Education

Comsewogue students recently worked at the local Chick-fil-A in Port Jeff Station as part of their Life Skills curriculum. Photo courtesy Andrew Harris
By Camila Perez Solis

Comsewogue High School’s Life Skills class students were given the opportunity to work at the local Chick-fil-A in Port Jefferson Station, putting their learning into practice. 

This weekly event was made possible by several donations from companies across the Comsewogue community and support from administration and staff.

Michael Mosca, CHS principal, reacted to the unique educational endeavor. “This incredible work experience is a product of the incredible vision of our Life Skills teacher, Katy Dornicik, and our School to Career Partnership that is spearheaded by Mr. Ketterer, Mr. Joudeh and the rest of the business department,” he said.

Mosca added, “Stan, from our local Chick-fil-A, has been a tremendous supporter of our Work Based Learning initiative.”

The principal also mentioned that this initiative is just the beginning, with plans in the works to build upon this experience and develop the program even further. “Each year, we plan to add more opportunities for all of our students through our growing community partnerships,” Mosca said.

During these visits, students put together salad kits, cleaned tables and windows, and restocked shelves. They are excited to implement the skills that they have learned in Dornicik’s classroom into the real world.

Camila Perez Solis is a foreign-exchange student from Ecuador and a junior at Comsewogue High School.

PTO members at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new book vending machines. Photo courtesy MPSD
Seventh grade North Country Road Middle School student Johnny Adler shows off the book he chose from the school’s new book vending machine. Photo courtesy MPSD

The Miller Place School District recently unveiled three new vending machines at its schools, but instead of dispensing candy or snacks, these machines are full of brand-new books.    

The Miller Place Parent Teacher Organization donated the book vending machines to increase literacy and generate excitement around reading. PTO representatives and district officials recently held a commemorative ribbon-cutting ceremony welcoming the vending machines to North Country Road Middle School, Laddie A. Decker Sound Beach School and Andrew Muller Primary School. 

“Students are already excited about our book vending machines and eager for a chance to use them and get their next favorite book,” said superintendent of schools Seth Lipshie. “Thank you to our PTO for bringing these to our district and putting in place an amazing plan to boost literacy, reward good behavior and get children enthusiastic about reading.” 

Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner, left, at a commemorative ribbon-cutting ceremony with third-grade student Hazel Kamath and Miller Place PTO representative Dawn McCarthy. Photo courtesy MPSD

Miller Place is one of the first school districts on Long Island to bring book vending machines to its schools. Each book costs one token, which students earn by displaying good behavior and performing acts of kindness. The PTO has committed to continue purchasing books for the vending machines in the future. 

The PTO executive board includes Kristin Hennig, Suzanne Cloke, Jackie Maloney, Monique Caccavale, Sharda Soohkdeo, Gayle Mancini and Dawn McCarthy. Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) presented the district and PTO with proclamations praising their success in supporting literacy districtwide.

For more information about the Miller Place School District, visit the website at www.millerplace.k12.ny.us.

Port Jefferson School District’s Science Olympiad students. Photo courtesy PJSD

Teams across the region competed in the Eastern Long Island Regional Competition on Jan. 28, at Hauppauge High School. 

The Earl L. Vandermeulen High School Science Olympiad A team placed fifth out of 53 teams. Port Jefferson also had a B and C team compete. There were 21 STEM events and the top 10 teams in each event earned a medal. 

The state competition will be held on March 17-18 at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York. Eight teams will represent Eastern Long Island at the New York State competition. Other teams competing besides Port Jefferson are Bay Shore, Bayport-Blue Point, Half Hollow Hills East, Hauppauge, The Stony Brook School, Ward Melville and West Babylon. 

Coaches were high school science teachers Amanda Perovich and Melissa Garcia.

“I am so happy we were back to a fully in-person Science Olympiad competition this year, and I am exceptionally proud of these students,” Perovich said. “Their interest, hard work and dedication to science and STEM events really shows in their results.”

