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Shoreham-Wading River school district

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Shoreham Wading River school district earlier this month began construction of a new parking lot at the high school. This is the latest project in the district's 2015 bond renewal project. Photo from Google Maps

Shoreham-Wading River High School students and staff will return to a newly renovated building in September as this month the district began the next step in its 2015 renewal bond project.

Work at the high school commenced in early July and the building will be going through a number of renovations.

“The bond has really given a sense of renewal to the school district,” Gerald Poole, superintendent of schools said.

Last summer, Prodell Middle School’s cafeteria was renovated as part of the bond project. Photo by David Luces

The project will include the reconstruction of the high school’s main parking lot as well as adding an additional bus drop-off loop meant to improve student safety. Renovations will be made to the high school kitchen and cafeteria, main office, guidance office, psychologist and social worker’s office and nurse’s office. Ceilings throughout the building will be repainted.

“The bond [project] will be the first major renovation/construction work since the inception of the high school in 1975,” Poole said.

The high school auditorium will also undergo additional renovations to sound and lighting fixtures after it received new paint, carpeting and seats last summer. Poole said the project will run through August and everything will be done before the start of the school year.

“Over the summer, the auditorium will be getting a downstairs audio/visual booth,” the superintendent said. “It will have a state-of-the-art lighting and sound system. Students in the theater and arts program will really enjoy it.”

Since the bond project was approved four years ago, the district has undertaken a slew of projects.

The first phase of the bond project was completed in 2016 with the reconstruction of Shoreham-Wading River High School’s tennis courts and roof. The high school’s football field was also upgraded with new turf. Phase two involved renovations at both Miller Avenue and Wading River elementary schools. Miller Avenue’s parking lot was reconstructed with additional parking as well as a new bus loop that goes to the rear of the building. The school was also expanded with the addition of new kindergarten classrooms.

Last summer, the middle school got a new cafeteria and kitchen as well as a renovated main office area and library.

The renovated bus loop at Wading River Elementary School. Photo by David Luces

“I am so grateful to the community for supporting this bond back in 2015, it was much needed work,” Poole said. “It has been exciting these past summers and seeing the work happen.”

The superintendent said it has been a satisfying feeling when students, staff and parents come back and they’re just proud of the new spaces.

“It’s been a boost to the school district,” he said.

During construction, the district office will remain open although parking for the North Shore Library will be relocated to the rear of the high school building. In order to access the temporary parking for the library, drivers should bear left at the fork in the driveway toward the district offices rather than right, toward the high school. Also, there will be limited access to the high school campus. Tennis courts, fields and trails will be closed throughout the summer. High school staff will be relocated but phone systems and extensions will remain intact.

“We are pushing to get the parking done as soon as possible,” Poole said.

After renovations are complete, the superintendent said they will be taking a look back at the bond project and evaluating where the district is at.

“We’ll look at the priorities of the district going forward and keep looking for areas where we can improve on,” Poole said.

 

Mount Sinai School District

With a vote of 1059 to 322, the Mount Sinai School district convincingly passed its $61,009,770 budget, a 1.34 percent increase from last year.

In addition to the budget, the public voted 1,141 to 228 to set a capital reserve of $850,000. Including the $750,000 in funds put last year in capital reserve, the district will have $1.6 million for future capital projects.

Superintendent Gordon Brosdal and the board are proposing to use $1.5 million for two projects: the cost of another partial repair of the high school’s roof and to replace the middle school’s HVAC system. The high school roof repair would cost $850,000 and the HVAC replacement would cost $650,000. The remaining $100,000 would be saved for future projects. 

“I feel much better that the turnout [this year] beats the 960 from last year,” Brosdal said. “You can’t assume [the budget] is always going to pass, I was concerned about the bond.”

Brosdal said he is hopeful that the voter turnout is on the upswing. 

“We got over 1,300 voters this year, maybe we’ll get 1,400 or more next year,” he said. 

With five candidates running for three open trustee seats, board member Anne Marie Henninger, who replaced trustee Michael Riggio, secured re-election to the board with the highest vote tally of 790. Challengers Lisa Pfeffer and Robert Pignatello claimed the other two available seats with 713 and 662 votes, respectively. The race for the last seat was a close one with challenger Chris Quartarone coming up short with 655 votes. Longtime board member Lynn Jordan failed to secure re-election this year with 628 votes. 

“I’m very humbled,” Henninger said. “I had a lot of people pulling for me and I’m excited to get back to work, we have a lot to do.”

Pignatello said he was happy with the voter turnout this year for the budget. 

“I’m looking forward to working together with the board and do what’s best for the children and the community,” he said. 

Pfeffer said she is looking forward to serving on the board and doing what’s best for
the community. 

“I’m excited to be working with this group on the board and I’m just going to hit the ground running,” she said. 

