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.

An independent auditor has given Three Village School District a clean financial bill of health.

The pronouncement at a recent meeting came from Dave Spara, of Toski & Co., who said the district’s financial position is “sound” as a result of “prudent and judicious budgeting.”

In his report, Spara said that at the close of the last fiscal year, the district held $20 million in its fund balance — an amount he called “adequate” for a school district.

About $10 million of the fund balance is in reserves, which Spara said is “good, not overboard and not low.” He added that it complies with state regulations for the amount of money a district can hold in its fund balance — no more than 4 percent of the next year’s budget.

The district’s reserves are basically enough to get the district, which spends approximately $1 million a day, through a week, he said.

“That’s something that we’ve tried to do over the years,” said Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services. “Keep a modest amount that will cover us in the event of some emergency, but not too much.”

Last year, the district drew down $600,000 from its balance, not a large sum for a budget of a little more than $180 million, Spara said.

In other financial matters, Carlson clarified that $17,554 — stated in a previous district report as the amount spent per student —was a number generated by the state to express “instructional spending per pupil.” The figure does not include expenses in other areas, such as busing, construction or other projects, he said.

It would be more accurate, Carlson said, to divide the district’s total spending per year by its enrollment. Based on the current enrollment, the average spending per pupil would be closer to $29,000, he said.

Taking numbers from the 2014-15 school year for Long Island school districts, Carlson said the average spending per student was $26,402. Sixty of the 124 districts on the Island fall within 10 percent — either above or below — of the average. Forty-three districts are above the 10 percent average and 24 are below, he said.

Social Studies
In other news, Three Village also announced plans to forge ahead with an updated social studies curriculum in all grades.

Despite the attention on “testing subjects” — English language arts (ELA) and math — social studies is getting attention in Three Village, district officials said.

“This, right now, is the time for social studies,” said Paul Gold, social studies director for grades K-12, as he outlined some of the curriculum changes and upgrades.

At the elementary level, the third grade will now be exposed to the culture, religions and politics of China.

“We want to give students the same opportunities here that other students are getting around the world,” Gold said.

Fifth grade students will focus on the Western Hemisphere, Latin American studies and North America, while doing comparative analysis.

At the junior high level, Gold said, social studies teachers will work toward more differentiation between the Regents level and honors level social studies classes, so that honors courses are “more rigorous.”

The current eight graders will be the first to take the new global history and geography Regents exams in 10th and 11th grades.

AP U.S. and World History curricula and exams will also be undergoing change.

“We are way ahead of the curve state-wide for getting kids and teachers so prepared for what’s to come,” Gold said.

Jack Blaum speaks at a Three Village board of education meeting. File photo

In the years since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting — a horror further punctuated by recent college shootings — safety continues to be a top priority for Three Village school officials.

Security & Safety coordinator Jack Blaum detailed the district’s efforts at a recent school board meeting. The past year has seen the installation of vestibules in school lobbies, card key entryways, emergency training for staff and safety drills with students during school hours.

Blaum said an analysis of the recent shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon reveals that such tragedies have three things in common: motive, means and opportunity.

“The one thing we have total control over is opportunity,” Blaum said, last Wednesday. “The opportunity is keeping our buildings closed when we’re in session.”

That is ensured by posting additional full-day security officers at each elementary school, as well as an additional full-day and half-day officer at the junior highs, he said. Security guards are also posted at each entrance to the high school.

The security staff — which is made up of either active or retired law enforcement personnel — checks visitors who must enter an enclosed vestibule before entering a building. Greeters are responsible for late arrivals, early dismissals and helping visitors once they’ve been allowed to enter.

Blaum said that he and his team would begin to train district staff to use the CrisisManager app, which holds the district’s protocol for dealing with different crises. The app offers the advantage of being easier to reference during a real crisis than a paper flow chart, Blaum explained. Parents and students can also download the free app.

In other details, Blaum said the district is constructing a “command center,” with 11 video monitors at the back of the North Country Administration Building. He said the center would make it easier for the superintendent to monitor incidents remotely and help with any investigations.

