Tags Posts tagged with "Middle Country school district"

Middle Country school district

Screenshot from the Middle Country Board of Education meeting video. Photo via Youtube

By Sabrina Artusa

The Middle Country Central School District Board of Education reviewed the pupil personnel budget at its March 6 meeting.

The board was transparent about the fiscal pressures facing the district and what actions they are taking to prevent them from mounting. Assistant Superintendent for Business Beth Rella included costs related to special education as a cost driver in her presentation.

“Additional high-needs students have increased significantly in the last few years,” Rella said. “The three-year cost impact is $2.25-$2.62 million.”

Jennifer Harrison, director of pupil personnel services, added, “Recently we have gotten students that transfer to us that are high-costing students. They were either in a residential program … were hospitalized or they were placed in a private program. That’s very hard to anticipate.”

Pupil personnel services focuses on helping students, particularly those identified as requiring special education, through a variety of services and interventions. 

The pupil personnel services budget for the 2024-25 school year will increase by nearly $4 million from this year. This year’s budget saw an over-$8 million increase from 2022-23. 

In addition to the budget, Harrison discussed all the resources provided by the department, including new programs, transportation and home teaching. Over 74% of the budget goes toward salary and benefits, according to Harrison.

In a chart provided by Harrison, the total number of school-age students with a disability decreased by 133 from last year. However, the needs of each student vary, and one student may require more restrictive, or expensive, services than another. 

The New York State Education Department recently redefined eligibility for special education, allowing a student to receive services until the completion of the school year they turn age 22 or they graduate high school, a decision Harrison implied may also play a role in increased spending. 

Rella gave an update on grants expiring in 2024, such as the American Rescue Plan Act summer enrichment program, which funded intervention programs for students showing signs of learning loss or are struggling. 

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act the school district secured $2,892,030 for this school year — roughly $200,000 more than the 2022-23 school year.

Regarding security measures, board member Denise Haggerty commented on a Suffolk County Police Department training session that she and several board members attended. She said, “It’s good to know that they are out there, they’re trained, they’re ready. These men and women who were there Saturday morning were fully committed to protecting our children at whatever cost it might be.”

The video of the March 6 meeting is available on YouTube. The next Board of Education meeting is on March 20.

Dawnwood Middle School National Junior Honor Society members at Target Photo courtesy MCCSD

The members of Dawnwood Middle School National Junior Honor Society in Middle Country Central School District recently embarked on their annual holiday shopping trip to Target. The event was a success with over $250 worth of toys purchased for the Giving Tree.

“The annual holiday shopping trip to Target is a cherished tradition for our NJHS members,” said Karena Israel, adviser of the Dawnwood NJHS. “It not only allows them to experience the joy of giving, but also teaches them the importance of empathy, compassion and community service. We are incredibly proud of their dedication and commitment to making a difference in the lives of others.”

The Giving Tree is a charitable initiative that benefits Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, providing joy and comfort to children who are receiving medical care during the holiday season. Each year, the Dawnwood NJHS members eagerly participate in this tradition, spreading holiday cheer and making a positive impact in their community.

Under the guidance of their dedicated adviser, Dawnwood Middle School NJHS members carefully select a wide variety of toys that cater to the diverse interests and age groups of the children at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. From stuffed animals to board games to art supplies, the students make thoughtful choices to ensure that every child will find something special under the tree.

Photo by Kimberly Brown

Middle Country Central School District honored 9/11 with a performance by their fifth grade class, who sign languaged to the song “God Bless America.”

Music teacher Rebecca Schaarschmidt overcame the digital divide that was created due to digital learning. The students have been practicing their sign language since the end of last year and were very excited to perform for their peers in the first, second, third and fourth grade on Friday, Sept. 10 at Oxhead Road School.

“It took them about three or four practices to really get it down,” Schaarschmidt said. “Then we picked it up again when school started, and really only had two days to pull the whole thing together.”

Making sure that all fifth graders were able to participate, Schaarschmidt combined students who were in person last year as well as the students who attended school virtually. She was able to teach the sign language both virtually and in-person. 

