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guidance counselor

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By Mallie Jane Kim

Three Village Central School District is on track to restructure its schools as planned in fall 2025, according to superintendent of schools Kevin Scanlon.

The district has been planning to move sixth grade up into the junior high schools to form middle schools and move ninth grade up to form a four-year high school.

Staff teams responsible for planning the changes have been working to prepare what will be needed as far as staffing, facilities, grading and curriculum to accommodate the changes and support kids’ mental health needs during the transition, Scanlon shared at a June 12 Board of Education meeting.

“We’re not done yet,” he said. “Next year is still going to be busy, but I think we’re way ahead of our schedule and on target to move forward.”

The district has already taken into account planning moving-up ceremonies and related activities for both fifth and sixth grades at the elementary schools, as well as eighth and ninth grades at the junior high schools, for the 2024-25 school year since all four grades will be changing schools at once.

One thing still under consideration is the possibility of repurposing one of the five elementary schools in tandem with the change, to address ongoing financial concerns, especially as the schools will no longer house sixth grade. Though the possibility has come up multiple times, the board has not made any substantive moves toward such a decision.

The district also must decide whether to change the names of any of the schools — for example, changing the junior high schools to middle schools.

Some parents and at least one staff member have tried to convince the district to hit pause on the restructuring plan, expressing worry that a change could risk losing what is good about the district. 

“Three Village school district has distinguished itself by providing top-notch opportunities for our students across diverse areas, while also fostering nurturing environments during pivotal transitional years,” wrote Gelinas Junior High guidance counselor Anthony Dattero in a March perspective piece in The Village Times Herald. “Our district has maintained its uniqueness for over 40 years, resisting the trend toward common middle school models adopted by other districts.”

District administrators have argued the new structure will bring Three Village into line with the way New York State standards are written and will provide sixth and ninth graders the benefits of the curriculum available in the upper schools.

“We are ready to move forward,” Scanlon said. “This is happening.”

Scanlon indicated the teams will continue to work over the summer and into the fall to make ready the transition. 

Start time complications

Secondary school start times after the restructuring are still up in the air, as there is no solution yet for making start times later, something parent advocates have been pushing for over several years, citing mental health and academic costs of having adolescents start school at such early hours. 

Ward Melville High School currently starts at 7:05 a.m. and the junior high schools start at 7:40.

“We have to do our very best to make sure we’re not moving grade nine up to an earlier start time, if we possibly can avoid it,” said trustee David McKinnon, referring to the fact that restructuring will bring ninth and sixth grade up to schools that start earlier than the schools that currently house them.

At issue is the tiered bussing system, which allows the district to get by on fewer buses than they would need if all the schools started at the same time. 

Each additional full-sized school bus added to the fleet would cost about $105,000, according to estimates by a transportation consultant, called in to help the district figure out the most efficient way to make a change with the lowest price tag. 

The consultant shared the results of his assessment at the meeting, but the board did not see an immediately clear solution. Some of the proposed scenarios had elementary schools starting as early as 7:20 a.m. or as late as 10:00 a.m., which would mean dismissal wouldn’t begin until 4:15 p.m.

“Any elementary school that ends later than it is now, is a problem,” said Karen Roughley, who is a longtime advocate of later secondary start times. She added that the early start times would also be a problem. 

“The whole point of us moving our high school kids is that we don’t want them there so early and waiting for the school bus when it’s dark,” she said. “I’m not going to have my elementary kindergarteners standing in the dark waiting to get on a bus.” 

Some of the proposed scenarios would require adding six new buses to the fleet.

Board members indicated they would continue to work with the consultant to fine-tune his results into realistic proposals they can lay out for the community, possibly in September to make a decision by October.

Keith Buehler is hoisted in the air by a Port Jefferson football player after a game in 2014. FIle photo by Bill Landon

By Alex Petroski

In a day and age when heading down the wrong path can happen easily, Port Jefferson students have a counselor, coach, role model and friend who makes drifting much tougher.

