Tags Posts tagged with "Three Village Central School District"

Three Village Central School District

by -
0 256

Just a day after the unofficial last day of summer, on Sept. 3, elementary, junior high and high school students in the Three Village district were off and running toward a new academic year.

by -
0 531
Kevin Finnerty is the new executive director of health, physical education, recreation and athletics in the Three Village school district. Photo from Three Village Central School District

Before the new academic year begins, the Three Village Central School District is switching up the roster.

In a July 22 letter to parents, Cheryl Pedisich, superintendent of schools, announced that Kevin Finnerty has been appointed executive director of health, physical education, recreation and athletics. Finnerty replaces Peter Melore who accepted a position in another school district, according to the letter.

Finnerty, a Bay Shore resident, has worked in the school district since 2010. He started his career in Three Village as a physical education teacher and department chairperson for physical education and health at R.C. Murphy Junior High School. Through his near-decade career in the district, he has also served as assistant principal at Murphy and, most recently, as an assistant principal at Ward Melville High School.

“While a strong building leader, Mr. Finnerty’s passion has long been within the area of physical education, health education and athletics,” Pedisich said in the letter.

Recently, Finnerty, a husband and father of three, answered a few questions for The Village Times Herald.

How did you feel when you heard the news that you were chosen?

I was very excited and enthusiastic about the new role. I have always had a passion for educating children in health, physical education and athletics. My career goal was to be an athletic director one day. Over the years, I have had the pleasure and privilege of interning and working with numerous teachers, coaches, athletic directors and other administrators. The knowledge that I have garnered from each of these individuals has been invaluable, and I hope to make them and the district proud as the new executive director of health, physical education, recreation and athletics in the Three Village Central School District.

What would you like to accomplish as director?

As the new executive director of HPERA, I want to continue promoting and highlighting our outstanding programs and teams. We have many dedicated student-athletes, teachers, coaches and community members. I want to support our flourishing programs, while helping all of our teams and programs reach the highest level of play and competition and success. I have met with myriad stakeholders to include teachers, coaches, facility directors, grounds crews, custodians, central office, BOE, security, etc. During this time, I have gathered important information pertaining to the strengths of our programs and the areas where we need improvement. This is a pivotal point in my career, and I plan on making Three Village my home for a long time. I will work tirelessly in the hope of leaving an indelible mark on our district and community.

How does it feel to work in the physical education area again?

I started my career as a physical education teacher and coach, and it feels great to get back to my “roots.” It has been an honor to work for Three Village as a teacher, chairperson and assistant principal over the years. Our students, parents, teachers and coaches know I hold physical and health education to a high standard. I believe in educating our students as a “whole” individual. Under my leadership, I will do my best to promote student academics, achievement on and off the field, and encourage a healthy life physically, mentally and socially.

by -
0 333
W.S. Mount Elementary School above is the only school in the Three Village Central School District affected by mercury vapors. The problem is limited to a mini gymnasium that in the past was used intermittently. Photo by Rita J. Egan

In an Aug. 5 letter to the Three Village Central School District community, Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich said the district recently commissioned a voluntary investigation of all spaces in the district’s schools. The study consisted of screenings to test for the presence of mercury vapor and bulk sampling of flooring materials to determine the absence or presence of mercury, according to the letter.

The mini gymnasium at W.S. Mount Elementary School was the only space containing the vapor, according to the district, and it is one that was used only intermittently by students and staff members in the past.

While Minnesota is the only state that has established recommendations when it comes to mercury exposures in schools, the New York State Education Department recently sent out a memo stating that certain types of poured rubber flooring used in school buildings between the 1960s and ’90s may eventually break down into mercury vapor. After receiving the memo, the district decided to conduct its voluntary investigation.

Affected flooring is limited to those that were poured using phenylmercuric acetate, also referred to as PMA, as a catalyst during installation. The organomercury compound can break down during time. At room temperature, it can release an odorless, colorless mercury vapor.