Miller Place School District

With the Miller Place School District proposing a $73,958,607 budget, an increase of more than $1.2 million from the current year’s amount, residents overwhelming passed this year’s budget 610 to 173.

This year’s total tax levy amount is $46,928,588, an increase of $638,534 from last year and sticking directly to a 1.38 percent tax levy cap. 

“On behalf of the board of education and district administration, I would like to thank the entire Miller Place-Sound Beach community for their support of the 2019-2020 school budget,” said Superintendent Marianne Cartisano. 

Two seats were open for this year’s Miller Place school board election, and two incumbents ran unopposed. Both seats will be up for three-year terms starting July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2022.  Incumbents Johanna Testa, who this year served as the board president, and Noelle Dunlop secured their seats with 657 and 636 votes, respectively.

Testa said she was pleased that this year’s budget passed by 78 percent. 

“I feel really excited and I’m looking forward to a third term and continuing to advocate for the community and district,” she said.

Rocky Point Union Free School District

Rocky Point residents passed the school district’s $86,743,446 with a vote of 703 to 213. The new budget is a slight increase of 0.71 percent from last year’s amount but a $1.3 million increase in the tax levy.

“The district is once again extremely grateful to the community for its overwhelming support of the proposed budget,” Superintendent Michael Ring said. “This plan is one that will enable Rocky Point to continue to provide enriching academic opportunities for all students and a co-curricular program geared toward supporting student interests.”

Debt services will decrease in the 2019-20 school year as a result of a completion of payments of two bonds that date back to 1995 and 2000. The bond payments will expire on June 30 and will save the district $451,751. 

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. 

Rocky Point had two open trustee seats this year. 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, decided not to run for re-election. Veteran board member Susan Sullivan nailed down a three-year term with 618 votes. Challenger Jessica Ward secured the one-year term seat with 551 votes. Michael Lisa came up short with 410 votes. 

“I’m very excited to be on the board and I’m looking forward to working closely with our new superintendent,” Ward said.  

Shoreham-Wading River school district

Shoreham-Wading River school district residents resoundingly decided to pass this year’s $75,952,416 budget with a 1,129 to 329. The new budget is a $1,176,344 increase from last year’s figure.

The district said the new budget will cover the implementation of an integrated video, door access and alarm management system as well as additional video cameras and perimeter fencing. Night gates will be installed at the Alfred G. Prodell Middle School, Miller Avenue Elementary School and Wading River Elementary School. Also, the budget will cover the purchase of a new high school auditorium bandshell and supplies/materials for the middle school greenhouse and new electives for high schoolers.

“I am very grateful to the Shoreham-Wading River community for their ongoing support of our students and school district,” Superintendent Gerard Poole said. “Our students have a longstanding tradition of achieving academic, artistic and athletic success. This approved budget will allow us to continue to build upon that legacy while maintaining our commitment to fiscal responsibility.”

Six people ran for Shoreham-Wading River school board to fill three seats. This comes after trustee Erin Hunt vacated her position in March and after current trustee Kimberly Roff said she will not run for re-election. 

Incumbent board president Michael Lewis was re-elected to a one-year term with 652 votes, while challenger Meghan Tepfenhardt received the highest votes with 744 and secured a three-year term. Thomas Sheridan also secured a three-year trustee seat with 691. Challengers who did not win election were Edward Granshaw who received 471 votes, Jennifer Kitchen with 568 and Bill McGarth with 603.

Shoreham-Wading River High School. File photo

Six people are running for Shoreham-Wading River school board to fill three seats. This comes after trustee Erin Hunt vacated her position in March and after current trustee Kimberly Roff said she will not run for re-election. Incumbent board president Michael Lewis will face outside challenge from Edward Granshaw, Thomas Sheridan, Meghan Tepfenhardt, William McGrath and Jennifer Kitchen. SWR will host its elections and budget vote May 21 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the high school gym.

Edward Granshaw:

“As a Suffolk County police officer, I can offer a unique perspective when dealing with the safety and security of our children,” the Wading River resident said in a statement. “During my 27 years of law enforcement experience, I’ve participated in several training exercises specifically tailored towards school emergency incidents. When given a task, I have the ability to access the situation from several different viewpoints and make an objective decision, regardless of personal opinions or outside influences.”  

Granshaw said he believes that the most important issue facing the district is the safety and security of its students. He said he can use his law enforcement experience and training to work with the board and committee members to ensure its students will always be safe while on school grounds.  

“I would like to work toward providing all school staff the opportunity to receive training to identify specific signs of a need for mental health services in children and adults,” he said. “Continually evaluating our safety and security procedures to identify the need for changes would be a top priority. Additionally, I would remain focused on evaluating student programs, evaluating spending, and providing additional continuing education for teachers.”

