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Mount Sinai School District

Former Yankees professional Dana Cavalea came to the Barnes & Noble in Lake Grove to promote his book to a full crowd. The Mount Sinai native has had a long career in both professional baseball and in books. Photo by David Luces

Dana Cavalea, Mount Sinai native, is passionate about coaching. For 12 years he spent time as the New York Yankees strength and conditioning coach, and along the way got to pick the brains of some all-time
great athletes.  

Former Yankees professional Dana Cavalea came to the Barnes & Noble in Lake Grove to promote his book to a full crowd. The Mount Sinai native has had a long career in both professional baseball and in books. Photo by David Luces

He didn’t think he would eventually become an author, but he views his book, “Habits of a Champion: Nobody Becomes a Champion by Accident,” as an extension of coaching. 

“I never had the intention of writing a book, but I was reading these self-help books and I felt there was a gap from what I was reading and what I was seeing on the baseball field working with these athletes,” he said. “That’s what drove me toward writing this book, I wanted to write a handbook, that people can use as a utility as they navigate life.”

Interactions with Yankees fans also inspired him. 

“It also came about being at the stadium and fans coming up to me asking me questions about their own lives, about how they could improve their performance in a certain area,” Cavalea said. “I’d give them an answer, and then they would come back to another game during the season and they would ask another question.”

The Mount Sinai native pointed to a family friend, coach Billy King as a big reason why he chose to pursue his career path and started his training journey. 

“He was a big influence on me, when I learned what he was doing, he was in the gym training, watching what he eats, and I was like wow that’s pretty cool,” he said. 

Cavalea was 19 years old attending the University of South Florida and working as a strength and conditioning intern for the school’s football team when he was offered an unexpected opportunity. 

A professor at the university told him that the Yankees, who were in the midst of spring training at nearby Legends Field in Tampa, were looking for an intern to help out. 

Cavalea, who just so happened to have visited the ballpark as a fan the previous day, drove over the next day and was put into Yankee gear and was on the same field stretching with pitchers Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte. The Mount Sinai native worked as an intern for three years, then became an assistant, before becoming a coach at 23 years old. 

“The Bronx is only about 60 to 70 miles away from here but I had to go 1,800 miles away in order to get there,” he said.  

The performance coach said he took those experiences and wanted to write something in his own style, so people could tell it was written by him and it was authentic. 

“[Coach Billy King] was a big influence on me, when I learned what he was doing, he was in the gym training, watching what he eats, and I was like wow that’s pretty cool.”

— Dana Cavalea

“Habits of a Champion” is split into 15 lessons designed to help the reader succeed in different aspects of life. Cavalea shared some of those lessons at a Feb. 8 book-signing event at the Smithaven Mall in Lake Grove. 

Those included: “If someone doesn’t respect your time, they don’t respect you,” something Yankees Hall of Famer Derek Jeter would say, stressing the importance of being on time. Another was “never get too high and never get too low.” Cavalea mentioned that a person’s attitude or mood can determine their daily success. 

“It all comes down to how you control your own emotions,” he said. “Whether you are an Olympic athlete or a high schooler that has a big test or presentation.”  

In addition to writing books, Cavalea now works as a life coach and motivational speaker. Some of the clients he coaches are business executives, athletes and CEOs of companies. He has been asked to speak at a number of big corporations, nonprofit organizations and schools. 

“The messages and lessons are very universal,” he said. “When you’re a coach you are trying to learn as much as you can, and how you can maximize human potential.”

Despite the busy schedule, Cavalea said he enjoys writing books and has plans to release a children’s book sometime in April. He has already written two children’s books: “Champion Kids: Johnny ‘The Jet’ Saves the Day” and “Girls on the Run: Starring
Mighty Melina.” 

“It’s fun for me, It’s great being able to share these lessons with others,” he said. “If the best of the best need help, so does everyone else.” 

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Mount Sinai High School. File photo by Barbara Donlon

Mount Sinai parents will begin to see portions of the school district’s 2020-21 proposed budget figures in the next few months. At a Jan. 15 board of education meeting, district officials unveiled 12 percent of the budget, which included central administration, insurance, central printing, BOCES, transportation, technology and debt services among others. 

