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Rocky Point

Salutatorian Joshua Vogel and valedictorian Bryant Liu. Photo from RPUFSD

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.

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It was a must-win game for the Eagles of Rocky Point to even the series and force a game three during the June 3 Class A finals, but the Sayville bats picked up the pace in the fifth and sixth innings to de-throne the defending Suffolk Class A baseball champions, putting the game away 8-3.

The Eagles, who defeated Shoreham-Wading River a year ago to capture their first county title in their program history, concluded their season 15-4 in their division. The Eagles will have their work cut out for them next season as they’ll lose nine players of their 15-man roster to graduation.

In honor of Memorial Day, Mount Sinai’s Heritage Park hosted its annual Parade of Flags, while VFW’s in Rocky Point and Sound Beach took the time May 27 to memorialize those servicemen and servicewomen lost throughout the years.

Joe Cognitore, the commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6249 in Rocky Point, read the names of 204 people who have died in the service of the U.S., with each set of names said to the sound of a bell. He said the number of names he reads every Memorial Day grows every year.

Over in Sound Beach, the Sound Beach Civic, along with members of the Sound Beach Fire Department, hosted their own ceremony at the Sound Beach Veterans Memorial. Flags flew at half mast, but veterans of each branch of service, from the U.S. Military, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard, helped raise each of the flags high to the bright, sunny sky. Members of the Miller Place Boy Scouts of America Troop 204 played an echo version of taps.

“Flowers, memorials and flags at half staff, and the sad notes of taps, as meaningful as they are, they are not enough,” Cognitore said. What we really must do to honor their sacrifice is to live what they died for.”

 

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Craig McNabb with former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. Photo from Rich Acritelli

By Rich Acritelli

“Each of the patriots whom we remember on this day was first a beloved son or daughter, a brother or sister, or a spouse, friend and neighbor.”

The above feelings were expressed by former President George H.W. Bush, who was a combat aviator during World War II in the Pacific and in Asia.  These national sentiments will be felt this week as people will begin to reflect on contributions that have been made by members of every armed service to protect American ideals. While this holiday was created by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953, every year the United States pauses to honor all of the men and women who have militarily sacrificed for our country. This Monday, veterans from across this country will recall their own efforts of service at home and abroad.

The Cognitore family. Photo from Rich Acritelli

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, Joe Cognitore, now the commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6249 in Rocky Point,  grew up playing football and running track at Farmingdale High School.  Once he graduated in 1964, he went to Dakota Wesleyan University in South Dakota and was drafted into the army in 1969 towards the end of the Vietnam War. Cognitore is an extremely likable figure who has always been drawn toward leadership positions. This was no different in South Vietnam, as he was a platoon sergeant involved in heavy fighting against the Vietcong and North Vietnamese army in Cambodia. For his efforts to care for his men and to distinguish himself in battle, the VFW commander was awarded the Bronze Star.

Once Cognitore returned home from South Vietnam, he wanted to get back to civilian life, to get a job and start a family. This longtime management figure for Coca-Cola was briefly a substitute social studies teacher in Longwood, where he enjoyed working with students and coaching them in sports. Cognitore is one of the many 2.5 million Vietnam veterans who were not warmly received by the American public once they arrived home. Unlike the World War II veterans who were thrown parades and given yellow ribbons, some of these veterans were cast aside by a government that wanted to forget this Cold War struggle.  For two decades, Cognitore coped with the war through the love of his wife Cathy and his two boys Joseph and Christopher. For 31 years, Cognitore was employed at Coca-Cola, where he was promoted to management positions.

It was not until Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990 that Cognitore became a major figure within the Rocky Point VFW post. Next to other veterans, Cognitore raised money for necessary materials that were sent to local residents who were deployed during the military campaigns of Desert Storm and Shield. The VFW commander  was also a key figure to raise funds for the athletic programs of Rocky Point High School when it faced austerity in the early 1990s. Since the moment that Hussein started the Gulf War, Cognitore has constantly been a vital fixture at this post to greatly help the communities of the North Shore.

It is the daily routine of Cognitore to attend meetings at government buildings in Hauppauge or Albany, or speak with political leaders in Washington D.C., addressing veterans affairs. While he is now in his 70s, Cognitore has shown no signs of slowing down and ensuring the men and women who have been deployed since the War on Terror began are adequately cared for by this country. For the last 12 years, Cognitore assisted the organization of a Wounded Warrior Golf Outing that has raised more than $200,000 for those local citizens who have returned home with traumatic injuries. His VFW also sponsored the creation of one of the largest 9/11 memorials in Suffolk County at the Diamond in the Pines Park in Coram. Most recently, Post 6249 was a sponsor to ensure that the Rocky Point High School Veterans Wall of Honor was properly funded to build this structure for past, present and future service members. 