Michael Lewis:

Shoreham resident and current board president Michael Lewis will be seeking re-election for the 2019-20 school year. He has served on the board since 2016 and was its 2017-2018 vice president. Lewis’ priorities are to develop a strategic plan for the district; continue to build strong relationships with teachers, administrators and staff; further secure buildings; provide a healthy environment for students and support fiscally sound budgets while enhancing student experiences.

“[I want to] continue the momentum in maintaining positive relationships between the board, superintendent and leadership units,” Lewis said in a statement. “[As well as] protecting recent facility investments and create a healthy environment for students, incorporating more collaborative and diverse classroom settings while strengthening technology initiatives.”

Thomas Sheridan

“In Shoreham-Wading River, we make this our community, strong and vibrant when we all come together in difficult and good times,” Sheridan said in a statement. “Our schools and children are at the heart of this community. I am running for school board as a parent of two daughters in our schools, as an involved community member and volunteer.”  

The Shoreham resident said he is passionate about pushing for excellence, asking the tough questions and addressing the issues. 

“I got involved attending school board meetings when the district was not at its best. Today, SWR is in a much more positive position,” Sheridan said. “I propose staying focused on enriching our academics, supporting and attracting excellent teachers and administrators to better enable our district to be a beacon, be celebrated and be recognized for our points of pride.”

He looks to approach the trustee position as an advocate for making sure all students get the best start in life. 

Meghan Tepfenhardt: 

“I believe that children’s educational experiences should be of the highest quality with consistent, sound instructional practice,” Tepfenhardt said in a statement. “I am dedicated to ensuring all students have equal access to an exemplary education.” 

The sixth grade educator has lived in Wading River for the past 20 years and has two children who attend the district. She has been involved in education for 18 years. Tepfenhardt is the Wading River PTA president and the past Wading River PTA treasurer.

“I want to make sure that all of our students continue to have the access to a high-quality education,” she said. “I also want to enhance program opportunities in our schools.”

Tepfenhardt stressed the importance of fielding a curriculum that will ready students in the district for the demands of a 21st century workforce. Other points included strongly facilitating responsible budgeting.

“I have the necessary disposition to serve as a trustee. I am a strong communicator, can make difficult decisions, and can effectively prioritize goals. I take pride in my ability to treat all people fairly and I value differing viewpoints as a way to facilitate our children’s educational experiences.”

The Wading River resident said she will strive to support parents, teachers, administrators and most importantly, the children of the district. 

“I would be honored to serve our community as a board of education trustee,” she said. 

William McGrath:

McGrath has lived in the district for the past 30 years and has experience on the board, previously serving a term as board president and trustee. He has been involved in district finances, technology improvements and capital projects. He was on the board from 2008-2017. He worked as a scientist and researcher at Brookhaven National Laboratory until 2018, when he decided to retire. 

McGrath said he believes the important job he would have as a trustee is make sure teachers in the district have a good foundation and have the tools to be successful. 

“I’m willing to serve [the community] and ready to give 120 percent,” he said. 

McGrath said he wants to continue to strive for the best values in delivering all they can for student development, infrastructure maintenance and improvement in a fiscally prudent manner as well as always being aware that most of the resources are taxpayer dollars. 

He points to his wealth of experience on the board and his experience on school board committees as an advantage to other candidates. McGrath said he wants to monitor opportunities for educational advancement, especially in the fields of science, technology, arts and math.

“My pledge to you is to be that bridge that ensures all sides of a discussion are heard and treated respectfully, and that level-headed agreements are reached,” the Wading River resident said. “If necessary, I will carry concerns of our residents to the district administration and ensure they are being addressed.” 

Jennifer Kitchen: 

Kitchen has lived in the district for the past 14 years and has two kids in the high school, one in the middle school and one in the elementary. Kitchen has served in various PTA/PTO boards throughout the district for the past 12 years. She has also served as a chairwoman on nine school committees.

One of the motivating factors to run for board this year is her belief that there needs to be more of a presence from the board in the secondary level of schools. 

Despite being involved in various organizations in the community she believes being elected trustee will give her the opportunity to make a bigger impact. 

“I have three children that have benefited from the special education program in the district,” Kitchen said. “We have a strong legacy in providing an excellent special education program — I want to continue that.”

Another area Kitchen would like to improve on is the STEM curriculum being offered. As a member of the district’s curriculum development committee the past two years she has advocated for a better curriculum as well as an improved arts and music curriculum. 

“I want to be an asset to the community, and listen to the needs of all sides,” Kitchen said. “As a parent who has kids in each school, I think I’m a valuable candidate.”  

Shoreham-Wading River’s superintendent, Gerard Poole, speaks during an April 18 board of education meeting. Photo by Kevin Redding

The Shoreham-Wading River school district is looking to get smart, with the help of New York State funds.

