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Sara-Megan Walsh

Steve Stern. Photo from Stern's office

Former Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) said he knew his neighbors best and his confidence was backed up when the ballots were counted Tuesday night.


Special Election Results
Steve Stern (D)          5,748
Janet Smitelli (R)       3,949

Stern became the first Democrat elected to represent the 10th Assembly District in New York State Assembly in more than 30 years by defeating Republican candidate Janet Smitelli, 5,748 to 3,969 votes, in the April 24 special election.

“I look forward to being a strong voice for Long Island,” he said “That’s exactly what’s needed in New York State Assembly.”

Stern received approximately 59 percent of the ballots cast, according to the unofficial results posted by Suffolk County Board of Elections. He ran on the Democrat, Working Families, Independence, Women’s Equality and Reform lines.

The newly elected assemblyman called it a “historic win” indicative of the larger political dialogue happening across the country.

“So many people in our community believe that the federal government is going in a dangerous direction,” Stern said. “If Washington is not going to address the issues and what’s going on, we have a responsibility to do it up in Albany.”

“If Washington is not going to address the issues and what’s going on, we have a responsibility to do it up in Albany.”
– Steve Stern

Stern will be sworn in April 30 to take over the seat vacated by Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R). The new state assemblyman thanked his campaign volunteers and said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) had called to offer his congratulations.

The state’s 10th Assembly District has been represented by Republicans since the early 1980s. The longest-serving assemblyman was Huntington Station resident Jim Conte (R) who held the office from 1988 until his death in October 2012. Lupinacci, who worked for Conte, then won the seat in a 2012 special election.

“I’d like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to my opponent Steve Stern upon his victory,” Smitelli posted April 24 on Facebook. “During this campaign we discussed the issues and got the community engaged. I wish him the best of luck.”

She could not be reached immediately for further comment.

Stern previously said if elected he intended to continue local efforts but on a much larger scale, such as combating gang activity, which he has done by helping to get county funding for automatic license plate readers that target criminals. He’s also passionate about protecting the environment and the area’s water quality, having co-sponsored legislation identifying key areas of importance when it comes to developing sewer infrastructure. Stern said this legislation plays a key to downtown revitalization of Huntington Station. He said he’s a strong supporter of term limits and bipartisanship.

His first action upon being elected, in keeping with a personal tradition started during his days in county Legislature, Stern said, was driving around town starting to pull up his campaign signs.

Mothers embrace one another during a Hope Walk for Addiction rally at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai last year. Photo by Kevin Redding

TBR News Media raked in 11 New York Press Association awards last weekend.

The company won prizes across the gamut of categories, from news and feature stories to photos and advertisements.

“I am so proud of the staff at TBR News Media that works hard to deliver the news each week,” Publisher Leah Dunaief said. “We are delighted to be among the top winners in the contest, as we are every year.”

“Comprehensive, sustained coverage of a life-or-death infrastructure issue. Lede with compelling citizens rather than reports from bureaucrats or written statements.”

— NYPA judges

In the feature story category, TBR News Media had two winners for its division amongst publications with similar circulation. Port Times Record Editor Alex Petroski won first place for his story on how a local political party boss helped President Donald Trump (R) win Long Island votes.

“Following the election, many wondered, ‘How did Trump win?” judges wrote about Petroski’s piece titled “One on one with the man who helped Donald Trump win Suffolk County,” which profiles Suffolk County Republican Committee Chairman John Jay LaValle and details his relationship with the president. “This story answers that on a micro level with an in-depth interview of the man who helped Trump in Suffolk County. I think more papers would have been well served to seek out similar stories.”

Reporter Kevin Redding took third in the same category for his story for The Village Times Herald on a spooky local bar in Smithtown.

“A perfect pre-Halloween story about the haunted local watering hole,” NYPA judges said. “Plenty of examples of what some have seen, heard and felt, which is just what you’d want from a story about a haunted building.”

Petroski also won second place in Division 3 for his ongoing coverage on a boat ramp in Port Jefferson Village where two people had died and at least one other was severely injured, in the news series cateogry. Times of Huntington Editor Sara-Megan Walsh took third place in the same category.