Across the district, emergency phones — “bat phones,” according to Blaum — connect directly to the Suffolk County police communications supervisor in Yaphank.

“Lockdown buttons,” located throughout each building, will trigger an automated lockdown message, disable key card access to all but emergency personnel and set off sirens and a blue strobe light to alert those outside the building that the school is on lockdown.

Besides the additional cameras installed throughout the district, including the Ward Melville High School football field, there is also a law enforcement presence on weekends and holidays, Blaum said.

Though the district’s advantage is in controlling opportunity, Blaum emphasized the importance of recognizing and reporting changes in student or staff behavior. He reminded the community to use the Safe School Helpline to report safety concerns.

“If you take out one part of motive, means and opportunity, the shooting can’t happen,” he said.

As mandated by the State Education Department, building emergency plans and layouts have been filed with New York State police and distributed to Suffolk County police and the Setauket and Stony Brook Fire Departments.

Buses for all

In another move aimed at student safety, the district will provide busing for everyone. Currently, Three Village provides busing for all elementary school students, but not for junior high students who live less than a mile from school or high schoolers less than a mile and a half away.

“It is the single biggest complaint,” assistant superintendent for business services Jeff Carlson said.

He pointed specifically to the danger posed to students crossing Nicolls Road to get to R.C. Murphy Junior High School. He also mentioned those who have to walk along Christian Avenue, Quaker Path or Mudd Road — which have no sidewalks— to P.J. Gelinas Junior High School. There is also an issue of safety for high school students walking along Sheep Pasture Road, he said.

The three additional buses would cost $220,000, but transportation aid from the state would be around $100,000, he said. With more state aid to further lower the cost, the increase to the tax levy would be around $10,000, Carlson said.

Residents must vote on an amendment to the busing guidelines in a proposition that is separate from the budget.

The school board unanimously voted to add the proposition to the May ballots.

“That’s our duty, our obligation to keep all our students safe,” said board trustee Jeff Kerman, who seemed to sum up the sentiments of his colleagues.

Preschool students enjoy the newly installed playground at Nassakeag Elementary School. Photo by Andrea Moore Paldy

Little ones burned off energy as they played on the newly installed playground just outside their classroom.

Inside, little chefs whipped up imaginary creations in a play kitchen, while a few yards away, eager fingers grasped crayons, poised for writing.

This was a typical morning for preschoolers at Nassakeag Elementary School, where the Three Village Central School District is partnering with SCOPE Education Services to offer a tuition-based prekindergarten for 4-year-olds. 

Like most preschools, the day starts with a morning meeting and includes lessons in literacy as well as art. There are learning centers and outdoor play.

Kristin Rimmer, Nassakeag assistant principal and prekindergarten liaison, said what makes this program stand out — in a community with no shortage of preschools — is its role in easing students’ transition to kindergarten.

“We have an understanding of what the expectations are in our kindergarten programs,” Rimmer said.

Rimmer, who began her career as a kindergarten teacher, said she worked with the district’s kindergarten, first and second grade teachers to develop a curriculum that emphasizes the skills students will need in the early elementary grades. She then collaborated with SCOPE, which runs several universal prekindergartens and fee-based programs across the island, to create a curriculum specific to the needs of future Three Village students.   

“We’re really giving them those building blocks in this program that they can use to transition up into the kindergarten program,” she said.

For instance, the preschool uses “Fundations,” the same phonics program used in Three Village primary grades. Rimmer added that New York State-certified teachers, hired and supervised by SCOPE, use multi-sensory approaches to guide students in a way that is developmentally appropriate and fosters creativity as well as social and emotional growth.

“Though there is an academic focus, the way that we are delivering that instruction is through play and through interactive activities,” she said.

SCOPE, which offers programs in neighboring Comsewogue, Commack and Hauppauge, handles the staffing, licensing and day-to-day operation of the preschool. Tuition payments — $400 a month for half-day and $1,100 for full day — are paid to SCOPE.

