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Port Jefferson School District

Bob Lynch and his dog Kallie visit local schools to offer therapy dog services. Photo by Kyle Barr

Bob Lynch and his dog Kallie are magnetic, or at least it seems that way to watch people come forward, asking gingerly if they can pet the dog, her tail waving frantically.

Coming into the TBR News Media offices, Kallie was the star of the show, and Lynch just let her work her magic. She doesn’t make a sound, instead just walking toward people asking to be petted. 

Lynch, a 73-year-old Mount Sinai resident, has been volunteering his time working with therapy dog services for the past several years. He’s owned Kallie, a keeshond, since she was a puppy, and they have been a team for five years. Though he works part time as a risk management consultant, he finds his biggest joy nowadays is taking Kallie where she’s needed most, on a voluntary basis, through the local chapter of Love on a Leash, which provides these services free of charge.

“[Keeshonds] were bred to be babysitters — when they see kids they light up, they love kids, and going to school is perfect for that.”

– Bob Lynch

Kallie has been to nursing homes, veterans homes and hospitals, but where she’s been that her breed might be best at is at schools. 

“[Keeshonds] were bred to be babysitters — when they see kids they light up, they love kids, and going to school is perfect for that,” he said. “The work in itself is fulfilling, you walk into a room and see the smiles, and see the demeanor of the people change very quickly.”

Lynch will soon be at the Port Jefferson high and middle schools often as part of a new pilot program in the district that they say will relieve stress among students.

Christine Austen, the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said she was contacted by Lynch last year and submitted it to the curriculum committee as a pilot, which they approved. The pilot program will run twice a month for four months starting in February and ending in May. A mailer and email will be sent to parents asking them whether they would like to opt out of such visits with the dog, whether it’s from allergies or a fear of animals. Austen said the decision of whether the dog is allowed in certain classes would be treated like allergies.

When presented at the Jan. 14 board meeting, some trustees expressed concerns about safety. Austen said the dog trainer would not be allowed alone with a student at any time and would always have a faculty member present.

Tara Sladek-Maharg, who teaches social studies and psychology in both the middle and high schools, originally brought in a therapy dog for her AP psychology class last year. She had become enthused about the idea of a therapy dog in the classroom after witnessing firsthand what a demonstrably positive effect it had on her own father, when trainer Linda Christian and her dog Murphy, also of Love on a Leash, came to Stony Brook University Hospital and showed him love and compassion after he had a seizure and was going through rehabilitation.

“He goes into rehab and he just sits and goes to each individual person and just lays his head down on them — petting the dog is just so calming,” she said. 

Bringing Murphy into the classroom so that the students could review classical conditioning was a transformative experience, Sladek-Maharg said. She has done more research into just why these dogs have such a positive impact on so many. The research shows that being around such dogs has a significant effect on a person’s neurotransmitters and hormones and significantly reduces fear and stress.

Studies have also shown such animals have a positive effect on elementary school students, especially in helping them speak up in public or in class.

“Today our students are very stressed — our staff is very stressed, so having the presence of a dog is just a wonderful outlet,” she said. “They don’t discriminate, especially if they are trained therapy animals. They don’t have any reason to make somebody feel self-conscious, and they have a calming effect on us.”

“Just petting the dog, they get this feeling of unconditional love.”

– Catherine Lynch 

Other school districts that have experimented with therapy dogs in classrooms have come away talking of success. Lynch has been a regular at events hosted in the Longwood school district, Miller Place School District and Ward Melville in the Three Village district. 

Miller Place High School Library Media Specialist Catherine Lynch brings in therapy dogs once a year during testing to help students relax during such a stressful time. One thing she has noticed is students regularly put away their phones when interacting with the dogs, instead talking and petting the dogs or speaking with each other.

“Just petting the dog, they get this feeling of unconditional love,” she said, adding she would like to see the program expanded to multiple times throughout the school year.

