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Rocky Point

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Scott O’Brien was named as the Rocky Point school district’s new superintendent April 16. Photo from RPUFSD

Following a months-long search process, the Rocky Point school district has selected Scott O’Brien as its next superintendent of schools. O’Brien will succeed Micheal Ring, who is set to retire this summer after 11 years of service to the school district, the last nine years as superintendent of schools. The school board named him to the position at its April 16 meeting.

“During the application process, it became evident that the candidate best suited and qualified to lead our schools into the future was already part of our administrative team,” said board president Susan Sullivan. “In his many years working in our district, Scott has cultivated strong connections with parents, students and residents alike. This, combined with his passion for education, convinced the board that he will continue to serve our district well in this new role.” 

O’Brien, who currently serves as the district’s interim assistant superintendent, has nearly two decades of educational experience in the Rocky Point school district. He served as a principal in the district prior to his current position, most recently for Rocky Point Middle School and previously for Frank J. Carasiti Elementary School.

O’Brien earned his doctorate in educational leadership and accountability at St. John’s University, professional diploma in educational administration at SUNY Stony Brook, master’s in literacy from Dowling College and bachelor’s of science in psychology and special education from Le Moyne College.

“Rocky Point has always felt like a home away from home for me, and I am honored and humbled to begin this new professional journey here,” the incoming superintendent said. “This district is well-regarded for the robust educational offerings we provide to students at all levels … I look forward to working collaboratively with the staff, students and community to take our district to the next level of excellence.” 

Rocky Point High School. File photo by Giselle Barkley

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. 

Rocky Point Union Free School District Superintendent Michael Ring speaks to the class of 2018 June 22. Photo by Bill Landon

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.

Frankie Anzaldi runs in the NYC Half Marathon March 17. Photo from Frank Anzaldi Sr.

Since he was very young, limits were placed on Frankie Anzaldi, a 16-year-old Rocky Point High School student. When he was in kindergarten, doctors said Anzaldi would never be able to tie his own shoes, but each time he was told he couldn’t do something he has consistently proved the doubters wrong, all despite his epilepsy and seizures. 

Anzaldi has no limits, and he’s ambitious — always looking for the next goal to tackle. With that attitude, he has become an accomplished trombone player and on this past St. Patrick’s Day March 17 he participated in the New York City Half Marathon representing Athletes Without Limits, an organization supporting athletes with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

Frankie Anzaldi runs with his friend and trombone tutor Michel Nadeau. Photo from Frank Anzaldi Sr.

Frankie’s journey to the NYC Half Marathon began simple enough, with a visit to the Stony Brook men’s soccer team after he was named its honorary captain three years ago. It was his interactions with the team in the gym, working out with them, that helped spur his decision to start running. 

“I never thought it would be running,”
Anzaldi’s mother Michelle said. “Out of the blue he said he wanted to go running — so we brought him to the track.”

The 16-year-old’s mother said when they first brought him to the track in July 2016, her son could barely run a mile. But the persistent teenager kept at it, and later decided he wanted to run a race. 

“We found a fun race, a 1K. He did the race and he loved it,” his mother said. 

For that race, Anzaldi ran for the Rolling Thunder Special Needs Track Team. Three months later, he became a member of the team and represented it at the Suffolk County Half Marathon. 

The co-founder of Athletes Without Limits, Barry Holman, happened to be at the race and met the Anzaldi family. The teenager saw one of the organization’s slogan of “No limits” and he adopted it  as his own and has since lived by it. Many of his posts on Instagram, a social media platform, feature the hashtag, #nolimits.  

Frank Anzaldi, the runner’s father, marveled at the progression his son has made in a short amount of time.  

“He just worked at it — went from barely running one mile to thirteen miles,” Anzaldi’s father said.  

The NYC Half Marathon was his fifth half marathon in three years, and despite how long he’s been at it, Anzaldi is still out on the track every week training. 

“Training was really intense — he was running close to 40 miles a week,” he said. 

Frankie Anzaldi after receiving medal in NYC Half Marathon. Photo from Frank Anzaldi Sr.

In training for his first NYC Half Marathon, Anzaldi received virtual coaching from the Badger Track Club, a club based in Madison, Wisconsin, whose main focus is to teach, train and educate athletes in track and field, cross country and road racing.  

