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Three Village Central School District

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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Students work to put together a flower order in the pre-K classroom’s flower shop play area, set up in time for Valentine’s Day. Photo by Andrea Paldy

By Andrea Paldy

Big changes are ahead for Three Village’s free prekindergarten program, currently housed at Nassakeag Elementary School.

At an information session Jan. 9, administrators unveiled their plan to expand the pre-K program and to offer a new, tuition-based enrichment program at each of the district’s five elementary schools.

Parents bring their children to the special entrance designated for the prekindergarten program at Nassakeag. Photo by Andrea Paldy

Though current pre-K students are grouped by “home” school at Nassakeag, the district has announced that it will expand the program to its other four buildings in order to “provide a smoother transition to elementary school.” The rationale is that it will allow students to attend classes at the same place where they will eventually be in elementary school.

Additionally, the move would prevent congestion at Nassakeag, since the district anticipates the growing program to require the use of up to 10 classrooms. The other buildings can easily accommodate the preschool program either in their kindergarten wings or nearby, according to school officials.

“We are committed to providing a high-quality pre-K program that provides students with a strong foundation for academic and social success,” said Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich in an email.

With the expansion to the other elementary buildings, next year’s program will continue to run as it currently does. Each school will have a morning and afternoon session that lasts for two and a half hours, and each classroom will have a certified teacher and assistant and up to 20 students.

Sessions at Minnesauke Elementary and Nassakeag will run from 8 to 10:30 a.m. and noon to 2:30 p.m., while those at Arrowhead, Mount and Setauket elementary schools will be held from 8:45 to 11:15 a.m. and 12:45 to 3:15 p.m. As with the current pre-K program, students will have access to a special age-appropriate preschool playground. The district says pre-K playgrounds will be built to accommodate the program expansion at the four additional elementary schools.

“We are committed to providing a high-quality pre-K program that provides students with a strong foundation for academic and social success.”

— Cheryl Pedisich

The district is also launching a tuition-based Patriots Plus Pre-K program. Staffed by a certified teaching assistant and a classroom aide, this extended day will offer enrichment in STEM, art, music and movement. Each school will run a morning and an afternoon session for 20 students and will include lunch in the cafeteria (with the option to purchase a meal) and recess. The district’s website says that tuition will be $500 a month.

The district says that there will be no additional cost to distribute the program to the other schools, since staffing for the pre-K curriculum is already covered. Administrators expect the cost of hiring five new teaching assistants and five aides for the enrichment program to be covered by tuition from the Patriots Plus program so that it is self-sustaining. Each enrichment section will need at least 10 students, the district says.

Administrators say parents with older elementary students will have a built-in window — 15 minutes before arrival and 15 minutes after dismissal — to drop off or pick up their prekindergartener and be back at the bus stop in time for older children.

Following feedback from last week’s information session, the district moved up the enrollment period to make it easier for parents to plan for the coming year. Applications will be accepted through Feb. 26. Students must turn 4 by Dec. 1, 2019, to be eligible.

Each school has a 40-student cap with a district cap of 200 students. If the number of applications exceeds the caps, there will be a lottery. Administrators say that students who aren’t selected through the lottery at their home school may attend the program at a different building, if there is room.

Three Village first offered a pre-K program in 2015, when it partnered with SCOPE Education Services to run and staff a fee-based curriculum. The district rolled out a free pre-K, taught by Three Village teachers, in the fall of 2017.

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Emma S. Clark Memorial Library has already collected more than 60 gowns for its upcoming Project Prom Dress event. By Lisa DeVerna

Three Village residents are teaming up with the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library to help students have the prom of a lifetime.

One of the dresses that will be available on the day of the prom gown shopping event. Photo by Lisa DeVerna

On March 9, the library will debut a one-day shopping event called Project Prom Dress where teenagers can walk away with a free gown. Irene Berman, a retired Minnesauke Elementary School teacher, said she was watching a television show featuring a segment about teenagers purchasing prom gowns for a small fee at a library in Parsippany, New Jersey. The dresses were collected by the library’s friends group to help students in need.

