Authors Posts by Andrea Moore Paldy

Andrea Moore Paldy

Andrea Paldy, a writer for The Village Times Herald, is co-author of the book, Exploring Motion Graphics. She is a lecturer in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stony Brook University.

The Three Village school district discusses its scientific success. Photo by Andrea Moore Paldy

In what has become a tradition, the Three Village Board of Education celebrated the success of its three Science Olympiad teams at the regional, state and national competitions.

While some might point to the junior high and high school teams’ dominance as proof of the district’s commitment to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, a presentation at the board’s recent meeting outlining the district’s inaugural year of the elementary STEM program could seal the deal.

The two junior high schools, P.J. Gelinas and R.C. Murphy, placed first and second, respectively, in the regional Science Olympiad competition. Gelinas went on to become New York State champions and finished 10th at the national competition. Ward Melville finished first in the Eastern Long Island regionals, second in New York State and is ranked 24th in the country. The Ward Melville team also won a first-place medal in Experimental Design and one for fifth place for Write It/Do It.

The recognition served as the ideal introduction to the evening’s report about the new STEM education program for students in kindergarten through sixth grade.

The Three Village school district discusses its scientific success. Photo by Andrea Moore Paldy
The Three Village school district discusses its scientific success. Photo by Andrea Moore Paldy

STEM at Three Village introduces elementary school children to computer science and gives them the opportunity to apply engineering and design challenges to real-world issues. Colleen Maier, STEM teacher at Nassakeag Elementary School, said that while units of study vary, all grades are exposed to coding through, a nonprofit organization that offers a free web-based curriculum. 

Gretchen Tranchino, STEM teacher at W.S. Mount, said the first step for all grades is learning about algorithms — a list of steps to complete a task. While older students followed algorithms for making paper airplanes, younger children used them to plant seeds. Eventually, the process of writing algorithms was translated to writing code on computers, she said.   

The focus varies by grade level after the initial introduction to coding, Maier said. For example, students in kindergarten through second grade focus on the “living environment,” learning about vertical growing towers, which don’t need soil and can grow year-round indoors.

While working on the projects, students learn about greenhouses, plant needs and also learn the differences between geoponics — growing plants in soil — and aeroponics — growing plants in the air, said Brianna Rovegno, who teaches STEM at Arrowhead Elementary School.   

Second-graders designed the water sources for their towers and got inspiration from plants and animals, while also considering materials and time constraints, Rovegno said. Some harvests included lettuce, tomatoes, herbs and peppers. 

Rovegno said that in order to reinforce early coding concepts, third- and fourth-grade students transition from writing code on paper to programming small robots, called Ozobots. This helps students develop logical reasoning and teaches them to embrace failure, Rovegno said, adding that writing code, working to debug a program and find errors within the code aid students in becoming more perseverant. 

“They really had to stick with it,” Tranchino said. “We felt that this was a skill that was easily transferrable and really important in their educational journey.”

Though there were a variety of design challenges for fifth- and sixth-graders — they learned about computer-aided design with the application Tinkercad — all of the students had the opportunity to see their designs realized with a 3-D printer. With each lesson, said Sean Dowling, Minnesauke Elementary School’s STEM teacher, teachers presented the children with a real-world application.

Students designing shells for hermit crabs learned about the shortage of hermit crab shells in Bermuda and had to incorporate the measurements of actual hermit crabs in their design. Other students designed rectangular prism sculptures following mathematical guidelines that reinforced math concepts related to the volume of prisms. Meanwhile, another group of students designed organ transport containers that applied their knowledge of the transport of thermal energy in order to preserve ice.

Moving forward, the five STEM teachers who have been working and collaborating with the general education teachers, will continue to develop the curriculum. They will continue to review, revise and enhance the program over the summer.

Three candidates are vying for two seats on the Three Village school board.

Incumbent Jonathan Kornreich, who has been on the board since 2008, will try to hold on to one of the at-large seats. Newcomer Angelique Ragolia, 46, and Andrea Fusco-Winslow, who ran unsuccessfully for the school board in 2012, are joining Kornreich in a bid for the two, 3-year positions.

Jonathan Kornreich Photo by Andrea Moore Paldy

A handful of residents showed up at Ward Melville High School Monday for the PTA-sponsored Meet the Candidates Night, at which the candidates for board trustees fielded prepared questions from the audience. Pitching their strengths, each highlighted qualities they said make them uniquely suited for the board.

Fusco-Winslow, an anesthesiologist with ProHEALTH Care Associates, said that, as a former business owner, she understands budgets and the importance of the bottom line. As a “fresh face” to the board, “I may see things differently,” she said, which could help the board ask the right questions and “change things that need to be changed.”