Mellisa Krauss, supervisor for prekindergarten programs at SCOPE, said the organization “had great administrative support to implement and maintain” the program.

“We collaborate on all aspects. It’s a team effort,” she said.

Krauss said there are currently 29 students enrolled in the new prekindergarten.  Of that number 18 attend half-day, 8:15 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. or 11:45 a.m. to 2:15 p.m., and 11 are in the full-day program that runs from 8:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. Parents can extend the day by enrolling their children in school-aged childcare for an additional fee.   

The preschool follows the Three Village school calendar, which means it issues progress reports and holds parent-teacher conferences on the district’s schedule. Rimmer said that information from the quarterly assessments would be used to measure the strengths of the program and determine what improvements can be made.

The district spent $24,000 on the purchase of  playground equipment for the preschool. The funds came out of the district’s portion of the Smart Schools Bond, money earmarked for learning technology and prekindergarten spaces, said Jeffrey Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services.

Rimmer said early entrée to the Three Village school community provides the opportunity to identify students who may need additional help and to help parents get special services that might be needed. 

Since the preschool is open to Three Village residents and children of district staff, families are invited to join the Nassakeag PTA and to take part in the school’s upcoming harvest festival.

Though the program is a little more than a month old, the addition of a three-year-old program will be considered if there’s a need, Rimmer said.

Kevin Scanlon, assistant superintendent for educational services, delivers a presentation. Photo by Andrea Moore Paldy

Enrollment in the Three Village school district has hit a historic low.

That’s some of the news Kevin Scanlon, assistant superintendent for educational services, delivered at the district’s second school board meeting in the new school year. His numerical snapshot of the district also included state assessment and Regents scores, as well as statistics for the Class of 2015.

Kevin Scanlon, assistant superintendent for educational services, delivers a presentation. Photo by Andrea Moore Paldy
Kevin Scanlon, assistant superintendent for educational services, delivers a presentation. Photo by Andrea Moore Paldy

Enrollment, Scanlon said, has been declining steadily by about 200 students each year. Current enrollment is 6,472 compared to 6,723 last school year. With 348 students, this year’s kindergarten is little more than half the size of last year’s graduating class, he said.

Scanlon said, though, that the district is taking advantage of declining enrollment to decrease class sizes in elementary grades and reduce study halls in the secondary schools. In an interview following the meeting, the assistant superintendent added that Three Village has been able to appoint a STEM teacher at each of the elementary schools.

Even as student numbers go down, the poverty rate has climbed a percentage point to 7 percent. Scanlon’s report also indicated that district spending per student has increased from $16,137 to $17,554.

On a more controversial matter, Scanlon reported that the refusal rate in this year’s state tests for third- through eighth-grade students was 58 percent for English language arts and 57 percent for math.

Of those who opted out of ELA this year, 48 percent had passed it in 2014. Those who opted out of math this year and took it in 2014 had a 59 percent pass rate last year.

Though the Three Village 2015 ELA results reflect only 42 percent of students in the testing grades, the pass rate jumped in all grades, increasing between 4.15 and 12.7 percentage points, a comparison of the two years shows. The highest pass rate was 61.9 percent in eighth grade.

The passing rate on the math exams, which reflected 43 percent of students in the grades tested, also saw gains. Fourth grade had the largest increase — 11.16 percentage points — and a 77.2 percent pass rate.

Scanlon said that there was a 3.93 percentage point drop in the eighth-grade math results because the majority of eighth-graders took the Algebra Regents exams instead of the eighth-grade state test.

The 2015 assessment and Regents report showed that all scores in both disciplines were well above the New York state, Long Island, Nassau County and Suffolk County averages. New York state averages for all students were 31.3 percent for ELA and 38.1 percent for math.

When compared to neighboring districts — Commack, Half Hollow Hills, Hauppauge, Northport and Smithtown — Three Village’s ELA scores surpassed other districts in all grades except seventh. Seventh-grade scores were only 0.1 percentage point lower than the second highest-scoring district. Three Village’s math scores were either first or second in all grades, except for eighth.