“He’s was being virtually coached by Scott Brinen; he’s worked with special needs athletes before,” his father said. “I was put in touch with them through Athletes Without Limits.”

The young man told them he wanted to run another half marathon and his improve his run time, and soon the club helped Anzaldi with a workout plan which included speed and distance training as well as working out in the gym. According to young Anzaldi, it got him in the best shape he’s ever been. 

At the marathon, Anzaldi was joined by his longtime trombone tutor and friend, Michel Nadeau, who is a music teacher in the Commack School District, who just so happened to be a runner himself. 

Nadeau met him five years ago when the Anzaldis were looking for a trombone tutor for their son. The family called Nadeau a godsend, as he helped the teenager learn how to play the trombone by modifying music notes so he could read them. Nadeau taught their son how to read music even before he could read a book. 

“Two years ago, Frankie started running and [his parents] didn’t know I was a runner as well, so it was kind of cool,” Nadeau said.   

Because of Anzaldi, Nadeau was motivated to run in the Suffolk Half Marathon two years ago and ran it again with him this past November. Nadeau also trained with Anzaldi for his fifth half marathon. Training sessions consisted of running for eight miles, three times a week, according to the music teacher. 

“Frankie doesn’t say no to anything, and he’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve met in my life,” Nadeau said. “It’s been really fun working and running with someone that has no quit in them.”

A little more than a month before the race, Anzaldi’s father received a call from Athletes Without Limits asking if the 16-year-old could represent the national team at the marathon. The teenager said absolutely, and he was excited for the race to run past NYU Hospital where his doctors and surgeons work. He would also be running past the windows of other patients he knew personally and was excited to show them what he has accomplished. 

Frankie Anzaldi and his friend and trombone teacher Michel Nadeau after receiving medal in NYC Half Marathon. Photo from Frank Anzaldi Sr.

With five half marathons under his belt, the freshman in high school has already expressed his desire to do more. One of his goals is to represent the United States in an international competition. 

A first chair trombone player in middle school last year and a member of the high school marching band, Anzaldi also has dreams of being a trombone player in the Disney Marching Band. According to his mother, that is the ultimate job he wants in life. 

“It started from the get-go that limits were placed on him, and every time someone says he can’t do something, he proves them wrong,” the teenager’s mother said. 

Anzaldi’s father agreed, saying even if someone has a disability, you shouldn’t limit them. When someone believes in them great things can happen.

“They said he was never going to be able to tie his shoes and now he is tying them and running marathons,” he said.

Green was the color of choice from Miller Place to Rocky Point as thousands lined the roads to celebrate the 69thannual Miller Place – Rocky Point St. Patrick’s Day Parade March 17.

With a cool, sunny day preceding the coming Spring, families sat along Route 25A from the Rocky Point Business District all the way into Miller Place and watched as members of the Miller Place, Rocky Point and Sound Beach fire departments walked in step to members of local family farms, the fife and pipe bands, marching bands, baton twirling teams and many, many more.

Before the parade even began, children and adults alike walked through the streets blasting from green plastic trumpets and horns, painted their faces with clovers and even brought their pets out dressed in Irish flair.

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The walls of East Wind in Wading River were bathed in green as the Friends of St. Patrick hosted their annual Luck of the Irish Casino Night March 8 at the East Wind hotel in Wading River. 

Attendees paid a $75 ticket and were given $200 in fake money, which they then used to play an assortment of games including black jack, Texas Hold’em, craps and slot machines. Money won could be used to buy raffle tickets for an assortment of prizes.

Attending was the recently named grand marshal, John McNamara; along with the recently named queen, Jazmine Lang, a Rocky Point High School junior; and her lady-in-waiting, Emily Hampson, a sophomore at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

The Miller Place-Rocky Point St. Patrick’s Day Parade is set for March 17 starting at 1 p.m. beginning at Harrison Avenue in Miller Place. Roads will start to close at 12 p.m.

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Two men smashed the front window of the Rocky Point Barbershop in the Rocky Point business district and stole store memorabilia Feb. 20, store security camera footage shows.

Security camera footage from Rocky Point Barbershop shows two men robbing the front display case. Image from Rocky Point Barbershop

The two individuals, one wearing a hood and the other a bandana, broke the front window of the barbershop, located at 576 Route 25A at around 2:45 a.m., store owner Yavuz Can said. The robbers didn’t manage to trip any alarms as they went in, despite motion sensors on the inside. Store employees did not learn about the breakin until later in the morning, and police were contacted around 8 a.m.