“I want to do the best for the community that has taken such good care of me,” said Fusco-Winslow, a 1988 Ward Melville High School graduate.

Kornreich, 46, chair of the board’s audit committee and a member of its legislative committee, said his background in investment management and as a legal consultant gives him a good sense of what tomorrow’s businesses want. That makes him an effective advocate for programs that will give Three Village students the right skills.

“There are certain very special things about this school district that make it desirable,” Kornreich said. “The size of our district allows us to run a wide variety of programs and allows every child to find that special thing about school that they really enjoy.”

He added that he has demonstrated a commitment “to the kids of our community and the community at large.”

Angelique Ragolia file photo
Angelique Ragolia file photo

“I would love to be someone who advocates for all of our children,” said Ragolia, who taught speech for seven years in Brooklyn before moving to East Setauket more than a decade ago. She works as a positive behavior intervention specialist with people suffering from traumatic brain injuries.

Now at the end of her second year as president of the Three Village Council of PTAs, Ragolia said she has a good working relationship with district administration and the board.

Asked about the district’s greatest weakness, the former Minnesauke Elementary PTA president answered that there wasn’t one. She praised the school board for restoring several student programs while presenting a “fiscally responsible” budget within the cap.

“I see all good,” Ragolia said. “I see room for growth always, but that’s with everybody, everywhere.”

Fusco-Winslow, 46, said she’s pleased with the education her daughters are receiving at Nassakeag Elementary and P.J. Gelinas Junior High, but sees areas that can be improved.

The 13-year East Setauket resident touched on the need to increase technology and student safety. Specifically, Fusco-Winslow said she wants to move voting, like the April 19 primary, out of the district’s schools. In addition, she wants to ensure that student athletes have the most appropriate safety equipment — particularly for sports such as football and lacrosse, and that the additional $6 million from the state goes toward student programs like art and music.

“There are things that need to be improved, and we have the money to do it,” she said.

Andrea_Fusco_wKornreich mentioned the restoration of high school business classes, the expansion of secondary level computer science and the elementary STEM program as examples of the current board’s budget priorities.

Not only is next year’s budget below the cap, he said, “It enhances programs to the maximum extent possible for our kids.”

The district’s greatest weakness, he said, is the loss of local control.

“No one knows better than us how we want to educate our students,” he said. Kornreich added that being “force-fed” state assessments infringes on the district’s ability to “control parts of our own destiny.”

Both Ragolia, who spoke at the 2013 Ward Melville forum with then Education Commissioner John King, and Fusco-Winslow, whose platform includes opting out of state tests, believe the standardized tests are developmentally inappropriate. In interviews before Monday’s event, each said the tests were not helpful to students, teachers or parents in determining how well students are doing.

The vote for school board trustees and the budget will take place on Tuesday, May 17, at the elementary schools. Those who usually vote at W.S. Mount Elementary will vote at R.C. Murphy Junior High, and Arrowhead Elementary voters will go to Ward Melville High School. The order on the ballot, determined by a drawing required by law, will be Kornreich, Ragolia and Fusco.

The candidate with the most votes will complete Susanne Mendelson’s term, which ends on June 30.

Cheryl Pedisich speaks at the podium after receiving the first-ever Administrator of the Year award from the New York State School Counselor Association. Photo by Andrea Moore Paldy

Bolstered by a $6.6 million bump in aid from the state, Three Village adopted April 13 a $198.8 million budget for the upcoming school year that school administrators say will enhance the district’s programs. There is also a plan to add transportation options for students not previously not included.

Included in the $46.5 million aid package is a $2.9 million increase in building aid to defray costs for payments on the bond, which are due in the coming year. The aid contributes to the tax levy increase — 2.3 percent — being lower than the budget increase, 4.85 percent, said Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services.

The end of the Gap Elimination Adjustment, which took money from school aid to supplement the state budget, has brought a $3.3 million windfall to the district. Since its inception during the 2009-10 school year, Three Village has lost $32.4 million, Carlson said.

Carlson said the district will not need to reduce services to stay within the 2.41 percent tax cap — the allowable amount by which the tax levy can increase.

Residents, though, will vote on a separate proposition that could raise the tax levy to the cap. The proposal is to eliminate the minimum distance students must live to get bus transportation. If the measure passes, all junior high and high school students, who currently live too close to their schools to be eligible, will get transportation. The cost will be $160,000 for two additional buses, which will raise the tax levy increase to 2.41 percent.

While the overall budget would increase to $198.9 million, the district will get an additional $70,000 from the state for transportation. Carlson said that providing bus transportation for all students would address safety concerns about crossing busy streets such as Nicolls Road and walking along narrow, sidewalk-less roads, such as Christian Avenue and Quaker Path.

