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Elwood school district

Beneath a beautiful blue sky, the graduating Class of 2024 from Elwood-John H. Glenn High School walked on to the field on June 28 for the school’s 62nd commencement ceremony, ready to mark a milestone on their school and life journeys.

After All School Vice President Sarah Collins led the Pledge of Allegiance, senior musicians shined while playing for the last time with the school’s band, performing “The Last Ride of the Pony Express,” directed by Gabrielle Caviglia and with the school’s choir, performing “Go the Distance,” directed by Brittany Wheeler.

“I’ve had the privilege and pleasure of working with this very special class over the past four years, and have witnessed firsthand what they have accomplished throughout their high school career,” Principal Corey McNamara said before highlighting the seniors’ educational achievements. “These young adults are remarkable and have helped us to earn some amazing accolades. Aside from the amazing academic accomplishments, the Class of 2024 is a kind, mature, polite, respectful and compassionate group of students who value helping others. Many of the young men and women here tonight have consistently served their school and their community as members of various organizations and clubs, both inside and outside of school. We thank them for their leadership and volunteerism to the Elwood community. Additionally, over the past four years, our students have shared their talents with us and have truly represented John Glenn High School with dignity, grace and a tremendous amount of Elwood pride.”

“Your graduation is the completion of a significant process in your life, and the beginning of an exciting journey that awaits you,” Interim Superintendent Kelly Fallon told the seniors. “As you begin this journey, I ask you to consider a thought that I hope will inspire you: Live to learn well, and learn to live well. Living to learn well recognizes the value of embracing every experience and opportunity to grow. Your years at John Glenn have taught you that education extends far beyond classrooms, assignments and textbooks. It is about curiosity, exploration and the courage to ask questions, and in our world today, it is so important to not only ask questions, but seek, hear and listen to all the answers. Now, let’s consider learning to live well. This speaks to applying what you’ve learned to lead fulfilling and meaningful lives. It’s about understanding that your education has equipped you with the tools to navigate life’s challenges with grace and resilience. Class of 2024, as you walk off this field this evening, let’s commit to a life of continuous learning and purposeful living. Embrace the unknown with enthusiasm and let your passion for knowledge guide you. Graduates, here’s to living to learn well and learning to live well.”

Salutatorian Lauren LaMena spoke to her classmates about embracing their own journey. 

“Each of us has traveled a unique path filled with challenges, triumphs, and countless moments of growth, and as we gather here today, let us celebrate not only our achievements, but also the courage it took to forge our own paths,” LaMena said. “Never forget the impact that we can have on the world around us by daring to be different. By following our own paths, we inspire others to do the same. We become beacons of hope, guiding others to embrace their individuality and pursue their dreams with unwavering determination. As we stand on the brink of a new beginning, let us embrace the journey ahead with courage, resilience and an unwavering belief in ourselves. Let us forge our own paths, guided by our passions and fueled by our dreams. Taylor Swift once said, ‘people throw rocks at things that shine.’ If you’re ever doubting yourself or your journey, let this quote serve as a reminder to persevere in the face of adversity and to continue shining brightly despite the rocks thrown your way. Our futures await and the world is ours to conquer. Let us go forth and make our mark, knowing that we have the strength, courage and determination to achieve anything we set our minds to.”

After rolling out a printed list of all those he wished to thank, valedictorian Christopher Sanelli offered three pieces of advice for his classmates.

“The first one is to always show respect,” Sanelli said. “Respect is at the foundation for fostering meaningful relationships and earning trust. The future holds different possibilities for us all, but no matter how smart or successful you become, everyone has the ability to make a positive impact on someone’s life and display a sense of respect. The second piece of advice is to have gratitude. When we express gratitude, we not only recognize the efforts of others, but also create a mindset of abundance and creativity. When we finally become truly grateful for everything that we have, the world around us starts to fall into place. You’ll find yourself being content with who you are and you won’t need to compare yourself to others. This brings me to the third and final piece, which is probably the most important, and that is to take risks. I have the utmost confidence that all of you will leave fulfilling lives, but as humans, we innately suffer from the poverty of time. Time is the one continuity in life, so please don’t waste your future being afraid or question your ability to do something. Rather, focus on the things within yourself, like displaying gratitude and respect. Therein lies everything you will need, and each risk you take is merely a bonus to your already amazing life.”