“It was so uplifting,” Berman said. “I was actually crying watching it.”

The retired teacher thought it was a good idea to bring to her own area, and she and Kathryn Hunter, who currently teaches fifth grade at Minnesauke, presented the proposal for a prom boutique where students can get dresses for free to a library board trustee.

Library Director Ted Gutmann said the board thought it was a good idea and then formed a team that includes Nanette Feder, teen services librarian; Lisa DeVerna, public relations and community engagement; and Jen Mullen, librarian and public relations.

Berman said the boutique will be opened to residents and nonresidents and is ideal for those on a tight budget or those who want to go green by wearing a recycled dress instead of buying a new one that will most likely only be worn once. Feder added the boutique is also a good opportunity for younger students who are being invited to the senior prom for them to save money on a gown.

The teen services librarian said the library started collecting dresses Jan. 1, and they already have more than 60.

“I’m looking forward to having the students coming in and seeing what the community donated,” Feder said.

“I’m looking forward to having the students coming in and seeing what the community donated.”

— Nanette Feder

Berman said she and Hunter recently visited stores in Stony Brook Village Center to see if any businesses could donate racks to hold the dresses. Ann Taylor Loft, Madison Niche and Chico’s managers offered racks. Once Chico’s manager heard they were trying to help 60 students, she said she will look into the store donating necklaces for each of the promgoers.

In addition to local stores and residents donating dresses, Feder said the night before the prom boutique event, teens will help sort through the dresses and accessories, earning community service credits for their time.

Gutmann said based on the number of dresses received and the response of residents so far, he is optimistic about the prom event and is grateful to Berman and Hunter for reaching out to the library.

“It shows that our community is active in these kinds of things and wants to help out,” Gutmann said.

Residents and nonresidents can drop off prom gowns and accessories at the library through Feb. 14, and donation racks are located in the library lobby. Dresses must be cleaned and in excellent condition with no stains or tears, and the garments must be brought in on a hanger. Purses, shoes, jewelry and other prom accessories will also be accepted.

The library will hold the shopping event Project Prom Dress in the Vincent O’Leary Community Room March 9. Students can schedule an appointment for the Prom Dress Boutique where they can check out the donated prom gowns, try them on and take one home free of charge. Each shopper is limited to one guest to assist them.

Registration begins Feb. 4 for Three Village residents and Feb. 19 for nonresidents, if spots are still available. Snow date is March 23. To reserve a time slot, call 631-941-4080, ext. 127. The Emma S. Clark Memorial Library is located at 120 Main St., Setauket.

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Ward Melville High School. File photo by Greg Catalano

Businesspeople are lending a hand in the Three Village Central School District to help students figure out the career path that’s the best fit for them.

Local businesses have partnered with the school district to form the Three Village Industry Advisory Board. Its first initiative is hosting the Ignite Your Career … Discover Your Opportunities career fair Jan. 9, which will give junior and senior high school students the opportunity to learn about potential career paths.

According to a press release from the school district, before the fair, students in grades seven through 12 will take a “career DNA” analysis called the Holland Code. The evaluation reveals career paths that correspond with a student’s personality which is denoted by different colors.

Michael Ardolino, owner of Realty Connect USA/Team Ardolino and co-chair of the advisory board, said the students who sit on the advisory board have contributed many exciting ideas.

He added all the businesses at the career fair will have a table marked with a color from the Holland Code corresponding with the personality that dominates its field, with minor colors that show other types that may be involved in the business.

Businesses are always looking for quality people, Ardolino said, and students can discover interesting information at the event about various fields of industry. One example is how the role of mechanics has changed to where computers are now widely used. Several businesses will also incorporate videos to educate attendees about their selected field.

Ardolino said the school district made the right move in opening the career fair to junior high school students.

“Let’s invite them all here so we can begin to enlighten them to the opportunities of what they can be doing with their lives,” he said.