“The students were very restricted last year, we had to be six-feet a part in order to sing together and we just didn’t have the space for that,” she said. “So, I was trying to think of a creative way to have the students be able to make music without using their voices which is why I decided to go ahead and teach them the sign language.”

Growing up in the Middle Country School District herself, Schaarschmidt remembers performing a 9/11 memorial with her choir during high school every year. Wanting to translate that tradition into the elementary school, she decided to teach the fifth graders how to perform.

“I think learning about 9/11 in schools is really important because it’s a part of our history,” she said. “These kids were not alive when it happened, so I wanted them to know what happened on that day and who the heroes were as well as who was able to help protect our country.”

Northport midfielder Ricky Corbett with a header at home against Newfield Sept 14. Bill Landon photo

The Newfield Wolverines looked for that first win of this early season in a League II road game against the Northport Tigers when senior co-captain Oscar Moreno broke the ice to put the Wolverines out front 1-0 with 10 minutes remaining in the opening half. 

Northport senior midfielder Justin Besosa made it a new game midway through the second half to even the score. Both teams unable to break the tie finished the game in a draw. 

Newfield senior goal keep Carter Rothwell had twelve saves in net where Northport’s goalie Tommy Pace stopped five.

Newfield at 0-1-1 will retake the field in a home game against Bay Shore Sept 17. Northport also at 0-1-1, 2-1-1 overall, will face Walt Whitman in a road game Sept 18. Game times are 5:15 p.m. and 8 a.m., respectively.

Cast members from the Newfield High School production of ‘The Addams Family.’ Photo from MCCSD

By Kimberly Brown

To celebrate the kickoff of Newfield High School’s live stream production of “The Addams Family,” parents and teachers surprised the cast and crew with a car parade.

The show will premiere on Saturday, June 5. 

Rain didn’t stop people from surprising Newfield High School students last Saturday with a car parade.
Photo from MCCSD

Parents instructed the students who performed in the play to dress up in their costumes so they could take press release pictures. Little to their knowledge, what seemed to be an endless line of cars decorated with balloons, posters and pinatas waited outside. 

“They thought it was strictly for publicity and had no idea there was going to be a parade like that,” said parent Sean Austin. 

The production team brought a speaker, where music from the show played. Cast and crew members showcased one of their dances while the car parade circled the bus loop. 

“Everyone’s really happy the play is finished,” Austin said. “I know it was a little bit of a weird process with the filming, since they had to perform scenes out of order, but in a way, it was good because if they messed up on a part so they could easily go back and redo it.”

Students and parents paid homage to chorus and theater arts director Joan Meichner, who was faced with the challenging task of putting together the production while still adhering to the changing COVID-19 guidelines and regulations. 

Cast members from the Newfield High School production of ‘The Addams Family.’
Photo from MCCSD

“From the time the show was cast, to the time we were in production and filming, the COVID guidelines and regulations had changed several times,” Meichner said. “The students in the show handled all of these changes with unparalleled grace, excellence and enthusiasm.”

Despite the obstacles, giving the students a production they are proud to be a part of is the only goal Meichner hoped to achieve. 

“I am certain that we accomplished that, and the growing excitement as we eagerly await our premiere is inspiring,” Meichner said.

File photo by Julianne Mosher

On May 18, the Middle Country Central School District will vote on four new candidates to join, or continue on, the board of education. 

Eight individuals are running for the four spots — one of them filling the remainder of an unexpired term created by the resignation of Dina Phillips that commenced on July 1, 2020. That seat is currently occupied by William Ferraro, whose appointment expires on May 18. 

Arlene Barresi

Arlene Barresi has been a district resident for over 43 years, with her two children and their spouses all Middle Country graduates. Two of Barresi’s five grandchildren are currently attending MCCSD schools.

She said she has been committed to education for 34 years, previously employed as a school secretary, teacher aide and special education teaching assistant with Eastern Suffolk BOCES. 

Although she retired in June 2006, she said serving on the board of education allows her to continue her commitment to education.

As a community member, Barresi was a Brownie and Girl Scout leader, as well as a religious education instructor.

During her time as a board trustee, she has chaired and served on the Legislative/Community Outreach, Bond, Evaluation, Business Advisory Board and Safe Schools committees. She also serves as a board trustee for Eastern Suffolk BOCES since 2015.