Class of 2024 graduation speaker Anthony Bell, selected by his peers as a student who exemplifies John Glenn’s spirit, gave the event’s final address.

“Tonight, we gather to participate in one of the most important and meaningful events people go through in modern society,” Bell said. “The beauty behind a day like today, that marks the transition from one era into another, is shared in both the reflecting of memories and in the anticipation of what the future holds. Throughout the past 15 years, we’ve all experienced change. For better or for worse, each and every one of us is on an ever-changing path, and none of us can truly see into the future. The diverse set of roadblocks that has carved all of our own unique paths is what has brought us all to where we are as individuals and is what makes this celebration matter. The challenges we have all faced to get to this point today should serve as reminders to ourselves of how strong we really are and what we can do. Looking to our past should fill us with pride, motivation and excitement for the future and the challenges we will face and overcome on our journey.”  

Following the distribution of diplomas, the members of the Class of 2024 gathered one last time to turn their tassels and toss their blue and white caps skyward, proud and prepared to walk out as John Glenn alumni.

Two dozen Elwood student-musicians have been selected for the Suffolk County Music Educators’ Association All-County Festival, and will begin rehearsing with their respective SCMEA ensembles in early March.

Elwood-John H. Glenn High School freshmen Margarita Agrawal and Angelica Viviani and sophomores Peter Bell, Aaleshan Jamal Raim, Kim, Olivia LoBue and Emma Rothleder will perform at the SCMEA West Division III concert on March 9 at Huntington High School.

Elwood Middle School seventh and eighth graders Juan Alvarado Escalante, Olivia Charalambous, Gregory Gross, John Haintz, Jewel Li, Joseph Meyers, Ryan Myers, Logan Ouziel and Camille Zreik will perform at the SCMEA West Division II concert on March 10 at Huntington High School.

James H. Boyd Intermediate School fifth graders Ella Zwang Daniel D’Angeli, Nicholas Mandelbaum and Raho Kim and Elwood Middle School sixth graders Victoria Agrawal, Sophie Bagshaw, Nora Brzezinski, and Lukas Davis will perform at the SCMEA West Division I concert on March 10 at Huntington High School. 

Pixabay photo

Along the North Shore of the Town of Huntington, the majority of residents who turned out to vote May 17 in school elections approved their district’s budgets. They also voted incumbents back in to retain their seats on the boards of education, except in Cold Spring Harbor.

Cold Spring Harbor Central School District

Cold Spring Harbor school district residents passed a $73,420,423 budget, 817 to 276. The budget reflects a $1,403,005 increase from the 2021-22 budget of $72,017,418 and reflects a 1.64% tax levy which is below the cap.

Incumbent and current president Amelia Walsh Brogan lost her seat with 496 votes. Incumbent Julie Starrett did not seek reelection.

Alex Whelehan, 888 votes, and Bruce Sullivan, 648, will be joining the board as new trustees.

Commack Union Free School District

The $ 214,645,326 budget for 2022-23 was passed with 2,392 votes. There were 815 who voted “no.” Proposition 2 to decrease transportation limits in grades three through five from 1/2 mile to a 1/4 mile was also passed, 2,376 to 814.

The budget for next academic year is an increase of 4.64% over last year. This will result in a tax levy increase of 1.95%, under the tax cap of 3.82%. This includes a state aid package of $43 million.

Incumbents Steven Hartman and Justin Varughese retained their seats with 2,277 and 2,247 votes, respectively. Newcomers Pauline Fidalgo received 877 and Christopher Jurkovic 893.

Elwood Union Free School District

The $69,181,071 budget for the new academic year was passed in Elwood, 804 to 396. The dollar amount reflects a $2,267,492 increase and 3.39% increase over the previous budget of $66,913,579. The budget represents a tax levy increase of 2.9% which is under the district’s allowable tax levy of 3.4%.

Incumbent Deborah Weiss retains her seat with 965 votes. Local student Sean Camas received 183 votes

Harborfields Central School District

In Harborfields, residents approved the $92,895,995 budget, 1,655-353. The budget is $2,579,731 more than the 2021-22 budget of $90,316,264, which comes to a 2.86% increase. The budget is within the district’s allowed tax levy increase of 2.28%.

Incumbents Hansen Lee and Colleen Wolcott retained their seats with 1,490 and 1,530 votes, respectively. Challenger David Balistreri received 603 votes.