In the Comsewogue school district, special education teacher Tom King has been taking his therapy-trained labradoodle to his classes for years. Last June, during exam season, the district brought in multiple dogs into the school cafeteria to interact with students. 

Love on a Leash is a national organization that started in San Diego in the 1980s as a volunteer organization for therapy dogs. The organization has expanded to include chapters across the U.S. and several thousand members. The Long Island chapter was founded about a decade ago and includes over 150 members and just around 25 “active” participants covering Suffolk, Nassau and parts of Queens.

Theresa Schwartz, the chapter president, said schools have been expanding such programs with therapy dogs. When she started about three years ago, schools would ask her to come in during testing times, but that has expanded into doing reading programs in elementary schools, after-school wildlife clubs, SEPTA events and even offering support services during emotionally fraught times, such as when a teacher or a student passes away.

The fact that Love on a Leash is a nonprofit volunteer organization makes the program unique, Lynch said. From the start, people who train the dogs and take them around are also their owners, living with them 24/7, and they have personally seen the ways a dog has helped bring people who are truly suffering a little bit of joy.

“I think I can speak for most of our volunteers doing this kind of thing, [it] makes the team, the dog and the handler, feel better, and makes other people feel better,” she said. “You see what joy your dog can bring to other people.”

Young people in an environment like school, Austen said, respond especially to animals. It has even had a positive impact on faculty.

“It just seems to take down the level of anxiety,” she said. “There are so many instigators of that, whether it’s cellphone use or social media — all of that constant stimulation. Then there are the academics at the high school, and the push to perform.”

If successful, which she expects the program will be, she wants to expand it to the elementary school, where studies have shown therapy dogs have a positive impact on helping people speak up in class.

 

Nikki and John Poulianos during the 2014 prom production of “The Wizard of Oz”. Photo by Clinton Rubin

By Julianne Mosher

Although their children graduated from Port Jefferson high school years ago, John and Nikki Poulianos still help out the students whenever they get a chance. 

The Port Jefferson Prom Committee. Photo by Drew Biondo

“The Poulianos clan has had an extraordinary impact on many families across Port Jeff,” Clinton Rubin, a parent with a child in the school district said. “Remarkably, it comes from so many different directions — they are what makes Port Jeff a family.”

John is a business owner and Nikki works for a few hours at the high school as its equipment manager, Joan Lyons, head custodian of Port Jefferson high school said. She added that the Poulianoses are constantly giving their time and energy back to the students — especially with the annual prom.

“Together the two of them work endless hours volunteering with the prom,” she said. “Without them, rest assured, there would not be a Port Jeff prom.”

The Port Jefferson prom is a big event for the school and community alike, and parents start to plan it months in advance. 

“What the Poulianoses do for the prom and kids is amazing,” Lyons added. “They’re there from the start of it until the very end setting it up and breaking it down.”

Lyons, who has worked in the school district for 33 years, said that without this couple, there would be no prom. 

“They’re good, nice people — not many people would do this stuff,” she added. “Thank God the school district and community has them.”

But the pair doesn’t just work on prom. They come to every soccer game (John is the high school boys soccer coach) and Nikki helps all the athletes in the school with their uniforms. 

“They just like to do things for the kids of Port Jeff,” Theresa Tsunis, a Port Jefferson resident said. “Nikki was in attendance at every single middle school basketball game my children were involved in. She is undeniably dedicated to the students of Port Jefferson.”

While the couple is active within the school district, John and Nikki also help out in other parts of the community. John works closely with Hope House and the Port Jeff Cub Scout Pack 41, while the couple is also active with the Greek festival every year. 

“We are all incredibly fortunate to have such a caring, committed family as part of our village infrastructure,” Rubin said. “They are what makes our town so special, and what makes it so easy to smile when thinking of our past and our future.”

So many people respect the constant volunteerism and selflessness of John and Nikki Poulianos.  

“They’re not the couple of the year, Janet Stafford, a Port Jeff resident, said. “They’re the couple of the decade.”

