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Port Jefferson School District

Aidan Kaminska (right) played attack for the Port Jefferson Royals boys lacrosse team. Photo by Bill Landon

Aidan Kaminska, graduate of the Port Jefferson Class of 2020, died unexpectedly on Monday, May 30. 

District superintendent Jessica Schmettan discussed the impact Kaminska had on the Port Jeff community and the coming challenges the community faces in mourning this difficult loss. The following is a letter sent to parents and staff on Wednesday, June 1.

Dear Staff, Parents and Guardians:

It is with great difficulty that I share this sad news with our community.  

Earlier today, the District was informed of the sudden passing of one of our alumni from the Class of 2020, Aidan Kaminska. 

Our thoughts and prayers are with the former student’s friends, family and loved ones during this difficult time. 

In a small school, we recognize the passing of a recent alumnus can have a profound impact on our students and staff.  The District has been working today to enact our emergency crisis plan. Tomorrow, our support staff will be ready to assist anyone who may need it.

On behalf of our Royal family, I offer my deepest and most sincere condolences to the family, staff and friends who suffered this great loss earlier today. Please do not hesitate to reach out to our principals or team of guidance counselors, social workers and psychologists individually if you have specific concerns for yourself or a student. 

Sincerely,

Jessica Schmettan

Superintendent

Port Jefferson School District

Budget passed ($46.1 million) 

Yes: 642

No:  165

Proposition 2 passed

Yes: 673

No:  130

School board election:

Randi DeWitt:  563*

Ellen Boehm:   550*

Paul Ryan:      267

(reelected *)

Comsewogue Union Free School District

Budget passed ($102.1 million)

Yes: 998

No:  427

School board election:

Robert DeStefano:            921*

Francisca Alabau-Blatter: 655*

Joseph Borruso:               457

Gary Bodenburg:              344

Meghan Puleo:                 258

(reelected *) 

North Shore residents stopped by their local polling places throughout the day May 17 to vote on school budgets and for board of education members.

Winning candidates are in bold.

This story will be updated as more results come in. Last updated May 18 at 11:33 a.m.

Commack Union Free School District

$ 214,645,326 budget passed

Yes – 2,392

No – 815

Proposition 2 to decrease transportation limits in grades 3 through 5 from ½ mile to a ¼ mile, passed

Yes – 2,376

No – 814

Candidates, two seats 

Steven Hartman – 2,277

Pauline Fidalgo – 877

Justin Varughese – 2,247

Christopher Jurkovic – 893

Comsewogue Union Free School District

The budget passed.

Yes – 998

No – 427

Robert DeStefano and Francisca Alabau-Blatter both elected for three-year terms. 

Cold Spring Harbor Central School District

$73,420,423 budget passed

Yes – 817

No – 276

Candidates, two seats

Amelia Walsh Brogan – 496

Alex Whelehan – 888

Bruce Sullivan – 648

Elwood Union Free School District

$69,181,071 budget passed

Yes – 804

No – 396

Candidates, one seat

Deborah Weiss – 965

Sean Camas – 183

Harborfields Central School District

$92,895,995 budget passed

Yes – 1,655

No – 353

Candidates, two seats

Hansen Lee – 1,490 votes

Colleen Wolcott – 1,530

David Balistreri – 603

Hauppauge Union Free School District

$123,913,904 budget passed

Yes – 639

No – 300

Candidates, three candidates

Rob Scarito – 624

Michael Buscarino -651

David Barshay- 617

Huntington Union Free School District

$142,968,343 budget passed

Yes – 834

No – 150

Candidates, two seats, incumbents unopposed

Bill Dwyer- 823

Michele Kustera- 838

Kings Park Central School District

$102.24 million budget passed

Yes – 2,229

No – 1,125

Candidates, two seats

Patrick Hanley – 1,879

Shala Pascucci – 1,737

Jaime Lelle – 1,529

Douglas Cerrato- 1,490.

Middle Country Central School District

The budget passed.

Yes – 2,036

No – 946

Robert Hallock – 1,500
Kristopher Oliva (Incumbent) – 1,452
Denise Haggerty (Incumbent) – 1,518
Leah Fitzpatrick – 1,440
Robert Feeney (Incumbent) – 1,513
Tifanny Lorusso – 1,434
Dawn Sharrock (Incumbent) – 1,481
Kimberly Crawford-Arbocus – 1,471

Miller Place School District

The budget passed. 

