fluid on his brain and difficulty speaking; and even provided a proper headstone for a Floridian fighter who died from injuries in the ring and was buried in a nameless plot in Flushing, Queens.

Matt Farrago. Photo from Facebook

While most of the boxers helped are between 45 and 60 years old, board members said they anticipate some younger guys currently in the ring coming to them for help.

“Boxers are basically pawns to be moved around,” said Richard Schwartz, one of the board of directors. “I also think there’s the feeling that a lot of people just don’t care — they don’t care about the modern-day gladiators who get in the ring to entertain them, who risk their lives. Once they hang up their gloves and a lot of the hits to the head kick in, many of them don’t even have any kind of medical insurance when they need it most. Where is Don King? Where is Oscar De La Hoyas? These people have made hundreds of millions of dollars from the sweat, blood and tears of these fighters, and where are they?”

To Burton, a boxer who has been swindled out of a fair share of money over the years, there’s hope as long as Farrago is around.

“Everything he says he does, he actually does,” Burton said. “He goes beyond what’s expected of him and he’ll help anybody. If you’re down on your luck, Matt will find a way to raise money for you. Ring 10 is helping as many fighters as we can.”

The Ring 10 7th Annual Fundraiser will be held at the Marina del Rey Caterers in the Bronx Sept. 24 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Shoreham-Wading River school board member Michael Fucito, at center with a commemorative dedication statue, was congratulated by the board on his retirement. Photo by Kevin Redding

At the end of last week’s Shoreham-Wading River school board meeting, it bid farewell to its “rock of reason” — a member who’s devoted 27 years to bettering the district and the lives of its students.

In announcing the retirement and resignation of Michael Fucito, 79, who first joined the school board in 1977, board president John Zukowski said Fucito had an incredible commitment to the community and had always been prepared for every meeting, leaving the job with the same dedication he started with.

Michael Fucito, on right, who was a member of the Shoreham-Wading River Board of Education for 27 years, is congratulated on his retirement by his peers. Photo by Kevin Redding

“When we get this job, we’re all sent out for this training [in Albany] and they tell you how to be a board member,” Zukowski said. “What they ought to do [instead] is say, ‘go follow Mike Fucito around for a couple days’ … he’s always applied his common sense and his logic and he kept everybody on track.”

Fucito, who was born in Brooklyn and raised in Wading River, served in the U.S. Air Force from 1955 until 1959 working on radio systems and learning about electronics before becoming an electrical engineer at Northrup Grumman Corporation in Calverton, where he worked for 34 years. He married his wife Joan in 1960 and together they had three daughters, all of whom went through the school district.

Fucito decided to join the board, and served for two terms from 1977 until 1993 and then from 2006 until last week, because he felt it was his responsibility to give back to the community and improve the district as best he could.

During his tenure, he was a mover and shaker when it came to building maintenance, budget and overall safety for the students, serving on the main board of liaisons on the safety committee formed in the late 70s and 80s, when the much-opposed Shoreham nuclear power plant stood in East Shoreham.

The safety committee, consisting of concerned residents, board members and teachers, was formed to discuss the district’s evacuation plans in the event of a serious nuclear accident at the plant, in the wake of the Three Mile Island accident.

“Mike is the epitome of what a trustee should strive to be. He’s always prepared … he’s always willing to serve, go the extra mile, sit through the ardor of every different committee and always comes out with his same smile.”

—William McGrath

“He was always an incredibly conscientious, hardworking, reflective guy and that’s what you want in a board member,” said Ed Weiss, a former board member and Fucito’s longtime friend. “You’re there to help kids and that’s the way he worked.”

He didn’t anticipate his early March resignation. He planned on finishing out the school year before retiring, moving from Wading River to his summer home in Wells, Vermont, but his house ended up selling in just three days.

Board trustee William McGrath, who’s worked alongside Fucito on the board for nine years, said his friend’s early resignation is New York’s loss and Vermont’s gain.