The tentative total budget figure for 2020-21 looks to be $61,009,700, a slight increase from last year’s number. 

Board of education/central administration costs would be increasing by $19,000 in the upcoming school year. 

Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said the chunk of that increase would go into costs for an additional budget vote and cover the translation of all documents/public notices into Spanish. That would cost the district $14,000. 

“It is a state mandate that hit us and other districts this year,” he said. “Any election/public notices has to be translated into Spanish. The state says we have to do this, but they are not giving us any money to do this.”

Another mandate that will be implemented is the addition of a data protection officer in response to a number of school districts experiencing hacks last year. 

Purchasing cost will increase by $2,050 in 2020-21 due to the district utilizing a co-op organization that assists in securing materials and supplies. 

“We have been using Educational Data Services — they do a lot — they work with vendors and we don’t have to do the bidding,” Brosdal said. “In the long run it will save us money.”

Technology will see an increase of over $65,000, in part due to the district getting rid of antiquated equipment as well as adding sets of laptops, replacement items like projector lamps, printer repairs, iPads and smart board parts. 

Tax Anticipation Notes for 2020-21 are estimated at 3 percent. Debt services would decrease by over $6,000. Central printing, insurance, BOCES administration will increase collectively by $22,000. 

The next budget meeting will be Feb. 12 at 8 p.m. Topics discussed will be pupil personnel services, building principals, instructional and adult ed/driver’s ed. 

This year, Mount Sinai’s SADD club and nonprofit Holiday Magic team up to gather Christmas presents for needy children. Photos from John Wilson

Mount Sinai High School’s Students Against Destructive Decisions club and Holiday Magic combined for their 21st year as a team devoted to making the holidays magical for children across Suffolk County.

Holiday Magic, headed by local attorney Charlie “Santa” Russo, is a nonprofit organization that dedicates itself to making the holidays special for less fortunate children and their families. This year, Holiday Magic received gift requests from nearly 14,000 children on Long Island. On Dec. 6, with 54 Santa lists in hand and $4,000 in cash from Holiday Magic, the SADD students took a sleigh donated by the First Student bus company to Walmart and the Smith Haven Mall in search of the requested gifts. With the help of a donated truck from RTI Trucking, the gifts were delivered to their very own “North Pole” for wrapping.

As always, SADD’s goal is to show these children that the community does care, which in the future will hopefully prevent them from making “destructive decisions.” Making this year’s shopping event even more special was that Mount Sinai High once again opened its doors to host the holiday dinner for the children we had shopped for and their families. The dinner, which took place Dec. 12, fed over 80 people in a holiday themed cafeteria at the high school.  Many of the SADD members played with the children or dressed in holiday themed costumes.  SADD members escorted Santa into party to the delight of some eagerly awaiting kids, who were each given gifts from their Santa lists.

The group was once again joined by Mount Sinai graduate, SADD alumni and now Mount Sinai teacher, Gabriella Conceicao. Gabby is a leave replacement at the Middle School by day and a guest elf at night.

Mount Sinai teacher John Wilson, who is co-club advisor alongside John McHugh, said he hopes to continue this tradition with Gabby every year. A magical part of the night was when SADD presented Holiday Magic with a check for $7,000 from the proceeds of the 2019 Turkey Trot.

“It’s simply magic when we can return what we borrowed plus donate thousands more back,” Wilson said.

Those looking to donate to Holiday Magic can visit www.holidaymagicli.org.

Next year will be the schools 22nd anniversary of SADD’s and Holiday Magic’s annual teamup.

 

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School board officially renames high school in honor of Robert Grable

File photo

After the devastating loss of Mount Sinai High School principal Robert Grable in July, the school district is looking for ways to move forward.

Principal Robert Grable speaks at the 2019 high school graduation. Photo by Bob Savage

In a letter posted to the district website Superintendent Gordon Brosdal announced the appointment of Middle School Principal Peter Pramataris to the high school principal position. Middle School Assistant Principal Elizabeth Hine will assume his place, while Brian McCarthy, a retired administrator, will assume Hine’s previous position.

