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Timothy Eagen

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Superintendent's Council creates 31-minute video to share with their peers

Kings Park student members of the Superintendent's Council stand with school staff and elected officials. Photo from Kings Park school district

By Amanda Perelli

Kings Park students are going digital in the national debate of mental health awareness to raise awareness among their peers and inform community leaders.

Students in Kings Park school district worked to create a nearly 31-minute video to spread mental health awareness in the community and with elected officials.

The Superintendent’s Council, a group of more than 30 Kings Park students from grades four through 12. The council is made up of approximately four students per grade, who are elected by their peers in fourth grade and remain a part of the council through graduation.

“We got to talk about mental health, a big conversation not only in Kings Park, but all around the country.”
– Timothy Eagen

Timothy Eagen, superintendent of Kings Park school district, said that this year’s council was focused on mental health. The students invited Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) to a council meeting in March, where he spoke about his role in local government. As a result of that meeting, council members decided to create a video covering stress and anxiety; vaping, smoking, and substance use/abuse; and online safety to raise awareness of mental health in the community.

“They are just a great group of student leaders that I use to bounce ideas off of and pick their brain and insight on a student perspective,” Eagen said. “We got to talk about mental health, a big conversation not only in Kings Park, but all around the country.”

The students filmed themselves, teachers and their classmates in the district for the video. Several Kings Park staff members who assisted include district Assistant Superintendent Ralph Cartisano; Rudy Massimo, principal of R.J.O. Intermediate School; Ken Ferrazzi, assistant principal at William T. Rogers Middle School; and Danielle Thompson, technology integration specialist, helped the students create the video which was filmed on iPhones and iPads. Thompson then edited and pieced together the footage using iMovie.

“If we can get the students to share what they are experiencing, just encourage them to speak about it… maybe we can save a life or two.”
– Rudy Massimo

“We broke it into different groups and being that I am one of the participants of the Superintendents Council, I worked with middle school students on drug and alcohol abuse, including vaping,” Massimo said.

The entire video, from the script to where they filmed, was driven by the students. They filmed parts in areas of the building where students might go to do things against school policy, including the stairwells, bathrooms and basement. They used their smartphones to gather information and read off of them like a script. Throughout filming, the students had one goal to get their peers to listen, according to Massimo.

“Mr. Trotta was the first audience that the kids had to show off their video, Eagen said. “We have it posted to our website and we’ve also shared it with our elected officials, so they can best understand how our students are feeling.”

The principal of R.J. O Intermediate said he has plans to show pieces of the video in the fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms next year.

“What the kids say is that they are tired of the same kind of information coming to them,” said Massimo. “If they hear it from their peers, it means more.”

File photo by Elana Glowatz

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Two parents are suing the Kings Park Central School District over a 2015 sexting incident, claiming handling of the matter humiliated their sons and violated their freedom of speech.

Andrew J. Fenton, of Fort Salonga, and Thomas Phelan, of Kings Park, filed a lawsuit after their sons were among more than 25 students suspended for having received a sexual video via text message.

The lawsuit, filed Sept. 19, 2017, in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, alleges the “suspension of [the students] for receiving a video, unsolicited, which they did not show or send to anyone else, and which bore no nexus to an ensuing school disruption was arbitrary and capricious.” Both Fenton and Phelan seek damages for “humiliation and anguish” of their sons and their records expunged of the suspension.

On Nov. 4, 2015, dozens of Kings Park High School students received a video on their cellphones of two 14-year-olds having sex while at home, according to court documents.

When an assistant principal saw a ninth-grader playing the video in the high school’s cafeteria Nov. 6, school officials began an extensive investigation. The phones of all students who still had the video were temporarily confiscated, according to court documents. School district officials allege both Fenton’s and Phelon’s sons still had the video.

Under Kings Park’s Guidelines for Implementation of School Discipline Policy, “inappropriate texting and use of social media” and “selling, using, transmitting or possessing obscene material” are considered Level IV infractions punishable by up to five days suspension and parental contact.

On Nov. 9 and 10, Kings Park High School Principal Lino Bracco sent certified mail to Fenton and Phelan notifying them that their sons, sophomores at the time, would be suspended for one day for “inappropriate use of an electronic device.” The letter warned that the students were “prohibited from entering upon school grounds for any reason and should remain home under supervision.”

