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Miller Place School District

High school drama production draws a crowd to two performances

Photo courtesy MPSD

The Miller Place Panther Troupe recently captivated audiences with two performances of their fall drama production “The Curious Savage,” written by John Patrick.

“I’d like to commend the actors, set designers, musicians and everyone involved in the incredible production of ‘The Curious Savage,’” said Superintendent of Schools Seth Lipshie. “Our students put on two engaging performances that moved their audience with scenes that were both poignant and comedic. Congratulations to everyone involved.”

Over the course of this fall, cast members developed their characters and honed their acting skills while crew members sharpened their technical theater skills and helped curate the set. Director Jenna Ely and assistant director Colleen Annicelli led a talented cast that had their audiences laughing, crying and thoroughly enjoying the show.

The Miller Place Panther Troupe captivates audiences with two performances of ‘The Curious Savage,’ written by John Patrick. Photos courtesy MPSD

“The Curious Savage” follows the story of an elderly widow named Ethel Savage who was left $10 million from her late husband. She seeks to donate the fortune, but her stepchildren seek to thwart her plan and have her committed to a sanatorium.

She bonds with the kind residents there and discovers the meaning of love and family. The dramatic comedy opened on Broadway in 1950 and starred Lillian Gish as Ethel Savage.

For their work on “The Curious Savage,” the Miller Place Panther Troupe is eligible for the East End Arts’ 22nd annual Teeny Awards. The annual high school theater awards show, given its name as a reference to the Tony Awards, will take place this June.

For more information about the Miller Place school district, please visit the district’s website at www.millerplace.k12.ny.us. To read more about the great things happening in Miller Place schools, visit www.millerplaceinthemedia.com.

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.

Student business Sand N’ Shade sold over $170,000 in customized sunglasses, snow goggles, watches and hats at the Long Island Regional Trade Show. Photo courtesy MPSD

Thirty-nine students in Thomas Frank’s Virtual Enterprise class at Miller Place High School excelled at the Long Island Regional Trade Show and Business Plan Competition. 

Students were tasked with either setting up a business to sell their products at a trade show or pitching a business idea to angel investors.

“Our Virtual Enterprise students did an amazing job and were part of a very successful field trip,” Superintendent of Schools Seth Lipshie said. “Everyone who participated represented Miller Place with pride and enthusiasm and exceptional skill.” 

He added, “Congratulations to all of the students who participated at the trade show for the professionalism and passion they demonstrated while promoting their ideas to investors.”

The Deja VR business, set up by student CEO Gianna Benavides, is a virtual reality company that sells headsets with a wide variety of games, sports, music, history and travel options. Gianna’s company took home the silver trophy in the website competition.  

Website creator for Deja VR, Salome Davoudiasl, commented, “the company I am a part of made it entertaining to choose an electric color palette for the website. Once the simple mechanics of our website were evaluated, it became an awesome project to work on throughout the course of the school year.”   

Deja VR, which earned $150,000 at the trade show, placed among the top 10 schools on Long Island in the competition, including 3,000 schools across Nassau, Suffolk County, and New York City.

The Sand N’ Shade business, established by student CEO Alexandra DeAmario, sells customized sunglasses, snow goggles, watches and hats. Sand N’ Shade set a school record by selling over $170,000 in merchandise at the trade show.

For more information about the Miller Place School District, please visit the district’s website at www.millerplace.k12.ny.us.

PTO members at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new book vending machines. Photo courtesy MPSD
Seventh grade North Country Road Middle School student Johnny Adler shows off the book he chose from the school’s new book vending machine. Photo courtesy MPSD

The Miller Place School District recently unveiled three new vending machines at its schools, but instead of dispensing candy or snacks, these machines are full of brand-new books.    

The Miller Place Parent Teacher Organization donated the book vending machines to increase literacy and generate excitement around reading. PTO representatives and district officials recently held a commemorative ribbon-cutting ceremony welcoming the vending machines to North Country Road Middle School, Laddie A. Decker Sound Beach School and Andrew Muller Primary School. 

“Students are already excited about our book vending machines and eager for a chance to use them and get their next favorite book,” said superintendent of schools Seth Lipshie. “Thank you to our PTO for bringing these to our district and putting in place an amazing plan to boost literacy, reward good behavior and get children enthusiastic about reading.” 

Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner, left, at a commemorative ribbon-cutting ceremony with third-grade student Hazel Kamath and Miller Place PTO representative Dawn McCarthy. Photo courtesy MPSD

Miller Place is one of the first school districts on Long Island to bring book vending machines to its schools. Each book costs one token, which students earn by displaying good behavior and performing acts of kindness. The PTO has committed to continue purchasing books for the vending machines in the future. 

The PTO executive board includes Kristin Hennig, Suzanne Cloke, Jackie Maloney, Monique Caccavale, Sharda Soohkdeo, Gayle Mancini and Dawn McCarthy. Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) presented the district and PTO with proclamations praising their success in supporting literacy districtwide.

For more information about the Miller Place School District, visit the website at www.millerplace.k12.ny.us.

Andrew Muller Primary School held a food drive in which students donated goods and supermarket gift cards. Photo courtesy MPSD

The Miller Place School District lent a helping hand ahead of this Thanksgiving by hosting a series of food drives at various schools. 

Students at Miller Place High School collected 800 canned and packaged goods through a Thanksgiving food drive hosted by the National Honor Society. Students collected canned soup, vegetables, cranberry sauce, stuffing, muffin mix, potatoes and grocery gift cards. The food was distributed to families in need throughout the community. Additional items will be donated to local food pantries.

The School Improvement Team Committee at Laddie A. Decker Sound Beach School donated Thanksgiving meals to seven families in need throughout the community. Photo courtesy MPSD

At North Country Road Middle School, the student government sponsors a yearlong food drive to stock the North Country Road Middle School food pantry. Each Thanksgiving, the donations are used to create Thanksgiving meal packages that they distribute to families throughout Miller Place and Sound Beach.

Laddie A. Decker Sound Beach School’s School Improvement Team (S.I.T.) Committee, run by assistant principal Nicole Farley and fifth grade students, “adopted” seven families in need in the Miller Place and Sound Beach communities. The students brought in items to put together a complete Thanksgiving meal for each family.

Andrew Muller Primary School held a food drive where students donated goods and supermarket gift cards and distributed them to local families in need ahead of the holiday. The school’s hallways were lined with boxes labeled accordingly for students to place their donations. In addition, a local catering business donated fresh turkey for families in need. 

For more information about the Miller Place School District, visit the website at: www.millerplace.k12.ny.us.

North Country Road Middle School will serve as the polling site for this year budget and school board elections. File photo

Miller Place school district will be holding its budget vote and board of education elections this Tuesday.

The proposed budget for 2022-23 is $77,670,225, a 1.5% increase.  

Incumbents Johanna Testa, BOE president, and trustee Keith Frank are being challenged by Jennifer Andersen-Oldenskov, Kenneth Conway, John Galligan, Jennifer Keller, Andrea Spaniolas and Jenna Stingo.

In this at-large vote,  the three candidates receiving the highest number of votes will be elected to serve on the board of education, according to the school district. 


The budget vote and trustee elections will be held Tuesday, May 17, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at North Country Road Middle School, 191 N. Country Road, Miller Place.

Photo from MPSD

The Miller Place School District recently celebrated the official book launch of “Peachy Keen,” a book written and illustrated by Science Club students from North Country Road Middle School about their adventures rescuing a local sea turtle. The book launch was the culmination of a year-long science club project in partnership with the NY Marine Rescue Center in Riverhead. Canon USA sponsored the Marine Center program and graciously covered the costs of printing 250 copies, which are on sale at the NY Marine Rescue Center, the aquarium gift shop and at the MacArthur Airport gift shop. All proceeds from the sale of the book will go to supporting the work of the NY Marine Rescue Center.

“This activity is exemplary of the Miller Place School District’s mission to empower students to creatively put their classroom lessons into action and make the world a better place,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Marianne Cartisano. “The entire school community is proud of what these students accomplished, and we are grateful to the NY Marine Rescue Center and Canon USA for providing our students with this life changing opportunity.”

The turtle, which the students affectionately named Peachy Keen, was released back into the ocean in August of 2021 at Tiana Beach in Hampton Bays. Since that time, students and marine biologists have been tracking Peachy Keen’s progress from Long Island down the East Coast to Northern Florida. The book, written and illustrated by the 17 students of the NCRMS Science Club, tells the story about the students’ experiences and the lessons they learned about marine mammals that inhabit NY waters and the importance of keeping beaches clean. It also includes photos of Peachy Keen’s rehabilitation and journey back to the ocean.

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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.”

