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Smithtown school district

Kings Park Superintendent Timothy Eagen. File Photo.

Following the Parkland school shooting in Florida Feb. 14, there is no denying there’s been a raging national debate over gun control measures and school safety. As the student survivors of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have spoken up, their actions have rippled outward creating a call for activism by students nationwide to have their voices and opinions on gun control heard. It has reached Long Island.

On March 14, the group Women’s March Youth EMPOWER is calling for students, teachers, school administrators and parents to walk out of schools for 17 minutes, in honor of the 17 Parkland victims, beginning at 10 a.m. The purpose of the protest, according to a website promoting it, is to shine a light on Congress’ “inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods.” The walkout is being promoted on social media using the hashtag #ENOUGH.

Town of Smithtown school districts and officials are weighing how the marches might play out here, with logistics and safety being of the utmost concern for administrators.

I firmly believe that giving students a voice in the running of their school and community is paramount to the education process”
— Timothy Eagen

“I firmly believe that giving students a voice in the running of their school and community is paramount to the education process,” said Kings Park Superintendent Timothy Eagen.

Eagen said he had Lino Bracco, principal of Kings Park High School, meet with the student council last week to gauge what they were thinking of and planning for March 14.

“Our goal is to understand what our students are thinking and feeling, and best support their voice,” Eagen said.

Kings Park’s student council was instructed on what boundaries they must operate within March 14, according to Eagen, and the plans will incorporate aspects of remembrance, unity and an education activities aimed at
remembering the 17 lives lost in Parkland. Specific details were not made available in time for publication.

Prior to the Parkland shooting, Kings Park held a “leadership summit” consisting of 32 adults and students in which it was felt that the district needs to work together with the community to better address “the increasingly complex issues that are impacting our students and their families.” A forum is set for March 13, 7 p.m. at Kings Park High School cafeteria to address topics including cyberbullying, social isolation, the effects of social media addiction, and the need for volunteers to serve as positive role models. A recreational night will be run in the gymnasium by National Honor Society students for students and children while the forum is underway.

Commack school officials said they are still discussing the walkout with their students, and what if any events will occur, according to spokeswoman Brenda Lentsch. No solid information regarding the event or district’s stance was available as of press time.

We’re protesting the violence in schools and the lack of change that has occurred to stop that.”
— National School Walkout Website

Neighboring school administrators in Smithtown Central School District declined to comment on their plans for March 14.

A second unconnected protest is being planned for April 20 to coincide with the anniversary of the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999. The organizers of this event, simply called National School Walkout, are also calling for those in school buildings to stand up and exit at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes of silence, followed by an “open mic” session in which students will be encouraged to voice their opinions. The organizers of the walkout envision a day-long event.

“We’re protesting the violence in schools and the lack of change that has occurred to stop that,” the website for the event reads. “The issue needs constant attention if we hope to change anything, so multiple events on multiple days is a productive way to help fight for our cause, a safer country.”

While the federal government deals with the political gridlock long associated with gun control, New York State is working on action to at least improve safety in the short term, though not to address gun laws.

“Every New Yorker and every American is outraged by the senseless violence that is occurring in schools throughout the country,” state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) said in a Feb. 28 statement.

The state Senate approved a series of bills March 5 that include more funding for security cameras, armed police officers or security personnel for districts that want it, panic buttons, active shooter drills, better emergency response plans, hardening of school doors and more. A package of gun control measures proposed by Senate Democrats was rejected.

Smithtown Superintendent James Grossane. File photo from Smithtown Central School District

By Kevin Redding

Smithtown school administrators have unveiled their first draft of the 2018-19 budget, which calls for a larger increase than prior years.

Smithtown Central School District presented its preliminary 2018-19 budget of $244,526,399 at their Feb. 6 board of education meeting. The district’s projected budget is about 2.16 percent higher than the current school year, which was adopted at $239,567,205. Administrators anticipate asking taxpayers for  $5.52 million more this May.

The increase in preliminary 2018-19 budget comes mostly  a $3.4 million increase in district employee salaries due to state-mandated  contractual obligations to contribute to the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System and Education Resource Strategies, and a 3 percent increase in health premiums, anticipated to cost $700,000.

School officials also propose to cut five elementary classes due to declining enrollment across the district. Superintendent James Grossane said the district currently has 661 fifth-grade students but has seen a decrease in the number of incoming students in recent years. While Grossane said he
anticipates kindergarten enrollment to be close to 500 again this year, similar to last.