Fenton said he did not receive the Nov. 9 letter in time, and his son was escorted out of the high school on Nov. 10 by two uniformed police officers, according to court documents.

By letter dated Nov. 18, Superintendent Timothy Eagen made an offer to parents that they could submit a request for their child’s disciplinary record to be reviewed, and barring any similar incidents, the suspension would be expunged.

Both parents retained Middletown-based attorneys, partners Robert Isseks and Andrew Smith, who sent letters dated Dec. 9, 2015, requesting the suspensions be immediately removed from the students’ records alleging “they never possessed the message in school or on school property.”

Both parents said Kings Park school district’s cellphone policy also infringed on their sons’ right to free speech. “The only way that [he] or any other student could possibly make sure that he did not find himself in an ‘incident similar in nature’ during the coming year is if he stopped receiving text messages all together,” reads the Dec. 9 letter.

An appeal was made to New York State Department of Education, whose Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia ruled Nov. 10, 2016, that the district’s “suspension of [the students] for receiving a video, unsolicited, which they did not show or send to anyone else, and which bore no nexus to an ensuring school disruption, was arbitrary and capricious.” Elia ordered Kings Park school district to annul and expunge the suspension.

Eagen said that as at press time, Kings Park school district had yet to be served with the lawsuit.

“Parents will sometimes address a particular issue through a media solution rather than an administrative or due process solution,” Eagen said. “However, in choosing this path, sometimes parents will share certain personal and/or confidential information that then becomes a part of public record.”

The superintendent said the district’s policy and practice is to not comment on specific student disciplinary matters and/or pending lawsuits.

Attorney Smith could not be reached for comment by press time. Principal Bracco did not return phone calls requesting an interview or comment.

A 10-year-old student of William T. Rogers Middle School was hit by driver Pasquale Izzo, 81, of Kings Park, while attempting to board the bus Sept. 15. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

A 10-year-old Kings Park boy struck by an SUV on his way to the school bus was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital with serious injuries, according to Suffolk County police.

A William T. Rogers Middle School student was walking across First Avenue, near Carlson Avenue, at about 7:54 a.m. Sept. 15 to board his school bus, police said. The bus had its flashing red lights on and stop sign activated to warn approaching motorists.

Pasquale Izzo, 81, of Kings Park, was driving a 1998 Dodge Durango northbound on First Avenue when he allegedly attempted to pass the school bus, and ignored its flashing lights. Izzo failed to stop his vehicle and struck the student, according to police.

The 10-year-old boy was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital with serious, but not life-threatening injuries, according to police. Izzo was not injured. 

Kings Park Superintendent Timothy Eagen notified district parents that it has additional mental health staff available at the middle school to provide  support to those students who witnessed the accident, students who know the injured student and anyone else, as needed.

“Unfortunately, this incident is a terrible reminder that we cannot always assume that motorists will follow traffic safety rules at all times,” Eagen said in a message posted on the district’s website.

Under New York State Law, drivers who pass a stopped school bus can be fined $250 for the first violation and face up to a maximum fine of $1,000 for three violations in less than three years. Individuals convicted of three violations in a three-year span may have their driver’s license revoked.

Kings Park Central School District announced the bus’s route has been changed in order to avoid any potential future tragic accidents at the intersection, and so that the student involved and those who witnessed the accident don’t have to return to the scene of the accident on a daily basis.

The neighboring Commack school district sent out an email to parents reminding them to, “Please drive slowly with no distractions, and be especially vigilant of where our precious children are playing, walking, riding or standing.”

Most school bus-related deaths and injuries occur when children are loading or unloading from a bus, according to New York State Department of Motor Vehicle’s website, not in collisions that involve school buses.

The driver’s vehicle has been impounded for safety checks and the incident is under investigation. Suffolk County’s 4th Squad Detectives are asking anyone who witnessed the accident to call 631-854-8452.

The state department of motor vehicles has recently issued several safety recommendations for drivers sharing the roads with school buses:

* When a stopped school bus flashes its red light(s), traffic that approaches from either direction, even in front of the school and in school parking lots,  must stop before  reaching the bus. Drivers should stop at least 20 feet away from the bus.