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Last year 55 students from Port Jeff took the polar plunge. This year 70 students have dedicated to jump into North Shore waters Nov. 23. Photo from Deirdre Filippi

The Port Jefferson high school varsity club raised around $9,500 for the Special Olympics last year. This year, as the club’s number of students swell, club advisers hope to do even better.

The annual Polar Plunge, which takes place at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai, is back again Nov. 23. Last year, the club sent 55 students into freezing cold waters, plus two advisers. 

“As a club in its fourth year, doing it we had a really good experience,” said Jesse Rosen, club co-adviser and social studies teacher. “The level of ownership in helping another human being is an awesome thing.”

For this year’s event, the club has taken on some new recruits. This year 70 students will take the plunge, which represents close to 25 percent of the overall ninth through 12th grade population.

The Polar Plunge is run by the Special Olympics, where the money raised from the event goes toward supporting a Special Olympics athlete in sports training, and health and inclusion programs for individuals with intellectual disabilities looking to compete. The organization advertises that $400 will give enough funds for one athlete to train for a year.

“We were so proud to help sponsor over 20 people to compete in the Special Olympics,” Rosen said.

The growing participation has both club advisers excited about this weekend’s event.

“I think Jesse would agree that we are thrilled to have so many student athletes taking part in this year’s Polar Plunge,” co-adviser Deirdre Filippi said. “We couldn’t think of a better organization to support and we are ecstatic to see so many of our students rallying behind such a great cause.” 

In addition to the Polar Plunge, the senior varsity club has been involved in the recent Powder Puff flag football game between the classes of 2020 and 2021, volleyball tournaments and assisting young people with special needs from the League of Yes, which creates baseball programs for kids with disabilities.

While the club does not have the final word on how much money it has raised this year, club advisers said they hope it continues to build even more after this year’s event.

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For Keith Buehler, guidance counselor at Port Jefferson Middle School, fishing and being out on the water was second nature to him growing up on Long Island. So when students came to him saying they wanted to start a fishing club at the school, he thought it would be a good opportunity to share his passion with others. 

“I loved the idea,” Buehler said. “I told them to get names and start a petition to start a new club.”

The middle school guidance counselor said the school principal, Robert Neidig, was very supportive of their efforts and helped in the process of getting the necessary paperwork to the district office. 

“You want to be a good role model for the kids, just getting out there and sharing one of your passions with them is fun.”

— Keith Buehler

The club has close to 70 students currently enlisted with both middle and high schoolers encouraged to join. 

Buehler said they had already started to have meetings and have begun to teach students the basics of fishing. 

“We were practicing casting and how to properly hold a pole,” he said. “Everyone has different levels of experience so right now it’s just about getting the equipment they need.”

Buehler, who fishes on his kayak at Smith Point Marina, as well as Rocky Point and Port Jeff, said through his connections from the local fishing community the club has received equipment and other items to get them started on future fishing trips. 

The Long Island Salt Savages, a Facebook group with over 3,500 members dedicated to fishing, donated poles, bait and other equipment to the club. 

“We’ve been very grateful for the support, they are a bunch of great guys,” Buehler said. “It really has given us a good foundation to start from.”

In addition, Buehler has gotten Soundview Heating & Air Conditioning, a business in Middle Island, to sponsor the club and will get T-shirts made for the students.  

Buehler said the reaction from students has been great and are excited to get out on the water. 

“I’m a morning fisherman, so I go out before school sometimes — some of the kids will see me with my fishing gear when I come in and they’ll ask me questions,” he said. 

Greg Gorniok, science teacher at Port Jeff High School and co-advisor for the club, said he believes the club is a great opportunity for students to get on the water. 

“It was a no-brainer,” he said. “Keith and I fish all the time; a lot of students have the same experiences [as us]…It’s nice to share that passion with them.”

Gorniok said another positive is that they are exposing students to the waters of Long Island. 

“It will be fun, the kids get to see you in a different light and you better connect with them,” he said. 