Up for reelection this year, Barresi has lobbied for education in Albany and in Washington, D.C.

“I’m glad to be running again,” she said during a virtual meet-the-candidates night on April 29.  “I’ve been on the board for 16 years. We’ve accomplished a lot in our district.”

Arlene Barresi did not return calls to comment on district concerns and her plans as board member.

John DeBenedetto

John DeBenedetto graduated from the Newfield High School in 1990 and has been a resident of Middle Country for the majority of his life. 

He graduated from Stony Brook University with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Business Management. His Master’s degree is in Elementary education from Dowling College and his post-master’s degree from Queens College is in School Administration.

DeBenedetto, and his wife Kristin, has three school-aged children ranging from kindergarten to high school. They reside in Selden.

Currently a high school principal in another district, he has been in the education field for 23 years. His teaching experience ranges from elementary through high school. DeBenedetto is currently a co-principal for the William Floyd School District. 

During his tenure as a principal, he has been instrumental in creating new programs for students, improving student performance on state exams, and helped to increase the graduation rates for two high schools. DeBenedetto currently volunteers for the local Cub Scouts troop.

As a first-time runner, he said his goal is make sure MCCSD’s students are ready for the real world. 

“A big concern for me is making sure our students are when they graduate, college and career ready,” he said. 

He said he’s choosing to run because this community helped him become the person he is today.

“With the recent concerns regarding the state budget, my goal is to ensure that Middle Country receives the funding we need to challenge our students, to provide our teachers and administrators with the resources they need to be successful,” he said. 

Sandro Fernandes

Sandro Fernandes did not respond to multiple attempts for an interview.

William Ferraro

William Ferraro has been a resident of the Middle Country school district since 2016. He and his wife, Kerry, have two children in the district — their oldest in first grade and youngest who will be entering pre-K next year. 

Ferraro is a senior contract manager for the New York City Administration for Children’s Services. 

He was appointed last fall to fill a vacancy on the board.

“I always wanted to serve on a school board when my children were in school. It was a big goal of mine,” he said. 

Ferraro joined the Legislative/Community Outreach Committee as a private citizen, helping with issues like lobbying to get cameras on school-bus stop signs and getting Stagecoach Elementary School in Selden shut down as a polling site.

“I’d like to keep serving because this is extremely important to me — as a father, as a community member,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of good that somebody can do from a school board. I like being able to provide constituent services. I like being able to listen to parents and listen to district employees about what their needs are. And if I can go to the administration and go to the board, or propose a change, that at least provides a voice to those who feel like maybe they’re not heard. I can do that.”

Ferraro said his three main priorities are to continue the safe return to school during COVID-19.

“I want our kids to get back to normal, but we have to do it within the confines of the CDC and what the county Department of Health [Services] is asking for us,” he said. “My personal opinion is that we’re not going to be wearing masks for too much longer, but while we’re still required to do so we have to continue to sacrifice and continue to move forward, and make the school experience as normal as possible.”

He added that special education is a big focus, saying it can be better in the district. 

“We can always get more funding into that area. I have been on every SEPTA call since being appointed to the board, and I will continue to be as responsive as possible,” he said. 

Ferraro said his third biggest focus is the budget. 

“I’m proud that this year with our budget, we did not pierce the tax cap and we held to the lowest tax [levy] increase at 0.88%, and to do that during COVID, while maintaining funding for programs, and not having to fire any teachers or staff, I think is a great accomplishment for our district,” he said.

Robert Hallock

Robert Hallock is a father of three children who all attend the Middle Country school district. He has worked in New York City as a police officer for almost four years. 

Before joining the force, he worked with the traffic courts and for the Town of Brookhaven Public Safety Department. 

“I wanted to run mainly because of the information that I’ve been getting from the teachers,” he said. 

Hallock noted that his oldest son, a kindergartner, is in an individualized education program.

“We’ve had to do a lot of different steps in order to get him the best education possible,” he said. “And it’s been a true struggle.”

He began attending board meetings because he knew it was impacting his child and the teachers who have been guiding his family throughout this process.

