Authors Posts by TBR Staff

TBR Staff

TBR News Media covers everything happening on the North Shore of Suffolk County from Cold Spring Harbor to Wading River.

Photos courtesy Andrew Harris
By Kylie Schlosser

Three military daughters at three different Comsewogue schools were surprised by the early return of their father, Staff Sgt. William Flaherty, directly from Iraq. 

Flaherty first stopped at Comsewogue High School to visit his oldest daughter, Taliah. High school principal, Mike Mosca, called her to his office. Her face immediately changed from a worried look to elation upon seeing her father. 

“Staff Sergeant Flaherty is a longtime member of our Comsewogue family and a former CHS graduate,” Mosca said. “We were thrilled when he reached out to us with this request.” 

Next, Flaherty went to Norwood Avenue Elementary School to see his daughter, Vienna, where he walked inside the cafeteria and greeted the excited kindergarten students. Finally, he was off to Boyle Road Elementary School to see his third daughter, Mia, and then down the hall to the universal pre-kindergarten class where his wife works. 

“We have a deep respect for the military and family here in our community,” Superintendent of Schools Jennifer Quinn said. “It was a great day for all and not a dry eye in any of the three schools he visited.”

Kylie Schlosser is a sophomore at Comsewogue High School.

File photo by Alex Petroski

Village of Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant will represent the Democratic Party in this year’s race for Brookhaven town supervisor, confirmed by a Facebook post from the Brookhaven Town Democratic Committee.

The news comes less than a day after the Suffolk County Republican Committee tapped incumbent Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) for county executive. In the general election, Garant will square off against Brookhaven Deputy Supervisor and Councilman Dan Panico (R-Manorville).

This a developing story.

Photo by Michael Hall


Michael Hall of Port Jefferson snapped this photo of Conscience Bay in Setauket with his iPhone 12 on Feb. 1. He writes, “My wife Christina and I were walking in the northern, wooded section of Frank Melville Memorial Park on this cool winter day. The tide was so low we were able to walk into the tidal grasses. The layered colors of this erratic boulder caught my eye.”

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons
By Carolyn Sackstein

Given the nationwide proliferation of violence in schools, the Smithtown Central School District Board of Education recently voted to vet and hire a private security firm to patrol the exterior perimeter of all schools with armed guards. 

Long Island schools from Greenport to Copiague have experienced threats of violence made by students. Following the Parkland, Florida, school shootings in 2018, some districts opted to provide armed security personnel, including Hauppauge, Miller Place and Mount Sinai. With an ongoing public debate over the most effective way to protect children in schools and public spaces, TBR News Media took to the streets of Port Jefferson village Saturday, Feb. 18, asking people for their opinions on armed guards in and around schools.

— Photos by Carolyn Sackstein



Gannon Lawley, Anchorage, Alaska

“I am against armed guards in almost all places, especially schools. It doesn’t strike me as the kind of thing that would be good for a school or a learning environment. It arises from an aversion to armed guards in general. It’s a hippy peace thing for me.”






Nicole Carhart & Hector Monell, West Islip

When asked about armed guards on school campuses Carhart said, “It depends. It is good for people to keep safe. You want to make sure they are not using it against others.”

Monell thought Smithtown’s decision was “a positive outcome.”






Joseph Vergopia, Manhattan

When asked to comment on Smithtown’s decision to put armed guards on campus, he responded, “That’s the stupidest idea I ever heard, because more guns on the street are just a ridiculous way to curb gun [violence].”




Jeremy Torres and Xiao Han Wu, Stony Brook

Jeremy Torres from Stony Brook village was with his wife, Xiao Han Wu, originally from Beijing, China, and young daughter. Torres said, “With today’s crazy environment, I would prefer police on the campus. As long as [private security] has proper training and qualifications and gun safety, I would trust that. You can’t just have anybody.”

Han Wu said, “Because I see a lot of news like shootings in the schools and all that and having a kid, that definitely makes me more concerned about the safety in schools. I feel comfortable, they put armed guards [on campus]. I also prefer police.”


Louis Antoniello, Terryville

“There are better ways to protect the school systems. [Examples would be] electronic locks on the schools, where you have to use a pass key to get in, electronic locks on the classroom doors and gymnasiums. If there is an issue in the school, where somebody does get in, the entire school can be locked down with kids and teachers in the classroom through the main office. They can just lock it down electronically. Nobody can get into the classrooms. Would you rather have more guns where now you’re getting into a gun fight on the street? Doesn’t matter if it is someone who has been trained to use a gun or not. If you look at the statistics and the percentages of how many times you hit with your first or second shot, those percentages are very low. Where are these bullets going? They could be going into the windows of the school. They could be going into neighbors’ houses. The best thing to do is spend your money on securing the building, and electronic locks are the way to go. You can also have security cameras all around with people watching the security videos. They can see who is coming on campus. You’re stopped at the door, they ask what you’re doing there, you’re on camera, you show your ID. You sit and wait to pick up your son or daughter. You can drop something off for them at security. That’s how you secure a building. Leaving the building open without electronic locks and just having people walking the perimeter with guns is not the way to go.”