Huntington Union Free School District

The $142,968,343 Huntington school district budget passed with 834 “yes” votes and 150 voters saying “no.” The approved budget will be an increase of 2.62% over the current spending plan. However, it does not raise the tax levy. According to the district’s website, the lack of an increase to the tax levy is due to a $4,087,007 increase in state aid to $26,253,748, low debt and the district lessening expenditures.

Two capital reserve propositions passed, 860-117 and 854-124.

Incumbents Bill Dwyer and Michele Kustera ran unopposed with 823 and 838 votes, respectively.

Northport-East Northport Union Free School District

Residents approved the $177,856,084 Northport-East Northport budget, 2,285-1,674. They also passed proposition 2, by 2,983-958, to authorize $5,694,660 to be used for building projects including HVAC renovations, asbestos abatement and replacement of bleachers at Northport High School.

The approved budget represents a budget-to-budget increase of 1.81%. The tax levy increase is 0.61%, which involves an additional sum to average taxpayers of $49.79. 

Incumbents Larry Licopoli, Allison Noonan and Thomas Loughran retained their seats on the board with 2,528, 2,676 and 2,729 votes, respectively. Challenger Frank Labate received 1,754.

How libraries look during COVID times. Photo from Comsewogue School District

Nine months into the coronavirus pandemic and schools are still adjusting. The school library, a place of solace for elementary schoolers and high school seniors alike, has had to adhere to the new and ever-changing COVID-19 protocols.

Local districts, however, have embraced the changes and have implemented new services that they never would have started if it wasn’t for the crisis.

A silver lining, school librarians across the North Shore explained how the changes have impacted them, their schools and their students.

Alice Wolcott, librarian at Elwood-John Glenn High School, said that COVID changed the landscape of public education, meaning they had to reimagine their space.

“This year we transitioned the book loan program to a digital platform, which will continue to support students’ pleasure and academic reading while still observing COVID restrictions,” she said. “Students can browse the collection online via Follett Destiny [a library management system], and if they find a title they’d like to borrow, they can request that book through our book request form.”

To adhere to COVID rules, the books are delivered in a Ziploc bag to first period teachers.

Since some students are not physically in their first period classes, the district also increased their digital library as a main focus.

Shoreham-Wading River High School librarian Kristine Hanson and Albert G. Prodell Middle School librarian Ann-Marie Kalin created an initiative to meet the need for printed books while reimagining the online presence in concert with OPALS, the open-source library system.

They created a book delivery service at their schools called BookDash, which allows students to electronically submit requests with their student ID. Then, physical books are either delivered to students at Prodell or picked up at the high school library doors at the end of the school day. The initiative is promoted through English classes, and a multitude of book recommendations are available via the OPALS pages, blogs and links.

“Kids are reliant on what’s in the catalog, books that never went out before are going out like wild,” Kalin said. “For the time being we’re making the best of it all.”

With the BookDash initiative, Kalin said students are excited to get their hands on actual books.

“So many kids are so tired of being on the screen and are desperate for that interaction with each other,” she said. “I’m seeing readers I never saw before, and there are so many requests for books. It’s very successful.”

Along with Shoreham-Wading River, other districts across Long Island are using an e-book platform called Sora, including Joseph A. Edgar Intermediate School in Rocky Point.

Monica DiGiovanni teaches Sora to third graders in Rocky Point. Photo from RPSD.

Librarian Monica DiGiovanni has been visiting classrooms, having students log into their Chromebooks. She is teaching them how to check out library books with the new service, which enables students to borrow a book and read it right on their devices. Another program, Destiny Discover, enables students to find a physical book in the library and have it delivered directly to them since their libraries are currently not open.

DiGiovanni said that their school libraries have become break rooms for teachers and classroom spaces to accommodate kids in a socially distanced way.

“The library has become an interactive thing,” she said. “Students are definitely utilizing it.”

Although Rocky Point school libraries had to reshape themselves and close the doors to students, Elwood school district was able to open the doors at the high school last week. Wolcott said that right now 15 students are allowed in the library at a time, with designated seating and other stipulations in place.

“The students are really responsive and they’re following all the protocols,” she said. “It’s great to have them back.”

She even sees students, who were not her typical regulars, interacting with the library catalog more than they did before.

“Now it’s nice they’re browsing the shelves,” Wolcott said. “They’re picking books they would not have chosen otherwise.”

Donna Fife, library media specialist at Elwood Middle School, said that early on, the district was keeping library services running smoothly, while her younger students are opting to read more.

