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Comsewogue

After dropping its season opener, the Comsewogue girls basketball team looked to put one into the win column with a home game against St. John the Baptist Saturday afternoon. The Lady Warriors trailed by 11 points after the first eight minutes of play but gained back two of those points to open the second half losing by 25-16, only to have their opponent finish strong late, falling to the Cougars 44-28 in a nonleague matchup Dec. 2.

Comsewogue’s Jalynn Kirschenhueter hit for three triples, a field goal and a free throw to lead her team with 12 points. Hannah Ellis banked six points while Keira Andresen and Vienna Guzman netted four points apiece. 

The Warriors have two more nonleague games before league play begins Dec. 19 with a home game against Westhampton. Game time is slated for 6:15 p.m.

— Photos by Bill Landon

By Deniz Yildirim

Last weekend, Comsewogue celebrated Homecoming, and students participated in Spirit Week all week to show their school spirit. 

Spirit week kicked off Tuesday after schools were closed Monday for Columbus Day. Tuesday was “Character Day,” Wednesday was “Decades Day,” followed by “America Day” on Thursday, and “Class Color Day” on Friday. In addition, students competed in a hallway decorating contest and a trivia contest. 

On Friday, students followed a shortened bell schedule so the entire school could participate in this year’s pep rally. At noon, students made their way from the classrooms to the bleachers, then players of all sports teams were announced and cheered. Between the name announcements, students and teachers participated in fun games such as a relay race, a mummy wrap, and a timeless favorite, musical chairs. 

Then Saturday was the highly anticipated Homecoming Game. Easily conveyed by unique grade-level floats, the theme for this year was movies. Freshmen crafted a special “Lego Movie” themed float. Sophomores were inspired by the movie “Up.” Juniors chose the film “Toy Story.” Seniors created an “Alice in Wonderland” float. 

The festivities started with a Costume Fun Run at 10 a.m. Participants dressed up as their favorite characters and ran around the high school track for as long as they chose. By noon, the Homecoming Parade was in full swing.

Launched from JFK Middle School, parade marchers included the PJSTA Teachers Union; the Comsewogue School District Board of Education;  Jennifer Quinn, superintendent of schools; and Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook). 

The Terryville Fire Department also joined the procession, making its way down Jayne Blvd, heading for the high school, and throwing candy to spectators along the way. 

Once the procession reached the high school, all enjoyed a homecoming carnival. Children had their faces painted by teachers, spent some time in a bouncy house, or tried to ‘sink’ an educator in the dunk tank. This was the second “normal” Homecoming since the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted in-person social gatherings. And it was even bigger than last year’s event. 

Teachers, administrators, and parents volunteered much of their time to make this event possible. “We believe Homecoming is really enjoyed by everyone,” said principal Mike Mosca, “It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.” 

Part of the Comsewogue district’s mission is to promote inclusivity. For this reason, the Special Education Parent Teacher Association had organized a designated “Quiet Area” for students with sensory sensitivities. 

At 4 p.m., just before kickoff, Hall of Fame inductees were recognized on the field. Earlier that day, these stars enjoyed a luncheon inside the school, where plaques were unveiled.

Quinn was pleased with the celebration: “It’s always fun whenever families and teachers get together like this,” she said.

— Photos courtesy CSD

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By Bill Landon

It was all Comsewogue in the first 24 minutes of play when senior attack Michael Katz had his hat-trick two minutes before the halftime break. 

Miller Place co-captain Anthony Bartolotto arrested the Warrior scoring frenzy when the senior buried his shot to take the goose egg off the board in this Div. II showdown on May 3. The Warriors stood on the gas and never looked back, putting the game away 10-3.

Katz finished his day with four goals and two assists. Teammates Justin Bonacci had an assist and three goals, Brayden Arias scored twice and James Krieg stretched the net. Goalie’s Adam Wachholder had eight saves in net and Gavin Larsen stopped five.

Miller Place senior Devon Duchnokski and Robby Cunningham each had a goal apiece and keeper Kenny Leen had six saves.

The win lifts the Warriors to 8-3 in league and the loss drops the Panthers to 7-4 with three games remaining before post season play begins. 

8565-Port Jeff junior Jenna Jacobs and her sister 8564-Alexa Jacob compete in the 300m dash at SCCC Feb 6. Bill Landon photo

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File photo by Kyle Barr

The Sustainable Libraries Initiative recently recognized the Comsewogue Public Library as a leader in sustainability through its award-winning Sustainable Libraries Certification Program.

This initiative guides libraries through a step-by-step process to infuse triple bottom line sustainable decision-making into their library’s policies and actions. 

