Tags Posts tagged with "Earl L. Vandermeulen"

Earl L. Vandermeulen

From left, Earl L. Vandermeulen High School’s Christopher Smith, Ava Romonoyske, Joshua Kwon, Evan Monaghan, Andi Kelly, Mari Fukuto, Marco Puopolo, Kay Moran and Michael Caravello. Photo courtesy PJSD

Members of Earl L. Vandermeulen High School’s music department paid tribute to those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, by giving a moving performance during the Port Jefferson Fire Department’s annual 9/11 memorial service. 

The students, led by Michael Caravello, director of music and fine arts, performed “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “God Bless America” and taps.

The Bayles Shipyard Band is pictured on the steps of Port Jefferson’s Plant Hotel, June 10, 1919. The band performed at ship launchings, Friday night dances, receptions, and costume parties. Source: National Archives

Following America’s entry into World War I, the number of employees at the Bayles Shipyard in Port Jefferson jumped from 250 in November 1917 to 1,022 in January 1919. 

Since many of these workers could not find housing in the village, the United States Shipping Board campaigned to persuade the area’s homeowners to rent rooms to Port Jefferson’s shipbuilders.

A painting by commercial artist Rolf Armstrong was offered as a prize to the villager who did the most to alleviate the housing shortage. Since this and other efforts did not meet much success, the USSB retained architect Alfred C. Bossom to design cottages and dormitories in Port Jefferson for the burgeoning population.

Bossom recognized the urgent need to provide accommodations for the wartime labor force, his numerous commissions including the Remington Apartments high-rise complex built for workers at the Remington Arms munitions factory in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

To secure a site for Port Jefferson’s housing development, the Bayles Shipyard purchased almost 16 acres of land just west of Barnum Avenue from Catherine Campbell in July 1918. 

Nine detached, one-family homes were designed by Bossom to reflect the character of “old Long Island fishing villages” and erected along Cemetery Avenue, later renamed Liberty Avenue.

Between 1921-23, Port Jefferson’s Plant Hotel served as a United States Veterans Training Center. Source: Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Bossom also designed a dormitory unit called the Plant Hotel since it accommodated employees at the Bayles plant. The Mark C. Tredennick Company, which had constructed buildings at the Army’s Camp Upton in Yaphank, was named the general contractor.

Now the site of Earl L. Vandermeulen High School, the Plant Hotel included 206 rooms, a cafeteria, powerhouse, athletic field and water purification facilities. A porch connected the three major wings of the complex.

Completed in December 1918 just after the Armistice on Nov. 11, the hotel soon became the center of social life for shipyard workers. A band was formed, a baseball team was organized and dances were held on Friday evenings. 

In April 1919, the Emergency Fleet Corporation commandeered the Bayles Shipyard because of the unsatisfactory progress at the facility. The seized property, which included the Plant Hotel, was then sold to the New York Harbor Dry Dock Corporation.

When the new owners fired hundreds of shipyard workers, the number of boarders at the Plant Hotel dropped dramatically. To compensate for this loss, the hotel began offering rooms to transients by the day or week.

The Port Jefferson Times scolded the hotel’s new clientele for destroying electric bulbs, smashing wash basins, spitting on the floors and generally behaving as if they were hoodlums. 

In December 1920, the NYHDDC shut down the Bayles Shipyard, dismissing all of its workers except for a skeleton crew. Confronted with a virtually empty Plant Hotel, the NYHDDC leased the complex to the Federal Board for Vocational Education, later renamed the United States Veterans Bureau. 

The Plant Hotel, which had been extensively damaged by some departing boarders, was refurbished as a training center charged with teaching disabled soldiers and sailors.

The initial group of 125 veterans arrived at the Plant Hotel in October 1921. During a typical three-month stay, the men prepared for new careers and received medical care. For recreation, they were entertained by theatrical troupes, went on field trips and enjoyed Friday night concerts. 

Port Jefferson’s Plant Hotel was still under construction on October 15, 1918. Photograph by Arthur S. Greene, National Archives

Despite pressure from local business groups and politicians, in June 1923 the Veterans Bureau left Port Jefferson as part of a nationwide plan to consolidate its rehabilitation facilities. 

As demobilization continued, local businessman Jacob S. Dreyer purchased the Liberty Avenue cottages, which have changed hands several times over the years and are still standing. In July 1929, taxpayers in the Port Jefferson school district voted to purchase the Plant Hotel itself and the remaining 13 acres.