While the club will be predominately about fishing, Buehler said they also want to plan beach trips, local boat excursions, beach cleanups, focus on environmental and conservation activism, as well as bringing in speakers to talk to students. 

The adviser hopes to continue to expand the club in the future. They have begun to raffle off equipment to members who attend club meetings as well.  

The club plans to do its first beach/fishing trip of the fall on Oct. 24 at East Beach in Port Jefferson. Buehler said in the spring he wants to plan out more fishing trips and educate students on local and state fishing laws. 

“The students have been a big part of this,” Buehler said. “You want to be a good role model for the kids, just getting out there and sharing one of your passions with them is fun.” 

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Edward T. McMullen Jr., the U.S. ambassador to Switzerland, visited Port Jeff High School Oct. 18. Photo by Julianne Mosher

By Julianne Mosher

Earl L. Vandermeulen High School welcomed the U.S. ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, Edward T. McMullen Jr., as its 2019 Wall of Fame inductee, adding his name to the dozens of special alumni that graduated from the district.

On Oct. 18, McMullen visited his former alma mater, where he graduated from in 1983, and walked through the halls of his former middle and high schools. He commented on what has changed and reminisced about the fun times he had in these same classrooms. 

“The great thing is nothing has changed, it still feels as warm and welcoming as it did when I was a student here.”  

– Edward T. McMullen Jr.

After leaving Port Jefferson in the early ’80s, McMullen continued his education at Hampden-Sydney College, where he earned a bachelor’s in political science. In 1995, he was selected to participate in The American Swiss Foundation’s Young Leaders program, an annual conference that works to foster mutual understanding among the next generation of leaders in Switzerland and the U.S. 

“It’s always nice to honor alumni,” High School Principal Eric Haruthunian said. “It’s great to see them grow to make positive changes in the world.”

McMullen founded McMullen Public Affairs, a corporate advertising firm, before he was appointed by President Donald Trump (R) in 2017 to serve as U.S. ambassador to the two countries.  

When he visited the school on Friday, he brought along his high school friends and was joined by former teachers. One teacher in particular, Richard Olson, who taught U.S. history for almost four decades and retired in 2002, was ecstatic to show off McMullen to passing students and administrators throughout the halls.

Edward T. McMullen Jr. in front of the Port Jeff High School Wall of Fame. Photo by Julianne Mosher

“This is one of my students,” he’d say throughout the tour. During his speech when he received his plaque, McMullen acknowledged that the education he received from Olson was partly why he ended up on the path that he did.

“Mr. Olson was an inspiration for many students because of his love of history,” he said.  

The tour ended at the library where the celebration began. McMullen was greeted by members of the school orchestra and dozens of students and teachers sat in for his inauguration to the hall of fame, which was created in 1996 and honors Port Jefferson graduates who made a difference in categories like academics, fine arts, sports and community service. 

“To think that our school district had a part in this, having an ambassador, means so much,” Superintendent Paul Casciano said. “There’s so much prestige.”

Before he left, he had one piece of advice to the students sitting in the audience. 

“Go to college, learn languages and travel the world,” he said. “The world needs intelligent, smart people like you.”

 

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Outcoming and incoming supers speak on LIPA glide path, enrollment numbers and community

Jessica Schmettan is taking over as the incoming superintendent for the Port Jeff school district. Photo by Kyle Barr

Walking into the Port Jefferson School District administrative offices, it’s apparent changes are on the way. Jessica Schmettan, the incoming superintendent, has moved into the office where outgoing superintendent Paul Casciano once sat. Schmettan’s desk is like a blank slate, mostly bare save for a few files and pencil holder. Casciano, on the other hand, has moved into a back room and works off a laptop.

Just on the other side of a wall is Casciano’s temporary desk. As the man who was only meant to be an “interim superintendent” finishes up his third and final year as super, he is anticipating the coming of Oct. 31, his last day before retirement. He said he expects to take some much-needed vacation time and perhaps get down to writing a book or two.