Through Comsewogue’s participation in the program, they have strengthened their existing community partnerships and expanded into new collaborations. The library staff are keenly aware of the needs of their community, although not always able to directly meet them. 

Forging partnerships with other agencies allows Comsewogue Public Library to leverage this insight and align their services to involve partnering community organizations to ensure that their community’s current and emerging needs are met. The ability to bring agencies and resources together highlights Comsewogue Public Library’s prominent role in establishing and maintaining a thriving and resilient community. 

The Sustainable Libraries Certification designation demonstrates to their community that decision making based on the triple bottom line principles can have lasting and tangible benefits.

“Everything we do now is looked at differently,” said Comsewogue Director Debbie Engelhardt. “Purchases, procedures, policies are put through the Triple Bottom Line lens. We want to be Environmentally Sound, Socially Equitable and Economically Feasible in our decision making.” 

As the library administration and staff worked through the rigorous benchmarking process, they reduced their greenhouse gas consumption through the installation of LED lighting fixtures, new HVAC units, a white roof and an EnergyStar-rated water heater. 

Shredding and recycling events open to the community diverted 3720 gallons of paper and 1349 pounds of eWaste from the landfill. Energy and water savings information was broadcasted to the staff and community, with a representative from PSEG, the community’s energy provider, offering information and energy savings tips to library users. 

Additionally, they collaborated with the Town of Brookhaven to provide a receptacle for the community to continue to recycle glass after household pickup was discontinued. 

To promote empathy and respect for all members of their diverse community, cultural competency training was offered to the staff and the library’s program offerings included several engaging programs that celebrate the variety of multi-cultural heritages of those they serve. 

The library set clear objectives in a new Collection Development Policy that sets out to promote literacy and inclusivity, encourage freedom of expression, and support their community’s interests. They have worked to expand their residents’ access to government services by hosting senior advocates, job fairs, and “Claim Your Unclaimed Funds” program. 

Reflecting on the certification program, Children’s & Teen Librarian Debbie Bush said, “I believe our community better understands how we operate and sees our library as a sustainable leader in the community.” 

International impact 

Comsewogue Public Library is among the first libraries to participate in the Sustainable Libraries Certification Program, the first of its kind in the world. This benchmarking program was developed to assist libraries of all kinds – public, academic, and individual school librarians — to create opportunities to make better choices on behalf of the local and global community. 

The program has been recognized by the International Federation of Library Associations at their 2019 World Congress in Athens, Greece, becoming the first program in the United States to be honored through their “Green Libraries” Award. 

Comprehensive approach 

With categories of actions focusing on each of the three pillars of triple bottom line sustainability such as Energy, Indoor Spaces, Social Cohesion and Resilience Planning, this comprehensive process leads a library toward institutional change that shifts the rationale for every decision to consider the local and global impacts. 

Through this program, libraries work with their communities to listen and learn, allowing local needs to be identified and addressed. Strengthening the relationship between the library and the community they serve builds resilience through stronger connections with many organizations and increased access to information. 

The path to certification through the Sustainable Libraries Certification Program is designed to be flexible for libraries of different types, sizes, and budgets and guided by the communities they serve. Each library that completes the program will select the benchmarks that best fit the needs of their library and community, resulting in a uniquely sustainable organization. 

The Sustainable Libraries Initiative is expanding to enroll libraries throughout the United States, with nearly 50 libraries currently enrolled in the Sustainable Libraries Certification Program. Comsewogue Public Library is the ninth library to be certified through this program.

Comsewogue senior Hayden Morris Gray drives the lane in a league IV home game against West Babylon Jan 22. Bill Landon photo

It was a battle right to the final buzzer at Comsewogue high school when the Warriors hosted West Babylon in a game separated by less than three points in the final minutes of play. 

Comsewogue trailed by one with :05.3 seconds left in regulation, but the clock wouldn’t wait as the Warriors fell 59-57 in the league IV matchup Jan. 22. 

Senior Hayden Morris Gray topped the scoring chart for Comsewogue draining 5 treys a field goal and a free throw for 18 points. 

Colin Strohm had 3 triples and a pair of field goals for 13 and teammate Matt Walsh banked 11. The loss drops the Warriors to 3-5 in league 7-6 overall.

Photos by Bill Landon 

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Katy Dornick and her student. Photo from Andrew Harris

Comsewogue Special Education teacher Katy Dornick has been working in the district for 12 years, and is a proud graduate of the district, too.

Since her first day working with children with special needs she felt at home. 

“Growing up with a sister with special needs I felt that I can relate to the families and be passionate to help their child succeed,” Dornick said. “I take pride in what I do, and I can relate to each family on a personal level.” 