Pedisich said in the letter that there were six possible areas found that could possibly be affected, and J.C. Broderick & Associates — a Hauppauge environmental testing agency — evaluated those areas. The mini-gymnasium was the only one confirmed affected after the evaluation.

“Following this, and out of an abundance of caution, additional vapor screening was conducted in spaces surrounding the mini gymnasium,” Pedisich said. “These tests found no detectable mercury vapors beyond the mini gymnasium.”

The space is now isolated from the rest of the building, and work began during the summer with the help of a professional remediation contractor, according to Pedisich. The gym will remain closed for the 2019-20 school year.

“Additionally, the Mount mini gymnasium will continue to remain unavailable to students and staff until there is complete assurance that air levels are well below federal exposure limits established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Minnesota Department of Health in schools,” Pedisich said.

In May, the Miller Place School District closed its high school gym after mercury vapors were detected within the recreation space.

Issues with mercury vapor have affected several schools in New Jersey, and the New Jersey Education Association has information on its website specifically about this type of flooring. The organization recommends such floors be removed as hazardous waste. Mercury vapor may do damage to lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes, though it depends on how much and how frequently people are exposed to the gas.

Andres Garcia, Jackie Winslow, Jaden Chimalis and Hazel Cash during a scene of “Unspoken the Musical.” Photo from Hazel Cash

Musicals can bring people’s stories to life, and on June 1, two performances of a student-led production at Ward Melville High School did just that.

“Unspoken the Musical,” written and directed by ninth-grade P.J. Gelinas Junior High School student Hazel Cash, was performed in the high school’s large group instruction room for the first time.

“She has always been very focused and very committed to whatever she wants to do and doesn’t do anything halfway.” — Deborah Fisher

The 15-year-old Stony Brook resident said the idea for the musical, which delves into the issues teens deal with today, came to her last summer when she had trouble falling asleep while at camp, and she started writing.

“I never actually thought it would turn into something,” she said.

However, one day, her friends at school asked what she was writing, and when they learned of her play, they told her, “We should produce that.” The conversation led to the forming of Theatre4Change, which produced the June 1 event.

Hazel’s mother, Deborah Fisher, wasn’t surprised when her daughter told her about the undertaking.

“She has always been very focused and very committed to whatever she wants to do and doesn’t do anything halfway,” Fisher said.

The mother said Hazel’s friends and everyone who was approached in the school district were incredibly supportive.

“I’m very impressed with how they have really stepped up and in some ways taken a chance,” she said, adding that Setauket Presbyterian Church lent the space for rehearsals.

The “Unspoken the Musical” storyline centers around Quinn Burke, played by Sophie Gonsalves, who comes out as a lesbian to her friends in the popular clique who don’t react well, leading the teenager to meet an eclectic group of students. One of those characters is Elana Cohen, played by Hazel, who she describes as both refreshing and at times obnoxious. In addition to touching on sexual identity and the quest of fitting in socially, the play also deals with other topics from loss to disabilities, including a girl named Ann who loses her mother and another character who is on the autism spectrum.

The young writer said the characters aren’t based on specific people but are a mixture of students she knows combined with her imagination. Always enjoying writing short stories, Hazel said one time she wrote a 35-chapter novel that she described as “really bad.” Some of her ideas also come to her while she is daydreaming in class.

“We have experienced it already and we know what is happening.”

— Hazel Cash

Hazel said that, for a while, she considered a career in science, but now dreams of a profession where music is involved. She describes herself as “a theater geek” who loves musicals.

“Science is a worthwhile career and it helps a lot of people, but I realized that I just want to be in music because I love it so much,” she said. “I can’t live without it.”

Jaden Chimalis, a seventh-grader who played Ann in the musical, said the performances went amazingly well. The 12-year-old said when Hazel told her about the musical she was impressed that her friend was writing it on her own.

Jaden said her character suffers from depression after the passing of her mother, and the student said she knows many people who are struggling with depression and anxiety.