The shop, known in the area for its $10 men’s haircuts, kept a number of expensive memorabilia in the front case under the register. Can said the men stole hundreds of dollars worth of collectible coins from the case. The robbers also took display hand grenades and eight display knives, which the shop owner said were valued at about $60 each. Also stolen was a 20-gauge shotgun and shells, worth around $175. Yavuz added the broken front door glass would cost the store around another $400 to replace. The robbers did not steal from the cash register.

“This hasn’t happened before,” the shop owner said.

One of the figures captured on video at the break-in. Photo from Rocky Point Barbershop

Suffolk County Police confirmed the shop had been broken into that morning and that items were taken, though they could not confirm any information on the ongoing investigation.

Yavuz asked anybody who might recognize the people in the video to contact Suffolk County Police.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about these incidents can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-800-220-TIPS, texting “SCPD” and your message to “CRIMES” (274637) or by email at www.tipsubmit.com.

All calls, text messages and emails are kept confidential.

 

Rocky Point Jewelers employees from left to right: Ken Driver, Ronald Watkins, Anthony Bongiovanni Jr., Ann-Maria Bongiovanni-LaBella, Barbara Michelle, Tara Jansen, Theresa Armone and Cassie Mundy. Photo by David Luces

By David Luces

Honesty and service — that’s what the owners of Rocky Point Jewelers say have been the mainstay of their shops for 40 years. 

Originally born from a coin collecting hobby between father and son, Anthony Bongiovanni Jr., the general manager of the store, said that after he graduated high school he and his dad hatched the idea of opening a small coin shop. The coin shop eventually turned into a full-fledged jewelry store. 

“I realized early on though that jewelry was the way to go for a daily business — so we went in that direction,” Bongiovanni said.

From there, Bongiovanni would pursue and receive a graduate gemologist diploma from the Gemological Institute of America, the highest degree awarded by the institute. He also holds the title of certified gemologist with the American Gem Society. 

“He meant everything to the store. He was here every day — he was a fixture — always there to lend encouragement to the staff.”

— Anthony Bongiovanni Jr.

Bongiovanni said he learned much from his father. 

“My father taught me honesty and hard work,” he said. “He meant everything to the store. He was here every day — he was a fixture — always there to lend encouragement to the staff.” 

Anthony Bongiovanni Sr. passed away in 2011, but his impact on the store and the community remains. 

“My father was a big influence — he was a great man,” Ann-Maria Bongiovanni-LaBella, who works with the family business, said. “I see a lot of my father in my brother.”

Bongiovanni-LaBella worked as a secretary for many years in the Hauppauge area until that company went under. With some convincing from her father she began working at the store in 1984. 

“Who would’ve thought it would’ve come to this,” she said. “[I remember] we started out with homemade displays my mother would make.”

Over the years, the store has seen an expansion in size, and the family opened a Rocky Point Jewelers branch in Stony Brook.  

The Bongiovanni siblings point to customer service as essential to running a success business. 

“Anyone that sells retail will tell you that it is a different environment now than it was years ago,” Bongiovanni said. “You’re competing these days with not only other retailers but big box stores and online [shopping].”

The main store’s general manager said local jewelers like himself still offer services that are hard to find elsewhere. 

“If you need a ring sized, a chain fixed, a watch fixed or something custom designed — that is something that can’t done on the computer — you have to see a professional for that,” he said.  

Bongiovanni-LaBellla said you learn how to read people and get a sense of what they want.

Many customers have become personal friends over the years. 

“Some of these customers I’ve been seeing for close to four decades,” Bongiovanni said. “You know them, you know their children, now we are meeting their grandchildren.” 

Bongiovanni’s sister said she sees her customers at the post office, at Stop&Shop and at the bank. 

“Generations of families have come here,” she said. “We try to keep people happy — your biggest advertisement is word of mouth, it really is.”

“We try to keep people happy — your biggest advertisement is word of mouth, it really is.”

— Ann-Maria Bongiovanni-LaBella

Theresa Armone, who has worked at the store for more than four years, said it’s the level and quality of service they provide that has kept customers coming back all these years. 