In the summer, this veterans organization, spearheaded by Cognitore, has also been the driving force behind the Rocky Point concert series that has brought in talented musicians like Mike DelGiudice’s Billy Joel Big Shot band. And closer to home, his son Joseph has just been promoted to the rank of colonel and he graduated from the immensely difficult Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.  He is a proud grandfather who has always wanted to help others.

John Fernandez. Photo from Rich Acritelli

Another local veteran who fondly looks at Memorial Day with extreme pride is Shoreham resident John Fernandez. This talented lacrosse player and wrestler graduated from Rocky Point High School in 1996 and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 2001. When he was deciding which college to attend, Fernandez was influenced by the wartime involvement of his older family members to achieve a military education. On this date, Fernandez thinks about both of his grandfathers who fought during World War II in the Pacific and in Anzio, Italy.  

Fernandez left the academy in June 2001, and with Shoreham resident Gabriel “Buddy” Gengler, they drove to their first training station at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.  While both men were from the rival schools of Rocky Point and Shoreham-Wading River, they share a tremendous bond with each other. For more than a decade, they have tirelessly pushed for increased awareness to properly assist soldiers gravely wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. They represent the newest generation of veterans who are motivated to ensure the strength of this nation at home and abroad.

It was at Fort Sill that Fernandez was instructed in the operation and firing of artillery guns. As he left West Point during a time of peace, this quickly changed on Sept. 11, 2001.  This young officer continued his development by being sent to Fort Irwin in California, where Fernandez participated in major war games. He learned the significance of logistics, supply, armor, infantry and artillery at these exercises. A short time later, he was ordered to Fort Knox where he instructed West Point cadets. As a lacrosse captain in high school and college, Fernandez is a natural-born leader who enjoyed guiding these prospective officers. In 2003, Fernandez was handpicked to be a platoon leader of an artillery battery that opened the primary attack into Iraq during the Second Gulf War.

Once this assault began, this talented lacrosse player who was known as “Spanish Lightning” headed north with thousands of other soldiers towards Baghdad. On April 3, 2003 as his artillery guns were preparing to shell and eventually take Hussein’s national airport near the capital, Fernandez was severely wounded. As he was cared for in the field by the medics, the very next day this vital objective was taken by American soldiers. While Fernandez was treated in Iraq and Kuwait, the war was over for him. His injuries were so severe that he eventually lost the complete use of the lower portion of his legs.  

Ever the optimist, Fernandez stated that he received a tremendous amount of attention from the moment that he was hit to the time that he spent at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington. He was later transferred to a larger military medical facility in Bethesda, Maryland, which was better equipped to treat the increased number of casualties from the increased fighting. Once he received his prosthetic legs, Fernandez returned back to his sweetheart Kristi, rented a home in Rocky Point and began physical therapy.  Although he was terribly hurt in Iraq, Fernandez positively identified how fast he was discharged from this hospital and it fostered a faster return home to rehabilitate on his own.  The VFW under Cognitore wanted to properly ensure that Fernandez was thanked by this community. Outside of Post 6249, Cognitore successfully petitioned the Town of Brookhaven to rename the local street in the honor of Fernandez.  

The following year after he was hurt in Iraq, Fernandez’s daughter Madison was born in 2004. The vet went back to school at Dowling where he earned his master’s degree in education to teach mathematics. Along the way, John continued the process of walking again and his high school lacrosse coach Michael P. Bowler never doubted the drive of his former player.  

“John was one of the most determined and courageous athletes that was ever my privilege to coach to exceptional athlete, student and most importantly — a genuine good man,” Bowler said. 

In 2006, he was offered a position to work for the Wounded Warrior Project. It was at this charitable organization that Fernandez raised money and awareness to assist returning veterans who endured overwhelming medical difficulties. Armed with a big smile and a can-do attitude, Fernandez sat in meetings with major corporate leaders, politicians and owners of the National Football League. Just recently, he met President Donald Trump and Vice President Michael Pence.  Today, Fernandez has a family of five children, and enjoys coaching his kids, going on school trips and speaking about his experiences at his former high school and around the nation.  His eyes are always set to help all of those members of the armed forces who have endured combat-related hardships through their defense of the U.S.

The LaRusso boys, with Kevin second from left. Photo from Rich Acritelli

Another graduate of Rocky Point High School who also attended the West Point Military Academy was Kevin LoRusso. Like Fernandez, he was a talented athlete who excelled at soccer, wrestling and lacrosse. This student-athlete was known as K-Lo, and was well-liked for his calm presence during all athletic competitions. After a year at the prep school for this military academy, LoRusso entered West Point in 2005. Although he was also recruited by the Naval Academy to play lacrosse, this cadet chose Army, as he did not want to compete against his older brother Nicholas who was a goalie on this team. This dynamic athlete had won more than 100 wrestling matches in high school and was later determined to win a national championship at West Point.  He was one of many Rocky Point lacrosse players who attended this school and was later named captain for his leadership skills. While LoRusso was a competitive lacrosse player who loved this sport, his true responsibilities rested in being a devoted army officer.

