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Middle Country Central School District

Middle Country Central School District. File photo

The Middle Country Central School District announced that Michael Cosmo from Centereach High School and Saitta Roy from Newfield High School are their schools’ respective Class of 2024 valedictorians, while Gregory Mears from Centereach High School and Danica Lyktey from Newfield High School are the salutatorians.

Throughout their four years in high school, these students excelled academically, were active community members, and participated in various extracurricular activities.

Centereach High School Class of 2024 valedictorian Michael Cosmo achieved outstanding academic success during his high school tenure. His weighted GPA of 103.9 is a testament to his dedication and hard work. Michael’s academic achievements include completing 13 AP classes and two additional college-level courses. He is a member of the National Honor Society, the Spanish Honor Society, and the Tri-M Music Honor Society.

Beyond academics, Michael has made significant contributions to all facets of Centereach High School. He serves as the GO treasurer, demonstrating his leadership and involvement in school activities. Michael’s talents extend to the arts and athletics as well. He excels as a musician, playing the trumpet in the school’s jazz band and pit orchestra, and as a varsity basketball player and captain of the varsity tennis team. He has been recognized as an Academic All-County player by Suffolk County basketball coaches.

Moreover, Michael has shown a commitment to community service, tutoring elementary students, volunteering at basketball camps, and participating in Tri-M Music Honor Society-sponsored events. After graduation, Michael plans to pursue a career in law at Georgetown University, building on his internships with local lawmakers during high school.

Centereach High School Class of 2024 salutatorian Gregory Mears also achieved academic success. His combined SAT score of 1530 places him in the top 1% of all students nationally. Gregory has completed 11 AP classes and four additional college-level courses, earning recognition as an AP Scholar with Distinction and a National Merit Scholarship Commended student. He is a valued member of the National Honor Society, the French Honor Society, and the Tri-M Music Honor Society.

In addition to his academic achievements, Gregory is deeply involved in Centereach High School’s co-curricular activities. He holds the position of vice president of the science club, co-founded the school’s chess club, and actively participates in Tri-M Music Honor Society-sponsored events. Gregory’s commitment to community service is evident through his hours spent with the Avalon Nature Initiative in Stony Brook. As a talented musician, he serves as principal bassist in the Philharmonic and chamber orchestras. Gregory embodies the spirit of the music department and the Tri-M Music Honor Society. After graduation, Gregory plans to pursue English literature at Colby College in Maine.

Newfield High School Class of 2024 valedictorian Saitta Roy boasts a weighted GPA of 102.19 and will have the potential to graduate in June with more than 30 college credits. She keeps herself busy as a member of the school’s mock trial team, the crochet club, the newspaper club, and the pit orchestra. She is also the vice president of the Tri-M Music Honor Society and president of the National Honor Society.

Outside of school, Saitta works at the Middle Country Public Library and serves as a tutor, also known as a homework pal, for elementary-age students. Saitta has accumulated over 100 hours of community service as a book buddy, making donations to Stony Brook Hospital through the crochet club, serving food at the New Lane Elementary School MVP dance, and running a station at the Bicycle Path Literacy Expo through the National Honor Society. Saitta will be attending the University of Notre Dame, where she will major in mechanical engineering on her way to law school.

Newfield High School Class of 2024 salutatorian Danica Lyktey earned the number two spot out of 324 seniors, maintaining a 101.68 weighted GPA. She took a total of 15 AP and college-level classes throughout her high school career. Danica has the potential to graduate with more than 40 college credits.

Danica is an active member of the Spanish Honor Society, the National Honor Society, and is part of the school’s varsity kickline. Outside of school, she is a competitive dancer at Inspirations Performing Arts Centre and this year she is teaching a class for 3- to 6-year-old students. Danica will be attending SUNY Binghamton in the fall, majoring in psychology.

For more information regarding the Middle Country Central School District and its students’ many achievements, please visit the district’s website: www.mccsd.net.

Dawnwood Middle School student of the month, My’Kell Durham, with Assistant Principal Bruno Bernardino and teacher Margaret Porcelli, left photo. Selden Middle School student of the month, Logan Haberstroh, with Principal Andrew Bennett, right photo. Photos courtesy MCCSD

The Middle Country Central School District recently named My’Kell Durham and Logan Haberstoh as middle school students of the month for May, honoring the two students at a recent Board of Education meeting. 