Budget highlights

Preliminary 2018-19 budget debuts at $245M,  a 2.16 percent increase

Officials suggest cutting 5 elementary classes, decreasing max class size

March 13, 7 p.m.: Presentation on district’s proposed instructional budget

The district’s declining enrollment allows school administrators to contemplate shrinking maximum number of students in each class. Last year, in the 2016-17 school year, the limits were set at: 25 students per kindergarten class, 26 students per class in grades 1 to 3, and 28 students per class in grades 4 to 5, according to Grossane. Under the proposed 2018-19 budget, school administrators are suggesting reducing the number to 25 students per class through fifth grade.

“This is the second year in a row of reducing class sizes in our elementary schools,” the superintendent said.

Unfortunately, the district expects to receive approximately $45.7 million total in state aid, roughly $1.5 million less than last year as the plans of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D)  call for increased funding to “high-need” districts.

The district plans to reduce its assigned fund balance, which has been increased by $1.5 million in order to balance the 2018-19 budget and increase its year end fund balance to “build up reserves.”

“The district is currently in the preliminary stages of budget development for the 2018-19 school year, with an anticipated adoption date of April 10,” Grossane said in an emailed statement. “As we do every year, the board and administration are working collaboratively to develop and present a budget to the community that is clear, transparent and fiscally efficient while preserving or increasing opportunities for our students.”

The school district’s next budget workshop will be held March 13, at 7 p.m.  to discuss the instructional budget for the elementary and secondary schools. The superintendent’s final proposed budget will be presented March 20 for adoption by the board of education.

The district’s preliminary 2018-19 budget of a 2.16 percent increase falls within the state tax cap and, as such, will only require approval by the simple majority of voters.

“The district will likely go to the voters right at or slightly below the cap,” Grossane said.

The budget vote will be held May15.

Chris Crespo scores 16 points in victory

Denis Sullivan carries the ball toward the basket. Photo by Bill Landon

By Jim Ferchland

Senior guard Chris Crespo was the catalyst for Smithtown West in a 57-42 victory over Newfield Jan. 23. He had 16 points on the night, scoring seven of the Bulls’ 19 first-quarter points.

Chris Crepo squeezes between defenders for a bucket. Photo by Bill Landon

Newfield head coach Anthony Agostino said Crespo made solid plays for his team all game.

“He makes everybody else around him better,” Agostino said. “He sacrifices his own individual points to get the ball where it needs to be. That’s why he’s a scholarship player.”

Crespo said he loves getting everyone involved in the game.

“I’m pretty sure every single one of my points were a layup or a foul shot,” Crespo said. “We hit a lot of threes today. When everyone is involved like that, it makes things a lot easier. It definitely feels good to get the ball moving and everyone scoring.”

Three players scored in double figures for the Bulls. Matt Behrens and Michael Gannon each added 11 points and combined for five 3-pointers. The team made eight triples on the night.

With the win, Smithtown West improves to 8-1 in League III, just behind undefeated Half Hollow Hills East, which outscored the Bulls in the county finals last year.

“It’s really about playing good basketball and us being able to hit our stride toward the playoffs,” said Smithtown West head coach Mike Agostino, Anthony’s brother. “We played well. The core kids who got a lot of playing time played great.”

Xavier Martinez shoots. Photo by Bill Landon

Senior Paul VonVoight contributed for nearly half of Newfield’s points. He led all scorers with 20. He got rolling in the fourth quarter, knocking down three 3-pointers to help Newfield outscore the Bulls 16-6, but it wasn’t enough.

Newfield falls to 2-7 in League III play and 4-11 overall. The Wolverines have lost three of their last four games. Despite the loss, Tony Agostino took some positives from the game.

“My guys fought till the very end,” he said. “Our goal was to keep them under 59 points. They scored 57, so we achieved one of our goals.”

Crespo said Newfield sat in their zone defense, which Smithtown West is used to seeing, so his team exploited that.

“Teams tend to struggle when playing us man-to-man,” Crespo said. “We have a lot of weapons. When teams play zone, we like to shoot threes. That’s what I like about us. When you play us, we play defense as hard as we can. We play a team-oriented style of basketball. In Suffolk County, we are a dominant force. That’s why we’ve won back-to-back league titles.”

