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R.C. Murphy Jr. High School

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Photo from school district

By Kimberly Brown

For many students on Long Island, after-school activities have been canceled until further notice due to the pandemic. However, R. C. Murphy Junior High School is one of the very few schools that were able to overcome all obstacles and revive its drama department, making their performance of the musical “Pippin,” which tells the story of a young prince in early Middle Ages searching for meaning and significance, possible again. 

Together with the help of the Three Village Central School District Board of Education, director Anthony Pollera was able to allow himself to think outside the box and find a way to organize the show as well as adhere to COVID-19 guidelines. As a result, he came up with the idea to record the show and sell it as a DVD.

Despite the restrictions, Pollera made “Pippin” safe for the students. All singing parts were prerecorded and performed 12 feet apart, and dancing portions were performed 6 feet apart. Each actor wore masks that worked well with their costumes.

“Our board and superintendent are so supportive of music, theater and the arts.” Pollera said, “They are the reason why all these programs are still ongoing. This group of leaders in our district has rolled up their sleeves and found a way to make it work for us.”

“Pippin” was supposed to be showcased last March but was abruptly canceled once schools began to shut down. Many tickets had already been sold, and Pollera said the students made it all the way to dress rehearsal when two days before the first performance Murphy officially shut down.

“They were crushed, but we felt it was only fair to do the same musical [again],” Pollera said. “However, to be fair and honest, we still held auditions and cast the parts accordingly.”

The students and their parents were more than happy to be back in show business. Dylan Saavedra, who stars as Pippin, said he couldn’t wait to be back on stage, and his parents were equally as thrilled. 

“My parents wanted me back in theater because they knew I was going crazy without it,” Dylan said. “They were pumped that we could do this safely. With masks it is harder to do acting, but they were still super pumped and excited to see it.”

Rachel Rose, who is a leading character in the musical, said while face masks made it harder for the students to act, they took a positive spin on this obstacle and saw it as a personal challenge. In the end, it would improve their acting skills. 

“I think it’s so easy to get caught up in facial expressions that you don’t realize so much of acting is your movement and your voice,” Rachel said. “Wearing a mask has definitely forced me to focus on that, but I think it’s a challenge that is only going to make us better ultimately.”

Details about the “Pippin” DVD release date have not been announced yet.

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Kate Hunter, second from right, was honored by the National Council for the Social Studies as a teacher of the year. Hunter is pictured above with Board President William Connors, Superintendent of Schools Cheryl Pedisich and Minnesauke Principal Brian Biscari. Photo from Three Village Central School District

By Andrea Paldy

The Three Village Central School District board kicked off its first meeting of the school year with a celebration of one of the district’s teachers receiving a national award.

Teacher of the year

Fifth-grade teacher Kate Hunter’s achievement was the highlight of the evening.

“I feel like it’s déjà vu all over again,” Minnesauke principal  Brian Biscari said.

Over the past year, the principal and the board have congratulated Hunter for her accolades as New York State Council for the Social Studies Outstanding Elementary Social Studies Classroom Teacher Award. She had received a similar award earlier from the Long Island Council for the Social Studies. This time, Hunter received a standing ovation for being named National Council for the Social Studies Elementary Level Social Studies Teacher of the Year, which recognizes “exceptional classroom social studies teachers.”

Hunter, who has taught fifth grade for 10 years, began her career in the district at Minnesauke in 2003. This November, she will attend the national NCSS conference in San Francisco, where she will receive her award and present some of her work.

The meeting’s agenda also included a presentation from the director of elementary curriculum and a policy update about home schoolers. Additionally, the school board heard concerns about a summer reading assignment.

Summer reading

Three Village school district canceled the R. C. Murphy Junior High School summer book project before the start of the school year. File photo

Toni Williams-Mulgrave expressed dismay about the summer reading assignment, “Leaving Fletchville,” for

R.C. Murphy Junior High School’s eighth-graders. A Ward Melville graduate and educator herself, Williams-Mulgrave, who is African-American, has a niece who read the assignment.

She told the school board that she was disturbed by the stereotyping and racial slurs in the book.

“Someone has to speak up, and we have to start the communication so that our society can grow — so that the stuff that’s going on across the world doesn’t happen here,” she said.

The family had met with district officials during the summer, and the reading assignment was canceled before the start of the school year.

The book, about siblings who’ve moved to a place where they are “the only black people in town,” was nominated for the 2010 Red Maple Award for seventh- and eighth-grade Canadian literature.

In a prepared statement, board president William Connors said that the district’s decision “to eliminate this year’s summer reading project was based on the interest of our students and primarily the connection one aspect of the book had to national events transpiring this summer — events that occurred well after the book was chosen.”

