Rocky Point hosted its graduation ceremony June 28 where graduating seniors braved an early summer heat wave to get their diplomas.
All Photos by David Luces
Rocky Point hosted its graduation ceremony June 28 where graduating seniors braved an early summer heat wave to get their diplomas.
All Photos by David Luces
By Rich Acritelli
“America is never wholly herself unless she is engaged in high moral principle. We as a people have such a purpose today. It is to make kinder the face of the nation and gentler the face of the world.”
These words of service, which were spoken by the late President George H.W. Bush, are the lifelong giving code of Brooke R. Bonomi. He is a social studies teacher, coach and adviser who after 33 years in education will be retiring from Rocky Point High School. This distinguished educator has devoted his entire life to carrying out local and national tasks toward the betterment of his own home community and that of this North Shore school district.
Bonomi’s story began many years ago as a native of Woodside, Queens, who had moved to Syosset when he was 8 years old. This 57-year-old teacher vividly recalled a happy home life that saw his father work as a New York City firefighter and his mom was a housewife who cared for their three children. With a big smile, Bonomi laughs at his memories of playing endless hours of manhunt, competing through soccer and lacrosse and running many miles through the hills of eastern Nassau County and western Suffolk County. Running was a strong fit for Bonomi, who excelled at this sport in college and later ran the Montauk and Long Island marathons.
As a capable student-athlete, Bonomi was also the senior class president for Syosset High School. Always armed with a big smile and a unique personality, he created a contest among the student body titled “Why I Want to Go to the Prom with Brooke Bonomi.” As he mentioned this memory, Bonomi laughed and explained some of his fellow peers perceived this event as being pathetic, while he always saw it as a genius way to garner support for a school function. During his senior year, Bonomi was a three-sport athlete who was recruited by Johns Hopkins, University at Albany and Boston University to play soccer. To make life economically easier for his father, Bonomi received an appointment to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut.
In 1980, this native of Syosset entered the service where he planned to earn a military education with the chance of playing soccer. While he made it through basic training and conducted sea operation on the Eagle, this military institution was not a good choice for Bonomi. Although he liked being in uniform and the camaraderie of the military, he struggled with his grades and the rigidness of this school, and he was honorably discharged after his first year. In 1981, Bonomi returned home and made plans to enter SUNY Oneonta, where he later majored in political science and speech communication.
It was at this school that Bonomi flourished with his own independence and creativity. Always a fan of music and performances, he and his friends established the Wondering Winter Wonder Men. This group sang two Christmas songs for a $1 to provide holiday cheer to the students while raising money for charity. Bonomi was also the captain of the cross-country team where he distinguished himself. With his friends, he ran the grueling length from Oneonta to Fire Island and from Montreal, Canada, to Hudson, New York, which was located just south of Albany. During these exhausting journey’s, he traveled a long way on foot and when he needed to rest, Bonomi slept on the lawns of people’s houses. With his witty sense of humor, he was also the disc jockey for the university radio station, worked at a local restaurant, was a resident’s assistant within the student dorms and delivered furniture. This was a golden time for Bonomi as he played sports, ran, worked various jobs and established his own sense of free will he would later use as an educator. Always an avid reader and analyst of history and political science, Bonomi appreciated both his liberal and conservative professors who allowed him to freely present his own views on these subjects. While Bonomi is a free spirit that is often pulled in many directions, he has an agile mind which has allowed him to fully express knowledgeable beliefs on many historical and political topics of discussion.
Once he graduated college in 1985, Bonomi believed that he was going to enter the Peace Corps. It was not until he went home to Syosset that a local neighbor and New York City social studies teacher expressed to Bonomi that he should enter education. Again, Bonomi went back to Oneonta and was enrolled in the education program to enter a field that would become his life’s work. Bonomi learned that there were positions opening up at Longwood Central School District. When he was looking at a map to locate Middle Island, he noticed that Rocky Point was not too far from this district. This Nassau County man learned of Rocky Point through a shirt that his friend wore about this town and school.
In 1986, Bonomi walked into the main office of the Rocky Point High School and ran into longtime teacher, administrator and coach, Michael P. Bowler. This former assistant principal was leaving teaching as a social studies teacher and entering administration. Bowler was the first person that Bonomi met in this entire district and he recollected, “It was in a way serendipitous that Brooke walked into the office that day because we needed to hire a teacher to replace me. I spoke to Brooke for quite some time and I could see that he was full of positive energy and enthusiasm and grounded in a deeply rooted value system … I just had a feeling that he would make a great addition to our school and community. The rest is history.”