“I am seeing names I never saw before requesting books more frequently,” she said. “I know how I feel at the end of the day ­— I would have a hard time playing video games after screen learning.”
Fife said she thinks students are looking for something tangible now that some are looking at a computer all day long.
“They’re requesting to hold a physical copy instead of looking at another screen,” she said.

Nicole Taormina, librarian at Boyle Road Elementary School in the Comsewogue school district, said that new regulars have blossomed throughout the pandemic.

“They really love browsing online,” she said. “It’s a different experience — they are really excited now because they use their Chromebooks and have their own accounts.”

Taormina said that while the changes have been different, she’s looking forward to some normalcy in 2021, and is grateful for what 2020 helped her with.

“I’ve been able to tweak things,” she said. “And the students have been able to learn things that they may have not been able to learn before.”

Also in Comsewogue, Deniz Yildirim, a librarian at Terryville Road Elementary School, said that teaching her library classes has been different compared to years past.

“It’s been a huge change,” she said. “We can’t hand out worksheets anymore, and we do a lot online to cut down on contamination. No other class can come in other than what’s assigned in this room.”

When Yildirim visits classrooms at her school now, she will deliver books that children ask her for.

“It breaks my heart that they can’t browse,” she said. “But we’re making it work.”

And she said that all school libraries have made progress in 2020 than the past 10 years.

“Publishers, authors and librarians are working very hard to make sure kids are reading,” she said. “It’s the least we can do for them during these trying times.”

Taylor Kinsley, a librarian at Minnesauke Elementary School in the Three Village school district, said their schools have been allowing browsing within the libraries.

She said students have to use hand sanitizer before and after touching the books to be sure they have clean hands, and they reorganized the setup of the library, featuring no reading carpets on the floor.

“Elementary students are always excited to have the freedom to pick the books they want,” she said.

The district sanitizes the used books and quarantines them for about a week before putting them back on the shelves.

“I think normalcy is really important for them,” Kinsley added, referring to her students. “We’re being supercautious so why take that away from them?”

File photo by Julianne Mosher

Schools are staring down the barrel of funding cuts because of the COVID-19 crisis.

While students have been returning to their new normal of hybrid classes, remote learning and plastic barriers between desks, school districts across New York state are concerned about the news surrounding a potential 20% state funding cut.

Elwood Super Ken Bossert, pictured above before the pandemic, said every single school will need to make painful cuts if things don’t go their way. Photo from Heather Mammolito

According to New York State Education Department, the State Division of the Budget has begun withholding 20% of most local aid payments, forcing reductions in some payments to school districts across the state. The reductions in aid, combined with increased costs during pandemic times, could affect not only students, but community members too.  

“All public schools throughout New York state will have to make deep and painful cuts if federal assistance in the form of school aid is not secured,” said Ken Bossert, superintendent of Elwood school district. “The governor’s proposal of reducing aid by 20% will impact districts that rely heavily on aid in a devastating way. Not only will programs and staffing be redacted, the gap between the ‘haves and the have-nots’ will widen.”

Mark Secaur, superintendent of Smithtown school district, noted that during the height of the pandemic in New York last spring, the state adopted a budget that contained three review periods, in which local aid distributions might be reduced on a rolling basis, based on the revenues the state received. 

“On August 18, districts throughout New York state received a state aid payment for the 2019-2020 school year that withheld 20% of the expected payment,” he said. “Also included was a note that all future payments would be reduced by 20% in the absence of federal relief.”

Secaur added that for Smithtown, this equates to a potential loss of upward of $9 million in state aid. 

“When developing our 2020-2021 school budget, the district took into consideration the potential loss of state aid and made adjustments,” he said. “However, these losses, coupled with the unfunded expenditures required for the safe return of students, will likely force the district to significantly utilize the fund balance and reserves to balance the budget.”

In addition, the budget doesn’t cover the costs that are protecting children returning to their classrooms. 

“Cleaning supplies, dividers for rooms … the cost is close to $4 million,” said Roberta Gerold, superintendent of Middle Country school district.

That sum didn’t include the cost to keeping the schools operational — even when students weren’t in them when the pandemic hit. 

“There was still a cost to keep the schools running,” Gerold added. “It was a rough couple of months.”

Gerard Poole, superintendent of Shoreham-Wading River school district, agreed.

“In a time when students need more, we won’t be able to provide that,” he said. 