Those who work at Rocky Point Jewelers agree the store works hard to earn the customers’ trust. 

Bongiovanni said people entrust them with their valuables and sentimental objects and it means never compromising their standards. 

“Times change, but it doesn’t mean your level of quality or service has to change — we try to improve on services as much as we can,” he said. 

The general manager said with the work ethic instilled in him by his father, good employees and a little bit of luck, the store is still around 40 years later.  

“It’s a tough retail environment out there,” he said. “There’s no two ways around it, but you always have to strive for better.” 

Rocky Point Jewlers is located at 29 Rocky Point-Yaphank Road and 137 Main Street, Stony Brook.

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By Rich Acritelli

The sounds of the Rocky Point student’s cheers rippled throughout the school’s gymnasium Feb. 9. They packed every inch of the stands, and some screamed their encouragement while standing toward the sides of the gym, all to watch their high school faculty and teachers duke it out for the first Swoopin’-N-Hoopin’ basketball game. 

Beyond the roars and excitement of watching educators layup and hurl attempted 3-pointers, the event and its participants helped raise over $3,500 for a local veterans group. It all came thanks to the idea of one longtime Rocky Point teacher who was wishing to give back to the community.

Since the moment he entered Rocky Point High School as a social studies teacher in 1986, Brooke R. Bonomi has always lived up to the words of service to helping this North Shore school district.  Armed with a contagious smile, a can-do attitude and a drive to excel at every task, this longtime educator organized one of the biggest events that Rocky Point High School has seen in some time. Bonomi mobilized almost every part of this school to lead a Wounded Warriors basketball game Feb. 8 to raise money for Rocky Point VFW Post 6249’s efforts to help veterans who have been physically devastated from the war on terror.

As the fans entered the hallway toward the gym, they were greeted by countless baskets of assorted prizes collected by a multitude of school clubs, items that were later won by the fans through a massive raffle that raised $3,500 to assist the needs of the local VFW’s wounded warriors initiatives. 

“This night of fun should be a tradition that is permanently carried on at our school.”

— Julia Salino

Even as Bonomi ran this entire function, he also played basketball with his fellow staff members that were comprised of four teams. Each squad of teachers, administrators, aides, security and even grounds keepers were coached by the students who drafted and traded these players in the days leading up to the game. Bonomi even enlisted the help of Athletic Director Charles Delargy who served as the basketball commissioner for this game.  During the draft that was held in the school’s auditorium, Delargy read the top selections as main rules interpreter for this athletic event, and guidance counselor Michael Conlon helped pick and play music that was tailored toward each participant.

Bonomi planned this fundraiser for months with his Be a Nicer Neighbor Club. Support was also provided by school athletes, the technology club, the school band as well as staff and community members to help ensure that this basketball game was a smooth success.  

As he approaches the end of his career, Bonomi has always been motivated to get the students, teachers and administrators involved in causes to benefit the community and beyond. For weeks, the students saw Bonomi’s presence in the main hallway selling tickets, dribbling a basketball and playing music to promote this game. A constant presence next to him were the brilliant smiles of fellow teachers Dan Capell, Jenessa Eilers, Gina Grillo and Carly Tribby who were helping bring attention to this event.

VFW Post 6249 Commander Joe Cognitore served as the grand marshal for the game. The veteran served in South Vietnam and Cambodia during the Vietnam War where he was awarded the Bronze Star. He is constantly reminded of this conflict through injuries that he had sustained overseas. Cognitore marveled at the ability of Bonomi to perform “a magnificent job in utilizing all ages of teachers to participate in front of a packed house of fans.” 

Standing next to the military color guard that posted the flag within the center of the gymnasium was senior Joshua Vogel who performed the national anthem.

From the beginning of this project, Bonomi wanted the kids to accept ownership in putting the game together. Rocky Point senior Trey Miller, a skilled basketball and baseball player, was thrilled to support this function.

“I love helping Bonomi and putting our minds together to make unique ideas happen for our school,” Miller said. “This was most importantly a patriotic program that showed respect to our local veterans that deserve to be recognized for their services to this nation.”  

All week and during the course of the game, the well-known creativity of Bonomi was always present through player nick names.  These included library media specialist Jessica Schnall’s “Barkley,” Assistant Principal John “The Total Eclipse” Hart, social studies teacher John “The Bullet Train” Mauceri, English teacher Kevin the “Ginga Ninja” Parker, and the Most Valuable Player for this evening, math teacher Jay “Rubber Band Man” Rand.