Unlike the urban areas of Syosset, Bonomi enjoyed the rural feeling of Rocky Point, dominated as it was by the beauty of the conservation preserve located behind the high school. Bonomi was always known for his enthusiasm, but he was a little hesitant to be involved in different activities. Dan Galvin, the principal of the high school, wanted him to start coaching. At first, Bonomi refused to do so, as he wanted to allocate enough time toward lesson planning for the rigors of his new assignment as a seventh-grade American history teacher. He was originally at the crossroads of the high school, as he was one of the youngest employees to be hired at a time when there were few jobs in this market. Right away he showcased his unique teaching strategies, showing numerous film clips tied to his teaching content, writing songs like “Born an Iroquois,” and even teaching about the brutal cold weather that Continental soldiers had to endure at Valley Forge by standing in a bucket of ice.
As he became more comfortable with his instructional routines, Bonomi coached junior high lacrosse. Since 1986, Bowler and Bonomi have had a tight bond that saw them mold students through education and athletics. As a athlete, Bonomi coached girls junior high, junior varsity and varsity soccer. He ran with his players and personified a can-do attitude through times of both victory and defeat. At a low point during one game, the parents of his own players were openly criticizing their soccer abilities. As the girls were competing, he walked over to the parents and told them to lay off their own kids, as they were doing their best, during a difficult time. This action cemented a trademark of loyalty that Bonomi always presented to his students and athletes that he instructed.
In 1988, Bonomi brought his musical talents to the students of Rocky Point through his well-known organization of the Singing Santas. This group originally presented musical holiday spirit to the nursing homes, soup kitchens and local Veterans of Foreign Wars posts. Three years later, Galvin expressed to Bonomi that while he was doing an outstanding job outside of the school, there were parents who wanted him to sing for the student body. This began the legacy of a club that spanned from 1988 to 2016. He started the process of creating Christmas skits, playing song parodies that resembled the lyrics of Bruce Springsteen, the Blues Brothers, Bon Jovi, Green Day and Dave Mathews. Bonomi took many artistic chances over the years that ended up making this club into a dynamic legacy.
This success did not happen overnight, but through the combined determination of himself, the students and staff. Over several decades, Bonomi always promoted colorful skits, the Artic Horns and choirs of students who sang and danced to songs written by Bonomi. Social studies teacher Chris Nentwich was a key member of the Singing Santas who could be counted on to perform any type of acting role. He portrayed Jack Nicholas as Colonel Nathan R. Jessup from the film “A Few Good Men.” This satire was written by Scott Lindsay and the main part of “Colonel Ketchup” was acted by Nentwich, with support from Anthony Nobre, Sherin Shanahan and Andrew Aschettino. Through the colorful words of Lyndsay, he created a unique mini-play that saw the drama of “A Few Good Men,” with the humor of “My Cousin Vinny” through a comedic court room performance that saw Santa Claus put on trial. These were the traits of the Bonomi creed that saw both teachers and students working together to bring an unusual notion come to life. These performances gained the approval of a cheering auditorium.
A key figure in the Bonomi story is fellow social studies teacher James McCormack. This educator never turned down any type of request by Bonomi for this Christmas production. His favorite part of the Singing Santas was the “Benny Hill” chase scene between Santa Claus and the Grinch. Like that of Nentwich, McCormack was a main figure during these shows and he fully believed that, “There were a million moving pieces and a lot that could have gone wrong, but that old Bonomi magic kicked in and it all worked flawlessly,” McCormack recalled. “That is what Singing Santa’s was — a symphony of controlled chaos with Brooke as the maestro. It was always a joyous experience.”
At the final show for the Singing Santas in 2016, the school was filled with students and their family members that had traveled near and far to thank Bonomi for the countless hours that he spent presenting this enormous pageant. Next to Bonomi was the musical talents of Michael Conlon, a guidance counselor who had been a member of several bands since his youth in Sayville. While Bonomi showed his genius through being an off the cuff individual, Conlon personified a balance in music to personally sing songs. They immediately connected, and Conlon stated, “The memories that I have of the Singing Santas experience will forever bring a smile to my face as it did so many students over the last twenty-five years to perform in many different venues.”
Joseph A. Cognitore, the commander of Post 6249 Rocky Point Veterans of Foreign Wars, always requested the help of the Santas to play for their annual holiday party. Cognitore was always amazed at the role of the students and he expressed that “Bonomi was a constant fixture to bring smiles to all of the people, especially the children that watched these shows. Over the years, he never hesitated to help veterans that were struggling at home or were serving overseas in combat areas.”
Another activity and immense pride for the school that Bonomi led over the last several years was the Be a Nicer Neighbor Club. This organization was originally established from a lesson on the Progressive Era, which Bonomi taught on the need for people to be respectful to each other. Bonomi credited Galvin for promoting the charter beliefs of this group and Principal Bill Caulfied for making it into a reality by formerly making it into a yearly club.
