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Shoreham-Wading River

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

Robert Badalian once woke up early in the morning on weekdays to make it to the aging Joe Ferreira Fitness Center at the Shoreham-Wading River High School. For close to 20 years, from 6 to 8 a.m. men and woman walked through the door, quickly becoming friends and regulars. Most were older in age and already retired but found a community where they could exercise without judgment.

“I got through cancer thanks to the exercise of the gym.”

— Peggy Loscalzo

More than a year since the fitness center suddenly closed after an engineer’s report showed the floor was not up to code, the fitness center regulars are continuing to shout their support at board meetings for their small group to be able to use a fitness center at their school. Though current plans to move the fitness center into the school building has many of those residents feeling they’re being pushed out, as now the temporary facility is located inside the school in rooms A101 and 102.

“If the fitness center stays where it is or moves to the auxiliary gym, it will remain a single use facility,” Badalian said. “It’s just not logical that you would move a fitness center from an external building, that’s self-contained, and move it into the high school.”

Officials have already floated the idea to move the fitness center into the school building where the current auxiliary gym resides. Though the district had definitive plans to renovate the old fitness center, a proposed plan is to create a wrestling center in that external building where the old gym room sits vacant.

Board Vice President Katie Andersen said much of it has to do with the security issue of having people walk outside the building during school hours to reach the gym. Students also have limited access and could suffer injury outside from adverse weather.

SWR Superintendent Gerard Poole gave a presentation at the Aug. 20 board meeting recommending gym hours be separate from students’ hours, and that if the gym were to be moved into the school it would only be open for outside residents two days a week in the evening hours and Saturday morning. He also offered the idea of a structured community program for fitness education.

Shoreham residents like Jim and Peggy Loscalzo, who had used the old gym for more than a decade before it was shut down, vehemently opposed the idea of limited times to use the gym. They said the only times they could attend gym hours were early in the morning, as later in the day they may be too tired to go to a gym. 

“I got through cancer thanks to the exercise of the gym,” Peggy Loscalzo said.

Poole presented there was an average of 30 weekly resident users of the previous gym, and most were regulars. Of those 30 only eight users exceeded three days a week in attendance.

Badalian vehemently disputed those numbers, calling it closer to 70 paid members.

“The staff was never even questioned about this,” he said.

Some residents questioned why the wrestlers should need their own specific space, though those parents with kids in the wrestling program called it a year-round sport, with training taking place throughout the year.

“We students don’t have the money to buy a gym membership.”

— Connor Blenning

Several residents said they have bought gym memberships in the meantime, but they find it hard to schedule their times, so they could be there with the old compatriots of the old gym.

SWR student Connor Blenning, a wrestler, said lacking a fitness center hurt them last wrestling season, and having a specific space for their sport would be invaluable.

“We didn’t have a gym to do strength training,” he said.

He added that he thought that if the gym is easily accessible to students, who might walk by it multiple times a day, they could be influenced to use the fitness center where they may not have previously.

“We students don’t have the money to buy a gym membership,” he said. “School kids could staff it.”

Board President Michael Lewis said they are still working on the proposals and have not made any final decision yet what will become of the old or a new fitness center.

Artie Gross, behind him his office at the SWR middle school. Photos from Gross

“It was a good time. I enjoyed the opportunity to teach a lot of talented kids,” said Artie Gross, reflecting on a more than three-decade music teaching career, much of it spent at Shoreham-Wading River. 

Gross, who has been a mainstay in the Shoreham-Wading River school district as a middle school vocal music teacher for the past 35 years, retired at the conclusion of the 2018-2019 school year. 

“He was the ultimate professional.”

— Kevin O’Brien

“I just knew it was time,” he said. “Thirty-five years is a good number.”

Gross said that since he was a kid he knew he had a passion for music. As a young man he remembered constantly playing guitar and singing.

“I would bring my guitar to school — I was the class musician, I got involved in some of the school’s shows and plays,” he said. 

When it came time to decide what he wanted to pursue as a career, Gross said he knew his parents wouldn’t pay for guitar lessons. 