Not only will the district not need to cut programs to remain within the cap, the administration is recommending that positions be added — or reinstated — to enhance existing programs. In addition to the increased aid from the state, a decrease in payments to the employee retirement systems by $1.1 million, as well as declining enrollment, will help to make this feasible.

Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich said there will be a decrease in the number of elementary students in the district by about 120 to 125 children next year. She recommended the reassignment of 3.0 full-time equivalent teaching positions to academic intervention services at the elementary level instead of laying off staff. Additionally, some of the restored GEA money would go toward two more positions so that each of the five elementary schools would have its own AIS specialist. This would put the district in compliance with AIS and response to intervention mandates, as well as provide the “kind of support that our students need in terms of their mathematical studies,” Pedisich said.

The superintendent’s recommendations also include adding 1.6 FTEs at the secondary level to rebuild Ward Melville’s business department into a “robust” program, with offerings such as virtual enterprise and web and app design; a 0.4 FTE increase to American Sign Language, which has been extended to the junior highs; and a 0.8 FTE increase to expand the high school writing center and to start writing centers at both junior high schools.

Pedisich also noted that there would be a new computer science course at the two junior highs to bridge the elementary STEM program and the reinstated AP computer science class offered at the high school. No additional staff will be needed for this program, she said.

The new budget also covers a second technology lead to provide professional development to faculty and a mentor/behavioral consultant for special education, the largest department in the district, Pedisich said.

Three Village will also bring back assistant coaches for safety, supervision and instruction and will add a “floating” nurse, an assistant director of facilities and an additional 2.0 FTEs for clerical staff in the music and instructional technology departments.

Pedisich assured the school board that all positions are sustainable. “The last thing we want to do is add something and then pull it away two years later,” she said.

The district, which is reimbursed for 66 percent of the cost of its capital projects, has planned a number of upgrades. The projects include reconfiguring the Setauket Elementary School bus loop for better traffic flow, adding air conditioners to the elementary school auditoriums and junior high cafeterias, and adding a generator at W.S. Mount Elementary School. Also proposed are a career and technology education classroom at the North Country administration building, and plumbing repairs and asbestos abatement throughout the district.

The public will vote on the budget and two board seats on May 17. Voting will take place at local elementary schools. This year, for security reasons, people who usually vote at Arrowhead Elementary will go to Ward Melville High School, and those who normally vote at W.S. Mount Elementary will do so at Murphy Junior High. The change comes because the layout of the schools requires voters to walk through the buildings to get to the polling stations, and security is not allowed to ask for identification.

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Greg Crimmins, CEO, co-founder and scientist at Remedy Plan

Say what you will about Gen-Xers, but the founders of Remedy Plan could just change the world.

Greg Crimmins, CEO and co-founder of Remedy Plan, is a molecular and cell biologist, working on a way to stop the spread of cancer.

Yes, you read that correctly. A way to stop cancer. That’s huge.

Though they’re not there yet, the plan is very much in place — “Stop the spread of cancer without stopping your life.”

With Vice President Joe Biden chairing the first meeting of the Cancer Moonshot Task Force in February, we are all reminded of the toll the deadly disease takes on its victims, their families and their friends. And any new perspectives are welcome in the battle to end the disease’s tyranny.

Departing from the traditional approach to cancer treatment, Remedy Plan won’t kill cancer cells. Crimmins said it will contain them so that they can’t spread.

Cancer cells, he explained, are actually cells that have regressed to an embryonic state and hold properties that are only present in the very early stages of human development.

“We’re not attaching molecular atomic bombs to try to kill any cells at all,” he said.

“We are targeting embryonic properties of cells which are not present in any healthy cells.”

Traditional cancer treatment. Image courtesy of Remedy Plan.
Traditional cancer treatment. Image courtesy of Remedy Plan.

Based on co-founder Ron Parchem’s research in embryonic stem cell biology and Crimmins’ background creating phenotypic screens, the former University of California, Berkeley classmates were able to develop a tool to easily identify the most dangerous cancer cells and to “measure quickly and effectively which drugs can remove the metastatic properties of cancer cells,” Crimmins said.

He talked about what it was like when he and his friend realized that they were on to something big.

“It was that moment where this sort of light gets flicked on, and everything that was dark all of a sudden, you can see it for a moment….” Crimmins said.

“The potential was so big, and the science was solid.”

Remedy Plan approach to cancer treatment. Image courtesy of Remedy Plan.
Remedy Plan approach to cancer treatment. Image courtesy of Remedy Plan.

So big and so solid, in fact, that Crimmins, 35, turned down a tenure-track position at the University of Maryland to pursue Remedy Plan and to begin screening drugs to determine the initial group of potential candidates.

