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Kings Park Central School District

File photo by Rachel Shapiro

The Smithtown Central School District budget passed 4,236 to 2,406. The budget, at $280,642,272, constitutes a 4.8% increase from the current budget.  The tax levy has increased 2.83% from last year.

Two incumbents, board President Matthew Gribbin and John Savoretti, held on to their seats. Gribbin defeated his opponent Elena Guttieri, a middle school teacher, who ran on a ticket with Savoretti, 3,472 to 3,177.

“Thank you to the Smithtown community for the approval of next year’s budget,” Gribbin wrote on his campaign Facebook page. “I am honored to be elected to a third term on the Smithtown Board of Education.  It has been a privilege, and I am looking forward to serving our community for the next three years!!!”

Former trustee Charles Rollins, who was defeated by Savoretti in 2021, praised Gribbin in a comment responding to the post.

“A well-earned honor,” he wrote. “Your leadership and strength have served the students of Smithtown well! Your election is a message that the Smithtown voters have validated your efforts of the past 6 years!”

During the campaign, Gribbin, a physical education teacher, said he was proud of the accomplishments during his tenure as president, such as increased mental health support and partnerships with the Suffolk County Police Department and Town of Smithtown. Guttieri pushed to teach “traditional” literature and “patriotism” in schools.   

Savoretti, a realtor, defeated his opponent, Nicholas De Bello, a vice president of the AME Union, 3,343 to 3,323. De Bello had run on a ticket with Gribbin. Savoretti has pledged to continue to involve the community on the board and counted security as one of his chief accomplishments. De Bello had pushed for smaller class sizes during the debates.

Kevin Craine, a teacher, defeated Vladimir Pean, an information technology specialist, 3,361 to 3,282, for Jerry Martusciello’s seat. Martusciello did not seek reelection. Pean ran with Gribbin and De Bello, and Craine ran with Guttieri and Savoretti.

The Savoretti, Craine and Guttieri campaign also issued a social media statement, thanking the community for their support and involvement in the race.

“We knew it would not be easy,” the statement read. “Up against a well-organized machine, we relied on family and friends donating their time to spread the word. Although the race was long and our opposition stiff, we sent a message: parents’ and students’ rights will be respected, academic achievement will be prioritized, and accountability and transparency will be restored in Smithtown.”

Each trustee will serve a three-year term.

Kings Park Central School District

The majority of voters in the Kings Park Central School District approved the 2023‒24 budget of $104,039,636, a 1.76% increase over last year, with 829 voting yes and 336 no.

The tax levy will increase from last year’s $77,430,655 to $80,103,141, which is a $2,672,486 increase. This results in a 3.45% tax levy increase.

Incumbent Joe Bianco ran unopposed for school board and received 976 votes. In July he will begin his fourth term.

Commack Central School District

The Commack Central School District budget for 2023‒24 passed, 1,247 to 351. This year’s total budget is $222.110,181, up $7,464,854 from last year’s $214,645,327, which is a 3.48% increase.

The tax levy will increase from $149,681,444 last year to $152,660,104. This would be a rise of $2,978,660, resulting in a 1.99% tax levy increase.

Incumbents William Hender and Susan Hermer ran unopposed for their seats on the school board. Hender received 1,283 votes and Hermer 1,303.

The Kings Park Board of Education, pictured above, has one seat open, with Joe Bianco, third from left, running unopposed. Photos from Kings Park Central School District

Residents of the Kings Park Central School District will be able to vote on this year’s proposed budget as well as an open Board of Education seat  Tuesday, May 16.

According to a presentation from the April 18 Budget Adoption meeting, the previous academic year’s budget was $102,244,458, and this upcoming year’s proposed budget is $104,039,636, a 1.76% increase.

The tax levy would increase from last year’s $77,430,655 to $80,103,141, which is a $2,672,486 increase. This results in a 3.45% tax levy increase, which, according to the presentation, is the percent limit so that the school district is under its tax cap.

The board estimates that for the average homeowner in Kings Park, school taxes would rise from $9,613.48 last year to $9,945.14, an increase of $331.66, or $27.64 per month.