“It felt very close to my heart,” she said.

After the musical’s debut, Hazel said the group was able to raise $1,500 that will be donated to three nonprofits. They have chosen The Trevor Project, which provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention to the LGBTQ population under 25; Women for Women International, which provides practical and moral support to women survivors of conflict and war; and the American Cancer Society, a nationwide voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer.

Hazel hopes that after seeing the musical, students are encouraged enough to speak up, and adults have a better understanding of what teenagers are talking about amongst themselves.

“We have experienced it already and we know what is happening,” Hazel said. “We have had friends go through this stuff, some of us have gone through this stuff. We’re not too young to talk about this and we talk about it anyway, so you might as well be included in the conversation.”

Ward Melville High School. Photo by Greg Catalano

By Andrea Paldy

Three Village residents said “yes” to the proposed $215 million budget for the 2019-20 school year Tuesday.

The usually sparsely attended meeting to certify the budget vote drew a number of parents, students and community members who wanted to voice concerns about a possible staffing change in health and athletics.

As expected, incumbent Jonathan Kornreich and newcomer Vinny Vizzo, who ran uncontested for two school board seats, were elected for three-year terms. 

Of the 2,087 votes cast, 1,559 voted in favor of the budget and 528 voted against it. 

Next year’s budget stays within the 2.53 percent cap on the maximum allowable tax levy increase and requires no cuts to programs or staffing for budgetary reasons, district officials have said.

Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services, discusses the proposed 2019-20 school district budget at the April meeting. Photo by Andrea Paldy

The $158.9 million tax levy makes up the bulk of the district’s revenue. Funding from the state, which includes building aid, is $46.6 million. State aid, not including money for capital improvements, increased by $287,729. Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services, said this is consistent with the 0.8 percent average increase in aid since 2009. 

The district will earn about $6.2 million in revenue from other sources such as tuition from school districts whose students attend Three Village schools, school-age child care and other district-run programs and enrichment. A sum of $3 million from the district’s fund balance account has also been budgeted as revenue.  

A new source of revenue in the coming year will be Patriots Plus, a tuition-based, half-day enrichment program to extend the day for students who attend the district’s free prekindergarten — also half-day. With a fee of $500 a month, the program will be self-sustaining, Carlson said.  

The prekindergarten curriculum, currently offered at Nassakeag Elementary, will expand to all five of the district’s elementary schools in the fall, at no additional cost to the district.

Next year, Three Village will also add a sixth-grade guidance counselor to circulate among the five elementary schools, and the high school will offer a new musical theater class.

Potential changes to staffing are the result of enrollment and student requests, Carlson said. Even so, changes would be small — possibly a reduction of two full-time equivalents at the elementary level and two to three FTEs at the secondary level, he said.

School board

Kornreich, chair of the school board’s audit committee, has been a trustee since 2008. “I’m appreciative to have the opportunity to represent the community and am looking forward to working with a board that puts the needs of children first,” he said Tuesday night. 

Earlier this year Vizzo, after 34 years as a teacher and administrator in the district, retired from his position as principal of R.C. Murphy Junior High School. When he officially begins his term on the board this July, he will assume the seat vacated by Angelique Ragolia. 

“In my new role as board trustee, I look forward to working with my board colleagues to sustain the excellence of our district and will continue to advocate for all students,” he said in an email.

Administration

While attendees of Tuesday’s meeting awaited the election results, parents, coaches, students and alumni gathered to speak on behalf of Peter Melore, executive director health, physical education, recreation & athletics for the district. They expressed concern that he may not be returning to his position next year. 

Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich said in a statement, “We certainly value and respect the feedback of our community. However, we are unable to comment on personnel issues.”

In other news, Karen Mizell was named the principal of Setauket Elementary School, and Deana Rinaldi Spanos was appointed as assistant principal of the school.

Three Village budget vote is May 21. File photo by Greg Catalano

When Three Village residents vote for the school budget next week, they will see a familiar name on the ballot for board of education trustee.