“Our district is strongly committed to creating learning environments that promote acceptance, respect and inclusivity as well as a rich curriculum encompassing the literary classics and emerging prize-winning authors,” Connors said. 

District superintendent Cheryl Pedisich also addressed the matter. In her statement, she said that the district’s program review committee will review independent summer reading assignments this year and make “any recommended changes” they believe will further benefit students.

Elementary curriculum

Director of elementary curriculum  Nathalie Lilavois unveiled the first part of a program that she said would

help boost the district’s goal of guiding students towards becoming “skilled problem solvers, perceptive thinkers, quality producers, lifelong learners and self-directed learners.”

Lilavois’ first focus is elementary math. She explained that she prepared a document that lays out the district’s elementary-level math curriculum and articulates how it aligns to the math learning standards. Lilavois made the material available to teachers on an expansive, interactive website that makes it easier for them to use in the classroom.

The site is organized by grade and then by topic. It has core-aligned resources, including GoMath —  the district’s math program — and other websites that provide supplemental information and approaches to each focus area. The online project also enables teachers to suggest their own resources and ideas.

Lilavois will continue to build the site for all elementary subject levels and is developing the English language arts program this year.

In other business, the district updated several policies as required by statute. It also amended a policy to allow homeschooled students in the district to participate in noncredit and nonathletic extracurricular activities such as clubs.

Under sunny skies, children filed off buses at Setauket Elementary School Sept. 5 ready to start a new school year. Many children could be seen smiling as they greeted friends and teachers they hadn’t seen all summer, and a few younger students were teary-eyed as they took in their new surroundings.

The air of excitement extended throughout the Three Village Central School District as students anticipated embarking on new adventures.

“I’m looking forward to seeing all my friends who I didn’t see over the summer, and meeting my new teacher,” said Jordyn Zezelic, a fifth-grader at Nassakeag Elementary School.

Allie Konsevitch, a seventh-grader at R.C. Murphy Junior High School, said she was happy about starting her first year at the intermediate school and changing classes.

Sophia Kornreich, an eighth-grader at Murphy who tested out of Spanish I, said she was looking forward to the challenge of Spanish II.

“I love Murphy because something about the building is very warm, and it feels like one really big family,” Sophia said.

Her sister Athena, who goes to Nassakeag, said she was excited about starting sixth grade, meeting her new teacher Ms. Safranek and taking part in upcoming activities.

“I’m very eager for the Halloween dance, car wash, buddies [program] and graduation,” Athena said. “I am thrilled to move on to sixth grade.”

A week before the beginning of the school year, the district conducted orientation programs for incoming seventh- and 10th-grade students of Ward Melville High School and R.C. Murphy and P.J. Gelinas junior high schools. Students were able to ask questions of administration members and upperclassmen were in attendance to help new students locate their lockers and classrooms.

Rachael Catalano, a sophomore at Ward Melville, said she is excited about “making many new friends and seeing the multiple opportunities that the high school has to offer to get involved in.”

Volunteers at last year’s Three Village Kids Lemonade Stand event. Photo from Three Village Kids Lemonade Stand

The fifth annual Three Village Kids Lemonade Stand will take place Aug. 2 from 2 to 6 p.m. With permission from the Three Village Central School District, this will be the first year that co-founders, siblings Maddie and Joseph Mastriano, will have the lemonade stand on the grounds of R.C. Murphy Junior High School instead of in front of their home.

The organizers anticipate visits from celebrity Chef Barret Beyer from the television series Hell’s Kitchen, team members from the Stony Brook University men’s basketball and women’s soccer teams and the Long Island Rough Riders. There will also be a performance by the local student band Swim.

Sales from the lemonade stand benefit  Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. Last year 70 student volunteers from the school district were on hand to help out, and customers included members of the New York Islanders, the Long Island Ducks and local legislators.

In addition to lemonade being available, the day will include games and activities for all ages and raffles.

Rain date is August 3. R.C. Murphy Junior High School is located at 351 Oxhead Road, Stony Brook. For more information or to make an online donation, visit www.threevillagekidslemonadestand.com.

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Rohan Murphy, a wrestler who lost his legs at birth, shares his story to encourage kids at R.C. Murphy Jr. High School. Photo from Three Village Central School District

The words and story of Rohan Murphy captivated R.C. Murphy Jr. High School students and staff as the inspirational speaker visited the building in early April and encouraged all to live a life with “no excuses.”

Murphy, who lost his legs at birth, shared his story of overcoming life’s obstacles and physical challenges in order to achieve his personal standards for success.

He told the students how he pushed himself to achieve both academically and athletically, as he went on become a Division I college wrestler at Penn State University.

The event was held in conjunction with the annual town hall meeting, which serves to bring the entire school together to focus on a topic of particular importance.

At the end of his speech, Murphy joined the students’ lunch periods to speak in small groups in order to continue the conversation.