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Marianne Cartisano

File photo
Marianne Cartisano. File photo
By Marianne Cartisano

On Thursday, May 11, I woke up to the realization that I, like hundreds of people across Long Island, had lost a great friend in Matt LoNigro, a popular youth lacrosse coach and community leader from Miller Place. He was a man of many contradictions and contributions. He advocated loud, yet did his service work quietly. He loved hard, yet reflected softly.

In Matt’s untimely and too-soon passing there are no answers to why and how come? We are left with huge voids in our communities across Nassau and Suffolk schools, youth leagues and charitable organizations. Following Matt’s example of how to live life will not be easy, but it is possible if we pay it forward.

In honor of Matt’s love of youth sports, we can show up 15 minutes early for practices/games and help the coach set up the lacrosse, soccer or baseball field. We can help organize the pizza dinner, picture day or uniform handout.

In honor of Matt’s dedication to community we can create a raffle basket for a local fundraising event.

In honor of Matt’s commitment to service we can work with our neighbors to fill a few grocery bags and drop them off at a local food pantry.

In honor of Matt’s loyalty to mentor those who are currently challenged, or in recovery, we can donate hygiene products, paper goods or towels to a local support facility or organization.

In honor of Matt’s love of family, we will not forget them. There are a lot of LoNigros who are in shock and devastated by his passing. Connecting with them, however we are most comfortable, will help them through this horror.

Keeping Matt’s legacy alive is easy if we all take the time to pay it forward.

Matt, your life was filled with those that love you from here to the heavens. My hope is that you felt that love while you were with us and beyond.

Rest in peace, Matt, but watch over us — we got you. 

Marianne Cartisano is a former superintendent of schools of Miller Place school district.

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Miller Place Superintendent Marianne Cartisano. Photo from MPSD

A beloved superintendent will be retiring from Miller Place school district, effective June 2022.

Marianne Cartisano said that the retirement has been in the works for years so she can focus on the next chapter in her life. 

“I’m going to sleep,” she joked. “I’ve been in administration for the entire 31 years of my career. So, it’ll be the first time probably, since I’m about 16 — even when having my children — that I will have an extended period of time just to do an appropriate decompression.”

She plans on spending time with her family, and will continue to mentor.

“I had spoken to the board a couple of years ago when we were planning a succession plan for Miller Place,” she added. “Mr. Lipshie has been my right-hand person for 10 years so that has made the transition a little bit easier.”

Deputy Superintendent Seth Lipshie will be taking on the role of superintendent of schools 

“I’m super excited, I’m motivated,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for me to continue my service in Miller Place.”

Lipshie said he is in his 32nd year in the district and he’s done a bit of everything while working there. From 1990 to 2001, he was a social studies teacher and in 2001 he became assistant principal at North Country Road Middle School. From 2002 to 2010 he served as principal of Miller Place High School before being appointed as assistant superintendent in 2010 and deputy superintendent in 2014. 

Deputy Superintendent Seth Lipshie. Photo from MPSD

“I’ve either hired or interviewed almost probably a good majority of the staff that now works in the workplace,” he said. “One of the things I think that I’ll bring to the table is some stability, something familiar.”

By having all this experience, Lipshie said that he has developed “some very strong ties with staff and the unions in terms of making sure that we can serve the students as best we can without any issues.”

He has also been adviser for the AV Club as well as spearheaded the Mock Trial Club. He coached soccer at both the middle school and the high school, was the varsity basketball coach for nine years and has been an umpire for high school baseball for the last 17 years.

Cartisano said that promoting Lipshie to the role of superintendent was a no-brainer — it was important to keep things consistent. 

“Having been here now 10 years, that’s a long stretch of the superintendency, especially with the last two COVID years,” she said. “It’s been so rewarding, and the work is so purposeful and meaningful — it just has been a great run.”

But Cartisano said that Lipshie is not a carbon copy of her. 

“It’s a marriage made by workplace, and we probably agree on 85% of the time,” she said. “The other 15% we don’t, and that has allowed this district to move forward because we don’t have one mindset, we have different perspectives. That’s the way we lead. It’s not that Seth is a mirror image of me nor me of him. That would not be good leadership.”

She added that there is nobody that could have been a better fit.

“This is an organization that has 500 staff members that show up every day and educate our children, we have 2,500 customers who get off buses every single day for us, and it’s important that the school district stays consistent,” Cartisano said. “We’re very excited.”

