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Miller Place School District

Miller Place 2020 Valedictorian Joseph Bisiani and Salutatorian Larry Davis. Photos from MPSD

Miller Place High School’s top two students are looking to leave their mark in both the local community and the wider world.

This year’s top students at Miller Place are valedictorian Joseph Bisiani and salutatorian Larry Davis.

Bisiani is graduating with a weighted grade point average of 101.54. In school, he was the Rubik’s Cube Club founder and president, senior class president, National Honor Society vice president, a National Merit Commended Scholar, Academic All-County varsity soccer, Natural Helpers peer leader and member of Tri-M.

He said being the person behind the Rubik’s Cube Club was especially exciting, as he has been “speedcubing” since he was in eighth-grade, and now he had the opportunity to show the mathematics behind a Rubik’s Cube to his peers. As class president, he said he was involved in fundraising food sales and had petitioned the board of education for a class trip, though those plans were squashed due to the pandemic.

Otherwise, he thanked his parents, his brother and sister and his Catholic faith, which he said was the backbone of his life and his efforts to “be a good person.”

“I am so grateful to have been brought up in Miller Place, due to the small-knit community and closeness we all have to one another,” he said. “I loved having a school where I could know everybody in it, and have a close relationship with all of my teachers.”

Bisani plans to attend Stony Brook University in the Honors Program and major in math and physics on the pre-med track. He added he would like to take some politics courses while in college.

Davis is graduating with a 101.35 weighted GPA. Through his high school career, he made Eagle Scout last December, was a Metropolitan Youth Orchestra principal hornist, Scholar-Artist Merit Award, French Honor Society president, NYSSMA All-State participant, varsity badminton player and member of the Nassau-Suffolk jazz ensemble.

As part of the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra, he said he was able to travel to Europe, which became “one of the fondest experiences I was lucky enough to have, between making friends, performing music and appreciating foreign culture.”

As a musician, he said going to the All-State Music Festival was one of the unforgettable experiences of his high school career. Otherwise, he thanked his parents and sister for their support in his academic, musical, athletic and Scouting endeavors. He also thanked the teachers “who have pushed me to improve myself both in my work and in my daily life.”

Davis plans to attend Columbia University and major in biomedical engineering. Beyond that, he said he wants to pursue a career in disease research to help find treatments for current and future illnesses.

The salutatorian said it’s important for students to embrace a sense that whatever happens, happens, especially considering the way this year was turned on its head due to the pandemic.

“ven though this year’s situation is pretty unprecedented, it’s important to look ahead and stay on the bright side, because something absolutely astounding can come out of it,” he said.

“Army” of People Work to Save Life of Sound Beach Man

Sound Beach resident Jim Kennedy, right, and his wife Trish. Jim’s life was saved thanks to scores of people, from the samaritan who performed CPR to the doctors at Stony Brook University Hospital. Photo from Trish Kennedy

What was just a day of golfing with his two sons turned into a life or death situation for one Miller Place School District athletic director and another area resident. It became a day where scores of people, both medical and nonmedical alike, worked to save a man’s life and return him to his family, alive and with his full faculties.

The Kennedy family said they would have lost their father and husband if it weren’t for Pietrie and the other medical staff that saved his life. Photo from Trish Kennedy

It was a bright sunny day the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, May 22. Ron Petrie, of Sound Beach, was out with his two sons Michael and Matthew for a day of golf at the Rolling Oaks Golf Course in Rocky Point. Being it was a popular day for some socially distanced sports at the course, the trio was paired up with fellow Sound Beach resident Jim Kennedy. They were strangers, but they got to talking as they moved languidly across the greens. Petrie’s sons were still relatively new to golf and were taking it slow to learn more of the ropes. 

Petrie said he could tell that the new acquaintance loved his wife and two daughters just by the way he talked of them and how one of his daughters just recently graduated from college. 

Then at the 8th hole, Petrie turned around, and said he saw Kennedy a few yards behind them. The man had fallen face down in the fairway. He didn’t seem responsive. 

“The initial thing is just to figure out what was going on,” Petrie said, remembering the events of a few weeks ago. “It was kind of a sense of we’ve got to figure out what’s going on … It was definitely unnerving.”

Petrie got to the ground and rolled Kennedy over onto his back. He shook him, shouted his name, but there was no response. He checked everywhere, from his carotid to his brachial arteries for a pulse, but could not find it. The man was in agonal breathing, as if he was gasping for air, whenever the athletic director moved or shifted him. Though Petrie didn’t know it, the man was having a heart attack, and a severe one at that.

He told one of his sons to call 911, then that they should clear the area of any kinds of obstructions like golf clubs and bags and stand at the top of a nearby hill to flag down the emergency service vehicles that came by. Despite the threat of the COVID-19 virus, the athletic director began compressions and continued it for about five minutes until emergency responders arrived.