“Since they helped me, and continue to help me, it’s my chance to give back,” he said.

Hallock said he thinks he has the “upper hand” on safety and security, noting his experience with law enforcement. He also wants to see if the district can get more funding for its special education program.

“We have one of the best special education programs in Suffolk County, if not Long Island,” he said. “People really rave about it, and I didn’t realize it until I was in the middle of it.”

And on top of security and special education, Hallock wants to fight back on COVID-19 restrictions in the schools.

“I’d love to see the masks come off of our students,” he said. “I want to see the board be in-person in meetings instead of on Zoom. If the kids are back in school, we’re supposed to be an example for the district.”

Hallock said they are “lucky” to have a five-day in-school program and plans to ensure students continue to have live learning.

He said he’s doing this because he’s a concerned dad in the district.

“A lot of people use this as a stepping stone to get into politics,” he said. “And I hate that, personally. It shouldn’t really be about politics in this area.”

Karen Lessler

Karen Lessler has lived in the Middle Country school district for almost 40 years, leaving Northport to settle with her family in Centereach. She has two adult sons with children of their own.

Lessler’s husband of 35 years, George, is a graduate of Newfield High School.

The current BOE president and a high school assistant principal by day, she said she decided to run for the board of education more than two decades ago to help improve the district.

“I continue to focus on what is best for students and how can we make positive changes for our children and the community,” she said in an email. “The value and reputation of our schools is a reflection of our community and home values. I want not only what’s best for students but what’s best for our community as a whole.”

Lessler said her experience as an educator brings a lot to the table. A teacher for 18 years, and a board member for 21 years, she also received a doctorate degree in education.

“I have experience in lobbying, negotiations and policymaking. I also have very strong leadership skills,” she said. “I think experience matters.”

Two issues she wants to address if reelected is the current impact of COVID-19 on students, and the implementation of several programs to help Middle Country students adjust to school full-time.

Lesser wants to address the social, emotional and academic impact the pandemic has had on students, also the continuous loss of state revenue. 

“More mandates-less funding translates to higher property taxes or cutting programs,” she said. “It’s a challenge to implement a five-year plan when the State of New York works on their budget annually.”

She added she will continue to support programs implemented by the superintendent, and meet with elected officials, along with other districts, to address concerns.

“Over the years there have been many success stories,” she said. “The Middle Country school board was the group that stopped the MTA tax on Long Islanders. The pre-K grant we receive each year was the efforts of the school board. A grant for $500,000 for our life skills program was also the efforts of the school board. And most recently, the camera on the school buses was a Middle Country school board initiative.”

Deborah Mann-Rodriguez

Deborah Mann-Rodriguez, a graduate of the Middle Country school district and Stony Brook University, is looking to run for the board of education.

She has been employed at Stony Brook University for approximately 22 years, mostly dedicated to supporting faculty members with acquiring funds for meaningful research from federal, state, and philanthropic agencies. In her role, she manages all of the grants, contracts, sub-awards, clinical trials that come from the SBU College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, which is composed of nine academic departments and five academic programs, including Women in Science and Engineering. 

Additionally, she earned a bachelor’s in health science and disability studies and a master’s in health care policy and management, both from Stony Brook University. 

She and her husband have two daughters who attend Middle Country schools. 

“I decided to run for this office because I have two amazing kids in the district,” she said in an email. “I have the unique vantage point of being a graduate of MCCSD, having children that are currently in the district, having family and friends who are educators, administrators and support staff within the district.”

She said running for this position is “uncharacteristic” of herself.

“I have never run for any political office and I am not using this opportunity as a stepping stone for something more grandiose,” she said. “I’m doing it for my two children, my two nieces and one nephew, and all of our kids in this community.”

Mann-Rodriguez said her main goal is to ensure that all students, parents and educators feel safe, acknowledged and supported in this community. 

“I will work to ensure that our children have the opportunities they deserve in order to succeed,” she said. “I will do this by helping to organize synergistic activities between MCCSD and the surrounding higher education institutions, such as Stony Brook University, Suffolk Community College, Hofstra University and St. Joseph’s College.”