While his wife Allison, an environmental scientist, started a new job at the Environmental Protection Agency in D.C., Crimmins spent about three months — and his savings — sleeping on a friend’s couch in San Francisco getting the project off the ground.

Crimmins and Parchem, a professor at Baylor College of Medicine, assembled an advisory team of scientists from Tufts School of Medicine, University of California, Berkeley and University of California, San Francisco Helen Diller Cancer Center.

To raise seed money for the project, the founders developed a business plan before going to investors, applying for grants and even launching an Indiegogo campaign.

While most people don’t exactly associate crowdfunding with a for-profit biotech start-up, the $102,925 the campaign raised was crucial to Crimmins being able to test 1,000 FDA-approved drugs.

Remedy plan technology uses fluorescent markers that change colors when certain parts of the DNA are “turned on” in a cell. Red marks the area in the cell where embryonic properties are present. This indicates how metastatic a cell is. When testing for potential drug candidates, a change from red to green or blue means the drug is reducing or “turning off” the metastatic properties. Courtesy Remedy Plan.
Remedy plan technology uses fluorescent markers that change colors when certain parts of the DNA are “turned on” in a cell. Red marks the area in the cell where embryonic properties are present. This indicates how metastatic a cell is. When testing for potential drug candidates, a change from red to green or blue means the drug is reducing or “turning off” the metastatic properties. Courtesy Remedy Plan.

“Part of doing a crowdfunding campaign is you’re pulling all of these people in. You’re letting them be a part of science,” said Allison Crimmins, who also functions as director of strategy for Remedy Plan.

“You have a responsibility too — you’ve got to maintain these updates or blog or something that lets them be a part of your successes and failures along the way,” she said.

Their more than 280 contributors helped them surpass their $100,000 goal and made it possible for Crimmins to leave his “day” job — he was a research fellow at the Food and Drug Administration — to open his lab in Rockville, MD earlier this winter.

Ultimately, they will need about $1.5 million and are continuing to approach angel investors. The funds will go toward hiring additional staff and testing drugs for safety and their ability to stop metastatic cancer in animal models. It will also go toward optimizing the chemistry of the drug candidates that are most likely to make the cut for clinical trials.

Though this could take a few years, Crimmins is in it for the long haul.

“This is something that could change the system of cancer treatment if we’re successful,” he said.


Cheryl Pedisich speaks at the podium after receiving the first-ever Administrator of the Year award from the New York State School Counselor Association. Photo by Andrea Moore Paldy

As New York State lawmakers wrapped up the budget last week, they approved the end of the Gap Elimination Adjustment, a measure that took money from school aid packages to supplement the state budget.

To the relief of school districts across the state, remaining Gap Elimination Adjustment funds will be restored to 2016-17 budgets.

For Three Village, which has lost $34.7 million to the GEA since its inception in 2009-10, the district will receive a total aid package of $46.5 million — a $6.6 million bump from last year. This amount includes the $3.3 million in restored funds, as well as a $2.9 million increase in building aid for the 2014 bond.

The district’s cap on the increase to the tax levy is 2.41 percent and will not require Three Village to cut programs to meet the cap. Instead, said Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services, the district will restore a number of positions. 

Speaking at last week’s school board meeting, Carlson said that at the secondary level, the district would bring back assistant coaches for junior varsity football and lacrosse, as well as for winter and spring track. These positions will enhance safety, supervision and instruction, he said.

At an earlier meeting, Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich said administrators would reassign 3.0 full-time equivalent (FTE) teaching positions to academic intervention services (AIS) at the elementary level and 1.6 FTEs at the secondary level to rebuild Ward Melville’s business department. There will also be a .4 FTE increase for American Sign Language. 

The board will adopt the budget for the upcoming school year at its April 13 meeting. The public vote will be on May 17. 

Also on the May ballot is a separate transportation proposition to eliminate minimum distance requirements for busing. The measure would allow the district to provide busing for all students.

Currently, all elementary students are bused. Junior high students must live at least a mile away from school and high schoolers a mile and a half away to get transportation. School administrators believe that offering transportation to all students will address safety concerns about narrow, winding streets without sidewalks and crossing busy roads like Nicolls Road. 

If the proposition passes, it would cost $160,000 to add two buses. The addition of the buses would generate $70,000 in transportation aid from the state, Carlson said. 

Taxpayers will also elect two trustees to the school board on May 17.  Following former board member Susanne Mendelson’s resignation last month, the board decided to keep the seat open until the May 17 vote.  Board president Bill Connors said the person with the highest votes would finish out Mendelson’s term, which ends June 30.   