* Before a school bus stops to load or discharge passengers, the bus driver will usually flash yellow warning lights. Drivers should decrease speed and be prepared to stop.

* When you stop for a school bus, do not drive again until the red lights stop flashing or until the bus driver or a traffic officer signals that you may proceed. *You must stop for a school bus even if it is on the opposite side of a divided highway.

* After stopping for a school bus, look for children along the side of the road. Drive slowly until have passed them.

Kings Park Superintendent Timothy Eagen speaks at a meeting. File photo
Kings Park Superintendent Timothy Eagen. File photo.

In two years, Superintendent Timothy Eagen has become the king of Kings Park’s school district.

Under his leadership, the district has created robotics clubs and educational programs for children from kindergarten up, started work on about $41 million in improvements to the district’s facilities, brought back old clubs and worked tirelessly to make sure the level of education students receive is up to par.

For these reasons, Times Beacon Record News Media has selected Eagen as a Person of the Year for 2016.

A North Shore native, the superintendent grew up in South Huntington and graduated from Walt Whitman High School. His undergraduate degree from Alfred University was in ceramic engineering, a specific education he said still helps him today.

“As an engineer you’re trained to solve problems, and that is essentially what I do for a living,” he said. “It’s not necessarily science problems, but whatever the problem of the day might be.”

He said after college he switched over to the “family business” of education. His mother and father are both retired teachers, and his sister is a high school English teacher.

Eagen worked in the South Huntington school district for 15 years, starting as a substitute teacher and working his way to assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

In 2014, he arrived at Kings Park — a community he has great respect for.

“One of the things I really like about Kings Park is the things that are important to the community and the school district,” he said. “Over the two years that I’ve been here and in my research when I was applying for the job, there were three things that stood out: Kings Park pride, family and service. Pride you hear about all the time — it’s a very proud community. And then family and service, it’s a very close-knit, family-type community. When somebody has an issue or a problem everybody comes out and helps. They really value service, whether it’s in the armed forces, police, fire, rescue or just typical service to the community. All of those things are part of what I believe in.”

Rudy Massimo, principal at RJO Intermediate School, said Eagen has had a tremendous impact on the morale at Kings Park.

“I’ve never seen teachers more impressed with a superintendent before,” he said. “He really turned around the entire district. To watch it happen is absolutely amazing. He has made [Kings Park] an amazing place to work.”

Kings Park Superintendent Timothy Eagen speaks at a meeting. File photo

When Eagen got to work, one of the first jobs he said he wanted to tackle was facility upgrades throughout the district.

“Every time we turned the corner it was another area that needed attention,” he said. “So the bond was big.” The capital project bond referendum was approved by voters in December 2015, and came in at about $41 million. Improvements like roof replacements, bathroom renovations, hardware replacements and asphalt and pavement upgrades are planned at every school in the district. Kings Park High School has some big-ticket items including auditorium upgrades, gymnasium renovations and the creation of a multipurpose athletic field and accompanying concession stand. The plan was divided into certain projects being carried out each year. This past summer the new track was installed and about $8 million in other improvements were carried out.

Eagen said he is proud of the improvements done thus far, and is eager to continue working to improve student experiences at facilities within the district.

In terms of curriculum, Eagen has assured Kings Park students are getting the most up-to-date education possible.

“Robotics has been pretty big,” Eagen said. “As well as classes focusing on programming, logic, research — things of that nature. We hear a lot about college and career readiness … there’s a lot of truth to that in concern to how competitive it is to get into college right now.”

Eagen said in his first year at Kings Park, students and parents approached him with the desire to create a robotics club, and he hit the ground running.

Through help from local legislators and school staff, the team was formed and was even able to compete at an annual competition hosted at Hofstra University in the spring.

“Under the heading of family, we all came together and made it happen,” Eagen said.

After the club was formed, Eagen began working to create a robotics program for all grades in the district. Students now work with programmable robots, that they can move, and make sing and dance. The district also offers a summer robotics camp.