Vinny Vizzo

Vinny Vizzo, a 34-year veteran of the Three Village Central School District, is running for the first time for trustee alongside current board member Jonathan Kornreich. They are running unopposed for two three-year seats. Vizzo is vying for the seat left empty by Angelique Ragolia who decided not to run this year.

Vizzo, the recently retired R.C. Murphy Junior High School principal, said that running for school board is an opportunity to give back as a member of “the community that I’ve loved for so many years, that gave so much to my children and to me. This is my home.”

The 65-year-old father of two Ward Melville graduates and his wife of 41 years moved to the Three Village area in 1988.

“What we have in Three Village is very unique,” Vizzo said during a phone interview.

As a teacher and an administrator in the district, he said he valued the “excellent working relationship” between administrators, teachers and the school board whose number one goal was to provide the best education to Three Village students.

Now assistant superintendent for the Diocese of Rockville Centre department of education, Vizzo hopes to add an educator’s perspective to the Three Village school board and serve as another resource to clarify and answer questions about mandates, school programs, language study or testing, he said.

While many in the community know Vizzo in his most recent role at Murphy, he started in the district in 1985 as a Spanish teacher at P.J. Gelinas Junior High School, where he built its theater program. He went on to serve as foreign language chair at both junior highs before becoming Murphy’s assistant principal and then principal.

A longtime Spanish teacher at Suffolk County Community College, Vizzo has also held positions as the president of the local administrators’ union and vice president of the Nassau and Suffolk County Administrators Association.

Jonathan Kornreich

Kornreich, 49, who is running to retain his seat, first joined the board in 2008. He is chair of the audit committee and has also served as board vice president.

“It’s been gratifying to serve alongside a cohesive group of men and women,” Kornreich wrote in an email.

He pointed to the development of district security protocols as an important example of fruitful collaboration between the board and the administration. In his coming term, he hopes to continue to investigate the possibility of later start times for secondary schools, continue the development of the district’s business and entrepreneurial training and see foreign language instruction begin in earlier grades.

Kornreich runs a property management and investment company and sits on the corporate board of a biotech device manufacturer.  He is president of the Three Village Civic Association and was also vice president of the Suffolk County Boys and Girls Club. Kornreich and his family have lived in the Three Village area since 2005. His two daughters attend Three Village schools.

2019-20 Budget

The district has proposed a $215 million budget for the 2019-20 school year. This is a 2.51 percent increase over last year’s budget — the result of contractual salary increases, utilities and a 2 percent hike in insurance costs, Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services, said last month.

Even so, the budget stays within the 2.53 percent cap on the tax levy increase without cuts to programs. State aid to the district increased by about 0.8 percent, or $287,729, for a total package of $34.7 million, Carlson said.

New initiatives for the fall include the addition of a sixth-grade guidance counselor to be shared at the five elementary schools and a musical theater class at Ward Melville.

Three Village will also introduce a fee-based, prekindergarten enrichment program, Patriots PLUS, to supplement the district’s free half-day prekindergarten curriculum. The tuition for the self-sustaining enrichment program is $500 a month. The prekindergarten curriculum, currently offered at Nassakeag, and the Patriots PLUS enrichment program will be available at each of the elementary schools in the fall.

An additional source of revenue comes in the form of tuition for the district’s special education programs. Due to declining enrollment, Three Village has been able to offer empty seats in special education classrooms and at the Three Village Academy to students from other districts. These districts pay tuition — about $80,000 per student, an amount set by the state — to Three Village. In the 2019-20 school year, the district will see about $3 million in revenue from prekindergarten enrichment and non-resident tuition, Carlson said.

The budget vote will take place at the district’s three secondary schools Tuesday, May 21, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Residents zoned for Arrowhead, Minnesauke and Nassakeag elementaries will vote at Ward Melville High School; residents zoned for W.S. Mount will vote at Murphy Junior High and those zoned for Setauket will vote at Gelinas Junior High.