In subsequent elections, the citizens authorized the board of education to sell some of the hotel’s furnishings, grade the grounds and construct an athletic field on the site. In June 1934, the taxpayers voted to build a high school on the property.

The board of education quickly sold the Plant Hotel to a high bidder for $250. Workers then demolished the building and hauled away the wreckage. 

 

Kenneth Brady has served as the Port Jefferson village historian and president of the Port Jefferson Conservancy, as well as on the boards of the Suffolk County Historical Society, Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and Port Jefferson Historical Society. He is a longtime resident of Port Jefferson.

By Bill Landon

The Port Jefferson Steeplefest invitational took place on Saturday, April 9, at the Earl L. Vandermeulen High School, attracting schools from all over Suffolk County. 

Mt. Sinai senior Kate Del Gandio won the girls 100-meter hurdle event with a time of 14.68. Senior Hugo Onghai placed first for Port Jeff in the boys 100-meter hurdles, clocking in at 16.36. In the 2000-meter steeplechase Frosh finals, Shoreham-Wading River’s Anna Minetti finished first with a time of 8:20.82. In the Frosh boys Steeplechase, Patrick Shea of Shoreham-Wading River clocked in at 7:07.36. Del Gandio also placed first in the 100-meter dash with a time of 12.56. Mt. Sinai senior Kyra Franks took the top spot in the 200-meter dash event, besting the field with a 26.09. Port Jeff senior Annie Maier took top honors in the long jump event by traveling 15-11.50. Mt. Sinai’s Kelly Hughes and Casey Campo placed second and third respectively. Julia Sue-Kim-Ling of Smithtown East proved she was the class of the field in the triple jump when she leapt 34-5.25. Kings Park senior Emily Stritzl also placed first in the pole-vault event, clearing 8-0.

 Photos by Bill Landon 

by -
0 669

The Friends of the Port Jefferson Library recognizes the role and contribution of libraries in the lives of young people. 

For this reason, they offered an opportunity for graduating high school students, with a Port Jefferson Library card, who have contributed to the library as well as the Port Jefferson community a chance to win a scholarship. 

Winners were selected by members of the Friends of the Library after reading scholarship applications and essays. Awards were given to those that exemplified having been part of the library community. 

We are excited to announce the winners of the second annual Friends of the Port Jeff Library’s scholarship are Hailey Hearney and Peggy Yin. 

Both applicants showed that the library has been an essential part of their lives and how it has guided them in their future pursuits.

Organized in 1998, The Friends of the Port Jeff Library have actively supported the library with special events and programming over the last few years. The Friends of the library is a group of individuals, families and organizations working to improve the library’s facilities, technologies, collections and special programs to benefit the community.

Congratulations Hailey and Peggy!

Photos and caption from the Port Jefferson Free Library

by -
0 787
File photo

Earl L. Vandermeulen High School has been ranked among the top 6% of high schools nationwide and in the top 8% of high schools in New York State as part of the annual U.S. News & World Report’s Best High Schools list. 

The designation is based on the 2018-19 school year.

Of all the eligible schools that received the designation, Port Jefferson was ranked 1,046 out of 17,857 public high schools and 101 out of 1,218 in New York State.

The news organization evaluated the high school based on several factors, including the number of students who took at least one AP exam, the number of students who passed at least one AP exam, and student math and reading proficiency rates. All schools are rated on their performance on state-required tests, graduation rates and how well they prepare students for college.

“We are pleased to again receive this nationally acclaimed designation and are grateful to all our stakeholders – teachers, parents and our Port Jefferson community – in encouraging student excellence at all grade levels,” Superintendent Jessica Schmettan said.

The high school annually boasts numerous AP Scholars and National Merit Semifinalists and Commended Students, in addition to the many athletic, musical, civic and volunteer accomplishments of its students.

by -
0 994
Earl L. Vandermeulen High School’s Brian Veit and Brennyn Veit with News 12’s Kevin Maher. Photo from PJSD

Earl L. Vandermeulen High School freshman Lucy Kwon and art teacher Lauren Lewonka took part in the Suffolk County Art Leaders Association annual Invitational Show, which celebrates the very essence of art education. 

The online exhibition was an opportunity for member art teachers and their selected students to exhibit alongside them, potentially highlighting a creative path and/or link between them.