“It’s just really cool,” Eagen said. “It’s the whole coding logic, it’s 21st century lessons. Really what we are trying to do is ensure every student graduates with a general understanding and some skills of programming, robotics, logic and code. It’s good stuff. Kids pick it up so quickly.”

Massimo said Eagen has created an environment for teachers and students to excel.

“He allows us to really run with our ideas,” he said. “You take pride in what you’re teaching your students. This initiative has encouraged us to return to creative academic freedom — sometimes you get lost in the testing world. He’s inspiring to everyone in the administration.”

The Kings Park school board agreed, Eagen has done wonders for the district.

“The board continues to be impressed with Dr. Eagen’s leadership and vision for the Kings Park Central School District as well as the Kings Park community at large,” members said in a joint email statement. “He is a constant advocate for our children — whether it be striving for advancements in our curriculum, our facilities and our programs or leading advocacy groups at the regional and state level on behalf of public education. Dr. Eagen is also a constant presence at community events — whether it be school concerts, plays and sporting events, or local events like parades or group meetings. We are fortunate to have him leading our school district.”

From left to right, school board trustees Dan Tew and Kevin Johnston, Superintendent Timothy Eagen, board vice president Diane Nally, school board trustee Joe Bianco, and transportation supervisor Steve Lee smile with one of the new buses. Photo from Timothy Eagen

Kings Park Central School District is continuing its commitment to the environment by introducing more propane buses to the school’s fleet.

Last year, the district joined a handful of Long Island school districts in going green for transportation in the form of propane-fueled school buses.

Thanks to the support of the community, Kings Park expanded its fleet of propane buses from four to eight for the start of the new school year.

Supervisor Timothy Eagen said the additional buses will help the district cut costs and contribute positively to the environment.

“For the second year in a row, the community overwhelmingly supported the purchase,” he said in a statement. “This choice is yet another way that the school district is looking to save taxpayers money. The transition to propane has gone very well for us, and I look forward to continuing this initiative.”

The purchase of the buses was a separate voting proposition in this past May’s budget vote.

The old diesel buses, originally purchased 15 to 20 years ago, were traded in for $2,500 each. The district owns a fleet of about 60 buses, and it is necessary to purchase buses on an annual basis to maintain the fleet.

Propane is seen as a positive alternative fuel for school buses because it is widely available and costs significantly less than diesel or gasoline. The newest propane engine technology is considerably more cost efficient, quieter, requires less maintenance and is more ecofriendly than either diesel or gas.

In cold weather, diesel engines need to idol for 30 minutes or longer to achieve the proper engine temperature prior to operation. This means wasting gas and paying workers overtime to warm up the bus fleet on cold days. This is not necessary with propane engines.

Moving forward, the administration said it intends to continue to slowly replace its fleet with propane buses.

Eagen said the district will always need a few diesel buses however, for longer sports and extracurricular trips.

“Propane is a fuel that is currently not readily available at gas stations,” he said.

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Kings Park Central School District Superintendent Timothy Eagen says the district has already responded to recommendations made by the state comptroller’s office. File photo by Barbara Donlon

Changes have been made to the way that Kings Park Central School District officials track and record fuel usage for district vehicles, following an audit by the Office of the State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

The comptroller’s report recommended that written policies and procedures be adopted to ensure that fuel inventory is measured and records maintained, especially when fuel is delivered or pumped. The district has approximately 62 vehicles, according to the report.

“New formal fuel accountability procedures were adopted and went into effect on Dec. 14, 2015,” Eagen’s response said. “The new formal fuel accountability procedures require that tank fuel levels be measured — morning and afternoon — and reconciled both daily and every 10 days. The procedures also require that any significant reconciliation issues be submitted in writing to the superintendent of schools.”

The audit was conducted from July 1, 2014 through July 31, 2015, but the results were given to the district back in December. 

“The district has embraced all of OSC’s recommendations, and as of today, all of these recommendations have been fully implemented,” said Timothy Eagen, Kings Park Central School District superintendent.

Eagen said in his statement that he was happy to report that fuel accountability was the sole focus of the audit, and not issues with the district’s budget overall. “This speaks to the high level of internal controls and budgeting procedures that are typical of the Kings Park CSD,” Eagen said.

