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Three Village Central School District

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BOE also provides prekindergarten updates, comment on mandated vaccine

A parent speaks out about proposed changes to secondary school start times. Photo by Andrea Paldy

 By Andrea Paldy

The first school board meeting of 2020 brought new voices to an old discussion.

“I do not deny the research and scientific data on adolescent health.”

— Riley Meckley

After months of parents, students and alumni speaking to Three Village Central School District administrators and school board members about the importance of changing the secondary school start times, two speakers came forward to offer a new perspective on last fall’s hot topic.

Ward Melville sophomore Riley Meckley spoke on behalf of students who did not want the high school to start later.

“I do not deny the research and scientific data on adolescent health,” she said. “It is definitely true.” 

But she noted that as “appealing” as getting an extra hour of sleep was, most students would still stay up late to study, watch Netflix or surf social media. What concerned Meckley and the students and teachers she spoke with was the negative impact on sports, clubs and after-school jobs, she said. She also spoke of the “hassle” for teachers dealing with athletes leaving ninth period early to get to their away games, as well as the inconvenience of trying to get home in time for their young children.

At December’s meeting, Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich and Jeff Carlson, deputy superintendent for business services, presented 10 possible scenarios for moving the high school start time from 7:05 to 8:20 a.m. In each case, it meant the high school day ended later, cutting out what Meckley referred to as that “precious time” between 2 and 3 p.m., when students could meet for clubs or extra help.

In half of the scenarios, the change meant that elementary schools might begin and end earlier than they do currently.

“We don’t want to lose services, and we definitely don’t want to pay any more money.”

— Matt Rehman

This raised objections from Matt Rehman, the father of elementary school-aged children, who said change spurred by the “loud minority,” in spite of the “silent majority,” would come at the expense of parents with younger children who would have to find a way to get their children off the bus as early as 1:55 in the afternoon.

“We don’t want to lose services, and we definitely don’t want to pay any more money,” he added.

Brian Latham, a high school teacher in a neighboring district and Three Village parent, said he was not opposed to the time change, but like Rehman, he was opposed to the idea, proposed in some scenarios, of moving the sixth graders to the junior highs and the ninth graders to the high school. 

“Forcing them to move to a higher class level earlier is not in their best interest,” Latham said.

“I see on a day-to-day basis how ninth-grade students can suffer when they are pushed up with upper division students too early,” he said.

Latham said that he would be willing to pay more money or cut from other programs in order to maintain “the structure that makes this district one to be admired around Long Island.”

Pedisich assured those present that no decisions had been made and that the school start time committee, which will have its first meeting in February, will consider the original 10 scenarios in addition to new ones.

Additionally, the district will be looking for input from focus groups and will survey parents, staff and students districtwide, the superintendent said.

“We want to do what’s best for our entire school community … for students in grades K-12,” Pedisich said.

“We understand that there are challenges,” she said, specifically mentioning the fiscal, transportation and educational challenges that each proposed option may pose. “That is why the committee needs to take the time, because our students deserve that from us. And our community deserves that.”

“I see on a day-to-day basis how ninth-grade students can suffer when they are pushed up with upper division students too early.”

— Brian Lathan

 

Prekindergarten

In preparation for 2020-21 preschool enrollment, Nathalie Lilavois, director of elementary curriculum, delivered a presentation on the district’s free preschool curriculum and tuition-based enrichment program.

This year the preschool is at capacity and students had to be turned away, she said. Ninety-five students participate in the free preschool for half of the day and stay for the tuition-based enrichment program for the other half. The other 106 students are half-day students who only take part in the free preschool program.

While the preschool curriculum, taught by a New York State certified teacher, is aligned to the New York State preschool standards, the enrichment program exposes children to STEM concepts through games and guided play and encourages hands-on learning through inventions. It is the only preschool enrichment program in the country that is inspired by National Inventors Hall of Fame inductees, Lilavois said.  

Applications will be accepted through Feb. 24, and if needed, a lottery will take place on the Feb. 26 with notification on Feb. 28. 

HPV vaccine

School board president William Connors responded to comments he received about the school board’s letter to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) regarding the proposal to mandate the HPV vaccine as one of the battery of vaccinations a student must receive to attend school.

“We normally don’t get involved in political issues,” he said, but the board felt that the mandated vaccine was “administrative overreach” and “inappropriate.”

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In an effort to encourage students to grow careers locally, the Three Village Central School District along with the Three Village Industry Advisory Board hosted the second annual career fair Jan. 6.

Close to 40 Long Island businesses were represented during the Growth Careers on Long Island event to speak with students and parents about fields such as technology, health care and trades. 