Yes – 1,394

No – 503

Proposition 2 (library budget) passed.

Yes – 1,590

No – 310

CORRECTION: It was originally misreported that Andrea Spaniolas received 628 votes. Spaniolas actually received 924 votes. 

Keith Frank – 830

Johanna Testa – 990

Andrea Spaniolas – 924

Jennifer Andersen-Oldenskov – 616

Kenneth Conway – 743

John Galligan – 625

Jenna Stingo – 782

Mount Sinai School District

 

Northport-East Northport Union Free School District

$177,856,084, budget passed

Yes – 2,285

 No- 1,674

 Proposition #2: Capital Expenditures: Passed

Candidates, three seats

Larry Licopoli – 2,528

Allison Noonan – 2,676

Thomas Loughran – 2,729

Frank Labate – 1,754

Port Jefferson School District

Budget passed: Yes – 642; No – 165
Proposition #2: Yes 673; No 130

Ellen Boehm – 550
Randi DeWitt – 563

Paul Ryan – 267

Rocky Point Union Free School District

Budget passed.

Yes – 1,017
No – 322

Proposition 2 – Capital Reserve
– 1,063 Yes
– 267 No

Susan Sullivan – 595 –  3yr term
Erin Walsh – 515 –  1yr term
Nick Contes – 514
Nicole Kelly – 485
Jason Ford – 221
Susan Wilson – 258

Shoreham-Wading River Central School District

Budget passed. 

Yes – 625

No – 167

Proposition #2

Yes – 652

No – 139

Tom Sheridan – 659

Meghan Tepfenhardt – 638

14 Write-in candidates received less than five votes each

Smithtown Central School District

$267,786,882 budget passed

Yes – 5,250

No – 2,241

Candidates, two seats

Michael Catalanotto – 4,582

Michael Saidens – 4,590

Charles Fisher – 3,201 votes

Angela Kouvel – 3,157.

Three Village Central School District

$224,060,618 budget passed

Yes – 2,584

No – 2,518

Candidates, two seats

Vincent Vizzo – 2,715

Jennifer Solomon – 2,650  

Reanna Fulton – 2,283

Evan Proios –2,122

 

Earl L. Vandermeulen High School, above, will serve as the polling site for this year’s board of education election. File photo

By Raymond Janis

As election day approaches, candidates for the Port Jefferson School District Board of Education had an opportunity to share their thoughts on the major issues facing the district.

During a virtual panel on May 9, candidates Ellen Boehm, Randi DeWitt, Paul Ryan and write-in candidate Don Pollard each spoke in turn. The candidates covered a wide range of subjects from declining student enrollment to possible redistricting schemes to infrastructure investments and more.

Ellen Boehm

Boehm has served on the Board of Education for 10 years and is currently president. Commenting on her many family members who graduated from Port Jefferson schools, she said, “The royal blood runs thick in our family.”

Throughout her time on the board, Boehm has maintained active involvement in several clubs and volunteer organizations. She has taught religious classes at the Infant Jesus R.C. Church, planned the centennial celebration of Port Jefferson High School and is a self-proclaimed sports mom, arts mom and class mom.

“Volunteering really has given me enjoyment while connecting with the students and other parents in the community,” she said. “I am running again to continue to serve the students and families of Port Jeff and to help keep our great programs great.”

Boehm said building a consensus among community members will be the biggest obstacle facing the school board in the coming term. Although some have suggested a possible merger with another school district, Boehm sees opportunities for district expansion through redistricting.

“If we can somehow redistrict, we increase the [number of] families and potentially increase our enrollment,” she said, adding, “We have to start thinking bigger than how we are falling apart. There are things that have to be done with the infrastructure … but we have to identify the things we treasure in Port Jeff.”

Boehm favors the redistricting approach over any potential merger with a neighboring district. If Port Jeff were to merge, Boehm believes the district would lose much of its identity. “We all know what happened when Mount Sinai pulled out,” she said. “To me, a merger would be the last thing I would want to do, but I would really like to look into expanding the district.”

Randi DeWitt

DeWitt has been a teacher in the Mount Sinai School District for 24 years, teaching a first grade inclusion class for the bulk of that time. She has been on the Port Jefferson school board for three years. 

DeWitt has served on the policy and curriculum committees of the school board and this year chaired the facilities committee. Currently she serves on the executive board for the Port Jefferson prom, which she said jokingly is “probably more time consuming than anything that I have ever done in my entire life.”