Kwon’s graphite pencil still life was showcased with Lewonka’s “Grandma’s Recipes” acrylic paint over collage.

As part of its mission, SCALA recognizes the importance of highlighting the physical manifestations that develop out of the mentor/mentee relationship from both perspectives. The exhibit is an opportunity to give visual voice to imagination, exploration and discovery.

Superintendent Jessica Schmettan. File photo by Kyle Barr

Port Jefferson Middle School and Earl L. Vandermeulen High School had to go fully remote this week, after parents begged the district to allow their children back in four days a week. 

Up until recently, the district had students come to the high school and middle school twice a week. Parents, concerned about how the lack of in-person learning would have on their children, began asking why the district would not add more days. 

Jae Hartzell, a parent in the district, said she was one of a dozen who voiced their concerns. 

“We really worked, and fought, and emailed, and studied, and provided stats, and really researched to make sure we were fighting for the right and safe thing to do,” she said. 

And their wishes were granted at the latest board of education meeting on Jan. 8, when the board agreed on a vote to let middle and high schoolers back in four days a week. 

But just two days later, on Sunday, Jan. 10, the district sent out a notification that the four days will not happen, and instead, those two groups would have to go remote. 

The notice said that as of that day, there were 26 staff members, including teachers and teaching assistants, who are subject to quarantine due to COVID-19, for a variety of reasons related to their own health, in-school and out of school exposures, and positive family members. 

It continued that after careful examination of the school’s schedules and their available substitute coverage, they determined they do not have the staff to cover the middle and high schools this week. That being said, grades 6-12 will go remote Jan. 12 through Jan. 15, with no change to the Monday, Jan. 11 schedule as this is an asynchronous remote day in the district’s hybrid schedule.

The notice did not affect the elementary school, which will still be open for in-person learning, and staff coverage for the district’s 8:1:1 special education students have not been affected, as the in-person class schedules for these students remains the same.

“As a parent, you see your child go from super happy and over the moon to be able to go back to school, and then flattened a bit with that disappointment,” Hartzell said. “We all have to understand this is very complex and complicated and we don’t have the information, but it’s disheartening.”

Port Jefferson School District Superintendent Jessica Schmettan said the district understands this is difficult news to hear after the highly anticipated return to four days per week of in-person instruction.

“This determination is only for the remainder of this week and we expect to begin this next phase of our reopening plan on Tuesday, Jan. 19 – as long as circumstances permit – when we look forward to having all of our students back in our classrooms,” she said.

by -
0 2384
Deputy Superintendent Sean Leister. Photo by Kyle Barr

While the Port Jefferson School District is preparing its budget for the 2019-20 school year, the shadow of LIPA still hangs over the small school district.

Superintendent Paul Casciano said the LIPA outcome, at least in terms of drafting next year’s budget, was not as bad as it could have been. 

“It was translated by the town to be on the assessment rather than our payments,” he said. “With the glide path it gets more challenging later on, but we have time to make adjustments.”

“With the glide path it gets more challenging later on, but we have time to make adjustments.”

— Paul Casciano

In December 2018, the Town of Brookhaven settled with LIPA over the tax assessment of the Port Jefferson power station whose white and red smokestacks can be seen almost anywhere near the harbor. LIPA filed a lawsuit almost a decade ago against both Brookhaven and the Town of Huntington saying its plants in Port Jeff and Northport have been overassessed by millions of dollars and were seeking a 50 percent reduction. The settlement decision agreed to lower LIPA’s assessments by 50 percent over a nine-year period from $32.6 million to $16.8 million starting with the 2017-18 tax year.

Even after the settlement, district officials said the Port Jefferson School District would have the second lowest school tax rates compared to others in Brookhaven Town, only being beaten by Riverhead. The district, going into the ninth year of the settlement, would have a tax rate approximately 100 less than the average of non-Port Jefferson school rates, according to the district.

The school district, along with several village residents, feared what a 50 percent reduction could do to school taxes. Casciano, along with Deputy Superintendent Sean Leister, hosted a special meeting for district residents where they estimated a tax rate of 159 in the 2019-20 school year, and an estimated 243 by the 2026-27 school year.