In preparation, students in grades 7-12 took a “career DNA” test analysis to reveal potential career paths that matched with their unique personalities. Based on a student’s career DNA results, they would go to color-coded tables and have the opportunity to engage with matched businesses. 

Ilene Littman, 3V-IAB coordinator and Ward Melville High School business teacher, thought the turnout for the event was great. 

“I think it is an advantage for students to know what’s available when they graduate,” she said. “We got a good turnout of businesses, and we are happy they are here.”

Michael Ardolino, 3V-IAB board chair, had similar sentiments. 

“We targeted three growth areas that are specifically on Long Island: health care, hands-on trades plumbing, electrical and different types of technology,” he said. “This is the second year we are doing this, and we are seeing that the students and parents are more engaged.”

Jake Shangold, student representative on the Three Village Industry Advisory Board, said the event gives students a chance to explore a variety of career paths.

“I hope they can come out of this event knowing what they may want to pursue in the future,” he said.

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Three Village Parents in the last few months have talked to the Three Village board of ed about the benefits of teenagers starting school later in the day. Photo by Andrea Paldy

By Andrea Paldy

What began as a lone parental voice during a Three Village school board meeting has blossomed into a movement.

Six months ago, Barbara Rosati, mother of a P.J. Gelinas Jr. High student, asked the board and district administration to consider changing the secondary school start times.

“We also would like to thank deeply our board of education for recognizing our concerns and listening to us and being the leaders that we were hoping you would be.”

— Barbara Rosati

Last week, following a presentation for a path toward meeting parents’ requests, the Three Village school board voted to institute a school start time committee to further investigate the viability of a later start time at the district’s high school.

Rosati, founder of It’s About Time: Three Village Parents for a Later Start Time, was grateful.

“I’d like to thank the administration,” she said. “We really appreciate it. We also would like to thank deeply our board of education for recognizing our concerns and listening to us and being the leaders that we were hoping you would be.”

Rosati, a research assistant professor in Stony Brook University’s Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the Renaissance School of Medicine, had organized parents and held information sessions about sleep deprivation in adolescents. In the months that followed her initial appeal, other parents, students, Ward Melville High School graduates and medical experts all appeared before the school board to express concern about early start times. More than 1,600 signatures were collected, letters were written to the school board and some advocates even traveled to a Start School Later workshop in Pennsylvania.

Chief among the concerns was the pervading sleep deprivation among teens. Research has shown that adolescent circadian rhythms make it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m. This results in a later sleep cycle interrupted by having to wake up for early classes. Not only does it prevent them from getting the required eight to 10 hours of sleep their growing bodies need, research indicates that it also means difficulty concentrating and puts them at risk for depression, injuries during sports and drowsiness while driving — among other issues.

These concerns prompted district Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich to form a working group of administrators to conduct a preliminary investigation into later start times. Pedisich also pointed to improved academic performance, higher test scores, better focus and self-regulation as additional reasons to look into the change.

The group began its preliminary investigation with certain assumptions in place, the superintendent said.

There would be no redistricting or closing of schools; no students would be at a bus stop earlier than 7 a.m.; and there would be no negative impact to athletics, which means that the high school could not end later than 3 p.m. The final assumption was that the district would continue to support and maintain cocurricular activities while also maintaining the required number of hours of instruction at all grade levels.

“I see the value in looking at this with open eyes.”

— Cheryl Pedisich

Pedisich and Jeff Carlson, deputy superintendent for business services, presented 10 possible scenarios that would move the Ward Melville start time from 7:05 a.m. to 8:20 a.m. with an ending time of 2:55 p.m. Additionally, in half of the configurations, start times at the two junior high schools, P.J. Gelinas and R. C. Murphy, would change to 9:10 a.m., with the day ending at 3:46 p.m.

To make a later start for Ward Melville possible, each period at the high school would be decreased from 41 minutes to 40, and the periods at the junior high would fall from 42 minutes to 41 — decreases that the deputy superintendent said would not “adversely impact the educational program,” but would assist with logistics.

The greater effect could be on student after-school activities or employment, since the school day would end later. The committee found that the time shift could affect students who take afternoon BOCES classes and possibly affect child care needs for staff. The preliminary investigation also found that some athletes might sometimes need to leave ninth period early.

The district currently has four bus runs — high school, followed by junior high, two elementary schools and then, finally, the last three elementary schools. The proposed scenarios would move the district from a four-tiered bus system to a three-tiered one and could affect the start times for the other schools.