Algebra students took both the old integrated algebra and the Common Core-aligned Algebra I exams. Scanlon said the higher of the two scores will be used on transcripts. The report showed that except for geometry, there was a dip in the math Regents scores. Pass rates remained high — in the 90s — for science, history and social studies Regents.

In other good news, the class of 2015 maintained the district’s 99 percent graduation rate and had a 95 percent college acceptance rate. This year also saw the highest number of Advanced Placement scholars ever, Scanlon said. The 293 students received the honor based on the number of AP exams they took and their average score, he explained. This number includes current students, as well as those who graduated last June.

In other news, the board voted on two new administrative appointments: Anthony Pollera, who has been a music teacher with the district since 2002, was named coordinating chairperson of music; and Marnie Kula, Ward Melville science chair since 2008, added InSTAR program coordinator to her responsibilities following the retirement of George Baldo.

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Parenting, that is

Much anticipation surrounds the arrival of a new baby. Photo by Andrea Paldy

When you see a headline claiming parenthood is worse than divorce, unemployment or the death of a partner  — check out the August 11 edition of The Washington Post — you can’t turn away. You have to keep reading.

Even if the article turns out not to be quite what the headline implies, it’s definitely an attention grabber, because no matter how lacking in sleep or how many Legos you’ve collected from random places, in what feels like an endless loop, the notion that parenthood is worse than some pretty traumatic life events is kind of offensive.

Though it sounds like the study is saying having children makes people unhappy, what the researchers Rachel Margolis and Mikko Myrskyla are really saying is that parents’ first go around with baby #1 can influence the choice to have a second.

Oh. Well, that makes more sense.

In fact, the longitudinal study, conducted on German couples three years before the birth of a first child and at least two years after the birth, doesn’t actually compare parenthood to unemployment, divorce or the death of a partner, at all. But, it does, The Washington Post said, use the same happiness scale that has been used to measure such milestones. Even so, the deck seems pretty stacked if you’re measuring parenthood by that first year.

I mean, you’re talking about desperately sleep-deprived adults who are faced with the highest stakes responsibility of their lives! With no previous experience, I might add. Sorry, but babysitting in high school does not count. Not to mention the isolation, decisions about careers, childcare and worrying about how and where to pump if you are going back to work. And on a less dire, but still psychically stressful note, there is deciding what to wear to work, since it’s pretty unlikely the pre-baby era wardrobe will be making a reappearance.

What I liked about the study is that it actually acknowledges the effect that those issues — along with difficulties during pregnancy, giving birth or breastfeeding — have on that first year. It’s hard! And as the researchers mention, childrearing is “continuous and intense” and can be especially challenging without experience or social support.

The study finds that parents reported the highest well-being either right before the baby is born or right after, but that the biggest drop-off in well-being occurs within that first year after the birth. The researchers also found that among its participants, those who decided to have a second child had “a smaller drop in well-being in the year after the birth” of their first child and “gained more in life satisfaction around the time of a first child’s birth” than those who chose not to have a second child. Again, this seems pretty logical.

And unlike all of the blogs and books and things meant to ease newbies into their roles, the study does note the importance of social support in that first year. Grandparents, of course, are invaluable, because they’ve done it all before. They can see the big picture, which at the very beginning is so hard to see. They love us and they love their grandkids and they have tons of patience. (More than they had when we were kids).

Friendships with other parents are also key. It sounds simplistic and can be rather difficult to do with short parental leaves that barely grant enough time to bond with and enjoy the baby, but there is much to be said for being able to talk to someone who has experienced what you have recently or is making some of the same discoveries you are. When a good college friend came to visit a week after my first was born, she allayed many of my anxious, new-mom concerns about whether I was doing it right, because she had just been there and done that.

Even as the children grow and you grow into your role, it’s good to have those friends with whom you can swap stories, advice, children’s clothing and even emergency childcare. It can also mean lifelong friendships for the children too. And if it gets hard, it’s okay to say it’s hard, because you’ll probably hear that you’re not the only one feeling that way.