Newfield is scheduled to play at Huntington (2-7, 3-12) Jan. 26 at 6:30 p.m. Smithtown West will host crosstown rival Smithtown East (3-6, 6-9) the same day at 5:45 p.m.

The administrative building on New York Avenue may soon be the site of a new apartment building. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Kings Park

The Kings Park school district has only one seat available this year for a board of education candidate, and three residents vying for the opportunity.

Trustee Joe Bianco is looking to continue his work with a second term.

“I believe my experience on the board over the last three years has affirmed that given my background in accounting and law … I have the technical skills and experience to help the [board] address many of the issues it faces today,” he said in his candidate statement.

Bianco has worked as a lawyer since 1995 and has volunteered for different athletic activities  in Kings Park including the Kings Park Youth Athletic Association.

“If re-elected, the board’s first priority is to finalize a new contract with our teachers,” he said in an email. “Sustainable, predictable and equitable revenue streams and contracts are critical to our long-term success as a district and to the long-term security and empowerment of our staff.” He also talked about the importance of continuing the bond project and facility upgrades.

“We must continue to challenge ourselves, our administration leadership, our staff and our students to embrace new ideas and developments in a manner that stays true to the goals and values that are important to our community,” Bianco said.

Katy Cardinale is looking to unseat Bianco, a 10-year Kings Park resident herself.

Cardinale has volunteered for several district committees, including the facilities and legislative committees.

“Positive things are happening and the tone is enthusiastic and collaborative [in the district],” Cardinale said in her candidate statement. “I aim to continue the momentum in that direction.”

But Cardinale said she is concerned about state and federal overreach and its effect on the Kings Park district. She said the current board’s decision to not pass a resolution rejecting Secretary of Education Betsy Devos inspired her to run.

The candidate said she also thinks the board needs to protect school funding more vigorously.

“I feel that our school board needs to be very loud when it comes to protecting every last penny,” she said in her candidate statement.

J.P. Andrade is the third candidate looking to represent the Kings Park community.

Andrade is a Kings Park graduate and recently worked as a diversity advisor and surrogate for then candidate Donald Trump. He has been a television contributor for multiple news stations. He said he also volunteers for various Smithtown groups.

Where Kings Park is concerned, Andrade said his diverse background can be an asset to the board.

“My various work in the government, political field, and the community will be beneficial in serving this community,” he said. “I want to be able to bring some youth, diversity and innovation to Kings Park.”

Andrade said he wants to continue to keep a close eye on common core curriculum, calling the implementation a “disaster,” and wants to bridge the gap between the schools and the community.

“[I want to] ensure that the students are equipped with the best possible educational team, and to make sure they get the top-notch education they deserve,” he said.


In Smithtown three seats are up for election this May, with two of the three uncontested.

Long-time incumbent Gladys Waldron is hoping to continue her service, with no challenger looking to unseat her.

“I’d like to continue with the board, providing a financially responsible budget,” Waldron said in a phone interview. She also said she’s in support of many of the programs being expanded at the district now, including AP Capstone seminars and other educational opportunities for students.

“We’ve also replaced study halls with elective programs which has been a great success, and been able to maintain small elementary class sizes, all without piercing the tax levy cap,” she said.

Incumbent Vice President Joanne McEnroy is also looking to move forward with the district.

“Serving on the Smithtown Board of Education gives me a sense of pride,” she said in an email. “I love the place that I have called home for over five decades and in particular, I love our schools.”

McEnroy, who first ran six years ago, said she is proud of what she has accomplished so far.

“I am very proud to have lived up to the campaign promises … which was to balance fiscal responsibility with quality education,” she said. “We have remained within the tax cap while continuing to restore or build on our already outstanding educational program to make it even better.  The expansion this year of our full-time integrated co-teaching program so that it now encompasses kindergarten thru grade 12, is a source of pride and accomplishment for me as it was just one of the many program improvement goals that I hoped to achieve as a board trustee.”

She is also running unopposed.

Incumbent Grace Plourde is the third incumbent running for re-election; however, she does face a challenger. Newcomer Matthew  Gribbin has thrown his hat into the ring.

Plourde said simply why she’s running again.

“The job is not done yet,” she said in a phone interview. “I’ve been on the board six years and we’ve gotten through some tough times.”