In the presentation, the board states that its “primary focus continues to be best ensuring a safe and secure environment in which to provide a globally competitive education for our students.”

The presentation stated that the goal for the budget is to include as many student support items as possible. A list of those areas of focus include: technology/cybersecurity; health and safety; student learning; new Kings Park High School courses, like a guitar elective and a life skills course; extracurricular activities; and capital facilities work.

In the event the proposed budget fails to pass twice, the school district would revert to the contingent budget, which would be $101,367,150 and would contain a 0% tax levy increase from the previous year ($77,430,655).

Additionally, incumbent BOE member Joseph Bianco is seeking reelection. It is for a three-year term. He is running unopposed.

The vote will take place on Tuesday, May 16, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Kings Park High School back gymnasium, located at 200 Route 25A, Kings Park.

Stock photo

Town of Smithtown residents who turned out to vote in school elections May 17 approved their district’s budgets. They also voted incumbents back in to retain their seats on the boards of education.

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.

Hauppauge Union Free School District

Hauppauge residents passed the $123,913,904 budget, 639-300. The budget reflects a 3.29% increase over last year and a 1.22% tax levy increase.

Three candidates ran for three seats, incumbent and board vice president Rob Scarito, 617; Michael Buscarino, 651; and incumbent and current board president David Barshay, 624.

Kings Park Central School District

The Kings Park $102.24 million budget was approved by voters, 2,229 to 1,125. The budget is an increase of 1.94% over last year. This will result in a 2.99% tax levy increase, or $23.39 more per year for the average taxpayer.

Trustees Pam DeFord and Dan Tew did not seek reelection, leaving two seats up for election. Patrick Hanley, 1,879 votes, and Shala Pascucci, 1,737, will be the new board trustees beginning July 1. They defeated Jaime Lelle, 1,529, and Douglas Cerrato, 1,490.

Smithtown Central School District

Smithtown school district residents approved the $267,786,882 budget, 5,250 to 2,241. The 2022-23 budget reflects a dollar change of $5,467,217 from last year’s budget of $262,319,665. The tax levy is 1.2% and is below the district’s allowable tax levy.

Proposition 2, establishing a capital reserve, passed 5,249 to 2,241. 

Michael Catalanotto and Michael Saidens won back their seats, with 4,582 and 4,590 votes, respectively. This will be the second term for Catalanotto and the third for Saidens.

Charles Fisher, who challenged Catalanotto for his seat received 3,201 votes, and Angela Kouvel, who challenged Saidens, received 3,157.

In a joint statement sent May 18, Catalanotto and Saidens thanked Smithtown voters “for putting your confidence and trust in us.”

“We are honored to be reelected with nearly 60% of the vote,” they said. “The parents and residents had a choice to make, and voted to keep Smithtown schools great, support all of our students and protect our property values. People were fed up with our children being used as political footballs, and roundly rejected efforts to destabilize our schools. We couldn’t be prouder of the hard work our teachers, administrators and staff do, each and every day, in running a world-class school district and they will continue to have our strong support.”

File photo by Rita J. Egan

By Amanda Olsen

Kings Park Central School District residents will vote on the 2022-23 budget and select two school board trustees when they head to the polls Tuesday, May 17.

Trustees Pam DeFord and Dan Tew are not seeking reelection, so two seats are up for election. These seats are at large, meaning voters can select any two candidates.

The budget for next year is $102.24 million, an increase of 1.94% over last year. This will result in a 2.99% tax levy increase, or $23.39 more per year for the average taxpayer. This includes a state aid package of approximately 19%. 

The budget allocates additional mental health resources, including an additional high school social worker and a regional behavioral health center for students. It maintains all sports, extracurricular clubs and activities. The funding also ensures each elementary school has a full-time librarian. It increases cybersecurity protections, internet filtering and security cameras, and supports the vehicle fleet, including the purchase of two new large gas buses, one smaller gas bus and one dump truck. 

There are also some cuts. From a staffing/teacher perspective, the district is reducing by three elementary teachers and three secondary teaching equivalents. This reduction is to adjust for declining enrollment, according to the district. 