The district is finalizing plans to use the state’s Smart School Bond Act, which makes up to $2 million available for every school district in the state to improve its technology and security infrastructure. The district has been allocated $1,003,429 to make improvements to district computer server infrastructure; purchase new computers, projectors, security cameras; and to install a new security booth at the entrance of the high school parking lot.

The district laid out its plans at an Oct. 23 board meeting, where Peter Esposito, the director of technical services, said the district plans to replace several pieces of data storage equipment to maximize storage capability in switch closets for $430,000. The district also plans to replace all district computers, 450 in all, last upgraded in 2013, with more modern machines for $425,000. The district will replace its 120, 10-year-old classroom projectors with new LCD projectors for $65,000 and add additional security cameras for $18,000.

“It’s been on my desk for the last three years, so it would be good to move forward with this,” Esposito said.

A prefabricated visitors booth for the high school parking lot will be installed for $65,000. While Superintendent Gerard Poole said the district is still working out the final plans for the booth, it could possibly be located along the high school driveway where the road forks to the administration entrance and to the main parking lot. The booth could include a guard-operated gate so school officials can monitor who is entering the high school grounds, even if they are going to use the trails to the south of the school or the North Shore Public Library.

“The way we envision it is it will help somebody get to the high school, get to the library or make the left to come up to administrative offices,” Poole said.

The final version of the plan will be submitted to New York State by the end of November, but Poole said the committee that reviews the plan has been taking about one year on average to approve those documents. He said he expects the visitors booth to be installed sometime after the district revitalizes the high school parking lot over the summer as part of a 2015 capital bond referendum, but that those plans will be changed to allow for the new booth.

At prior board meetings residents have expressed frustration about new speed bumps installed on the driveway to the high school, saying they’re so hard and short that it forces most cars to slowly roll over them. Residents have said the slowdown has increased traffic going into the school, especially in early mornings, but the superintendent said the speed bumps are working as intended to slow down traffic to 15 mph or less. He added the school has had no problem getting all students in class by first period, though officials will be reviewing the safety protocols for the guard booth as the district develops plans for the new parking lot, with that stage of the bond project going out to bid in January.

At the October meeting, board President Michael Lewis asked if the computers the school would be buying would have to be replaced in another eight years. Alan Meinster, the assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and assessment, said there was no way to tell where technology would go in that amount of time.

“I can promise you if you do this in another eight years you will have the same budget,” Meinster said. “I don’t know where we’re going to be in the next eight years technology wise — what we’re going to be using later on.”

Glen Arcuri, the assistant superintendent for finance and operations, said the school could pay for future technology through capital reserve funds.

The investment plan is available to view on the district’s website, and district officials are currently asking for feedback on the proposal. The board will vote on the finalized version of the plan at its Nov. 27 board meeting.

Shoreham-Wading River school district is considering converting the closed fitness center into a wrestling center. Photo by Kyle Barr Photo by Kyle Barr

Shoreham-Wading River High School students looking to make gains have been impeded with the loss of the school’s fitness center, and now the district is looking at its options for a new one.

The high school’s fitness center, which has been around since the late 1980s and is detached from the main building, was closed down in July this year because an assessment of the building by the school district’s internal engineer showed the flooring was not up to code for constant physical activity.

“The flooring in the fitness area needed structural support in order to meet that code requirements, and the amount came back for that being $200,000 to conduct those repairs,” Superintendent Gerard Poole said. “Over the summer the board asked that we look with our architect to take a look at decision making process alternatives within the school district to make a fitness center or a fitness room.”

With the loss of the old fitness room, the district has moved exercise equipment to room 102, located in close proximity to the high school’s lower floor cafeteria, on the other side of the school from the locker rooms and gymnasium. Current amenities for the temporary facility include a TRX cable-based exercise machine, medicine balls, dumbbells, bench presses and some cardio equipment, according to Poole.

At the SWR Sept. 25 school board meeting members said the district was considering three options. One is to fix the flooring in the old fitness center, which might be the most expensive. Another is to combine rooms 102 and 101 next to the high school cafeteria to create a new 1,400 square foot fitness space. Lastly the district could section off a portion of the auxiliary gym and combine it with an existing storage space to create another 1,400 square foot fitness center.

Shoreham-Wading River’s fitness center is closed while the board of education decides what to do next. Photo by Kyle Barr

Poole said the district did not have an exact date when they will come to a decision.

“I do not have a deadline, but as always we want to come to a decision as soon as we can,” Poole said. “It’s good to take out time for a decision as long as we’re spending money.”

While replacing the floor would cost $200,000, other options currently seem to cost much less.

Ken Schupner, an architect for Patchogue-based Burton Behrendt Smith Architects, whose services are retained by the school, said it would cost approximately $75,000 to $100,000 to break through the high school’s auxiliary gym to make room for a 14,000 square foot fitness center. Because of the work already done to room 102, extending that space into room 101 should also cost less than patching the old facility’s floor, the architect said.

