Tags Posts tagged with "Mt. Sinai"

Mt. Sinai

Assemblyman Ed Flood speaks in front of local politicians, educators and community members at a press conference against Gov. Hochul’s proposed school funding cuts. Photo by Mallie Jane Kim

By Mallie Jane Kim

Local political representatives and school superintendents rallied to Three Village Central School District Jan. 25 for a passionate press conference decrying proposed cuts to state school funding in Gov. Kathy Hochul’s (D) proposed budget. 

Hochul touted an $825 million increase in state funding for schools overall, but some districts including 34 in Suffolk County and 10 in Nassau would face decreases. Of these, Three Village would lose the highest dollar amount at nearly $9 million if the governor’s plan stands, and the smaller Port Jefferson School District would be hit by the largest percentage of funding loss on Long Island over 28%. Mount Sinai, Cold Spring Harbor, Smithtown and Kings Park school districts would also see modest cuts. This marks a break from the “hold harmless” provision in New York, which in the past has guaranteed school districts didn’t receive less state funding than the previous year, a practice that takes some guesswork out of budget planning.

Political opposition

“Governor, stop playing politics with our children — because we will fight you tooth and nail,” New York State Assemblyman Ed Flood (R-Port Jefferson) said at the event. “We need to restore some common sense and do what’s right for the children of our community. Where are our priorities? Let’s put our children first.”

The politicians who spoke including U.S. Rep. Nick LaLota (R-NY-1), state Assemblymembers Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead), Jarett Gandolfo (R-Sayville), Doug Smith (R-Holbrook) and state Sen. Mario Mattera (R-St. James) were united in considering the cuts as a targeted political attack and a conscious choice by the governor.

LaLota referred to the Jan. 5 Long Island Association’s annual State of the Region breakfast during which, as reported by Newsday, Hochul traded barbs with Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman (R), including her quip, “I walked in, I hear somebody doesn’t want New York on Long Island, I was ready to walk off the stage right then. You don’t want me to take all the money with me, though, right?”

LaLota called Hochul a “schoolyard bully” and suggested she is using children as a political pawn against Long Island.

“It is wholly unfair and unjust to take money from our kids because she’s got a political squabble with us,” he said. “Don’t come after our kids because you have a political problem with Long Island. The right thing to do is to fully fund our kids’ education that’s something we rely upon.”

The governor’s state budget proposal represents a first draft. The state Assembly and Senate will be instrumental in crafting the finalized version, which is due April 1 but does not often come in on time. If the budget takes until early May to pass, as it did in 2023, school districts will be in a tricky situation since their budgets must be ready and made available for public review between April 30 and May 7.

Superintendents and other groups oppose cuts

“It is important to recognize that these proposed changes will create uncertainty and hardship for our districts,” said Bayport-Blue Point Superintendent Timothy Hearney, who also serves as president of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association. His district stands to lose 3.34% of its state funding under the plan.

Even though the budget is a first draft and subject to political bargaining in Albany, any final answer may come too late. School districts spend the early spring ironing out budget plans, so unless there is a change soon, districts will be faced with the option of incorporating the funding loss into the 2024-25 school year budget or risk putting up a budget that could surpass the state’s mandated cap on increases to the tax levy, an unpopular option for Long Island taxpayers, who already face high property taxes. In this instance, budget passage would require approval by a supermajority of voters (60 percent or more).

Hearney pointed out that education costs have increased even as enrollments have decreased over the past decade or so, in a nod toward one of Hochul’s stated reasons why some districts should receive less funding. “It’s crucial to underscore that condensing a decade’s worth of lost enrollment in a single year places an overwhelming burden on all of our districts,” he said.

Other concerned superintendents standing in support were Christine Criscione from Mount Sinai, Jessica Schmettan from Port Jefferson and Kevin Scanlon from Three Village. 

Scanlon spelled out what he thought the “significant challenges” losing $9 million in funds for his district would pose at a Jan. 24 school board meeting, the night before the press conference. He said he hoped for compromise in Albany, but that such sudden cuts would require drastic measures to accommodate. He said the district may have to close a school or discontinue the Three Village Academy high school program, and they may have to make cuts to the pre-K and pre-K enrichment programs, the Intellectually Gifted Program, special education aides, teaching positions, administrative positions, educational and extracurricular programs and even security. 