In the early morning hours, Bonomi and the students cooked breakfast for the staff members, they made food for the homeless and school bus drivers. During the colder months, his students organized food and clothing drives and in the spring they conducted car washes. He helped build two 9/11 memorials placed in front of the school to remember the four lost graduates from Rocky Point. Just recently, he presided over Live Like Susie event to recall the positive joy of Susie Facini and to honor those current students that presented her values of kindness and devotion to the school. For many years, he ran the Senior Citizen Prom for the older residents of the North Shore. Bonomi had the students dress up as waiters, they played music and even ran the Pete Rose casino. He has taken students numerous times to Broadway shows and walked over the Brooklyn Bridge and to Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in New York City.
There has been countless whiffle ball games, square dances, chess matches, after-school films and meetings where he presented his most recent plans to aid society and the nation. Always next to him were staff members where Bonomi is seen exhibiting a dynamic sense of camaraderie. He showcased this through efforts to help the misfortunate in Hubner’s Homeless Helpers. Social worker Jennifer Zaffino has been at pivotal friend at Bonomi’s side for years to promote these social and economic programs. Zaffino, with a immense smile, wanted to thank Bonomi for the “many beautiful, behind-the-scene stories of what comes of most of the fundraised money.” The money is allocated to an account for students in need and has been utilized to help adolescents who experience financial hardship. “This is a small, but perfect example of how impactful Brooke’s ‘work’ has been for our students and their families,” she said.
And the culmination of his many projects was supremely demonstrated this past winter through the Wounded Warrior Basketball Game. The expertise that Bonomi showed was a colossal effort in creating four teams of players comprised of administrators, teachers, aides, security guards and groundskeepers. It was a student-centered game, as they were the coaches who made draft picks and trades through commentated announcements by Athletic Director Charlie Delargey. This event completely packed the gym, had a massive raffle, Simon Says for the children, shirts that were thrown to crowd and left many people wondering how Bonomi was able to make this event into a massive success. Bowler has watched these ongoing achievements by Bonomi and he stressed that this teacher “has always taught the students around him the value and the importance of reaching out and helping others through community service, and he did it in a way that made it fun for them.”
But while Bonomi has had the support of teachers, staff members and students, none of these vital programs would have been made possible without the loving support of his family. He credits the confidence that he received from the loving support of his wife, Eileen, who has stood by him during every activity. She has been the constant source of encouragement and the main cog of the family to completely guide this household. Bonomi, who is immensely busy, is always known to have stated, “that while it is important to help others, your greatest impact will be on your own children.” As a proud and devoted man to his family, he has utter happiness when looking at his children who are all now young adults.
Currently, his son Colin graduated from Scranton University and is employed at a finance firm. His older boy Ryan excelled at his studies at Providence University and now is enrolled in law school where he is working with the Justice Department in Boston, Massachusetts. Lauren, his youngest child, is studying to be a physician’s assistant at Villanova University. Ever the sports fan, Bonomi watches Villanova’s basketball games and likes going to the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. He loved traveling to Woodloch Pines Resort in Pennsylvania and accompanying his wife and children to see the Zac Brown Band at Citi Field. With his family, Brooke has been supportive of his church, where he has organized youth groups, sang at holiday events and sold Christmas trees. While Bonomi brushes aside any personal acknowledgments that praise his talents as a teacher, he has been recognized several times as an educator of the year through different organizations and his church and home town has publicly thanked him for being such a selfless individual.
As it has not yet hit many of us how hard the loss of Bonomi will be for the high school in September, it will be noticeable not to hear his keys jingling, the sight of him giving out raffle tickets for his Friday raffle and his contagious laughter. One thing is for certain, that many of the senior staff members will have to do more to ensure that the traditions that this educator created over the last several decades are continued from one year to the next for the students of Rocky Point High School.
Well, Bonomi will not be in the school for this upcoming year, but his presence will always be felt by the many lives of the staff and students that he has touched since 1986. You can believe that Bonomi will continue to stay active with his family and will continue doing all that he can do on a daily basis to help his fellow citizens in every possible way. Thank you to Brooke R. Bonomi for making the North Shore into a better place.
Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College.
As a result of 13 years of hard work, determination and scholastic commitment, Rocky Point High School seniors Bryant Liu and Josh Vogel have been named the Class of 2019 valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively.
Liu has a long school career that has included leadership and service experiences. He has taken 11 Advanced Placement courses and was recognized as an AP Scholar with Distinction as well as named a Commended Student in the 2019 National Merit Scholarship Program for exceptional academic promise.
