Tags Posts tagged with "Shoreham-Wading River Central School District"

Shoreham-Wading River Central School District

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Brook Roff. Photo from SWRCSD

Shoreham-Wading River High School senior Brooke Roff took part in a pre-college intensive course through Parsons School of Design where she created a set of posters to promote a topic of her choosing. Brooke chose to focus on anxiety awareness. She designed three posters digitally and showed them to art teacher Ms. Samantha Shepard, who thought it was a great idea to have them hung in the high school guidance office. 

Her three pieces, “It’s Okay to Not Be Okay,” “It’s Okay to Accept Help” and “It’s Okay to Have Anxiety,” proudly hang in the hallway of the guidance office as a graphically creative reminder to her peers who can recognize they are not alone in their feelings.

“Anxiety is not just being nervous or being nitpicky,” Brooke said. “It can manifest through panic attacks or the constant worry that you are not good enough. Anxiety comes in many different ways, but it is best to accept yourself as you are with the help of others. I wanted to portray that through this poster campaign.”

How libraries look during COVID times. Photo from Comsewogue School District

Nine months into the coronavirus pandemic and schools are still adjusting. The school library, a place of solace for elementary schoolers and high school seniors alike, has had to adhere to the new and ever-changing COVID-19 protocols.

Local districts, however, have embraced the changes and have implemented new services that they never would have started if it wasn’t for the crisis.

A silver lining, school librarians across the North Shore explained how the changes have impacted them, their schools and their students.

Alice Wolcott, librarian at Elwood-John Glenn High School, said that COVID changed the landscape of public education, meaning they had to reimagine their space.

“This year we transitioned the book loan program to a digital platform, which will continue to support students’ pleasure and academic reading while still observing COVID restrictions,” she said. “Students can browse the collection online via Follett Destiny [a library management system], and if they find a title they’d like to borrow, they can request that book through our book request form.”

To adhere to COVID rules, the books are delivered in a Ziploc bag to first period teachers.

Since some students are not physically in their first period classes, the district also increased their digital library as a main focus.

Shoreham-Wading River High School librarian Kristine Hanson and Albert G. Prodell Middle School librarian Ann-Marie Kalin created an initiative to meet the need for printed books while reimagining the online presence in concert with OPALS, the open-source library system.

They created a book delivery service at their schools called BookDash, which allows students to electronically submit requests with their student ID. Then, physical books are either delivered to students at Prodell or picked up at the high school library doors at the end of the school day. The initiative is promoted through English classes, and a multitude of book recommendations are available via the OPALS pages, blogs and links.

“Kids are reliant on what’s in the catalog, books that never went out before are going out like wild,” Kalin said. “For the time being we’re making the best of it all.”

With the BookDash initiative, Kalin said students are excited to get their hands on actual books.

“So many kids are so tired of being on the screen and are desperate for that interaction with each other,” she said. “I’m seeing readers I never saw before, and there are so many requests for books. It’s very successful.”

Along with Shoreham-Wading River, other districts across Long Island are using an e-book platform called Sora, including Joseph A. Edgar Intermediate School in Rocky Point.

Monica DiGiovanni teaches Sora to third graders in Rocky Point. Photo from RPSD.

Librarian Monica DiGiovanni has been visiting classrooms, having students log into their Chromebooks. She is teaching them how to check out library books with the new service, which enables students to borrow a book and read it right on their devices. Another program, Destiny Discover, enables students to find a physical book in the library and have it delivered directly to them since their libraries are currently not open.

DiGiovanni said that their school libraries have become break rooms for teachers and classroom spaces to accommodate kids in a socially distanced way.

“The library has become an interactive thing,” she said. “Students are definitely utilizing it.”

Although Rocky Point school libraries had to reshape themselves and close the doors to students, Elwood school district was able to open the doors at the high school last week. Wolcott said that right now 15 students are allowed in the library at a time, with designated seating and other stipulations in place.

“The students are really responsive and they’re following all the protocols,” she said. “It’s great to have them back.”

She even sees students, who were not her typical regulars, interacting with the library catalog more than they did before.

“Now it’s nice they’re browsing the shelves,” Wolcott said. “They’re picking books they would not have chosen otherwise.”

Donna Fife, library media specialist at Elwood Middle School, said that early on, the district was keeping library services running smoothly, while her younger students are opting to read more.

“I am seeing names I never saw before requesting books more frequently,” she said. “I know how I feel at the end of the day ­— I would have a hard time playing video games after screen learning.”
Fife said she thinks students are looking for something tangible now that some are looking at a computer all day long.
“They’re requesting to hold a physical copy instead of looking at another screen,” she said.

Nicole Taormina, librarian at Boyle Road Elementary School in the Comsewogue school district, said that new regulars have blossomed throughout the pandemic.