The incoming super is a nine-year Port Jeff resident, and Casciano said she was one of the best first decisions he made when he came into the district.

“She’s bright, she’s a problem solver, and she’s younger than me, so she is likely to be around for a long time,” he said.

It’s the start of something new, but the continuation of the old, both exiting and incoming superintendents said, and there are many challenges the district will face in the years to come.

Impact of LIPA glide path

Closing on a year since Port Jefferson village and the Town of Brookhaven settled with LIPA over the Port Jefferson Power Station’s tax assessments, school officials said the decision is going to be a heavy deciding factor in every ongoing budget for the next eight years of the glide path. Later years will see even more challenges as the glide path increasingly reduces the tax dollars paid to the school.

Though the district expects it will maintain a tax rate that’s less than all other surrounding school districts, it also means local residents are going to make up a larger portion of revenues.

“This is not only a financial issue, but that issue impacts our core mission, which is teaching and learning,” Casciano said. “It has a lot of pieces — our position is the burden is going to need to be shared, that’s our take on it all along.”

Paul Casciano is leaving the Port Jeff school district after three years as its superintendent. TBR News Media file photo

Schmettan expects things will need to be cut, including potentially some certain classes with low enrollment.

An increase of taxes always brings the thought that some residents would be pressured to leave.

“It’s going to depend on how the community reacts — we don’t want to trim so much we have nothing left, we also don’t want people feeling they can’t live here anymore,” Schmettan said. “We’ll still maintain a low tax rate after those eight years, lower than other surrounding districts, but I think that as people start to see what may or may not happen, you’re going to get community support.”

Both superintendents emphasized the need for support from the community as the district moves forward in the glide path. Casciano said his belief is parents who may have had their kids graduate from school already have the responsibility to at the very least be active with the district, giving the same opportunity to those families who are just beginning their path in grade school. The outgoing super likened it to a balance, adding a school district’s strength will also show itself on home values.

“There are two schools of thought, there are people who look at it as, ‘Hey, I don’t have anything vested now,’” he said. “I don’t agree with that — the quality of the schools says a lot about your property values, whether you’re intending to sell or leave it to someone else when you go.” 

Because of these changes, the district announced it would be hosting School-Community Partnership meetings in a roundtable setting, looking to give local residents the chance to offer their opinions on where things could go during the next eight years.

Community involvement

The School-Community Partnership is the way the district hopes to gather interest in moving forward, both from people who have kids in the district, have seen their kids graduate, or for those who don’t have any children in Port Jeff.

“It’s really an open forum for community members, to express our concerns over the glide path,” Schmettan said. “It will really be like an open forum for people to share their concerns in smaller groups — not livestreamed — more open for discussion, and not as structured as a board meeting.”

The difficulty will be coming to a consensus. While some parents may look at a class with low enrollment and look to take the ax to it, another parent with a student in that class may think differently.

People are being encouraged to provide input on programs, facilities and financial challenges being reviewed by the board of education and administration. The first meeting is slated for Tuesday, Oct. 29, at 7 p.m. in the Earl L. Vandermeulen High School/Middle School library, at 350 Old Post Road, in Port Jefferson.

Future enrollment

This school year, the district dropped a kindergarten class because of generally low enrollment at the youngest level. Its total student population of 1,077 students is one of the smallest on Long Island. Last year’s graduating class was 97, but regularly fluctuates between the high 80s and 90s.

But thinking down the road, the new superintendent has to consider what it will mean when the smaller classes finally make their way to the high school senior level in 12 years.

And considering the LIPA glide path, she will also have to consider what will happen should lower grade enrollment continue to shrink. Schmettan herself has two children in the district, both in this current kindergarten class.

“We have to engage the community more, we have to show everybody, especially for people who don’t have kids what is the value of the school district and how does it impact your home value,” the incoming super said.

She added the recent homecoming events were a great way to get people more active in the district’s goings-ons.