Issues with the district’s tracking of fuel stemmed from sloppy record keeping, not a loss of fuel, which would indicate potential theft or environmentally dangerous leakage, Eagen said. 

“On both the diesel and gasoline forms, Department personnel entered the same beginning and ending inventory amount on multiple lines of the forms or entered the same beginning and ending inventory amount even when fuel use was recorded that day,” the report said. These forms were provided during the audit period, in lieu of the hand written notes that were the only real source of record keeping before the audit.

“District officials are responsible for establishing procedures to provide assurance that vehicle fuel is accurately accounted for and used for appropriate District purposes,” DiNapoli’s report said.

“To determine day-to-day use for each fuel pump, department personnel subtract the previous day’s pump reading from the current day’s reading and note the gallons pumped. No reconciliation was performed to determine if the gallons pumped agreed with the change in stick reading from one day to the next.”

Prior to the audit period, the fuel pumps and tanks at the district’s bus garage were monitored by security personnel 24 hours per day along with video surveillance, though no official written policies or procedures were in place to assist employees in accurate tracking of the fuel inventory. The comptroller also recommended that all employees who use fuel document the gallons pumped, vehicle and type of fuel.

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Cracked pavement is on Kings Park’s list of things to repair. Photo from Timothy Eagen

Kings Park Central School District has big plans in its future, in terms of renovations.

“When you think of the hamlet of Kings Park, there is no greater investment than in its school facilities,” Superintendent Timothy Eagen said.

The Kings Park Board of Education created a facilities committee this past May. The district reached out to community members once the committee was formed to invite residents and employees to join.

“We had 20 responses from staff and the community, and members were ultimately chosen so as to best represent Kings Park, while also making sure to include members with knowledge of facilities and grounds,” Eagen said in an email.

The committee is made up of two board members, seven district employees, one student and eight resident volunteers.

Throughout the summer, the committee traveled to all the schools in the district, surveying the damages, repairs and upgrades needed in each building.

Currently the total dollar value of every item under consideration is approximately $40 million.

The board was presented with a long list of what the committee believes to be necessary updates to the buildings at Tuesdays board meeting.

“I love this district, my kids all go here, and I think the upgrades are a total necessity,” Tara Samson, a member of the committee said.

Out of the projects, up to 82 percent would be focused on infrastructure, with 8 percent going to healthy, safety and security, 8 percent to athletics and recreation, and 2 percent to curriculum and instruction.

“Our buildings are not getting any younger,” Eagen said.

The youngest school building in the district is William T. Rogers Middle School, which was established in 1970. And the oldest building is RJO Intermediate School, which was built in 1928.

Members of the committee and Eagen both agreed that these schools are all well past their prime and are in need of major infrastructure renovations.

Parking lot renovations and drainage are issues every school building shares. Whether it’s the front parking lot or the back parking lot, each school has cracks in the pavement, on the sidewalks and stairs, potholes, and problems with flooding when it rains.

The removal of vinyl asbestos tiles is also crucial in every building, with the fear that damaged tiles are releasing asbestos fibers into the air.

Plumbing repairs, electrical upgrades and boiler upgrades were also echoed sentiments at each school.

“My children run home everyday to use the bathroom, since they refuse to use the ones at school,” Samson said.

Members of the committee also said that money is flying out the windows of the schools every day, since there is little to no insulation left in many of the original windows for each building. This is contributing to added costs in heating and air conditioning.

“In WTR middle school, the heating controls are located on the roof, which is incredibly inefficient and needs to change,” Tony Tanzi, a member of the committee, said.

It is hoped a major part of the renovation funds will go toward installing new roofs in almost every building.

With the exception of Park View Elementary School, where the roof was replaced two years ago after Hurricane Sandy damaged it, every roof in the district is more than 10 years old, and two are more than 20 years old. The intermediate and middle schools both have their original roofs.

Kings Park High School is in danger of having its track condemned, which means it would no longer be allowed to hold track meets, according to a committee member.

Aside from track replacement, additional bleachers and lighting, upgrades to the concession stand, additional field irrigation and more were listed under consideration by the committee.

Overall approximately 75 percent of the work is planned for the high school and middle school.