It’s something that as the head of athletics, as well as health and physical education, is kept up to date with the latest training every year. He fell into the steps of compressions. He saw the man had lost all control of bodily function and fluid. He had already vomited and he decided to focus on what he could control, that being pumping Kennedy’s heart for him.

“I coached for 25 years, I’ve gone through every gamut of CPR that it seems every two years they’re changing,” Petrie said. “The latest protocols are when in doubt, hands only, breaths are secondary.”

Medical professionals would learn Petrie’s actions most certainly saved the man’s life, and likely helped preserve the man in what is the most consequential time in a heart attack, where oxygen no longer is being pumped up to the brain. 

Speaking many days after his time in the hospital, as he continues his recovery day by day, Kennedy said he remembers very little of what he was doing before he collapsed, and practically nothing until he found he was lying in a bed at Stony Brook University Hospital. He learned later his heart attack, caused by the complete blockage of the left anterior descending artery, is sometimes called the widow maker, as that specific artery provides blood into the heart, allowing it to function properly.

EMTs on the scene put him on a machine to do compressions and managed to get a weak pulse back in Kennedy, about 15 minutes after he went down. The ambulance team decided to take Kennedy to Stony Brook University Hospital’s cardiac department, where nurses and doctors would spend nearly the next nine hours in battle over the man’s life.

Kennedy’s sister, Kathleen Taibi, just happens to work as a nurse practitioner at the Stony Brook cardiac department. Her husband, Dr. William Taibi was Kennedy’s physician before he retired from his own practice in 2016. The duo received the call of Kennedy’s circumstances from their house upstate. They rushed down to Stony Brook, who let the Taibis and Kennedy’s wife, Trish, into the normally restricted lab, as many there thought it could have potentially been the husband’s final moments.

Doctors in the catheterization lab put two stents in his artery to open the worst of the blockages. After that though, Kennedy suffered two more cardiac arrests after he was put into the coronary care unit. An army of staff “worked on him and worked on him and worked on him,” William Taibi said. Medical professionals managed to stabilize him during the second round of catheterization.

The doctors put the man in an induced coma for several days, using an intentional cooling of the body to minimize the amount of oxygen the brain and body need. When he was warmed and awoke that following Monday, doctors and family were relieved to find he did not seem to have any damage in brain function. In just a little over a week he was released from the hospital.

“He came out of it miraculously,” Taibi said. “There were all sorts of miraculous events … if you’re looking for a hero story, it’s [Petrie and his sons], they performed CPR on him in the time of COVID. They were able to give him those first five minutes, that’s probably why he has his brain function today.”

Despite having never really met each other until that day on the golf course, it just so happens that both men were connected through the school district. Justine Scutaro, who teaches in the district and is also the girls volleyball coach, is the goddaughter to Kennedy.

“I’m just happy the family still has him in their lives,” Petrie said. 

Kennedy, who works as a corrections officer for Suffolk County, remembers very little of events, only really up until the Wednesday after Memorial Day.

“I’m feeling a little better every day — when I came home everybody was really happy to see me upright and able to walk.” he said “I’ll forever be indebted to Ron.”

Trish Kennedy said Petrie “is our hero — performing CPR on a total stranger — especially during this pandemic.” She added that the work of everyone, from the athletic director to the people in the ambulance to the men and women in the hospital, helped save her husband’s life.

“Ron not only saved my husband, he saved [my daughters’] Kimberly and Kaitlyn’s dad,” she said.

Petrie said CPR is taught during the first quarter of health classes every year. Students wonder aloud why they have to learn the skill or when they will have to use it.

“We got him to where he needed to be,” he said. “To think his family will have the opportunity to be together, to know they will still have that opportunity, is a huge relief.”

The story printed in the June 4 issue of the Village Beacon Record incorrectly spelled Petrie’s name. This version corrects that error.

SWR Assistant Superintendent Glen Arcuri talks to the school board about precautions the district has made toward COVID-19. Photo by Kyle Barr

With school district budgets and board elections on the docket for June 9 with an extension from New York State, this year’s crop of district spending and revenue plans have had to contend with many unknowns.

In fact, budgets may change from now until June 1, as the current pandemic holds much in the air. COVID-19, by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) estimates, could result in approximately $61 billion less revenue for New York State from 2021 to 2024. The hope rests on the federal government supplying the state with emergency funding.

“It’s very, very hard to plan for the unknown,” said Glen Arcuri, the assistant superintendent for finance and operations at the Shoreham-Wading River Central School District.

The governor has three look-back periods for revising state aid. The last period is Dec. 31.

Though one certainty is the start of next school year will weigh heavily on officials, as many still do not know when students will again walk through facilities’ doors.

Additionally, complicating this year’s votes is everything must be done outside of polling locations. Suffolk County Board of Elections, based on an executive order, will mail ballots to each residence with a prepaid return envelope.

There are still many unknowns, even as districts craft budgets. Nobody could say whether students will have a fall sports season, whether students would have to wear masks and remain apart in the classroom, or whether there will even be the chance for students to learn in-person, instead of online.