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Miller Place High School. File photo

The Miller Place School District closed its middle and high schools mid-morning on Monday due to two positive COVID-19 tests from students, officials said.

Miller Place dismissed classes for the high school at 10:45 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. for the middle school Monday, Nov. 1. Superintendent Marianne Cartisano said in a letter posted to the district website that a student at the North County Road Middle School and a student at Miller Place High School both tested positive for COVID-19 Sunday. The students were described as family members and were both a part of Cohort 2. The two students were in school Friday, Oct. 30. 

In addition, officials said the COVID-positive students were with friends from Cohorts 1 and 2 this past weekend. 

Officials said they were in contact with the Suffolk County Department of Health for contact tracing, and the district warned that some students may have to quarantine in the future. The students who tested positive will not be permitted to return to school until they are released by SCDOH. 

“The health and safety of our students and staff remains a priority of our district,” Cartisano said in the letter.

The district maintained that the high and middle school are open for polling Tuesday, Nov. 3. No staff is having to quarantine, according to the SCDOH. Secondary level buildings were closed Nov. 3 as it was scheduled as a Superintendents Conference Day and only required staff to report.

Miller Place High School and North Country Road Middle School will have their typical virtual instruction day on Wednesday, Nov. 4, and will be open for Cohort 2 in-person instruction Thursday, Nov. 5. 

 

Miller Place Superintendent Marianne Cartisano and board of education President Johanna Testa look over captial projects for the coming summer. Photo by Kyle Barr

Miller Place school district officials are looking to perform some lasting modifications to some of their schools’ infrastructure, as discussed at the Nov. 14 board of education meeting.

Summer 2019 will bring new ceiling lighting to the Laddie A. Decker Sound Beach School, a new 6,000-gallon fuel oil tank for the high school, replacing the existing 15,000-gallon tank, as well as replacing asbestos-ridden floor tiles existing in several classrooms at the high school.

The entire project will cost $500,000, with $400,000 coming from the district’s capital funds, according to officials. Another $100,000 will come from state funds secured by state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson).

Rocky Point-based architect Michael Guido, the district’s retained architect, told the Miller Place school board that with the inclusion of gas service lines recently installed in the school it no longer has need of such a large tank, thus the scale down.

Superintendent Marianne Cartisano said the existing floor tiles containing asbestos were installed back when the high school was built, and they exist in several classrooms throughout the building. While she said they don’t pose any harm to students currently, they will be removed during the summer when there are no students in the classrooms.

“It’s not a dangerous situation at all, but while we’re doing work in the building we’re going to go in and replace some floor tiles,” she said.

The new lighting at  Laddie A. Decker will include new ceiling structural support and new, brighter LED lighting.

Guido said the bids for all projects will go out from Jan. 3 through 16, and they anticipate awarding the bid Jan. 23. The work for all buildings will be done during the upcoming summer, and district officials said they would work to make sure construction does not impede summer programs.

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By Desirée Keegan

Joe Panico will be taking his football talents far from Miller Place.

The senior defensive tackle has been selected to participate in the American Football Worldwide ELITE High School program, which gives well-accomplished high school football players from throughout the United States an opportunity to travel around the world to compete against the best U19 football players from other countries. This month, Panico and the AFW team will visit Italy. Panico was the only student from New York state who was selected to participate in this opportunity.

Joe Panico. Photo from Miller Place School District

“This was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up — how many players will ever get the chance to play American football in another country?” said Panico. “I’m most looking forward to bonding with new
teammates from all over the country in such a short amount of time, playing for my country and getting to see what the skill level is of the Italian team.”

To qualify for the roster, players needed to have been a starter for their high school team on offense, defense or as a specialist and have a history clear of disciplinary measures. Prior to playing against the Italian team, AFW players will also participate in educational tours of Rome, Vatican City, Tuscany, Siena, Florence, Cinque Terre, Lake Como and Milan.

“We’re extremely proud of Joe and wish him the best,” said Miller Place head football coach Greg Murphy. “This opportunity will enable him to create lifelong connections and experience a different country and  culture in person.”

“Joe has been an incredible role model within the Miller Place school district, both as an accomplished
athlete and as an engaged community member, and we are honored to support him as he pursues this wonderful opportunity,” Superintendent Marianne Cartisano said. “We wish him success at the highest level.”