LoRusso is one of four brothers, including Nicholas, Brian and Larry, who all attended West Point and played lacrosse. Three of them became artillery officers. The oldest brother Nicholas is a major who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan as a combat engineer. From 2010-2012, LoRusso was deployed to Afghanistan and to Germany, serving in the northeastern part of Afghanistan near Mazar-i-Sharif. This area is a unique combination of desert, mountains and flat plains. There, LoRusso encountered heavy fighting against the Taliban, which widely contested the strength of American forces in this region. As LoRusso is known for his calmness, he is sometimes reminded of the fighting when fireworks are unexpectedly detonated near him. This combat veteran took advantage of being sent to Germany where LoRusso and his buddies traveled to more than thirty nations.  He has the fond memories of being with his army friends as they visited France, Italy, Poland, Portugal, the Netherlands and Turkey.  On Memorial Day, LoRusso goes about his daily routines, but always in the back of his mind he thinks of the contributions that have been made by his family and friends who wore a uniform and sacrificed for this country.

Craig R. McNabb was an active kid who participated in football and baseball at Rocky Point High School. As he grew up with his friends and nearby family members, he was always eager to join the army. His father, Craig Sr., worked as a Suffolk County sheriff and he was a member of the Army National Guard that was ordered to Kuwait.   Like Fernandez, McNabb was one of the earliest soldiers into Iraq during the start of the second Gulf War. Ten years later and during his senior year, McNabb enlisted into the same type of Army National Guard unit and occupation that his father held as a combat military officer.

Directly after he graduated high school, McNabb finished his basic training and advanced individual training in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. For two years, he was one of the younger combat military officers in his National Guard unit based out of Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn. In 2016, McNabb was handpicked to be deployed to Afghanistan to carry out the sensitive security details of protecting American generals from every branch and foreign dignitaries. With his team, McNabb was responsible for protecting former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and James Mattis. McNabb was sent to a NATO military base in Kabul to carry out this vital mission to ensure the security of leaders that were defying the Taliban.

Craig McNabb in Afghanistan. Photo from Rich Acritelli

For about a year, McNabb ran more than 700 missions to ensure that these key figures were able to carry out their business within that perilous county. Currently, McNabb is a specialist/E-4 and he will soon be eligible to be promoted as a sergeant. This North Shore family shares a rare military bond that is not always seen. After the 9/11 attacks, McNabb was quickly sent into New York City to help the people who were suffering from the terrorist attack. He spent 15 months fighting in Iraq, where he traveled to every major Iraqi city, cleared homes that were occupied by insurgents, conducted patrols and trained police.  There is a unique family connection towards this military police job to assist American army forces in their mission to not only fight, but to provide a better life for the people of Afghanistan and Iraq.

This capable young man is still serving in the National Guard and only a couple of months ago, McNabb became a Suffolk County correctional officer. While he is still a young man, McNabb has immensely grown through his experiences in the military, where he has matured into a seasoned veteran. He would like people to think about the importance of Memorial Day and thank those people who have fought in distant lands to ensure that our way of life is not threatened.  

Thank you to all of the veterans of the Armed Forces who continually make this nation proud of their unyielding spirit to always strengthen the resolve of the U.S.  As a North Shore community, we do not have to look far to see the many numerous examples of patriotism as we remember our military on Memorial Day 2019.

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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The North Shore Youth Council recognized Parents of Megan’s Law founder Laura Ahearn, center. Photo from NSYC

The North Shore Youth Council has dedicated its attention to children across the local hamlets, but last week the organization thanked one group which looks to stop sexual violence against minors.

More than 150 students, their families and elected officials packed the ballroom of Majestic Gardens in Rocky Point, as the NSYC hosted its Big Buddy-Little Buddy and Volunteer Celebration May 20 and honored Laura Ahearn, an attorney and the founder and executive director of the Parents for Megan’s Law and the Crime Victims Center for her dedication to helping youth in the community. 

“Between our programs and Laura’s organization, I think this will heighten this topic.”

— Janene Gentile

The council presented Ahearn, who recently donated $5,000 to NSYC to develop the Laura Ahearn Resilience Scholarship, with an award and plaque. 

The scholarship will be given to high school students who have overcome sexual abuse to pursue a post-secondary education, and will be distributed in $1,000 increments during the next five years as students pursue higher education. 

Janene Gentile, executive director of NSYC, said the council is very grateful to be receiving the grant funds. 

“We are very excited to be giving this scholarship to a student, hopefully in September,” she said. “Between our programs and Laura’s organization, I think this will heighten this topic.”

Ahearn said it meant a lot to receive an award from such an active organization

“I want to thank them for all the great things they do in the community,” she said. 