Numbers floated by Cuomo for state aid reductions have not inspired much hope. The governor said without state aid, school districts could see an upward of 50 percent reduction.

“A 50 percent reduction would be very painful for our school district, it would be insurmountable for any other school district,” said Port Jefferson Deputy Superintendent Sean Leister.

All that comes down to whether the federal government will provide aid to the state for it to maintain current budget figures.

All budget information provided is the latest from the school districts, though if it does change based on any state decisions, an update to this article will appear in the June 4 issue.

Mount Sinai High School. File photo by Kevin Redding

Mount Sinai

Mount Sinai residents will see a marginal increase in budget but only a slight increase in taxes, despite the lingering question whether students will even be in school next September. The district voted to approve its budget at its May 18 board meeting.

The 2020-21 budget sees a $61,769,870 budget, a $760,100 and 1.25 percent increase from last year. The tax levy is set at $41,396,602, an increase of 1 percent and well below the 2.43 percent cap set by New York State.

The largest increases come in the form of operations and maintenance by just over $84,000 because of contractual obligations, as well as oil and electric increases. Employee benefits increased by $272,695, mostly from employee and teacher retirement requirements. 

“Every participant in the retirement system is given percentages based on the market performances from the comptroller’s office,” said board president Robert Sweeney.

Though much of the budget remains the same in presentations from the past 3 months, officials said that this year’s budget has had to account for the fact many, many residents have been hit hard financially by the pandemic. 

“Our community is not in the same financial position five weeks ago,” said Superintendent Gordon Brosdal.

A second proposition the district will ask voters to approve $1.2 million for capital projects from the reserves. This does not increase the tax levy.

Current projects still include continuing the high school roof replacement for $865,000, replacing the middle school water heater for $100,000, among others for a total of $1,200,000. 

The district is currently set to receive $17,653,079 in state aid this upcoming school year, a some $135,000 decrease from last year. Brosdal said it was due to decreased building aid from continuing to pay off loans and bonds from building projects.

Brosdal said the question of whether the governor will cut state aid, that is still up in the air, could mean massive upheaval for the district.

“He has talked about a further 20 percent school aid cut, which would be devastating, devastating,” Brosdal said. “Things are not what they were, this is a brand new game.” 

Should the state budget change mid-year, that would also cause issues for the district, the superintendent said, as they would then have to revise the budget midstream, potentially leading to staffing cuts and program changes.

Brosdal, who in his time working from home has grown a mustache since the start of quarantine, also added, “I need to go back to school because I need to shave.”

Mount Sinai will host its budget hearing June 2 at 8 p.m. A link to the online meeting can be found at mtsinai.k12.ny.us. Votes must be received by June 9 at 8 p.m.

Miller Place

For a budget that was originally meant to be displayed and voted on earlier this month, not much has changed between then and the pandemic which has pushed the vote back to May 9. 

The district adopted its budget at its March 17 emergency meeting, but has reallocated resources in order to better meet the needs of students as they handle distance learning, and potentially when they are allowed back into school buildings.

“We reviewed all of our expenditures reallocated from areas that we can regress,” said Superintendent Marianne Cartisano.

The budget for 2020-21 is set at $75,713,895, a $1,755,288 or 2.37 percent increase from last year. Though the district also cites using about a million dollars in capital project funding, which would mean this year’s increase is $754,612, or just over 1 percent.

The largest increases come from the usual suspects such as a $390,137 or 2.38 percent increase in employee benefits and a $134,659 increase in health insurance budget.

The district’s 2020-21 tax levy, or the amount of money the district raises through area taxes, is set at $47,616,059, which sits directly at the state tax cap limit for this year of 1.46 percent. It’s an increase of $687,471 from last year.

Miller Place’s state aid was set at $23,144,911, but the district also has leftover building aid of $792,666 and will be receiving an additional $208,010 for 2020-21. Cartisano said that million or so dollars came in response to the high school gym floor, which was remedied last September. Now that aid, along with saved funds, will be used to help offset any potential reductions in state aid, should the state revise its budget somewhere down the line. 

“It’s not an advantageous place to be in to have a huge unknown, but we are fortunate that we can plan for it — the school district is very financially solid,” the superintendent said. 

In terms of programming for this upcoming year, the district plans to continue with all current classes and clubs along with adding more time to middle school math labs and new courses of AP Calculus BC and non-regents chemistry. These two new courses are being funded by reallocation of resources and will only run if there are enough students enrolled. 

The budget also adds elementary sections in an effort to lower class sizes in the third, fifth and sixth grades. These sections were seeing an average of 26 students before, but that will be reduced to 22 or 24.

The district is also adding an extra 10 minutes of “specials” time in the elementary school, or the daily activities where one day may be gym and the next day art. These activities are going from 30 to 40 minutes for physical education, art, music or library time.