“Comprehensive, sustained coverage of a life-or-death infrastructure issue,” the judges wrote of Petroski’s five-piece submission that included three stories, a front page and editorial on the topic. “Lede with compelling citizens rather than reports from bureaucrats or written statements. Narrative scene-setting ledes can make stories like this more important and compelling.”

Alex Petroski’s story on how Donald Trump won Suffolk County won a first-place feature story prize.

Redding also roped in a second award, getting a third-place nod in feature photo Division 2 for a picture he took for The Village Beacon Record at Hope Walk for Addiction at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai.

“There was tight competition for third place, but the emotion on the faces of the people in this photo put it a step above the rest,” the judges said of the women hugging and crying in the photo, who’d lost loved ones to battles with addiction.

Arts and Lifestyles Editor Heidi Sutton won first place in the Division 2 picture story category for her layout of local Setauket resident Donna Crinnian’s photos of birds in Stony Brook Harbor. The picture essay was titled “Winged Wonders of Stony Brook.”

“Elegant way to showcase nature of our feathered friends,” NYPA judges wrote.

Director of Media Productions Michael Tessler received an honorable mention in Division 2 coverage of the arts for his review of Theatre Three in Port Jefferson’s rendition of “A Christmas Carol.”

“Nice photos and an insightful story on the characters portraying a beloved classic,” judges said.

The Village Times Herald won first place for its classified advertising, as judges said it was “clean, precise, well-spaces and not crowded,” and Wendy Mercier claimed a first-place prize for best small space ad. TBR News Media’s Sharon Nicholson won second place for her design of a best large space ad. The Village Times Herald ranked in the Top 5 in total advertising contest points with 50, good for fourth place. The first-place winner, Dan’s Papers, received 90.

An artistic rendering of the proposed development on Elwood Orchard site along Jericho Turnpike. Rendering from Villadom Corp

Town of Huntington officials have decided to use the public hearing on contentious plans for a proposed Elwood mall as the trial run for taking town board meetings on the road.

Huntington Town board members voted 4-1 to reschedule public comments on the proposed Villadom Mall to a May 17 town board session that will be held at Elwood Middle School.

“This will be our test case,” Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said.

Lupinacci, during his 2017 campaign for town office, had proposed rotating where town board meetings are held in attempt to increase accessibility to residents. He said he felt the strong community interest in developer Villadom Corp’s proposal to construct a 486,380-square foot mall with mixed retail and office space on Jericho Turnpike in Elwood provided a good opportunity to try relocating.

“I once again stand in strong opposition to the Villadom project…”
— Steve Stern

“The middle school auditorium has more seating,” the supervisor said. “I am sure it will be a long hearing of several hours of comments.”

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) was the sole vote against relocating the Villadom hearing, citing security concerns and potential confusion for concerned residents.

Many area residents voiced their opinions on the proposed mall at the April 10 town board meeting. The first among them was former Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills).

“I once again stand in strong opposition to the Villadom project and overdevelopment in our area which will have a tremendously adverse impact on the aquifer, already heavy traffic and the quality of life,” Stern said.

He said the Suffolk County Legislature previously voted against Orchard Park, a prior proposal to build 360 luxury apartments in addition to retail and office space, on the same site as Elwood Orchard, Villadom’s proposed project.

“There are doomsday predictions of traffic counts, megamalls and tax breaks that are non-existent.”
— Robert Rocklein

Robert Rocklein, a member of the civic group Huntington Matters, said he is supportive of Villadom’s plans.

“I see the glass as half full, not half empty,” he said. “I see a lot of benefits that could be bestowed on the community.”

Rocklein said he believes residents’ fears of the mixed-use project have been created by information circulating on social media. He once viewed a similar development in Short Hills, New Jersey whose tenants he said have given more than $1 million a year to community organizations and groups.

“There are doomsday predictions of traffic counts, megamalls and tax breaks that are non-existent,” Rocklein said. “Elwood school district stands to have the most to gain, but also the most to lose.”