In other financial news, district officials finalized a five-year contract with the Three Village Teachers Association. There will be no salary increase for the first year, 2016-2017, followed by a 1 percent raise each year after, as well as a 2.5 percent step increase for longevity for up to 30 years, Carlson said.

Department updates

The chairs of the foreign language departments at the three secondary schools gave an overview of the departments’ offerings, which now include American Sign Language in the ninth grade. The district also offers French, Italian and Spanish, beginning in seventh grade and continuing to the Advanced Placement level. 

The district hopes to add “one of the less commonly taught languages such as Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Farsi or Japanese” in the future, the administrators said. 

Social workers and school psychologists also outlined their roles within the school community. Each school has at least one full-time psychologist and a social worker, they said.  Dawn Mason, executive director of pupil personnel services, said district psychologists “partner with families and administrators and teachers to create safe, healthy, learning environments.”

Jeff Carlson outlines budget figures. Photo by Andrea Moore Paldy

As school districts begin to move into budget-planning season, the Three Village board will be making decisions with one less board member.

Susanne Mendelson, a trustee since 2010, resigned Wednesday night, saying she wanted to focus on her master’s program in speech language pathology. Her term expires at the end of June.

As far as the budget goes, the forecast looks good and will include staff increases. Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services, told school board members that there will be no reductions to programs and services in a bid to meet the cap on the tax levy increase.

While the cap for the 2016-17 year is 2.41 percent, state aid will increase by $4.4 million, Carlson said. Of that increase, $2.9 million is building aid that is tied to the district’s construction bond, which was passed in 2014. Carlson said that the final number on state aid usually increases with the approved state budget.

Even so, New York school districts are still losing aid to the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA), a measure that deducts money from aid packages to fund the state’s budget. Though the State Senate has voted to eliminate the GEA, the Assembly has yet to vote on the bill. Three Village expects to lose $2.3 million to the GEA for the coming school year. This is down from last year’s $3.3 million. Since the inception of the GEA, the district has lost $34.7 million in aid, which is about $2,576 for the average taxpayer, Carlson said.

He said the plan for next school year includes decreasing dependency on the assigned fund balance, money left over from the previous year and used as revenue to balance the current budget. Currently, $2 million is being used from the fund balance, a decrease from the previous year. Carlson explained that by decreasing the sum allocated from the assigned fund balance, the district will save more money to handle budgetary issues that might arise due to “tax cap issues.”

At the end of the 2015 fiscal year, the district had $17.4 million in its unassigned fund balance — a “rainy day” fund for emergencies — and restricted funds — money designated for specific uses such as workers compensation and unemployment insurance funds.

The continued decline in enrollment at the elementary level — the district anticipates 110 to 120 fewer students — means that 3.0 full-time equivalent (FTE) teaching positions will be reassigned to math academic intervention services (AIS), based on need, at the five elementary schools, Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich said.

The secondary level will see an increase of 1.6 FTE positions to rebuild the business department and put back courses such as virtual enterprises and web design. Those “reflect 21st century learning,” Pedisich said. There will also be a .4 increase for American Sign Language.

Additionally, the district plans to add computer science instruction and writing centers at both junior highs. Pedisich said the approximately 60-student decline will mean that existing staff can cover the new programs. The writing center at the high school will get additional staff, a .4 FTE increase. The district will also bring in a technology lead and a special education mentor/behavioral consultant.  Neither of those positions will require additional staffing.

Other staffing changes include a floating nurse — one FTE — an assistant director of facilities, and an addition of 2 FTEs for clerical staff.

Carlson explained that improvements to buildings and property are excluded from the tax cap so that they don’t compete with educational programs. Proposed projects for the next school budget year include reconfiguring the Setauket Elementary School bus loop for better traffic flow, adding air conditioners to the elementary school auditoriums and junior high cafeterias and a generator at W.S. Mount Elementary School.

The budget is set to be adopted on April 13 and the hearing is scheduled for May 4. The public will vote on the budget and select a replacement for Mendelson on May 17.

Mendelson read her resignation letter early in the meeting.

“I have always valued public education and have worked enthusiastically to help ensure that the students of today and tomorrow will have at least — if not more than — what my peers and I were privileged to experience here in Three Village,” she said as she read her letter.

“I must lead by example, and make my own education paramount at this time.”

Mendelson, who has a son in junior high, promised to remain involved with the district as both a parent and a member of the community.

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State Assemblyman Steve Englebright, right, is applauded after paying a surprise visit to the Three Village board of education meeting last week in honor of Gary Vorwald. Photo by Andrea Moore Paldy

The science department chair at P. J. Gelinas Junior High School received special recognition at the most recent Three Village board of education meeting.

