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Rocky Point High School

Athletic Director Charlie Delargey charges down court. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Rich Acritelli

On Feb. 28, at Rocky Point High School, administrators, teachers, coaches, support staff and even district groundskeepers participated in the 2nd annual Swooping and Hooping basketball game. It was a night filled with cheers, laughs and comradery to raise money for the school’s Kids in Need Fund and VFW Post 6249 program to aid our local Wounded Warriors. Since the early fall, the game and fundraiser were led by the creative efforts of math teachers Jenessa Eilers and Carly Tribby. Through their efforts, the school raised $3,400 this year.

Guidance counselor Jimmy Jordan, also the boys basketball coach, passes to an open player. Photo by Kyle Barr

At the start of this year, the two younger educators took control of the Be a Nicer Neighbor Club after social studies teacher Brooke Bonomi retired last year. From looking at their ability to handle this lively night, a new torch has certainly been passed and accepted by Eilers and Tribby to continue making the school a “better place.” While the activity was flawlessly guided, these two educators put in countless hours in planning the fundraiser. They were present to guide the student-based process of organizing teams, general managers, coaches and entertainment for the night. Like that of Bonomi, it was the goal of Eilers and Tribby to give the students the responsibility in establishing the roots of success that will allow Swooping and Hooping to be a strong tradition for the high school.

Several weeks before this game, students organized a draft to pick the players for the night. With an assortment of background music, every participant was chosen by the leadership of groups named Hoops We Did It Again, Strawberry Thunder, the Dunkin Dino’s and the Flipping Mandalorians.  Up until the game, the students were expected to organize their rosters, make trades and sign free agents. For several mornings of the past week, Eilers and Tribby were surrounded by their club members to sell early tickets and team shirts which were worn by staff and alumni. Every part of the school district was represented within these four teams, from Principal Jonathan Hart and Athletic Director Charlie Delargey to the girls basketball coach Reagan Lynch and the athletic groundskeeper Aaron Lipsky. Armed with big smiles, the players arrived early, where they practiced shooting, stretched and organized some lay-up drills. Bonomi, a familiar face, wore a huge smile over the positive actions of Eilers and Tribby to build on a the event that he help create.

After a rousing national anthem performed by senior Molly Lambert and the presentation of the colors by Post 6249, its commander, Joe Cognitore, started the game with the tip-off. First-year assistant principal Lauren Neckin started the evening off on a high point by hitting a 3-pointer.  Right away, the students chanted for their fan favorites and intently watched the staff members who drove to the net and dove for loose balls. As longtime guidance counselor Tammy McPherson was bringing the ball up the court, she heard the warm gestures of her family including her baby granddaughter that came out to see her play.  This energy was repeated with math teacher Jason Rand hitting a jump shot in the last seconds of the first half. With over 400 tickets sold, the smiles were easy to detect among both fans and players.

Halftime entertainment of Rocky Point student dribbling blindfolded. Photo by Kyle Barr

After a rousing victory by Hoops We Did It Again, there was a musical halftime show performed by guidance counselor Michael Conlon and his Sound Choice club.  They brought the fans to their feet through their electric playing of Queens “We Will Rock You” and White Stripes “Seven Nation Army.”  To keep the people entertained, students and faculty tossed shirts into the stands, along with shooting contests, and many basket raffles. For the second time, Cognitore was the grand marshal for the game and he marveled over the wonderful job that Eilers and Tribby did to bring the staff and students together.

The second game demonstrated the athletic prowess of Strawberry Thunder and the Dunkin Dino’s.  While it was expected that the Dino’s would have a difficult game, this team hit their shots and kept the game close. Through the leadership of Delargey and guidance counselors Jimmy Jordan and Matt Poole, the Dino’s advanced to the finals where the crowd was at the edge of their seats. Science teacher Mark Brienza energized the fans through his superb shooting and the chants from the student body who said he should earn the most valuable player award for this evening. Opposing him was the point scoring strength of physical education teacher Kelly Calamita and Joseph A. Edgar special education teacher Lauren Boyle.