“They really love browsing online,” she said. “It’s a different experience — they are really excited now because they use their Chromebooks and have their own accounts.”

Taormina said that while the changes have been different, she’s looking forward to some normalcy in 2021, and is grateful for what 2020 helped her with.

“I’ve been able to tweak things,” she said. “And the students have been able to learn things that they may have not been able to learn before.”

Also in Comsewogue, Deniz Yildirim, a librarian at Terryville Road Elementary School, said that teaching her library classes has been different compared to years past.

“It’s been a huge change,” she said. “We can’t hand out worksheets anymore, and we do a lot online to cut down on contamination. No other class can come in other than what’s assigned in this room.”

When Yildirim visits classrooms at her school now, she will deliver books that children ask her for.

“It breaks my heart that they can’t browse,” she said. “But we’re making it work.”

And she said that all school libraries have made progress in 2020 than the past 10 years.

“Publishers, authors and librarians are working very hard to make sure kids are reading,” she said. “It’s the least we can do for them during these trying times.”

Taylor Kinsley, a librarian at Minnesauke Elementary School in the Three Village school district, said their schools have been allowing browsing within the libraries.

She said students have to use hand sanitizer before and after touching the books to be sure they have clean hands, and they reorganized the setup of the library, featuring no reading carpets on the floor.

“Elementary students are always excited to have the freedom to pick the books they want,” she said.

The district sanitizes the used books and quarantines them for about a week before putting them back on the shelves.

“I think normalcy is really important for them,” Kinsley added, referring to her students. “We’re being supercautious so why take that away from them?”

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Mount Sinai Superintendent Gordon Brosdal. File Photo by Kyle Barr

While some districts came out with their reopening plans last month, parents across the North Shore sent letters and petitions to district officials demanding to have some kind of distance learning option. 

Several weeks later, school officials have come out with details about some of these initiatives. A few are hosting efforts in house, while others are offering the option of using a BOCES-run program.

Rocky Point

Rocky Point Union Free School District will offer a five-day 100% remote model for K-5 students after parents in the area pleaded to at least have the option. 

The district already presented its plans to have elementary students in school full time. In a letter posted to the district website Aug. 14, Rocky Point describes the distance program as a blend of synchronous or asynchronous learning. This will either be handled by Rocky Point staff or through enrollment in the Eastern Suffolk BOCES Online Elementary Program, which will include students from other districts as well. Schedules will align with what they would be doing if they were in-person, though parents need to commit to distance program for the full school year, September 2020 through June 2021. 

Parents must fill out a form that is available on the district website by 3 p.m. Aug. 20.

The district was also set to unveil plans for a remote option for students in grades 6-12 Wednesday, Aug. 19, but those plans were not available by press time.

Miller Place

In a letter to parents Aug. 12, the Miller Place School District showed off its plans for remote instruction for K-5 and 6th grade students. The district does not currently have plans to offer a full remote option for students in grades 7 through 12, and their model remains hybrid-only.

The district will offer students who enroll in the remote learning program live instruction five days a week, with days lasting between five and five and a half hours each day. Instruction will also include the normal set of English, math, writing, physical education, art, music and social and emotional learning.

Parents will need to commit to this option for the entire school year running from September 2020 through June 2021. Students cannot choose to reenter the normal 5-day schedule if parents choose this option.

Students will also either be assigned district staff or be enrolled in the Eastern Suffolk BOCES Online Elementary Program in a cohort of students which will likely include kids from other districts.

Parents should have already emailed district personnel in order to access the program. Parents with questions can email [email protected] for more information.

The district said it is unable to offer a remote program at the middle and high school level, as they said they do not have the resources to mirror the new course offerings with a remote program. The district also claimed it does not have the legal authority to livestream classes to students at home, saying that cameras are not allowed in classrooms during instruction.

“From a legal standpoint, it is considered discriminatory, and not equitable, to offer courses to in-school students and not have those same courses available to remote learning students,” the district said in its statement. “The district is not willing to reduce or eliminate course offerings, including electives, for in-school students, in order to accommodate families requesting remote learning for non-vulnerable students.” 

Mount Sinai

The Mount Sinai school board has said its intent to allow parents to participate in a full-time remote program. The district is planning to have a remote instructional model for all grades K-12, and parents must sign an intent form available on the district website if they intend to full remote instruction.

The district plans to use Google Classroom as the main platform for remote learning. Attendance will be taken daily through the platform. 

“Parents should be aware that if they choose to opt-out their child from attending in September, the window for returning to school would open in January, the beginning of the second semester,” Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said in the Q&A available on the district’s website.