The district has also allocated for a 1 to 1 technology initiative with each student receiving a district laptop or otherwise electronic device, which will also go towards distance learning if state mandates remain in place. Going along with this thought, the high school will receive an additional 3:05 p.m. late bus for students who stay after school for extra help. In addition, the district is adding two counselors to expand mental health options and assist with the transition back to classes.

This is alongside an overall enrollment that continues on the gradual declining trend. May 2019 saw a size of 2,581 students. Next year is projected to have 2,531.

Miller Place is hosting its budget hearing May 26 at 7 p.m. via Zoom. Residents can go to the district website millerplace.k12.ny.us/District to find the link. All mail in ballots must be received by 5 p.m. June 9.

Rocky Point

The Rocky Point Union Free School District adopted its budget at its May 19 board meeting, though the 2020-21 budget has seen some significant reductions since it was last seen by board members in April.

Things have changed since then, with a reduction in New York State aid resulting in an even larger cut in overall budget by some $2.1 million to the new 2020-21 total of $84,586,600.

The reductions in budget coincides with a loss of state aid funds compared to last year, seeing a reduction of nearly $1.5 million. 

Expenditure decreases are across the board to reach the reduced budget. This is also to reduce the budget thanks to a tax levy cap of just 0.08 percent this year, a figure Christopher Van Cott, assistant superintendent for business, said was due to expiring debt service, which is no longer allowed as an exclusion. The budget sets the tax levy, or the amount the district raises in area taxes, at $52,483,059, setting itself directly at the tax cap, and is a very slight increase from last year’s figure. 

Van Cott said the district is “taking a very conservative approach” toward this year’s budget, adding there will be cuts in several areas while still being able to maintain current instructional programming, along with athletic and cocurricular programs.

“We looked at staffing and enrollment, and made decisions based on that enrollment, looking for different ways to deliver the same service in more economical ways,” Van Cott said. “Despite fiscal challenges, and lack of guidance and the numbers we need from the state, we were able to achieve budget goals.”

There are cuts across the board, though the biggest decreases are from administration and central services, as well as a $250,000 decrease in athletics and PPS. Van Cott said the district plans to reduce the number of sports teams at the middle school level. Though not removing any sports from the roster, multiple sports that have two teams will be reduced to one, Van Cott said. 

The district is also planning to use the capital reserves to repave the front driveway area in front of the high school with a cost not to exceed $350,000. Rocky Point’s current reserve balance is set at $1,590,368. In a separate proposition to the budget, the district will be asking residents to vote to gain access to the funds. The capital reserve does not increase the tax levy. 

The potential the state could further reduce state aid is real, and Van Cott said the district is looking to use its capital reserves, along with the described expenditures reductions, to plug any holes that come up. If state aid does not decrease, he added some of those staff positions expected to make reductions in might not have to be.

Rocky Point is hosting its budget hearing June 2 at 6 p.m., but residents will also be mailed a budget brochure and six-day notice shortly after. That same document will be available at the district website May 26. Ballots are due by 5 p.m. June 9. 

File Photo

Shoreham-Wading River

SWR’s 2020-21 budget boasts it will maintain all current programming despite looming fears state aid will be cut in the near or distant future. The district adopted the revised budget at its May 19 meeting.

The district’s $77,164,774 budget is a 1.6 percent increase from last year’s $75,952,416. The year’s tax levy, or the amount of funds raised from resident taxes, would stand at $55,391,167, a $1,013,510 increase from 2019-20.

This tax levy represents an overall decrease from what the district showed in its March presentations by almost $300,000.

Though the district boasts its maintaining its programming, the overall cuts to the planned budget have left an impact. Recent program initiatives, including several new art, wellness, jazz band and world languages clubs, have been axed. The planned SWR 101 class, which would have been a new kind of basic overview class for incoming freshmen, is no longer on the table for the year’s budget. Replacement equipment for the Wading River school’s gym wall pads and outdoor basketball hoops, as well as middle school smart classroom furniture and high school volleyball standards will not arrive as originally planned. In addition, travel and conference funding will be reduced by 50 percent if the budget is approved.

Assistant superintendent Arcuri said those funds are being redirected to applying additional “structural” support for distance learning due to COVID-19, as well as additional sanitizing equipment and supplies. He added, optimistically, there’s a possibility if funding stabilizes bringing in these proposed clubs mid-year.

The budget relies on a $12,789,308 state aid package, which would be a $112,843 increase from last year. To make room for the very real potential the state could make cuts to state aid midyear in the fall, the district has placed certain items in the budget that would not be purchased before Dec. 31, including multiple infrastructure projects at Miller Avenue elementary and the middle school, as well as work on the districtwide grounds and asphalt repairs.  

“These are not items that are absolutely essential,” Arcuri said. “They are important to get completed, but they are not more important than losing instructional support or any student related program and/or any staff within the district.”

Of course, with so much still unknown, the district does not know if the approximately $5,235,229 of a $24,114,734 five-year contract with bus company First Student will even be used.

The district is planning to host its budget hearing presentation May 26. For mail-in ballots, all must be received in the clerk’s office by 5 p.m., June 9.