As a musician, the 2019 valedictorian has received many honors in the local area. He plays bass clarinet and trombone, is a section leader in the marching band and is a level 6 pianist and the first student from Rocky Point to be named an All-State pianist, one of only 12 in the state during his sophomore year. He received the Piano National Guild Supreme Pupil Award, placed second at the American Fine Arts Festival at Carnegie Hall, and receive honorable mention at the American Protégé International Competition of Romantic Music. In his free time, he also served as the accompanist for the seventh-grade chorus and participated in the Steinway Performers Showcase and represented Steinway and Sons at the Smith Haven Mall.
Liu finds time to balance his studies with many additional extracurricular activities. He is a member of the National Honor Society, Math Honor Society, Math Team, Robotics Team and he has participated with the Pit Orchestra for the high school musical. He also participated on the varsity tennis and winter track teams.
Outside of school, Liu worked as an intern at Brookhaven National Laboratory and participated at the Summer Research Program at Stony Brook University. He also works at the Chinese Learning Center at Stony Brook where he teaches language and culture to younger students.
Liu will graduate with a weighted average of 104.69 and is bound for the University of Southern California, where he will pursue a career in economics and mathematics.
Vogel is a dedicated scholar, athlete, actor and a talented musician. He was named a Commended Student in the 2019 National Merit Scholarship program, Advanced Placement Scholar with Honors and will be graduating with a grade point average of 104.51.
A singer, Vogel has been acknowledged with many honors and awards throughout his four years of high school, including being invited to perform at the SCMEA All-County Music Festival in the Mixed Chorus, the NYSCAME All-County Music Festival, Mixed Chorus and the NYSSMA All-State Conference, Mixed Chorus. This year, the 2019 salutatorian was selected to participate in NAFME All-National Honor Ensembles Mixed Choir that took place in Orlando, Florida, making Rocky Point history as the first district student to participate at this level. Vogel was the co-section leader of the French horns and bass clarinets in the marching band and participated in the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra and the Suffolk Symphonic Choir.
He has also held a number of leadership roles in the school community, including serving as the president of his class for three years and as a member in the Human Rights, Athletes Helping Athletes and Compassion Without Borders clubs as well as the National Honor Society and Thespian Honor Society.
Vogel will be attending Dartmouth College in the fall, where he will be studying government.
Beginning in July, the Rocky Point school district will have a new superintendent for the first time in over 10 years, after longtime superintendent Micheal Ring announced his plans to retire at the end of the school year.
Scott O’Brien, who currently serves as the district’s interim assistant superintendent, who has nearly two decades of educational experience in the Rocky Point school district, said he was honored to be selected as the new superintendent as it has been a position he has respected and held in high esteem.
“Having been a teacher, assistant principal, principal and assistant superintendent in this district has made the transition into the superintendent position exciting and very personal,” he said. “I have worked with most of the staff in one capacity or another and know the majority of families in the community. I am very much looking forward to the opportunity to provide our students with an outstanding educational experience and the staff with the tools and support to achieve these goals.”
O’Brien’s journey in education began in college when he initially explored a career path in landscape architecture. He quickly discovered that his true calling was education after taking a college elective and taking part in a classroom observation.
“The sense of wonder and exploration that was in the room was palpable,” the upcoming superintendent said. “I knew at that moment that I wanted to be a part of the educational environment and help to enrich the lives of tomorrow’s leaders and support learning for all students.”
The new superintendent has cherished that decision ever since.
“My evolution through the years — from classroom teacher to administration — has been a natural progression, as I consider myself a lifelong learner,” he said. “Much of what I have experienced over this time has impacted the way I approach my job and ultimately was the driving force behind my decision to follow the path to the superintendent position.”
O’Brien said, “Rocky Point has always felt like a home away from home.” His grandparents lived in the town and he often visited them during his childhood. Throughout his time in the district he has gotten to know community members and expects to build on those relationships.
The new superintendent said he feels fortunate to have worked alongside Ring and learn from him.
“I firmly believe that our district is well-positioned to build upon its tradition of excellence well into the future as a result of Dr. Ring’s leadership,” he said.
With retirement close by, Ring reflects on career at Rocky Point
“Serving the Rocky Point schools community for these past 11 years has been a privilege and a pleasure,” Ring said.
The outgoing superintendent said the most fulfilling aspect of being in the position is working with teachers, administrators and support professionals to create and implement new and enhanced instructional and academic support programs to improve opportunities and outcomes for all students.
“I will truly miss this process, as well as witnessing the results once these programs are instituted,” he said.