She added that as board member, she wants to encourage interest in STEM fields among the students of Middle Country.

Mario Nicoletto

Mario Nicoletto is a 20-year-old Centereach High School graduate who grew up in the Middle Country school district. 

Currently a student at Suffolk County Community College, he has worked in government and local politics for over two-and-a-half years. 

He said the reason he decided to run was because he was in the shoes of the district’s students not too long ago. 

“The average age of graduating high school is 18,” he said. “My point being, I’m a better representative of students than I would say, really any of the other six folks.”

He said that with the exception of fellow candidate Will Ferraro, there are no millennial or Gen Z representatives on the board.

“I feel like, wouldn’t you want students to represent students?” he said. “I know the ins and outs. I’m not just some guy, and I’m not a teacher, not a cop. Obviously, I’m not a PTA member, I’m not a parent. I’m a real human being and I’m just trying to help out all 61,000 people that live here.”

Nicoletto has been working with state Sen. Phil Boyle (R-East Islip) representing the 4th Dis-trict as a legislative intern. Previously he helped U.S. Congressman Lee Zeldin’s (R-NY1) campaign as deputy office manager. 

He said his biggest concern is the budget. 

“I am against the budget,” he said. “I think that we should have more reconciliation when it comes to things like that.”

Although he said he likes “some parts of the budget,” he is unhappy that last year 78% of it went to faculty. 

“I’m not talking about the teachers, I’m talking about the people up top,” he said. “And that, frankly, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.”

Nicoletto said that when 25% of those people are under the age of 21, he believes more money should be given back those who could benefit from it. 

“I think that we should be given more money to our students and more money into programs that will help us have a dialogue with the community,” he said.

He also wants to make safety a top priority, as well as managing the COVID-19 crisis. 

“I genuinely believe that if a student is vaccinated, he or she should not be mandated to wear a mask,” he said. “But I also don’t think that we should mandate every student to have the COVID vaccine.”

For security, although the there is a school resource officer, he thinks there should be more done. 

“I don’t think that’s going far enough,” he said. “I would like a legitimate school resource officer with arms, such as a handgun.”

Nicoletto said the district could use a revamp in its security system by hiring retired police officers and military.

From left to right: Frank Mathews, Corinne Behrens and Isabella Zimmerman. These three Centereach High School seniors chose to get vaccinated this month and are encouraging their friends and families to do the same. Photo by Julianne Mosher

It’s a month since Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced that all New Yorkers ages 16 and over would be eligible for vaccinations as from April 6.

Three seniors at Centereach High School took advantage of the vaccine earlier this month and wanted to share why they chose to do it and why they feel their friends should, too.

Corinne Behrens, 17, got her first dose of the Pfizer shot on April 21, said she chose to get the vaccine because she battled COVID-19 last year and didn’t want to experience that pain again. 

“My dad works in a hospital, so he got COVID last year right at the beginning, and then my brother and I both got it,” she said. “I actually had the worst symptoms of my family. For a solid month, I was out of it.”

Behrens said that after experiencing the horrors of the illness firsthand, living with a frontline worker, she knows the shot will bring things back to normal.

“I definitely have a couple of friends who are anti-mask wearers, and also who don’t think the vaccine is going to do anything,” she said. “They find it all pointless, and that COVID is just like a laughing matter, a big joke.”

But she hopes by sharing that she believes in the science, that others will “take it more seriously, especially definitely with the new variants.”

“We’re still finding out new things about it,” Behrens added. “And it’s definitely something that everyone should take seriously, because people have it and people are still dying.”

She said she’s looking forward to when there are less restrictions for her day-to-day life and for the time where she can sit around a campfire with her friends, again. She hopes to pick up where 2020 left off.

“Everything that I had planned out already wasn’t going to happen,” Behrens said. She missed out on visiting colleges, taking her SATs and fundraising with her school clubs for trips and events that would have normally taken place if it weren’t for the virus.

“Definitely try to get the vaccine if you can,” she advised. “Because then we’re all spending less time in this situation, and we all just want to get out of it and go back to our normal lives without a mask.”