Plourde referred to the state-mandated tax levy cap as one of the issues the district has had to work on to create a budget that still benefits the district and the students.

“It’s all about sustainability,” she said. “We have to make sure we go forward and match revenue to expenses to maintain high-quality programs while staying within the cap.”

Gribbin did not return requests for comment.

The administrative building on New York Avenue may soon be the site of a new apartment building. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

After plans for an apartment complex on the site of the Smithtown school district administration building on New York Avenue fell through earlier this year, a new plan is in the works.

The Smithtown town board recently hired real estate firm Michael Haberman Associates to appraise the building, after Councilman Tom McCarthy (R) proposed the town purchase the property, suggesting the land and building could be used for offices and a park.

At recent town board meetings, residents have been more supportive of this proposal than the former plan. At school board meetings earlier this year residents roasted the administration for a lack of transparency, and argued an apartment complex would not be a welcomed addition to the neighborhood.

“I just want to thank Supervisor Vecchio and the board members,” Smithtown resident Bob Hughes said at the Feb. 23 meeting. “Mr. McCarthy had proposed exploring the purchase of the New York Avenue building and it was approved by the board and we appreciate that. We want to thank you for better transparency than we had with the school board. You’ve taken our phone calls, you made phone calls and you met with us.”

At the March 7 meeting Smithtown resident and local architect Mark Mancini weighed in on the future of the property.

“My thought process would be fully in support of what you’re proposing and I hope that you’re proceeding forward … I think it’s going to be an overall benefit for the town,” Mancini said at the meeting. “I think the whole plan looks like a great idea to us.”

Hughes returned to praise the idea and asked if a timeline had been established yet.

“A lot of the residents think it would be a great thing for the community especially to develop the grass area, the vacant land to a downtown central park for the community, keeping the activities local here to the downtown Main Street which would eventually help to increase patronage to downtown shops and the restaurants,” he said. “Just curious, is there a time frame when you expect to get the appraisal back?”

Smithtown attorney Matthew Jakubowski said it’s not yet clear, but a rough estimate suggested the process wouldn’t begin for a few months.

“We have to look at it from two different approaches: purchasing the building as is and what the possible fair market value is were it available commercially,” he said.

Not everyone in the community is on board with the effort.

“I think it is an ideal spot for condos for young people,” St. James resident Rose Palazzo said at the March 7 meeting. “I believe it’s about time to have affordable condos built. How can our residents forget that these young people would like to have their own home in Smithtown—then when they have a bigger family, they will buy the homes of those residents who are downsizing? It is a win for young people and a win for the town.”

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Superintendent James Grossane file photo

Smithtown residents are up in arms about the sale and potential development of the district’s administration building on New York Avenue.

At the Dec. 13 Smithtown school board meeting, citizens gathered to express their dissatisfaction with how the board has handled the plan and criticized them for a lack of transparency.

Joe Fortunato, a Smithtown resident, said he came to the meeting to express his disappointment with the board.

“I understand the need for development in this town, but 250 units on 13 acres is ridiculous,” he said. “The zoning has to be changed, and we’re being almost railroaded into having to accept four-story structures in a neighborhood that we moved into 25 years ago that was very quaint in nature. To be forced to hear that we have to accept this as part of Smithtown revitalization is ridiculous.”

Fortunato said he doesn’t agree the plan will benefit the whole community in part because the increase in traffic will actually cause more problems.

“To be forced to hear that we have to accept this as part of Smithtown revitalization is ridiculous.”

— Joe Fortunato

Dennis Bader, like Fortunato, is a Smithtown resident who said he has lived through many development projects in the area. He asked the board how they came to the decision about the amount of structures in the complex, which the board said they had no control over.

“That was up to the developer,” district Superintendent James Grossane said.

Community member Richard Cardone said the board does not have their best interests at heart.

“Do you think all these people would be here if you had the town’s best interests?” he asked. “You’re going to lose the horseshoe of people that live around this school because nobody is going to want to live in a community with 200 plus apartments, with cars going all around here, the streets can’t handle anymore traffic than we have now. This community does not want this. I’m telling you it doesn’t belong here. Shame on you.”

Grossane addressed the audience before the public comment period.

“This decision was reached following several months of careful planning and extensive research,” he said. “This decision was not made lightly.”