The event could also be helpful for students to choose elective courses based on their interests and find clarity when it comes to college majors, according to the press release.

“We can learn much from our community partners on what businesses and postsecondary schools need most in terms of the skills that drive their success,” said Alan Baum, executive director of secondary, curriculum and human resources in the school district. “By collaborating with our partners we can learn from them to better inform our own instructional practices. By keeping our eyes open and listening to the business community and our postsecondary colleagues, we hope Three Village remains at the forefront of providing our students with a meaningful education, authentic experiences and equip them with the skills they need for future inquiry and success.”

The career fair will include more than three dozen businesses from across Long Island, including trades and crafts that are in high demand. Local companies participating include Competition Automotive Group, PPS Advisors, Gold Coast Bank, Atlantic Businesses Systems, Camco Services of NY, K&M Truck and Auto Repair, Journey Martial Arts, Equity First Foundation, Realty Connect USA/Team Ardolino, Stafford Associates, Vision World, ProSysCon Computer Technologies, Alternatives For Children, Stony Brook Child Care Services, Bagel Express, Holiday Inn Express, H2M Architects + Engineers, The Meadow Club, The Curry Club, The Meridian Financial Co., Jesco Brick & Concrete, Rossman Tax Service and Bliss restaurant.

The career fair will start at 7 p.m. Jan. 9 in the Ward Melville High School cafeteria.

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Kevin Scanlon, assistant superintendent for educational services, delivered good news about Three Village students tests scores at the Oct. 17 school board meeting. Photo by Andrea Paldy

By Andrea Paldy

The Three Village school district’s 2017–18 report card indicates that Three Village students continue to excel. That’s happening even as the state continues to update standards and tests.

Kevin Scanlon, assistant superintendent for educational services, gave the report at the district’s Oct. 17 school board meeting. He said Three Village students received among the highest Regents scores in the state and provided statistics on the class of 2018.

Three Village students passed English and two social studies Regents exams at rates of 94 to 97 percent, with a majority of students achieving a score of mastery — 85 percent and above — on those exams, Scanlon said. A handful of students — 10 percent — took the old version of the Global History and Geography exam with a 42 percent pass rate.

The rate of passing on the math Regents was equally as impressive, with 92 percent of students passing Algebra, 93 percent passing Geometry and 99 percent passing Algebra II. The mastery rates were 42, 38 and 49 percent, respectively.

Science Regents results showed more than 90 percent of Three Village students passing the exams with rates ranging from 91 to 95 percent and more than half of students achieving mastery in Earth Science, Living Environment and Physics.

Scanlon also reported that 94 percent of the class of 2018 went on to college, while 3 percent went into the workforce. One percent of graduates joined the military, he said.

In other good news, just under half of the class was recognized as Advanced Placement scholars, students who, according to the Advanced Placement website, “have demonstrated outstanding college-level achievement through their performance on AP exams.”

Scanlon also gave an update about the spring 2018 state assessments, administered to students in grades 3 through 8. The assessments tested students on the 2017 Next Generation Standards for English language arts and math. He said the standards have been revised since the rollout of the 2011 Common Core Learning Standards.

Last spring’s testing decreased from three to two days, Scanlon said, adding that since 65 percent of Three Village students opted out of the ELA assessments and 67 percent opted out of math, the scores reflect only about a third of Three Village students in the grades tested.

When compared to nearby districts — Commack, Half Hollow Hills, Harborfields, Hauppauge, Northport, Port Jefferson and Smithtown — Three Village’s fourth-, fifth-, sixth- and seventh-grade students had the highest rates of proficiency on the math assessments, Scanlon said.

The rates of proficiency for grades 3 through 7 in Three Village ranged between 76 and 78 percent and were well above those for Suffolk County and New York State, the assistant superintendent said. Lower levels of proficiency on the eighth-grade math assessments are due to the fact that the majority of the district’s eighth-graders take the algebra Regents instead of the state tests,
he said.