Minnesauke principal

The board approved the appointment of Nancy Pickford, current Nassakeag Elementary School assistant principal and prekindergarten coordinator, to the post of Minnesauke Elementary School principal. Pickford, who joined the district in 2016, will take over for Brian Biscari, who will be the new principal at Murphy Junior High. Both begin their positions on July 1.

The Three Village Central School District board members, above, approved the 2019-20 budget that residents will be able to vote on May 21. Photo from Three Village Central School District

By Andrea Paldy

The Three Village school board has approved a $215 million budget for the 2019-20 school year.

The action, taken April 10, shows an increase of 2.51 percent from 2018-19, but Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent of business services, said the upcoming school year’s budget stays within the 2.53 percent cap on the tax levy increase. Contractual salary increases, utilities and a 2 percent hike in insurance costs account for the increase, Carlson said, speaking at the district’s most recent school board meeting.

He added that because of the cap, there is not much room to add a lot of new programs, but there are a few new initiatives of note for the upcoming year.

One initiative is the addition of a musical theater class at Ward Melville High School. A sixth-grade guidance counselor will be another addition next year. The district’s five elementary schools will share the new guidance counselor.

The most significant change next year is the addition of a tuition-based, half-day enrichment program to complement the district’s free prekindergarten. Beginning next year, the district will offer its preschool curriculum, which is currently offered only at Nassakeag Elementary School, at each of its five elementary schools. Students who attend a morning or afternoon prekindergarten session will also be able to enroll in the enrichment program to extend the day. Students will receive enrichment in STEM, music, art and movement.

The preschool, which has a cap of 200 students, already has 196 students enrolled for next year, Carlson said. There are more than 100 students signed up for the enrichment program, which costs $500 a month. The current enrollment means that the district will see more than $500,000 in revenue and that the enrichment program “more than pays for itself,” Carlson said. In addition to covering the cost of staffing the program, the tuition will also pay for the installation of age-appropriate playgrounds at each of the elementary schools, officials have said.

Carlson said that even with the additions, the district will stay within the tax cap without having to cut programs or services. Proposed staffing changes are a result of enrollment and course requests, he said. There is a potential reduction of two full-time equivalents at the elementary level and a reduction of two to three FTEs at the secondary level.

Funding from the state — not including aid for capital projects — increased by about $287,000, he said. That is about $175,000 more than projected in the governor’s January budget proposal and represents a 0.8 percent increase over last year’s aid package. Carlson said the percentage was consistent with the average rate of increases over the past 11 years.

The budget vote will take place Tuesday, May 21, at Ward Melville High School, R.C. Murphy Junior High and P.J. Gelinas Junior High. Voting was moved from the elementary schools two years ago because it is easier to secure voting areas to ensure student safety at the secondary schools, Carlson said. Residents zoned for Arrowhead, Minnesauke and Nassakeag elementary schools will vote at the high school. Those who are zoned for W.S. Mount Elementary School will vote at Murphy Junior High, and Setauket Elementary residents will vote at Gelinas Junior High.

by -
0 600
Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services, discusses the proposed 2019-20 school district budget. Photo by Andrea Paldy

By Andrea Paldy

Three Village is set to stay within the 2.53 percent cap on the tax levy increase.

Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services, made the announcement March 27 as he previewed the 2019-20 Three Village Central School District budget during its board meeting.

Based on numbers released Monday in the state budget, Three Village will receive about $34.7 million in state aid, not including funding for capital projects. The amount is $287,000 above last year’s aid package and $175,000 more than estimated in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) proposal in January, Carlson said.

Among the district’s biggest expenses are retirement costs, which will decrease by about $1.2 million, and health insurance, which will increase by about 2 percent, the assistant superintendent said. Nevertheless, the district will not have to cut programs or staffing to stay within the cap, he said.

Decisions on programs and services will be based on enrollment and student need, and in coming weeks, the administration will meet with building principals to assess course requests and enrollment, Carlson said.