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Sarah Sajjad, right, in a family photo with her husband and children, was on hand for the Feb. 15 meeting with three of her children so they could witness the addition of Muslim holidays to the school calendar. Photo from Sarah Sajjad

By Mallie Kim

Artificial Intelligence could one day have a place in Three Village schools, according to Deidre Rubenstrunk, the district’s executive director of technology and data protection officer.

“If I were to submit that for an AP course, it wouldn’t get me much credit.”

— Mikaeel Zohair,

“Perhaps somewhere in the next five years, how to use AI could be part of our standards,” she told the school board at the Feb. 15 meeting. “Corporate America is going crazy over this right now, and we are going to have to prepare our students to use this as a tool.” 

The comments came during time the board set aside to discuss ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence tool that has dominated headlines over the past few months. In January, the New York City Department of Education banned the technology from school internet networks and devices out of concerns students may use the bot to complete homework, since it can generate content based on user prompts.

But according to Rubenstrunk, Three Village would address that issue differently. “The only way that you promote academic integrity among students is not with Turnitin or originality reports in Google, but actually educating them in what integrity is and making it tangible for them,” she said, adding that is something she and other district staff are already working on.

Board members chimed in to support Rubenstrunk’s approach, emphasizing the importance of a “do not panic” attitude about emerging technologies. 

Superintendent of Schools Kevin Scanlon compared ChatGPT and other AI technologies to the graphing calculator, which some schools initially saw as a threat in the classroom. 

“We have to look at the technology as a tool,” he said. “We need to train staff and students on proper use of this.”

Student representative to the board, Ward Melville High School senior Mikaeel Zohair, said he was not impressed with the ChatGPT bot’s output when he played around with it using essay prompts.

“If I were to submit that for an AP course, it wouldn’t get me much credit,” he said, adding the content could maybe pass for a middle school level. “Honestly, I don’t see a practical use for it but it’s fun.”

Board member Shaorui Li said she was recently exploring the limitations of ChatGPT with some high school students, and they found it could be a helpful tool in the fight against procrastination.

“You have the machine generate something you look at and [think], ‘Oh, I can do better,’” she said, adding that hopefully it would jump-start a student’s own work.

Also on the agenda at the board meeting was next year’s April 10 addition to the 2023-24 calendar of Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday celebrating the end of the Ramadan month of fasting. Scanlon said there will be a break in state Regents exams on June 17, 2024, to allow Muslim students to celebrate Eid al-Adha, also known as the Feast of Sacrifice. 

District parent Sarah Sajjad brought three of her elementary-aged children to the board meeting to witness the calendar change announcement.

“I wanted them to actually come and see, have an experience that they do get recognized,” Sajjad said after the meeting. She works as a special education aide in the district.

“Now everybody will be off, so we’ll welcome everybody to have fun and have a party with us.”

— Sarah Sajjad

Sajjad said she is thankful for the change because her kids have wondered why the school marks Christian and Jewish holidays with a day off, but not Muslim holidays. Plus, she added, it’s a great way for people of all religions to come together. Sajjad said her family enjoys taking part in her neighbors’ Christmas parties, but she hasn’t been able to reciprocate.

“Now everybody will be off, so we’ll welcome everybody to have fun and have a party with us,” she said. “We can actually celebrate with everybody in the community.” 

The district must maintain a minimum of 900 instructional hours for elementary students and 990 for secondary, and days off vary year to year depending on which holidays fall on weekends — as does Rosh Hashanah in 2023. The district has posted the approved 2023-24 calendar on its website.

METRO photo

Whether or not school districts should hire armed guards is complex, requiring thoughtful consideration from parents, students, community members, educators, school administrators and elected officials.

But as we work through the intricacies of this sensitive and often contentious issue, a related matter is worthy of our attention: How can we appropriately cover mass shootings when these tragic events arise?

The Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as an incident in which four or more people are injured or killed. Unfortunately, mass shootings are commonplace in this country. Already in 2023, there have been more mass shootings than days in the year. As a nation, we have failed to address this critical policy concern. 

When one of these all-too-familiar violent events occurs, the press often too hastily reports on it. Helicopters circle above the crime scene as field reporters rush to the periphery, searching for immediate information. 