The Selden campus of Suffolk County Community College. File photo
Amazon’s Career Choice program provides pre-paid tuition to learn new skills for career success at Amazon or elsewhere

Suffolk County Community College has been selected as Long Island’s first education partner for Amazon’s Career Choice program to provide Amazon’s hourly employees access to Suffolk County Community College, the college and company announced.

“We are delighted to be the first on Long Island to partner with Amazon to offer this important opportunity. Amazon’s Career Choice program is in keeping with Suffolk’s core mission to provide outstanding and affordable educational opportunities for all county residents. Partnering with Amazon will allow us to connect a new audience of working students with either traditional college courses or career-oriented training for in-demand jobs, that will positively impact their lives and our communities,” said Suffolk County Community College President Dr. Edward Bonahue.

“It is important that everyone, regardless of their financial situation is given the opportunity to earn a college degree,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “That is why I am so proud that Suffolk County Community College was selected as Long Island’s first education partner for Amazon’s Career Choice Program. This partnership showcases both the college and Amazon’s commitment to providing students with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the 21st century workforce.”

Bonahue said that although the new program has not yet been widely publicized, outreach from College representatives already brought new students from Amazon to the college for the spring 2023 semester.

Amazon’s Career Choice program is an education benefit that empowers employees to learn new skills for career success at Amazon or elsewhere. The program meets individual learners where they are on their education journey through a variety of education and upskilling opportunities including full college tuition, industry certifications designed to lead to in-demand jobs, and foundational skills such as English language proficiency, high school diplomas, and GEDs. In the U.S., the company is investing $1.2 billion to upskill more than 300,000 employees by 2025 to help move them into higher-paying, in-demand jobs.

Amazon’s Career Choice program has a rigorous selection process for third-party partner educators, choosing partners that are focused on helping employees through their education programs, assisting them with job placements, and overall offering education that leads to career success.

“We’re proud of our growing footprint on Long Island and we’re even prouder to offer this program through our partnership with Suffolk County Community College,” said Carley Graham Garcia, Amazon’s Head of Community Affairs in New York. “This adds to the many benefits available to our employees on Long Island and participants will join 110,000 Amazon employees around the world who have already participated in Career Choice.”

Suffolk County Community College is the State University of New York (SUNY) system’s largest community college, enrolling more than 20,000 for-credit students and over 7,500 non-credit students. The College offers more than 100 degree and certificate program options.

The College is comprised of three campuses and two downtown centers: The Ammerman Campus in Selden, ; Michael J. Grant Campus in Brentwood; Eastern Campus in Riverhead, and downtown centers in Riverhead and Sayville.

For more information on Amazon’s Career Choice, visit: https://www.aboutamazon.com/news/workplace/career-choice

Hoyt Farm's interpretive specialist Sheryl Brook explains the process of maple sugaring to Hauppauge Girl Scouts Troop 428 during last year's event. Photo from Town of Smithtown

Hoyt Farm Nature Preserve in Commack is gearing up for another season of maple sugaring for families, scout troops and nature enthusiasts to take advantage of. This unique educational program, available to the general public, teaches the ancient process of making maple syrup/sugar, which was passed down by the Native Americans to the Colonists. 

Classes will run on Sundays, Feb. 19, Feb. 26 and March 5, from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Tickets are $5 per person (cash only.) The class is open to both residents and non-residents. It is recommended that guests arrive by 1 p.m. to register for the class as this is a very popular event. 

Hoyt Farm Park Manager Jeff Gumin teaches a group about tree tapping at a previous event.
File photo by Greg Catalano/TBR News Media

“This is one of the best educational programs the Town of Smithtown offers and it’s one that every Long Islander should partake in. The techniques used to make maple syrup are a part of our history that should be treasured for all time. Jeff Gumin, Sheryl Brook and the team at Hoyt go above and beyond in teaching this demonstration. It’s an unforgettable experience, which I highly recommend for the whole family,” said Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim.

The maple sugaring program is a demonstration, encompassing the history of Native American early life, how maple sugaring was originally discovered, all the way up to the modern day process. An interactive portion of the program enlists the help of younger students to teach the anatomy of the tree, the importance of chlorophyll, and the role of photosynthesis in making maple syrup. 