The attorney said the council does a lot to protect kids from becoming sexual abuse victims. 

“For me, I’m really grateful that there are so many volunteers and people who want to dedicate their lives to help kids,” she said. “When kids don’t have the support they need, they become very vulnerable.”

Ahearn said it is very meaningful for her to be able to give out these scholarships, along with the support of the many people that made it possible for her to help people in the community. 

The attorney said the project has come full circle for her.

“I wanted to give back to an organization that took the time to listen to me when someone wouldn’t 20 years,” she said.  

During her acceptance speech, Ahearn spoke about her 25-year journey, her experiences with her organization and the importance of sexual abuse prevention. 

“The only way to stop this epidemic is to educate folks in the communities, educate your children and yourself,” she said. “Sexual predators are not strangers, they look like you and me, they act just like you and me — you would never know.”

The NSYC’s Big Buddy-Little Buddy program, which began in 1993, gets high school students paired up with younger children to become mentors for them. They engage in a variety of group activities that demonstrate, encourage and reinforce social competency skills.

“This is a celebration of our peer mentorship programs,” Robert Woods, the director of youth development at NYSC said. “Whether it’s helping them with homework, or talking about their day, it gives them a safe space to open up.”

This summer Brookhaven National Laboratory will collaborate with the Rocky Point nonprofit to offer a free STEM program. In addition, they will be working with the Staller Center at Stony Brook University to bring in young musicians to work with the children in the program.

Above, incoming superintendent Scott O’Brien. Photo from RPUFSD

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.   

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

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.”

Voting booths at Rocky Point High School. File photo by Kyle Barr

Rocky Point has 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. Rocky Point will host its elections and budget vote May 21 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the high school gym.

Michael Lisa:

Lisa moved to Rocky Point seven years ago with his wife to raise their three children. Currently one is in sixth grade, one in fourth grade and next fall his youngest son will start kindergarten, according to a Facebook post. He has been an educator in the Massapequa School District for the last 21 years, and has coached at both the high school and middle school levels. 

“I am seeking the opportunity to serve on the board of education and use my experience as a teacher to listen first, lead with compassion and attentiveness to the needs of the members of our school community,” he said. ”And more importantly build strong partnerships with administration, students and teachers to work towards a common goal to benefit the children of Rocky Point.”

Susan Sullivan:

The former educator and assistant principal of Rocky Point High School has lived in the district for the past 34 years. She has been on the board for the past six years and recently served as board president. 

“I want to continue giving back to the community that gives so much back,” she said. 

Sullivan points to the AP and honors programs the districts offer as a strength and wants to keep taking Rocky Point to great places academically. She mentioned the tremendous work done on buildings in the district as part of bond works, though she stressed making sure they are being aware of the tax cap when it comes to the budget. 

Being retired, Sullivan said she has a lot of free time and would be able to attend many events throughout the district. With Rocky Point appointing a new superintendent, in Scott O’Brien, Sullivan is looking forward to working with him and continuing to build great relationships with teachers and administrators. 

Jessica Ward:

The challenger has lived in Rocky Point for the past 12 years and has four children in the district. She previously ran for a trustee seat six years ago but did not win election. After some time to reflect on it, Ward decided to put her name in the race again. 

The Rocky Point resident said, as a smaller district, they’ve been able to do great things over the years. One area she thinks the district is doing well in is the AP and honor programs the district offers. 

As a parent with children in the elementary, middle and high school, as well as a former employee of the district, she said she feels she has a unique perspective in the inner workings of the school system. 

Ward said she would like to see improvements in the mental health and social services being provided to students. She said she is concerned about the prevalence of e-cigarettes and Juuls in schools and wants to make sure parents are educated about this issue. 

The mother of four would like to see more security guards on school grounds who would have more of a presence. She also would like to maintain the athletics programs in the district. 

“I think it’s important to be present,” Ward said. “I believe I’m approachable and I am someone who will fight tirelessly to take care of the students and staff.” 

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Rocky Point freshman Sean Hamilton throws heat from the rubber against visiting Sayville May 2. Photo by Bill Landon

Miller brothers’ bats did the talking

Rocky Point’s baseball team took care of business against Sayville with a 5-2 victory at home May 2. With both teams at 6-2, the Eagles bettered Sayville two games to one in a three-game series to take over sole possession atop the league VI leaderboard.

Trailing by one, Sayville threatened in the top of the fifth, loading the bases when Rocky Point senior Michael Gunning took over at the mound. Gunning got the first out and then relied on his teammates behind him who turned a double play stranding all three Sayville runners to escape the inning. Rocky Point senior Trey Miller hit a two-run single in the bottom of the first to take the early lead and freshman Cody Miller, Trey’s younger brother, returned the favor in the bottom of the sixth to extend the Eagles lead.

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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.

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