While Poole and his peers are trying to stay optimistic, and are pleased to have students back, he wonders if it will be sustainable. “It’s an uncertain time — it won’t be the easiest thing for districts to put a budget together this year,” he said. “We just have to take it day by day.”

“We’re trying to plan for a budget without knowing what’s going to happen.”

— Roberta Gerold

While each district is different on the Island, they can all agree that continuing to plan during an uncertain time is very difficult. 

“We’re trying to plan for a budget without knowing what’s going to happen,” Gerold said. “If we have the info, we can figure that out. … It’s a scary time for sure.”

Miller Place school district declined to comment but did release a letter Sept. 3 penned to elected officials, asking for their support.

“As our elected officials we implore you act quickly to stop any and all federal and state reductions regarding payments to New York state school districts,” the letter said. “As district leaders we remain focused on the mission of returning students to our classrooms, and providing them with the social, emotional and academic supports they need in order to achieve their 2020-21 instructional goals.”

The letter continued, “Please recognize any reductions in federal or state aid payments would dramatically reduce our ability to sustain our district’s fiscal health, as well as maintain the support needed to ensure our students and staff physical health.”

Elwood Super Ken Bossert said every single school will need to make painful cuts if things don't go their way. Photo from Heather Mammolito

The 5-square-mile hamlet of Elwood is known as a tight-knit community with a strong sense of heritage and pride. So, when Kenneth Bossert joined the Elwood school district, four years ago, to take over as superintendent, he wanted to bring that sense of closeness to the district community as well. 

In those four years he has done just that, and so much more. 

“He has such a dynamic personality, he has made a lasting impact in the community,” Heather Mammolito, district board of education member and Elwood resident said. 

Mammolito said before Bossert took over, the district was in a weird place, with a lot of administrative turnover. 

“The goal was to bring someone that could rein everyone back in, and that’s what we did,” she said. “I haven’t seen a greater sense of pride in the district community in a while.”

The board member said Bossert’s presence at the district has already paid dividends.  

Elwood celebrates members of its community during homecoming festivities. Photos from Heather Mammolito

Last year, Elwood-John H. Glenn High School was designated as a National Blue Ribbon school, which was a huge honor and designation for the district. His other accomplishments include the creation of the Elwood school district Wall of Fame, which honors people who have made a mark on the community before the homecoming football game. He’s opened board of education subcommittee meetings to the public. Under his leadership the district has seen significant increase of reading and writing scores. He also hosts roundtable talks with John Glenn seniors. 

“I feel like he has really started a domino effect … he knows how to work with people, it is infectious,” Mammolito said. “It starts from the top, it has been a culture shift.” 

She said Bossert makes sure every staff member feels accepted and welcomed and is very approachable. 

“He is really present, he goes above and beyond. He makes it a point to get out of his office and visit every building in the district, every classroom,” Mammolito said.  

In April, Bossert was elected to the Executive Committee of New York State Council of School Superintendents. He has also been past president of the Suffolk County School Superintendent’s Association and a member of the Suffolk Superintendent’s Legislative Committee. Over the years, Bossert has worked in the Middle Country, Longwood, Eastport-South Manor, Three Village and Port Jefferson school districts.

Ronald Masera, superintendent of Center Moriches School District, has known Bossert for more than 20 years. They were both in the same Stony Brook University educational leadership program. 

Bossert, left, along with other school officials honor a student-athlete. Photos by Heather Mammolito

“Very early on you could tell he was one of those individuals that had that presence and insight,” he said. “He has always been an engaged and committed person.”

After completing the program, the duo went on to work as assistant principals in the Longwood school district. 

“He just hasn’t been a colleague of mine but a friend as well over the years; this job can be a little isolating with a network of people you trust,” he said. “He’s one of the first people I reach out to if I have an issue or question and we text back and forth.”

Lars Clemensen, superintendent of schools at Hampton Bays, had similar sentiments to say of Bossert. 

“He is my top go-to person to reach out whenever I have a question,” the superintendent said. 

He said Bossert is a student-first and community-oriented administrator. 

“He really looks at the big picture and tries to do the best he can for the public,” Clemensen said. “It is not surprising to hear of he’s been able to build at Elwood.”

The Hampton Bays superintendent said as they both became parents over the years they become close friends and is proud of the work Bossert’s been able to accomplish. 

“He has that gene, whenever he walks into a room he is seen as a leader,” Clemensen said. “When you are a superintendent you are the face of the school … he has done great work and the community is proud.”