The outgoing super said the important thing is keeping the district attractive to new homebuyers looking to settle down and raise children in the district.

“Right now, you have the best of both worlds, low taxes and a great school system,” he said. “We want to maintain a good school system, so it might come up some families might say I was staying here because taxes were way low, people with multiple homes will say I’ll own one, not three. The families that purchase may in fact have children, and that’s because of the quality of the schools.”

What makes Port Jeff special

Though Casciano is leaving Port Jeff after three years, he said he came to learn more individuals in the district than he had when he worked for years at William Floyd. Schmettan said the same for her time as assistant superintendent at the Sachem school district.

That small size means there are very few ways to keep a secret, but, as the outgoing and incoming supers agreed, it also means students are more accepting of each other. They referenced the recent shooting at the Port Jeff Liquors, as when they got the notification of the incident the buses had just left from the middle school. District officials went to the scene to make sure students weren’t going to walk through, and elementary principal Tom Meehan even walked some students home.

“I feel fortunate I’ve had the opportunity to work in Port Jeff, know the people who work in the community,” Casciano said. “There’s a real warmth, there’s a real caring for how the kids do, not only on the part of the parents but on the part of the teachers.”

Schmettan said the district is representative of the larger community.

“Our students are so diverse in what they approach,” she said. “Our kids are so diverse, and they mix and mingle so well, and they’re really open to each other. They’re so accepting of one another. That’s definitely something I see in our community as a whole. The school district is a microcosm of the entire community.”

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PJ Royals Win in Homecoming Blowout

Port Jefferson homecoming football game against Greenport/Southold/Mattituck Oct. 5. Photo by Bill Landon

The weekend of Oct. 4-6 was one of purple and Royals pride. Hundreds swarmed through Port Jefferson during the annual parade, and more gathered in the Joe Erland Field for fun and games, as the Village of Port Jefferson, Port Jefferson School District, Port Jefferson Free Library and local residents combined their efforts to put on a huge blowout celebration.

When it came to the game at 2 p.m. Oct. 5, it was a Royal’s rout when Greenport/Southold/Mattituck came calling and was blown out by Port Jefferson 62-0. From the opening kickoff it was all Port Jeff as wide receiver Aidan Kaminska proved unstoppable as the senior found the end zone three times, along with teammates Luke Verruto and Luke Filippi who each had a pair of touchdowns. Junior Alex Ledesma split the uprights eight times for the extra point.Senior quarterback Sam Florio, who was healthy after missing last week’s game against Mount Sinai, threw for over 250 yards with four TD passes in the Div. IV matchup.

The win lifts the Royals to 2-3 with three games remaining before the post season and are back in action with a road game against Elwood John Glenn Oct. 12. Kickoff is at 1:30pm.

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Village, school district, businesses and community come together for new homecoming celebration. Photo by Kyle Barr

“Always a Royal.”

That is how school district and village officials alike are calling present and past residents to attend this year’s homecoming celebration, shifting away from school-centered pride to exulting the whole of Port Jefferson.

The village and district are working hand in hand to create a celebration at Joe Erland Field near Caroline Avenue just west of Barnum Avenue. The celebration will include food, games and music from a DJ, and will take place in between the annual parade that flows down Main Street and the homecoming game set to take place Saturday, Oct. 5.

Port Jefferson homecoming floats make their way through the parade Oct. 21, 2017. File photo by Bill Landon

The change has come in response to district officials last year canceling the annual bonfire. As classic as it was, school district officials said the bonfire was unsafe and a redundant way of gathering school pride. They said it meant children wandering into nearby woods without supervision, adding their own internal pep rally did enough to promote school spirit.

Port Jeff Superintendent Paul Casciano said the bonfire could not continue as it had before, especially considering security and safety.

“We cannot guarantee that when children are dropped off at the high school for this particular night event, that they are in an environment that is safe and secure,” he said. “We are grateful for the conversations that have developed among community members, our board of education members and staff to come up with a carefully considered plan as we move forward.”