Board President Michael Lewis questioned whether students will be able to utilize the space if the fitness center is located on the other side of the building from the locker rooms.

“Getting it close to physical education [facilities] is maximizing utilization for the sports teams, and with having it on the lower floor next to the cafeteria are the students really going to travel all the way there to work out?” Lewis said.

Schupner said while the room is located far from the gym, it also has an exit to the outside of the building, making it easier for students to access after practice on the sports fields.

If the school were to opt to use the auxiliary gym, it could disrupt current physical education classes. Poole said five classes are currently scheduled in that room, which is also used extensively by the wrestling and cheerleading teams.

Schupner said renovations to the detached current fitness center are less applicable for state aid compared to facilities located inside the building.

Shoreham resident Robert Badalian regularly used the old fitness center in the hours when it was open to the public, and he and others didn’t want to be left out of the conversation.

“We don’t want to be excluded,” Badalian said. “It was a place for people to exercise and feel comfortable — not be intimidated like you could if you go to another gym.”

Badalian also said he hoped the district would focus more on modernizing the fitness center, saying that compared to high schools like Ward Melville, which have a more modern fitness center, SWR is lagging behind.

Carolyn Baier, another Shoreham resident who was a regular at the fitness center, said having it open to the rest of the community helped get people more involved and in tune with their local school. Baier was on the SWR school board in the 1980s, back when the decision came down to create the fitness center.

“The young people who used it were so nice, they would pick up my weights for me when I hurt my hand,” Baier said. “This was a community thing.”

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Members of Miller Place Boy Scout Troop 204 stand outside the wake for Andrew McMorris, a 12-year-old scout from Troop 161 killed earlier this week by an allegedly drunk driver. Photo by Kyle Barr

From Riverhead to Miller Place, red ribbons hung on street signs, store facades, schoolyard fences and mail boxes. The North Shore community was draped in red, the same crimson color worn on the shirts and kerchiefs of Boy Scouts. The color now adorns a community in mourning.

As news spread that 12-year-old Andrew McMorris, a Shoreham resident of Boy Scout of Troop 161 and student at Shoreham-Wading River’s Albert G. Prodell Middle School, was killed by an allegedly drunk driver Sept. 30 while on a hiking outing with several members of his troop on David Terry Road in Manorville, the community quickly galvanized in support. Four others from the troop were injured as a result of the crash, according to Suffolk County police.

Red ribbons line the entrance to Shoreham-Wading River High School in honor of Andrew McMorris of Boy Scout Troop 161, who was killed by an allegedly drunk driver Sept. 30. Photo by Kyle Barr

In the week since the news broke, hundreds of residents headed onto local community Facebook pages to share their grief and ask what assistance they could offer the family. Some offered to send food in their time of need. Others buckled down and started making ribbons and wristbands for residents to show their hearts went out to all those hurt by the tragedy.

Pamela Garee, an agent with Wading River real estate company Coldwell Banker M&D Good Life, who works closely with Troop 161, quickly got about 70 volunteers to create 700 red ribbons by Oct. 5. Each ribbon cost $10, with all proceeds going to support the troop, the Shoreham-Wading River school district’s Wildcat Helpers of the Arts and Music, and nonprofit advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Ribbons are still available at the Coldwell Banker office at the Shoppes at East Wind in Wading River.

“We’re really doing it to be supportive of the troop, the boys, the victims and their families,” Garee said. “The support from the community — it’s been wonderful.”

Garee said she expects to sell more than 1,000 ribbons by the end of the weekend Oct. 7.

Suffolk County has also taken up the task of honoring the Boy Scout, as County Executive Steve Bellone’s (D) office announced Oct. 4 it would place ribbons at the entrances to 16 major county parks.

“It is with great sadness that we remember Andrew, but I am proud to honor this bright, dedicated young man with this small act of remembrance,” Bellone said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family now and forever in the wake of this immeasurable tragedy.”

The first of three wakes were held for Andrew Oct. 4. The sidewalks were lined with red ribbons, and a near-constant stream of friends, family and community members journeyed to the Branch Funeral Home of Miller Place to pay their respects. Members of Boy Scout Troop 204 of Miller Place stood at attention in front of the funeral home, serving as an honor guard paying respect to the fallen fellow scout.

Others in the community were decorating their own houses and storefronts with the ribbons. Shortly after David and Gloria Kurtinaitis, owners of Forte’s Florist in Wading River, got word of the tragedy they used their own material to decorate their shopping complex with the symbol.

Red ribbons adorn businesses, homes and other public areas in Shoreham to honor Andrew McMorris, a 12-year-old Boy Scout from Troop 161 who was killed by an allegedly drunk driver Sept. 30. Photo by Kyle Barr

“It’s great when the community comes together, it’s just a hard way to do it,” David Kurtinaitis said.