The Hoyt Farm Nature Preserve maple sugaring program is unique in that Black Walnut trees are also tapped for sugaring, in addition to making maple syrup from Maple trees. Maple sugaring season is approximately three weeks out of the year. In order to produce the sweetest sap, weather conditions must be below freezing at night and over 40 degrees during the day. 

The maple sugaring program began in the late 1970’s, and started with one class. It is now a full blown family-oriented interactive experience, available to the general public, (not restricted to Smithtown residents) appropriate for all age groups. School classes, girl scouts, boy scout troops, kids and adults of all ages are welcome and encouraged to take advantage of this unforgettable experience. 

Hoyt Farm is located at 200 New Highway in Commack. For more information, call 631-543-7804.

Trustee Lauren Sheprow. Photo from Port Jefferson Village website
By Lauren Sheprow

Lauren Sheprow is a Port Jefferson Village trustee.

The past two bonds put forth by the Port Jefferson School District were defeated by the taxpaying residents of Port Jefferson. The $30 million bond put forward in 2017 had significant public opposition. The vocal majority was virtually ignored, but the vote ensured their voice was heard. Fast forward to 2022 and a new $25 million bond proposal. Lesson learned? Partially.

The 2022 bond was somewhat more palatable. Those who put it forward did the right thing by separating the athletic field turf project ($1.9 million) from the HVAC projects, classroom relocations and locker room/team room facility upgrades ($23.1 million). Neither proposition passed but the administration returned to the drawing board Jan. 24 to come up with a new bond, and will once again ask Port Jefferson taxpayers to pay for capital projects that have been ignored for far too long.

I, like many in the village, am torn at the enormity of the cost estimates for these projects (and like many in the community I have spoken with, I am interested in understanding more about how the architect of record comes up with these cost proposals but that’s a conversation for another day). I wonder if we shouldn’t look at more creative, cost-effective mitigation than what was proposed in Prop 1 of the 2022 bond. I am also curious as to which projects might be able to be completed using capital reserves that the district has on hand from its annual budget process. The good news is, as we learned at the Jan. 10, 2022, Board of Education meeting, the administration was able to identify general fund balance monies to build an ADA compliant bathroom at Edna Louise Spear Elementary School (which was in Prop 1 of the 2022 bond proposal).

Putting that debate aside, I wanted to clarify something reported in the Jan. 19 edition of The Port Times Record – that at a recent meeting of the Port Jefferson Village Board of Trustees I cited a Newsday report indicating that approximately 80% of the $14 billion federal COVID-19 relief funds have yet to be spent by public schools statewide, which is accurate. What was misunderstood was that I suggested the heating and ventilation systems upgrade proposed in Prop 1 of the 2022 bond may qualify under existing COVID relief conditions. I want to clarify that I fully understand that the existing COVID relief funds for which the school district is eligible has reached its limit at $375,000 and that Port Jeff doesn’t qualify for additional relief funds due to student count, free or reduced price lunch ratio and combined wealth ratio. 

My point in this conversation was to think beyond the bond/tax increase model. As I see it, we have three tools in the toolbox that we haven’t fully investigated:

1. Explore a more strategic conversation with our state and federal elected representatives to understand if or how the funding criteria can be reevaluated so unspent funds don’t languish.

2. Resident participation: By attending BOE meetings, committee meetings — especially the finance committee and bond planning meetings — our residents have an opportunity to voice their opinions in real time and become more engaged in the BOE’s selfless and tireless efforts to make our school district the best it can be.

3. Fundraising: We need an official alumni association for Earl L. Vandermeulen High School. The purpose of such an association is to foster a spirit of loyalty and to promote the general welfare of the district. Alumni associations exist to support the parent organization’s goals, and to strengthen the ties between alumni, the community and the parent organization. It works for higher education. It can work for our alma mater. 