An online petition started against the proposed Villadom Mall has gathered more than 4,000 signatures in the last three weeks. Residents have voiced concerns about the potential environmental impact of the development’s storm water runoff on drinking water as well as potentially increased traffic on Jericho Turnpike, Old Country and Deer Park roads.

The Greater Huntington Civic Group, a nonprofit organization of multiple civic associations in the Town of Huntington, will be hosting a public meeting with the developer April 18 at 7 p.m. prior to the town hearing. The event will be held at the Huntington Moose Lodge, located at 631 Pulaski Road in Greenlawn.

In November, state Sen. Ken LaValle gave his blessing to a feasibility study for the electrification of the Port Jefferson LIRR line east of Huntington. File photo

A Smithtown resident will take the lead in determining the future of the Long Island Rail Road.
Phillip Eng was appointed the next president of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s LIRR April 12 by MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota and MTA Managing Director Ronnie Hakim.

“Phil has shown exceptional leadership and dedication during his time at the MTA, and I know he will bring his enthusiasm for developing a world-class transportation system to the LIRR,” Lhota said.

“As a Smithtown resident and Suffolk County native, Phil Eng understands the importance of transportation on Long Island.”

— Steve Bellone

Eng will take over for Patrick Nowakowski, who served as LIRR president for nearly four years. He submitted his resignation less than a month after the LIRR had its worst on-time performance in the last 18 years, according to a March 15 report released by the Office of State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli in March. The report had found that nearly 21,400 trains were delayed, cancelled or terminated in 2017; a 20 percent increase from 2016.

“As millions of commuters can attest, the performance of the Long Island Rail Road has become unacceptable,” DiNapoli said in a March statement. “On-time performance has fallen to the lowest level in nearly two decades, hurting riders. While Amtrak was a big factor behind the deterioration in service last year, the LIRR was responsible for more than twice as many delays.”

Eng first joined the MTA in March 2017 when he was appointed its chief operating officer. His role as chief operating officer was leading major initiatives across all of the MTA’s agencies, particularly with a focus on using innovation and technology to modernize the transportation systems and improve customer reliability, according to the MTA. From October 2017 to January 2018, he held the position of acting president at New York City Transit.

“The LIRR couldn’t have a found a more qualified person for this role,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said in a statement. “As a Smithtown resident and Suffolk County native, Phil Eng understands the importance of transportation on Long Island.”

“My life’s work has centered on conceptualizing the best possible options to make transportation options more reliable.”

— Phil Eng

He is now expected to use his 35 years of experience in the New York State’s transportation sector to get the LIRR’s performance back on track. Prior to joining the MTA, Eng started his career with New York State Department of Transportation in 1983 as a junior engineer. He worked his way up, rising through the ranks to become the state DOT’s executive deputy commissioner. While there, Eng was responsible for delivering on the $2.5 billion annual capital construction program and was involved in the environmental impact study on the LIRR Mainline Expansion Project.

“My life’s work has centered on conceptualizing the best possible options to make transportation options more reliable, allowing commuters to get where they need to go safely and quickly,” Eng said in a statement. “I am honored to be chosen to lead the LIRR and its team of talented women and men as we work together to make the daily experience on the trains a better one.”

In his new position, Eng will be expected to manage several major infrastructural changes underway on the LIRR including the Double Track Project, which adds a second track to the Ronkonkoma branch between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma stations and is scheduled for completion later this year. He will also be expected to implement the Performance Improvement Plan, unveiled March 19, which aims to improve the LIRR’s service reliability, seasonal preparedness and communications with its customers. Public calls from elected officials to expand electrification on the Port Jefferson line east of the Huntington station, a long sought technological improvement, are also intensifying.

Juan Lopez of Huntington Station was convicted of using the threat of violence to recruit people into the gang MS-13. Photo from Suffolk County District Attorney’s office

A Huntington Station man has been found guilty of being an MS-13 gang member who used the threat of violence in attempt to recruit new members.

Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D) announced April 9 that Juan Lopez, 32, was convicted by a jury of first-degree attempted coercion, a felony. Lopez faces a maximum of four years in jail.

“The victims did not join; they did the right thing,” Sini said. “That’s why it’s critical that the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office is here to protect the victims of not only gang violence, but also of gang intimidation.”

On April 16, 2017, Lopez was approached by two young men at the soccer fields of Manor Field Park in Huntington Station at approximately 1 p.m. in attempts to recruit them to MS-13, according to the district attorney. This occured less than five days after the murder of four young men near a park in Central Islip by alleged gang members.

Tattoos denoting Juan Lopez’s connection to the gang MS-13, according to District Attorney Tim Sini. Photo from Suffolk County District Attorney’s office

“When the boys resisted, this defendant stated to them in unequivocal terms, ‘this is how you end up dead in the park,’” Sini said. “My message to Mr. Lopez is: That’s how you end up in jail in Suffolk County.”

Lopez was arrested by Suffolk County Police Department the following day, April 17, 2017.

The case was prosecuted by the Enhanced Prosecution Bureau’s Gang Unit. The Gang Unit was launched in January 2018 by the newly-elected district attorney to focus exclusively on investigating and prosecuting crimes committed by gang members, such as members of MS-13.

Sini said prosecutors’s evidence against Lopez at trial included witness statements in addition to his own tattoos. Lopez has a “1” tattoed on his right arm near his shoulder with a matching “3” tattooed on his left arm near the shoulder joint. In addition, he had a skull with two horns tattooed lower on his left arm, forming the letter “M” when viewed upside down. The district attorney said these tattoes are symbolic of membership in the MS-13 gang.

“We will spare no resources, we will spare no effort to eradicate MS-13 from our communities,”he said.

Running 4 Our Angels scheduled for April 8, town to rename road outside Smithtown High School West

Smithtown area friends Lauren Baruch, Stephanie Belli, Amy Grabina and Brittney Schulman died in a limousine crash, July 18, 2015. Photos from Facebook

Nearly three years after a tragic limousine crash killed four Smithtown women, their families are coming together to host a memorial 5K run in their honor.

The first Running 4 Our Angels 5K run/walk is scheduled to be held Sunday April 8 at 9 a.m. outside Smithtown High School West to remember the lives of Lauren Baruch, Stephanie Belli, Amy Grabina and Brittney Schulman.

“I wanted to do something for all four of the girls, I felt compelled to do something,” said Felicia Baruch, Lauren’s mother.

On July 18, 2015, the four young women were part of a group that rented a limousine for a bachelorette party to go wine tasting at North Fork vineyards. The outing took a tragic turn when Steven Romeo, 57, of Peconic, was driving his red pickup truck and collided with the limousine as it attempted to make a U-turn near the intersection of Depot Lane and County Route 48 in Cutchogue. Baruch and Schulman, of Smithtown, as well as Belli, of Kings Park, and Grabina, of Commack, died in the crash that also injured six others.

The limo driver, Carlos Pino, 60, of Old Bethpage, was arrested and arraigned on four charges of criminally negligent homicide, four counts of assault, failure to yield the right of way, reckless driving and other traffic violations. The charges were dismissed against Pino in October 2017, but the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office has a pending appeal to reinstate the charges against Pino.

Romeo pled guilty to driving while impaired, a traffic infraction, and received a 90-day license suspension in April 2017.

In the years following the tragedy, each of the women’s families have created nonprofit organizations or scholarship funds to honor their daughters’ memories: The Lawzie Marigold Foundation, founded in honor of
Lauren Baruch; the Stephanie Belli Whisperette Scholarship; The Amy Rose Grabina Foundation; and a scholarship given out by the Schulman family.

The Running 4 Our Angels 5K run/walk will be their first joint fundraiser, according to Baruch. All proceeds will be split equally among the four charitable organizations.

“The purpose of the 5K Run/Walk is to increase awareness in our community regarding the safety issues of limousines,” reads the event’s website. “Our top priority is to have more prudent regulations on the internal and external structure of limousines, as well as mandated comprehensive training programs. Currently, there are no formal training programs for limousine drivers.”