The incident occurred Sept. 30 as the troop was taking a day hike through the Greenbelt Trail in Manorville. Thomas Murphy, 59, of Holbrook was driving a 2016 Mercedes southbound on David Terry Road at approximately 1:55 p.m. when his vehicle struck the scouts who were walking northbound on the shoulder of the roadway, according police.

McMorris was rushed to the hospital but died due to his injuries Oct. 1, police said. Along with McMorris four other boys were also hit by the driver. Denis Lane, 16, of Shoreham; Kaden Lynch, 15, of Calverton; and Matthew Yakaboski, 15, of Calverton, sustained non-life-threatening injuries. Thomas Lane, 15, of Shoreham, was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital where he has continued to be treated for serious injuries as of Oct. 5.

Murphy was charged with driving while intoxicated, though Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini’s (D) office has left open the possibility of upgrading the charges. An attorney for Murphy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The SWR school district has put a notice on its website saying support services were available to students and staff, and that parents or guardians could call the school should they wish their children to get grief support.

In a statement released to Newsday, the McMorris family shared Andrew’s love for acting, the Boy Scouts and aviation.

“Andrew wanted to fly before he could walk,” the statement read. “Airplanes, helicopters and rockets were the obsession of his life, and he achieved his first piloting goal this past summer during AeroCamp … Andrew was occasionally chided by parents, coaches and teachers for having his head in the clouds, but for Andrew, that only made sense.”

The support for the scout troop members and the McMorris family has even extended beyond the Shoreham community. A GoFundMe fundraising campaign for Troop 161 has exceeded $13,000 of a $15,000 goal as of Oct. 5, just five days after Andrew’s passing.

Andrew participated in AeroCamp, a youth flight educational program hosted by Mid Island Air Service. The organization released a statement highlighting Andrew’s love for aviation.

Red ribbons adorn businesses in Shoreham to honor Andrew McMorris, a 12-year-old Boy Scout from Troop 161 who was killed by an allegedly drunk driver Sept. 30. Photo by Kyle Barr

“Andrew worked hard during camp to complete his Boy Scout Aviation Merit Badge and we were so proud of him,” the statement read. “We are saddened by this senseless loss and offer his family our deepest condolences.”

A Change.org petition titled “Name an AA 787 after Andrew McMorris,” which seeks to get American Airlines to name a jet after Andrew, has already reached well over 12,000 signatures. The petition’s creator, aviation photographer Hunter Lyons, is seeking response from the airline that could help get Andrew’s name on a plane.

Andrew is survived by his mother, Alisha, father, John and sister, Arianna. In their statement the family asked that no items be placed as memorials at the scene of the crash, and instead that residents tie a red ribbon to their property, and that instead of sending flowers residents donate to Troop 161, WHAM and MADD.

“Bright and hardworking, Andrew was an honor roll student,” the family’s statement said. “Classmates, teachers and friends found him sometimes silly, always funny and, occasionally, a bit cheeky. He was a friend to everyone and showed kindness to all.”

This post was updated Oct. 8 to include the possibility the District Attorney will upgrade charges against Murphy.

Graffiti, broken windows discovered on the property Aug. 27

Shoreham-Wading River School District is preparing to seek proposals for the sale or lease of the Briarcliff Elementary School building. Photo by Kyle Barr

Shoreham-Wading River School District has announced it’s in the final stages of exploring a sale of the vacant Briarcliff Elementary School building and property after it was vandalized with graffiti and windows were broken Aug. 26.

The school district posted a notice to its website Aug. 29 saying it had started the process of publicizing a request for proposals about a sale or lease of the property and that it will be submitted to the board at its Sept. 25 meeting.

Graffiti found on the vacant Briarcliff Elementary School building Aug. 27. Photo by Kyle Barr

“As a follow up to the feedback received during the public workshops the district held last winter and spring, the board of education is in the early stages of exploring the possible lease or sale of the facility with the help of a specialized real estate agent identified through a RFP process,” the district said in a statement. “No final decision on this matter has been made to this date as an RFP is in the development stages.”

Briarcliff Elementary School closed its doors in 2014. It was built in 1907. Since its closure, the district has had to pay for ongoing operating costs — approximately $95,000 annually, according to the district.

In April, district officials sat down with residents in round-table discussions about possible options for the Briarcliff property located on Briarcliff Road in Shoreham. While many residents said they would like to keep the property in the district’s hands, such as moving either the library or district offices to that location, officials stated there was very little they could use the building for. The school board voted to create an RFP on a sale of the property at its June 26 meeting.

Graffiti found on the vacant Briarcliff Elementary School building Aug. 27. Photo by Kyle Barr

The announcement of the intent to sell comes a few days after the property was vandalized. A member of the Shoreham/Wading River Community Facebook group posted photos at about noon Aug. 26 showing graffiti along the rear end of the property closest to the field and playground. One door labeled “16” had been pulled open and two windows right next to it had been smashed.