Next year, for the first time, the district will offer its free prekindergarten program — currently housed at Nassakeag Elementary — at each of its five elementary schools. Morning and afternoon sessions, taught by Three Village teachers, will meet for two and a half hours five days a week. This will be at no additional cost to the district, officials have said.

To supplement the program, the district will add a tuition-based, half-day prekindergarten enrichment program. The “fully self-sustaining” extended day will offer enrichment in STEM, art, music and movement during morning and afternoon sessions. Carlson said that there are already 100 students enrolled for the up to 200 spots across the district. Tuition — $500 a month — will also cover the cost of building age-appropriate playgrounds at each of the schools, he said.

The board is scheduled to adopt next year’s budget at the April 10 meeting. Three Village residents will vote on the budget May 21, at the district’s secondary schools. Residents zoned for Arrowhead, Minnesauke and Nassakeag elementary schools will vote at Ward Melville High School. Those zoned for Mount Elementary, will vote at R.C. Murphy Jr. High School, while Setauket-zoned residents will vote at P.J. Gelinas Jr. High School.

New principal

Minnesauke principal Brian Biscari was appointed principal of R.C. Murphy Jr. High School. His appointment is effective July 1. Biscari will take over for Richard Pulaski, who has been serving as interim principal since Vincent Vizzo retired Feb 1. Vizzo, who was Murphy’s principal for 14 years, had worked in the district for 34 years. The district is interviewing candidates to head Minnesauke, where Biscari has served as principal since 2011, when he joined the school district.

Regeneron scholars

In other news, representatives from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals presented certificates to Ward Melville’s four Regeneron Science Talent Search Scholars — the most from any Long Island high school. The honorees were Kelsey Ge, Maya Peña-Lobel, Megan Specht and Elizabeth Wang.

Kim DeCristofaro, a representative from the company and a parent of Ward Melville graduates, thanked Three Village on behalf of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals for “continuing to provide opportunities for students to pursue scientific research.”

by -
0 460
Parent Thali Lapidus discusses the importance of outdoor time and physical exercise at the March 13 board of education meeting. Photo by Andrea Paldy

By Andrea Paldy

As school administrators across the state begin to think about next year’s budget, Three Village Central School District officials announced last week that the district will not have to cut staffing or programs to stay within its 2.53 percent cap on the tax levy increase.

Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services, said the 2019-20 district budget will be about a 2.4 percent increase on last year’s $209.8 million budget. Decisions on staffing and programs will be based on enrollment and student need, not on the budget, Carlson said at the March 13 school board meeting.

Though the assistant superintendent is not expecting an increase in aid from the state, he can anticipate the district’s higher expenses, such as health insurance and retirement costs. While retirement costs are decreasing this year, health insurance will rise 2 percent, Carlson said. Because the district is part of a self-insured consortium with a couple of other school districts, the rate is lower than the New York State health insurance plan, he said.

This year, districts in Suffolk County are required to distribute budget documents in both English and Spanish, based on the percentage of residents in the county who speak the languages, Carlson said.

In other news, Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich announced the formation of a districtwide sustainability task force.

Members of the task force, which will convene in September, will include Pedisich, Carlson, director of facilities James O’ Hagan, school board trustee Irene Gische, as well as a principal, a teacher and a parent from each of the district’s schools. School-based teams will work with the schools’ PTAs to determine each building’s plans for sustainability, Pedisich said.

A group of parents from Setauket Elementary School prompted the task force. Two parents from the group spoke at the February board meeting, asking that the district forms a committee to introduce more eco-friendly practices, and educate students about reducing waste and being more conscious of their environmental footprint. As a result of their advocacy, Setauket Elementary has become the first school to begin using reusable utensils in its lunchrooms.