Again, the fans were into this game from the championship tip off to the final moments which saw Hoops We Did It Again named the 2020 victor. After the final moments of this game, the fans rushed the court and showed their appreciation for a wonderful night. It was a chance for the players to dust a little rust from their basketball skills and raise much needed funds through the kindness of the Be a Nicer Neighbor Club. Looking at the energy of this night, high school principal Hart said these, “ladies went above and beyond to ensure this year’s event was as successful as last year’s.”  

Through the efforts of Eilers and Tribby, they certainly have made strides to fill the major shoes left behind after Bonomi retired last year. Through his mentorship, these two young educators have proven themselves to be up to the task in organizing and running major programs that have turned into traditions for the district.

Assistant marching band director Vincent Ragona with students Tristan Duenas, Dan Curley, Andrew Trebilcock, Riley Watson and Shaun Sander. Photo from RPUFSD

The magical sounds of the low-pitched tuba were a celebration for thousands of spectators to hear and witness at The Rink at Rockefeller Center’s 46th annual Tuba Christmas this past weekend.

Rocky Point High School freshmen Dan Curley and Andrew Trebilcock, sophomore Shaun Sander, junior Tristan Duenas and senior Riley Watson, along with the high school’s assistant marching band director Vincent Ragona, were among the hundreds of baritone horn, baritone horn, euphonium, tuba and sousaphone players of all ages and abilities from around the country who joined together to perform holidays carols and other crowd favorites on their brass instruments.

“We are so grateful for this real-world opportunity for our students, to use a public platform to share in the gift of music,” Rocky Point High School Principal Jonathan Hart said. “We also thank Mr. Ragona for leading and sharing in this memorable event.”

 

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Rocky Point natives Gerard and Diane Hahn are honored along with three other siblings for service in the armed forces. Fifty other veterans were honored on the high school Veterans Wall of Honor. Photo by Kyle Barr

In Rocky Point, it’s hard to find a family without at least one armed service veteran as a family member.

As the Rocky Point High School band played out military tunes during a Nov. 15 assembly honoring vets, Rocky Point VFW Post 6249 Commander Joe Cognitore read off each branch of the armed service based on the music playing. Veterans and their families stood up, but it wasn’t just the visitors, students stood up as well. For both the men in service caps to the kids in T-shirts and jeans, service to country runs deep.

People take pictures and point to names of family members on Rocky Point HS Wall of Honor. Photo by Kyle Barr

It’s a testament to the number of veterans and veteran families in Rocky Point that this year the district added 50 additional names to the high school’s Wall of Honor, which was constructed last year with just under 60 names of veterans who were from Rocky Point or graduated from the district.

Social studies teacher Rich Acritelli was the major driving force between the wall and its update. He sunk considerable time and resources into fundraising and getting the updated plaques on the wall, working alongside fellow teachers, administrators and the school’s Varsity Club.

“In less than two years, the entire main hallway of the social studies wing will be full of people from the armed forces who sat in the same chairs, played in the same gym and fields, performed in school plays, band and chorus as you do,” Acritelli said to the assembled students. “These are people who played on the same blocks as you did.”

Some families had more than one person in the armed services. The Hahn family, all Rocky Point natives, had five siblings whose pictures now hang up on the wall. Gerard and Diane Hahn flew back home to their roots to accept the honor on behalf of their family.

“Our reason for entering the armed forces was different for each of us,” Gerard Hahn said, who after high school had joined the Air Force as a munitions specialist. 

“For various reasons and in different branches of the service, we wanted to serve our country,” he said. “Regardless of which branch, we were all proud of our service and our combined over 40 years in the military.”

Diane Hahn, Gerard’s sister joined the Army after she graduated in 1982. She said she joined the military, already having an interest in computers, spending five years in active duty and six as a reservist in data. She now works as a government contractor with her own IT company in Washington, D.C.

The brother of Gregory Brons, a veteran who graduated Rocky Point in 1996 and studied physics from Syracuse University, said his brother joined the U.S. Army in the signal corps both at home and overseas. He moved to southern California to work in defense research and has become an activist for the LGBTQ community.

Greg Hotzoglou honors his brother Taylor, a veteran who died trying to stop an armed robbery. Photo by Kyle Barr

“He is a champion for the freedoms we live under,” he said.