Frank Mathews, 18, said that getting the vaccine was a no-brainer, opting to get it even earlier than his peers because he works at a supermarket. Mathews said his household has several high-risk individuals who he wanted to keep safe as he worked in the public throughout the pandemic. 

When he got his Pfizer shots in March, he was just sore at first but with the second dose he felt ill. In the end, he felt the day in bed was better than contracting coronavirus.

“It’s better to be prepared for it, rather than to give up,” he said. “Especially because we’re all young, high school kids. So, I think it’s better for us to get it now.”

Mathews said he knows a lot of people who are against the vaccine and wearing masks, and he understands their concerns. 

The senior who plans on attending Suffolk County Community College said he’s looking forward to going camping again, and having a sense of normalcy. He said his 16-year-old brother and older brother decided to get their vaccines, too. This extra line of protection in his home gives him hope that life can pick up where it left off. 

“We all have to act together on this,” he said. “We all have to keep our masks up, you know, wearing them properly, too. All these things are all factors to contribute and everything we all have to do together, and that’s the only way we can get through this properly.”

Isabella Zimmerman, 18, who committed to Utica College to study physical therapy, was unsure about getting the vaccine at first. 

“I was on the fence just because obviously I want my life back,” she said. “I want to be able to do things and not worry. But at the same time, it’s so early that we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future.”

After weighing the pros and the cons, Zimmerman decided to get her Pfizer shot the first week of April.

“I feel like, at the same time, if they’re making it so accessible it can’t be that dangerous,” she said.

Her parents both got the shot, she said, and gave her the option to choose for herself. 

“But I feel we don’t have much of a decision anymore because we’re at the point where we want to be young, and live our lives and travel still,” she said. “And all those things pretty much require a vaccine.”

She said at this point it was easier to get the vaccine instead of constantly worrying what she was allowed and not allowed to do. 

Zimmerman said she felt discouraged this year because she missed out on the highlights of her junior and senior years.

“I feel not enough people are acknowledging it, how hard it is on us,” she said. “It’s so hard to keep coming in and paying attention when everything is virtual or there’s nothing fun to do after school.”

By getting her vaccine, she said she’s looking forward to working her summer jobs hopefully without a mask, and getting back to her life prepandemic. 

“Going into college, it’d be nice to have some kind of group gatherings and parties to meet people,” she said. “It’s going to be hard going to school, especially if you’re going away … you don’t know anyone and there are no group gatherings. No one wants to become friends over Zoom.”

Legislator Nick Caracappa (rear, left) stands next to Middle Country’s Athletic Director Joe Mercado and with students and coaches of the Middle Country Central School District and Longwood School District’s Cross Country teams.

Legislator Nick Caracappa attended a high school dual cross country meet at Farmingville Hills County Park on Portion Road this week, held between Middle Country and Longwood School Districts. Caracappa recently secured Farmingville Hills Park for use by the Middle Country Cross Country Team.

“Middle Country’s meets had previously been held at Sunken Meadow State Park, which is a considerable distance from their area,” stated Legislator Caracappa. “Plus, when all State Parks were closed due to the pandemic, Middle Country’s Coach Joe Toto reached out to me to find a new, closer venue. I then contacted County Executive Steve Bellone’s office for assistance. Shortly after, Mr. Bellone announced the re-opening of all Suffolk County parks for use by the school districts’ cross country teams.”

Purchased by the county in the 1980s as a part of the Open Space Preservation Act, the 105-acre park officially opened to the public in May of 2010. The park features a large open area of grass where events take place, as well as 1.2 miles of hiking trails with hilly terrain.

“I’m pleased to have helped the team stay closer to home, which saves them travel time and the district considerable gas money. Additionally, it was very rewarding to hear firsthand how much the student- athletes and coaches love the county parks and look forward to utilizing them in the future,” concluded Caracappa.

Stock photo

This week, Long Islanders acknowledged the one-year mark since the coronavirus hit officially hit and impacted the area. In March 2020, schools began to close, as stay-at-home orders were put into effect. 

Throughout the remainder of the school year, districts had to figure out new learning models in a virtual world and create a socially distanced environment when schools opened back up nearly six months later. 

Now, many districts in the area have opted to bring students back in-person all five days a week, hoping to give children, teachers and families a sense of normalcy. 