The Shoreham-Wading River School, Rocky Point and Miller Place school districts announced they would be keeping their schools closed early next week. Rocky Point, Miller Place and Mount Sinai will be closed Monday March 16, while SWR is shutting down both Monday and Tuesday, March 17.

All districts are closing just to students, while staff will still be made to report to school in preparation for the possibility of all educating going online.

Rocky Point Superintendent Scott O’Brien said in a statement that while they do not have any cases in the district, the possibility of a longer term shutdown where students will have to learn online is real.

“While learning in our district primarily occurs inside classrooms with face-to-face teaching by certified instructors, please be assured that our district has been planning viable options should a long-term school closure be necessary,” the Rocky Point superintendent said. “Students were asked to bring materials home or travel to and from school over the next several weeks with textbooks, workbooks, and work packets so that needed materials for online learning may be facilitated by our teachers should a long-term closure be necessary.

Earlier in the week, SWR Superintendent Gerard Poole said they were still working out their plans for potentially bringing all learning online. The SWR board of education held an emergency meeting earlier today.

Miller Place Superintendent Marianne Cartisano said the time will also allow them to perform a “deep cleaning” of school buildings.

In terms of sports, Section XI has notified districts it has suspended all athletic games and scrimmages until April 3.

 

Stock Photo

With the start of the school year less than a month away, school officials and parents are in the midst of adjusting to stricter state immunization requirements for children that will eliminate exemption from vaccines due to religious beliefs.  

The new measure, which took effect immediately after Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed it into law June 13, comes in the wake of numerous measles cases throughout the country including cases in Brooklyn and Rockland County. This year, over 1,000 new measles cases have been reported — the highest in 27 years, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

“We are responsible for implementing the new state immunization regulations exactly as they are written.”

— Marianne Cartisano

New York joins four other states — California, Maine, Mississippi and West Virginia — in eliminating the religious exemption.

While school districts have been notifying parents and guardians about the new requirements through posts on their websites and letters sent in the mail, the new law remains to be a divisive topic. 

Advocates of the religious exemption say that eliminating it violates their freedom of religion rights. 

South Setauket and Setauket parents Dayna Whaley and Trisha Vasquez, respectively, both ardent anti-vaccine advocates, both said they had a religious exemption for their children but they and others are now considering home-schooling or even moving out of the state. 

“God made us in his image and didn’t make us with an incomplete immune system that needed to be injected with toxic chemicals in order to keep us healthy,” said Vasquez, 50. She added she does not subscribe to any one religion but still believes in God. She has a 9-year-old child in the Three Village Central School District. 

Whaley, 41, of the Jewish faith, said the options are very limited for her daughter, Grayson, who will be entering kindergarten. 

“With religious exemption eliminated, what other things can I look at that maybe could get my child [back] into school,” she said. 

In mid-June, the Three Village school district sent out a letter to parents/guardians alerting them of the new legislation signed by the governor. It advised them that every student entering or attending public school must be immunized against poliomyelitis, mumps, measles, Haemophilus influenzae type b, pneumococcal disease and meningococcal disease. 

Other school districts have also had to quickly deal with the law over the summer. Marianne Cartisano, superintendent of the Miller Place School District, said the number of exemptions in the district was estimated at 60 students, but the number has been reduced over the past several weeks. 

“Miller Place School District remains committed to ensuring a safe school environment for all of our students, while understanding parents have the right to choose if and when they immunize their children,” the superintendent said in an email. “We are responsible for implementing the new state immunization regulations exactly as they are written.”

“You look at the plastic bag ban — you have until 2020 to adjust to that, but our children are thrown out of school immediately and we are scrambling to figure out what to do here.”

— Dayna Whaley

The Miller Place super added the district has no option but to comply.

“We have no authority to deviate from these regulations and must adhere to the guidance provided to our district from the Department of Health and or Office of Children and Family Services,” she said. “During this time of potential transition, we look forward to supporting students and families throughout the vaccination and enrollment processes.”

The New York law requires that parents and guardians provide proof of their child’s immunization within 14 days after the first day of school. Also, within 30 days of the first day of school, parents or guardians must show that they scheduled appointments for follow-up doses for their children. 

Some required immunizations include those against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (chicken pox).

Until June 30, 2020, a child can attend school if they receive the first age-appropriate dose in each immunization series within 14 days from the first day of school attendance and can show within 30 days that they have scheduled age-appropriate appointments for required follow-up doses, according to NYS Department of Health officials. By June 30, 2020, all students attending school should be fully up-to-date with their required immunizations. 

One option Whaley and others have looked at is seeking a medical exemption from state, but she said it is extremely difficult to obtain one as an individual has to fit a certain medical profile. 

“Even if we wanted a medical exemption, try finding a doctor that will write one for you or even allow you in their practice,” the South Setauket resident said.

Anti-vaccine proponents are a small but growing group of advocates who argue against vaccination. The group often relies on scientifically disputed pieces of information. The vast majority of the scientific and medical communities have rejected their arguments. 