The biggest variation in the scenarios was in start times at elementary schools and junior highs. In some projections, the elementary school day starts earlier and runs from 7:40 a.m. to 1:55 p.m. In others, the day runs from 9:25 a.m. to 3:40 p.m., which is the current schedule for the district’s late elementary schools.

When the elementary day starts early, the junior high day starts at 9:10 a.m., and in the scenarios where the elementary day starts after 9 a.m., the junior high schools start earlier, keeping their current start time of 7:35 a.m.

The most expensive transportation scenario moved the sixth grade up to junior high and ninth-graders to the high school. It required eight additional buses and 11 additional minibuses that could run the district about $1.5 million, Carlson said.

The projected cost of the proposed scenarios considered only transportation costs and did not take into account savings from staffing within the schools, Carlson said.

There could, however, be savings in other areas due to the restructuring of the junior and high schools, he added.

Carlson reiterated that these scenarios are just “a starting point to get people thinking and talking” and are not the only possibilities. It would be up to the new committee to further investigate and look into other solutions. The committee, which will meet in January, will be chaired by Pedisich and Carlson. It will be comprised of administrators, staff, parents and high school students and will determine a timeline once it gets underway, Pedisich said.

“I have to say that I see a lot of viability to this,” the superintendent said. “I see the value in looking at this with open eyes. I look forward to working with the committee and with Mr. Carlson as we begin to look at what the options are for our students, so that we can do the best that we can for them.”

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Stock Photo

The Three Village Central School District is standing up to New York State regarding a proposal to mandate one vaccine in New York.

District officials sent a letter dated Nov. 18 to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), as well as state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport). The letter, signed by Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich and board of ed President William Connors, stated the board was opposing the proposed amendment to Section 2164 of the public health law. The amendment will require that all students born after 2009 receive the human papillomavirus vaccine as part of the state’s mandated school immunization program.

“While we recognize that changes in the health law are often necessary in order to protect the public at large against health crises or to mitigate exposure to a communicable disease in open spaces, we are clinically opposed to adding the HPV vaccine to the required vaccination program for myriad reasons,” Pedisich and Connors said in the letter.

The school officials went on to say other required vaccines “aim to safeguard children against diseases that are easily contracted in a public school setting.” The letter cited diseases such as measles and pertussis, which can be spread through poor personal hygiene or airborne respiratory droplets. This differs from HPV, which according to the American Cancer Society, is passed from one person to another by skin-to-skin contact associated with sexual activity and not from toilet seats, casual contact and recreational items such as swimming pools and hot tubs.

The district added that data from independent health news site MedShadow, which focuses on the side effects of medicines, shows “post-marketing safety and surveillance data indicate that Gardasil 9 is well tolerated and safe, still many physicians have hesitated to recommend it based on its potential side effects.”

The school officials said in their letter students don’t engage in activities that spread the disease.

“As our public schools are not places where students would engage in the activities found to make one susceptible to contracting or spreading HPV, why then should it be mandatory that students be inoculated with the vaccine in order to attend school?” officials wrote.

Before the letter was posted on the district’s website, members of the Facebook page Three Village Moms began to chatter about the district’s proposed message.

Three Village parent Jenna Lorandini reached out to TBR News Media when she heard the board was taking the stance and said she was disappointed.

“I view the mandate as a necessary public health initiative whose purpose is to protect our children from a communicable disease as adults,” she said in an email. “If the advancements in science and medicine are available to us, mandating the vaccine would create widespread protection. The easiest way to do that is in the public school sector as timing of the vaccine is pertinent to the prevention of a cancer-causing virus. This doesn’t infringe upon my parental rights when its intent is to preserve life before a child can consent to that protection.”

Nichole Gladky, another Three Village parent, said she felt the district was moving too quickly and reacting to “the loud and staunch voices of those who partake in the Anti-Vaxx movement.” She said she will do what her pediatrician recommends.

“I wish the vaccination was available to me at the time,” she said. “There is a lot of easily consumable media of misinformation available on the Internet, social media, TV, etc. Everyone needs a proper dose of education on this vaccine — and disease control in general — and it could start with the school district before any action is taken.”

Dayna Whaley, whose daughter is unable to attend kindergarten at Arrowhead Elementary School due to not having vaccinations that New York State made a requirement earlier this year, said she thinks the letter is a good idea, even though she wishes the school would do more to oppose mandate vaccinations. She and her husband chose not to get vaccinations for their daughter on religious basis and after watching her suffer a spinal tap at four days old after getting the vitamin K shot.

“Requiring vaccines for sexually transmitted diseases as a requirement for school attendance as with hepatitis B and now Gardasil is just plain wrong,” she said.