Some of the things Ring is most proud of is what he called closing the achievement gap for students with disabilities and those who were economically disadvantaged. Also, over the years he said the district has substantially expanded opportunities for academic rigor through the nearly doubling of Advanced Placement course offerings, implementation of a science research program spanning grades 7 to 12, and supporting each student in pursuing more challenging curricula. As a result, students are graduating with impressive transcripts and the district has experienced a 38 percent increase in the number of Advanced Placement scholars and a 23 percent increase in graduates receiving Regents diplomas with advanced designations.
Ring added there was no better choice to succeed him than O’Brien.
“His depth and breadth of experience both as an educator and as a member of the Rocky Point schools community position him to continue to move the district forward to even greater levels of success for all of our students,” he added. “There is no doubt that the future of the district will be bright under his leadership.”
Ring has no specific plans for retirement other than to have more time with family, but said he will miss being around the students, both in the classroom environment and in extracurricular activities.
“They are why we all come to work every day,” he said. “Watching their growth academically, socially, emotionally and otherwise is what inspires all of us.”
The Rocky Point school district hosted its second annual elementary STEM Celebration for students to create solutions to hands-on science and math-based challenges, to share their designs with their peers and to continue to improve their solutions.
This year’s STEM Celebration theme was “Fun with Fairy Tales.” Several hundred students and parents attended this year’s event, where they were able to build zip lines for Rapunzel, a parachute for Jack to escape the giant, houses for the three little pigs, bridges and boats for the billy goats gruff, and construct a variety of other solutions to fairy tale character challenges. Attendees were able to participate in a LEGO build-a-thon and see Rocky Point robotics in action.
School districts throughout the North Shore of Long Island are gearing up for budget votes on May 21. Here is a round up of some of the local districts latest budget overviews and a preview of candidates who are running for board of education trustee seats.
Mount Sinai School District budget overview
The final proposed budget figure for the 2019-20 school year will be 61,009,770, which is a 1.34 percent and $806,295 increase from the current year’s amount.
The district is poised to receive $18,007,000 in state aid in the upcoming school year, a slight decrease than it received last year.
Though it will receive slightly more in foundation aid for the upcoming school year in $12,909,109 compared to this year’s figure of 12,845,044, the district will be receiving less money in building state aid. The 2019-20 amount will be $1,168,106, a $489,000 decrease in funds. That’s due to a 25-year-old bond loan on the high school finally being paid off, according to Superintendent Gordan Brodsal.
“The bond on the high school is paid off,” he said. “No more principal, no more interest. That means no more building aid from the state.”
The tax levy cap for the district in 2019-20 will be 2.168 percent and the tax levy amount is $40,986,735, a $870,000 increase from the previous year.
The tax rate for an average assessment of a household valued at $3,700 will be $9,839. As a result, and the district said there will be a $17 increase in tax rates for the average homeowner.
For capital projects, a separate vote in conjunction with budget, the board wants to set a capital reserve of $850,000. Including the $750,000 in funds put last year in capital reserve, the district will have $1.6 million for future capital projects.
Brosdal and the board are proposing to use $1.5 million for two projects: the cost of another partial repair of the high school’s roof and to replace the middle school’s HVAC system. The high school roof repair would cost $850,000 and the HVAC replacement would cost $650,000. The remaining $100,000 would be saved for future projects.
Other highlights of the budget are plans to make the Consultant Teacher Direct Instructor program full day for children in grades 1 through 4. To expand the program, the district would be looking to hire two additional instructors.
Also, the budget will cover replacement of outdated textbooks in the middle and high school. The total for the new textbooks will cost the district $75,550.
Mount Sinai board of education trustee vote
This year, Mount Sinai will have five candidates running for three open trustee seats. Board member Anne Marie Henninger’s seat will come up for vote again after she replaced trustee Michael Riggio, who vacated his position in August 2018. Board member Lynn Jordan will be vying for re-election. Challengers this year are Lisa Pfeffer, Chris Quartarone and Robert Pignatello. The two candidates with the highest votes will get a three-year term while the person to receive the third most votes will take up Riggio’s vacated seat, which will have a two-year tenure instead of the usual three years for the other seats.
Rocky Point Union Free School District budget overview
The latest proposed budget amount for the upcoming school year will be $86,743,446, a slight increase of 0.71 percent from last year’s amount. The district will also see a projected tax levy cap of 2.59 percent and a tax levy amount of $52,491,371, which is an increase by more than $1.3 million from the current year’s figure of $51,166,218.
The district will be receiving $28,864,295 in state aid for 2019-20, an increase of close to $130,000. Rocky Point will get $19,044,293 in foundation aid, an increase of more than $140,000 compared to last year’s figure of $18,902,525.
Another highlight of the budget overview is that debt services will decrease in the 2019-20 school year as a result of a completion of payments of two bonds that date back to 1995 and 2000. The bond payments will expire on June 30 and will save the district $451,751.