Beyond the scientific arguments, the Setauket parents took issue with the law going into effect immediately. 

“You look at the plastic bag ban — you have until 2020 to adjust to that, but our children are thrown out of school immediately and we are scrambling to figure out what to do here,” Whaley said. 

Both parents say they are weighing potential co-op and home-schooling options for their children. They said moving would introduce its own host of difficulties.

Dr. Sharon Nachman, division chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, said she is glad to have this level of protection for all children in Suffolk County. 

“Just as seat belts protect all kids, even those that don’t like them or feel they are too confining, vaccines will now protect all of our children,” the division chief said. “There is abundant data that shows that when we vaccinate all kids, we not only protect them, but also their parents and grandparents. The vaccine law is not specific to measles and includes all vaccines appropriate for school-aged children.”

“Just as seat belts protect all kids, even those that don’t like them or feel they are too confining, vaccines will now protect all of our children.”

— Sharon Nachman

According to a report by the New York Health Foundation, 26,217 students statewide, had religious exemptions from vaccinations during the 2017-18 school year. 

Nachman said with the implementation of the new requirements, she and her colleagues have seen an increase in both questions about vaccinations, about the numbers of children who are getting their initial vaccines as well as those who are getting up to date with their vaccines. 

“Community protection is a real event,” Nachman said. “As we have seen with the recent measles outbreaks, the only way to combat these outbreaks is by protecting all the children in our community.”

Nachman said the Pediatric Infectious Diseases division at Stony Brook often discusses the scientific data with families who have questions, but those who come in with their minds made up about the risks and benefits of vaccines, especially those who are against them, will rarely agree with the need to vaccinate.

Mount Sinai School District

With a vote of 1059 to 322, the Mount Sinai School district convincingly passed its $61,009,770 budget, a 1.34 percent increase from last year.

In addition to the budget, the public voted 1,141 to 228 to set a capital reserve of $850,000. Including the $750,000 in funds put last year in capital reserve, the district will have $1.6 million for future capital projects.

Superintendent Gordon Brosdal and the board are proposing to use $1.5 million for two projects: the cost of another partial repair of the high school’s roof and to replace the middle school’s HVAC system. The high school roof repair would cost $850,000 and the HVAC replacement would cost $650,000. The remaining $100,000 would be saved for future projects. 

“I feel much better that the turnout [this year] beats the 960 from last year,” Brosdal said. “You can’t assume [the budget] is always going to pass, I was concerned about the bond.”

Brosdal said he is hopeful that the voter turnout is on the upswing. 

“We got over 1,300 voters this year, maybe we’ll get 1,400 or more next year,” he said. 

With five candidates running for three open trustee seats, board member Anne Marie Henninger, who replaced trustee Michael Riggio, secured re-election to the board with the highest vote tally of 790. Challengers Lisa Pfeffer and Robert Pignatello claimed the other two available seats with 713 and 662 votes, respectively. The race for the last seat was a close one with challenger Chris Quartarone coming up short with 655 votes. Longtime board member Lynn Jordan failed to secure re-election this year with 628 votes. 

“I’m very humbled,” Henninger said. “I had a lot of people pulling for me and I’m excited to get back to work, we have a lot to do.”

Pignatello said he was happy with the voter turnout this year for the budget. 

“I’m looking forward to working together with the board and do what’s best for the children and the community,” he said. 

Pfeffer said she is looking forward to serving on the board and doing what’s best for
the community. 

“I’m excited to be working with this group on the board and I’m just going to hit the ground running,” she said. 

Miller Place School District

With the Miller Place School District proposing a $73,958,607 budget, an increase of more than $1.2 million from the current year’s amount, residents overwhelming passed this year’s budget 610 to 173.

This year’s total tax levy amount is $46,928,588, an increase of $638,534 from last year and sticking directly to a 1.38 percent tax levy cap. 

“On behalf of the board of education and district administration, I would like to thank the entire Miller Place-Sound Beach community for their support of the 2019-2020 school budget,” said Superintendent Marianne Cartisano. 

Two seats were open for this year’s Miller Place school board election, and two incumbents ran unopposed. Both seats will be up for three-year terms starting July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2022.  Incumbents Johanna Testa, who this year served as the board president, and Noelle Dunlop secured their seats with 657 and 636 votes, respectively.

Testa said she was pleased that this year’s budget passed by 78 percent. 

“I feel really excited and I’m looking forward to a third term and continuing to advocate for the community and district,” she said.

Rocky Point Union Free School District

Rocky Point residents passed the school district’s $86,743,446 with a vote of 703 to 213. The new budget is a slight increase of 0.71 percent from last year’s amount but a $1.3 million increase in the tax levy.

“The district is once again extremely grateful to the community for its overwhelming support of the proposed budget,” Superintendent Michael Ring said. “This plan is one that will enable Rocky Point to continue to provide enriching academic opportunities for all students and a co-curricular program geared toward supporting student interests.”