A long-time resident of Port Jefferson, she described the many ways in which she has immersed herself into the community culture. “I enjoy playing softball on Tuesday nights and volleyball and golf … and tennis,” she said. “That’s something that I really enjoy doing and that I love about our community.”

DeWitt considers declining enrollment and aging infrastructure to be the two greatest problems facing the district. 

Declining enrollment is an issue which affects the community as a whole, she said, adding that infrastructure investments are necessary to keep the district competitive.

“We have a school with an outstanding reputation, but I really do think that our facilities are in need of some modernization,” she said. “We have some [Americans with Disabilities Act] compliance needs that have to be met, some safety concerns across our buildings and grounds and … in order to draw those young families we really need to look at the exterior and interior of our schools and we really just need to be appealing.”

On the topic of a possible merger, DeWitt concurred with Boehm. “I went to Port Jeff and have a very strong sense of passion for our district,” she said. “I just couldn’t imagine a Port Jeff student or athlete wearing anything other than Port Jeff. That would be tough.” She added, “I definitely would never want to lose our sense of identity.”

Paul Ryan 

Ryan went to Scraggy Hill Elementary and Port Jefferson Junior High before attending The Stony Brook School. For nearly 20 years, he was away in China studying to become a practitioner of Chinese medicine, then returned to Port Jeff.

While Ryan was in China, he taught English to Chinese students. When he returned to the United States, he filled a vital need during a critical time in the community’s history, serving as polling inspector when some seniors had left their posts in fear of the COVID-19 virus.

“When there’s an opportunity, I do my best to step up and that’s why I’m stepping up for the school board,” he said. 

Ryan said building a relationship between the community and the school will be essential to keep the school district operating through this period of declining enrollment. He hopes to identify a prospective niche that will help the district draw more families to the district. 

“We know that people move to Port Jefferson for the special needs program,” Ryan said. “So is there a way that we can build off of something like that?” He added that additional language programs would represent another possible niche and could offset some of the diversity and inclusion problems that the district is also facing. 

Ryan considers redistricting unrealistic. “The people that I have talked to about redistricting say it’s very unlikely that it would happen,” he said. “I don’t think there’s another school district around us that is going to give up its student population.” He added, “As far as mergers go, we can avoid a merger if the school and the school board … have strong community support.”

Don Pollard

Relatively new to the district and the area, Pollard has lived in Port Jefferson for six years. His background is in finance and he now runs a small brokerage firm. 

Before he moved to Port Jeff village, Pollard volunteered at Habitat for Humanity. He was active in Caroline Episcopal Church of Setauket, working to grow the parish and its finances. He helped to successfully organize a Halloween dance for the school and has served on the parents advisory board for sports, helping to expand the district’s athletics program. 

For Pollard, the greatest obstacle facing the district is declining enrollment. “In three years, when we have 60 kids in a class, everything else is really secondary because we won’t have a school district, or it’s going to be really difficult to maintain a school district,” he said.

Pollard proposed creating a task force between local government and the school district to map out a course of action which can better address the enrollment dilemma. He said mitigating the enrollment problem will require joint efforts between the school board, local government, village residents and parents. Pollard also suggested that strengthening the athletics department could help to curb declining enrollment as parents would have less incentive to send their children off to private schools with stronger sports programs.

On the question of a possible merger, Pollard said the board must find ways to prevent this scenario. “That should be first and foremost,” he said.

Earl L. Vandermeulen High School, above, and Comsewogue High School, below, will serve as the polling sites for this year’s school budget and board of education elections. File photos

By Raymond Janis

Next week, community members will have an opportunity to weigh in on the direction of their local schools.

On Tuesday, May 17, the Port Jefferson and Comsewogue school districts will hold public votes seeking approval of their proposed annual budgets and trustee elections. 

Port Jefferson School District

The proposed budget of $46,114,331 has a tax levy increase of 1.74%, which falls below the district’s allowable tax cap limit of 2%. State aid has increased from $3.8 million to $3.84 million.

According to a newsletter from the school district, the proposed 2022-23 budget is designed to maintain and expand upon robust educational initiatives for students while being fiscally mindful of the impact on taxpayers.

The budget allows for the addition of new high school electives, including the introduction of the AP Capstone program. The budget also expands the district’s pre-K program to full day and extends the Integrated Co-Teaching program for grades K-2.