Photo from MPSD

Graduating with the class of 2021 of Miller Place High School, Kyla Bruno will be leaving as valedictorian, finishing at the top of her class with a weighted GPA of 102.34. Kyla plans to attend college at Northwestern University and will be majoring in mathematics, with a minor or double major in music. 

Photo from MPSD

Throughout her high school career, Kyla has accomplished a tremendous amount academically. She was awarded AP Scholar with Honors, Performing Arts Teeny Award for Outstanding Instrumentalist, and was recognized by the College Board National Hispanic Recognition Program.

Consistently achieving honor roll while enrolled in all AP and honors courses, Kyla has also received Special Recognition of Excellence in language arts, geometry, Spanish, and orchestra. She was additionally named an All-State Musician. 

Not only is Kyla academically gifted, but is a very active athlete as well, earning the Scholar-Athlete Award for tennis and track. She is a member of both the spring and winter track teams and was recognized as All-League and All-County on her tennis team.

Leaving with a 101.30, the second-highest GPA in the Class of 2021, Jason Cirrito was named salutatorian at Miller Place high school.

Jason was notably awarded for his academic excellence, but also had a big involvement in his community. He achieved High Honor Roll for every marking period since 9th grade and received awards for Advanced Placement Scholar with Honors and the Geometry Honors Award.

He was also given the Outstanding Acts of Kindness Award for helping his classmates and community members without expecting anything in return. 

Spending his time at the Port Jefferson Library, Jason helped coordinate events and also served as the assistant coach for the Miller Place Parent Teacher Organization basketball team. 

To add to his stellar academic and community service achievements, Jason was known as an involved student-athlete. He was a member of the cross-country team, soccer team, and the winter and spring track teams. 

This fall, Jason will be attending Vassar College and plans to major in math education and become a secondary math teacher.

Juniors and seniors in Thomas Fank’s fourth-period virtual enterprise business class. This year, the three classes at Miller Place High School have won more than a dozen awards for their creativity and business planning. Photo from MPSD

For students at Miller Place High School, fourth-period is actually a working office. 

The virtual enterprise business class is open to juniors and seniors there, and its idea is to allow students to “run” a virtual business, which they completely create.

It is a business ownership simulation class where students network with other students around the United States and world under the auspices of the Virtual Enterprises International organization. Throughout the school year, students create, manage and work collectively with their peers to help ensure their business concepts and ideas are successfully put into action. Students then take their business model and begin to network with other VE students from all over the country.  

In Thomas Fank’s fourth-period class, 22 students have worked diligently on their business model for an online boutique they created called As Scene on the Screen — a store with movie, TV and pop-culture memorabilia. 

But it’s not a real store, Fank said. It’s all virtual and a simulation that allows students to see what it’s like to run a business and deal with customer service. Just like a real business, As Scene on the Screen buys products from wholesalers, and then sells items for a profit, all with virtual funds. 

“They’ve sold items and created their business throughout the whole year,” Fank said. “And now, we just got results back from a bunch of the national competitions — 13 awards.”

Since the class started in the district three years ago, it’s won 30 awards. And over the last couple of years, it has piqued the interest of many students. Along with fourth-period, he has 28 students in his second-period class and 26 in eighth. 

And just like an office, the class shows how important teamwork is when running a business.

Anthony Gagliardi, head of marketing and design with As Scene on the Screen, said that working on their digital portfolio — which includes both professional and personal portfolios — students move through the different steps to do just as a typical corporate setting would do in the real world.  

“Now we’ve gotten up to working on a website,” he noted. “Just explaining about ourselves, what we do for this company, and that really just shows how we function as a class.”

Throughout the 40-minute period they have available, each and every minute is spent in meetings, making sales, working on company documents and networking with other students across the country and around the world. 

“The students will do trades and complete purchases from other schools,” Fank said. “This helps stimulate the virtual economy.”

As a capstone class, students are able to earn six college credits through SUNY Farmingdale. Underclassmen are encouraged to take lower-level business electives, like accounting, digital design, business law, sports marketing or computer literacy, prior to the course so they’re completely prepared.

“I think that’s what’s helped lead to kind of the success that we’ve been seeing so far,” Fank said. “So not only are they getting kind of real-life readiness — career readiness skills — they’re also getting six college credits.”

Jack Soldano, head of design at the virtual company, said this class is different than his other classes throughout the day.

“Every other period of the school day there’s a lot of memorization, formulas, historical figures, and this class is such a breath of fresh air, because it allows you to be creative and have some fun with a task,” he said. “It’s a great teamwork experience.”