Keith Buehler is in the midst of his 20th year in the Port Jefferson School District, where he has served as a varsity coach, an assistant coach and Middle School guidance counselor. He has children of his own but refers to the countless students he has interacted with during his time in the district as part of his family, too.

The feeling is mutual.

For his selfless service to the Port Jefferson School District and relentless dedication to improving the lives of students, Times Beacon Record News Media names Buehler a Person of the Year for 2016.

The Rocky Point resident said his secret to earning the trust of so many kids has been to be there for them at a young age, and that approach has allowed him to keep a close relationship with them beyond middle school years. The counselor said he spends time trying to learn a little something about every student as a way to establish a bond. Buehler said after students move on to Port Jefferson high school, they often come back to visit and seek additional guidance.

Keith Buehler is hoisted in the air by a Port Jefferson football player after a game in 2014. FIle photo by Bill Landon

“I think that Keith has kind of established himself in Port Jeff as a go-to person for the kids,” said Jesse Rosen, Buehler’s colleague and friend. Rosen, who coaches varsity baseball in addition to teaching global history at the high school, needed some help coaching the team last season. Buehler stepped up despite previously retiring from coaching to be able to spend more time with his own kids.

He has become famous for stepping up to the plate and filling multiple roles when called upon for the district.

“I’m ready to give it up, but it’s hard when the kids keep telling you to come back,” Buehler said, referring to the numerous times he’s thought it was time to step away from coaching, only to be pulled back for one reason or another. For the time being, he’s still at the helm for the varsity boys’ basketball team and is an assistant on the varsity football team. In his two decades at Port Jefferson, he coached middle school football and baseball and middle school track and field.

Success in the world of athletics is measured in wins and losses in most cases, but Buehler isn’t like most coaches. He said one year the varsity basketball team was 0-18, and it was one of the most enjoyable seasons he’d ever had. That’s not to say Buehler hasn’t been successful on the scoreboard as well. He has been a part of four Suffolk County championship-winning basketball teams.

The district’s former athletic director Deb Ferry, who was with the district for nine years, remembered her time alongside Buehler fondly.

“Keith is one of the finest assets to the Port Jefferson School District,” Ferry said in an email. “Keith has time and time again been there for all of the students and athletes. During my tenure there at Port Jefferson we always referred to Keith as the assistant athletic director. He truly did know the ins and outs of the athletic program there.”

Buehler has another unofficial title that he picked out for himself. He said he feels like the “mini mayor of Port Jefferson.”

Being the go-to guy for most problems, Buehler found himself helping others cope with some pretty substantial problems and tragedies.

Max Golub, who graduated from the district in 2012, lost his brother in 2001, when he was just 8 years old. His brother had played football for Buehler.

Keith Buehler rides a Jet Ski during a family vacation. Photo from Keith Buehler

“He was pretty vital in my healing process,” Golub said, adding that on certain occasions Buehler would take him out of classes when he wasn’t feeling great and helped him stay out of trouble.

Golub called Buehler his “protector.” He added that although Buehler wasn’t biologically a member of the family, he became like a second father.

It would seem Buehler’s plate is full enough with his own children. His son Hunter is a freshman at Stony Brook University, daughter Asha is a junior at Port Jefferson high school and his 8-year-old son Kougar and 9-year-old daughter Cessarina, from a second marriage, are currently in the Rocky Point school district. Still, Port Jefferson students who know Buehler said he’s always available in times of need.

Buehler recalled a story that has stuck with him during his tenure in the district. One of his students had asked to take him to a baseball game, when that student’s father said he could bring a friend. Confused by his son asking to bring along his guidance counselor, the father asked if he would prefer to bring one of his peers. The boy told his father that Buehler was his best friend and was who he wanted to take. So he did. Buehler said he remains close with the father and son.

“I try to be a true role model for the kids,” Buehler said. “I try to do the best I can to show them how to do the right thing.”

The spelling of Max Golub’s name was corrected in this version Jan. 3.