“Mike is the epitome of what a trustee should strive to be,” McGrath said. “He’s always prepared … he’s always willing to serve, go the extra mile, sit through the ardor of every different committee and always comes out with his same smile … He has been the glue that has held this district together for an awful long time.”

Upon receiving a plaque presented by the board, Fucito humbly stated his accomplishments weren’t a one-person effort, and said it takes a whole board to work to get something done.

“It has been my pleasure to serve the community all these years and I also have a great deal of respect for each of the members I’ve served with,” he said. “I wasn’t on the board to try to be a superhero or anything, I just tried to work with the staff and see how we could improve the situation for the students.”

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The headline spoke to me: “More Women in Their 60s and 70s Are Having ‘Way Too Much Fun’ to Retire.” After reading the article, which didn’t disappoint, by Claire Cain Miller in last Sunday’s New York Times, even though I’ve been at odds lately with The Times, I think there is more to the story than fun.

Two recent analyses indicate that “women have become significantly more likely to work into their 60s and even 70s, often full time” and “many of these women report that they do it because they enjoy it,” according to the article. For those 65-69 years of age,-the numbers have almost doubled since the late 1980s from 15 percent to nearly 30 percent.

Perhaps more surprising is the leap in percentage terms for those 70-74 years of age, more than doubling from 8 to 18 percent.

Who are these women?

Those working are more likely to be higher educated and to have savings, studies have shown, while those not working more commonly are in poor health and have low savings, depending on Social Security and perhaps disability. But for their health problems, they too might be among those working.

Why, if they don’t strictly need the money, are the women of “a certain age” still working?

I can offer some of the answers from my own life. Working, full or part time, is more than just “fun,” although there is nothing wrong with enjoying one’s work. A job can offer a purpose to those who are now empty nesters or perhaps without spouses. There is satisfaction in having one’s daily accomplishments measured in some way, whether with salary or by problems solved. Presumably holding a job offers something of value to community and society.

There is also the social aspect of interacting with others and working as a team. Social ties are linked to longer life spans. In addition, working, unless at a job that is exactly the same each day and could be done by a robot, requires thinking and planning, which in turn helps exercise the brain. And the structure that reporting for work imposes in the course of a week might be welcomed by many.

Sometimes working might be a way to preserve a marriage. In a household where the husband might have been the sole breadwinner but is now retired, the spouses might not be completely comfortable with that new arrangement. Work is a respected reason to be apart some of each day.

There might also be a sort of prestige in still working. When people are retired, they may be asked, “What did you do?” as if life has now passed them by. That’s opposed to “What kind of work do you do?” Having a job might convey greater importance.

If the work one does is inherently engaging and one learns from it and meets interesting people, there might be the motivation to keep one’s hand in and stay abreast of new developments and changes in the field.

And no matter how much savings one might reasonably have, drawing down dollars in retirement can be scary. The urge is to stay in place financially and not to drop down. Bringing a stream of income into one’s life can offset that fear.

Finally, for many there is the absolute necessity to earn money in order to survive. They may wish to retire but feel they are unable to afford that luxury.

Whatever the reasons, society benefits from the continuing efforts of experienced workers. It goes without saying that our newspapers treasure older workers alongside our young.

What apartments would look like at the proposed On the Common site, where Thurber Lumber Co. previously resided, on Broadway in Rocky Point. Photo from Mark Baisch

Senior citizens in Rocky Point may soon have a new living option. The Rocky Point-based development company Landmark Properties Ltd. presented plans to the Rocky Point Civic Association, Historical Society and about 100 members of the community at a meeting on the grounds of the would-be homes.

Mark Baisch, owner of Landmark Properties, constructed a plan called On the Common at Rocky Point, which calls for 40 600-square-foot, one-bedroom senior citizen apartments that would be constructed on the site of the old Thurber Lumber Co. Inc., which closed its doors in February. The plan for the 1.8-acre space near Broadway was met with hesitancy in March from some community members, though reactions from the recent meeting were overwhelmingly positive.