Debt services will decrease in the 2019-20 school year as a result of a completion of payments of two bonds that date back to 1995 and 2000. The bond payments will expire on June 30 and will save the district $451,751. 

Employees Retirement System rates will decrease to 13.1 percent, which will most likely save the district more than $159,000. Teachers Retirement System rates are expected to decrease as well to 9 percent and would save the district close to $582,000. 

Rocky Point had two open trustee seats this year. Board member Scott Reh, who was sworn in to the board Jan. 14 to fill the seat vacated by Joseph Coniglione earlier this school year, decided not to run for re-election. Veteran board member Susan Sullivan nailed down a three-year term with 618 votes. Challenger Jessica Ward secured the one-year term seat with 551 votes. Michael Lisa came up short with 410 votes. 

“I’m very excited to be on the board and I’m looking forward to working closely with our new superintendent,” Ward said.  

Shoreham-Wading River school district

Shoreham-Wading River school district residents resoundingly decided to pass this year’s $75,952,416 budget with a 1,129 to 329. The new budget is a $1,176,344 increase from last year’s figure.

The district said the new budget will cover the implementation of an integrated video, door access and alarm management system as well as additional video cameras and perimeter fencing. Night gates will be installed at the Alfred G. Prodell Middle School, Miller Avenue Elementary School and Wading River Elementary School. Also, the budget will cover the purchase of a new high school auditorium bandshell and supplies/materials for the middle school greenhouse and new electives for high schoolers.

“I am very grateful to the Shoreham-Wading River community for their ongoing support of our students and school district,” Superintendent Gerard Poole said. “Our students have a longstanding tradition of achieving academic, artistic and athletic success. This approved budget will allow us to continue to build upon that legacy while maintaining our commitment to fiscal responsibility.”

Six people ran for Shoreham-Wading River school board to fill three seats. This comes after trustee Erin Hunt vacated her position in March and after current trustee Kimberly Roff said she will not run for re-election. 

Incumbent board president Michael Lewis was re-elected to a one-year term with 652 votes, while challenger Meghan Tepfenhardt received the highest votes with 744 and secured a three-year term. Thomas Sheridan also secured a three-year trustee seat with 691. Challengers who did not win election were Edward Granshaw who received 471 votes, Jennifer Kitchen with 568 and Bill McGarth with 603.

Miller Place High School. File photo by Kevin Redding

Miller Place School District Budget

The Miller Place School District is trying to maintain its current programming with a tax levy cap below 2 percent.

The proposed budget figure for the 2019-20 school year is $73,958,607, an increase of more than 1.2 million from the current year’s amount. The district will be receiving $22,600,228 in total state aid, including $14,090,960 in foundation aid. 

The total tax levy amount is $46,928,588, an increase of $638,534 from last year and sticking directly at the 1.38 percent tax levy cap. 

Superintendent Marianne Cartisano said the budget maintains all current programming, despite the relatively low tax levy cap.

“We’re holding onto everything we can,” Cartisano said during a May 7 budget hearing. “We’re holding onto our programs.”

The teachers’ retirement saving rates will go down from 10.62 percent to 9.50 percent and would save the district close to $370,000. 

Miller Place looks to reduce capital project funding from $530,000 to $280,000 for 2019-20, though the district will use $72,335 to add playground equipment. Debt services will decrease by more than $391,000 due in part to the completion of payments to a 2003 renovation bond. 

The new budget will sustain the district’s program initiatives, which include new course offerings at the high school: new social studies and Advanced Placement classes, Common Core algebra math lab, Advanced Placement music theory, science-scientific computing and new electives in the English department. 

Miller Place trustee candidates:

Two seats are open for this year’s Miller Place school board election, and two incumbents are running unopposed. Both seats will be up for three-year terms starting July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2022.  Incumbents Johanna Testa, who this year served as the board president, and Noelle Dunlop are the only candidates that have filed nominating petitions. The budget vote and trustee election will take place May 21 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the North Country Road Middle School Gym.

Johanna Testa. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Johanna Testa: 

Testa has served on the board for the past seven years and has held the position of BOE president since 2015. 

Testa hopes, as a board, the administration will continue to look for creative ways to do more with less. As she said one of the main issues facing the district is the challenge of maintaining existing programs and expanding opportunities when a two percent cap doesn’t always mean two percent. 

The board president also wants to enhance the mental health curriculum in schools by offering assemblies and community events for parents. Additionally, she wants to support students in the area of mental health, make sure they are making good choices when it comes to the rise of vaping with products such as Juul, and make sure they are promoting the most positive environment possible in their schools. 

Noelle Dunlop:

Dunlop has served as trustee on the board since 2013. In addition to being on the board, she serves as a parent leader of the Miller Place Explorers 4H Club and has been the president of the Miller Place Friends of the Arts since 2016. 