Superintendent Micheal Ring said the bonds expiring were approved by voters for various construction projects, including the construction of the Rocky Point Middle School. As debt service decreases, so does building aid from New York State, which is provided to offset part of the cost of bond interest and principal payments over the life of debt.
Employees Retirement System rates will decrease to 13.1 percent, which is expected to likely save the district more than $159,000. Teachers Retirement System rates are expected to decrease as well to 9 percent and would save the district close to $582,000.
Ring said that as rates have gone down it has resulted in opportunities to better support the district’s core instructional programs and enhance maintenance of facilities.
Rocky Point board of education trustee vote
This year there will be two open trustee seats.
Board member Scott Reh, who was sworn in to the board Jan. 14 to fill the seat vacated by Joseph Coniglione earlier this school year, has said he has no plans on securing re-election in May and will let other candidates run for his seat. The candidate with the most votes will serve for the three-year term. The candidate with the second highest number of votes will serve the remainder of Coniglione’s term, which is one year. The candidates this year are Susan Sullivan, Michael Lisa and Jessica Ward.
Shoreham-Wading River Central School District budget overview
The finalized proposed budget figure for 2019-20 will be $75,952,416. It is a $1,176,344 increase from last year’s figure.
The tax levy cap for the upcoming school year is 2.36 percent and the tax levy cap amount is $54,377,657, an increase of $1,257,442 from the current year’s amount.
The district is expected to receive $12,676,465 in state aid for the 2019-20 school year, a decrease of over $98,000 from 2018-2019. Also, SWR will see an increase of over $48,000 in foundation state aid received with the total amount being $6,442,501.
The fund balance for 2019-20 will decrease by close to $67,000 from 2018-19.
The final budget will cover the implementation of an integrated video, door access and alarm management system as well as additional video cameras and perimeter fencing. Night gates will be installed at the Alfred G. Prodell Middle School, Miller Avenue Elementary School and Wading River Elementary School. Also, the budget will cover the purchase of a new high school auditorium bandshell and supplies/materials for the middle school greenhouse.
Shoreham-Wading River board of education trustee vote
This year, SWR will have three trustee seats open.
The full terms of board members Michael Lewis and Kimberly Roff will expire June 30. Roff chose to not seek re-election.
The third seat is for board member Erin Hunt, who resigned in March and whose term will expire June 30 as well.
The candidates with the two highest number of votes will win the full three-year term seats. These candidates’ term will be from July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2022.
The candidate with the third highest number of votes will win Hunt’s vacated seat. The winning candidate’s term will begin the evening of the election, May 21, and their term of office will end June 30, 2020. An election will take place in May 2020 to fill the seat for a three-year term.
The five challengers for this year are: Thomas Sheridan, Jennifer Kitchen, Meghan Tepfenhardt, Edward Granshaw and William McGrath.
Rocky Point residents were able to get a full picture of its school district budget for the 2019-20 school year after two workshops on Jan. 14 and March 18 that covered all aspects of the budget.
The total proposed budget amount for the upcoming school year will be $86,743,446, a slight increase of 0.71 percent from last year’s amount. The district will also see a projected tax levy cap of 2.59 percent and the tax levy amount would increase by more than $1.3 million.
At the Jan. 14 workshop, district officials expressed concerns over the delay in implementation of foundation aid to its schools and how it could affect state aid funds they receive. On April 1, the state passed its budget and the district will receive a preliminary figure of $19,044,293 in foundation aid, an increase of more than $140,000 from last year.
“The district is appreciative of the efforts of our elected representatives in Albany for all they have done to provide additional foundation aid for the 2019-20 school year,” Superintendent Michael Ring said. “Although the increase for the school year represents a smaller rate of growth than in recent years, we are aware of the fiscal challenges being addressed in Albany.”
Another highlight from the January workshop was debt services which will decrease in the 2019-20 school year as a result of a completion of payments of two bonds that date back to 1995 and 2000. The bond payments will expire on June 30 and will save the district $451,751.
The Rocky Point superintendent said the bonds expiring were approved by voters for various construction projects, including the construction of the Rocky Point Middle School. As debt service decreases, so does building aid from New York State, which is provided to offset part of the cost of bond interest and principal payments over the life of debt.
Employees Retirement System rates will decrease to 13.1 percent, which will most likely save the district more than $159,000. Teachers Retirement System rates are expected to decrease as well to 9 percent and would save the district close to $582,000.
Ring mentioned over the past decade the district experienced large increases in required contributions to both ERS and TRS.
“Those increases were challenging to fund and necessarily constrained funding for instructional programs and maintenance of buildings and grounds,” he said. “As these rates have settled back down, the result has been opportunities to better support our core instructional programs and enhance maintenance of our facilities.”