There is no question that becoming a parent is a joyous and transformative experience with a steep learning curve. And as any parent knows, you never stop learning or worrying about getting it “right.”

Whether it’s those lifelong friends transitioning with you or new ones you make along the way, having that support can make a difference. Because, everyone needs a little help from their friends. Especially when it comes to raising children.

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Air-conditioned fun

"Cinderella's Glass Slipper" is running at the Smithtown Performing Arts Center through August 23. Photo from Smithtown Performing Arts Center

It’s really hot out there and lugging the kids, the water bottles and the snacks can be enough to bring on the whining — from you, as much as from them. So, let’s bring on the air-conditioning with some fun indoor activities.


Nothing livens up the day like a little live theatah! And the kids love hobnobbing with the cast afterwards during the meet and greets.

Theatre Three in Port Jefferson, known for its great children’s productions, is putting on “Jack and the Beanstalk” on Friday and Saturdays through August 6 and “The Pied Piper” from August 7 to August 15. Not only is the price right —$10 a ticket —it’s just the right length to keep the littlest kids from squirming. And after the show, you can grab lunch or an ice cream or even have tea at The Secret Garden nearby!

For more information, go to

The Smithtown Performing Arts Center also puts on children’s productions performed by young adults. “Cinderella’s Glass Slipper” is running from July 27 to August 23 on Saturdays and Sundays. These tickets are a little more pricey at $15 per ticket.

There’s a shopping center adjacent to the theater with many lunch-time offerings, but that’s if you get that far, since an Italian ice stand is just one door away…

For more information, go to

Museum Row in Garden City

One of the most underrated destinations on the island, in my opinion, is the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City. From the moment you enter the glass-encased lobby, you are greeted with airplanes — a Blue Angel jet, for one — dangling from the high ceilings. Before entering the galleries, the kids can enjoy the playroom, complete with a life-size space shuttle and cockpit with buttons and levers to push and experiments to conduct. The kids also love to pretend to be airline passengers in the airline seats —taken from a real airplane — and in the remains of a real galley with pretend food.

Once you’ve dragged the kids from the playroom — and believe me, they’ll need to be dragged, even the nine-year-olds who are technically too old for the play area —you can hit the galleries, which give a history of flight and space. While the first few exhibits explain concepts like “lift,” the majority of the displays feature real airplane cockpits, military jets, a pontoon plane along with flight memorabilia from the World Wars and the early passenger jet days.

Some of the other highlights — really, there are too many to name — include a Blue Angels motion simulator ride, a lunar module prototype, as well as a replica of the lunar module that brought Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon.

Other museum offerings, at an additional cost, are a space-themed café with hot dogs and other such snacks, a Firefighter’s Museum and a planetarium and Imax theater. This museum is definitely a personal favorite, and it’s open everyday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Labor Day. For more information, go to the website at

Just next door to the airplane museum is Nunley’s Carousel. We always try to stop in on our way from the museum. For $2 each, you and your children can take a turn on this classic, old-fashioned merry-go-round. Check the website before you leave home for the hours!

Many are familiar with the wonders of the Long Island Children’s Museum. From it’s Tots Spot play area where the kids can pretend to drive a Long Island Railroad train, be commercial fisherman or climb to the top of the lighthouse and slide down, to its musical instrument exhibit, this is a museum that caters to all ages.

While some of the most popular exhibits are the bubbles, the “beach” area — the sand has a real allure during the winter — and the two-story climbing structure, there are a host of activities to keep the kids entertained. Many of the more sophisticated exhibits such as the building blocks and displays on communication and music are upstairs.

There is a lunchroom with vending machines, and, of course, the café over at the Cradle of Aviation. The museum is open every day until September 7, 2015 and closed on Mondays after. For more information, go to the website


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Kailen Rosenberg shares the power of love

Kailen Rosenberg with Oprah Winfrey on the reality show "Lovetown, USA." Photo by The Love Architects

Huey Lewis — yes, I am so going there — had a song about the power of love. He said it could “make a bad one good, a wrong one right.” And though it’s just a song – from the ‘80s, no less – the sentiment is not all that different from that of celebrity love architect Kailen Rosenberg.