“I’m favorably impressed,” said Rocky Point Civic Association President Charles Bevington, who attended the presentation. “I liked everything, essentially. It’s forward thinking.”

Bevington said he was also pleased with the importance Baisch placed on environmental concerns associated with new development. The buildings would have solar energy, storm-water runoff irrigation systems, energy efficient appliances and safeguards against nitrogen pollution.

“It’s right for a lot of reasons,” said Baisch, a developer. “It brings a residential component to the Broadway-Rocky Point area.”

Baisch made the case for why the project would be an appealing option for senior citizens in the Rocky Point community in March.

“They have to pay taxes, they have to pay their oil bill, they have to pay for repairs [for their home],” he said. In the On the Common homes, senior citizens would not have to worry about upkeep and maintenance around their yard and home. Also, they would be living within a community of their peers and would have more freedom in their daily lives, according to Baisch.

He was encouraged by the positive response he received. He said he had a handful of people sign up to reserve apartments in the event that the plan becomes a reality.

“I think they realize it’s a major step in the redevelopment of Rocky Point,” Baisch said, adding that he’s noticed more commercial development in the Rocky Point area.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said in March she would prefer to see a community center on the centrally located property in downtown Rocky Point, because it is a high-density area already, but recently said she is coming around on Landmark Property’s plan.

“It’s a drastic change from the original rendering,” Anker said. “It looks very much improved from the original conception. I’m listening to the community. If the community supports it, I will support it. … Community input is always incredibly important when significant change is happening in the community.”

Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said there’s a large number of seniors who live in North Shore Beach who are interested.

“Many have reached out to me excited about this,” she said.

Baisch’s plan also guarantees 25 percent of the 40 homes will be reserved for senior citizens who are veterans of the United States military, a point which was appealing to Bevington.

The plan still needs to be approved by the Town of Brookhaven though, before ground is broken and development can begin.

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Louise Pizzuto has taught in Mount Sinai for 28 years. Photo from the Pizzuto family

Saying Louise Pizzuto was born to teach is an understatement.

Pizzuto, 62, started working as a special education teacher at Mount Sinai Middle School in September 1988. After 28 years, the mother of two is retiring to spend more time with her family. The Mount Sinai Board of Education announced Pizzuto’s retirement from her current position in the high school’s Special Education Department. Her last day is June 25.

The Smithtown resident became an integral part of the school district early on in her career.

After seeing some special needs students continuously fail and repeat classes, only to drop out of school after the government passed the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, Pizzuto pushed for courses to accommodate her students. No Child Left Behind set higher standards that her students couldn’t reach on their own.

“They [kept] raising the bar, but my students didn’t have their academic abilities raised,” Pizzuto said. “In order to meet [the requirements] and close the gap somewhat, we had to really start putting in place some programs.”

The addition of more leveled classes or self-contained classes allowed these students to be taught and learn at their own level. More residents started moving to the school district when these programs were established. They were also incorporated into the high school after it was established in September 1991. Pizzuto was no stranger to going above and beyond for those who needed her help.

“When given students with special needs, she would give up her lunch period to audit a class so that she could learn different methodology to teach her students,” said longtime friend Gloria Musto.

Pizzuto also dedicated whatever free time she had, before, during and after school, to help her students.

Before working in Mount Sinai school district, Pizzuto worked at Concord High School in Staten Island, and stumbled into special education because there was a shortage of special needs teachers at the time. She was able to get a second masters in special education while she worked at the high school.

Pizzuto’s daughter Amanda Pizzuto-Montemarano said her mother goes above and beyond for her students, recalling a time her mother took a student to the doctor for an examination. The student was abusing drugs at the time, and was getting sick. Pizzuto paid for the visit, and helped other students similarly, while giving them the tools they needed to succeed.

Although the high school wasn’t the only educational facility she worked for prior to Mount Sinai, Pizzuto said she fell in love with the program because of the kids she helped.