After many years of waiting to teach the students most in need within the district, she finally got a chance to move up to the high school and teach that special class. 

“This is by far the most difficult class to teach,” said fellow teacher Andrew Harris. “It involves a lot of time, energy, and people management to run the class-and that is before you ever set foot inside the classroom and start teaching.”

He added that in this role, there is a lot of paperwork and medical knowledge required by the teacher. 

“It takes someone with a very strong background and work ethic to make it all work,” he said. 

“Not only that, but the students are the happiest I’ve ever seen them with Katy at the helm.”

During the summer, Dornick could be seen rearranging the areas the children would be working in. 

Katy Dornick and her student. Photo from Andrew Harris

“Classroom management is perhaps one of the most important things to have in place so that everything runs smoothly and is safe,” she said. “Some of my students have critical medical needs,  this is a priority, and I wanted the educational set-up to be perfect.”

When school was back in session, a new “sensory room” was created. A perfect place to bring a child — especially children with autism — it’s a place to help calm an anxious student. 

One student said it was his favorite place in the school.

Recently Dornicik, along with her class took over the responsibility of food collection for our high school. They donate all the food to the district pantry.

She has also guided her students to plan and create personal letters to be included when the district sent out care packages to veterans who have graduated from Comsewogue High School. One Marine in California was so excited to receive his gift from her class because he also had her as a teacher several years ago.

She has always been active in the local community including the fire department and a coach for sports teams. 

“Katy. Dornick is truly one of a kind,” said Principal Mike Mosca. “What she has done for the students in her class and the Comsewogue Life Skills program is nothing short of exceptional. Visiting her class and her students is certainly one of the highlights of my day.”

Dornick said it’s an honor to teach her classes.

“All I can say is I feel honored to be given this opportunity to teach this class,” she said. “I truly feel like the luckiest person in the room. There is a line in a song by Jordan Davis that stands true for me in this class: ‘Do what you love and call it work.’ There is not a day that goes by when I do not leave this class without a smile on my face. These kids are simply amazing, and they continue to make me proud on a daily basis.”

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Photo by Andrew Harris

By Kylie Schlosser and Andrew Harris

Tuesday Dec. 14 at Comsewogue High School was a very special evening indeed. It was well orchestrated in more ways than one.

Dr. Rella’s son, Richie, spoke about how he was grateful that Comsewogue (where he spent most of his time) ‘shared’ his dad with the family. Photo by Andrew Harris

When Superintendent Jennifer Quinn spoke, she said that Dr. Rella always said that during any celebrations, it was the musicians who were called upon first. Sure enough, musicians and singers from all the schools serenaded everyone that evening.

The dedication of the auditorium could not have been any more fitting, as it was on an evening surrounded by family, friends and love, of course, all to honor the man who started out as a part-time piano player at a church.

Later on he would become a music teacher, principal and eventually the superintendent of Comsewogue. 

Board member Rob Destefano spoke about him with a unique perspective both as board member and as a former student at Comsewogue.

“I am so proud that we are honoring his legacy with his name on this auditorium,” he said. “This is the classroom where he influenced the lives and education of so many of us.  Going through some old papers this past week, I found the program from one of those early, magical moments. This is the program from the 1996 Spring Concert. Some will recall, about how Dr. and Mrs. Rella danced in the aisles as we played ‘Sing! Sing! Sing!’  Classic Louis Prima / Benny Goodman swing music. Magic was happening!”

Charlotte Johnson, choral director, and her Tapestry Singers sang some lovely and fitting songs that evening.

Johnson said, “If you listen to the words of the song, [A Million Dreams], you can imagine Dr. Rella speaking them. He always felt that making this district the best it could be was not impossible … We just need to  put our thoughts and dreams into action, develop a plan and then have the courage to see it through.”

Destefano summarized it best. 

“If we remember the lessons we have been taught here, the time will soon come again, when Comsewogue will dance in the aisles of this auditorium. There is room for all of us. And I hope you will get out of your seats and join us!”

The district believes he, along with his wife, Jackie, would dance to the song that his beloved Tapestry sang that evening: 

“Every night I lie in bed

The brightest colors fill my head

A million dreams are keeping me awake

I think of what the world could be

A vision of the one I see

A million dreams is all it’s gonna take

Oh, a million dreams for the world we’re gonna make

However big, however small

Let me be part of it all

Share your dreams with me

You may be right, you may be wrong

But say that you’ll bring me along

To the world you see

To the world I close my eyes to see

I close my eyes to see.”