A tragedy soon becomes a spectacle. Within days — sometimes just hours — the suspect’s name is revealed to the public. Then the shooter’s image is flashed incessantly on every newsreel and in every major newspaper in America. As the media goes to work uncovering the personal details of the shooter’s life, a depraved human being is made into a national celebrity.

And this phenomenon is not unique to the press. Hollywood capitalizes on violence; the more graphic a film’s depictions, the more revenue it will generate. Violence sells in this country, whether in motion pictures, music, video games, digital media or newsprint. And the ubiquity of these images within American popular culture has the natural effect of normalizing violent behavior nationwide.

Here at TBR News Media, we reject this dynamic entirely. Mass violence in America should not be accepted as mainstream nor should it be sensationalized or embellished. With a medium that enables us to disperse information widely both in print and on the web, we are responsible for using our platform appropriately.

Research on mass shooters indicates they are often motivated by perceived isolation or social rejection. Some commit an atrocity to achieve a mark on the world, since even playing the villain can be preferable to obscurity.

As journalists, we must deny violent offenders precisely the attention and fame they so crave. We legitimize acts of violence when we publish names or run headshots of mass shooters. By lending our platform to the least deserving, we encourage copycat offenders.

It is time that we, the members of the press and the distributors of information, end the dramatization and glorification of mass violence in America. It is time to substitute sensationalism with rigid, objective reporting when violence inevitably ensues.

This same standard applies to digital media. In this century, so much of the information available to us is circulated online. For this reason, Big Tech has a similar obligation to monitor its content and halt the spread of personal details regarding mass shooters.

While restraining our coverage is necessary, mass violence deserves our close attention. Still, we must focus on the issues: Should we hire armed guards in and around schools? How do we keep guns out of the hands of potentially violent offenders? How can we expand access to mental health services, so fewer people resort to mass violence? And more.

The focus should be policy driven and victim centric. We should create awareness of the problem while working to identify solutions. But we must not say their names or run their headshots.

By covering shootings appropriately, we can do our part to curb the spread of mass violence. By applying these methods consistently, journalists can work to change the culture, save lives and make a positive difference for the nation and humanity.

Comsewogue High School’s business students outside Topgolf in Holtsville. Photo courtesy Andrew Harris
By Anthony Rovello

Coming in as a teacher from another school district, I had heard great things about Comsewogue’s commitment to project-based learning for the students. Combined with my own experience in the workforce, I know how important it is for our business students to get actual hands-on learning in a fast-paced and successful business.

Comsewogue High School’s business students have taken such an approach to learning in different careers and fields for the past several years. Recently, our high school’s business students had the opportunity to visit Long Island’s recently opened Topgolf, a sports entertainment company located in Holtsville.

Topgolf is a rapidly expanding company that our students were excited to learn about. They had the chance to learn about its day-to-day operations as well as what it takes to operate a business.

Students left with some new ideas about how businesses operate, specifically in strategic planning, day-to-day operations, leadership and management. It was impressive for our students to learn how Topgolf started in 2000 and grew to become a multinational sports entertainment company. 

Most importantly, students got the opportunity to see, meet and talk to the folks at Topgolf for real-world advice and experiences.

Along with fellow Comsewogue business teachers Anthony Ketterer, Rami Joudeh, Aanchal Katyal and Trevor Ozimkowski, we expect to make a huge impact on our students and community now and have bigger things planned for the future.

“Our goal is to give our students real-world experience in a variety of different careers and fields,” high school principal Michael Mosca said. “Our students have recently worked closely with our local Chick-fil-A, real estate agencies, banks and Topgolf. These partnerships, in addition to our intro to teaching students working with Clinton Avenue Elementary School teachers, are just the beginning.”

Anthony Rovello is a business teacher at Comsewogue High School.


William Honor snapped this stunning photo of Stony Brook Harbor at sunset on Jan. 30. Did you know that sunsets are actually more vivid in the winter? It’s all science! The Earth spins closer to the sun in winter, and the angle the sun takes setting makes sunset colors last a bit longer. Humidity is also lower in the winter, and the air is cleaner, causing purer colors to be splashed across the sky.

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Louis Jordan's Typany Five, New York, N.Y., between 1946 and 1948. William P. Gottlieb/Wikimedia Commons

Black History Month is celebrated throughout February, and for more than 50 years, has provided an outlet for people to remember and reflect upon African American history.

We see many examples of Black history right here on Long Island. Though not fully understood or preserved, the examples feature most prominently in the field of entertainment.

How many readers are aware of the Red Rooster club on Route 25 between Gordon Heights and Coram with its national Black celebrities and advertising a “complete floor show every night” through the late 1940s? How many can recount the contributions made by the Celebrity Club in Freeport in the 1950s and ‘60s, when R&B and soul reigned supreme? 