Gary Vorwald has taught science in Three Village since 1997 and has led the Gelinas Science Olympiad team to several championships. He also has received awards in his own right. Among them, he was named a New York State master teacher in 2015. In the same year, the New York Earth Science Teachers Association gave him its first Distinguished Earth Science Teacher award.

In Vorwald’s honor, State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket)paid a surprise visit during the board meeting. The Gelinas science teacher and paleontologist had just completed a presentation on the secondary science curriculum with colleagues Marnie Kula and Patrick McManus.

Englebright praised Vorwald.

“He has brought distinction to his work, but that’s not what he tried to do,” said the assemblyman, who also is a geologist and lecturer at Stony Brook University.

“What he tried to do is bring opportunities for learning for our children. The other things just happened because he was successful in bringing out the best. … He’s a scientist as well as a teacher. We’re so very fortunate that he brought his mastery of science and his unquenchable desire to learn as an inspiration for our kids.”

During their curriculum presentation, Vorwald and his colleagues emphasized dedication to science instruction.

“We want to keep kids jazzed about science,” said Kula, Ward Melville High School science and InSTAR chair.

The department’s goal, she said, is to help students to be hands-on, active learners.

“I’m happy to say that science is alive and well in Three Village,” Kula said, mentioning the district’s Regents scores, which surpass the state’s pass and mastery rates.

She added that while students are only required to take one physical and one life science for an Advanced Regents diploma, 60 to 65 percent of each graduating class exceeds the minimum requirements by taking both chemistry and physics.

Ward Melville offers every AP science course available, as well as several science electives that include astronomy, consumer chemistry and forensics.

Perhaps the best-known program at the high school is its three-year Independent Science Technology and Research (InSTAR) program. Its participants have received numerous honors in competitions such as The DuPont Challenge, Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision, Siemens and the Intel Science Talent Search.

Opportunities for students to engage in science outside the classroom include the Robotics team at the high school and Science Olympiad and Science Bowl at all three schools. Students can also take part in beach cleanups and partnerships with Stony Brook University and the Brookhaven National Lab Open Space Stewardship program.

Vorwald said that the district’s science educators are preparing for an update in science standards. He explained that New York is developing new standards, based on Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), a framework for K-12 science education. New York state science teachers are providing feedback “to tweak and modify” the standards, he said, adding that the edits will be submitted to the Board of Regents for possible adoption this spring.

Once the new standards are adopted, the department will develop a new curriculum. McManus, science chair at R.C. Murphy Junior High School, said additional goals are to bring coding to the junior high schools and to continue to bring more technology and upper-level advanced courses to the classroom.

English as a New Language

Perhaps less well known is the district’s English as a New Language (ENL) program, previously known as English as a Second Language. This program provides specialized instruction to English language learners at Nassakeag Elementary School, Gelinas and Ward Melville.

The district differentiates instruction according to proficiency level. There are “stand-alone” classes that follow the research-based Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol model. This means students learn English and develop academic skills to prepare them for success in a non-ENL classroom. Integrated classrooms offer grade-level instruction in English taught either by a teacher certified in English and ENL or taught with a co-teacher.

As of December 2015, the district has a total of 55 ENL students. Forty-seven percent of the district’s ENL students speak Spanish as their “home” language, while 25 percent speak Chinese and 9 percent, Korean. Other “home” languages include Russian, Japanese, Gujarati, Lithuanian, Greek, Tagalog, French and Hebrew.

Board Policy

In other news, the board voted to allow the use of district credit cards.

District credit cards will be used mostly for maintenance projects, said Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services. He said the cards would be used for purchases from stores such as Lowes and Home Depot, so that workers wouldn’t have to travel for parts.

The use of district credit cards represents a significant policy change.

“At a different time in our history in Three Village, we specifically established a policy that forbade the use of credit cards because there had been abuses,” BOE head Bill Connors said.

“We’re at a very different time. Plus we have the checks and balances in place now that we didn’t have back at a different time in our history.”

Carlson’s office will review disbursements monthly. The district has an internal auditor and a claims auditor who will also review the records.

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Cheryl Pedisich speaks at the podium after receiving the first-ever Administrator of the Year award from the New York State School Counselor Association. Photo by Andrea Moore Paldy

Three Village and other districts recently received the results of an audit conducted by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli of the 2014-15 finances relating to the district’s fuel inventory management.

The comprehensive, six-month review of the district’s 2014-15 finances found that the fuel inventory was “overstated by 452 gallons of gasoline and 297 gallons of diesel fuel, with a total value of $1,725.” 

That was a finding after a review of documents related to the district’s financial policies and procedures, including cash disbursements, payroll, fund balance and reserve management, cash flow to vendors, budget revenues and expenditures, among others.