Douglas Cerrato

Douglas Cerrato

Cerrato became more involved with the school district during remote learning. He is a financial adviser in Huntington village and this is his first time running for the school board. Cerrato is seeking more transparency in how the board is run and interacts with the community. He believes his experience and understanding of budgets will be an asset to the board. The candidate views himself as impartial and unencumbered by relationships with outside organizations. 

According to Cerrato, Kings Park has too many administrators when compared to neighboring districts serving more children.

“Enrollment is down 30 percent [over the last 10 years], but [in the same period] the budget is up 30%,” Cerrato said.

He outlined a plan to streamline administration by possibly eliminating positions and redirecting those funds.

“The goal is to reduce the administrative budget by $1 million, and redistribute the funds saved to front-line employees,” he said.

Cerrato also wants to form resident-led and parent-led steering committees that will increase community input and have a net-neutral or net-positive impact on the budget. He hopes to bring the average cost to educate a student [$28,411] down to the county average [$25,638] and reduce reliance on state aid. He plans to follow the desires of the community when it comes to mandates and divisive curriculum decisions.

Jaime Lelle

Jaime Lelle

Lelle is the mother of three boys, a parent and alumnus of Kings Park school district. She has been in an administrative role as the pediatric nurse educator of Stony Brook Children’s for the last two years and was a bedside pediatric nurse for the previous 14 years. She believes this career has made her a strong advocate and an effective listener. Her job often involves performing reviews and revisions of policies and procedures. 

“I believe I can provide those same skills to the Kings Park board of education creating a more just and fair representation of the community at large, while providing the appropriate checks and balances in decision making, ” she said. 

Lelle believes the biggest issue with the district currently is transparency and representation. Some of her plans to address this need are developing an electronic system to gather feedback from the parents and community, and establishing policies focusing on communication would provide more transparency and address issues in an appropriate timeframe.

When it comes to the budget, Lelle wants to reduce the scope of the administrative costs.

“I believe the budget can be reduced with a smart strategic comprehensive review with either a net-neutral or net-positive impact on the students and community,” she said. “Looking at the budget and district through a lens of the private sector will bring in negotiation and competition by going out to market, therefore reducing the costs and overall budget.”

Patrick Hanley

Patrick Hanley

 Hanley has resided in the district for 15 years, has three children attending schools in the district and is section manager in electric operations for Con Edison. 

“I welcome the opportunity to help progress the district,” he said. “This would be a meaningful way to serve my community and make a difference.” 

In his current position at Con Edison, Hanley has been heavily involved in budgets, personnel and general management, skills he believes will benefit the district going forward. 

“There are some communication gaps that need to be addressed,” he said. “The last couple of years have been a real challenge. We need to connect with people on a personal level and get out beyond the board meeting.”

To that end, he said he plans to reach out to and engage with parents and civic organizations in the district for input. 

When addressing the budget, Hanley said he planned to be sensitive.

“There’s a lot of pressure,” he said. “We need responsible management to make sure we get the most value.”

Shala Pascucci

Shala Pascucci

She has been a resident of Kings Park school district for 22 years and has two children in Kings Park schools. She holds a master’s degree in social work and is both a social worker and a certified secondary education teacher.

Pascucci is a founding member of Kings Park Advocates for Education, a board member of the Smithtown Youth Bureau and sits on the New York State Allies for Public Education and Long Island Opt Out steering committees. 

She is also co-president of the Kings Park Robotics Club.

Pascucci was not available for an interview before press time. According to her campaign website, she “started advocating for whole-child learning almost 10 years ago because I hated the idea that education was moving in the direction of treating kids like they were no more than standardized test scores.”

Her website also states, “My goal is to help the community and our district heal, regroup and focus back on our kids and their education.”

Voter information

Cerrato and Lelle are campaigning together, so are Hanley and Pascucci.

Voting takes place on May 17 between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. at Kings Park High School back gymnasium, 200 Route 25A.