Last week, two more Setauket parents discussed the importance of outdoor time and physical exercise for students of all ages. Thali Lapidus, mother of three students in the district, pointed to the “mental health crisis” suffered by upper-grade students, saying they feel pressure because of grades and tests, and don’t have time to be outside or with their friends. She said they, along with younger students, would benefit mentally and physically from time outside in an outdoor classroom, or taking part in yoga, caring for a community garden or even recycling.

“The kids want to be involved,” she said. “They want to make their schools a better place, and they want to connect with the planet.”

Irene Moshkovich, a mother of two, agreed. She added that now secondary students have district-issued Chromebooks, there is “much more engagement with electronics and not enough time spent outside.” She, too, wants the district to find ways to promote more time outside during the school day.

This is an issue that the district has been addressing, Pedisich said. She and Kevin Scanlon, assistant superintendent for educational services, have been working with elementary parents who are part of a recess focus group, she said. They have been looking at how to better use the courtyards at the elementary schools so that students have more opportunities to engage in outdoor activities throughout the year, Pedisich said.

“We are excited about working with the community,” the superintendent said about the efforts to expand courtyard use and address sustainability concerns.

by -
0 605
On Feb. 13, parents of Setauket Elementary School students spoke to the board of education about establishing a districtwide sustainability and wellness task force. File photo

By Andrea Paldy

The Town of Brookhaven’s recent return to dual-stream recycling has been a wake-up call for many residents, forcing them to take a closer look at food waste and other remnants of daily consumption.

“We have an opportunity right now to lead by example, to teach our children how we can make small changes in our schools to help the environment.”

— Valerie Briston

In an effort to confront this new reality, two Three Village parents spoke to the school board Feb. 13 about establishing a districtwide sustainability and wellness task force.

“We have an opportunity right now to lead by example, to teach our children how we can make small changes in our schools to help the environment,” said Valerie Briston, a mother of three. “We are at a point now where we really need to focus on reducing our consumption of resources.”

Briston is working with other Setauket Elementary School parents who have approached their PTA about exploring ways to reuse classroom supplies, reduce the amount of waste at class parties, after-school events and in the cafeteria, and to “examine how things are delivered in eco-friendly packaging.”

Lindsay Day, a mother of two, is one of those parents. She recollected when she was a Setauket student, that she “learned very quickly about the positive environmental impact that waste reduction and recycling have on our delicate Long Island ecosystem.”

This is why, Day said, it is important that sustainability initiatives include education, as well as eco-friendly practices, such as transparent and thorough recycling, school gardens, composting programs to reduce lunch waste and the inclusion of school-grown fruits and vegetables in school meals.

“We are more than willing to try new things and see how they go.”

— Jeff Carlson

The district has been receptive to the parents’ suggestions and will launch a pilot program to increase sustainability at Setauket Elementary School, where the switch will be made from plastic to reusable utensils in the lunchroom.

“We are more than willing to try new things and see how they go,” said Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services for the school district.

Plastic cutlery costs the district about half a cent for each piece, Carlson said, adding that the district was able to order metal versions for around 11 cents each. The new reusable utensils would quickly pay for themselves after several uses and even save the district money, he said.

Carlson pointed to the district’s other eco-friendly efforts, such as working with the facilities director and custodial staff to put systems in place to make it easier to separate paper, plastics and metal for recycling. He also said he has spoken with parents at other schools about starting composting programs.

Board president Bill Connors agreed that sustainability is a pressing issue and is here to stay. Following the meeting, he and Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich said a task force is “something of interest.” The subject will be on the agenda of the board’s next executive meeting, Pedisich said.

This is not the first time the district has considered sustainability measures. In 2016, the board voted on the third phase of an energy contract with Johnson Controls to install solar panels on all of its buildings. However, the New York State Education Department has only just approved the district’s plans.

The panels, which will generate 2.3 megawatts of electricity, will cost about $7.7 million to install. The state will cover more than $5 million in building aid, and taxpayers will pay about $2.5 million, Carlson said. The installation should generate more than $10 million in savings over the term of the bond, along with additional savings beyond, according to Carlson. Installation is expected to begin this summer.