“It was pretty obvious I wasn’t going to school to be a guitar performance major,” the Port Jefferson resident said. 

Despite that, Gross found his answer while being in a high school chorus class.  

“My high school chorus teacher made such an impression on me and I was like ‘This is what I want to do,’” said Gross.  

After graduating high school, he went to the University of Rhode Island for one year before transferring to SUNY Buffalo to complete his bachelor’s in music education. Gross would then go get his master’s degree at Ithaca College. 

From there, Gross got his first gig teaching in the Bethpage school district, filling in for a music teacher who was out sick for the year. 

“From February to June of that year I was full-time teaching strings,” he said. “I ended helping out with shows and doing a little bit of singing.” 

The following year, Gross initially thought he would be going back to Bethpage but the district told him it was now a brand-new position and would bring him down to starting sub-salary. 

“They told me I’d be teaching seven elementary school classes a day and I was like, this doesn’t sound good,” he said. 

While Gross ultimately decided not to stay at Bethpage, he had heard there was an opening for a music teacher at SWR and called to see if the job was still available. 

“They told me it was still available. The superintendent didn’t like the person we sent up,” he said. “I met with the assistant principal and principal — and boom, I was hired that day. Just a few days before the school year [in 1984].”

Gross said during his first year he wanted to build up the chorus program in the middle school. After one year it went up from 48 kids to more than 100 kids participating. 

After his first year in the district, Gross began splitting time at the high school and middle school as a traveling teacher. During his time at the high school he was involved in music direction for shows as well as taking charge of the chorus. Starting in 1990, he came back to the middle school full-time. 

Linda Jutting, a former orchestra teacher at SWR, first met Gross during his first year on the job in 1984.

“It wasn’t until 2002, when I came back to the district, that I worked with him at the middle school for 15 years until I retired,” she said.

Jutting said her own three children had Gross as a teacher and said he had an amazing work ethic.

“He was really dedicated to his craft and his students,” she said. “He went above and beyond.”

Gross said he had a strong passion for what he did and wanted to share it with the kids. 

“I think one of my strengths is being able to connect with middle school kids and treat them like young adults,” he said. “I think one of the most important things is believing in them and getting them to believe in themselves.”

“He was really dedicated to his craft and his students.”

— Linda Jutting

Kevin O’Brien, district band director at SWR, said he can’t say enough good things about Gross. 

“I worked with Artie in the same building for 12 years. He mentored and helped me during my first couple of years in the district,” he said. “He was the ultimate professional.”

Gross mentioned when he retired, he received a signed poster from former students. He realized all the people he had affected positively.  

“I was just doing my job, I didn’t think I was doing anything special,” he said. “One girl told me, ‘I became a social worker because of the way you treated me.’”

Gross said he is looking forward to practicing playing his guitar more and hopes to visit his children in Wyoming and Australia. The Port Jefferson resident also hopes to be involved in the middle school shows in the future and is currently giving private lessons. 

“I had a good career. I got to share something that I loved, which was music,” he said.

 

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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’s ailing fitness center may see a new lease on life, should the puzzle pieces come together.

At a July 8 meeting, Superintendent Gerard Poole presented the idea to the school board that the district could convert the old Joe Ferreira Fitness Center and turn it into a wrestling center, while at the same time taking the auxiliary gym and turning that into a new fitness center.

Though the thought is still up in the air, the plan would require making major renovations to the old fitness center, located just to the east of the main high school building. The fitness center, built in the 1980s, was closed in July last year when 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 building would require additional steel supports, toilet renovations to make it ADA compliant, new HVAC, emergency lighting and an upgraded fire alarm system.

Last October, the district said the renovations could cost upward of $200,000.

The district moved exercise equipment into room A101, right next to the cafeteria. Room A102 will also be used for fitness come September.

In a survey sent to students by the district about whether they would use a fitness center within the high school, 75 percent responded yes.

At the July meeting, Poole said the district had originally included the fitness center as part of its 2015 bond project, which is currently in the midst of renovating the high school parking lot. Though the school district could use additional funds left over to remake the fitness center, it won’t know how much funds it has left until the end of August, the superintendent said. There is no current funding in the 2019-20 budget to convert either the auxiliary gym or old fitness center.