Grossane said the New York Avenue building is more than 80 years old, and is in dire need of repairs, which the district would receive no state funding for because the building is used for administration and not instruction.

“Our enrollment continues to decline each year, by approximately 300 students per year,” he said. “In fact, our enrollment has fallen from a recent high of 10,800 in 2009 to the current 9,300, and is projected to continue to decline until it reaches approximately 8,500 students a few short years from now.”

He said one of the board’s primary responsibilities is to be fiscally prudent to the residents of the entire Smithtown district.

“The sale of the New York Avenue property amount to approximately $15 million or more to assist the district with future budgetary concerns,” he said.

Grossane said the district worked with town officials throughout the year to find the right bidder and to help a plan come to fruition, and he was surprised to hear Supervisor Pat Vecchio’s (R) comments that the school board had no communication regarding the property.

“The school board is being presumptuous in assuming the town board will change the zone,” he said in a previous interview. “There must be a public hearing and the people will be heard for or against such a change.”

The Smithtown school board voted at the Oct. 25 meeting to approve entering a contract with Southern Land Company LLC, for the sale of the property and the surrounding land.

According to Grossane, Southern Land Company is planning to building one- and two-bedroom apartments that will be “in keeping with the architectural style of Smithtown.”

The district was encouraged to explore the sale of the building by members of the community in the spring, in the hopes of avoiding the closure of Branch Brook Elementary School.

The administrative building on New York Avenue may soon be the site of a new apartment building. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

By Victoria Espinoza

Smithtown school district’s headquarters on New York Avenue, which currently houses administrative offices, could soon become an apartment building.

The Smithtown school board voted at the Oct. 25 meeting to approve entering a contract with Southern Land Company, for the sale of the property and the surrounding land.

Smithtown Superintendent Jim Grossane said in a letter to residents he believes this is a positive decision for the community.

“The board of education and administration believe that the proposed use of the property is one that would benefit our school community,” he said. “If finalized, the sale will potentially expand our tax base, lowering the burden on our residents, and provide additional resources to enhance our educational programs.”

According to Grossane, Southern Land Company is planning on building one- and two-bedroom apartments that will be “in keeping with the architectural style of Smithtown.”

“Though still in the early stages of the contract, if finalized, the district would receive the greater of $71,000 per approved unit or $14,768,000 for the sale of the building,” Grossane said. The superintendent added that the contract has a 75-day due-diligence period, where the company has the right to back out of the purchase.

Jena Armistead, vice president of marketing for Southern Land Company, said the organization is very excited to start working with the community.

“We are proud to be selected by Smithtown school board to be the developer for a new residential community in the neighborhood,” she said in an email. “Having been selected in the competitive process, we will now turn to working with the community to develop an overall plan. In the coming weeks we look forward to engaging neighbors and town leaders in an open dialogue that will make an important contribution to the vision, design program and schedule for this project.”

Armistead said the plan is tentatively for the building to have about 250 apartments, although the company does not want to finalize a plan until after they have had discussions with the Smithtown community.

“We want to create something that will benefit the community,” she said in a phone interview.

The New York Avenue property is the site of the Arthur House, a historic home once owned by John Arthur, a prominent member of Smithtown in the mid-1700s.

But Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio said the plan requires zoning changes and the school board should not get ahead of themselves.

“If finalized, the sale will potentially expand our tax base, lowering the burden on our residents, and provide additional resources to enhance our educational programs.”

— James Grossane

“The Southern Land Company must apply for zone change to the town board,” he said in an email. “The school board is being presumptuous in assuming the town board will change the zone. There must be a public hearing and the people will be heard for or against such a change.”

Agnes Vion, an administrative assistant on the Smithtown Board of Zoning Appeals, said the property absolutely needs a zoning change, but they cannot be sure of the particular zone change because Southern Land Company has not submitted an application to the board yet.

According to Vion, the New York Avenue property is currently in a central business zone and an R-10 zone, meaning the property is only allowed to have single-family homes with lot sizes of 10,000 square feet minimum. Multifamily-style housing is not permitted in the current zone.

The zoning board employee said the property would need to be changed to garden apartment zoning, or R-6 zoning which allows for town houses.

In order for Southern Land Company to be granted a zone change, it would need to schedule meetings with the planning board, the town board and the board of appeals, but the exact route the company would have to take is not clear because it has not yet submitted an application.