Candidates are vying for two seats on the Board of Education.  Each seat is for a term of three years, commencing July 1, 2022. Voters registered with the Suffolk County Board of Elections can vote on the budget and candidates.

The Town of Smithtown, Kings Park Central School District and Rite Aid successfully hosted a satellite vaccine site for residents, ages 50+ and school employees over the weekend. On Saturday, April 17, a temporary COVID-19 vaccine site was implemented at Kings Park High School. Rite Aid facilitated and administered 180 Moderna vaccines for the appointment-only event. Emergency response support for the day was provided by the Kings Park Fire Department. Assisting with logistics and registration at the event were roughly a dozen KPHS National Honor Society students, staff from the Smithtown Senior Center and Supervisor Ed Wehrheim’s office.

“The stars must truly align in order to implement an initiative of this magnitude. Without the assistance from Rite Aid, a fantastic relationship with surrounding School Districts, a phenomenal team in my office and our compassionate Senior Center staff, our volunteer first responders, and the leadership of Dr. Timothy Eagen at Kings Park Central School District, we could not help our local residents and school staff. This vital service was a success because we united together; the private sector, the public and various government agencies, to protect our community,” said Supervisor Wehrheim.

Several weeks ago, the Kings Park Central School District officially designated Kings Park High School as a potential vaccination site for the community. While most teachers throughout the township had been successful in obtaining vaccine appointments, many support staff such as School Aids and Bus Drivers were in need of a convenient process to suit their individual schedules. 

“The purpose of this event was to provide an important public health service for our employees and local area Senior Citizens. Many employees and residents have experienced a significant amount of frustration and anxiety while trying to make a vaccination appointment. We wanted to take this potential roadblock away for those who are eligible and willing to be vaccinated,” said Dr. Timothy Eagen, KPCSD Superintendent of Schools

An important objective was to provide an easy registration process for those individuals who may have previously struggled with the online method. Eligible Smithtown residents and school faculty in the four surrounding districts were able to book appointments by phone or through email. Additionally, a dozen KPHS National Honor Society students were on hand, volunteering their time to assist in the registration and logistical process.

“You will not find a place on Earth where students embrace service more than in Kings Park. It was heartwarming to see about a dozen students give up a portion of their Saturday to assist in this public health effort, added Eagen.

Approximately 180 Moderna vaccines were supplied and administered to Smithtown residents and surrounding school district employees courtesy of Rite Aid Pharmacy. Individuals who received the vaccine on Saturday will return to Kings Park High School in 28 days to receive the Moderna booster shot.

DID YOU KNOW?:

If you receive either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, you will need a booster shot to be fully protected.

COVID-19 vaccines are not interchangeable. If you received a Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, you must get the same product/brand booster shot.

The CDC recommends getting your second shot even if you have side effects after the first, unless a vaccination provider or your doctor tells you not to get it.

When you book an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine it is critical that you show up or give ample notice of cancellation.

When you do not cancel for a vaccine, you could be taking a vaccine from as many as nine other people.

Photos courtesy of Town of Smithtown

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Families protest for five days of school in Smithown. Photo by Lina Weingarten

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) gave the green light for schools to reopen come September.

“You look at the infection rate — we are probably in the best situation in the country,” Cuomo said during a media call Friday.

The governor recommended that school districts offer community discussion to find common ground for families and teachers.

Like many school districts in New York state, Smithtown township schools submitted their recommended reopening plans by July 31 but each offers a different plan for educating their students.

Smithtown Central School District

Smithtown decided on  a hybrid model where half of the students will attend school in-person Mondays and Tuesdays and the other half will attend Thursdays and Fridays. Students will alternate attending classes on Wednesdays. The school will also offer remote learning with both real-time and recorded instruction for those who are unable to attend school in person or whose families chose not to send them during the pandemic. 

In the FAQ section of the Smithtown district webpage, administrators said they chose not to have classes in person five days a week due to New York State Education Department guidance that requires schools to enforce social distancing of 6 feet apart in all school facilities, on school grounds and during transportation.