Dawnwood Middle School student My’Kell Durham is an energetic student with a vibrant energy, smile and welcoming personality. He is eager to help those around him, listen to his teachers and put in extra effort in all subject areas. 

Throughout his years at Dawnwood Middle School, My’Kell’s growth as a student and individual has been recognized by teachers and peers. My’Kell has blossomed into a youngster exuding self-confidence and congeniality. Recently, My’Kell went around to students in his school to help raise awareness for the school’s dance and yoga fundraising event, culminating in the raising of $800. 

Selden Middle School student Logan Haberstroh excels academically. He has maintained impressive grades throughout middle school, with grades regularly averaging 95 or higher. As a member of the National Junior Honor Society, Logan has done community service at a local home for disabled adults and has worked to improve the gardens at New Lane Elementary School, where he attended elementary school. 

Logan enjoys being involved in the National Junior Honor Society, which provides him skills and knowledge to become a responsible local and global citizen.  

For more information regarding the Middle Country Central School District and its students’ many achievements, please visit the district’s website: www.mccsd.net.

Polling sites for this year’s school budget and BOE elections. Centereach High School, left, and Newfield High School. Left file photo by Julianne Mosher; right from Facebook

Residents of the Middle Country Central School District will go to the polls on Tuesday, May 16, to vote on the district’s proposed annual budget for the 2023‒24 school year and trustees to sit on the district’s Board of Education.

MCCSD is proposing a $285.9 million budget, up nearly $11 million from the previous year, with a 1.6% tax levy increase that is under the tax cap.

District voters will also select three candidates to serve three-year terms on the Board of Education. In this year’s contest, three incumbents will square off against three electoral challengers.

Trustees Doreen Feldmann, Deborah Mann-Rodriguez and Kathleen Walsh are defending their seats against candidates Bruce Bennett, Thomas Bettua and Kimberly Crawford-Arbocus.

A Meet the Candidates forum hosted by the Suffolk Region PTA was held last month and is available on the district’s YouTube channel.

Tuesday’s school budget and trustee vote will occur from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. The new gymnasiums at Centereach High School and Newfield High School will serve as polling locations.

Not having won since their opening game of the season against Mattituck back in March, the Mad Dogs of Middle Country desperately needed a win to snap a seven-game losing streak. Opportunity knocked when the Riverhead Blue Waves came calling on Saturday, April 22.

Protecting a one-goal lead at the halftime break, senior attack Charles Cavalieri split the pipes in the opening minute of the second half to put his team out front 4-2. But the Blue Waves countered with a pair of goals halfway through the third quarter to make it a new game at four-all.

Cavalieri’s stick spoke again to put the Mad Dogs back out front when his younger brother, Jack, buried his shot to push ahead 6-4. But the Blue Waves answered with a goal near the finish to trail by just one. Middle Country held on, though, edging the Blue Waves 8-6 in the Div. I contest.

Charles Cavalieri topped the scoring chart for the Mad Dogs with two goals and two assists. Aidan Eck had one goal and two assists. Jack Cavalieri and Andrew DiMondo scored two goals each, and Joseph Grottola scored. Goalie Logan Hoenig had 11 saves in net.

— Photos by Bill Landon

Newfield High School held an induction ceremony for 18 new members of its National Art Honor Society. The purpose of this organization at Newfield High School is to inspire and recognize students who have shown outstanding ability in art and support students’ creative abilities and talents. 

The Art Honor Society advised by Sal Berretta, besides supporting its membership, looks to promote the love of the arts in the greater Newfield High School student body. 

“Our goal is to foster excellence and a dedicated spirit among our Art Honor Society members as well as bringing awareness of art to our community, our high school and other areas of the school curriculum,” said Scott Graviano, principal of Newfield High School. “Welcome to our new inductees, and we are confident our existing members will give them support and resources to thrive.”

During the ceremony, guest speaker Shay Steuart, a senior at SUNY New Paltz majoring in Art Education and Art History and minoring in Evolutionary Studies and Social Justice Educational Studies, spoke to the Art Honor Society members. 

She is a visual artist, primarily working in acrylic and oil paint and just finished her student teaching at New Lane Elementary School. She will begin student teaching at Newfield High School.