For elementary students who participate in remote learning, there will be videos recorded by their designated classroom teacher posted four days per week on the teacher’s Google Classroom page. Students will have the opportunity to interact with their teacher on Wednesdays when the students participating in in-person instruction are not in session. Teachers will also be available via email throughout the week to answer questions. Students will be given the same workbooks as their in-person counterparts and will be offered physical education, art and music content one day a week Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

For remote students in the middle and high schools, teachers will post videos and other assignments to Google Classroom in line with schedules as if they were in school.

“Simply put, remote learning is not the same as in-person instruction and students must be actively engaged in learning when they are not in school,” the district’s remote learning document stated. “Teachers will make every effort to ensure that students are provided ‘live’ instruction as much as possible.” 

Teacher videos and assignments will be posted as soon as practicable when lessons take place, which the district said will “allow teachers to continue with the curriculum without interruptions.”

Shoreham-Wading River

The SWR school district has not released any plans for a remote option for students of any grade level. If a parent currently wishes to not have their students in school, then they must be unenrolled and instead be homeschooled.

The district has adopted a plan that would have every student in school five days a week for in-person instruction, all while meeting New York State Department of Health guidelines for distancing and controlling the spread of COVID-19. The district also plans to reopen the Briarcliffe school for kindergarten students. 

At the districts board of education meeting Aug. 18, Superintendent Gerard Poole related more details about how the district would take temperatures of students and allow them to board and exit buses without being in contact with other students. Poole also clarified that students will need to be wearing masks at all times unless in a setting where 6-feet distancing can be maintained.

The district does have a remote learning plan in place should the school need to close at any time during the school year.

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SWR Superintendent Gerard Poole says new reopening plans mandate taking from the school’s rainy day funds. Photo from SWRCSD video

Shoreham-Wading River Central School District came out of the gate this week with the ambitious goal to bring every kid back in school every day safely while still meeting state health standards. 

The New York State Education Department has released reopening guidelines for schools, while the state Department of Health issued guidance on July 13. The district has released two videos on its website and Facebook page explaining new plans in greater detail. 

“I think the opportunity is there for us and, having students in school every day is the best possible option for our students academically and for their social and emotional well-being,” said Superintendent Gerard Poole.  

One of the big reveals of SWR’s special meeting July 23 discussing reopening was the district’s plans to reopen the former Briarcliff Elementary School for kindergarten. The district had been in the process of selling the building for the past year. The district said without using Briarcliff, Miller Avenue elementary school would be at or near max occupancy for social distancing and would lack an isolation room for symptomatic students. 

However, reopening the old building in Shoreham, along with reconfiguring existing buildings for all students to come in, could come with a hefty price tag of $1,439,000. Reopening Briarcliff for one year could cost approximately $992,000. It will also require clerical, health, administrative and other staff to move over to the old kindergarten building. 

To pay these costs, the school board would have to vote to authorize nearly half of the district’s unassigned fund balance, which currently has $3,086,000 in its coffers.

These plans to keep kids socially distanced at 6 feet and still learning would also mandate the district use all available space for instruction, including gyms, libraries, all-purpose rooms and cafeterias. School officials said this was calculated by measuring the space within different rooms compared with square footage that supported 6-foot separation. 

Officials were adamant that utilizing every inch of space would allow all students to be in school to learn Monday through Friday, though each room’s class size would be significantly smaller. A regular sized room in Miller Avenue could have around 12 students or 14 in Wading River. The district also said it could have an average of 11 students in the middle school or around 15 on average in the high school, though using both those buildings would mandate removing walls to create larger rooms. Many of the walls in both the middle and high schools are paneled that can be taken down.

“In order to do this well, Briarcliff would be a part of those plans,” Poole said. “I am going to repeat it is possible with Briarcliff and the use of multiple-instructional spaces, it is possible to have all our students sit in classrooms, at a desk, learning spaced out by 6 feet of separation inside of school every day.”

Students will return to school Sept. 3 for an “orientation day.” Though students will be back during the day, some extracurriculars will look different than before. Those taking band will need to be spaced 12 feet apart for all practices and will require multiple periods. Theater will be postponed or potentially adapted in a virtual way.

Otherwise, students are expected to wear masks in common areas such as entryways and hallways. Masks will be provided to those who don’t have them. The school will put visual aids down on floors to illustrate traffic flow in hallways and promote social distancing. Otherwise, shared equipment will be limited and visitors are limited in all school buildings. 

“One can imagine when the school year starts we will have to take some time, make sure everyone knows how to move around the building,” Poole said. “That can happen within a smaller class size.” 

Transportation may be the most difficult aspect schools are dealing with, but Poole said SWR plans to have buses disinfected daily and only siblings are allowed to sit together. Parents are encouraged to drop and pick up students themselves.

Considering there still could be a drop in state aid sometime later in the year, the district said there are contingent salary funds for things like elementary tutors or teaching coaches can be redirected for health and custodial aids. 