“I am very happy to report that all three buildings are going to be fully staffed and ready to greet our students on Wednesday, Sept. 4,” Brosdal wrote in the letter,

McCarthy has been an administrator at several districts including Miller Place and William Floyd. Brosdal said he specializes in elementary schools.

According to Brosdal, the district has conducted a search from an interim principal for the last four weeks, including candidates outside and inside the district.

“Peter Pramataris has been selected to serve as the interim high school principal while the district conducts a thorough search for the right person to permanently sit as high school principal.”

Maureen Poerio, the district clerk, said Mount Sinai will not be starting the process of looking for a permanent high school principal until January 2020.

The interim positions of the administrators will be held for a year, and they are on leave from their previous positions should any wish to return.

At its Aug. 28 meeting, Brosdal said while they looked for an outside interim replacement at the high school, districts have a hard time finding a replacement at such short notice for such an important position. Otherwise, having familiar faces move within the district can help aid the transition through what may be a difficult time for students.

“We feel good about this, we’re ready to go,” Brosdal said.

Pramataris said he spent a while thinking about whether to accept the position or not, but decided based on his desire to help the district in its time of need.

“Rob [Grable] was a great friend, mentor and colleague,” he said. “It’s just a way that I think I can help the community get through this difficult time.”

At the meeting, the board officially voted to rename the high school to the Robert M. Grable Jr. — Mount Sinai High School.

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On Tuesday, July 30, over 100 community members came together at Cedar Beach West to celebrate the lives of three young Mount Sinai natives who perished in a single car crash along Mount Sinai-Coram Road July 9. Photo by Kyle Barr

The heart of Mount Sinai still aches, and for those who attended a vigil at Cedar Beach for the four recent deaths of their community members, tears could be seen behind the dark of sunglasses.

On Tuesday, July 30, well over 100 community members came together at Cedar Beach West to celebrate the lives of three young Mount Sinai natives who perished in a single car crash along Mount Sinai-Coram Road July 9. Dorien Lashea Brown, 23, of Mount Sinai; Rebecca Minunno, 24, of Hampton Bays and Casi Fricker, of Port Jefferson, all died as the SUV they were driving hit a utility pole, which toppled over the vehicle and the electricity caused the car to catch on fire.

“I never pictured this is where we’d be, I would lose my closest friends,” said Gianna Rubino, a friend of the girls. “Everyone’s lives have been flipped upside down.”

On Tuesday, July 30,  over 100 community members came together at Cedar Beach West to celebrate the lives of three young Mount Sinai natives who perished in a single car crash along Mount Sinai-Coram Road July 9. Photo by Kyle Barr

As residents were still trying to come to terms with their deaths, the community experienced another loss. Robert Grable, the principal of the local high school, died unexpectedly while doing his morning routine July 19. He was 49.

Families and friends laid out near the bluff spread a collage of photographs, showing the girls and the principal in the prime of their lives. Friends and close family members came forward to speak, remembering the girls as the youth they were. Brown was often called a “firecracker” who could make a person laugh with just a look. Fricker was called “strong,” willing to make sure her friends were treated well at hair salons and the like, and also having a unique way with animals.

“Casi and Dorien, you were iconic, you were both so bright,” said Nicole Branca. “You had the kind of energy that some of us just could not keep up with, and I think that’s what we loved about you.”

Minunno had become active in the retro model pinup scene with The Luscious Ladies, a group of vintage pinup enthusiasts with chapters across the world.

One of those who spoke, who goes by the name “Dizzy Doll” in the pinup world, said the entire community was mourning her.

“When a pebble is thrown in a lake, the entire lake is affected. Every life has a wider effect in people’s lives then we realize,” she said. “Becca was and still is an inspiration to us.”

Renee Petrola, a retired teacher in Mount Sinai, taught both Brown and Fricker, and read the poems they wrote for a contest in sixth grade, both titled “How did I change?”

The vigil was organized by a small community group dubbed the “angel squad,” which included several community members and best friends of the girls who passed. Opening remarks were made by Donna Murph, the lead planner for the squad who had been guidance counselor to Brown and longtime coworker of Grable.

“Mount Sinai is profoundly saddened by the loss of these four beautiful souls,” Murph said. “May these families feel the support and love of this community and a reminder they are never alone.”