“I’m most looking forward to …  playing for my country and getting to see what the skill level is of the Italian team.”

— Joe Panico

AFW is committed to providing growth experiences that impact its participants, combining the positive  values developed through American football with the education and academic experiences international travel uniquely provides. The program’s goal is to help young people channel their passion for football, propel them toward a greater understanding of the world and explore new possibilities and dreams for their future.

Team USA head coach Jim Barnes selected players based on evaluations of highlight films.

“Assembling this team that will have the opportunity and responsibility to represent the USA and American football in Italy has been a rewarding experience in and of itself,” Barnes said. “It is inspiring getting to know some incredibly ambitious young men and their supportive families who commit to make big dreams become reality. This international education and athletic tour will be a tremendous growth experience that will expand the horizons for these aspiring student-athletes. This journey will be used as a springboard that propels our AFW ELITE players to more success in college, collegiate football and in life.”

Miller Place seniors got a proper sendoff during the high school’s June 23 commencement ceremony.

Students displayed decorative caps and proudly posed with parents as they bid farewell to one chapter, and readied to begin a new. Miller Place Superintendent Marianne Cartisano, along with valedictorian William Sussman and salutatorian David Argento, were among some of the speakers during the Class of 2017 commencement ceremony.

The Miller Place and Rocky Point school districts saw community members come out with enormous support for each of the 2017-18 budgets.

In Miller Place, voters passed the $126.2 million spending plan 763 to 162.

“On behalf of the board, we thank the community for supporting our proposed budget with a passing margin of 82 percent for the second year in a row,” Miller Place Superintendent Marianne Cartisano said. “We look forward to partnering with the community to provide relevant and challenging instructional and noninstructional opportunities to our students, while supporting our staff, and maintaining fiscal sustainability.”

With no challengers, Lisa Reitan and Richard Panico were elected with 726 and 709 votes, respectively. Other write-in candidates totaled 23 votes.

“I’m very happy and honored to continue to serve for the next three years,” Reitan said in an email. “This board has worked so well together that now we can continue on without skipping a beat. I look forward to continue working with the administration and staff here to make Miller Place school district better everyday.”

Rocky Point school district will hold a technology meeting Jan. 26 to gain public input on the preliminary Smart Schools Bond Act spending plan and how to spend leftover funds. File photo by Desirée Keegan

In Rocky Point residents approved the $83,286,346 budget with 663 yes votes and 246 no’s. The district also sought voter approval to access $3,385,965 from its capital reserve fund in order to complete facility renovations across the district. For that proposal, 600 voted for and 312 against.

“We are extremely grateful for the community’s support of our proposed budget and capital improvement plan,” Rocky Point Superintendent Michael Ring said. “The educational enhancements included in this budget are ones that we believe will further support the needs of Rocky Point students while also providing them with opportunities to succeed at even greater levels, while still maintaining our commitment to fiscal responsibility.”

Incumbent board of education member Sean Callahan and newcomer Joseph Coniglione, who is the principal of Comsewogue High school, were elected with 713 and 641 votes, respectively.

“I’m honored that the people had confidence in me,” Callahan said. “We’re just trying to continue to communicate with the community, continue what we’ve done and have a more open dialogue. It’s not about me, it’s about what we can do for them.”

Coniglione has two kids in the community, and another on the way.

“I just really want to make sure it’s a wonderful district,” he said. “Rocky Point is already wonderful, and I hope to be a great part in continuing that.”

He said juggling two positions won’t be too much of a challenge, especially with support from the Comsewogue school district, and he’s also hoping to keep the communication lines open.

“I work in a district that’s very, very accommodating — they believe in education not just for their kids but for any community,” he said. “I think [this board] will be a nice team. We’ll collaborate to make good, healthy decisions for kids. We want to make sure we have their best interests in mind.”

President Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of education Betsy DeVos has been met with opposition from North Shore educators. Photo from Senate committee website

Many North Shore superintendents and educators are concerned with President Donald Trump’s (R) nominee for secretary of education: Betsy DeVos, chairman of The Windquest Group, a privately-held investment and management firm based in Michigan, to serve as secretary of education. According to her website, the Michigan resident has a history in politics spanning more than 35 years. She was elected as chairman of the Michigan Republican Party four times, and worked in a leadership capacity for campaigns, party organizations and political action committees, her website states.