Our alumni infrastructure, although not organized, is very strong. Passionate residents, including Port Jeff alumni, started the still active Royal Educational Foundation in 1991 when a need was identified to fund unfunded teacher programs. Port Jeff has a hall of fame, hosts an annual homecoming parade and event, and for more than 60 years parents of graduating seniors have been raising funds for the iconic Port Jeff Senior Prom experience. And for nearly nine decades, tens of thousands of Port Jeff grads have been coming back to Port Jeff for high school reunions because of their strong connection to their alma mater.

Consider the possibilities. If we create a capital campaign for a specific project and reach out to alumni who may have a deep connection to said project, with naming rights and all bells and whistles, who knows what can be accomplished? A new instruction area for the music program? New locker room and team room facilities for our student athletes? An annual hall of fame recognition dinner?

Port Jeff alumni are some of the most talented, accomplished people in the world. Let’s engage them with their alma mater and ask for their help. Let’s find a way to support the Port Jeff School District, its students, faculty and staff by connecting the tens of thousands of alumni living among us and away from us to their alma mater through an official PJ alumni association. It will require a great deal of organization, establishing a 501(c)(3), and infrastructural support including digital assets and content curation.

Interested? Contact me at [email protected] 

Let’s do this.

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By Mallie Jane Kim

Setting secondary school start times later is a priority, but the initiative faces budget barriers, according to Three Village school district Superintendent of Schools Kevin Scanlon.

Scanlon shared his strong support for a time change at a strategic planning subcommittee Monday night, Jan. 23, where he and Deputy Superintendent Jeffrey Carlson introduced proposed alternative schedules for Three Village schools. Each alternative requires additional buses, and with New York’s 2% property tax increase cap in place, that money has to come from somewhere else in the budget, Carlson said at the meeting. “Anything that goes in, something else has to come out.”

Currently, junior high students in the district start the day at 7:40 a.m., and high school students begin at 7:05. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a start time of 8:30 a.m. or later for adolescents, citing a body of research indicating too early a start time is a prime culprit in teen sleep deprivation, which negatively affects physical and mental health — and, crucially, school performance.

“We all get the idea that the start time is too early,” Scanlon said, adding later that in his 31 years working in education, “I’ve witnessed the impact of health issues on children, [including] drugs and alcohol. This is one of them, and this is something we need to address.”

But getting secondary start times past the 8 a.m. mark is complicated due to tiered busing. Currently, the district’s fleet of 47 buses transports students in four waves, starting with the first high school pickup at 6:10 a.m., and ending with the last drop-offs at Arrowhead, Setauket and Mount elementary schools, which start at 9:25 a.m. Carlson told the subcommittee he would welcome additional schedule configuration proposals but clarified that Ward Melville High School can’t simply switch start times with the late elementary schools because its Section XI sports league requires participating schools to end by 3 p.m. And starting all schools closer to the same time would require additional buses.

The other issues currently facing the school board — proposals to reconfigure elementary schools, move ninth grade to high school and move sixth grade up to form middle schools — could make some room in the budget, as could an idea to convert an existing school into a tuition-based school of the arts.

District parents making public comment at the meeting were passionate in their dislike of the early secondary start times, with one parent calling the start time “vile,” and another comparing it to a dangerous substance, saying if the district knew a substance in the schools was causing anxiety, depression, increased sports injuries and lower test scores, “we wouldn’t balk at spending this money to do something about it, without question.”

Others suggested that the elementary school students who currently start school at 9:25 a.m. could benefit from an earlier start time since younger children tend to wake up earlier, and some families have to arrange day care before school to accommodate work schedules.

District parent Barbara Rosati, who is a Stony Brook University research physiologist and founder of an advocacy group on this issue, expressed gratitude at the meeting that the new board leadership is taking the start times seriously, but is frustrated that changes have not been prioritized in the budget up until this point.

“What we are seeing here are costs necessary to keep our kids healthy,” Rosati told the subcommittee. “Whatever we don’t do, our kids’ health is going to keep suffering.” 

Scanlon, who took the helm of Three Village district last summer, emphasized that any changes the board approves would be, at the earliest, for the 2024-25 school year.