On Tuesday, July 30, over 100 community members came together at Cedar Beach West to celebrate the lives of three young Mount Sinai natives who perished in a single car crash along Mount Sinai-Coram Road July 9. Photo by Kyle Barr

A few stepped forward in the grey twilight and bending over they laid their flowers in the gentle tide of the Sound. First, a little more than five came forward. Then, unbidden, members of the families came forward to the beach’s edge. The Brown family kneeled over, and sank their flowers into the Sound. Their heads low, then rising, they tossed theirs into the water.

The faces turned to the waning sunset and walked forward, first 10, then well over 100. They were largely silent, except for the music in the background and their soft murmurs, muttering memories of the loved ones they lost.

As the sky went dark, the families attempted to light floating lanterns for their deceased though the wind played against them. The Brown family managed to get theirs lit, and the lantern rose 20 feet up, hovering above the surf before gently sinking into the water, the light of the lantern’s fire staying lit for several minutes, even on the black waters of the Sound.

Stepping forward to speak, Joe Caggiano said he had worked with Fricker at the Jamesport Brewery, adding he came to see her as his closest friend at work. The day of July 9 was one they shared with laughs, also having talked on the phone with Minunno, making a joke by saying “hi” to each other, over and over.

“We had a lot of fun on that Monday — she laughed a lot,” he said.

They shared a beer with each other after work, where they spoke about “life, where we wanted to be, what we wanted to do and the people in our lives, and all those things … that was a really special time in getting to sit with her.”

Ciaria Colson, Brown’s cousin, then came up to the mike, and talked of her family member as the pinnacle of what being a friend could be.

“She made a point to have a relationship with each and every one of her friends,” she said. “My little cousin was nine years younger than me, but she inspired me … me and my cousins have a closer bond now because of her.”

Colson asked all her friends to step up and come together. They gathered together, nearly 20 in all. She asked them all to hold each other and to support each other.

“I want you guys in this time, to grab a hold of each other, support each other and develop relationships with each other,” she said. “If you have a close relationship, have a closer relationship … because I know I didn’t live my best life — I didn’t live it, my cousin lived it.”

 

Principal Robert Grable speaks at the 2019 high school graduation. Photo by Bob Savage

Mount Sinai High School Principal Robert Grable passed July 19. He was 49.

Mount Sinai High School Principal Robert Grable addresses the graduating class of 2015. Photo by Erika Karp

Grable joined the school district in 1998, teaching fourth, fifth and sixth grade before moving up to assistant middle school principal and in 2005 to middle school principal. He would become high school principal in 2010, during a reshuffling of staff where TBR News Media reported at that time he was there to help facilitate a “diversity of staff.”

In his earlier years, before he entered into education, Grable played Major League Baseball for the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies. He can be found in the Suffolk sports hall of fame. He was a lifelong resident of Connetquot and father of three girls.

“The community, school district and its teachers, administrators and staff are devastated by his untimely loss,” the school district said in a statement.

But if his true calling was education, it showed, according to both those who worked with him and those students he guided.

Lynn Jordan, a Mount Sinai resident who had been on the board of education since 2007 until this year, said the high school is where he truly thrived.

“That was his building — that was where he belonged,” she said, only a few hours after learning of his passing.

The high school principal would be instrumental in several programs that saw the high school thrive, Jordan said, including a “collegial observation process” that had teachers sit in on other’s instructors classes, having them learn from each other. While the program met with some initial resistance, it soon became an important part of teachers mentoring each other, especially for those just coming into the district.

“Teachers are very funny about having other people in their classrooms while they’re teaching,” she said. “It grew tremendously, I think about every teacher was participating in the collegial rounds eventually.”

Scott Reh, the district’s athletic director, knew Grable for nearly 20 years, having been one of his closest comrades. He said the principal cared about the students like they were his own children.

“He had a vision — he was a presence in the high school,” Reh said. “If you look at the Mount Sinai high school, rob created that, he made it.”

Vincent Ammirato, who taught and coached alongside Grable, would later work under him as principal. He said he remembered joking, saying Grable once worked for him, and he was now his boss. Even with him moving up in the district, Ammirato said the principal never lost that personal connection to his students.