This year’s updated wall also included the names of faculty, some who served and some whose families had been in the armed forces. Jerry Luglio, athletic trainer, came to the podium to calls of “Jerry,” by students. He served in the U.S. Submarine Corps during the Cold War. Anthony Szymanski, a business teacher at the high school, died in 2014 but was remembered for his service to both the school and U.S. Army.

Many veterans whose pictures hang on the wall in Rocky Point High School have given much, but some have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Taylor Hotzoglou was honored by his brother, Greg, who said the young man joined up and served in the 101st Airborne Division in 2007 and had been fearless in his wanting to protect his fellow soldiers, often volunteering for the gunner’s seat in Humvees, known to be the most targeted and dangerous position a soldier could take in a vehicle. Hotzoglou died when he returned to the U.S., as he tried to stop an armed robbery while outside of Fort Campbell Army Base in Tennessee.

“His attitude was, if it’s not me, then somebody else is going to have to go over there and suffer,” Greg Hotzoglou said. “He said, you know what, it should be me, I should go.”

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The Rocky Point High School History Honors Society stand with Joe Cognitore along with a plaque commemorating the flag that now flies over the 9/11 Memorial in NYC. Photo from Rich Acritelli

Just recently, Joe Cognitore, commander of VFW Post 6249 in Rocky Point spoke to the Rocky Point High School History Honors Society. He addressed the tragic attacks of 9/11, 18 years ago and an uncovered part of ground zero that was presented to this North Shore area.  

Cognitore recalled a past beautiful fall day, the afternoon of Oct. 4, when the Rocky Point school district held a major patriotic and remembrance ceremony only weeks after the terror attacks. It was the goal of this school district to remember and honor all of those national and local people that were impacted by these attacks. As Americans watched the rescue and recovery efforts in the city, they were reminded of a new war that was waged against the Taliban and al-Qaida some 19 days after Manhattan was hit by supporters of terrorism.  Those days saw a tremendous burden weighing on the minds of citizens, and this program presented a united front to support all of our Americans at home and abroad.

Local residents filled the bleachers of Rocky Point High School and in front of them was a Town of Brookhaven concert mobile. The VFW post marched in the colors and presented our flag to a crowd that was overcome with the memory of the four graduates that were killed from these attacks. The sounds of “God Bless America,” the armed forces music and “America the Beautiful” were played to the crowd. Veterans were invited to stand to represent different branches of the armed services that were all on alert during the earliest moments of the War on Terror. There were all of the local, state and federal government representatives, World War II veterans, and Boy Scouts that were all present on this day to present a dynamic unity.

This camaraderie resembled the same feelings that Americans felt when the Japanese  attacked Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941.  Flags were flown all over the nation and people stuck bumper stickers on their cars in support of the residents of New York City. People wrapped yellow ribbons around trees for those soldiers who going to be deployed. Cognitore and the other organizers of that event decided on a unique angle to demonstrate patriotism. Calverton-based Sky Dive Long Island planned to make a jump over the skies of this school with a large flag that would be seen well above the heads of the people. Only a few weeks before this jump, it was discovered under the debris of Lower Manhattan. It was originally flown outside of the World Trade Center and it was located by a volunteer recovery worker.

The plane took off from Calverton with jumpers Curt Kellinger, a Port Authority police officer and Ray Maynard. The crew made a memorable landing with a tattered yet historic flag that landed on the Rocky Point football field. Once the flag made it to the ground, it was presented to a representative of the Port Authority and brought back to the city. That year, it was flown over Yankee Stadium during the World Series, at Super Bowl XXXVI and at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. Even as this flag was scarred from the attacks of 9/11, it showed the resilience of our country to quickly rebound and rebuild.  The flag that once was displayed at Post 6249 has a permanent home at the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. Today, millions of people have visited this well-known museum and they can see a flag that has strong roots of patriotism and remembrance to this North Shore community.

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College.

The Rocky Point High School History Honors Society contributed to this story.

Teacher Brooke Bonomi holds a prize a student won during a halftime Simon Says game at the Feb. 8 Basketball game fundraiser. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Pat Sparks

The school year is ending, and I would like to express my thanks to the retiring employees of the Rocky Point School District.

I knew Maria Liantonio and Nancy Stark, teachers at the Frank J Carasiti Elementary School, when I was with the Before and After Care program. These very dedicated educators always impressed me with their kindness and concern for the young students in their care. They have surely left an indelible impression during their combined 50 years of service to the children of Rocky Point, and they will be missed.