Online registration for the event costs $30 through April 7 at 11:59 p.m. through the website www.runsignup.com/Race/NY/Smithtown/LawzieMarigold5K. The run is certified and sanctioned by USA Track & Field with mile markers and water stations.

Bib pickup and day-of registrations will be held at Smithtown High School West, located at 100 Central Road, from 7:30 to 8:45 a.m.

Awards will be presented to the top three overall male and female finishers, as well as the top three male and female finishers in 16 different age groups.

Following the run, Town of Smithtown officials will host an honorary ceremony renaming a road outside High School West, at approximately 11:15 a.m., according to town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo.

Indian Hills Country Club, pictured above, falls within the Crab Meadow Watershed area. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Huntington Town officials released a draft of the long-awaited Crab Meadow Watershed Plan for public review March 23.

The 154-page study was prepared by GEI Consultants, with the goal of developing a community-driven stewardship plan that highlights best practices in the future management of the watershed area. The study focused on evaluating the environmental conditions of roughly six square miles of downward sloping land around the Jerome A. Ambro Memorial Wetland Preserve in Fort Salonga.

“Policies on everything from golf course pesticides to the types of road salt that we use can have an effect on the wetlands,” said Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) in a statement. “By adopting a stewardship plan, the town is looking to implement policies in the collective best interests of the environment.”

John Hayes, president of the Fort Salonga Property Owners Association, said his civic’s members have long awaited the results of this study. They believe its results would justify their concerns about development on Indian Hills Country Club, which lays on the border of Huntington and Smithtown.

Developer Jim Tsunis and The Northwind Group have a subdivision application pending before Huntington Planning Board to construct 98 townhouses for seniors age 55 and older, to be named The Preserve at Indian Hills, alongside the existing golf course and expanding the current clubhouse.

The Fort Salonga Property Owners Association has asked town officials to place a moratorium on new developments in the Crab Meadow Watershed area, which includes Indian Hills, until the stewardship plan was completed. They fear the addition of 98 homes will be devastating to the local wetlands.

“You don’t have to be a genius to see that the report indicates that it’s not a good idea,” Hayes said.

He pointed to a portion of the draft study that recognizes the watershed area is currently built out to its zoned density and, in his interpretation, any new development could severely impact the local wetlands.

“It does say that the development whether on existing sites or small developments — and this is not a small development — has the potential to take an incremental toll on the system,” Hayes said. “It follows that the primary watershed area, which includes Indian Hills Country Club, has the potential to have a more direct impact. That’s pretty straightforward.”

The property owners also cited concerns regarding excessive water runoff if townhouses are built on the bluff’s slopes. The proposed development they fear could worsen existing flooding of local roadways and increase pollutant levels of nitrates and phosphorus in various bodies of water, including Fresh Water Pond.

The Town of Huntington Planning Board is expected to vote Wednesday night on a resolution that would require The Northwind Group to perform a full environmental study of their proposed development.

“The board will be utilizing portions of the draft Crab Meadow Watershed Study to substantiate its decision to issue a positive [SEQRA] declaration,” said town spokeswoman Lauren Lembo. “A positive declaration is issued in order to establish the fact that the intended project may have one or more significant environmental impacts and that a Draft Environmental Impact Statement must be prepared to analyze potential impacts.”

Residents can review the full draft watershed report on the town’s website under the Planning and Environment Department page at: www.huntingtonny.gov/crab-meadow-watershed.

The town is accepting all public comments through April 30 either online or letters can be mailed to: Huntington Town Hall, Department of Maritime Services (Room 300), 100 Main St., Huntington, NY 11743.

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Veterans for a More Responsive Government, Quick Stop Deli & Catering provide meals for those who served

Volunteers gathered outside Quick Stop Deli and Catering in Commack before bringing St. Patricks Day meals to homeless veterans. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh.

A St. James resident and Commack business owner worked together to make sure the luck of the Irish was
delivered to homeless veterans from Huntington to Riverhead this weekend.