Rocky Point Union Free School District 

Rocky Point school district has been back full time for K-5 since September, according to superintendent of schools, Scott O’Brien. 

By November, secondary schools began attending in-person classes four days a week, and now have implemented five days as of last week. “Reopening our schools this year and embracing a phased-in approach to safely bring our K-12 students back to school full time was a truly collaborative effort, and I can’t thank all of our stakeholders enough for their unwavering support,” he said. “Our elementary students have been thriving, learning in person full time since the start of the school year and our district was able to successfully and safely increase our in-person learning days from two to four by November for our secondary students.”

He said that “it was clear pretty early into the increased learning plan how much this move tremendously benefited our students, not only academically but socially and emotionally as well.”

O’Brien said that the district is continually working to ensure their learning environments remain safe. 

Middle Country Central School District  

Roberta Gerold, superintendent of Middle Country school district, said that pre-K through grade 8 will be returning to five days April 5. 

For grades 9 through 12, it was be a slower process to ensure everyone’s safety. 

“By the end of the school year, the goal is to be back to five days,” she said. “We want kids to have muscle memory of what it was like to be in school.”

Gerold said that bringing kids back to schools was the goal all along. 

“Kids are missing the classroom experience,” she said. “The interaction, the energy and it’s good for teachers, too.”

She said that they are following all the necessary precautions, including barriers and mask requirements. Due to space limitations, she said that the 6-feet social distancing rule is unobtainable, but desks and distances are closer to 5-feet apart. 

She said it’s exciting to see how happy her students are at slowly coming back to school. 

“I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “It’s neat to see how excited the kids are and it’s good to start feeling a sense of normalcy again.”

Middle Country is still offering a full virtual option for families who declared so early on. Gerold said right now about 20% of the student population is virtually learning. 

SWR Central School District

Superintendent Gerard Poole said that since September, Shoreham-Wading River has been back full time, five days a week, and there have been no problems for all levels. 

“We have a fully remote option, but about 97% have been attending in person,” he said.

By following all the correct protocols and by reopening a vacant elementary school to help with distancing, students and parents have been thrilled. 

“It’s been fantastic, a huge success,” he said. “It’s good for the students’ mental health, and helps the parents get back to work.”

He said that it takes a collective effort to make things like this happen.

“It can work,” he said. “It does work, and all the other health and safety protocols work. So, I think the fears of COVID are real, but so are the effects of students not being in school every day.”

Comsewogue School District

Superintendent Jennifer Quinn said that beginning April 6, after spring break, high schoolers will be returning to a normal week. Grades K-6 have been back since September. 

“Nothing replaces live instruction,” Quinn said. “The [COVID] numbers are low at this point and we’ve watched from some of the surrounding districts that their numbers are not significantly different than ours. … We want the students to be in school. Live instruction is the best way to learn.”

She added that the district’s teachers and the community as a whole have done “an amazing job during this difficult situation.”

“It’s a hard decision, people are afraid,” Quinn said. “It’s not right for everybody, but the key is this was the plan, and we were working toward this for a long time.”

Comsewogue will still have an option for families to remain virtual. 

“One size doesn’t fit all,” said Joe Coniglione, assistant superintendent. 

And while it’s still a difficult time, Quinn said that everyone is excited to be going back to five days. 

“We’re going to be as safe as we can possibly make it, and we need students to feel that this is their safe place,” she said. “Overall, the kids are suffering. It’s not normal to be home every other day and not being able to see their friends.”

Port Jefferson School District

Since Jan. 18, the Port Jefferson School District transitioned students in grades six through 12 back to in-person learning four days a week. 

“Thus far, we have not seen a rapid rise in our positive COVID cases in our middle school and high school,” Superintendent Jessica Schmettan recently wrote in a letter to parents. “Unfortunately, it has become evident that during this pandemic, our students have not been as successful academically and are struggling with their mental health. We have seen an increase in social and emotional needs similar to those reported in the news across the country.”

She said that from a health perspective, mandating masks, cleaning procedures, hand hygiene and distancing when possible have resulted in minimal transmission within the school. With that in mind, the board of education voted on returning secondary students to in-person learning five days per week beginning on March 8. 