Local residents who once extensively used the old fitness center for exercise during non-school hours have said they wished to be allowed to use the machinery, though Poole said they would have to look at hours and access for nonstudents on the off hours.

In addition the district said this change would potentially allow them to use the outside building as a polling place, instead of the usual gym space. School’s being used as polling places has been a sore spot for several North Shore school districts as they continue to look at security concerns.

Poole said, in speaking to the Suffolk County Board of Elections, there is no requirement that the district reuse the same space.

“It’s a matter of looking at the layout seeing where everything can fit,” Poole said.

 

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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.

 

Shoreham-Wading River graduating seniors celebrated commencement June 28 under the cloud of the recent death of Melissa Marchese, a high school senior and softball star athlete who was killed in a car crash only a few weeks before graduation.

Heather Marchese, Melissa’s sister, accepted her diploma on her sister’s behalf.

Remarks were made by valedictorian Mahdi Rashidzada and salutatorian Katlynn McGivney.

Jon Meeker, left, with his family during SWR graduations June 28. Photo from Gofundme page

A Shoreham man was killed this past Sunday after his motorcycle was involved in a crash with another car, Southold Town police said.

Jon Meeker was travelling eastbound on Route 25 driving a 2001 Suzuki motorcycle and attempted to pass a 2015 Jeep Cherokee on the right as it made a right turn onto Bailey Avenue shortly after 8 p.m., according to police.

Meeker was then thrown from his motorcycle and collided with a utility pole. The Shoreham man was transported to Eastern Long Island Hospital by members of the Greenport Fire Department where he later succumbed to his injuries.

Jennifer Feldstein of New York, the driver of the Jeep Cherokee, was not injured along with two other passengers in the car. Both vehicles were impounded for safety checks.

A GoFundMe page was set up on July 1 to provide contributions to the Meeker family.

“Jon worked three jobs to support his family, but the responsibility of two children in college, a daughter with a medical condition and funeral costs have overwhelmed the family financially,” the page reads. “Nothing was more important to Jon than his family. Any contributions will go directly to the family to address their most immediate needs during this difficult time.”

Within a day, over 250 people have raised upwards of $26,000 of the $75,000 goal.

The father of three is survived by his wife Kimberly, who works in Shoreham Wading-River School District, son Jake, who graduated from SWR High School this past week, and daughters Makayla and Ella.

Shoreham has been host to several tragedies over the past few years. Only recently 18-year-old Melissa Marchese, who was set to graduate from SWR, died in a car crash at the corner of Route 25A and Miller Avenue. The school district wore yellow ribbons and released doves in her honor at the commencement ceremony June 28.

For those looking to donate to the GoFundMe page visit here.

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SWR High School Principal Frank Pugliese, Kathleen Loscalzo, Natalie Epp, Alanna Santa Maria, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker and Town of Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith. Photo from Anker’s office

Three Shoreham-Wading River Girl Scouts were each honored with their Gold Award June 7.

At Shoreham-Wading River High School, Natalie Epp, Kathleen Loscalzo and Alanna Santa Maria, of Service Unit 669, all received the highest Girl Scout award. The event was attended by Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker and high school principal, Frank Pugliese. 

“Congratulations to the Scouts from Service Unit 669 on receiving their Gold Awards,” Anker said. “These young ladies are great role models for the other girls in their troop and I look forward to seeing their future accomplishments with our community.”

Service Unit 669’s Gold Award projects included creating silk flower arrangements and pens to be used during services at the First Presbyterian Church of Smithtown, making fleece blankets for residents of the Long Island State Veterans Home in Stony Brook, and creating alphabet audio books in Spanish and English for the Southampton Head Start preschool.

The Gold Award requires that a Girl Scout identifies an issue, investigates, gets help by building a team, creates a plan, presents that plan to a Girl Scout council, gathers feedback, takes action, and educates and inspires others. 