Graphic from CSD website

The New York State Education Department is cracking down on Native American mascots in schools, and Comsewogue School District is now in its sights.

In a Nov. 17 letter sent out to districts across the state, NYSED senior deputy commissioner James Baldwin alerted school administrators that using Native American mascots, team names or imagery is prohibited “without current approval from a recognized tribe.” 

Districts failing to meet these standards, Baldwin wrote, “may be in willful violation of the Dignity [for All Students] Act.” The penalty for violators could “include the removal of school officers and the withdrawal of state aid.”

Facing the threat of losing state aid, CSD officials will have to work against the clock. NYSED is placing a deadline on school districts, ordering them to retire these mascots before the end of the 2022-23 school year.

The Education Department is developing new regulations to clarify its policy, with a release date anticipated sometime in April. Until then, New York school districts remain in limbo.

Jennifer Quinn, superintendent of schools at Comsewogue School District, said the district would not make any policy determinations until NYSED releases its detailed guidelines. 

“There are so many question marks,” she said. “Until we see the actual regulations, we’re kind of playing a guessing game.”

While school districts statewide undergo significant changes in the coming months, certain characteristics may set Comsewogue apart from the pack.

Emblazoned at the center of the high school’s turf field is a district logo containing Native American imagery. Photo from Google Maps

Historical background

Before Europeans had ever stepped foot on Long Island, from present day St. James to Wading River and as far south as Gordon Heights, the Setalcott Nation once inhabited the lands. Within that territory lies Port Jefferson Station/Terryville, an area known to the Setalcotts as Comsewogue, meaning “place where paths come together.” 

The Terryville-Comsewogue School District was formed in 1874, and the senior high school opened nearly a century later in 1971. The school district has prominently showcased its precolonial heritage along with its name. 

One district emblem contains the initials “CSD” with a feather draped over its side. Another logo displays a visually striking profile depicting a Setalcott. This logo is etched ubiquitously throughout the district’s website, school walls and at the center of the high school’s turf athletic field. Sports teams are called “the Warriors.”

Setalcott reaction

Helen Sells is president of the Setalcott Native American Council. In an interview, she said she is personally not offended by the use of Setalcott images and references in Comsewogue schools. Sells referred to the term “warrior” as a distinction among her ancestors. 

“It was an honor for our men, and some of the women, to serve for our country and for the freedoms of all,” she said. “The men were considered warriors because they had to go out and hunt for food and hold the community together.”

Asked whether Comsewogue School District should continue using Setalcott mascots, team names and imagery, Sells responded affirmatively. “To me, it’s important as a family to try to keep that history going,” she said.

Whether this response constitutes “current approval from a recognized tribe” is still to be determined. NYSED declined to comment for this story.

Debating mascots, logos and team names

‘The state takes the approach that one size fits all. They’re not looking into every local district.’ ­

— Ed Flood

New York State Assemblyman Ed Flood (R-Port Jefferson), whose 4th Assembly District encompasses CSD, said the state has more pressing educational concerns than deciding mascots and team names.

“There’s so much wrong in education right now,” he said. “I think our kids — I see it in my own children being out of the classroom for so long — are kind of behind,” adding, “We have bigger problems to fix.”

A Comsewogue alum, Flood held that the logos and team name were not intended to deride Native Americans. “It’s not used in any way to be offensive,” he said. “Comsewogue is a pretty diverse district with people of all races and ethnicities. We were all proud to put on that jersey, and we understood what it represented.”

Flood’s predecessor in the state Assembly, Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), offered that ethical dilemmas often require moderation and restraint by decision-makers. He cited the example of the U.S. Army renaming bases that had honored former Confederates.

“I believe the model for what should be done is probably the way that the U.S. Army has approached the question of renaming military bases,” Englebright said. “The approach was to set up — two, I believe — study commissions and to give thoughtful consideration if there is a controversy.” He added, “I’m not sure there is a controversy here.”

State aid conundrum

Debates surrounding state contributions to public education have been ongoing for over a century and a half, said Campbell Scribner, assistant professor of education at the University of Maryland College of Education in College Park. 