As many Smithtown area residents were waking to find the sun shining on St. Patrick’s Day, Robert Cornicelli, founder of the nonprofit Veterans for a More Responsive Government, gathered his friends and volunteers over cups of coffee at Quick Stop Deli & Catering in Commack.

A volunteer with St. James resident Robert Cornicelli packs meals into a car for delivery. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh.

Cornicelli, a U.S. Army veteran who retired in November 2017, organized the loading of boxes of prepacked meals in the back of a car to be delivered to disabled homeless veterans at nine United Veterans Beacon House locations throughout Suffolk County. Beacon House is a Bay Shore-based nonprofit that provides housing for homeless veterans, many of whom are disabled due to physical injuries or mental impairments related to their time in the service.

“Every Thanksgiving, I would raise money to bring Thanksgiving meals to Beacon House, then it became Thanksgiving, Christmas and Super Bowl Sunday,” Cornicelli said. “I decided I’m going to try to do this for every major holiday.”

He launched a GoFundMe campaign mid-February that quickly raised more than $1,000 towards the March 17 feast. When Cornicelli mentioned his idea to longtime friend Rudy Massa, owner of Gasoline Heaven and Quick Stop Deli & Catering, he quickly stepped in to provide food for the 107 veterans and cover the remaining costs.

“Why not? I’m in; let’s do something,” said Massa, a U.S. Army veteran, in remembering their conversation. “We are trying to do the right thing and give back to the community a little bit.”

St. Patricks Day meals for homeless veterans made by Quick Stop Deli & Catering in Commack. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh.

On Saturday, Massa provided 107 plates of a “proper St. Patrick’s Day feast” consisting of corned beef and cabbage, Irish-style potatoes, carrots, Irish soda bread and the utensils needed to dig in.

Joining Cornicelli and Massa in delivering the meals was U.S. Marine Corp veteran Terry Devaney, a resident of one of the Beacon House locations in Huntington. He wanted to lend a hand after enjoying the Super Bowl meals set up by the St. James nonprofit in conjunction with Tommy O’Grady, owner of Miller Place’s Tuscany Gourmet Market, last month.

“It’s very gratifying to know that people are thinking about you,” Devaney said. “A lot of veterans feel they are kind of forgotten once they are discharged.”

Devaney, who served in the Vietnam War, retired from his position as a veteran service officer for Suffolk County in September 2017 suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. He said he wanted to help as the free meals provided by Cornicelli and his nonprofit go a long way towards boosting morale. 

“It may seem like a small matter to most people, but a good meal can mean a lot,” Devaney said. “To have them deliver it and say thank you for your service, it re-instills your pride in having served.” 

Students at Northport High School sat silently for 17 minutes during the national walkout. Photo from Aidan Bryant

Hundreds of Northport High School students walked out March 14 in hopes that their actions would speak louder than words.

Senior Ryan Dowling, student organizer of the walkout to pay tribute to the Parkland, Florida students and faculty killed in the school shooting one month ago, said she estimated between 200 to 300 students quietly left the building to sit in the front courtyard at 10 a.m. Wednesday morning in unified action with thousands across the country.

Students at Northport High School sat silently for 17 minutes during the national walkout. Photo from Juliana Conforti

“We decided that 17 minutes of silence was the best way to go,” Dowling said. “The point was to remember the 17 lives that were lost and to show we didn’t have to say anything to make our voices heard.”

There were no speeches given, no chanting and no homemade signs calling for gun control or legislation. Only a singular black banner with the word “Enough” written across it in white duct tape stood with the students. Those who didn’t walkout were seen photographing and videotaping the event from classroom windows, according to Dowling.

“I think that everyone was respectful and mature about it,” student participant Samantha Sanuki said. “I had a fear of it becoming political with those who disagreed with the walkout — those people who were sharing their political views.”

On their way back inside the building, Dowling and Sanuki said the participants encountered other students holding Trump banners or wearing pro-Trump T-shirts. Both say the atmosphere remained largely respectful in attempt to not disrupt those classes still in session.