— “A Million Dreams” 

Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Ziv Zaifman

Kylie Schlosser is a 9th grade student at Comsewogue High School. Andrew Harris is a teacher in the district. 

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Ashley Doxey collected gift cards during teacher conferences for soldiers. Photo by Andrew Harris

These days, we are constantly reminded about how this holiday season is going to be sparse; but here at Comsewogue, students won’t be lacking. 

When I first got into teaching, I was worried about not being welcomed by the students since I was an older teacher. Fortunately, the students at Comsewogue High School and the middle school enthusiastically welcome me on a daily basis. 

They bring me treats and do amazing things —often these things go unrecognized (and that is fine with them since it’s not the reason they do it). On the other hand, I feel it is necessary to highlight positive actions.

One of those amazing things I see is how some “typical” students get involved and help out our students with disabilities. As a special education teacher, I see so much value when students get actively involved and help our special education classes. 

On their own time, students build garden beds to be used for different Comsewogue classes. Photo by Andrew Harris

Our students planned and executed one of the most incredible projects for their Eagle Scouts organization. They built several raised garden beds and picnic tables (taking special consideration to ensure they would be accessible to students in a wheelchair). These pieces are in our courtyard and are used often by our students. 

I made it known to other students how they too can be of service to people in the special needs community. 

“Come visit our classes and see where you can help,” I said, and they did! One young lady (an aspiring baked goods aficionado) came to our class and worked with the students to create some delicious and beautiful cupcakes. We have since been visited by student artists, musicians, therapy dogs, and all-around friendly folks ready, willing to lend a hand. 

Recently, some of our superstar athletes invited some special athletes to join them at their awards dinner. These young helpers are much more inspirational to their special needs peers. Often these helper-leaders will tell me how rewarding it is to assist, and how great they feel afterward. 

For the past two years, I’ve thought about how positive an impact these young leaders have within our school. I would like to encourage this type of leadership even more. I would also like to encourage them to explore teaching as a possible career. 

This spring, we are planning on taking some of them to an outstanding leadership seminar where I was impressed by a quote I saw: “A child with disabilities often spends hours being taught how to interact with others… But why don’t we spend time teaching those without disabilities how to interact with them?”  

This year our country has endured unbelievable hardship. Because of this, the need to encourage our wonderful student-leaders has increased even more. For their own birthdays, students Alyssa Morturano and Ashley Doxey raised money and donated it all to the Special Olympics. 

One student, Kylie Schlosser helps students with disabilities through an organization called Great Strides, where she connects students with equine therapy, giving them a chance to ride and learn about horses. 

Recently students helped with a massive clean-up activity at a summer camp for special needs children. Within school, they do fundraisers, assist with classes, and do work around our special garden. 

On their own time, students build garden beds to be used for different Comsewogue classes. Photo by Andrew Harris

Our monthly Athletics for All events are starting up again. The kindness continues to spread district wide. In addition to all of this, many of these same students perform outstanding academically, athletically, and artistically. 

In our small community of Port Jefferson Station, many need to hold down difficult and time-consuming jobs. These jobs are often customer service-related, and I have personally witnessed some of them keep a smile on their face even while being treated with insensitivity. 

“It is students like this that make this a great district; it’s the reason we get up and go to work every day with a smile on our faces,” said Superintendent Jennifer Quinn.

Perhaps this holiday season we can all be encouraged and inspired by these students and give the “stuff” that really counts — give to others in need from the heart. 

Instead of thinking about all the “goods” we desire, buying and getting, let’s think about the gifts we receive from the giving.

Andrew Harris is a teacher with the Comsewogue School District.

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Photo by Andrew Harris

 

By Andrew Harris

As soon as Comsewoge High School Students and Staff found out that Michael Abatiello, class of 2021, graduated from his Marine boot camp last week, they excitedly reached out to him. 

When he came back to the high school students and staff cheered and presented him with gifts that students fundraised for our Comsewogue Active Warrior Network.

“It is a priority for us to stay connected to our military graduates serving all over the world,” said Jennifer Quinn, superintendent of schools. 

Teacher Katy Dornicik agreed, and was happy that Michael was able to visit and be recognized by his peers.

“Michael always had one vision and would do anything in his power to make his dream become a reality,” she said. “Since 7th grade, he had his mind set on becoming a Marine. His work ethic and desire to succeed made it all happen. I am so proud of him.”

Students and administration will continue to honor any Comsewogue graduate (or their family if they are not able to be there) who are active in the  military at the club and craft fair at the high school on Saturday, Dec. 11 at noon.

Andrew Harris is a special needs teacher at the Comsewogue school district.