In an interview, he traced the historical trends of public education in the United States, highlighting the complexities surrounding state aid.

“One of the ambiguities or tensions in American education is that, constitutionally, there has never been a federal right to education, but there is a state right,” he said. “Since at least the Civil War, all state constitutions make provisions for public education.” 

However, until the early to mid-20th century, state funding lagged behind local contributions. “Although states have a constitutional obligation to provide education, they didn’t fund it very well,” Scribner said.

Without organized state bureaucracies or state income tax, school districts generated revenue primarily through local property taxes. This model offered considerable local autonomy in setting curricula and other districtwide standards.

‘States have taken a much more robust posture. They’ve taken more interest in what’s happening locally.’ ­

— Campbell Scribner

Invoking social reforms

The dynamic between states and school boards changed as state aid began to comprise a heftier chunk of school districts’ overall budgets. With the injection of state funds, Scribner suggests power has shifted away from local school officials and into the hands of state bureaucrats. 

“States have taken a much more robust posture,” Scribner said, adding, “They’ve taken more interest in what’s happening locally.”

With more say over budgeting, states have found leverage in setting curricula and social standards within school districts. Moreover, the threat of revoking state aid can be an effective instrument.

Despite the state’s newfound power, this approach has limits: “The state certainly does not want to come across as coercive,” Scribner said. “I don’t think it’s going to help state legislators to look like they’re bullying local school boards or denying children education.”

“But on the other hand,” he added, “I don’t think, legally, the school boards have the sort of rights they might assume they do or the same prerogative against the states.”

Native American imagery

‘There’s a long history of European settlers appropriating Native American imagery.’ ­

— Andrew Newman

Within the scope of national and statewide politics, CSD is caught in a much broader web over the role of Native American imagery.

Andrew Newman is a professor and chair in the English Department at Stony Brook University whose research focuses on the intersection of early American, indigenous and media studies. 

Newman shared that Native American imagery within popular culture is a centuries-old practice dating back to the 18th century.

“There’s a long history of European settlers appropriating Native American imagery,” he said. “There was an idea of Native Americans as being sort of tied to the land, athletic, representing this kind of uncivilized masculinity that was very attractive to the mainstream white culture.”

He added, “This phenomenon was referred to by the scholar Philip Deloria, in a book [of the same title] from 1998, as ‘Playing Indian.’”

Newman maintained that these portrayals often negatively affect self-perceptions within Native American communities, adding that such caricatures can minimize historical injustices.

The movement away from Native American mascots and team names has gradually developed within public education and professional sports. After years of resistance, the former Washington Redskins football and Cleveland Indians baseball franchises have finally changed their team names to more neutral identifiers, respectively the Commanders and Guardians.

Newman said mascots, team names and imagery can be hard to do away with because of the strong emotional ties these symbols can produce. This effect is especially prevalent within schools. 

“The students and families and communities that are associated with these schools are kind of attached to the school’s traditions,” the SBU professor said. “They’re hard to give up.”

Veneration vs. denigration

The debate over the use of Native American mascots surrounds two main arguments, according to Newman. On the one hand, proponents say these images glorify indigenous heritage and tradition. On the other, detractors view them as derogatory and offensive to Native Americans. 

Reflecting upon the function of public education, Newman noted the apparent contradiction between the mission to educate about local history while potentially alienating a segment of the local population.

“Especially in educational institutions, where presumably part of the mission is to educate the students about the local history, I don’t think that educational mission is compatible with the use of a Native American-themed mascot,” the SBU professor said.

‘When we do make our plan, we are very mindful of including every stakeholder.’ ­

— Jennifer Quinn

An opportunity for dialogue

Assessing NYSED’s approach, Flood suggested Albany is applying a blanket policy to a multifaceted issue. He contended the state government is neither informed of Comsewogue’s historical circumstances nor sensitive to the variations between tribes across Long Island.

“The state takes the approach that one size fits all,” the assemblyman said. “They’re not looking into every local district.”

While pressure comes down from Albany, Scribner said schools are uniquely suited to answer these moral questions through their abundant channels for local input.