In the case of requiring Gardasil to attend school, Whaley said that she feels even pro vaccinating parents will be willing to pull their children from public school.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HPV is estimated to cause nearly 35,000 cases of cancer in men and women every year in the U.S.

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Dr. Philip Schrank, a Three Village district physician and chief medical officer for concussion management, spoke at the most recent board of education meeting about starting school later in the morning. Photo by Andrea Paldy

By Andrea Paldy

The recent Three Village school board meeting included a presentation of the district’s report card and the continued discussion of school start time, a topic initiated by a parent group.

Utilizing statistics from the 2019 state standardized tests, Regents exams and Ward Melville’s graduating class, Kevin Scanlon, assistant superintendent for educational services, was able to give the board a detailed snapshot of the district.

Enrollment continued to decline in 2018-19, dropping from 6,131 in the previous year to 5,812. However, Scanlon said, with prekindergarten enrollment, numbers stabilized this fall.

Three Village students excelled on the Regents exams with pass rates between 91  and 95 percent on English and social studies exams, and with 67 to 84 percent of students receiving mastery level scores in the various humanities. Math results included a 92 percent pass rate for algebra, 95 percent pass rate for geometry and 99 percent pass rate for algebra 2. Between 46 and 50 percent of students received scores of mastery, Scanlon reported.

The district’s students led the state in scores for physics and chemistry with 94 and 96 percent pass rates, respectively, he said. Ninety-three percent of students passed the earth science exam and 94 percent passed the living environment Regents. Mastery scores ranged from 46 to 68 percent.

Of the 544 students in last spring’s graduating class, 311 were Advanced Placement scholars, the largest number in 20 years, the assistant superintendent said. Additionally, the senior class, which had 100 fewer students than the previous year, had a 97 percent graduation rate and 95 percent college acceptance rate for both four-year and two-year colleges.

The New York State assessments for students in grades 3 through 8 showed that the district’s opt-out rate dropped from 65 to 64 percent for the English Language Arts tests and from 67 to 65 percent for math.

Scanlon said that Three Village student rates of passing far exceeded those of Nassau, Suffolk and New York State for each grade in the subjects tested. District students outperformed students in nearby districts — Commack, Half Hollow Hills, Harborfields, Hauppauge, Northport, Port Jefferson and Smithtown— on the ELA and ranked first in all grades except for grades 3 and 4, where they ranked second.

The math scores followed a similar pattern in which district students ranked first in all grades, except for third grade, where they ranked second, and eighth grade, where they ranked fifth. Scanlon said the latter was because a majority of the district’s eighth-graders take the algebra Regents exam instead of the math assessment.

As a final metric, the district’s independent auditor, Thomas Smith of the EFPR Group, said that the school district is “way below the debt limit set by the state” and is “very financially healthy.”

It’s about time

With passage of a California law prohibiting public high schools from starting before 8:30 a.m. and middle schools before 8 a.m., Three Village parents thanked the district’s administrators for taking time to consider their request but continued to lobby for similar change.

Joining the ranks of speakers on behalf of later school start times were Dr. Philip Schrank, a Three Village district physician and chief medical officer for concussion management, and David McKinnon, a professor of neurobiology at Stony Brook University. Both gave biological reasons for the need for change.

“Eight years ago, I stood in front of this tremendous board, and you guys had the courage and the vision to be the first district in Suffolk County to implement a concussion management program,” Schrank said. “You made our kids safer and healthier. I would ask you to have the same courage and vision to be leaders on this issue, which dramatically affects all of the kids in this district.”

Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich, who met with the leaders of Its About Time: Three Village Parents for a Later School Start Time to discuss the issue, said the district is exploring the impacts and costs of a time shift. The findings will be presented to the board in December.

Dignity for All Students Act

Triggered by an incident at Arrowhead Elementary School, three parents attended last week’s meeting to discuss the Dignity for All Students Act, also known as DASA, particularly pertaining to early grades.

Heather Cohen, Shari Glazer and Cindy Morris asked that elementary school principals and teachers have age-appropriate resources for students and their families. They also want a protocol for DASA forms for students or parents to complete to allow “hate crimes” to be tracked and monitored over time. The parents also requested that when an incident occurred at school that all parents be notified.

During an interview, Pedisich said there’s “a definite protocol for DASA” and the handling of complaints. Additionally, she said, each school has DASA coordinators — the principal and a social worker — and district procedures are outlined on its website.

The superintendent said that though the specific case had been closed at the school level, it had now been reopened at the district level because of additional concerns brought to the administration.

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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.

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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.

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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.