In the March presentation, the district showcased recent enrollment numbers of its students. For the upcoming school year, they are projecting a decrease of 56 students in total, the middle school and high school look to be the most affected as they will have 26 and 23 fewer students respectively.
“We are aware of the fiscal challenges being addressed in Albany.”
— Michael Ring
Ring said declining enrollment is a factor impacting most Long Island school districts, adding the district has effectively managed the impact of this trend through appropriate allocation of resources, redeployment of staff when ordinary attrition occurs and anticipating future needs based on an understanding of the population trend.
The proposed budget is tax cap compliant, according to the superintendent. However, the final tax levy proposal that will go before the voters in May will not be final until acted upon by the board at its April 16 meeting.
For the budget to pass, the district will need a majority of voters support. If the district doesn’t get enough initial votes, the district would call for a second vote with the same or a revised budget. If the second vote does get enough support expenditures could be cut by more than $1.3 million. That could mean potential cuts to instructional and administrative staff as well as instructional support and athletics.
The district budget hearing will be held May 7 at the Rocky Point High School auditorium and the budget vote will be held May 21.
Since Rocky Point High School was built in 1971, its graduates have gone on to become musicians, scientists, college athletes and more; but many also have gone into the armed services.
Now, the Rocky Point school district is looking to show its appreciation for those graduates turned veterans by creating a new Wall of Honor featuring the faces of close to 60 men and women who made the choice to serve after high school.
“We recognize the students for so many different things throughout the school year, whether it be academics, sports-related accomplishments, clubs — and this is just one thing that it’s nice to recognize these students for all they’ve done for our country,” Rocky Point High School Principal Susan Crossan said.
Crossan had seen similar walls in other school districts such as Longwood and Comsewogue and said she figured it was time her school also honored its homegrown veterans. She originally pitched the idea to a number of history teachers at the high school, including Jamie Mancini and Heather Laughlin-Cotter, who came to appreciate the idea very quickly she said, though it was high school social studies teacher Richard Acritelli, himself a nine-year army reservist veteran, who truly picked up the idea and ran with it.
“Rocky Point is a blue-collar area with a lot of men and women in the service community, a lot of policemen, firemen and many who served in the armed services,” Acritelli said. “We have strong ties to the defense of this country.”
Since spring, many Rocky Point teachers and students worked together in an effort to find and contact the district’s veterans. Acritelli said it was a balancing act, doing their best to get students who attended Rocky Point High School many years ago in addition to ones who only graduated recently.
“We have a variety of veterans up on the wall, such as those in military academies, those who served in the Cold War, those in the War on Terror, young people in ROTC programs, and those who literally just left the school,” Acritelli said. “In a short period of time — with the number of names we were able to get compiled — it’s going to be really tastefully done.”
Acritelli said almost all funding was provided by local sponsors, including the Rocky Point Teachers Association, the Rocky Point Athletic Booster Club, the Rocky Point VFW Post 6249 and the nonprofit Feal Good Foundation.
The wall is being constructed by Ronkonkoma-based Fricke Memorials, and each plaque will include a picture of the veteran, their name, rank and branch of armed service. Along with the plaques the wall will include black granite etchings and bronze emblems representing each military branch.
Some of the Rocky Point graduates named on the upcoming wall go back more than 50 years, before Rocky Point High School even existed, when students who graduated from the middle school instead traveled all the way to Port Jefferson to finish their education. Crossan said she expects more names to be added to the wall as the news of it in the community spreads.
“It’s very important that we show loyalty to the students who have served, that they know that their school has recognized their services at home and abroad,” Acritelli said.
The Wall of Honor will be located just to the right of the main entrance to the high school past the main auditorium entrance.
Crossan said the wall will be installed this coming weekend, and all plaques will be put up on the wall Nov. 12. The school will be hosting a school assembly celebrating Veterans Day Nov. 16, which will be followed by an unveiling of the wall.
The Rocky Point school district is battening down the hatches and shoring up its defenses with money from its ongoing capital bond project.
The district has finished phase 2 of its list of projects set after passing a 2016 bond proposal. Much of the work has already been completed, including replacing the aging ceiling and lighting in much of the district’s four school buildings.
“What we did weren’t things that are exciting like adding on a new wing, new classrooms or a new gymnasium, they were basic things to keep serving the students,” Superintendent Michael Ring said.
In 2016 Rocky Point residents voted to let the district borrow $16 million for upgrades and repairs. The first half of the project, amounting to roughly $7 million, was completed in summer 2017. Parts of the second half of the plan, costing approximately $9 million, were completed before the start of the school year Sept. 4, according to the district.