An East Nothport house decked in more than 25,000 holiday lights hopes to raise funds for charity. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Each year as it gets close to Christmas, drivers slow down just a bit on residential streets as those who are young at heart enjoy the holiday light displays. Everyone knows the address or road of that one home whose lawn is decorated with more figures and lights than can be counted.

James Tomeo, 28, has spent weeks decorating his East Northport home with more than 25,000 Christmas lights and hundreds of figures in hopes of raising money for Cohen Children’s Medical Center. On the night of Dec. 7, his home was transformed into Santa’s workshop where children would take pictures and talk to Santa and Mrs. Claus while marveling at the display.

A sign at James Tomeo’s house indicate the holiday light display is in honor of his late mother, Jacki. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“Every year the fundraiser has grown bigger and bigger,” he said. “And with that the display has continued to grow bigger and bigger.”

Tomeo said his massive holiday light display is inspired by his late mother, Jacki, who died when he was 8 years old. He recalls fondly that his mother’s favorite holiday was Christmas and remembers frequently stopping with her to admire a large light display in Deer Park near where he went for karate lessons as a child.

 

“I slowly started building up my display over time, and I wanted to have a huge display like his,” Tomeo said.

In 2015, the Elwood school district board of education trustee decided to put his light display up and host an event to raise money for the Leukemia Foundation in honor of his mom. Over the years, he’s transitioned to donating any funds raised to the Cohen Children’s Medical Center.

“A lot of people stop by each year for their kids,” Tomeo said. “So, we wanted to do something for the children.”

In order to create his holiday light display, the East Northport resident said he starts assembling his army of more than 600 lit and blow-up figurines featuring popular characters from Disney movies, Star Wars, Sesame Street, Looney Tunes and more by Halloween.

“Everyone comes on Halloween to see what I’ve started with on the roof,” he said. “It’s become a Halloween tradition.”

His neighbor Sarah Perinchief said it’s a community activity to watch the display come together each year.

A homemade light display in honor of Tomeo’s brother, a U.S. Marine, who is deploying overseas. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“Last year, when he did it I saw it from The Best Market parking lot,” she said. “I was like, ‘Where is that house’ so I took a drive around in October, and I could see the lights.”

Among the more than 25,000 Christmas lights are a number of personal decorations that Tomeo has made throughout the years. For 2018, he custom built an American flag made up of more than 2,000 bulbs with the words “Peace on Earth” to hang above it. In front of the flag, a Santa Claus kneels over a pair of combat boots. Surrounding the American flag and Santa, are choirs of angels. The installation was designed to honor Tomeo’s brother-in-law, a U.S. Marine who will be deploying overseas for Christmas.

“It’s our Christmas present to him,” Tomeo said. “That’s our way of telling him that we wish him the best overseas and a safe return home.”

High school volunteers from Commack, Elwood and Northport school districts came dressed as elves Dec. 7 to help oversee a raffle of baskets and items donated by local business owners in an effort to help raise money for the children’s hospital. Among the prizes raffled off were a 55-inch television and spending a day in the life of New York State assemblymen Andrew Raia (R-East Northport) and Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills).

“It’s awesome,” Perinchief said. “It’s such a fun, nice family-friendly event for a good cause.”

Update: Due to weather forecasters calling for inclement weather, the event was postponed to Dec. 7.

There are more than 25,000 Christmas lights and roughly 600 figurines on the front lawn of an East Northport home, all in the spirit of charity.

James Tomeo, a board trustee for Elwood school district, has decked out his Mansfield Lane South residence — and dubbed it the East Northport Christmas House — to host his 4th annual Oh What Fun It Is fundraiser for Cohen Children’s Medical Center.

Tomeo invites the community Dec. 1, from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. to join him for a holiday celebration. He said Santa, Mrs. Claus and Rudolph will visit and take photos with children in his temporary workshop. Letters to Santa with a pre-addressed envelope will be sent to the North Pole.

There will be a raffle featuring baskets and gift certificates in Tomeo’s driveway, including a day in the life of various  local politicians, with hot cocoa and food donated by local businesses.

Those attending are asked to make a goodwill donation, as all proceeds will be given to the children’s hospital.