Not letting themselves get discouraged, community members looked to celebrate Port Jeff pride, and more than that, bridge the gap between school district, village, shops and community.

Jae Hartzell, a Port Jefferson resident and a local photographer, said many residents were upset the bonfire was canceled, calling it an old tradition. She started looking toward creating something new, perhaps even establishing a new tradition in itself. She and fellow resident Paul Braille have worked alongside school and village officials in crafting the new event.

“[This event] is a really enriching tradition and there’s a huge collaboration to increase school pride and school spirit that will continue for generations,” Hartzell said. “It’s all about creating traditions in the community — a way to stay rooted with your community.”

Along with several food trucks, the field will also be littered with games of Can Jam, Cornhole and giant Jenga, all provided through the Port Jefferson Free Library. There will also be face painting on behalf of the school art department.

Beyond the celebration at surrounding Caroline Avenue, the school district has connected with multiple businesses to emphasize school spirit and the community as a whole, including alumni. PJ Brewery is promoting live music by the band Damaged Goods, while throughout the weekend businesses will be promoting happy hour and brunch specials specifically for alumni. Prohibition Kitchen will also include Mayor Margot Garant as guest bartender Oct. 5. Participating restaurants include Nantuckets, Joey-Z, Prohibition Kitchen, Junior’s Spycoast, Billie’s 1890 Saloon and Old Fields Restaurant, just to name a few.

The Joe Erland Field will play host to an upcomming homecoming celebration. Photo by Kyle Barr

In the first meetings looking to create the new homecoming event, village trustee Kathianne Snaden was brought on board to give the village’s point of view. She said she immediately took to the idea. The village has put up the funds to pay for the food trucks, the DJ, physical and online promotions and has allowed the use of the field. Meanwhile, Port Jeff students will be creating a banner to go up along the football field at the high school, each letter being done by a different grade from Kindergarten through fifth grade, spelling “Royals.” The event, she said, has the possibility of doing much to bridge a gap between village and school district, one that has existed from each entity “doing their own thing.”

“When this came up, I said I wanted to take this up and make this work, because for the village this bridge has been broken for so long for whatever reason,” the trustee said.

“This is the best way to bring that back.”

School board Vice President Tracy Zamek said once the district established there would no longer be a bonfire at homecoming, the idea of bringing the community together in celebration, off school property and hosted by the village, immediately appealed to them. 

“We’re really excited about waking up the village and bringing the school and village together as one entity — as a tight-knit community,” Zamek said.

Those involved said they hope the new event will bring in more people for the annual homecoming game, which all said has had relatively little attendance for the past few years.

In regard to the food trucks, Snaden said the businesses were contacted first to see if they would be available to set up stalls, but according to the trustee none had the correct permits. Having them host specials throughout the weekend was a way in which they could contribute, she said, with Hartzell adding she hoped they may be able to get the permits to participate in the future. 

Festivities start Oct. 4 at the PJ Brewery with Damaged Goods playing at 7 p.m. The following day will include an 11 a.m. parade that rolls down Main Street and crosses over West Broadway onto Barnum Avenue, letting people move onto Joe Erland Field for the days’ activities. The football game is set to kickoff at 2 p.m. Alumni will receive complimentary mimosas at village restaurants for brunch that Sunday, Oct. 6.

Quest to remember the Royals fight song

In preparation for the upcoming homecoming, Port Jeff music staff wanted to bring back the classic “fight song” played at homecoming in the decades past.

However, there was a problem, said Christine Creighton, the middle and high school band teacher. The music sheets were nowhere to be found. 

Mike Caravello, the director of music and fine arts at PJSD, gathered together music teachers from across the district, including Creighton, middle and high school chorus teacher Jeffrey Trelewicz and middle school band teacher Edward Pisano, to find a way to bring back the fight music. 