“School politics remain one of the strongest and most accessible democratic spaces we have in this country,” the UM professor said. “They are, of course, hemmed in certain ways by state regulations. But again, I still think that if local voters really want something, they do have levers to pull.”

Quinn affirmed CSD’s commitment to working as a community through this sensitive local matter. “Nobody wants to do anything to make a child feel uncomfortable,” she said. “Ultimately, we have to see what [NYSED is] going to tell us we have to do, and then we can make a plan.”

The district superintendent concluded, “When we do make our plan, we are very mindful of including every stakeholder. Our community is going to be very involved.”

Englebright noted that CSD likely did not intend to disparage Native Americans when it created its logo and team name. 

Nonetheless, the former assemblyman reiterated that study commissions and community forums could be fruitful in working out competing ethical considerations. 

“History is complicated,” Englebright said. “That’s why I think this deserves some introspection.”

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By Neil Mehta

Over 75 local businesses and organizations engaged with students in grades seven through 12 at Ward Melville High School’s 5th annual career fair Jan. 18. The event, organized by the Three Village Industry Advisory Board, was attended by more than 550 individuals.

Ilene Littman, WMHS business teacher and 3V-IAB coordinator, said the event was held to provide students with “real-world connections, networking opportunities with businesses, and a period to talk to businesses and find out what careers would be most appropriate for them.”

Kevin Scanlon, Three Village Central School District superintendent, said that the goal of the program was to “expose students to some of these opportunities now, before they go off to college.”

Before the event, students completed a personality assessment to determine their Holland code, a system that connects an individual’s personality traits to compatible career paths, Littman said. Businesses were located in the gymnasium at color-coded tables corresponding to each of the six Holland codes, allowing students to find employers from compatible industries.

Several business and organization representatives at the fair noted that they were impressed with the quality of conversation and preparation by student attendees.

Lisa Owens, program manager at regional food bank Long Island Cares, attended the fair to introduce high schoolers to careers in the nonprofit sector

“A lot of students aren’t familiar with nonprofit agencies in general,” she said. “Most of them want to go into corporate careers.”

Vinny Constantino, cardiovascular technologist at Mather Hospital, said he attended the fair to expand student awareness of medical careers beyond work as a doctor or nurse.

“I didn’t know about this career path in high school,” Constantino said. “I never knew there was such a thing as a technologist or what that job entails. I thought it would be nice to let people know that this is an avenue you can pursue.”

According to Scanlon, the school district is in the process of developing its business education program through curricular and experiential learning opportunities.

Previously, the district was home to eight business teachers at Ward Melville High school, a figure that decreased to only two, Scanlon said. Now, the school has increased again to three teachers and plans to continue expanding.

Outside of the classroom, the district offers a work-based learning program and hosts 3V-IAB, which brings together students, parents, community members, administration and staff together to plan events such as the career fair.

Michael Ardolino, 3V-IAB chair and owner/broker at Realty Connect USA, said that in addition to hosting programs, the advisory board improves engagement between students and employers by gathering businesses’ feedback regarding students’ preparation for the workforce.

Littman and Scanlon both emphasized that students should keep open minds as they continue navigating potential career paths, with Littman noting that “approximately 65% of jobs that kids in sixth grade will have aren’t even established yet.”

“Kids are going to change their jobs multiple times before they retire,” Scanlon added. “They need to be open to that and be flexible to those opportunities.”

Port Jefferson School District students and art teachers with director of music and fine arts, Michael Caravello (right). Photo courtesy PJSD

The One River School for Art and Design’s Port Jefferson Station location recently exhibited student artwork from the Port Jefferson School District’s fine arts department.

As a collaborative effort, student artwork across grades K-12 was showcased. An opening reception was held on Saturday, Jan. 7, welcoming students and families to celebrate their artistic achievements. 

The school district thanked art teachers Skylar Benatar, Meghan McCarthy, Nancy Randazzo and Stacey Schuman; director of music and fine arts Michael Caravello; and the One River School’s assistant director of education, Ellen Jones, for organizing this special community event.