Yes, you read that right, celebrity love architect.

Known for bringing people together, Kailen Rosenberg has worked with thousands of clients over the past 20 years as more than a mere matchmaker. She worked her magic with Paul Carrick Bunson on Oprah’s award-winning reality show, “Lovetown, USA,” on OWN — the Oprah Winfrey Network. She turned Kingsland, Georgia, once plagued by resentment and disagreement, into a harmonious town that thrived on love.

As her husband, a homebuilder, pointed out, Kailen is a love architect because she treats relationships as structures to be built on and added to with love. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

The foundation of lasting relationships, Kailen says, are people who are healed, healthy and whole. “We can all make a tremendous shift in our world just by being gentle with our words and gentle in our thoughts,” she added during a recent telephone conversation.

Hmm. We might want to pass that on to some Facebook posters.

So how do we increase the love energy in our lives? Maybe get off Twitter and Facebook for starters. Okay, so Kailen didn’t exactly say that, but she does have a website called, a barometer of sorts. It can rate a city’s love or hatred based on tweets from people living there. Cool, right?

The idea behind it, says Kailen, who lives in Minnesota, is for people to see the power of positive (or negative) energy. She’s seen the proof played out in the Super Bowl. It’s actually happened that a team playing for a city with a higher love quotient has beaten one with less love, even though the team wasn’t favored to win! So much for the trash talk.

Kailen Rosenberg. Photo by The Love Architects
Kailen Rosenberg is the author of the book Real Love, Right Now, available this month from Howard Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster. Photo by The Love Architects

The mother of three sons hopes to do more with the site, which her husband of 13 years built for her. Of course,  with finishing her book Real Love, Right Now and shooting a new reality show, “Stewarts and Hamiltons,” for the E! Network, Kailen has been pretty busy!

Meanwhile, Kailen, who has a master’s-level certification as a life coach, has other ways to stoke love in all the relationships in our lives.

“We spend a lot of time in life lying to ourselves by not listening to our voice,” Kailen says.

“We lose parts of ourselves because we become someone other than who we’re meant to be.”

This is why when she works with clients, singles, couples and families, she “digs deep” — 100 layers deep — to get to the heart of a person to uncover who the person truly is.  This work is important for helping clients understand why they react in ways that can lead them to disconnect from their loved ones.

Kailen, who exuded nothing but warmth and sincerity throughout our phone conversation, recommended that families come together every week “for a meeting of the hearts and minds and spirits.”

“Stewarts and Hamiltons,” a reality show featuring Alana Stewart, former wife of both Rod Stewart and George Hamilton, premieres on E! on July 26 at 10 pm.

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Summer activities for the family

West Meadow Beach is not the only option for summer fun.

This blog was originally posted in July 2013. It has been updated with current information.

You may still be recovering from those last couple of weeks of careening from one end-of-school-year event to the next, but once the novelty of not having to make it to the bus in the morning or churn out homework in the afternoon wears off, boredom will set in hard and fast.

When younger kids are not in camp, entertainment often falls on mom and dad, grandma and grandpa, or whoever else is looking after the little ones.

Fortunately, our area is not wanting for things to do, and we all have our fail-safe go-to’s — the Emma S. Clark or the Middle Country Libraries for their smorgasbord of classes and activities, the fields or labyrinth at Avalon, West Meadow Beach, or the sprinklers in Port Jeff.

For those days when you want to venture out a little farther, here are just a few more ideas for getting out and about. And let me just preface my recommendations with one bit of advice: wear insect repellant in addition to the sunscreen!  The bugs are out in full force!

Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown

The nice thing about Sweetbriar is you can just get up and go without any real planning or effort, and you can easily spend a couple of hours between picnicking, walking the exhibits and enjoying the outdoor setting. Because much of it is outside, it may not be ideal for a sweltering day.