The board trustee has pointed to the lack of funding at the state and federal levels as an important issue the district is facing. She also wants to increase demands on the budget and will look to remedy the funding issue by lobbying legislators to their cause and pursuing letter writing campaigns to local officials. 

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Miller Place High School. File photo by Kevin Redding

The Miller Place School District has closed its high school gym after mercury vapors were detected within the recreation space.

A letter sent home to parents dated April 28 stated the district was made aware of a possible situation regarding the original synthetic flooring used in the gym when the school was built back in the 1970s, which had also been covered over with wood flooring in the late 1990s. The synthetic flooring, made several decades ago, contained a mercury catalyst that breaks down over time.

The district conducted the testing April 25 in the gymnasium and adjacent rooms, including under the stage in the auditorium, in the girls and boys locker rooms, the weight room, the corridor from the boys locker room to the cafeteria and ambient levels outside the school. That testing revealed recordable levels of mercury vapor in the gym, girls locker room and under the stage in the auditorium. Since there are no federal or New York State standards for mercury vapor levels, the district said it used Minnesota State guidelines instead. 

The district, along with environmental consultants, sectioned off the gym interior and retested the areas Friday, April 26 into the following evening. The letter stated all other areas except the gym were cleared of air monitoring and testing for mercury vapor.

It is unsure how long the mercury vapors have been present within the high school.

“The health and safety of our students, faculty and all who visit our schools remains our top priority,” Superintendent Marianne Cartisano said in the letter. “As we move forward with this process, we will keep the community informed accordingly.”

A representative of the school district was not available to comment on how long the vapor could have been in the gym, how the district was initially alerted to the vapor, or how much it is expected to cost to remove the flooring from the gym.

This issue with this particular type of synthetic flooring has been seen in schools across the nation. Other school districts have reported spending several million to remove the floors.

“The health and safety of our students, faculty and all who visit our schools remains our top priority.”

— Marianne Cartisano

The State of New Jersey has recently had to deal with this mercury vapor situation in several of its schools. The New Jersey Education Association has released information on its website specifically about this type of flooring, and said such floors had to be removed as hazardous waste.

The New Jersey organization said the polyurethane floors use 1,000 to 2,000 parts per million of phenylmercuric acetate catalyst, which breaks down over time into a colorless, odorless mercury vapor. The floor could release this vapor indefinitely.

This vapor may do damage to lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes, though it depends on how much and how frequently people are exposed to the gas. It’s expected that physical education teachers, coaches, certain sports teams and maintenance staff would be the most frequently exposed.

Minnesota Department of Health guidelines regarding mercury flooring testing and mitigation state that a floor containing 20 parts per million of mercury may lead to health concerns. The guidelines also state that the public should not be exposed to air concentrations above 1,800 milligrams per cubic meter. For longer exposures, gym teachers should not be exposed to more than 750 milligrams per cubic meter in a 40-hour workweek. The guidelines instruct that good ventilation is an effective way to reduce mercury vapor concentrations inside the location, though of course the only way to reduce the vapor entirely is to remove the flooring.

The letter sent to parents states all activities that normally happen in the gym will be relocated to other areas. Activities that normally happen in the auditorium will continue to take place within that room, and events, such as concerts or drama productions, will not need to be rescheduled.

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Max Rutter gets the lightbulb lit inside the new science classroom at Andrew Muller Primary School. File Photo by Rebecca Anzel

The Miller Place School District announced this week it will be expanding its educational opportunities for the 2019-20 school year through the district’s newly implemented Parent Paid Pre-K Program. Presented by SCOPE Education Services, the self-supporting program will be offered at Andrew Muller Primary School and follow state pre-kindergarten learning standards with New York State certified teachers and STEAM initiatives.

“The District is thrilled to offer this educational endeavor to our parents and future students,” said Superintendent Marianne Cartisano. “Our program represents an advanced opportunity for the young minds of our community to learn and explore early childhood education. We look forward to meeting our newest students.”

Students who will be four-years-old on or before Dec. 1 are eligible for registration at a fee of $270 per month paid directly to SCOPE. Registration can be found online at www.scopeonline.us. There is a non-refundable annual registration fee of $40 for a family’s first child and $20 for each additional child from the same family. Registration will be available to families outside of the school district, however in-district residents will receive priority placement.

The Pre-K program will take place Monday through Friday with two sessions, one being morning session at 8:45 to 11:45 a.m, and an afternoon session from 12:30 through 3:00 p.m. The District will not provide any transportation services for the Pre-K program, and guardians must provide transportation to and from the school. Families with more than one student registered for the program will receive a 10 percent sibling discount for a second child. Enrollment is limited to 18 Pre-K students per class and will be staffed with a certified teacher and teacher assistant. Meals will not be included in the program although SCOPE will provide appropriate snacks.

SCOPE representatives will facilitate an information meeting April 15 at 7:00 p.m. at the Andrew Muller Primary School café/gym for all interested parents. Additional questions parents may have regarding the program can be answered at the information session which will take place in the elementary school.

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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.