“We have a fundamental concern that, given the nature of schools, as well as the ages of the students we serve, the district felt that operating at full capacity would unnecessarily compromise the health and safety of our students and staff,” the district wrote.

Upon news of the recommendation of a hybrid model some parents reached out to the district to ask why the closed Nesconset and Branch Brook elementary schools couldn’t be opened to enable the social distancing required. The families also started the Open Up Branch Brook & Nesconset El!!!! Facebook group, which has more than 1,500 members, and protested in front of the New York Avenue administration building Aug. 5 and Aug. 11. 

According to the school’s FAQ section, class sizes will be reduced by about 50 percent. That would still leave 1,600 students to be placed in the two buildings and social distancing would still not be possible. Currently enrollment in the seven open elementary schools is between 370 and 550 students each. The district added that an additional 170 teachers and other staff members would have to be hired if the two buildings were to open.

“The currently vacant buildings would also require multiple infrastructure, technology and security upgrades that would be needed to meet state requirements prior to approval for use by the NYSED.” the district said.

Families were sent a survey earlier in the summer to gauge interest in remote instruction and to find the feasibility of students returning full time. Survey results of elementary school families displayed at the end of July showed 19.5% said “yes” to full time remote learning even if school was full time and 13.9% said they would choose full time remote even if school was hybrid. More than half, 59.1% said they would have their child ride the bus. In another survey the results were 20%, 14.5% and 58.7%, respectively as of Aug. 6. Surveys were of an unknown sample size.

Students and employees will be asked to wear facial coverings on the bus, upon entry and exit of school buildings, common spaces and whenever students and staff cannot maintain proper social distancing. Due to desks being spaced out, students will be able to remove masks during classroom time, but they are encouraged to wear them at all other times. It is also recommended that students eat in classrooms to minimize the movement of people through the hallways, and 12 feet will be maintained between participants when engaging in physical activity, singing or playing wind instruments. 

In an Aug. 10 letter to families, Russell Stewart, interim superintendent of schools, said the district was investigating if the reopening plan needed to be updated with additional details regarding remote learning, contact tracing and student and staff testing. The district has scheduled three additional board of education online meetings to provide public sessions for parents. The meetings are scheduled for Aug. 17, 19 and 21.

The district said students in the Extended School Year Program for Special Education students started the summer with a fully remote program and then transitioned to a hybrid model, which the district said worked well.

Kings Park Central School District

Even before students step out of their houses in Kings Park, every day during the week parents will be required to fill out an online student health self-screening form, which will require a temperature check and answers to questions such as if the child was exposed to a person with COVID-19 and if they have certain symptoms, including cough, fever and sore throat.

Parents submitted questions about the reopening plans, and they were published on Kings Park district’s website along with answers from the district. When asked why there weren’t temperature stations at the buildings, the district said taking every student’s temperature upon arrival is nearly impossible and would impact school start time. 

“We need to remember that, while fever or chills (100 degrees or greater) is one of the top symptoms along with cough, shortness of breath and fatigue), current research on COVID-19 has shown that less than 50% of school-age students present with a temperature,” the statement read on the district’s website.  

While it is encouraged for parents to drive their children to school, buses will still be available and students where both drivers will be required to wear masks.

The district has divided the recommended reopening plans into four models labeled green (safe), yellow (low risk), orange (moderate risk) and red (high risk). 

While green means schools can reopen with five day in-person classes and no restrictions, the reopening plan said the scenario is unlikely until the pandemic is over or a vaccine is available to the general public.

The district’s yellow plan includes in-person class with restrictions, such as masks, social distancing and modifications to the day, including arrival and dismissal times, lunch, physical education and more. The orange plan, which the district will use for at least the first two weeks, will be a hybrid model to reduce building capacity by 50%. Students will be split up into two groups, where group A will go to school Monday and Thursday and the other, group B, will attend school Tuesday and Friday. On the other days, students will participate in remote learning, and buildings will be disinfected Wednesdays and Saturdays. 

A remote option will be provided for students who are medically vulnerable or live with someone who is, and if the school’s must close buildings again, remote learning, the red plan, will be offered with both recorded and live instruction. English language learners and those who are in special needs classes will attend class in person every day. 