The animal rehabilitation center is home to horned owls and other birds of prey, and if you hit the right time, you might just see Iggy, the iguana who usually resides inside, walking the grounds sunning herself. The butterfly house is open for business, and there are walking trails, an English garden and an outdoor play spot, complete with water play area, chalk boards and even a log see-saw.

The indoor exhibit features reptiles, amphibians, honey bees and other small animals, as well as skeletons and other educational displays. The rainforest room upstairs is a child’s favorite because of the “bridge” that extends over a faux river. Just watch out for the ginormous tarantulas hanging out, quite literally, in their tanks at the back of the room and make sure to have some pennies to toss into the “river.”

For hours, directions and information about camps and special programs, visit the website, Sweetbriar is located at 62 Eckernkamp Drive, Smithtown, NY11787, 631-979-6344.

Brookhaven Wildlife and Ecology Center in Holtsville

Another great place for animal viewing is the Holtsville Ecology Center. The small zoo is home to a variety of animals including a bald eagle, emu, horses and a giant pig. All inhabitants are previously injured animals that cannot be re-released.

Though entrance is free,  you may want to have change on hand to buy feed for the goats from the dispensers. Afterwards, you can enjoy a picnic lunch in their picnic area,  run around the playground or ride bikes, scooters or roller blade on the trails.   Oh, and there is an ice cream truck parked outside the entrance, so be prepared to indulge!

For more information visit The Town of Brookhaven Wildlife and Ecology Center Nature Preserve is located at 249 Buckley Road, Holtsville, NY. 631-758-9664.

New York State Parks

Caleb Smith State Park Preserve in Smithtown and Connetquot River State Park Preserve in Oakdale both offer biweekly Tiny Tots Nature Discovery classes for children 3 to 5 years old. All you have to do is call ahead to reserve a space. The hour-long class is only $4 per adult and $3 for children!

There are also programs for older children, families and adults. This Saturday from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. there will be a bat program at Caleb Smith Park. You can learn about bats in the educational center before walking through the woods scouting for the creatures. While this particular event is recommended for those 5 and up, you can get information about other programs at Caleb Smith by calling 631-265-1054. (They are in the process of updating their website).

For more information on programs at Connetquot River State Park, go to

Sailors Haven and the Sunken Forest on Fire Island

If you’re looking for a bigger adventure, take the Sayville Ferry across to Sailors Haven on Fire Island, where you’ll find the Sunken Forest and a beach with fine sand and huge seashells for collectors. A boardwalk connects the visitors’ center, the showers, beach and forest. You can either wander around on your own, or take a free ranger-led tour.

Bring your own snacks, since the snack shop is closed while the marina is under construction. Both should reopen at the end of July. The good news, though, is there are lifeguards on duty and the bathrooms and showers are open.

As you can expect, attire for the woods and attire for the beach are not exactly compatible, especially because the forest, situated on freshwater bogs, is extraordinarily buggy — we’re talking total feeding frenzy. Shorts and sleeveless shirts are not advisable, or you will be running to avoid being devoured. Bug spray is ESSENTIAL.

The Visitors Center is open Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information visit the website or call (631) 597-6183.




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Pondering the circle of life and all that

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor receives honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, at the Icahn School of Medicine commencement, held at Avery Fisher Hall in May. Photo by Andrea Moore Paldy

I went to my first graduation at two. My father was receiving his Master’s in Public Administration and, according to my mother, I spent the duration of the ceremony on her lap, kicking her with my white patent leather shoes.

Since then, there have been more graduations than I can properly recall — including my own — and along with an upgrade in footwear, my attention span has also much improved.

To be fair, most of the graduations I attend these days are for work, which means that I should be paying attention if I’m to properly report what occurred.

But this year, in addition to the ones I covered, I had my daughter’s moving-up ceremony from kindergarten, which marked the end of her time — and our family’s time — at the school she and my son attended for preschool and kindergarten. (Yes, there are a lot of emotions there, but I am not going to cry. Sniff!)