Meet the valedictorians, salutatorians from Cold Spring Harbor, Elwood, Harborfields, Northport and Huntington school districts

Huntington High School held its 157th commencement exercises June 22. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Across the Town of Huntington, hundreds of graduates stepped forward to receive their high school diplomas this week. Among the graduates are those who have excelled academically, achieving consistently high marks to rise top of their class to earn the titles of valedictorian and salutatorian.

Huntington High School Valedictorian Aidan Forbes. Photo from Huntington school district

Huntington High School

Aidan Forbes has been named valedictorian of Huntington High School’s Class of 2018. Sebastian Stamatatos is this year’s salutatorian. The spectacular pair has enjoyed exceptional four-year runs packed with academic and co-curricular success.

“I am extremely proud to be named valedictorian,” Forbes said. “It is the culmination of years of hard work and I couldn’t be happier.”

Forbes and Stamatatos both gave addresses at Huntington’s 157th commencement exercises June 22 in Blue Devil’s athletic stadium.

Huntington High School Salutatorian Sebastian Stamatatos. Photo from Huntington school district

“Aidan is an outstanding student and a very well rounded young man,” Huntington Principal Brenden Cusack said. “His years of hard work have paid off and I am so very happy for him. Sebastian is to be commended as well for this outstanding accomplishment, which apparently has become a family trait.”

Huntington’s top two seniors have captured the respect and admiration of their classmates and teachers. Their transcripts are filled with the most challenging courses the school district offers.

“Aidan and Sebastian have both achieved at the highest of levels academically and have taken complete advantage of all that the district has to offer,” Huntington Superintendent James Polansky said. “As importantly, they recognize the value of service and continue to represent our school community in the finest manner  possible. It will soon be time for them to further share their gifts with the world beyond Huntington. I wish them and their families the heartiest of congratulations and all the best moving forward.”

Northport High School Valedictorian Daniel O’Connor. Photo from Northport-East Northport school district

Northport High School

Daniel O’Connor is Northport High School’s 2018  valedictorian and said by school officials to be a shining example of the district’s mission— “excellence in all areas without exception” — has put hard work and effort into his high school career.

In addition to being involved extracurricular activities and running cross-country, he has been named an AP Scholar with Distinction, a National Merit Commended Scholar, a 2018 Town of Huntington Scholar-Athlete of the Year, and more. He will be attending Northeastern University in pursuit of a computer engineering degree this fall.

Northport High School Salutatorian Nicholas Holfester. Photo from Northport-East Northport school district

Northport High School salutatorian Nicholas Holfester’s passion for learning and internal drive has propelled him toward excellence throughout his high school career, according to school officials.

Even with a rigorous course load Holfester has excelled and received many awards and honors, including being named a National Merit Commended Scholar, a Rensselaer Medal winner and more. He will be attending the University of Notre Dame to study engineering in the fall.

Harborfields High School

Harborfields High School Valedictorian Emma Johnston. Photo from Harborfields school district

Harborfields’s valedictorian Emma Johnston, who will be attending Brandeis University to study neuroscience in the fall, had a successful high school career.

Along with being involved in many extracurricular activities, Johnston has received many academic awards and honors, such as being named a National Merit Finalist and a National AP Scholar.

Harborfields’ Class of 2018 salutatorian Sarah Katz led a well-rounded and successful high school career. Headedto either the University of Californiaor Berkley to dual major in business and engineering.

Harborfields High School Salutatorian Sarah Katz. Photo from Harborfields school district


She has been awarded many awards and honors, such as Rensselaer Medal Award Outstanding Academic Achievement in Study of Mathematics and Science, awards of academic excellence in English, French and art, and more.

Elwood-John H. Glenn High School

Elwood-John H. Glenn’s Valedictorian Kathryn Browne had a rigorous high school career, excelling in both academics and extracurricular activities. She was named a New York State Scholar Athlete all four years and was awarded multiple academic distinctions, including the Bausch & Lomb Honorary
Science Award.

John H. Glenn High School Valedictorian Katherine Browne. Photo from Elwood school district

She participated in multiple clubs where she assumed mentoring and leadership roles, and also enjoyed involvement in both the varsity track and soccer. Browne will be attending Boston College in the fall, where she plans on studying nursing.

Along with being at the top of her class, Elwood-John H. Glenn salutatorian Catherine Ordonoz-Reyes has been pursuing the family tradition of nursing throughout her high school career—and is a certified nursing assistant.