In 2017, residents also approved with a 600 to 312 vote to release $3.4 million in capital reserve funds to work in tandem with the bond projects. That money was used to renovate the district’s music classrooms as well as finishing resealing of the middle school’s exterior brickwork to prevent water penetration. There are also plans for a future reconfiguration of the roadways on middle and high school property. Work is ongoing to refurbish the turf on the high school’s lower field, but Ring said weather has delayed the project. He said it should be completed within the next few weeks.
Last year’s bond work included new boilers and renovated bathrooms at the Joseph A. Edgar Elementary School, as well as adding air conditioning to the high school auditorium. Summer 2018 construction, overseen by Huntington Station-based Park East Construction Corp., provided renovations to the high school’s boys and girls locker rooms and bathrooms. An Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant lift for the high school gym stage was also installed. Along with the work at the high school, the Frank J. Carasiti Elementary School cafeteria had new air conditioning installed.
Ring said the most substantial improvement to district buildings during the past summer was the installation of new LED lighting fixtures throughout the high school and JAE elementary. The new lighting should be more energy efficient, he said, while giving the school the opportunity to replace aging ceiling tiles in places that had not been addressed for close to 50 years, since the high school was constructed.
Work to renovate the middle school’s lighting system will take place during the year after school hours. FJC elementary has had its lighting replaced in the building’s corridors, and the rest of the building’s lighting will be updated in summer 2019.
These lighting fixtures include new “daylight harvesting technology” that will dim the lights depending upon the amount of natural light that enters the room, which Ring said should save on electrical costs. The new lights also have occupancy sensors that will shut off all lights if there is nobody in the room.
“That’s so you don’t see that effect you see when you’re driving down the road and the whole building is lit up, even if it’s 8 o’clock at night,” Ring said.
As part of the bond project, the district is also looking to beef up security at its buildings. The district added unarmed security guards to school buildings for the start of the new school year. Rocky Point is also looking to implement a new door access system to reject unwanted intruders as well as “door-ajar systems” that will notify the school if a door is being propped open from the inside.
The district also wants to improve its security camera capabilities by adding more camera coverage as well as installing new facial recognition and license plate reading technology. Ring said those projects are currently on hold awaiting New York State approval. If approved, the district will immediately put proposals out for bid so construction of those security additions can begin before the end of the 2018-19 school year, according to the superintendent.
Ring said he happy with the results of the bond work so far, even as it became stressful to finish ongoing projects before students returned for the start of classes.
“It’s always a relief when it’s done because it’s always a stressful time,” Ring said. “When you look at the end of June and things are getting pulled apart, then hoping and praying they get put back together for September. Hopefully next year’s project will come along, and the same thing will happen.”
Despite a storm that plowed through Long Island at the same time that many residents were to head out to vote May 15, Rocky Point residents passed the school districts $86,128,785 budget with 499 yes votes to 226 no.
“The most important thing for us was to put forward a budget that is fiscally responsible while we continually try to grow options for students at our schools,” Superintendent Michael Ring said.
The largest increases came from teacher benefits and new general education initiatives, like science, technology, engineering and math initiatives, new Advanced Placement courses and special education services.
Ring said he was disappointed with the voter turnout compared to last year, which saw 909 residents come out to vote. Ring partially blamed Tuesday’s storm that came around when the district usually sees most come out to vote.
“Most come out to vote after 5 p.m.,” Ring said. “Thankfully enough came out.”
Two trustee seats were opened on the board. Incumbent Ed Casswell was voted to his second term with 551 votes and newcomer Gregory Amendola was elected to the board with 571 votes. The race was uncontested, with current board Vice President Scott Reh stepping down.
“We have a great board of education — its going to be a loss that Reh is leaving, but Greg Amendola is going to be a great addition to the team,” said Casswell, a 26-year resident who was elected alongside Reh in 2015.
The vice president, who is Mount Sinai’s athletic director, said he felt it was time to step down after nine years on the board.
“I did it for three terms, but it was very time consuming,” Reh said. “I think the board’s doing a great job. I think I’m leaving it in very good hands. I was honored and privileged to serve on it. I wish everyone the best of luck.”
Casswell has been a member of the North Shore Little League for 10 years and is currently the principal of Center Moriches High School.
“I feel it is important to be an active member of a community,” he said. “High levels of altruism and service among citizens help create vibrant communities. This has always been my driving force and calling. I believe in these notions and love serving.”
Amendola, a 13-year resident who is looking to get the community more involved, echoed Casswell’s comments about losing Reh, but said he looks forward to being on the board.
“It’s an exciting time,” Amendola said. “I’m excited to be part of the team and make a difference. As of now I really just want to get in and get my feet wet and help any way I can.”
The board members will assume their trustee positions at the July organizational meeting. There the board will also elect a president and vice president for next year.