If local revenues remain flat and with their expected tax levy cap sitting at 1.18 percent, the district expects their current $43.9 million budget will adjust to a $44.1 million rollover budget next school year, an increase of $232,930 if the district maintains all current programming and staff. The current school tax levy — the money a school makes in local area taxes — of $36,434,479 would jump to $37,075,627, more than the schools expected 1.2 percent tax cap.

Leister said this would mean reductions, but the district is currently in the process of creating the upcoming school year’s draft budget.

“We haven’t identified those reductions yet,” Leister said. “We are going to take the next few weeks to see if it can be done through efficiencies: We have to identify what our enrollment looks like, what our student interest looks like and what our scheduling looks like.”

Casciano said this difference is minimal, and it can be made up on the school’s end by tighter budgeting.

“If the community stays in support of the district, it won’t be as dramatic,” the superintendent said. “If the school has to absorb the entire cost of the tax loss, it will be.”

“A cynic would look at it and say you’re just trying to dampen any resistance in the short term and pushing it back.”

— Todd Pittinsky

Before news of the settlement, residents had proposed that the district combine with other area districts, but Leister said that combining with a district like Comsewogue or Mount Sinai would overall increase tax rates. Port Jefferson’s estimated tax rate in the 2019-20 school year is 159 compared to Comsewogue’s 262, assuming an annual levy increase of 2 percent, or under the New York State tax cap.

While the difference is minimal for this school year, the district said the glide path of LIPA’s assessment reduction ramps up over time. While the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years see a 3.5 percent reduction, later years show reductions going up to 7.5 and 8.25 percent.

Todd Pittinsky, a Port Jeff resident and professor in the Department of Technology and Society at Stony Brook University, said it would behoove the district to think long term when it comes to the reductions over time, and not make those cuts more drastic when the reductions start to increase dramatically.

“A cynic would look at it and say you’re just trying to dampen any resistance in the short term and pushing it back,” Pittinsky said. “I would hope that the effort is one-eighth each year. The formula you are using is going to push back the pain of dislocation or relocation, and it would be very easy to think that other decision makers will be in this role.”

by -
0 1468
Port Jefferson Middle School English teacher Allison Giannusa shared her class lesson with educators from the Anhui province, China. Photo from PJSD

By David Luces 

It was a case of east meets west as a delegation of Chinese educators visited the Port Jefferson School district Jan. 15 to experience and learn about the American education system. 

Port Jefferson School District was one of two school district chosen to be toured by the Chinese educators. The trip, organized in part by Stony Brook University, had the delegation from the Anhui province in China take a tour of the district and witness interactive lessons inside its classrooms. 

Chinese educators visited the Port Jefferson School District buildings. Photo from PJSD

“I think this is a wonderful opportunity for educators from another country to come in and see how we do things here,” Christine Austen, the Principal of Earl L. Vandermeulen High School said “This is unique because of the size of the school and the scope of our educational program.” 

The Chinese educators, accompanied by three Mandarin translators, were welcomed to the school with the school’s orchestra playing Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.” On a tour of the high school the group visited a chorus classroom where they caught a glimpse of students beginning to warm up their vocal cords, then later took a tour of the high school gym facilities. In between spots the educators were able to ask some students about their experiences in the Port Jeff school district. 

Austen said the educators may have seen things that they haven’t observed in other school districts. 

“We take a lot of pride in the school district,” Austen said. “We want to show our students that we are open to having these conservations and we are welcoming to everyone.” 

Superintendent Paul Casciano said the district had an important responsibility when it came to showcasing American education to the delegation. 

“Their impression of the American education system will be based on what they’ve seen and learned [here],” Casciano said. 

In September, the district joined in an Educational Leadership Program with Stony Brook with some high school teachers. The program offers courses to prepare educators for advancement in position such as superintendent and principal. 

Craig Markson, the director of the Educational Leadership Program at Stony Brook University said the Office of Global Affairs has a collaborative relationship with principals of schools in the Anhui province of China. The educators wanted to visit the United States to see how the American educational system works.  

The superintendent said the district set up the date and time with the Chinese delegation back in December.

“It forced us to be introspective and I think that’s really healthy.”

— Paul Casciano

“We already had a relationship and connection with the university,” Casciano said. “Markson contacted me about the planned trip and they were looking for schools to visit.” 

The superintendent said for two weeks before the visit they asked themselves what made the school district so special and what the
students and teachers might learn from the experience.