“The library [at the high school], is not really a library at all, it’s used as a second cafeteria,” Casey Samson, a Kings Park high school student and committee member, said.

Renovations to the library are under consideration of the committee right now, including a media makeover and a new second floor loft space.

As far as curriculum and instruction improvements, the committee wants to utilize the New York State Smart Schools Bond Act that has allocated $1.454 million for Kings Park.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) initiated the Smart Schools Bond Act last year, with the intention to invest $2 billion in New York’s schools that will put schools in the 21st century and ensure that students graduate with the skills they need to thrive in today’s economy.

Expenditure through this act would include educational technology equipment, high-speed broadband or wireless Internet connectivity, and capital projects to install high-tech security features.

The committee also wants to shift toward solar energy in the Kings Park school district, including the installation of solar panels on roofs, and purchasing electricity through a renewable energy company.

SunEdison, a global renewable energy company headquartered in the United States, would design, own, operate, monitor and maintain anything they set up in Kings Park, according to the committee.

If Kings Park purchased electricity from SunEdison, it would be at a lower rate than the district is currently paying PSEG Long Island. Kings Park would retain its PSEGLI account, but would require less electricity from the utility if it began working with SunEdison.

“We are looking at ways to save the community money, and with solar energy we could save $100,00 annually,” Eagen said.

The committee is in the process of prioritizing the items that were identified, and then they will make a recommendation to the board of education. Eagen anticipates that this will occur by the end of September.

Once the recommendation is made, the board will decide on a final package, and a timeline for voter approval. If everything moves forward as planned, the next step would be to follow the project bidding process and get the New York State Education Department’s approval.

If approval is given, the goal is for the highest priority projects to begin in summer 2016.

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Kings Park High School said goodbye to its 2015 graduating class on Thursday night as students flanked the football field in the company of flocks of excited family members.

The men were donned in red caps and gowns while their women counterparts sported white and they sat in alternating order, properly decorating the school field in Kingsmen colors before their final sendoff. Class valedictorian Zachary Marcone and salutatorian Justin Barish were two of several students to step up and deliver encouraging remarks before the students shook hands and grasped their high school diplomas.

“You must strike a balance in life,” said Marcone, who had his speech flown in via air drone to symbolize the possibilities the future holds. “Everything you do in life must be balanced.”

Principal Lino E. Bracco said 91 percent of Kings Park High School grads were off to college next year and wished the graduating class well before the two-hour ceremony concluded.

Kings Park Superintendent Timothy Eagen speaks at a meeting. File photo

The Kings Park school district has reached an agreement with its civil service employees and signed a four-year contract that includes a 2 percent salary increase.

At Tuesday’s board of education meeting, the four board members present voted to authorize Superintendent Timothy Eagen to sign the new contract with the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA).

“I’m happy to present this evening that we have come to an agreement, “ Eagen said.

In an interview after the meeting, Eagen said the current contract for the roughly 225 employees was set to expire June 30. This contract affects bus drivers, teacher aids, custodial staff, secretaries, nurses and more.

The contract also has no step movement, Eagen said.

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Kings Park Superintendent Timothy Eagen is now president-elect of the New York State ASCD, which helps educators throughout the state maximize educational opportunities.

Timothy Eagen, superintendent of the Kings Park Central School District, was recently elected to the position of president-elect of New York State ASCD.

Eagen served as president of the Long Island affiliate of ASCD for the 2013-2014 school year. This group consists of over 450 members of our local educational community.

Founded in 1943, ASCD, formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, is the global leader in developing and delivering innovative programs, products, and services that empower educators to support the success of each and every learner. ASCD is comprised of over 125,000 members, including superintendents, principals, teachers, professors, and advocates from more than 138 countries. The ASCD community also includes 56 affiliate organizations, including NYSASCD. ASCD’s mission is to foster a “global community dedicated to excellence in learning, teaching, and leading.”

“ASCD is an incredible organization that supports best practices in teaching and learning around the world,” Eagen said. “I am proud to have been selected to lead our state organization and further the mission of ASCD. Long Island, and specifically the Kings Park-Smithtown area, will benefit by having a greater level of advocacy and ‘voice’ in educational matters.”

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