While her career at Concord differed from her experience in Mount Sinai, making a difference in people’s lives is always the priority for Pizzuto. As a special needs teacher, Pizzuto put her students before the lesson, and by learning their strengths and weaknesses, provided background information on a subject to help them learn the curriculum at their grade level.

Her daughter said going into retirement is a big step.

“She is going to miss teaching terribly,” Pizzuto-Montemarano said. “But now she has grandchildren and they’re going to have the greatest teacher, like me and my brother had.”

Pizzuto’s son Paul-Eric has dyslexia, and used to sneak books home from school. She started spending hours helping her son grasp material from school. He said growing up with a mother who was not only a teacher but a special education teacher, was a gift.

Longtime friend and co-worker Michele Gaffney, of Baiting Hollow, said Pizzuto motivated her to get her masters in teaching when Pizzuto and her family moved to the Island. The two started working in the school district on the same day.

“She really optimizes what a teacher is,” Gaffney said. “She goes the extra mile. She’s just fabulous. Mount Sinai will never have another one like her.”

But Pizzuto hopes for the best.

“I told the principal when I handed them my retirement papers that I just hope that they replace me with another teacher that remembers the students before the curriculum,” Pizzuto said.

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Evelyn Gallino poses for a photo with her retirement plaque. Photo from Gallino

The Rocky Point School District is losing one of its veterans.

On Jan. 11, the school district’s board of education announced the retirement of long-time employee Evelyn Gallino, who has been a senior clerk/typist. Her last day will be Feb. 26.

Gallino started working for the school district in 1982 as a minibus driver before taking a hiatus to raise her five children. Since she returned to the district in 1993 as a lunch monitor, she has worked her way up. After taking on a management project archiving files and establishing archives for the school, the school district offered her a position in the Building and Grounds Department in January 2001.

While Gallino has enjoyed her 34 years of service, family is still a top priority for the 61-year-old Rocky Point resident. The retirement age might be 65, but Gallino wanted to retire to be closer to her family and tend to her grandchildren.

“My daughter [and her children] moved to Omaha, Nebraska last year. I miss them terribly and I want to visit more,” Gallino said. She added that her son who lives in Mastic also welcomed a baby around three months ago.

But Gallino doesn’t just assist her family. She assists anyone in need.

“If she knows that you’re in trouble for whatever reason, she will be the first to help you problem solve or direct you where to get help,” Dorothy Tis said.

Gallino and Tis met more than 20 years ago when their children attended Frank J. Carasiti Elementary School together. Around 12 years ago, Tis was in one of the school district’s parking lots when her car wouldn’t start. Gallino came to her aide when she recommended her brother-in-law, who was a mechanic.

As a long-time employee, Gallino has also acquired a wealth of knowledge that helps other employees in the school district.

“She could tell us who did what job, how many years ago, how it was fixed, if the contractors did a good job … she just knows the [school] district,” said Greg Hilton, school business official for the district.

Gallino attributed her vast array of knowledge concerning the school district to her decades of service in the district and her simple curiosity.

“I like to know how things work and why, and if we fix something, why are we fixing it that way,” Gallino said.

Hilton added that Gallino takes pride in her work and community. Before working in the Rocky Point school district, Gallino was the president of the Rocky Point Civic Association when Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) served in the association. According to Gallino, she was also one of two people who helped bring the football program to Rocky Point several years ago. Her husband, Anthony Gallino, is also the fire commissioner for Rocky Point.

Although Gallino will remain in the Rocky Point community, fellow school district employee Melissa Mood said her caring and considerate personality will be missed. Mood added that Gallino’s retirement is “going to be a big loss” for the school district. The two met around 25 years ago.

Rocky Point School District Superintendent Michael Ring said Gallino held many positions during her years in the school district. According to Ring, she’s executed her responsibilities over the years with expertise and professionalism — qualities that made her an asset to the district.

“There was no problem too large or small that Ms. Gallino wouldn’t enthusiastically embrace,” Ring said in an email. “I will personally miss her positive and energetic style and feel fortunate to have worked alongside her during her tenure at Rocky Point.”

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