“The kids loved him, the parents loved him, the teachers loved him,” he said. “It’s very rare that you find that in education or any walk of live to be loved by so many people.”

Students who took spent years with the principal, both in the middle and high schools, would come to see him as more than just an administrator.

Daria Martorana, a Mount Sinai native who graduated in 2014, said she had travelled the road from middle to high school with Grable, adding he was magnanimous to her and the other students.

“To say Mr. Grable was a passionate and dedicated educator is an understatement,” she said. “He has always been the one who his students could go to for a laugh when we were down, guidance when we were lost, and help when we were confused… he would even escort us to class so we didn’t get in trouble for not having a late pass.”

To those who paid attention to his methods, Grable took a look at teaching like a coach would on the baseball field, seeing how each individual student has strengths that had to be pushed and nurtured. He was adamant that students just looking to coast through easy courses should challenge themselves.

“They mentored them all through the year, making sure they were really getting what they needed,” Jordan said. “He worked with kids, he tried to make the final outcome better.”

“That was his building — that was where he belonged.”

— Lynn Jordan

Grable spoke at the 2019 senior commencement ceremony just last month, June 28. Jordan said that, even though he had spent nearly 19 years in the district and could have moved up higher in administration, he considered the high school his home.

“Robert Grable was so much more than a principal,” said Gabriella Conceicao, a 2014 Mount Sinai graduate who would later become a teacher in the district. “There are few educators who take the time to get to know their students on a personal level and he was one of them. He built relationships that would last far beyond high school and he touched the lives of countless students and faculty members… I feel so lucky to have known him as a principal, friend, mentor, and coworker.”

Community reaction to the news on Facebook was swift in its condolences, with one resident calling him “one of the most compassionate educators Mount Sinai has ever had.”

The school district announced it would be closed at 3 p.m. Friday, July 19 until Monday July 22 in observance of Grable’s passing.

“There are no words to show the impact Mr. Grable has had on each and every one of his students,” Martorana said. “We are so lucky to have had him as a mentor and teacher but more importantly as a friend.”

*This post was updated July 19 with additional information and quotes.

** This post was updated July 22 with additional quotes

Mount Sinai hosted its graduation June 28. Mount Sinai valedictorian Isaac Kisten and salutatorian Kenneth Wei both spoke at the ceremony.

All photos by Bob Savage.

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Liberian students reading samples of Mount Sinai’s Journeys books. Photo from Emmanuel Urey

Little more than 4,516 miles separate Mount Sinai from Bong County, Liberia. That didn’t stop the Mount Sinai School District from extending a helping hand to children across the world. 

It all began when the district was transitioning to a newer textbook program and were wondering what they could do with the trove of older textbooks. 

Liberian students reading samples of Mount Sinai’s Journeys books. Photo from Emmanuel Urey

Elizabeth Hine, Mount Sinai Elementary School assistant principal, said they didn’t want the books to go to waste. Initially they considered several options for the books, including contacting other school districts to see if they wanted the books as well as BOCES and other organizations, but they were still left with a large heap of books crowding their closets. 

Hine was then given an idea, courtesy of her daughter Kathleen Alfin. A friend that went to graduate school with her at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was looking to build a school for a number of villages in Liberia. 

“She told me that he was starting this school for these villages,” she said. “She showed pictures of the villages and she told me he could use these books.”

Emmanuel Urey, Alfin’s friend, last year came up with a plan to build a four-classroom school with a bathroom and office facilities in his village of Gormue, which is located in an isolated part of Liberia. Urey set up a GoFundMe page two years ago to help with the construction of the school. As of today, 63 people in total have raised close to $5,000 of the $10,000 goal. 

Gormue and its surrounding villages have no access to school, according to the page. The only nearby elementary school is a two-hour walk for these villagers and there are no transportation facilities in this area. 

Hine and Urey got in contact, and the Mount Sinai district agreed to donate the books to Liberian’s native school. Last month, Urey traveled to Mount Sinai Elementary to thank Hine and other school officials for the upcoming donation. At Mount Sinai, Urey was given a few sample books to bring back to his village, while they continued to get the majority of the books to Liberia.  