Residents will also vote on projects to renovate the elementary school pool ($533,612), high school athletic event bleachers ($561,000) and high school roofing ($105,387).

Also on the ballot is a $2,335,000 proposition to use the district’s capital reserves to address drainage and retaining walls at the middle school. This second proposition is at no cost to taxpayers and does not affect the tax levy limit.

Voting takes place May 17 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the high school cafeteria.

Comsewogue Union Free 

School District

The proposed expenditure budget for the 2022-23 academic year totals $102,117,258, a 3.7% increase from the previous year. State aid has increased to $35.6 million from $33.2 million, a 7.2% change. It is estimated the average homeowner will pay an extra $162 in annual taxes. 

According to minutes from a May 5 budget hearing, the stated goals of the proposed budget are to increase student learning and maximize student potential by enhancing the quality of instruction throughout the district. 

Through this budget, the board also hopes to ensure a safe, secure and orderly environment that supports student learning. Additionally, it seeks to ensure fiscal responsibility, stability and accountability through a transparent process that has the support of the community, developing a school district budget that is taxpayer sensitive and aligns with the district’s student learning objectives. 

Also on the ballot is Proposition Two, which if approved will reauthorize capital appropriations not exceeding $500,000 to finance health and safety items from the buildings conditions survey, drainage, sidewalks, among other capital investments. It is anticipated that there will be no increase in taxes due to this proposition.

The vote will be held from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the gymnasium of Comsewogue High School, located at 565 N. Bicycle Path, Port Jefferson Station. 

Port Jefferson School District SCMEA Division I students. Photo from PJSD

In-person student musical performances are back, and Port Jefferson School District students represented at the recent Suffolk County Music Educators’ Association All-County Festival held at Ward Melville High School.

In the fifth and sixth grade Division I, students Josie Amtmann, Jenny Cheung, Isabella Fratticci Cseri, Nina Gnatenko, Kai Gronenthal, Ruairi Hogan, Patrick Hutchinson, Nila Manian, Austin Nam, Adyson Nocito, Clara Pearce, Violet Pryor, Sara Puopolo, Aiden Fraticci Rodriguez, Sebastian Salzman, Dylan Sproul, Kaho Sugimoto, Leilani Von Oiste and Elizabeth Yin were selected. Seventh and eighth graders Rowan Casey, Crystal Reustle, Sadie Salzman and Daria Zakharova were selected for Division II, and Division III’s ninth and 10th graders welcomed Earl L. Vandermeulen High School student Andi Kelly.

“Congratulations to all of our outstanding student musicians who were fortunate to perform in the FIRST in-person county music festival in nearly three years!” said Dr. Michael Caravello, district director of music and fine arts.

Edna Louise Spear Elementary School students in Port Jefferson joined thousands of schools nationwide to celebrate Read Across America Week. School librarian Meg Hoon reimagined and reignited a love of books with Drop Everything and Read, which featured five days of fun and festivities.

The hallway leading to the library showcased student reviews of favorite books. Each student created a flag with title, author, illustrator, favorite character and reasons why they liked the story. The first day featured fifth grade guest readers in younger classes. On day two, students wore pajamas and brought favorite books from home. The third day, students were encouraged to read with a buddy and day four was a time to dress like a favorite character. On day five, Hoon and students took the challenge to Read Across America in a literal sense.

Drop Everything and Read was a motivating and inspiring activity throughout the building. Together, students read for 2,913 minutes. This is the distance from New York to California via Interstate 80. Hoon marked the milestone on a map of the U.S. so that students could see the progress and celebrate their achievement.

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.

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Edna Louise Spear Elementary School students in Carleen Parmegiani’s class. Photo from PJSD

Students in Carleen Parmegiani’s and Darlene Wells’ second grade classes at Edna Louise Spear Elementary School are a diverse group with varied interests. 

The students wrote and illustrated their own fact-based books, choosing a topic based on their knowledge of friends, fishing, outer space, pets, sports and winter fun, among others. 

Edna Louise Spear Elementary School students in Darlene Wells’ class. Photo from PJSD

They shared their advancing English language arts skills with a writing celebration to highlight their nonfiction writing curriculum.

The classes rotated sitting at tables set up so administrators and students could stop to hear the stories and see the illustrations that were created. 

Visitors were encouraged to ask questions of the writers and leave a note in the paper hearts to share special comments.

“The students were so excited to share their writing,” Wells said, noting that the event also helped to build their social and public-speaking skills.