“Every area of this community will be impacted, so Three Village needs to come together as it has never done before,” he urged at the board meeting. “Parents, students, teachers, administrators, anyone out there anyone on the street we can get in this community to be part of this conversation we need for advocacy.”

Those who showed up to advocate at Thursday’s press conference included school board members, staff and teachers union members from Three Village and Mount Sinai, as well as members of parent teacher associations, also civic and community groups, including the local parent group Three Village Dads. 

David Tracy, leader of Three Village Dads, said he isn’t interested in being divisive politically, but couldn’t ignore the air of apparent retribution in the governor’s move. “Long Island was not a huge voting fan of the governor. I hate to believe this cut in the budget is somewhat of a backlash for that,” he said, adding that the disparity in funding changes from district to district is baffling to him. “It’s just tragic that it comes from our kids.”

Three Village Civic Association president Charles Tramontana agrees the issue is bipartisan. “Nobody wants to see that amount of funding cut without some sort of warning. I don’t think it’s controversial,” said Tramontana, who was scheduled to attend the press conference but was stuck home sick. 

“I don’t understand the way the state operates sometimes,” Tramontana said. “They didn’t give any notice that they were dropping that ‘hold harmless’ provision. Basic fairness would dictate that you would give some warning.” He added, “We took some hit$9 million in one year is definitely going to cause some chaos in our budget.”

by -
0 1563
Mount Sinai High School. File photo by Barbara Donlon

Mount Sinai Union Free School District recently changed its phase two reopening plan, tasking some teachers to work directly with remote students and by easing in-person students back into its halls. 

As of Oct. 19, grades K-4 added Wednesdays back into an in-person, weekly schedule making attendance at school five days a week. 

In a letter to the community posted on the school district’s website, Rob Catlin, principal of Mount Sinai Elementary, said this change will help make things more normal. 

“This is a win-win for all of our students, both in-person and remote, as we are able to ensure all of our students get the maximum amount of instruction we are able to offer,” he wrote. 

Catlin wrote in-person students will not have much of a change on a daily basis, except for the possibility of a different P.E., art or music teacher adjust with the schedule. The district added two teachers to help support its remote students, and who will be working solely as remote teachers. Starting Monday, teachers Emily Bellacera (for K-2) and Kaylee Foley (for 3-4) will be teaching live every day for at least one hour with remote students through Google Classroom.

“Each teacher will provide at least 60 minutes a day of live instruction for our students working remotely,” he said. “This will also allow the remote kids to have a true classroom of friends and classmates. Currently each teacher was working with 1-to-3 students at a time on Wednesdays. I felt this was isolating for our remote kids who need socialization more than ever being at home.”

With the new remote program, remote students will have live Google Meet sessions with seven to 15 other kids. 

Catlin noted though switching to a new teacher is not ideal, current teachers will be in contact with the remote teachers to ensure a smooth transition for everyone involved. 

“While switching teachers is not an ideal plan the end result will be a better experience and more enriching academic program for all,” he said. 

The website stated middle school students were going to experience a similar change. Remote learners in grades 5 and 6 started with their new remote instructors on Oct. 19. In-person fifth and sixth graders started attending school all five days. 

Students in grades 7 and 8 will have remote instructional day through Google Classroom every Wednesday starting Oct. 21 and will follow their period buy period schedule. Attendance will be taken in the homeroom and first period class for the day. 

Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said the district initially anticipated that grades 7-12 would be back to school five days a week on a rotating schedule, but last week he and they decided to halt the reopening plan until Nov. 18.

“We knew it was going to change as we went along,” he said. “After speaking to a dozen superintendents in our area, everyone is evolving and adjusting.”

He stated the reasons to delay are so they can closely watch and see if the number of COVID-19 cases continue to increase, and that the middle and high school buildings don’t have as much room to repurpose. 

“If you had all the kids in, and divided the class in half, then for social distancing you would need almost double the class space,” he said. 

So, they decided to wait until the end of
the quarter.

Currently Wednesday provides a break between the two cohorts, and an additional day for cleaning and sanitation.

To accommodate a transition, remote learning will be available to all students, not just ones deemed as remote, and attendance is required.

As of Oct. 19, two teachers and zero students in the high school tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 14 days. Overall, a combined five individuals have tested positive in the district since the start of schools in September.

by -
0 163

By Bill Landon

Mount Sinai, fresh off their decisive 27 point victory against Westhampton for the Class A title game Feb. 20, squared off against Class C qualifier Pierson/Bridgehampton for the small school crown Feb. 22. Having already won against the No. 1 seed Westhampton, Pierson should have been a much easier match, yet there was nothing easy about it when the Whalers closed to with four points late in the 3rd quarter before the Mustangs stood on the gas and shut the door to win the game 69-55.

Mount Sinai senior guard Gabby Sartori led the way like she has all season nailing 11 field goals, a triple and seven free throws to lead the Mustangs in scoring with 32. Senior guard Brooke Cergol hit three from the floor, two treys and a pair from the charity stripe notching 14 followed by senior teammate Holly McNair who banked seven.

The win propels the Mustangs to the section XI championship round where they’ll face Longwood who currently sits atop Class AA field Feb. 27 at Walt Whitman High School. Tip-off is at 4:30 p.m.

Residents from across the North Shore gathered at Veterans Day memorials and parks to pay their respects Nov. 11.

Members of the Comsewogue High School girls varsity and junior varsity field hockey team dump water on themselves at the second annual ALS Ice Bucket Challenge on Wednesday Aug. 26. Photo by Giselle Barkley

As the president of the Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association, Beth Dimino is rarely hit in the face with whipped cream. But on Aug. 26, Dimino sat wearing a large black garbage bag as whipped cream from a pie toss dripped down her face and body — all in support of the second annual ALS Ice Bucket Challenge at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai.

Hundreds of people attended the event, which aimed to raise awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and money for research into the disease, through the Stony Brook-based organization Ride for Life. People who purchased a ticket could trade it for a chance to throw a whipped cream-filled plate at volunteers like Dimino.

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) was one of many, including local school principals and teachers, to participate in the event’s dunk tank or pie-throwing games. For Bonner, supporting the cause is important, as her grandfather died from the rare disease around 35 years.

“It robs your body, not your mind,” Bonner said.

ALS affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing motor neurons to degenerate. People with the disease lose control over their muscles, leaving them unable to speak, eat, move or breathe on their own. The cause of the disease is not yet known.

Bonner jumped at the chance to participate in the event this week.

“Chris just makes you want to [be involved],” she said about Christopher Pendergast, who founded Ride For Life in 1997 and has lived with the disease for more than 20 years. “He just inspired so many people to participate and bring awareness.”

According to Ray Manzoni, a member of the Ride For Life Board of Directors, Pendergast wanted to make this year’s event at Heritage Park bigger and better than last year’s ice bucket challenge, which focused on the ice bucket challenge itself.

Last year’s event occurred during the height of a worldwide trend in which people dumped buckets of ice water over their heads, and challenged others to follow suit, in order to bring publicity to the disease. Lori Baldassare, president of the Mount Sinai Heritage Trust, Bonner and Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), all of whom attended this year’s event, were “instrumental in getting [the event] approved quickly” last year, according to Manzoni. That inaugural event was organized in four days.

Manzoni said this year they added the pie-tossing event, balloon twisting and face painting booths, cotton candy, hot dogs and more.

The Comsewogue girls’ varsity and junior varsity field hockey teams were also at the event. While many of them were dancing to the music there, they also donated money and helped organize the buckets for people to dump water on themselves or others during the ice bucket challenge. The buckets were arranged at the end of the event to spell out “ICE ALS.”

“The goal is to have this and other events that Ride For Life supports and make them bigger and better,” Manzoni said.

Although he did not know how much money the group raised this year, Manzoni hoped it matched or exceeded the amount of money raised last year, $5,000. He added that successful research into ALS can also help research for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, which are more common but have similarities.

According to the ALS Association’s website, the disease affects around 6,400 people annually in the United States alone. Only 10 percent of people who are diagnosed with the disease inherited it, while the rest are affected by the disease at random.

For people and organizations like Ride For Life, these events are important.

The goal is “to build awareness and money so that we can continue [our efforts],” Manzoni said.