Andrew Levine, English teacher in the high school, has provided 20 years of excellence to his students. I personally witnessed his dedication and positive commitment when I performed clerical work for the summer school program a number of years ago. His contribution will undoubtedly be remembered with gratitude by the many students whose lives he has impacted.

Rocky Point High School. File Photo

My youngest son had the good fortune of having been in Thomas Bunnell’s health class, and although he graduated 15 years ago, he remembers his time in Mr. Bunnell’s class as a positive experience, that he was a great teacher and a “nice guy.”  In my opinion, he truly is that, as well as a caring, concerned educator for 24 years. Mr. Bunnell also gave fine example by assisting student community service groups, and his absence will be felt by many who will remember him with gratitude and appreciation for a job well done.

Also retiring are Victoria Pachinger and Theresa Collins, School Teacher Aides with a combined 41 years of service to the children of Rocky Point. These dedicated individuals, along with Joanne Davis, the lead food service worker for 21 years, deserves the thanks of a grateful community for the assistance and care they have devoted to our children for so long.

Virginia Sanseverino, office assistant, has given 19 years of excellent service to the students of this district. I was fortunate to know her on a personal basis when our children were classmates and friends but had an opportunity to witness what a dedicated and committed employee she was when I worked one summer at the middle school. Ginny is an extremely kind and caring individual who helped me with “learning the ropes” while attending to her own work load, and I will always be grateful for her patience and assistance. Her departure will certainly be felt by all.

Congratulations and thanks to Gregory Hilton, Business Manager, who will be retiring in August after 13 years with Rocky Point Schools. Thank you for sharing your expertise with this district, enjoy your next chapter.

Superintendent Michael Ring is retiring after 11 years of service to Rocky Point School schools. During his tenure, the district has seen much change, and the commitment he has exhibited to his position and the dedication he has put forth to achieve desired goals is noteworthy. I am thankful to Ring for the many times he relinquished his own speaking time to allow me to address the retirees at annual BOE meetings. I will remember his kindness and generosity with gratitude and appreciation. Congratulations and farewell Dr. Ring.

Finally, when it comes to Brooke Bonomi, it’s impossible to adequately acknowledge and thank him for his unparalleled service to Rocky Point’s students and, indeed, this entire community. I don’t know what special star was shining down on Rocky Point when he arrived, but I salute the intelligent and insightful individual who approved his hiring 33 years ago! Mr. Bonomi truly lives the “social” in Social Studies.

Although my children were not among his students, I came to know this unique human being through my older son’s participation in “The Singing Santas,” a musical group Bonomi founded early on, which he modeled after a program he participated in while at Oneonta State University. This widely popular club with a large student enrollment performed community service by entertaining in nursing homes, hospitals and a local church soup kitchen during the holidays. Led on by Rocky Point’s ever-cheerful, boyish-looking “Christmas elf” with the mischievous grin, this band of students, from all backgrounds and with different interests, who may never have associated with one another, became a family united to help those who were in need of cheering up or were less fortunate then themselves. The musical merry-making culminated with an annual show at the high school, which starred the students, the faculty, support staff and some brave administrators. Bonomi, the “spirit of Christmas” personified, was the conductor, composer of holiday lyrics set to popular tunes, and skit-writer. He worked tirelessly on each production for the whole year preceding the event. The money collected at the shows benefited needy families in the community.  The group even recorded a CD of the “tweaked” holiday tunes a number of years ago and raised a large sum which was donated to Little Flower Children’s Services in Wading River.

As if directing the Singing Santas was not enough, the perpetually upbeat Bonomi started another program called BANN or Be A Nicer Neighbor, which also focused on teaching our young people about community service. Over the years, this group held senior citizens proms, fundraisers that benefited various charitable organizations and causes and were inspired by Bonomi’s example to treat one another with respect and kindness. More recently, he devoted an immeasurable amount of his “off” time to plan a very successful Wounded Warriors basketball game fundraiser with his BANN members. This event involved much of the student body, faculty, administrators, and support staff. The proceeds of this enormous endeavor were donated to Rocky Point’s VFW Post 6249 to help wounded war veterans.