Bonomi also enlisted the aid of the technology club, which played music and performed colorful commentary over the offensive and defensive prowess of these teams. While the players took a break during halftime, members of the band played music for the packed house of fans. Resembling a New York Knicks or Islanders game, the younger teachers ran along the stands throwing balled up Swoopen’-N-Hoopin’ T-shirts to the roaring fans. Through all of these activities, Bonomi had a radiant smile on his face as he watched a charitable and patriotic night come together. 

“Spirit and pride was abound with a packed house and I certainly appreciate the passion and energy Mr. Bonomi puts forth to create a positive climate and culture for our student body.”

— Susann Crossan

High school senior Julia Salino works closely with Bonomi’s club and she said she hopes the event continues into the future.

“This night of fun should be a tradition that is permanently carried on at our school,” she said.

Since the moment that he started teaching, coaching and being a club adviser decades ago, Bonomi has long preached the importance of helping others. High School Principal Susan Crossan, who has known this educator for many years, said she was extremely pleased about the game

“Spirit and pride was abound with a packed house and I certainly appreciate the passion and energy Mr. Bonomi puts forth to create a positive climate and culture for our student body,” the principal said. 

One of the most important goals Bonomi showed to the school’s younger teachers was the significance of donating time and energy into the kids and community even well after the final period of the day rings. Over the last 33 years, Bonomi’s presence has represented the following words of President Theodore Roosevelt who wrote: “…(the figure) who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College.

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Scott Reh, right, was sworn back into the Rocky Point board of education Jan. 14. Photo from RPSD

A familiar face has returned to the Rocky Point school district’s board of education. 

Scott Reh was officially sworn in to the board Jan. 14 and will serve in the role until the conclusion of the trustee term come May. Reh was appointed to fill the trustee seat vacated by Joseph Coniglione earlier this school year. 

To be on the board of education you must reside in the school district. Coniglione recently bought a home in Shoreham so he had to step down.  

“Rather than trying to find someone new, we went with Scott — we know him, he’s a stand-up guy,” Coniglione said. “He’ll do what’s best for the kids and the district.”

Reh has served on the board of education before. He served as a trustee and vice president for eight years up until June 2018, when he initially decided to step down. 

Reh said instead of going through a trustee election, the board asked him to come back in his old position. 

“They wanted me to fill the spot left by [Coniglione] until the end of school year,” Reh said. 

The trustee election will take place May 21.  The trustee elected as a result of community vote will be sworn in as normal. 

Reh said he has no plans on securing re-election in May and will let other candidates run for his seat. 

By Bill Landon

On paper,  Kings Park’s boys basketball team — while sitting at 10-1 in league — should’ve had an easy time against Rocky Point at 2-8 in league, but the Eagles had other ideas Jan. 24. Rocky Point led by 10 points after eight minutes in then took an 11-point lead into the locker room. The Kingsmen sit atop the League IV leaderboard for a reason, and they came out firing in the 3rd quarter outscoring the Eagles 16-7 tying the game twice in the final quarter.

Trailing by two, Kings Park co-captain Andrew Bianco went to the charity stripe then swished both to tie the game at 46 all. Rocky Point forward Gavin DaVanzo was then fouled, sending the junior to the line with 4.6 seconds left in regulation. DaVanzo made one shot but missed the other, and Kings Park inbounded the ball for the final play launching a desperate shot that missed its mark. The Eagles erupted in celebration clinching a 47-46 victory at home.

Rocky Point freshman Ryan Smith led his team in scoring with four field goals and a pair of triples for a team high 14 points. Junior Kyle Callahan followed with 12 while DaVanzo netted a total of 10.

Bianco sat atop the scoring chart for the Kingsmen hitting four field goals and banking nine from the line for a total of 17 points.

With five games left in the regular season, the Eagles retake the court Jan. 26 against West Babylon before playing at home Jan. 30 against Eastport-South Manor. Kings Park has landed solidly in the playoff picture and is also back in action Jan. 30 where they’ll host West Babylon. Both Jan. 30 games tip off at 5:45pm.

*This post was changed to amend Bianco and shots.

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