Three Village board’s Audit Committee Chair Jonathan Kornreich said the state audit’s report accounts for nine-millionth of the district’s $188 million budget and amounts to about 2 gallons of gas per week.   

Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Jeff Carlson, who said he was “pretty happy” with the audit, added that the district has already addressed the comptroller’s recommendations.

The comptroller recommends that the board write procedures for reconciliation of fuel, that the inventory be reconciled more frequently and that odometer readings on trucks be entered before fuel is dispensed. Additionally, the state suggests that Three Village “address any physical security concerns of the fueling station,” such as repositioning security cameras. 

Changing Ward Melville?
In other news from Wednesday’s meeting, board trustee Jeff Kerman raised an uncomfortable issue involving a local legend. Kerman said he wants the board to consider having the district’s attorneys look into whether it is feasible to change the name of Ward Melville High school.

“I’m a little concerned about the name of our high school being named after an anti-Semite and named after a racist person,” Kerman told the board.

He said that Melville’s refusal to let Jews rent shops in the village or sell houses to blacks and Jews is not acceptable in today’s age.

This was the first time the topic has been broached. There were no public comments or discussion from the board.

Three Village superintendent collects major honor
Three Village teachers, administrators and staff gathered at the North Country Administration building last Wednesday to honor Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich.

Pedisich is the recipient of the first-ever Administrator of the Year award from the New York State School Counselor Association.

“We’ve realized how fortunate we are to have a truly outstanding educational leader,” School Board President Bill Connors said.

“It really is wonderful when an outside group comes and also affirms our own view of the superintendent and affirms the outstanding leadership that she’s provided.”

Pedisich, who had been nominated by Linda Bergson, coordinating guidance chairperson for the district, said she was honored to receive the award from an organization that represented her “origins as an educator.”   

The superintendent’s 32-year career in Three Village began at Ward Melville High School as a guidance counselor. That is, in fact, how she and Bergson first met — Bergson’s son was one of the students Pedisich counseled.   

Bergson read her nominating letter at Wednesday’s school board meeting. In it, she described Pedisich’s leadership as collaborative and respectful.  The school superintendent is a wonderful listener, she said.

“And if she asks you to do something, she will always offer to help you accomplish it,” Bergson said.

Besides being detail-oriented and taking a “holistic” approach to problem-solving, “her work product is impeccable,” Bergson’s letter said.

Pedisich was selected from administrators statewide by a five-member committee, said NYSSCA President Barbara Donnellan, who attended the meeting with Executive Director Robert Rotunda to present the award to the Three Village superintendent.   

She is a leader “who provides outstanding support to school counselors,” Donnellan said.

Pedisich’s counseling background is apparent in the way she works with students, parents, teachers and staff, Bergson said. She is able to find the right words to handle a situation and never makes anyone feel as though they’re taking up too much time, she added. Most impressive, though, is how Pedisich, who has been superintendent since 2012, acknowledges what people do and validates and praises their efforts, she said.

“It’s funny to watch her walk down the hall when she’s in the high school for a meeting, because she says hello to everyone by name — teachers, administrators, custodians, secretaries, security — she doesn’t just say hello, but she asks them questions that show that she knows them personally,” Bergson said.

Visibly touched, Pedisich thanked the “dedicated, skilled and talented” district staff, Three Village parents who are “invested in our children” and the school board, which she said “respects and values and demonstrates positive regard for all of its constituency.”

“I would not be in this position or the educator I am if it wasn’t for the people with whom I have worked,” she said.   

“I am incredibly indebted to all of you… This will definitely be one of the most special and indelible moments of my career.”

This version corrects the number of years Cheryl Pedisich has worked in the Three Village school district.

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Laura McNamara, math chair at P.J. Gelinas Junior High School, discusses how classes will change once they are officially aligned with the Common Core Learning Standards. Photo by Andrea Moore Paldy

As Three Village continues to align its curriculum with the Common Core, its secondary math chairs recently shared how the district’s courses will help students meet the new challenges.

Donald Ambrose, math chair at Ward Melville High School, pointed out that the objective of Common Core math is not simply to get the answer. “It’s examining the nuances” and having a deeper understanding of the numbers and their relationships, he said at last week’s board meeting.

“It’s definitely a lot more that’s going to be expected of our students,” he said.

Across the board, there is a greater focus on fewer topics, along with greater understanding and fluency, said Laura McNamara, math chair at P.J. Gelinas Junior High. McNamara laid out the curriculum in detail from seventh grade to Algebra II.

While students will learn to link math principles across grades, it will not be at the expense of broader understanding. In the shift toward greater alignment to the Common Core, students are being asked to “make sense of problems and persevere in solving them,” Ambrose said.