The graffiti was largely random, some showing expletives. One message read “make out hill,” and another said “Hallow (sic) Point,” most likely misspelling “hollow point.” The windows that were broken had already been boarded up with metal plates and the door relocked by Aug. 29.

The school district called the police at approximately 1:30 p.m. the same day, a spokesperson for Suffolk County police said. Later that afternoon the district put a notice on its website saying it was working with law enforcement in an ongoing investigation.

“The District takes matters of safety and security very seriously,” district officials said in a statement. “Briarcliff, like each of our schools, is monitored through video surveillance, by members of our district staff and through the use of an alarm system. The district is cooperating with members of law enforcement to the fullest extent possible.”

Graffiti found on the vacant Briarcliff Elementary School building Aug. 27. Photo by Kyle Barr

The building already has a number of security cameras along its facade. One is located on the main entrance, another at the entrance to the trailers on the northern part of the property and another behind the property. Though there are also flood lights located on the roof of the property facing the back field.

Shoreham resident Lisa Geraghty has been following the ongoing Briarcliff story for more than a year, and she said she understands the tough decisions the school board had to make on the property.

“The nearly $100,000 annual cost to maintain the building with just enough winter heat to prevent the pipes from freezing and occasional mowing and security checks could never cover the amount of work the building needs,” Geraghty said. “The six-figure maintenance cost isn’t enough to cover steady security.”

The district will be hosting its next school board meeting Sept. 4.

Shoreham-Wading River school district Superintendent Gerard Poole, second from left, and the board of education. Photo by Kevin Redding

The board of education was met with loud cheers and a round of applause for its decision March 27.

Shoreham-Wading River school district added pre-kindergarten classes in its initial 2018-19 budget, but after receiving backlash from parents, the board unanimously voted to remove it from the plans.

“I’m a firm believer in early childhood education,” said Shoreham resident Megan Rowick, who said she attended the March 20 meeting in favor of the idea, but that her feelings quickly changed. “There are great benefits for social, emotional and cognitive development, and while not mandated by New York State I feel that pre-K is a gift.”

She explained what changed her mind.

“I absolutely support public education and I am a big proponent of a pre-K program in Shoreham-Wading River. But it’s our job not to push our own agenda, and I hear what the community is saying and want to make a decision based on that.”

— Erin Hunt

“When I saw the plans I immediately had concerns, and I know I’m not alone,” said the pre-K, kindergarten and first-grade teacher, whose son and 3-year-old daughter will have gone through pre-K programs. “Why wasn’t the community surveyed to see who has children that will be 4 years old before Dec. 1 and who would be interested in this pre-K program? It would have been helpful to gather information prior to this, then you would know how many sections you really need, or who would choose our program.”

The board of education announced at its March 20 meeting the plan was to include the addition of part-time pre-K classes into the district’s $74,776,072 budget draft. To fund the proposed program and avoid piercing the tax levy increase cap while keeping at the current 0.9 percent increase budget-to-budget, $270,000 in contingent funds was worked into the draft. Kindergarten class sizes would have increased at Miller Avenue School to clear classrooms for the program.

Residents questioned if the district had done sufficient research.

Wading River resident Robin Heavey said she was concerned, since the program was set to begin with an expectation of declining district enrollment, that if the trend were to reverse, the larger class sizes would place a burden on the teachers and their students.

“I do not think it is fair to those children, especially at such a tender age when they are learning reading and mathematics and things that require such attention from teachers, to put them in a situation where they are increasing their numbers for a non-essential and a non-required program,” she said.

Colette Grosso agreed that there’s no crystal ball for what enrollment would look like, and added she would prefer to see the money spent elsewhere.

“When you say the money could be used for this [pre-K] program or things that come up as needed, I’m just wondering why some of our needs over the past couple of years have not been addressed,” the Shoreham mother said. “We’ve had two suicides, I can’t even quantify how many suicide attempts we’ve had, several of which have been this year.  You’ve got kids in the hospital for anxiety, eating disorders, all kinds of things — with the current climate, don’t we think security and mental health staff would be the best use of this money?”

Wading River resident Nick Gallucci pointed out the elected representatives on the board campaigned on a message of financial responsibility last year. He asked the board if pre-K would not just be economically feasible now, but five years from now.

“I think pre-K is an essential element to a child’s education,” he said, adding his two children have gone to pre-K through a private organization in Wading River. “My belief right now is that this is getting rushed to get passed when there is a general distrust in the district’s spending habits. Tying pre-K into a budget in a rushed manner regardless of the negative tax cap only fosters that district and strays far for the 2017 hashtag #RestoreTheFaith.”

