Holtsville Hal’s handler, Greg Drossel, introduces Hal to the crowd during a previous celebration. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

Six more weeks of winter or an early spring? On Tuesday, Feb. 2, Town of Brookhaven Superintendent Daniel P. Losquadro will announce Holtsville Hal’s famous forecast in a virtual ceremony to stream live on Facebook from the Holtsville Ecology Site.

According to tradition, if a groundhog sees its shadow after stirring from hibernation on Groundhog Day, there will be six more weeks of winter weather; if not, spring should arrive early. Hal’s forecast will be revealed at approximately 7:25 a.m. 

“Our annual Groundhog Day celebration is an enjoyable tradition for many local families,” Superintendent Losquadro said. “While we are disheartened that we will not be able to open the ceremony to members of the public this year due to potential COVID risks, families will still be able to see Holtsville Hal and learn of his prognostication.”

The online ceremony, which will begin at 7:15 a.m., can be viewed at and It will also be viewable on the Town of Brookhaven website,, throughout the day for those who miss the live stream.

Aidan Eck

The Middle Country Central School District recently announced its December students of the month: DeShawn Jamison, Centereach High School; Julia Lizewski, Selden Middle School; Vincent Robitaile, Newfield High School; and Aidan Eck, Dawnwood Middle School. These four remarkable students are being recognized for their accomplishments in academics, dedication to extracurricular activities, and for showcasing great potential for their respective futures.

DeShawn Jamison

DeShawn Jamison is widely acknowledged by his peers and teachers as a high spirited and hardworking individual, always greeting those around him with a smile. As a diligent and dedicated student, DeShawn excels in his academics and beyond the classroom. Through his participation in the district’s in-house work study opportunities, DeShawn has developed partnerships with local businesses to gain real-life work experience. As a key player in CHS’s Cougar Café, a program that prepares menus and meals for staff, he spearheads all in-person sales, as well as phone orders. DeShawn attributes his radiating positive attitude to his parents and his former teacher, Mr. Hutter.

Julia Lizewski

Julia Lizewski is widely considered to be a standout student by her teachers and peers alike. Julia’s boundless enthusiasm for learning has enabled her to maintain a yearly average at, or exceeding, 98 percent while in SMS. Julia is a valued member of the kickline team and co-president of National Junior Honor Society. Outside of school, Julia earns several hours of community service while spending time at Polish School on the weekends. 

Vincent Robitaile

Vincent Robitaile is recognized as a student who always takes initiative, currently maintains a weighted Grade Point Average (GPA) of 96.0833 with the potential to graduate in June with more than 40 college credits. Several of Vincent’s accomplishments include his involvement as a member of the National Honor Society, National Technical Honor Society, the Spanish Honor Society, and DECA, Inc. Outside of the classroom, Vincent works at the Middle Country Public Library, volunteers as a camp counselor at vacation bible school, and has participated in a food drive at St. Margaret’s Church to prepare food for those in need. Upon graduation in June, Vincent is aiming to attend SUNY Stony Brook.

Aidan Eck

Aidan Eck is well-known as a conscientious student who always carries a smile on his face. As an inquisitive individual, Aidan puts 100 percent effort into every assignment and strategically takes his time to ensure he’s doing his best work — characteristics that speak directly to his exceptionally high GPA of 96.75. Outside of school, Aidan participates in lacrosse and soccer and enjoys spending time with his family. In his future, Aidan aims to pursue a career in computer programming because of his natural ability with computers.

“I am thrilled to congratulate DeShawn, Julia, Vincent and Aidan for setting the bar remarkably high for others striving to follow in their footsteps,” said Dr. Roberta Gerold, superintendent of schools. “On behalf of the Board of Education, we look forward to witnessing the continued successes of these four students as they continue to grow into leaders of our community.”

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Family Trivia Night

The Whaling Museum in Cold Spring Harbor continues its Family Trivia Night on Thursday, Jan. 21 at 7 p.m. Join them to test your knowledge in a wide array of topics all relating to food! Questions range across all levels. Free to play. $5 suggested donation appreciated. Register at

Photo courtesy of MCSD

A Little Change Makes a Big Difference

Photo courtesy of MCSD

A distinguished teacher from the Middle Country Central School District has shown that a little change makes a big difference. Selden Middle School teacher, Ms. Marrero, organized the district’s Shop with a Cop, a program that rewards children with the opportunity to purchase clothing and other necessities while shopping with a police officer. Several students from the district’s elementary, middle and high schools were paired with a volunteer to shop the aisles of Walmart for 60 minutes.

From left, Pasquale Buffolino, Lorelei Tripp, Rebecca Pashman and Peyton McQuade, pictured on the smartboard. Photo from HCS

Two teams representing Thomas J. Lahey Elementary School in Harborfields Central School District achieved Highest Honors in the 2020-2021 “WordMasters Challenge,” a national vocabulary competition involving nearly 125,000 students annually. The school’s fifth grade team scored an impressive 171 points out of a possible 200 in the first of three meets this year, placing third in the nation. In addition, the fourth grade team scored 186 points to finish fourth nationwide.

Competing in the difficult Blue Division of the challenge were TJL fourth grade students Dylan Basile, Claire Bernstein, Sophie Clayton, Aaron Hardy, Abigail Kelly, Elise Larson, Nora McCloskey, Charlotte Storm, Ariel Tripp and Emma Waldren. Each achieved outstanding results in the meet. 