John H. Glenn High School Salutatorian Catherine Reyes-Ordonoz. Photo from Elwood school district

Along with her rigorous dedication to excellence in her studies, Ordonoz-Reyes has been an active member of her school and community. She has received academic distinctions, such as the National Academy for Future Physicians and Medical Scientist Award of Excellence. She will be attending LIU Post on a full scholarship to study nursing.

Editor’s note: Cold Spring Harbor High School does not formally recognize a valedictorian or salutatorian, but rather has a tradition of speeches given by reflection speakers with four to nine individuals selected each year. 

Elwood Middle School will get a new roof with the passage of Proposition 1 by voters. File photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Across the Town of Huntington, voters went to polls May 15 and gave their stamp of approval to their districts’ 2018-19 budgets. Many of the districts are planning to use funds to increase their security measures in schools or make critical infrastructure and building repairs.

Yet, threat of hazardous weather and early evening storms made for a light voter turnout, with fewer ballots being cast than in previous years. This disappointed some board of education members, who rely on their taxpayers’ votes as a critical measure of community feedback.

Harborfields 2018-19 budget

Harborfields voters approved the district’s $86,086,696 budget for the 2018-19 school year, by 966 votes to 275 votes. The approved budget is an increase of nearly $2 million over the current year and will impose tax levy increase of 2.19 percent for district taxpayers.

“The community’s continued support of the district allows us to provide a ‘world-class’ education to the children of our community,” Harborfields Superintendent Francesco Ianni said. “We look forward to implementing several enhancements to the curriculum for next year, including the restructuring of the high school science research program and a new literacy curriculum. In addition, the proposed budget will allow us to enhance security throughout the district.”

Harborfields votes by the numbers

$86M budget: 966 Yes votes to 275 No votes

Board of education
Suzie Lustig: 949 votes
Steve Engelmann: 862 votes
Joseph Savaglio: 744 votes

The superintendent said the district will reorganize its pupil personnel services department to include a chairperson of special education, allowing the school psychologist more time for child-focused responsibilities.

The proposed spending plan features funding to restructure Harborfields High School’s science research program to allow the teacher to have dedicated time set aside to support students in their individual pursuit of science inquiry. Other enhancements contained in the district’s approved budget include a new literacy curriculum; additional resources for science classes districtwide; and new educational classes in engineering, computer science and business entrepreneurship.

The average Harborfields school district resident will see their annual school taxes increase by an estimated $222.80 per year. This is based on the average home having an assessed value of $4,000, in which an assessed value is a dollar value placed on the property by the Town of Huntington solely for the purposes of calculating taxes based on comparable home sales and other factors.

“The community’s input was vital to the creation of this budget, so I thank those residents who participated throughout the process and those who took the time to vote,” Ianni said.

Harborfields board of education

There were three candidates running uncontested for three seats on Harborfields board of education in this year’s election.

Current Vice President Suzie Lustig received 949 votes and was re-elected to her seat. Newcomers Steve Engelmann received 862 voters and Joseph Savaglio received 744 to join the district as board trustees starting in the 2018-19 school year.

Elwood school district

Elwood taxpayers passed the district’s $61,606,082 budget for the 2018-19 school year by 896 votes to 327 votes. The adopted budget is an increase of nearly $1.3 million over the current year. It represents a tax levy increase of 2.71 percent, which fell under the state-mandated tax cap.

Elwood votes by the numbers

$61.6M budget: 896 Yes votes to 327 No votes
Proposition 2: 854 Yes votes to 345 No votes

Board of education (uncontested)
Heather Mammolito: 918 votes
James Tomeo: 983 votes

“On behalf of the entire administration and board of education, I would like to thank all residents who voted in support of the proposed 2018-19 budget,” Elwood Superintendent Kenneth Bossert said in a statement. “Your support will allow the district to continue to enhance our academic program for our students, as well as increase security throughout the district. We are continually grateful to the Elwood community for its support of our district.”

Proposition 2

Voters cast their ballots in favor of Proposition 2, approving by 854 votes to 345 votes. The measure will allow school officials to create a capital reserve fund for future improvement projects that were not included in the bond approved earlier this year. Under the terms approved, the district will set aside a maximum of $500,000 a year, not to exceed a total of $5 million over a 10-year period to help pay for capital projects.

Elwood board of education

Two incumbent Elwood board of education trustees ran unopposed for another term serving their community. Trustee Heather Mammolito received 918 votes and trustee James Tomeo, received 983 votes to be re-elected to their seats.