During the presentation, Ambrose explained that additional expectations for Common Core math include the application of abstract and quantitative reasoning, building logical mathematical arguments and critiquing the logic of others. Ambrose added that students should be able to understand mathematical operations well enough to apply them to real-life situations and use appropriate tools to solve problems. The more rigorous approach calls for precision, an understanding of structure and higher-level reasoning, he said.

To achieve these goals, the district’s two junior high schools offer a variety of classes for students at varying levels. They range from lab classes for seventh and eighth graders who need additional support, to standard math, honors and honors theory classes, along with Regents Algebra I and Geometry.

R.C. Murphy math chair, Rocco Vetro spoke about the importance of vertical integration — that is, fluidity from elementary school to junior high. To achieve this goal the seventh grades are now piloting Go Math!, the curriculum recently adopted in the elementary schools. Vetro also discussed the district’s efforts to provide professional development to help teachers implement the more rigorous standards.

At Ward Melville, in addition to the three Regents courses — Algebra I and II and Geometry — the high school offers several Advanced Placement (AP) courses, including Calculus, statistics and computer science. Multivariable calculus, which qualifies for college credit from Stony Brook University, also is being offered. For students who complete multivariable calculus before their senior year, the math department plans to develop a course on differential equations for 2017, Ambrose said.

The district’s high school students have traditionally outperformed their counterparts in the state on all three math Regents exams, both in passing rates and, most particularly, in mastery rates. As the Regents and AP exams become aligned to the new standards, Three Village educators have set a goal of increasing the already high levels of student mastery. 

Moving forward, long term goals include adding more upper level courses, as well as continued vertical articulation between elementary, junior high and high school levels and further integration of classroom technology.

Joanna Cadolino, English chair at P.J. Gelinas Junior High School, talks about the future of Three Village’s teaching strategies of less memorization and more critical thinking. Photo by Andrea Moore Paldy

A common theme regularly voiced by Three Village educators is the desire to produce “lifelong learners,” and its emphasis was underscored by English language arts educators during a recent school board meeting.

While the “Literature to Literacy” presentation by the district’s secondary level English chairs outlined changes to the English curriculum in the continued alignment to Common Core Learning Standards, Ward Melville High School English chair Brian McAuliffe noted that some are not new to Three Village.

Developing student vocabulary, along with an emphasis on close readings and critical thinking, are skills that are being developed in all disciplines, particularly in social studies and science, he said.

“In effect, we are all literacy teachers,” McAuliffe said.

He told the school board that students will be reading a balanced amount of fiction and nonfiction across the entire academic curriculum, adding that teachers “are very loathe to give up their beloved literature, and they don’t have to.”

The difference is that units will no longer be defined by one text — rather they will focus more on “intertextuality.” That means students will work with a central or “fulcrum text,” such as a novel, that will be supplemented by “texture” texts like poetry and nonfiction reading.

Those who attended the board meeting also heard that there would be an emphasis on close readings and the use of evidence from texts to support assertions and analysis. Students will also learn to analyze and write arguments, as well as deconstruct texts using literary and rhetorical devices, develop oral communication skills and be taught proper grammar and punctuation.

The emphasis on written skills is supported by the Lucy Calkins Units of Study for Writing from kindergarten to the eighth grade. Cathy Duffy, chair of English at R.C. Murphy Junior High, said this is the second year that the seventh and eighth grades are using the program. Students will have opportunities to practice writing, receive feedback and do revisions so that, at the end of the school year, they will have a portfolio of their three major writing projects. The portfolio will be passed on to the next teacher, who will use it to assess where the student’s writing focus should be for the coming year, Duffy explained.

In addition to final exams and the ELA state assessments, seventh and eighth graders will take a Scholastic Reading Inventory (SRI) assessment. It is a computer-based test that allows teachers to monitor students’ reading comprehension and select appropriate reading material.

Joanna Cadolino, English chair at P.J. Gelinas Junior High School, added that for ninth graders, the curriculum would continue to move away from memorization and toward more critical thinking. Additionally, ninth graders will explore speech writing, public speaking and research writing, which will require the evaluation and synthesis of source material at the honors level.

McAuliffe said that this year’s junior class would be the first to take the new English Regents exam. Changes include longer, more complex texts, as well as a section in which students will have to take a position on an argument and support it with evidence from provided texts.

Though he noted “a great deal of uncertainty” about the new exam, he said he was optimistic.

“We’re not working in isolation,” he said, adding that students have had good preparation from the previous grades.

The increased rigor of Regents-level courses will mean that Ward Melville will no longer offer an 11th grade Honors ELA class.

Students can take either a Regents-level course, or AP English Language and Composition.

The high school will also offer new electives, including news literacy, poetry of hip hop and sports literature.