It came from an unexpected place. One of the security staff at the district, Amy Goldstein, is an alumnus and told the staff she was part of the marching band when she was in school in the ’80s and knew the fight song by heart. It is a jaunty tune, a classic marching theme that’s short and to the point. 

“We’re really excited about waking up the village and bringing the school and village together as one entity — as a tight-knit community.”

— Tracy Zamek

Creighton said Goldstein recorded the song for her. Taking that, she transcribed  it on piano while the music staff helped her with the harmony. They then put it into music writing software. 

They played it back for Goldstein, and she reacted with glee. 

“She said, ‘It’s just like the real thing,’” Creighton said.

Alumni, the music staff said, are “coming out of the woodwork,” to help bring the song back for the upcoming homecoming game. 

“They can all sing the fight song, they know it by heart,” said Caravello.

The middle school marching band will be leading this year’s parade, while the pep band will play the fight song at the end of the midday celebration at Joe Erland Field and during the homecoming game itself. Residents can expect to hear the song Oct. 5.

The Harborfields Tornadoes had the measure of the Lady Royals of Port Jefferson in their season opener Sept. 10, winning the game at home 7-1. Senior Co-Captain Gracie Heil led the way for the Tornadoes with two goals, while junior Katie Davis scored along with an assist. Junior Kate Christensen, senior Mia Desiderio, junior Taylor Sammis and freshman Melissa Neder rounded out the scoring with a goal apiece. Harborfields senior keeper Zoe Krief made seven saves at net.

The Royals broke the ice in the second half when Sophomore Abigal Rolfe’s shot found the net with 18 minutes left.

Port Jeff plays an away game against Hampton Bays before they take on Kings Park in their first home game Sept. 18  at 4 p.m.

The Tornadoes retake the field Sept. 16 at home where they’ll try their hand against the Lady Kingsmen. Game time is also 4:00pm.

 

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Left, new HS Principal Eric Haruthunian; right, new pre-K-8 Assistant Principal Amy Laverty. Photo from PJSD Facebook

The Port Jefferson School District announced new faces will be standing by the doors of school buildings come September as other district personnel move up through the ranks.

Eric Haruthunian was named principal at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School, while Amy Laverty has been named pre-K-8 assistant principal.

Before joining the Port Jefferson School District, Haruthunian most recently served as the assistant principal at John F. Kennedy High School in the Plainview-Old Bethpage School District, where he served since 2015. Prior to that position, he served as supervisor of discipline at Wantagh High School. His professional background also includes eight years of teaching experience in mathematics at the middle and high school level in the Freeport School District.

Port Jefferson High School Principal Christine Austen. File photo

The new high school principal earned a master’s of science degree in educational leadership from the College of New Rochelle and a master’s of science in elementary education from LIU Post. He holds a bachelor’s of arts in secondary math education, also from LIU Post, and permanent certification as a school administrator/supervisor, school district administrator and in 7-12 mathematics.

Haruthunian comes in to replace now Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Christine Austen, the previous principal, after a several-month search for a replacement.

Laverty joins Port Jeff from the Northport-East Northport School District, where she served a dual role as the summer reading program principal and the instructional curriculum coordinator. Before that, she was a classroom teacher at various elementary levels in the district’s Ocean Avenue Elementary School.

She earned a master’s of arts in liberal studies from Stony Brook University and a bachelor’s of arts in child study and students with disabilities from St. Joseph’s College. She holds initial certification in school building leadership and professional certifications in early childhood/childhood and students with disabilities. She also received an educational leadership advanced certificate from LIU Post.

In her new role, Laverty will work with Port Jefferson Middle School Principal Robert Neidig and Edna Louise Spear Elementary School Principal Thomas Meehan.

“The educational experiences of both Mr. Haruthunian and Ms. Laverty will help us continue to guide our students in the stimulating learning environment of our schools,” said incoming Superintendent Jessica Schmettan on a post to the district’s Facebook page. She will be replacing current Superintendent Paul Casciano come the end of October. 

“We look forward to their professional commitment to our students, staff and entire school community,” she added.