In any event, they will have to change their zone, unless they want to create only single-family homes,” Vion said in a phone interview.

In February, the school board made the controversial decision to close Branch Brook Elementary School due to a lack of enrollment and shrinking district revenue, and some residents pleaded then that the district should work on selling the administrative building on New York Avenue instead of closing a building used for instruction.

Trustee Gladys Waldron was the lone “no” vote on the decision and her reasoning was the same as many community members.

“I think our energies and effort of administration and board should be placed right now on the selling of this building,” Waldron said at that meeting.

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Superintendent James Grossane file photo

By Rita J. Egan

Students and parents filled the Joseph M. Barton auditorium during the Smithtown board of education meeting Sept. 27, to comment on the incident involving Smithtown West teacher Veronica Welsh.

Last week the teacher faced backlash after a Facebook post she published saying, “This week is Spirit Week at Smithtown HS West. It’s easy to spot which students are racist by the Trump gear they’re sporting for USA day.”

Early in the meeting, Superintendent James Grossane addressed the matter.

“One mistake should not outweigh the estimated 10 years of goodness, kindness and positive impact that Coach Welsh gave to the community of Smithtown.” —Student

“As we are all aware one of our teachers posted a statement on social media regarding our students,” he said. “The board of education, administration and staff of the district strive to foster a school atmosphere of tolerance and respect of student’s political and other beliefs. The district does not condone this teacher’s statement in any way.”

Grossane said the district is in the process of an investigation of the incident.

“As soon as the district learned of this teacher’s post, immediate action was taken including directing the teacher to remove the post and reassigning the teacher to duties outside of the classroom,” he said. “An investigation is currently underway utilizing the appropriate legal due process required when a tenure teacher is the subject of an investigation. Because this is a matter involving district personnel, no further comment can be made at this time.”

During the public session of the board meeting, Smithtown resident Gay Campisi expressed her concerns over the social media post.

“For an adult teacher employed by this district to arbitrarily label a child a racist based on a particular political candidate the child appears to support is outrageous and entirely unacceptable behavior,” she said. “What is even more disturbing is that the post raises legitimate concerns for parents about what the particular teacher and other teachers in the district may be saying in the classroom or as part of the curriculum based on their personal political perspective.”

Campisi called for more transparent and concrete corrective action than reassigning Welsh. “Simply moving an offending teacher to a different position does not address the root cause of the problem and can be compared to reshuffling the deck chairs on the Titantic,” she said.

The Smithtown resident suggested in addition to disciplinary action there should be an update of the code of conduct and revised guidelines when it comes to social media use for teachers.

Members from the track and field team Welsh coaches spoke highly of the teacher and coach, and many students in the audience were visibly upset and had tears in their eyes. Parents of the students asked the students not be identified, expressing concern that if someone didn’t agree with them, their child could be targeted.

“The events of the past week have been both disheartening and upsetting,” a 2014 Smithtown West graduate said in a message her sister read at the meeting. “But, what we have to closely evaluate is this: yes, Coach Welsh made a significant mistake. She was wrong, but a mistake should not have the ability to define someone as a person as well as their past and future. One mistake should not outweigh the estimated 10 years of goodness, kindness and positive impact that Coach Welsh gave to the community of Smithtown. The decision you have to make regarding her future is in your hands, and I hope pressure from the community does not influence it.”

A senior male student at West echoed sentiments of Welsh’s character.

“Like my teammates have said before me none of us are here to justify what Ms. Welsh said but as they also said, I want to make it very clear that that is not the kind of person she is,” he said. “What is reflected in that post is not indicative of her character in any way.”

He continued to say when he heard about the post he was caught off guard, and added after being in her class for two years, “nothing of this sort has ever happened in the classroom.” He also said he wanted those in attendance to know that the teacher has never forced any kind of political agenda in the classroom.

At the end of the meeting, Grossane reiterated that the board could not comment on the teacher’s actions any further. However, he added that while principals already discuss social media use at faculty meetings, the district is looking into further training “to sensitize them to the dangers of social media posts.”

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Kevin Simmons is the new principal at Smithtown High School East. Photo from Smithtown school district

With school less than a month away, new leaders are prepping for the September start date in Smithtown.

Smithtown High School East and Nesaquake Middle School both have fresh faces at the helm, as Kevin Simmons and Daniel McCabe have been appointed to principal at their respective schools.