New inductees include the following:

  • Shariq Ahmad
  • Tahsina Akbar
  • Anjali Alexis
  • Mya Barry
  • Faith Burns
  • Devi Das
  • Vicky Das
  • Abigail Daniels
  • Phenisha Dulnuun
  • James Keenan
  • Payton Martin
  • Jessica Mcllree
  • Amtul Naqvi
  • Daiana Ramirez
  • Samantha Sayers
  • Caralena Schwartz
  • Ella Sharrock
  • Isabella Warner 

For more information regarding the Middle Country Central School District and its students’ many achievements, please visit the District’s website: www.mccsd.net.

Approximately 75 eighth grade students at Dawnwood Middle School and Selden Middle School in the Family and Consumer Science and Technology classes participated in the annual Shadow Day event, sponsored by the Middle Country Business Advisory Board. This was the first such event after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students worked alongside or shadowed a family member or friend of the family and had an opportunity for a behind-the-scenes look at an average workday in a variety of careers, including paralegal, teaching, nursing, small business owner and corporate executive. 

The students saw firsthand how the education they are receiving at school, including 21st century skills such as time management, communication, teamwork and problem-solving, are directly connected to future employment.

“I observed in person and through participation in virtual meetings how a cohesive team works,” said Angela Patalano, an eighth grade student at Selden Middle School who shadowed a senior vice president of data and systems integration at Lifetime Brands. “I took a showroom tour and learned a great deal  about product categories and branding.”

New Lane Elementary students enjoy therapy dog program

New Lane Elementary students enjoy a visit from Love on a Leash therapy dogs and their owners. Photo courtesy MCCSD

Middle Country Central School District’s New Lane Elementary School students recently had the opportunity to learn about and benefit from the Love on a Leash therapy dog program during a visit to the school by several of the organization’s therapy dogs and their owners.  

“We know that school can be stressful for some students, they can get overwhelmed due to various factors, so we wanted to provide a healthy outlet for our students to release their stress and wind down,” said Phyllis L. Saltz, principal of New Lane Elementary School. “Our students find comfort and a way to de-stress around these specially trained dogs. The sessions also allow our students to learn new social skills while interacting with the therapy pets.”

Love on a Leash is a not-for-profit organization that provides a platform to encourage volunteers to engage in a meaningful and productive therapy dog program. The organization’s mission is “to bring comfort, happiness, and healing to more people nationwide by increasing public awareness of pet therapy.” The organization provides its volunteers with an accessible certification process that qualifies them to provide pet therapy in their community as part of a qualified therapy team.

For more information about the Middle Country School District and the latest District news, visit www.mccsd.net.

Newfield High School senior Raiyah Reid with her teammates. Photo courtesy MCCSD

On Friday, Jan. 27th, Newfield High School student Raiyah Reid became only the third female in Newfield High School varsity basketball history to reach the 1,000-point milestone. Raiyah is currently a junior at Newfield High School and has been a part of the Newfield High School varsity girls’ basketball program since the eighth grade.

“To score 1,000 points in your varsity basketball career is truly unique. You simply don’t see many players – female or male – achieving this laudatory milestone on varsity public school basketball teams,”  said Joseph Mercado, director of physical education, health, and athletics. “We are incredibly proud of Raiyah.  The fact that she is the third female to achieve this momentous accomplishment speaks volumes about the Newfield High School basketball program and our coaches. Congratulations to Raiyah Reid.”

For more information regarding the Middle Country Central School District and its students’ many achievements, please visit the District’s website: www.mccsd.net.

In honor of Dr. Martin King, Jr. Day and to kick off Black History Month, Eugene Auer Elementary School hosted an assembly organized by fourth-grade teacher Jeanine Buttino, with the help of principal Kenneth Gutmann.

“Educating our students about Dr. King’s leadership and legacy is a great way to teach our learners about equality and the civil rights movement,” said Gutmann. “We are also looking forward to honoring Black History Month with the many classroom activities and lessons planned for the month of February that will be highlighting the countless African Americans who have contributed so richly and heroically to our country’s history and culture.”

During the assembly, selected students from each grade level shared with their fellow classmates what dreams they had envisioned for the future. After, students listened to Dr. King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech as well as listened to teachers read various books in honor of Dr. King and Black History Month.

 For more information regarding the Middle Country Central School District and its students’ many achievements, please visit the district’s website: www.mccsd.net.

Despite a few job openings, local school districts are ready for the new school year. Stock photo

With schools across the nation facing issues filling positions, including vital teaching jobs, local school districts, for the most part, are looking toward the new academic year in a good position with staffing.