Alfin, who now teaches at the United States Military Academy in West Point, said Urey was her linguistic tutor during graduate school and she was trying to learn his native language. 

“I think it is great what they’ve been able to do,” she said. “This is not something that happens every day.”

Later in May, Urey visited Gormue and gave the sample books to the children and interim school master. Currently Urey, Hine and others are working on getting a Rotary Club in New York to ship the books to a Rotary Club of Monrovia in Liberia. 

This is not the first time Mount Sinai district has been able to help children overseas. In July 2018, they helped shipped 140 small laptop computers to children in both Sri Lanka and to the Maasai tribe in Kenya. 

“It means the world to another country.”

— Gordon Brosdal

Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said the school board needed to approve the donation but once they had heard what Hine was planning to do, they were immediately on board to help.   

“I’m really grateful for them for letting us do this,” he said. “I want to thank Elizabeth and her daughter for bringing this to our attention.”

The superintendent said they didn’t want to discard these books even though they had found a new reading program. 

“Sometimes you want to discard things, but you don’t realize that these things could be valuable to other people that are so needy,” he said. “It means the world to another country.” 

The process of getting the rest of the books to the school in Liberia is still ongoing, according to Hine. The materials will be used by six villages and about 150 students in the new school. The construction of the school is almost complete; the building was recently roofed and they are building a well to supply the school with water. Classes are expected to start September 2019. 

To donate to the GoFundMe page for the school, visit: https://www.gofundme.com/Emmanuelurey.

File photo

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.

Mount Sinai High School. File photo by Barbara Donlon

This year, Mount Sinai will have five candidates running for three open trustee seats. Board member AnneMarie Henninger’s seat will come up for vote again after she replaced trustee Michael Riggio, who vacated his position in August. Board member Lynn Jordan will be vying for re-election. Challengers this year are Lisa Pfeffer, Chris Quartarone and Robert Pignatello. Mount Sinai will host its budget vote and trustee elections May 21 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the elementary school back gym.

Lisa Pfeffer:

The challenger has lived in Mount Sinai since 1998, and had moved into the district from Centereach with her husband Robert to be closer to family and for the excellent standards. In the past, she has served as president and vice president at a local cooperative preschool and volunteers for school and community organizations. She became a Mount Sinai civic board member in 2014 and currently serves as the civics’ recording secretary. 

“I want to make sure all students are represented and that we are providing them with skills that they can take to college and that they can use in their careers,” Pfeffer said. 

Pfeffer said she is passionate about community service and, as her youngest child is attending the district, she wanted to see if she could have a voice on the board. 

One of the areas she mentioned she liked to see the district improve on is offering more STEM-based and robotics programs for students. 

“There are over 50 school districts on Long Island, including many of our surrounding districts, that are competing in robotics and in national scientific research competitions, such as Regeneron,” she said. “Mount Sinai is not one of them.” 

Pfeffer has recently been working with the superintendent and the district’s director of STEM, on finding ways that they can introduce and implement programs that will support students that are interested in learning computer coding and robotics.  

“These are fundamental programs that are necessary for our students to be competitive academically and globally,” the Mount Sinai resident said. “They open up scholarship and internship opportunities for students who are preparing for higher education and for future careers in STEM, more specifically in computer science and engineering.”

Pfeffer said they have some of the best teachers on Long Island and for being a small school district they continue to offer many academic programs. 

“I would like to find creative ways in which we can hold on to such programs and even implement new ones,” she said.  “Some solutions might be, relying more on funding through BOCES, and through our parent organizations, as well as outside community members and donors.  Also, I would like to work closely with elected representatives to try and secure more funding for the school district.”

Pfeffer said she understands the dynamic of the community after living there for so long. She has the unique experience of working with the community as a civic board member and by volunteering in school organizations and in community fundraising events. 

AnneMarie Henninger

The incumbent has been a Mount Sinai resident for the past 22 years, and she has two children in the high school currently. She is seeking re-election after serving on the board since replacing trustee Michael Riggio, who vacated his position in August 2018. 

“I am running for the board because I feel like I bring a unique perspective as a parent and someone working in education/special education,” she said. “I am used to working collaboratively with a team to achieve goals. I think that the ability to work respectably as a group is vital.”