Simmons, a St. James resident, is no stranger to the Smithtown school district. He first joined the team in 2003, at Smithtown Middle School, as an assistant principal.

“There is something about the warm feeling, and the nurturing culture [at Smithtown],” Simmons said in a phone interview. “I am excited to continue to serve the district.”

The new high school principal has four children in the Smithtown school district, and said he is thrilled they are getting an education in such a successful district.

Simmons grew up in Ronkonkoma and received college degrees from Dowling College and Stony Brook University.

He also taught history to seventh- and eighth-graders in the Syosset school district before coming to Smithtown.

 Daniel McCabe is the new principal at Nesaquake Middle School. Photo from Jessica Novins
Daniel McCabe is the new principal at Nesaquake Middle School. Photo from Jessica Novins

The St. James resident said he is excited to revisit many of the students at the high school that he already has a relationship with.

“To work with the same families is something I’m extremely exited about,” he said. “To finish the educational journey with the kids is extremely rewarding.”

Simmons moved from Smithtown Middle School to Nesaquake Middle School in 2004, and served as assistant principal there until 2008, when he took over as principal.

Simmons said he thinks the new middle school principal will excel in the role he previously held.

“Dan is intelligent, a strong leader, and has great charisma,” he said. “He will meet the needs of the kids, the teaching staff and the parents there. He is a 21st century educator; he’s up to date on his research of curriculum and technology.”

McCabe has been at Smithtown for nearly 20 years, having started in 1999 as a student teacher at Smithtown High School before it was divided into east and west.

“I take great pride in the deep-rooted relationships I have with the community,” he said in a phone interview.

When the high schools were divided, he became an assistant principal at Smithtown High School West for five years, before making the move to Accompsett Middle School.

The Smithtown district veteran said he is excited for the new adventure.

Although McCabe said he has enjoyed working with various age groups, he thinks his talents are best served in a middle school environment.

“At the high school, there are very high stakes, with graduation requirements and SATs,” he said. “Middle school students are quite impressionable, they are going through a formative time period in their lives. I think it’s a blessing to be a positive influence on them during this time period.”

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Smithtown board of education member Michael Saidens raises his hand as he is sworn into offie. Photo from Jessica Novins.

By Ted Ryan

Change was a popular theme at Smithtown’s board of education meeting July 12. Two new trustees were sworn into office, and the board voted to update the school’s code of conduct regarding strip searches.

Board Members Michael Saidens and Daniel B. Lynch both took the oath after achieving victory at the polls in May.

Both Saidens and Lynch are serving three-year terms that will expire in June 2019.

Lynch, a Nesconset resident, works as a carpenter for the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters, where he does indoor and outdoor commercial construction.

Both he and his wife graduated from Smithtown Central School District and they currently have four sons in the district.

“Smithtown is a wonderful community,” Lynch said in a phone interview. “I want it to be that way for my kids as well.”

To familiarize himself with state of his community’s education system, Lynch has been attending Smithtown board of education meetings regularly for two years before being elected as a trustee.

“I’m absolutely looking forward to being a part of the decision making process, so that all children will get an equal education, while being fiscally responsible,” he said.

Smithtown board of education member Daniel B. Lynch raises his hand as he is sworn into offie. Photo from Jessica Novins.
Smithtown board of education member Daniel B. Lynch is sworn into offie. Photo from Jessica Novins.

Saidens and Lynch were not the only ones claiming their positions; James J. Grossane repeated the same oath of office, renewing his role as superintendent.

A unanimous vote was made to re-elect Christopher Alcure as president of the board of education.

Also re-elected during the board of education meeting was Vice President Joanne McEnroy. She was also unanimously voted to stay on as the second in command.

And after the new administration was settled in, the board voted to change the district’s strip search policy.

The board has been discussing changes to the code of conduct since early June, after members expressed concerns with the policy allowing school officials to conduct strip searches when there is “probable cause to believe that there is an emergency situation that could imminently threaten the safety of the student or others.”

At a June 28 meeting, district attorney Eugene Barnosky said Smithtown does not agree with the current policy.

“We don’t conduct strip searches here … there is an anti-strip search, anti-physical search policy in place,” school district attorney said. “That’s always been the policy of this district, and it’s never been violated.”

The vote to expel that section of the code passed, and the school district officially does not support or adhere to any strip searches among their students by school officials.