The pass rates for the ELA — 62 to 77 percent proficiency — also exceeded the state averages of 45 percent proficiency.

As of Oct 12, the district had an enrollment of 5,884 students, a slight decline from last year’s 6,131, Scanlon said.

Residents of the Three Village Central School District rooted the Patriots on to a homecoming win against Walt Whitman High School Oct. 6.

The Patriots varsity football team beat the Walt Whitman High School Wildcats 32-10. Ward Melville now ranks 5-0 in the league, which is the first time since 1974.

Before the big game, students and families enjoyed a parade and carnival where attendees participated in games, crafts and listened to live music.

The Patriots will travel to William Floyd Oct. 13 and Longwood High School Oct. 20. Their next home game is Oct. 26 at 6:30 p.m.

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Some of the staff members who took the EMT course were recognized by the board at the Aug. 22 BOE meeting. Photo from the Three Village Central School District

By Andrea Paldy

Three Village school district officials devoted a large segment of their second meeting of the new school year to addressing security infrastructure, training and protocols.

Jack Blaum. File photo by Andrea Paldy

Jack Blaum, district security coordinator and chief emergency officer, used the Sept. 5 meeting to review procedures and highlight enhancements for the year ahead. The school district now has 11 new emergency management technicians on staff, he said. These are district employees — among them Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services — who trained with the Suffolk County Office of Emergency Management in the spring.

Three Village is the first K-12 school district in the state to run and graduate students from an EMT course, Blaum said. Having EMTs on staff means school nurses have a support system and additional resources, he said.

During a phone interview, Carlson said it is as important to have personnel trained in “everyday” needs such as CPR and bleed control as it is to be trained in protocol for an active shooter.

“The more people that know CPR, the better for all of us,” he said, adding that having first responders on site could improve recovery time and even chances of survival.

The 200-hour course included hefty reading assignments, homework and weekly tests, in addition to practical instruction in CPR, splinting, patient assessment and transport with other skills required of an EMT, Carlson said. Participants completed hospital and ambulance rotations. To receive certification, they took two New York State exams — one written and one practical — to demonstrate their skills.

The school district plans to offer more EMT courses, Blaum said, adding that he hopes with funding from the county and state, the district could eventually be its own first-responder agency.

Also new to the district’s arsenal of security procedures is an enhanced ID scanner in building entrance vestibules. The district has locked all
entrances to schools during school hours since the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting. The default lockout system currently in place ensures that visitors enter the building only after scanning an ID and being buzzed through two doors.

New scanner software cross-references the Megan’s Law sex offender database and allows the district administration to add pertinent information to flag individuals who should not enter buildings.

“The more people that know CPR, the better for all of us.”

— Jeff Carlson

These safeguards are in addition to other “target hardening strategies” already in place, such as bullet-resistant film, lockdown drills and interior doors that are lockable with a single key so that a staff member can secure any classroom door from the inside in case of an emergency. Additionally, each building has a hidden “panic system” and an automated lockdown alert system.

Blaum said security guards at each school are either active or retired law enforcement officers. Along with vehicle patrols and interior and exterior camera surveillance, the district works closely with the Setauket and Stony Brook fire departments and has direct lines to the Suffolk County Police Department’s 6th Precinct. There is also district staff trained in bleeding control, lockdown and active shooter options, improvised explosive recognition and planning for bombing incidents, Blaum said.

“Mental well-being is the key to all of this,” he said, explaining that the district’s measures to increase guidance- and mental-health staff can help ensure the well-being of staff and students and assist in keeping the community safe. Even so, Blaum said he and his team remain vigilant and work with administrators, psychologists, social workers and the school resource officer to assess threats.

Though these protocols and infrastructure are in place, Blaum said national events compel him to always look for ways to improve security in the school district. Future enhancements could include upgrades to automated classroom door locks that activate all locks at once, ID scanning to let staff open interior doors with ID badges, and perimeter gates at the high school.

The district will host a safety and security community forum at R.C. Murphy Junior High School, Sept. 13, at 7 p.m.

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