“It forced us to be introspective and I think that’s really healthy,” the superintendent said. “It’s a small snapshot — only a couple of hours — we only get to see the short-term impacts of something like this. We don’t even know what the long-term effects will be.” 

Though the two districts have cultural differences, Markson said they both share a common goal. 

“One thing that we all have in common is trying to prepare our children to meet the demands of a 21st century economy,” Markson said. “So we are learning from each other.” 

Austen said she’s excited to learn later how the delegation used what they learned in Port Jeff back in Anhui province.

“I can’t wait to hear what they have to say — I’ve never been to a school in another country, so this is an opportunity to gain knowledge on how they do things,” Austen said. “Everyone can learn from one another.” 

by -
0 1662
Port Jefferson Superintendent Paul Casciano addresses the Class of 2018 during graduation June 22. File photo by Alex Petroski

Port Jefferson School District has a lot on its plate, and whoever ends up sitting in the captain’s chair is going to need a strong character to deal with it all.

In August Paul Casciano, the district’s current superintendent, announced his plans to retire at the end of the 2018-19 school year. By July 1, 2019, a new superintendent will have to fill the position.

“The most important decision a school board makes is who they hire as a superintendent, because that’s basically your CEO,” Casciano said. 

While the board still has to interview candidates in January and February of next year, come May 2019, board President Kathleen Brennan said she expects the board will make its final choice.

“Different people interact with the superintendent differently.”

—Kathleen Brennan

In the meantime, the Port Jefferson school board is looking for community feedback on what they would most like from a superintendent. Working with Eastern Suffolk BOCES, the board released an online survey to community members asking them to judge what best qualities they wanted from the head of their school district. Some of the questions ask residents to rate how important a prospective superintendent’s knowledge of finance and business is or how important is their background in education.

While a superhuman superintendent would exhibit five stars in all these qualities, Brennan said the questions are there to gauge how important one quality is compared to another. She added people who work in education might place a greater emphasis on the new superintendent’s educational knowledge versus a local business owner placing more significance on the financial health of the district.

“Different people interact with the superintendent differently,” Brennan said.

A superintendent makes the day-to-day decisions for the entire school district, often trying to keep to the vision of the school board, including spending, staffing, facilities and school programs. 

However, the next superintendent of Port Jeff will have to find ways to handle the situation involving the local National Grid-owned power plant. LIPA has alleged the plants in both Port Jefferson and Northport have been overassessed in its payment of millions of dollars in annual property taxes, though Dec. 14 the Town of Brookhaven announced it had reached a settlement with LIPA, promising to reduce the Port Jeff plant’s assessments by around 50 percent over nine years.

The fallout of whatever ends up happening with LIPA has the possibility of directly impacting residents property taxes as well as school funding. Casciano said it will be important in the future to make sure the fallout of LIPA does not fall too much on either the district’s head or on residents.

“The next superintendent is going to need to take a balanced approach,” Casciano said. “We don’t just represent the residents who have children, it affects their taxes and we’re cognizant of that. … On the other hand, our core mission is teaching and learning — our real clients are children — we can’t turn our back on that and call ourselves educators.”

The Port Jeff school district is of much smaller size compared to neighboring districts, though the current superintendent said they enjoy small class sizes and specialized programs. Should a final LIPA decision impact the district negatively, the next superintendent would have to make hard choices on which specialized education programs to prioritize if the economic situation gets any more complicated.

Based on that looming potential crisis, Casciano said a new superintendent is going to need a strong backbone.

“No matter which way you go, you never satisfy everyone with a decision,” he said. “When it comes to schools which has taxes and kids involved with it, there is a lot greater passion attached to those voices.”

“No matter which way you go, you never satisfy everyone with a decision.”

—Paul Casciano

Brennan said she expects the incoming superintendent should use the current district administration, which has been cultivated to provide a good support structure to whoever steps into the position.

“We’re not overstaffed administratively, by any means,” the board president said. 

Casciano said while he expects a new superintendent to bring their own ideas and creative solutions to problems, he doesn’t expect them to overhaul on current staff.

“It’s a successful school district, and to come in and think there’s major changes to be made says you don’t really know the district,” he said.

The school board will be hosting a public meeting Jan 3. with Julie Davis Lutz, COO of Eastern Suffolk BOCES, to allow residents to express their thoughts on the necessary skills for the next superintendent. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium.