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Port Jefferson High School

Photo courtesy John Proios

Prepared by John Proios

William “Bill” Proios died peacefully at age 71 from cancer at Good Shepherd Hospice Center in Port Jefferson on Friday, Nov. 11. 

Bill spent his final days surrounded by family and friends. Born in Detroit, Michigan, July 16, 1951, to Panayiotis and Angeline Proios, he lived most of his life in Port Jefferson. He won the high school’s first New York State wrestling championship in 1969 during his senior year. He was also president of his senior class. 

While studying at Stony Brook University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in American history, he co-authored the book “Port Jefferson: Story of a Village.” 

Bill was a good friend, a kind and wonderful husband, father, grandfather, son-in-law, brother-in-law and uncle. He was a loving man who shared his faith in God and his love of life with all who encountered him. 

He will be remembered by the many stories he shared about his travels across the United States and Europe, and his work as a painting contractor in New York. He will be missed by all who knew him. 

Bill is survived by his wife, Nancy Macnab Proios, son John, his wife Kelly, son Alex, and three grandsons, Ira, Bill and Muhammad. 

May the Good Lord carry his soul forever, and may he rest in peace.

The Mattituck Tuckers hoped to avenge their first loss of the season in the Class C Suffolk County Championship at Hauppauge High School on Monday, Nov. 7.

Mattituck won the first two sets, 25-19 and 25-21. On track for a shutout win, the Lady Royals rallied and won the following two sets 25-17, forcing a final and decisive game five. 

Port Jeff broke out to an 11-7 lead in a game where 15 points would win. But Mattituck, the no. 1 seed, wouldn’t go quietly, fighting back with ferocity. 

Yet Port Jeff would go on to put the game away, 15-12, ending Mattituck’s season and advancing to the Long Island Championship round. 

Junior Olivia Sherman had 18 kills, a service ace, and 10 digs. Teammate Erin Henry killed 15, and dug out 24, along with three aces. 

The Lady Royals retake the court Thursday, Nov. 10, when they face Oyster Bay at Hauppauge High School. Game time is slated for 7:30 p.m.

— Photos by Bill Landon

Guiding the incorporation movement, in part, was a desire to extract value from the Port Jefferson Power Station, pictured above. File photo by Lee Lutz

On a snowy day, Dec. 7, 1962, Port Jefferson residents voted 689-361 to incorporate as a village. After court challenges, the vote was made official in April 1963. 

But how did this vote affect public education in the village? Through the lens of the incorporation movement, village residents can better understand the local issues of their time.

In an exclusive interview, state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) for Assembly District 4, which includes Port Jefferson, explores some of these themes.

A vision for better schools

Decades before incorporation, the educational landscape was quite different than it is today. Contrasting the great variety of school districts along the North Shore, residents once belonged to one central school district, the epicenter of which was Port Jefferson. 

By the early 1930s, Port Jeff High School was accepting students as far west as Stony Brook and parts of Smithtown and as far east as Wading River and Yaphank.

But in the spirit of local control characteristic of the times, that central school district began to unravel. Fragments of the district started to break away, forming districts of their own, guaranteeing greater control. 

Fearing dissolution of their school district, local residents considered incorporating to counteract the trend of declining student enrollment. “They were motivated to make sure that the school district was not further depleted by actions beyond their control,” Englebright said. “There was a good deal of emotion in that incorporation involving the school district and the concerns of parents for the well-being of their children.”

Englebright regards the desire for quality public schools as one of the principal factors driving the incorporation movement. He added that proponents of incorporating viewed education as a priority for the Port Jefferson community.

This, the assemblyman maintains, holds true even today. “The reality is the parents and the community of Port Jefferson care deeply about their school district and their children,” he said. “They don’t want to lose that brand of excellence and the well-being of that school district, which has always been a superb place for education.” 

Extracting value

A power plant was located at the water’s edge of Port Jefferson Harbor. Contained within that plant, locals saw a promise for better schools, according to Englebright.

“I don’t think it was a singular motive on the part of Port Jefferson to capture the tax base of the power plant, but it certainly was seen as important to maintain the infrastructure of the schools in Port Jefferson,” the assemblyman said. 

Port Jefferson has enjoyed a largely subsidized school district for over half a century thanks to the power station. But as the world comes to grips with the danger of combustible energy sources, so is the village affected and, by extension, the local school district.

“The changing technology of energy production has been very much a part of the people’s consciousness, particularly the leadership of the school board and the village board,” Englebright said.

Despite its pivotal place in the cause to incorporate, the long-term future of the Port Jefferson Power Station, which is operated by National Grid USA, is undecided. The village government is already seeing declining subsidies from Long Island Power Authority, which supervises transmission and delivery functions. Whether the plant goes dark in the coming years remains an open question.

Englebright acknowledges this uncertainty and its impact on certain public school districts on Long Island. For him, the trends in New York state and around the globe point to a phasing out of combustion energy.

“The trend is to move away from combustion as the source of energy,” he said. “I do believe that it is likely that the plant … will prove to be less used going forward. The question of when that will happen, I can’t tell, but that is certainly the trend.”

Despite a cloud of uncertainty over this tax-generating facility, Englebright sees opportunities for community adaptation. Though the power plant may someday shut down, he foresees Port Jeff emerging as a local leader in renewable energy, becoming a central hub for offshore wind.

“I have been very much involved with helping to advance offshore wind and, at the same time, to guide and nurture a relationship between a power-generating site that has been a part of our region for half a century now and more, and to the extent possible enable a sort of gas pedal and clutch transition to occur,” the assemblyman said.

Even in the face of possibly losing a significant tax base, village residents can be reassured that the transition of its energy economy is already underway. 

Incorporation in context

Port Jefferson School District is nearing a public referendum scheduled for Monday, Dec. 12. This referendum, totaling approximately $25 million, may decide the future of facilities in buildings across the district, and possibly its long-term fate.

Englebright has expressed support for the facilities improvements, citing that they will be necessary to maintain a proper educational venue for future generations of students. [See story, “Capital bonds: PJSD nears historic referendum over school infrastructure.”] 

Compounding an already complex issue, PJSD, like many others throughout the area, is also experiencing a decline of student enrollment. “There’s no easy answer here, not just for Port Jefferson but for many school districts,” the assemblyman said. “The incoming population of youngsters entering first grade is significantly less than what the schools they are entering were built to accommodate.”

In the face of declining student populations, some are even suggesting the remerging of Port Jefferson with the Three Village School District, which broke away from Port Jeff in 1966, four years after the vote to incorporate.

Despite these calls, Englebright feels the overriding spirit of local control remains preeminent. If the community favors keeping its school district intact, the state assemblyman recommends making the proper investment in its facilities.

“At the moment, I just don’t see [merging with another school district] as a popular idea because people within their communities identify their sense of place through a mechanism of community and neighborhood identity, which is their schools,” he said. “It behooves the well-being of the children and the quality of the school district … to make the investments to keep that infrastructure in a condition that meets or exceeds all appropriate standards.”

Revisiting the village’s incorporation, we find that the issues of today are not unique to our time. Questions surrounding school infrastructure, energy subsidies and student enrollment have puzzled generations of Port Jeff residents. While these issues may seem problematic, public dialogue and an open confrontation with local history may offer a pathway to brighter days ahead.

 

This story is part of a continuing series on the incorporation of Port Jefferson.

File photo

The Port Jefferson School District will hold a special board of education meeting to discuss the proposed capital bond projects slated for a Dec. 12 vote. 

The meeting will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 6, at 7 p.m. in the Earl L. Vandermeulen High School auditorium. 

This meeting will be an opportunity for community input as it is anticipated that the board of education will approve a resolution for the bond vote at its Tuesday, Sept. 13 meeting. 

Community members are encouraged to attend and participate in this open forum. For more information, visit: portjeffschools.org/bond/home

Photo from PJSD

The Earl L. Vandermeulen High School Science Olympiad team participated in the New York State Science Olympiad competition at Lemoyne College in Syracuse on March 19 and 20. The team placed 20th overall out of 60 teams from throughout the state.

There were 23 events in various STEM and science-related topics. The top 10 pairs of students in each event earned a medal. 

Port Jefferson medal winners earned three state medals in bridges, forensics and remote sensing including 8th Place, Forensics – Gavin Onghai and Michelle Wu; 8th Place, Remote Sensing – Hugo Onghai and Benjamin Perez-Flesler; and 9th Place, Bridges – Teppei Fukuto and Riley Perrotta

“We continue to be impressed by our high school Science Olympiad students in their hard work and success,” co-coach Melissa Garcia said. 

Co-coach Amanda Brideson added, “We are exceptionally proud of our entire team for not only their academic achievements but also displaying excellent sportsmanship and kindness the entire trip toward other competing teams.”

In addition to Ms. Brideson and Ms. Garcia, chaperones Mr. Gregory Gorniok and Mr. Dannie Holland joined the students. 

With Port Jefferson pride, the team members congratulate competitors Ward Melville High School on their success and wish them all the luck at nationals. Photo from PJSD

Looking to build momentum after their victory over Stony Brook School three days earlier, the Lady Royals of Port Jefferson hit a roadblock Saturday morning when they hosted West Babylon. 

In this first league game of the season, they fell to the Eagles 18-5. A young team that had only formed in 2017, the Port Jeff roster includes only four seniors, four sophomores and seven freshmen, who will be challenged in the Class D 2022 campaign. The Lady Royals retook the field on March 29 at home against the Smithtown West Bulls, where the Royals lost, 14-3. 

— Photos by Bill Landon 

Port Jefferson’s Earl L. Vandermeulen sophomore Katherine Ranjbar. Photo from PJSD
Port Jefferson’s Earl L. Vandermeulen sophomore Katherine Ranjbar. Photo from PJSD

Earl L. Vandermeulen High School student-musician Katherine Ranjbar recently performed at Carnegie Hall as part of its grand prize concerto competition. A sophomore, Katherine performed at New York’s famed venue on solo piano. 

“Congratulations to Katherine on her outstanding musical achievement,” said Port Jefferson School District Director of Music and Fine Arts Dr. Michael Caravello.

Photo courtesy of PJHS

The recent Earl L. Vandermeulen High School production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” was a resounding success. The all-star cast and crew of Port Jefferson students, staff and volunteers worked tirelessly for months on this production, a special nostalgic treat for the whole family that took place for three shows from March 19 to 20.

The show, directed by Tony Butera, followed the adventures of classic “Peanuts” characters Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Marci, Peppermint Patty, Schroeder and the lovable and headstrong Snoopy on top of his doghouse. It featured kite flying, Beethoven music directed by Christine Creighton and short vignettes reminiscent of the original comic strip.

Andrew Patterson. Photo from PJSD

Earl L. Vandermeulen High School senior Andrew Patterson has advanced to the Finalist standing in the 2022 annual National Merit Scholarship Program. 

Andrew took the qualifying test as a junior and is now among approximately 16,000 high school students nationwide who were awarded the distinction. In the next several months approximately half of those students will be selected to receive a Merit Scholarship award, which is based on their abilities, skills and achievements.

An accomplished and well-rounded student, Andrew excels in academics, athletics and community service. He is a three-season athlete — captain of the soccer team and member of the winter and spring track team. Andrew is also a member of the school’s Latin Club, National Honor Society and Science Olympiad team. Outside of school, he is a member of the Port Jefferson Fire Department. 

Andrew’s Finalist designation exemplifies the Port Jefferson School District’s high level of student achievement and academically rigorous program for all students. National Merit Scholarship winners will be announced in the spring.

Port Jeff junior Amy Whitman boxes out in the class C/D championship game Feb 19. Bill Landon photo

The Royals of Port Jefferson continued their winning ways with another victory in the Suffolk Class C/D Championship round of the playoffs at Newfield High School Feb. 19 where they steamrolled over Smithtown Christian 63-20.

Port Jeff senior forward Abigail Rolfe did what she’s done all season doing her damage from the paint leading her team in scoring with 25 points. Lola Idir a long-distance threat netted 20 and teammate Amy Whitman banked 5. Rounding out the game book for the Royals were junior forward Alexa Ayotte with four points and senior Camryn Spiller drained a triple, as did freshmen Anna Matvya and Maitreyea Driscoll-Stremich.

The win lifts the Royals 10-0 in league VII 16-2 overall where their only losses this season were against two top tier League I teams, Sachem North by only five points and to William Floyd by seven points. Talk about playing up!

Port Jeff continues the 2021-22 campaign with in the sub-regional final, aka the Long Island Championship round at home March 9. Game time to be determined.

All photos by Bill Landon