DeVos went before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions for a confirmation hearing Jan. 17.

“Any programs and initiatives that attempt to weaken public education by diverting funds away from it … do not have my support.”

—Paul Casciano

“I share President-elect Trump’s view that it’s time to shift the debate from what the system thinks is best for kids to what moms and dads want, expect and deserve,” DeVos said during her opening remarks at the hearing. “Why, in 2017, are we still questioning parents’ ability to exercise educational choice for their children? I am a firm believer that parents should be empowered to choose the learning environment that’s best for their individual children. The vast majority of students in this country will continue to attend public schools. If confirmed, I will be a strong advocate for great public schools. But, if a school is troubled, or unsafe, or not a good fit for a child — perhaps they have a special need that is going unmet — we should support a parent’s right to enroll their child in a high-quality alternative.”

DeVos’ views on public education created a stir around the country, and superintendents from the North Shore and county as a whole joined the chorus of those skeptical about the direction she might take the country’s education system.

“I have devoted my entire adult life to public education and believe it is the bedrock of our democracy,” Port Jefferson school district Superintendent Paul Casciano said in an email. “Any programs and initiatives that attempt to weaken public education by diverting funds away from it or that offer alternatives that are not subjected to the same strict standards and scrutiny that public schools must live by, do not have my support.”

Kings Park Superintendent Tim Eagen echoed many of Casciano’s concerns.

“I find President Trump’s nomination for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, to be unacceptable,” he said in an email. “Education in this country is at an important crossroads. As an educational leader and parent of two public school students, it is my goal to provide our children with a globally competitive, rigorous, relevant and challenging education that will prepare them to be active, contributing members of society.”

“As an educational leader and parent of two public school students, it is my goal to provide our children with a globally competitive, rigorous, relevant and challenging education.”

—Tim Eagan

Eagen also has concerns about DeVos’ qualifications.

“I believe that Betsy DeVos is unqualified to run the U.S. Department of Education,” he said. “She is a businesswoman and politician without any experience in public service or public education. She does not have an education degree, has no teaching experience, has no experience working in a school environment, never attended public school or a state university, and did not send her own four children to public school.”

Middle Country Central School District  Superintendent Roberta Gerold stressed that she does not support the appointment of DeVos, stating that she believes all of DeVos’ actions to date evidence a lack of support for, and understanding of public education.

“I was disappointed with her answers during the hearing – she didn’t appear to do much, if any, homework,” Gerold said. “She couldn’t seem to, for example, understand or explain the difference between growth and proficiency — very basic concepts. And her answer to whether guns should be allowed in schools — please.”

The superintendent said, though, that she is most disappointed that DeVos would even be considered for the position.

“It seems clear to me that this is purely a political appointment, not an appointment that recognizes merit or values authentic education,” Gerold said. “John King — who I don’t believe was a great champion of public education, at least had credentials that deserved respect. The new nominee does not. It’s worrisome and disconcerting….and insulting to the public education system, K–12 and beyond.”

She said her teachers, several who are community residents, are preparing a petition that requests the board of education adopt of resolution in opposition to the appointment.

“I was disappointed with her answers during the hearing – she didn’t appear to do much, if any, homework.”

—Roberta Georld

“I believe that our board will be supportive of that request,” she said. “I know that our board president is in agreement with opposing the nomination.”

The Miller Place school district’s administration and board of education drafted and passed a resolution opposing DeVos’ appointment. Superintendent Marianne Cartisano addressed the appointment in an open letter on the district’s website.

“Our concerns are twofold,” she said. “The first reservation we have is regarding the candidate’s lack of first-hand experience as an educator or administrator within the public school system. Since the majority of the children in the United States are currently being educated within the public school system, we feel that this experience is very important for an effective Secretary of Education.”

Cartisano elaborated on her other issues with DeVos.

“Her record also shows a clear bias towards private, parochial and charter schools and the use of vouchers to attend these schools,” Cartisano said. “This bias leads us to our second overarching concern with Betsy DeVos as a candidate for Secretary of Education. The concern is that Betsy DeVos has been a strong advocate for the use of public funds to attend private schools through vouchers, and this would have a direct negative impact on our public school system’s fiscal stability if it is put into effect on a national level.”

The committee will vote to either approve or deny DeVos’ nomination Jan. 31.

Victoria Espinoza and Desirée Keegan contributed reporting.