While COVID-19 created severe obstacles for schools in the last couple of years, local districts are moving past them.

Some difficulties

Kevin Scanlon, the new Three Village Central School District superintendent, said the district is among those well staffed regarding teachers. Slight shortages involve jobs such as teaching assistants and monitor positions. Substitutes for teaching and various openings, including custodial, are also hard to find. Scanlon said that with more than 500 teachers in the district, 30 to 50 of them could be out on any given day.

Neil Katz, Smithtown Central School District assistant superintendent for personnel; Jim Polansky, Huntington school district superintendent; and Roberta Gerold, Middle Country Central School District superintendent, all said their districts are in the same position with permanent teaching positions being filled, but there are small issues finding noncertified employees.

Routinely, it can be challenging also to find candidates in the fields of English as a New Language, family and consumer sciences, technology and language classes. Scanlon added that it’s difficult to find certified American Sign Language educators. 

“Also, business teachers, which is unusual because 25 years ago you probably had your choice of teachers,” he said. “Some of the local colleges in New York also used to produce 120 candidates a year in tech teachers, now they’re producing maybe 12 to18. So, the numbers are quite short of where they were years ago in those specialized areas.” 

Scanlon added finding such teachers is even more difficult than finding math and science teachers.

“We are all competing against each other trying to find them,” he said.

Polansky said, from time to time, there can be last-minute resignations at the end of the summer.

“Those can present issues, but those are few and far between, and sometimes if you have an added aide position that comes up due to class formation, that doesn’t take place until late in the summer,” he said.

Gerold said, “One of the many byproducts of the pandemic has been a smaller pool of applicants, which has impacted the Middle Country school district’s ability — as it has school districts across Long Island and the country — to hire talented educators.”

Like other districts, Middle Country found ways to ensure it was properly staffed.

“While the hiring process has been particularly challenging heading into this school year, our human resources and personnel teams have worked hard to creatively find new solutions to attract the next generation of educators to lead our community into the future,” she said. 

There has also been a need to stay proactive regarding teacher retirements. While student enrollment has declined in some local districts, the number of teachers retiring has increased.

Katz said the number of employees currently retiring makes sense as the population was growing in the area 25 to 30 years ago and schools were expanding, which led to the need to hire more teachers at the time. Those employees are now meeting their retirement requirements.

“We’re hitting that point that there’s this balloon of the number of teachers that are eligible for retirement,” Katz said, adding COVID-19 exacerbated the problem in recent years.

Polansky agreed.

“You’re going to see more in the next couple of years because it is kind of generational,” he said. “That’s another thing that we need to take into account.”

According to New York State Teachers’ Retirement System, 33% of active members could potentially retire in the next few years.

Solutions

Some news outlets have reported states such as Florida dropping the requirements for people to secure a teaching position such as having a bachelor’s degree. Polansky said, “There’s a fine line between helping your teacher availability and compromising quality. You don’t want to be in a situation where actions are being taken that actually lessen the quality of the educator that’s in front of your children in the classroom.”

He added that such a move could cause more problems in the long run.

“We have to make teaching a desirable profession,” he said. “There are a couple of ways to do that, and it’s incumbent upon states and local school districts to make that happen.” 

Administrators said their districts always start the hiring process early in the calendar year to prepare for the first day of school, attending recruitment events at colleges in New York state, hosting their own career fairs and placing ads in papers.

Scanlon said the Three Village school district will run an ad in The New York Times at the end of January or early February. He added that advertising in the paper is something many high-caliber schools do. Looking toward the future, the superintendent said there are talks about bringing back a Future Teachers of America club to the high school to encourage students to choose teaching as a career.

Gerold said one of the Middle Country school district’s “initiatives has been our successful partnership with Stony Brook University to fortify our roster of substitute teachers. During the pandemic, the district partnered with Stony Brook University to place student-teacher substitutes in schools. Through this, we’ve been able to satisfy the substitute teacher needs throughout the district and identify strong educators who are poised to excel in leading classrooms.”

Katz said the Smithtown Central school district tries to reach out to different associations and offer more competitive salaries. However, even using various hiring methods and starting early, sometimes a new hire will get a better offer right before the academic year begins.

“We’re getting into bidding wars,” he said. “Candidates are pushing one district against the other in bidding wars. Kind of like the housing market.”

Despite a few job openings, local school districts are ready for the new school year. Stock photo