Henninger said she wants to make sure every student in the district reaches their fullest potential and that as a whole, the board is listening to the community. 

“Communication is vital — if we don’t know what is not working or how the community feels, we can’t help so that’s an area where the board has set up,” she said.   

Henninger has learned a lot from being on the board this school year. She said it has been a great experience and would like to continue to serve the district. 

“I think that I bring a long history of volunteering and giving back to our school and our community.  I am dedicated and will work hard to communicate to the community achievements, progress and challenges we are facing as a district,” she said. 

Lynn Jordan 

The incumbent has lived in the Mount Sinai community for 44 years and has served as a trustee on the board of education since 2007. She was elected vice president of the board for the 2018-2019 school year. 

The Mount Sinai resident has dedicated a majority of time over years to volunteering. She has participated in various PTA groups, was a founding president of the Mount Sinai Friends of Art and is a volunteer first aid instructor for American Red Cross on Long Island. 

Jordan said she brings a lot of experience and dedication to the position, has a strong interest in the community, past participation in the community/school programs and activities as well as a good record of attending board meetings and voting on budgets. 

When it comes to the strength of the district, the veteran board member believes Mount Sinai has strong principals, goals and a board that isn’t afraid to ask questions.  

“We constantly review data relating to classes, accomplishments and outcomes.  We are not afraid to makes changes if necessary,” Jordan said. “Our graduation rate is very strong — more and more of our students are being accepted in highly ranked colleges and universities.”

She pointed to infrastructure as an area of weakness for the district. 

“For too many years the infrastructure of the district has been fixed with Band-Aids; we worked to correct this via a bond issue, but it was voted down,” she said. “We will now do as much of the work as possible via capital projects, which need voter approval each year.”

Jordan said she loves this work and wants to continue to contribute to the school district.

Chris Quartarone:

The challenger has lived in Mount Sinai with his wife and three sons for the past 10 years. He and his wife were drawn to the town because of the small town feel of the community. He has led a sales team for Johnson & Johnson for almost 13 years. 

Quartarone said the decision to run for board came pretty quickly. 

“Parents from a few different circles have encouraged me to run because of my involvement in the community, the ideas I have and the affable approach I have to life,” he said. “Being a father is the proudest moment of my life. I want to be certain every child in our district is considered.”

The Mount Sinai resident wants to expand the level of communication between the board and the community. He said social media is a good platform, but he thinks more face-to-face meetings and community involvement will have a greater impact. 

“Meetings with the civic association, PTO and other well-established organizations will help create a true shared vision,” said Quartarone. “As far as issues, voter turnout is a major concern. We need to get more involved.”

He believes winning begets winning, and a few small wins like more votes will create excitement and will lead to a greater impact on everyone in the community.

The trustee candidate believes the district should continue to play to its strengths. He said Mount Sinai has a strong history and because of the size of the district and community they can make things happen quickly. 

“Economies of scale may not be on our side like other districts, but if we play to our strengths we will maintain and expand on the history we have established,” Quartarone said. “Mount Sinai is an amazing place that will only get better.”

The Mount Sinai resident said he is not afraid to speak up and as someone who is new to the board, would bring fresh set of ideas and look out for every child in the district. 

“I always maintain a positive attitude and most importantly I will always be honest,” he said. “The community can expect a common voice. I will make myself available.”

Robert Pignatello:

The challenger moved with his family to Mount Sinai more than six years ago and was looking for a place to establish roots. One of the reasons he chose Mount Sinai was the blue ribbon quality of the school district and he’d like to help the district return to that level. The Mount Sinai resident has three children in the district. 

Pignatello is a former small business owner who has spent the last 24 years as a chief steward union representative for the Communications Workers of America, Local 1101. He said in a Facebook post on Mount Sinai Resident’s Open Forum that his natural preference is to find common ground through honesty, transparency and cooperation. He believes he can apply his skills and experience of representing 500 workers to the district and community. 

Pignatello said he would use his experience representing a union to go out and engage the community. 

“The most important thing is to make sure people are informed,” he said. “You want someone to go out and engage with parents and educators who is personable and has a personality.”