The 17-year public education high school teacher pointed out how last year’s budget just passed with a close 1,112-992 vote and said while he originally indented to stand up in front of the board and ask that pre-K be a separate proposition in the budget vote, he understood it is no longer an option after the district decided it would be packaged within the budget. He said, looking at the issue like a patchwork quilt — trying to do a lot with a little — he now sides with those who wanted pre-K removed from the budget.

“My belief right now is that this is getting rushed to get passed when there is a general distrust in the district’s spending habits.”

— Nick Gallucci

“My fear is heading into this budget that they are going to vote on one issue, and I don’t want my child’s education within this district being jeopardized by a program that is already existing within this community,” he said. “Perhaps our focus should be on things that cannot be replicated.”

Board of education president Robert Rose agreed that while no one could argue with the merits of a pre-K program, the process left much to be desired.

“Why the rush?” he asked before then asking the board if it was unanimous in removing the item from the budget. “The board should give the same about of time to pre-K like we are the future of the Briarcliff building. Are we really prepared? We’re putting the horse before the cart.”

Rose said Superintendent Gerard Poole recommended to the board on three separate occasions to hold off including pre-K in the budget — that it wasn’t the best fit this year. Rose said Poole also made the recommendation the board take the next six months to work with the community on the idea.

“We want to make sure it’s the most transparent process possible,” he said.

Trustee Erin Hunt, who proposed the idea after hearing the desire for a program from other residents, personally agreeing, said she appreciated the feedback and is thankful that the past two meetings people had shown up.

“I wish the conversation went differently — I absolutely support public education and I am a big proponent of a pre-K program in Shoreham-Wading River,” she said. “But it’s our job not to push our own agenda, and I hear what the community is saying and want to make a decision based on that. To potentially sacrifice the negative levy for a program I personally believe in I think is a mistake. I would never want a budget, especially this one, which is an outstanding budget, to fail.”

The Shoreham power plant on North Country Road provides peak power to the community and payments in lieu of taxes to the Shoreham-Wading River school district. Photo from Jason White

A Brookhaven organization recently saved energy in the most literal sense, and a reliable revenue stream too.

The Town of Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency (IDA) announced Nov. 27 it prevented the shutdown of an electric-generating plant in Shoreham, which provides peak power to the community and is expected to contribute $852,000 in property taxes or payments in lieu of taxes, commonly known as PILOTs, to the Shoreham-Wading River school district this year.

Brookhaven’s business arm has entered into a new, 20-year PILOT agreement with owners of the 90 megawatt, jet-fueled facility located on 10 acres of land on North Country Road, leased by the Long Island Power Authority. The facility’s previous PILOT and power purchase agreement between LIPA and Brookhaven expired this past August after 15 years.

In the proposal for the PILOT, which became the adopted policy when it was approved by the IDA in January 2017, projected gradual benefits range from $1.2 million in its first year to $1.7 million in its 20th.

The partnership began in September 2016 when members of J-Power USA — owners of the facility since 2010 — realized the expired pact would bring about a 33 percent reduction in revenue and a 50 percent reduction in economic benefits. The members were also told by LIPA representatives that the nonprofit would not be involved in negotiating a new PILOT.

“We wanted to see if Brookhaven would be able to offer a new PILOT that would  allow us to remain financially viable and our agreement has removed that big uncertainty,” said Jason White, director of asset management at the J-Power Shoreham branch. “Our facility uses General Electric combustion
turbines and while it doesn’t operate a lot, it’s important to the electric grid for stability purposes. It’s maintained so that it can respond very quickly if it’s called upon.”

White said although there had to be consideration to disassemble the power plant and move off Long Island in the case an agreement couldn’t be reached, it wouldn’t be a simple process, and the facility’s six
employees live close by.

“Our preference all along was to continue to operate the plant site and to continue to be a contributor to the local community,” White said.

By securing the power plant’s place in Shoreham, revenue is boosted for the school district, which relies heavily on it as a source of both energy and property tax revenue.

“I am pleased that we have been able to close on this new agreement with J-Power,” said Frederick Braun, chairman of the IDA. “Had we been unable to keep this plant from moving off Long Island with this new agreement, the Shoreham School District and other taxing jurisdictions would receive no payments at all, resulting in an even larger loss to those taxing jurisdictions.

The school district, which included the finalization of $852,000 in PILOT revenue in its Revised and Lowered Expenditure Budget & Tax Levy in October, approved the agreement in a resolution during a board meeting last Jan. 10.

“Be it resolved that the Board of Education of the Shoreham-Wading River Central School District supports the proposed financial assistance contemplated by the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency in connection with the J-Power Peaker Plant,” the letter read.

Lisa Mulligan, the IDA’s chief executive officer, said she had been in contact with the district’s board of education since meetings began with J-Power “as they were the most impacted by this.”

“We didn’t want to pursue something if they were not interested in it,” Mulligan said. “But the board wrote to us and told us they were … I think it’s important to bring money into the school district and also provide this power to residents when it’s needed.”

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