“We as parents are thrilled about that and we as a community are thrilled about that,” Port Jefferson Village trustee Kathianne Snaden said in a virtual board of trustees meeting on March 1. “There’s nothing going to be better for our kids, and then to get them back into school with their friends and teachers and all the things they need in school, we’re so happy about that.”

Schmettan added, “Currently, students very easily shift in and out of the remote environment. Although convenient for parents and families, this irregular pattern of instruction is disruptive

and unfair to teachers and students.”

There will only be a few reasons for virtual learning, including students who opted in for the remainder of the year, students mandated to quarantine due to COVID-19, or students who have a significant documented medical event that will not allow them to attend school for a long duration of time.

Comsewogue School District

Superintendent Jennifer Quinn said that beginning April 6, after spring break, high schoolers will be returning to a normal week. Grades K-6 have been back since September.

“Nothing replaces live instruction,” Quinn said. “The [COVID] numbers are low at this point and we’ve watched from some of the surrounding districts that their numbers are not significantly different than ours. … We want the students to be in school. Live instruction is the best way to learn.”

She added that the district’s teachers and the community as a whole have done “an amazing job during this difficult situation.”

“It’s a hard decision, people are afraid,” Quinn said. “It’s not right for everybody, but the key is this was the plan, and we were working toward this for a long time.”

Comsewogue will still have an option for families to remain virtual.

“One size doesn’t fit all,” said Joe Coniglione, assistant superintendent.

And while it’s still a difficult time, Quinn said that everyone is excited to be going back to five days.

“We’re going to be as safe as we can possibly make it, and we need students to feel that this is their safe place,” she said. “Overall, the kids are suffering. It’s not normal to be home every other day and not being able to see their friends.”

Marc Greene

By Kimberly Brown

Long Island Music’s Hall of Fame announced Marc Greene as its newest 2020 Educator of Note.

Working for several decades in teaching and supervising music education, the LIMHOF explained how Greene has shown exemplary work and passion throughout his career. 

“It is so very exciting and humbling to be recognized as the 2020 Long Island Music Hall of Fame Educator of Note,” Greene said. “So many of the previous honorees are esteemed music education colleagues and mentors, providing very large footsteps in which to follow and broad shoulders upon which to stand.”

After teaching for a dozen years at middle school and high school levels in upstate, New York, Greene took a job at Newfield High School, where he became the director of choral and theater activities. 

Four years later, he was approached by Cecil Ramsey, former Middle Country Superintendent of Schools, who urged him to become state certified as an educational administer. 

Taking on his new role, he implemented a long-term plan to enhance the Arts Education experience for Middle Country students.

In 10 years, some of the programs he established on Long Island were a string orchestra program — that enrolls over 1,100 students annually — specialized kindergarten music instruction, and a music curriculum that would feature the development of social guitar, keyboard and drumming performance skills for middle and elementary school children. 

After serving his tenure at Middle County, Greene then continued to serve as a chairperson for the Suffolk New York State Council of Administrators of Music Education Honors Chorus.

He also served NYSSMA as an assistant to the Zone 14 Suffolk County representative, as a member of the statewide Curriculum Committee, and as an All-State Voice and Vocal Jazz and Choral adjudicator. 

“Upon my retirement from the public sector in 2013, I immediately joined the faculty of the Ithaca College School of Music, serving as a supervisor of student teachers on Long Island and in the New York metropolitan area,” Greene said. 

While continuing to work with the school districts of Long Island in a multitude of ways, Greene also manages a small voice instruction studio and provides vocal performance, as well as piano accompaniment.

“Long Island truly is a great place to make music, to teach music, and to surround oneself with a cadre of people who truly understand the power of music to embellish the lives of children and adults alike.”

And for all he did for students, not only in Middle Country, but across New York State, the honor came unquestioned.

“The Long Island Music Hall of Fame is very excited to honor such an accomplished and respected educator,” said LIMHOF Education Committee Chairman Tom Needham. “He is one of a small group of music educators who have had such a long-lasting and significant impact on so many music students all over Long Island.”