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Melissa Marchese proved herself in sports, was set to graduate June 28

Shoreham-Wading River senior forward Melissa Marchese battles in the paint Feb. 11. Photo by Bill Landon

A community that has become much too familiar to tragedy was left reeling June 14 as Melissa Marchese, 18, a Shoreham resident and senior at the high school passed from her injuries received in a car crash the day before.

Shoreham-Wading River senior Melissa Marchese During an April 22 Softball game. Photo by Bill Landon

Suffolk County police confirmed her death Saturday,  June 15.

Marchese’s father Charlie Marchese posted a lengthy eulogy on his Facebook page. He called his daughter “… brilliant, she was magnetic,” and said she fought long enough in order for doctors to donate her organs, something she had always wished to do.

“She would light up the room with her smile and make everybody burst with laughter,” Marchese’s father wrote. “Melissa was a remarkable athlete. Fierce, determined, and focused. Just try to slide into her at home plate or try to battle her for a rebound. She did not lose. She was a born leader in all facets of her life. Whether barking instructions on the softball field or leading her friends in a dance or a song, everyone would follow her. She did not lose.”

Marchese was in the backseat of a car turning left onto Route 25A from Miller Avenue June 13. The high school was having its senior honoring ceremony. Another vehicle, driven by Ridge resident Michael Troiano, 34, went through a red light and struck Marchese’s vehicle. The two other students in Marchese’s car, Evan Flannery, 17, and Caroline Tyburski, 18, both of Shoreham, were transported to St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson with non-life-threatening injuries. Marchese was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital, where she died a day later.

The Shoreham-Wading River school district released statements Friday and Saturday.

Melissa Marchese battles Mount Sinai senior Gabby Sartori for a loose ball under the boards Jan. 22. Photo by Bill Landon

“We extend our deepest condolences to the individual’s family and friends, and we continue to keep all those involved and impacted by this tragedy in our thoughts during this very difficult time,” the district wrote on its website.

Marchese was well known in the district for her work on the basketball court and the softball field.

Adam Lievre, Marchese’s basketball coach, said he would watch Marchese move around the court and be awed at her tenacity. It was that tenacity, he said, that had her fighting death until the time they could donate her organs.

“She was willing to throw her body anywhere and everywhere to get every rebound,” he said. “I’ve never coached a kid who wanted rebounds so badly, and she went after every ball with this relentless effort. It was contagious when the other kids saw how hard she worked, was an example she led on the court.”

He remembered two cases of her caring personality. One was on the court where she saw eighth-grader GraceAnn Leonard get knocked over, and she “sprinted” over to help her up. The other was in the locker room after the team’s heartbreaking playoff 42-41 loss against Sayville Feb. 12. 

“She was sitting right in front of me in tears, so emotional about losing but so thankful, she said how thankful she was to be a part of the team and how great it was,” Lievre said.

Marchese was known as a standout softball player in SWR, having been recognized as All-League in the Scholar-Athlete Team in March and was committed to the University of Hartford for softball.

Once it became known of Marchese’s hospitalization, a GoFundMe page was started, and within a day raised nearly $20,000. By Tuesday, June 17, the site had raised over $60,000.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Melissa and the Marchese family,” Joseph Dwyer, the GoFundMe organizer, wrote to the page. “Thank you all for your generous donations during this time of unthinkable sadness and utter despair. God Bless.”

The school district canceled senior finals June 14 and made mental health staff available. The district also invited students to the high school library Saturday for staff to support them.

Melissa Marchese. Photo from SWR School District

Shoreham has become well known for tragedies of this kind. In 2014 the community grieved for Tom Cutinella, who died due to a head injury on the football field. In 2018, the community wrapped hundreds of red ribbons on flagpoles to memorialize Andrew McMorris, who was killed by a drunk driver while out on a hike with his Boy Scout troop. 

The Andrew McMorris and Tom Cutinella memorial foundations both shared their condolences on their Facebook pages.

“No one should ever have to go through this,” a post to the Tom Cutinella Memorial Foundation Facebook page read.