Fifth graders Pasquale Buffolino, Peyton McQuade, Rebecca Pashman and Lorelei Tripp were in the top 2% nationwide. Additionally, fifth graders Ben Cammarota, Olivia Drew, Lucy Meindel, A.J. Mercuri, Michael Palermo, Belen Ramos, Annabelle Saylor and Charlie Smith achieved outstanding results, contributing to the team’s success. The students were coached in preparation for the challenge by TJL Enrichment teacher Christine Mayr. 

Each year, the WordMasters Challenge exercises students’ critical thinking skills and encourages contestants to become familiar with a set of interesting new words, considerably harder than their grade level. Participants are then challenged to use those words to complete analogies, expressing various kinds of logical relationships.  Working to solve the analogies helps students learn to think both analytically and metaphorically.

“Having worked with these students before, and knowing full well their commitment to excellence, along with our work in the classroom, they were well prepared,” Ms. Mayr said. “As you can see from the results, they excelled and should be proud of their efforts.”

Both teams have already begun preparing for the second challenge scheduled for Feb. 22 and 26

Rithika Narayan Photo from EUFSD

Congratulations to Elwood-John H. Glenn High School senior Rithika Narayan who has been selected as a 2021 Regeneron Science Talent Search Scholar, with her project titled “Machine Learning on Crowd-Sourced Data to Highlight Coral Disease.” Rithika is among 300 high school seniors who were selected as scholars from 1,760 applications.

The Regeneron Science Talent Search provides students with an opportunity to present their research on a national stage while celebrating the hard work of young scientists.

Rithika researched how machine learning, which focuses on the development of computer programs and artificial intelligence, can be used to address environmental concerns. In this case she modified the Facebook algorithm, Mask R-CNN, to detect the presence of different coral diseases.

Her dedication to the project, which she began researching in summer 2019, has since earned her several noteworthy accolades. She recently won first place in Environmental Science in the 2020 Long Island Science and Engineering Fair, was named a 2020 Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair finalist as well as a national delegate to the Junior Science Humanities Symposia Program. 

Her project has also been recognized by the Journal of Emerging Investigators.  

Rithika hopes that her research, which she is currently expanding upon to recognize other infectious diseases, can lead to industry advancements with the help of institutions like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Forty of the 300 scholars will be chosen as finalists later this month. Finalists will then compete for more than $1.8 million in awards from Regeneron.

Photo courtesy of MCSD

Warmings Hearts and Hands

‘The Mitten Tree’

Unity Drive’s Pre-K/Kindergarten Center in the Middle Country School District warmed more than hearts this holiday season. Inspired by Candace Christiansen’s “The Mitten Tree,” Mrs. Gorwitz and her students organized a drive to collect mittens benefiting those in need through the local organization, Lighthouse Mission.

This month, Northport High School senior Dillon Heinzman, above, was honored with the Technology and Engineering Student of the Month award and fellow senior Maxwell DeBrino was honored as Science Student of the Month. Both students showed incredible passion for their respective courses and will be recognized during the Jan. 21 board of education meeting. 

Maxwell DeBrino

Dillon’s commitment to his technology and engineering courses was apparent throughout high school, having taken both Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes as well as Project Lead the Way engineering courses. District Chairperson for Science, Technology and Engineering David Storch said, “Dillon’s diligence and tenacity in all his STEM courses exemplify his determination to comprehend complex and highly specialized concepts along with outstanding computer science and technological skills.”

Similarly, Maxwell DeBrino has had an impressive educational career, starting the school’s Trout Team and a co-captain of the school’s Science Olympiad team. When describing Maxwell, Mr. Storch said, “he is a creative and inquisitive scientist who possesses a passion, commitment and sense of wonder when he is conducting experimental research.” 

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Join the staff at Caleb Smith State Park Preserve, 581 W. Jericho Turnpike, Smithtown for a family program, Who’s Been Walking in the Snow?, on Jan. 16 from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Families will become nature detectives as they unravel the clues left behind by the park’s wildlife. Follow the signs and hopefully find the creatures that made them! Dress for the weather. Masks are mandatory. $4 per person. Preregistration required by calling 265-1054.

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Boy Scout Troop 125 (Commack) with the collected 1,207.2 pounds of food for the Commack United Methodist Church’s food pantry.

By Troop 125 Historian, Wyatt Bode

A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, courteous, kind, cheerful … Boy Scouts from Troop 125 were out in force on Sunday, November 8 participating in a call to service for a Thanksgiving time food drive. Canned and boxed goods were donated by community members, as the scouts requested donations from shoppers at Commack’s ShopRite (Crooked Hill Rd).  An impressive 1,207.2 pounds were collected that day.

Scouts of Boy Scout Troop 125(Commack) during the food collection at Shoprite in Commack

The food variety included staples such as soup, tuna, assorted canned vegetables and fruits, pasta, rice, olive oil, sauces and cereals. The food collected helped restock the shelves for the Commack United Methodist Church’s pantry. Much thanks go to all the members of the community who helped in this effort and participated in donating all the food.

Boy Scout Troop 125 meets every Tuesday from 7:30-9:00pm at the Commack United Methodist Church (486 Town Line Road, Commack) and is open to boys ages 11 through 18 residing in Commack, Dix Hills, East Northport, Kings Park, Smithtown and their surrounding communities. Due to Covid, the meetings are currently being conducted remotely until the weather warms up, but the Troop is planning bi-weekly outdoor activities which lend themselves to social distancing.