According to the district’s Q&A section on reopening, students will be required to wear masks all day except when eating and during mask breaks. Alternate areas including classrooms, gymnasiums and outdoor spaces will be considered to spread out students during lunch.

Commack Union Free School District

While elementary school students will attend school every day in person, secondary students will be in buildings every other day. The recommended plan depended on the district resolving transportation issues, which according to the Commack schools’ website, was accomplished recently.

The district offered families to opt out of transportation for the upcoming school year. The number of riders needed to be reduced was 50% to allow all elementary students to attend school daily, according to the district’s reopening plans.

“The Commack School District is committed to bringing all elementary students back into their school buildings this fall,” the plan read. “Therefore, it is necessary to reduce the number of elementary school riders by 50%. If we fail to reduce our elementary ridership by 50%, elementary students will not be able to attend ‘brick and mortar school’ daily, and students would attend every other day engaging in remote learning on the days they are not in a school building.” 

Currently, buses that usually seat 64 can only transport 22 to allow for social distancing.

Elementary school students in Commack will be divided into groups A and B, with A taking core classes in the morning and then lunch and gym, art and other enrichment classes in the afternoon. The B group’s schedule will be the opposite.

High school and middle school students will have capacity in the building reduced to 50% and students will attend schools on alternating days. There is also a plan for teachers to change classrooms instead of students to minimize traffic in hallways. An every other day school schedule will be applied where the A group will attend school Monday, Wednesday and Friday on the first week and Tuesday and Thursday the next week. Students in the B group will attend Tuesday and Thursday the first week and Monday, Wednesday and Friday the second week. 

Students will be required to wear masks when not seated at their desks and every desk will have a plastic sneeze guard. According to the district’s Q&A on its website, parents and guardians are encouraged to take children’s temperatures at home and will complete an attestation on a COVID app confirming that their child does not have a temperature above 100 degrees. Students’ temperatures will also be taken upon arrival at school with a temperature scanner.

The majority of residents across the Town of Smithtown voted “yes” to their districts’ proposed budgets and approved their board of education incumbents.

Smithtown Central School District

Smithtown residents passed the $255,203,276 budget for 2020-21, 7,345 to 3,726.

Incumbents Matthew Gribbin (8,295), Frank James (5,479) and Jerry Martusciello (8,362) retained their seats on the board. Kevin Craine, who challenged James’ seat, received 4,104 votes.

The 2020-21 budget is a 1.50 percent increase from last year’s budget, and the tax levy increase of 1.82 percent is under the cap.

Commack School District

Commack School District’s 2020-21 budget of $199,759,525 was approved by residents, 5,332 to 2,128.

Trustee Susan Hermer retained her seat with 3,401 votes. Her challenger Mike Weisberg garnered 3,021. Incumbent William Hender ran unopposed and received 5,157 votes.

The 2020-2021 school budget has a tax cap levy increase of 1.99 percent with a budget-to-budget increase of 1.37 percent.

Kings Park Central School District

Kings Park residents voted in favor of the $96,510,404 budget, 3,223 to 1,859.

Joe Bianco ran unopposed and was elected to a three-year term with 4,146 votes.

The budget represents a 2.80 percent increase over last year’s total of $93,880,803, with a 3.27 percent tax levy increase.

“During these challenging times, I am most thankful for the ongoing support from the Kings Park Community,” said Superintendent Timothy Eagen in an email. “Over the past 14 weeks, the Kings Park family has shown great resiliency, grit and persistence.  We have come together as a family.  With our budget successfully passed, we can begin to plan for a safe reentry in September.”

Hauppauge Union Free School District

Hauppauge’s 2020-2021 budget of $115,735,467 budget passed 3,907 to 1,314. The budget shows a 0.28 percent decrease, and an increase to the tax levy of 2.3 percent, due to higher property taxes, meets the tax cap.

Board of education trustee incumbents Dr. Lawrence Crafa and James Kiley both ran for another three-year term unopposed and received 3,867 and 3,320 votes, respectively.