Marchese’s wake will be held at Branch Funeral Home, located at 551 Route 25A in Miller Place, on June 20 from 7 to 9 p.m. and June 21 from 2 to 5 p.m. and at 7 to 9 p.m. Marchese’s funeral procession will leave the funeral home at approximately 9:30 a.m. on June 22. A Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. at St. Mark’s R.C. Church, located at 105 Randall Road in Shoreham.

This article has been updated to reflect the name of the eighth-grader who Marchese helped up.

Left, Valedictorian Mahdi Rashidzada; right, Salutatorian Katlynn McGivney. Photos from SWRCSD

Shoreham-Wading River High School announced the top students of the 2019 graduating class are seniors Mahdi Rashidzada and Katlynn McGivney, who have been named valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively.

Rashidzada’s list of achievements includes taking 12 Advanced Placement courses and six honors courses. He is on the school’s track and field team and is vice president of the National Honor Society, captain of the Debate Team, a member of Mathletes, president of the National History Day Club and a member of the Riverhead Youth Court. His list of accolades includes being a Suffolk County Math Teachers’ Association fourth-place honor, as well as school awards in AP Chemistry, AP Language, Spanish IV, Human Physiology and STEM.

Outside of school, he is a Sunday school teacher at the Islamic Center of Long Island, was involved in a local political campaign as an intern and volunteers for Long Island Cares and Stony Brook Hospital. He was also named an RPI Science and Mathematics scholar and a New York State Debate qualifier. He has received National Merit commendation and conducted research on the antimicrobial properties of herbal hydrosols in the high school’s science lab as well as at St. Joseph’s College. 

“Do what you love,” Rashidzada said when asked to share some sentiments with his fellow graduates and future seniors at the high school. “It is important to find what you love and what you’re good at and really pursue it.” 

He will major in neuroscience on the premed track and said he looks forward to entering the freshman class at the University of Pennsylvania in September.    

Throughout high school, Katlynn McGivney has participated in a well-rounded educational, academic, athletic and volunteer career. She has taken advantage of the school’s numerous AP and honors courses and has been recognized with excellence awards in Biology Honors, Chemistry Honors, French III and AP Capstone Seminar. She has played volleyball since ninth grade, softball since eighth grade, ran winter track and has received a varsity letter for three years. McGivney is secretary of the school’s student government and a member of the National Honor Society as well as the Women in Science and Engineering Club. As for community service, she enjoys her work in the district’s Round Out summer camp as a volunteer and has also volunteered for local community programs. She is a page at the North Shore Public Library and plays travel softball for the Long Island Crush and club volleyball. 

McGivney succinctly summed up some words of wisdom for her peers with, “Make the most of your high school experience and enjoy it while you can. It will be over before you know it.” She has committed to study at Hamilton College to pursue biochemistry and play on the softball team.

“I am proud and honored to have Mahdi and Katlynn represent Shoreham-Wading River High School as our top two students,” Principal Frank Pugliese said. “They both exemplify the mission and vision we all have for our students while they are here and as they head out into college and careers — maximizing their potential, creating responsible citizens and fostering a lifelong appreciation for learning.”

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The Wildcats erupt after Anthony Cimino’s goal found the cage in the opening seconds of the overtime period, for the Class C title against Mount Sinai at Farmingdale State College May 28. Photo by Bill Landon

The Mount Sinai Mustangs boys lacrosse team traded goals with the Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats throughout all 48 minutes of regulation in the Suffolk Class C final at Farmingdale State College May 28. Both teams knotted at 13-13. 

It was SWR senior Anthony Cimino’s stick that made the difference when he scored his only goal of the game in the opening seconds of the sudden victory period to give the Wildcats the win, and with it another county championship victory. 

The Mustangs couldn’t contain Shoreham-Wading River junior Xavier Arline, who did what he’s done all season topping the scoring chart for the Wildcats with six goals and a pair of assists. SWR sophomore Johnny Schwarz stretched the net four times and teammates Jack Erb, Alec Gregorek and Tyler Schwarz each scored.

Senior Bobby DeMeo topped the leaderboard for the Mustangs with an assist and six goals.

With the win the Wildcats advance to the Long Island Class C championship round where they’ll face Cold Spring Harbor June 1 at the James M. Shuart Stadium at Hofstra University. 

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