Then there was East Setauket’s own Paula Jean’s club, where not only could one enjoy the top national and local blues artists at the turn of the new millennium but also the most authentic Cajun or Creole cuisine this side of New Orleans and south Louisiana.

Never heard of these clubs and their place in the Black hierarchy? That’s all the more reason why measures should be taken by the state, counties, towns and villages to recognize these sites with heritage plaques. These important and historic local institutions should be studied in local history classes from K-12, community colleges and universities.

In years to come, the investment of time and resources will be paid off in the form of enhanced Long Island artistic recognition, increased tourist traffic and greater cross-cultural understanding.

Today, the local club tradition is continued in honor of many top Black jazz legends at Tom Manuel’s The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook in live performances and at its museum which features pioneering stars such as Louis Jordan — arguably the inspiration for rock ‘n’ roll music — and balladeer Arthur Prysock. 

The recently opened Long Island Music Hall of Fame is located on the site of the Dogwood Hollow Amphitheater behind Stony Brook Village Center. It was the place to be for international acts such as Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong until 1970.

Like The Jazz Loft, LIMHOF is another institution preserving the music history of artists and entertainers of all colors and stripes. Both organizations should be supported and patronized by local residents and tourists alike. But more recognition through plaques and other landmarks should be offered by our municipalities, as is done with music trails in Mississippi and Louisiana.

Months celebrating specific cultures such as Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Asian Pacific Heritage Month and more, are all helpful for reminding us that our country is what it is today thanks to people of all walks of life. Recognizing our accomplishments shouldn’t be confined to just four weeks out of the year.

Let’s think of better ways to share the stories of people from all walks of life, those who accomplished greatly whether in music, politics, the armed forces or other fields. Let us remember and honor their legacy by putting those ideas into practice. Here on Long Island, there is diversity in history from which we can learn so much for our future benefit and enlightenment.

Port Jefferson's stop on the Long Island Rail Road. File photo by Erika Karp

The decades-old plan to electrify the Port Jefferson Branch line of the Long Island Rail Road has transformational implications for our community, region and state. Yet for far too long, this critical infrastructure need has gone unmet, passed over repeatedly for other projects.

The MTA’s long pattern of negligence has condemned our commuters to ride in rickety train cars powered by diesel, an antiquated, environmentally hazardous fuel source. For a better ride, our residents often travel inland to Ronkonkoma, the MTA siphoning ridership to the main line and adding cars to our already congested roadways.

A fully electrified rail would provide the necessary recharge for downtowns still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. It would free up mobility for our residents, connecting them to every restaurant, bar and storefront along the North Shore within walking distance of a train station.

Electrification would give students and faculty at Stony Brook University swift access to Manhattan, producing even stronger ties between the southern flagship of our state university system and the global capital. This project would unlock the full commercial, environmental and educational potential of our region.

Throughout history, generations of New Yorkers have participated in engineering feats of great scope and vision. In the early 1800s, our citizens constructed the Erie Canal, bridging the world’s oceans to the American frontier. A century later, we built the state parkway system, laying thousands of miles of road, linking Montauk Point and Niagara Falls along a continuous stretch of pavement.

Generations have taken part in our state’s rich public works tradition, which has united New Yorkers around herculean aims, facilitated greater movement and improved the lives of ordinary people. 

Yet, at every stage, the North Shore has been systematically shut out from any public investment of considerable scale. MTA has continually repurposed our tax dollars with no giveback to North Shore communities. 

With our money, MTA recently opened its Grand Central Madison terminal ($11 billion), opened the 9.8 mile Third Track between Hicksville and Floral Park ($2.5 billion) and laid the groundwork for a proposed Interborough Express between Brooklyn and Queens ($5.5 billion estimated). 

For us, Port Jefferson Branch electrification is our shared vision of change. This is our noble cause, our generational investment, our Erie Canal. The funds for the projected $3.6 billion Port Jeff electrification project are there if we can start getting them to come our way. And to do that, we must begin applying maximum pressure upon our elected officials.

From village and town boards to the county and state legislatures to the United States Congress, every public representative between Huntington and Port Jeff must be in alignment, letting out one common cry, “Electrify our line.”

We must treat electrification as the paramount infrastructure concern of our region, demanding our elected representatives and public railroad match our level of conviction. We should cast no vote nor contribute a single campaign dollar for any candidate without their unyielding support of this project.

This October, MTA will publish its 20-year Capital Needs Assessment. Port Jefferson Branch electrification must be included within that document for it to have any shot to prevail over the next two decades.

Write to your congressman and state reps in Albany. Write to the MTA and LIRR. Tell them to electrify this line, lest there be consequences at the ballot box. With all our might, let us get this project underway once and for all.