It’s difficult to say good-bye or to imagine Rocky Point without Brooke Bonomi. His eternal optimism, joie de vivre and his genuine concern for his fellow man have set him apart as a Rocky Point Schools and community treasure. This well-loved teacher has truly modeled the Golden Rule for all those who have been fortunate enough to have existed in his orbit, even for a short while. Thank you and God bless you, Brooke, for sharing your wonderful gifts with us and for all the good works you have performed for our children and our community. Enjoy the retirement you so richly deserve.

Pat Sparks is a resident of Rocky Point.

Rocky Point High School. File photo by Giselle Barkley

Since Rocky Point High School was built in 1971, its graduates have gone on to become musicians, scientists, college athletes and more; but many also have gone into the armed services.

Now, the Rocky Point school district is looking to show its appreciation for those graduates turned veterans by creating a new Wall of Honor featuring the faces of close to 60 men and women who made the choice to serve after high school.

“We recognize the students for so many different things throughout the school year, whether it be academics, sports-related accomplishments, clubs — and this is just one thing that it’s nice to recognize these students for all they’ve done for our country,” Rocky Point High School Principal Susan Crossan said.

Crossan had seen similar walls in other school districts such as Longwood and Comsewogue and said she figured it was time her school also honored its homegrown veterans. She originally pitched the idea to a number of history teachers at the high school, including Jamie Mancini and Heather Laughlin-Cotter, who came to appreciate the idea very quickly she said, though it was high school social studies teacher Richard Acritelli, himself a nine-year army reservist veteran, who truly picked up the idea and ran with it.

“Rocky Point is a blue-collar area with a lot of men and women in the service community, a lot of policemen, firemen and many who served in the armed services,” Acritelli said. “We have strong ties to the defense of this country.”

Since spring, many Rocky Point teachers and students worked together in an effort to find and contact the district’s veterans. Acritelli said it was a balancing act, doing their best to get students who attended Rocky Point High School many years ago in addition to ones who only graduated recently.

“We have a variety of veterans up on the wall, such as those in military academies, those who served in the Cold War, those in the War on Terror, young people in ROTC programs, and those who literally just left the school,” Acritelli said. “In a short period of time — with the number of names we were able to get compiled — it’s going to be really tastefully done.”

Acritelli said almost all funding was provided by local sponsors, including the Rocky Point Teachers Association, the Rocky Point Athletic Booster Club, the Rocky Point VFW Post 6249 and the nonprofit Feal Good Foundation.

The wall is being constructed by Ronkonkoma-based Fricke Memorials, and each plaque will include a picture of the veteran, their name, rank and branch of armed service. Along with the plaques the wall will include black granite etchings and bronze emblems representing each military branch.

Some of the Rocky Point graduates named on the upcoming wall go back more than 50 years, before Rocky Point High School even existed, when students who graduated from the middle school instead traveled all the way to Port Jefferson to finish their education. Crossan said she expects more names to be added to the wall as the news of it in the community spreads.

“It’s very important that we show loyalty to the students who have served, that they know that their school has recognized their services at home and abroad,” Acritelli said.

The Wall of Honor will be located just to the right of the main entrance to the high school past the main auditorium entrance.

Crossan said the wall will be installed this coming weekend, and all plaques will be put up on the wall Nov. 12. The school will be hosting a school assembly celebrating Veterans Day Nov. 16, which will be followed by an unveiling of the wall.

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The Rocky Point School District came together under sunny skies to celebrate homecoming 2018 during the last weekend in September. Eagle fans of all ages lined the sidewalk in front of Rocky Point High School to cheer on those marching in the annual homecoming parade Sept. 29.

This year’s event was led by Rocky Point alumni, who were celebrating their 40th anniversary, and featured members of the marching band, cheerleading teams, colorful banners created by Frank J. Carasiti Elementary School and Joseph A. Edgar Intermediate School students and homecoming floats fashioned by each high school grade level. The floats and banners each followed this year’s theme of “Rocky Point honors our armed forces.”

Throughout homecoming weekend, members of the high school varsity and junior varsity teams competed in challenging games against some of the region’s top high schools. The celebratory event was capped off with the traditional juniors versus seniors powder puff game, which collected donations for organizations committed to fighting children’s cancer.