Students at Northport High School gather outside the school during the national walkout. Photo from Juliana Conforti

Superintendent Robert Banzer and high school principal Daniel Danbusky had a meeting with the student organizers of the walkout prior to March 14, in which any student who considered participating was initially warned they could face up to three-day suspension for walking out without permission, according to Dowling.

“My parents were supportive of me when I made the decision to try to spearhead this movement,” she said. “My mom was encouraging me saying, ‘I think you should walk out, and if no one is starting the conversation, I believe you should it start it yourself.’”

Days before the event, the senior said Danbusky contacted the student organizers and participants would be considered cutting class for the period. It carries a considerably lighter punishment, a phone call or email to notify the student’s parents, according to Dowling.

“The students — those who decided to walk out and those who decided to stay in class — handled the matter with respect and dignity,” Banzer said in a statement. “Regardless of the decision they made, I am very proud of all of them for that.”

Improving school safety also addressed during March 8 board of education meeting

Northport has put in its preliminary budget a focus on expanding its fleet of chromebooks. File photo

Northport administrators have placed an emphasis on getting more computers into classrooms and updating athletic gear and other essentials as part of the instruction, technology, BOCES and special education sections of the preliminary budget.

Superintendent Robert Banzer said during a March 8 board of education meeting that the district intends to continue expanding the deployment of Chromebooks, laptops powered with Google applications, in the $166.2 million budget draft for 2018-19. The district began implementing a plan to provide personal computers to its students last September, piloting the program at the district’s two middle schools.

2018-19 draft budget highlights in instruction, technology, BOCES and special education:

  • $49,000 for responsive classroom training
  • $8,250 for new automated external defibrillators across district
  • $7,500 for training in CPR and AED use
  • $10,000 for upgrades to playgrounds
  • $3,860 for recycled clay for ceramics classes

“Kids want to have them available,” said Matt Nelson, assistant superintendent of student services, technology and assessment. “The biggest problem is the kids leave them at home then want to go get a loaner. They realize really quickly that the loaners run out, and they won’t have one for the day.”

Next year, the district has budgeted to give Chromebooks to its current eighth-grade students as they enter Northport High School and current fifth-grade students as they enter middle school. Banzer said the goal is to provide computers to all students in grades 10 through 12 by September 2019.

Denise Schwartz, of East Northport, asked school administrators to consider providing additional funding for more computers given some classes have students who are in different grade levels.

“I have a problem with some of the inequalities with co-seated classes,” Schwartz said. “For tenth and eleventh-graders to not have Chromebooks when ninth graders do is very unfair. What device does every student have at home to do homework?”

The superintendent has recommended $25,000 be set aside to redesign Northport High School’s career center with new seating, tables, desks and computer workstations “to update and create a learning environment conducive to group counseling, college counseling and professional development,” according to the budget draft. Banzer said staff was noticing the area was not being used as often as expected, and hopes the reconfiguration will promote it.

To build on increases in technology at the middle schools, the budget includes more than $8,000 to purchase six additional 3D printers, three for each building. There is also a proposal to include roughly $10,000 to support the FIRST robotics team and more than $4,000 for VEX robotics for high school students.

“I’m glad to see the robotics competitions fees and materials are included in here,” said trustee David Badanes.

For student-athletes, school administrators have recommended using part of the more than $40,000 budget to outfit the boys lacrosse program with school-issued helmets, similar to the football teams’. The proposal calls for purchasing approximately 30 helmets per year over the next six years.

Other athletic expenditures in the 2018-19 draft budget include more than $26,000 to replace 10-year old treadmills and elliptical machines; fix the girls field hockey goals; add new glass backboards in the north high school gym; purchase new junior varsity football uniforms in the school colors; and add new uniforms for teams.

The next presentation on the proposed budget for personnel and benefits, including security staff, is scheduled for March 15 at 7 p.m. at William J. Brosnan School building on Laurel Ave. A preliminary budget hearing for district taxpayers is set for March 22.

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