And, I attended my cousin Crystal’s graduation from Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine, where she received her Master’s of Public Health degree. (This is my “baby” cousin, whose kindergarten “graduation” I’d attended back in the ‘90s). And though this graduation was almost three (!!) hours,  it left me inspired, hopeful and with a sense of how interconnected we all are.

One of the speakers, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist, vice provost at University of Pennsylvania and leading bioethicist and health care policy reformer, practically scandalized the audience when he said something to the effect that no one remembers the speeches given at graduation. After a brief moment of indignation, I thought back to my graduations and realized that he was absolutely right. Yet, I remembered the gist of his words without the luxury of jotting them down. What made his words — and those of the medical school dean, Dr. Dennis Charney — memorable was that though they were talking about medicine and health care, they were also addressing universal truths.

Dr. Charney moved the audience by telling of the heartbreaking loss of an infant with an incurable disease. His expression of powerlessness despite the resources and knowledge at his disposal was made all the more painful when he revealed that the child had been his granddaughter. But what he wanted graduates to take away from his personal pain was the idea that they could build on the knowledge of others. He told graduates to stand on the shoulders of those who had come before them to find cures.

These are words that can resonate with us all as we strive to add to — or improve on — what pioneers in our own areas of expertise have discovered, invented or created. We also do this when we stand on the shoulders of  family members who sacrificed so that our dreams could be bigger.

As for Dr. Emanuel — did I mention that he’s Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s big brother? — his words were just as wise. He said even if you are a great doctor, if the system is broken, your patient can still be harmed. Again, this is not a sentiment unique to medicine. This holds true in government, education, the judicial system and even the media. But this holds even more sway coming from a man who has worked within the system and has dedicated much of his career to fixing it. When we call on doctors and policy makers or other members of society to see beyond themselves and to work to fix what’s broken around them, we are reminded that we are a part of a larger network.

This idea of how knowledge is passed on and then used to sometimes inch, or even propel, ourselves forward came full circle at last Sunday’s Ward Melville High School graduation. The valedictorian — who will be attending my alma mater — gave a moving speech highlighting the talents of his classmates. He mentioned several of them by name before moving on to acknowledge the guidance of his junior high and high school teachers and, of course, all of the parents.  He closed by urging his classmates to pay it forward. Though he didn’t say it in the way Charney did, he was telling the class of 2015 to allow others to stand on their shoulders.

Though most people don’t really enjoy all the sitting and listening and waiting, graduations are momentous occasions because they are a chance to look back before moving forward. They reinforce the bonds we have with those who have helped us, and they inspire us to be the boost that guides others to success.

This philosophy couldn’t have been more apparent as all doctors were asked to stand and recite the Oath of Maimonides with the new Icahn graduates. My Uncle Donald began his medical career as a resident at Mount Sinai and now, at his daughter’s graduation, he represented knowledge and experience.

The moment was sentimental and it was also a proclamation. It showed that we achieve with the help of others, and we achieve by helping others.




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Umbrellas, usually necessary to ward off blazing sun, protected spectators from light drizzle as Ward Melville High School honored around 600 graduates Sunday.

Graduating seniors took their places in bleachers set up alongside the high school’s entrance, which still featured the “Journey to Neverland” backdrop from Thursday night’s prom.

Salutatorian Jayne Green told the women in the audience to remember they were not alone and that as half of the population, women should unite and work together. If they did, she said, “Nothing can stop us.”

Valedictorian Eric Wang shared his moment at the podium with his classmates by mentioning many of them and their contributions by name.

From state athletic champions to talented performers, innovators, “extraordinary leaders,” “patriots serving the country” and those always ready to offer a lending hand, “Each and every one of us is exceptional,” Wang said.

He then urged his classmates to “pay it forward” and channel their energies into their future endeavors.

Following student government president George Zenzerovich’s presentation of the class gift were words from Principal Alan Baum and school board president William Connors. The rain subsided in time for Baum and assistant principal Rosanne DiBella to hand diplomas to the members of the Class of 2015.