In the game, Kings Park defeated Rocky Point 41-14, dropping the Eagles to 1-4 this season.

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Hauppauge’s varsity football team marched into Rocky Point Sept. 7 and dealt the Eagles their first loss of the season 34-14. Rocky Point will be back in action Sept. 15 at 2 p.m. at Eastport-South Manor High School.

Bryan Steuer. Photo from the Steuer family

Bryan Steuer will be remembered by his friends and family as someone who could hold the world together and yet be exceedingly humble. The Rocky Point native passed away on May 18 at the age of 34.

“Bryan lived by two simple things: Do the right thing and be there for people,” said Bryan’s sister Lisa Steuer, a former employee in TBR News Media’s editorial department. “When someone passes away you’re inclined to talk good about them, but when you’re talking about Bryan it’s really true.”

Bryan Steuer, standing, with siblings Joe and Lisa Steuer. Photo from the Steuer family

Her brother was laid to rest at the end of May, and in August family and friends of Bryan are planning to host a fundraiser to establish a college fund for his 4-month-old daughter. “We just want to make sure she is taken care of, because that is what Bryan would have done,” said Kevin Cain, a family friend and co-owner of Lithology Brewing Co. in Farmingdale. “If Bryan was here and things were opposite he would have done the same thing for my family.”

Bryan’s passing came as a shock to the very core of the family, according to his sister. Her brother’s death came only a month after he attended her wedding in the role of man of honor along with their brother, Joe.

Joe Steuer, the youngest of the Steuer siblings, said his older brother was the guy who walked him through everything, from getting married to buying a house. “Bryan was basically our leader,” Joe said. “He was everything I looked up to be.”

As a kid Bryan was both intelligent and athletic, his family said. He played basketball, soccer and baseball at Rocky Point High School before graduating fourth in his class in 2002. Steuer graduated from the University of Delaware and went to work as a chemical engineer for ExxonMobil. He worked hard and was promoted section head of numerous departments while at the same time helping to create two patents with the company. ExxonMobil eventually transferred him to Texas where he lived with his daughter and his wife until he died suddenly from an unknown ailment.

“He had a really big heart, and for a guy as smart as he was, he was a really caring person — he always checked in on you and made sure you were okay,” Bryan’s uncle and Rocky Point resident Dave Steuer said. “My family, we’re just shattered now. He was really kind of the glue that held us all together.”

Lisa remembered her brother in terms most brothers likely hope their sister would — as her protector. He helped her find her classroom as she walked off the bus at Frank J. Carasiti Elementary School. Years later, in college, she would text him using American Online Messenger and talk with him nearly every night as he helped her learn how to make new friends and get over the stress of school.

“Bryan was somebody unique in this world, and he didn’t have to tell people the good he was doing — he just did the right thing.”

— Lisa Steuer

“In this sort of age, we’re living in a time where you go on the internet, and it asks you ‘what’s on your mind,’ we’re so inclined to tout ourselves,” Lisa said. “Bryan was somebody unique in this world, and he didn’t have to tell people the good he was doing — he just did the right thing.”

Bryan Steuer is survived by his wife Maritza, daughter Alejandra, brother Joe, sister Lisa, and his parents, John and Kathy.

The Bryan Steuer Memorial Fundraiser will take place at Lithology Brewing Co., 211-A Main Street, Farmingdale on Aug. 18 from 5 to 8 p.m. There is a $25 suggested donation at the door, and the event will feature happy hour specials at the bar and free food. The Steuer siblings, Joe and Lisa, will be guest bartending, and any tips they earn will go toward the fund as well.

For more information or if you wish to donate, email bryansteuermemorial@gmail.com or search Bryan Steuer Memorial Fundraiser on Facebook.

Rocky Point High School seniors tossed their caps off in celebration of achieving an education milestone during their graduation ceremony June 22.

The Eagles are officially soaring over the district, displaying decorated caps, some of which showed off where they will be taking their next educational steps and others that displayed words of encouragement like “Let’s fly with your beautiful wings” and “Don’t dream it, be it.”

Rocky Point class of 2018 valedictorian Connor Middleton and salutatorian Kyle Markland addressed the crowd, as did Superintendent Michael Ring and high school Principal Susann Crossan.