“We will be maximizing the use of contingent salary funds,” Poole said. 

Videos of the latest board meetings and more details about reopening plans can be found on the district’s Facebook page.

More school districts will be releasing their reopening plans in the coming days. Check back at tbrnewsmedia.com for the latest reopening plans.

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The Shoreham-Wading River School, Rocky Point and Miller Place school districts announced they would be keeping their schools closed early next week. Rocky Point, Miller Place and Mount Sinai will be closed Monday March 16, while SWR is shutting down both Monday and Tuesday, March 17.

All districts are closing just to students, while staff will still be made to report to school in preparation for the possibility of all educating going online.

Rocky Point Superintendent Scott O’Brien said in a statement that while they do not have any cases in the district, the possibility of a longer term shutdown where students will have to learn online is real.

“While learning in our district primarily occurs inside classrooms with face-to-face teaching by certified instructors, please be assured that our district has been planning viable options should a long-term school closure be necessary,” the Rocky Point superintendent said. “Students were asked to bring materials home or travel to and from school over the next several weeks with textbooks, workbooks, and work packets so that needed materials for online learning may be facilitated by our teachers should a long-term closure be necessary.

Earlier in the week, SWR Superintendent Gerard Poole said they were still working out their plans for potentially bringing all learning online. The SWR board of education held an emergency meeting earlier today.

Miller Place Superintendent Marianne Cartisano said the time will also allow them to perform a “deep cleaning” of school buildings.

In terms of sports, Section XI has notified districts it has suspended all athletic games and scrimmages until April 3.

 

SWR Assistant Superintendent Glen Arcuri talks to the school board about precautions the district has made toward COVID-19. Photo by Kyle Barr

Two local school districts have closed up shop two separate days this week over concerns staff had been in contact with people with coronavirus.

Parents on social media confirmed receiving a call the evening of Tuesday, March 10, that all schools would be closed Wednesday due to a district member having had “third-party” contact with somebody who was confirmed to have the virus. The district website said schools would return to normal Thursday, March 12.

Despite the closing, the planned senior trip to Disney World in Florida went along as scheduled. Students left on nonstop planes early Wednesday morning, according to district parents.

School district officials were out of office and did not respond to repeated requests for comment by press time. 

Earlier in the week, Shoreham-Wading River school district closed all schools early Monday morning over coronavirus fears. The call went out to parents as some students were on buses on their way to class.

While SWR students were back in class by Tuesday, the event paints a picture of the decisions schools are having to make as all look to manage public places during the spread of COVID-19.

Residents in the Shoreham-Wading River school district reported receiving a robocall from Superintendent Gerard Poole in the early morning of Monday, March 9. Students that were on the bus by a little after 7 a.m. were being kept on the bus, then being turned around to be dropped off at home.

Poole said Tuesday the decision to close Monday was made shortly after they received information about one of their staff just before 7 a.m. Instead of reaching out to the New York State Department of Health and awaiting any of their recommendations, the superintendent said they made the call based on information they had at the time. According to district statements, a member of the high school security team might have been exposed to an individual with the coronavirus. The district said the DOH has said no individual in the district has tested positive for the new virus.

“School districts don’t have the luxury of waiting two or three hours for a conference committee call for officials to make those decisions,” he said. “We have to make those decisions immediately.”

The district received further guidelines from the DOH and Department of Education late on Monday, though the superintendent said there were still holes in those guidelines he wished they could fill, specifically any recommendations about students going on field trips. The district has already canceled two that were to happen this month. They will be rescheduled for later in the school year.

“They leave it as an initial 24-hour closure in consultation with state health officials and county health officials,” he said.

Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations Glen Arcuri said the district is well stocked on cleaning supplies at least for the next two months. The district has also invested in doing additional cleanings of commonly touched surfaces throughout the day and additional cleanings at night.

In fact, every district now has on its website a link or notice about precautions districts have taken toward the coronavirus. Most speak about additional sanitary measures.

Events, at least in SWR, have calmed since that Monday morning, split-second decision making, though the threat remains real. SWR simply has become one of the first few test cases for the kinds of decisions districts all across Long Island may have to make in the future, especially as the coronavirus story develops.

SWR officials have said that any days the district is closed after that would impact the school calendar, including spring break, which runs April 6-14; superintendent’s conference day, April 28; and the Friday before Memorial Day, May 22. The lack of snow days this past winter has been a boon for the district, at least in this regard.

“Fortunately, this year we have had it very easy with the weather,” Poole said.

If the school were to close for any amount of time past a threshold of days that it could stay closed, then the district would have to consider moving all education online. 

The options include using Google Classroom and learning platforms such as i-Ready. The district encouraged parents to confirm the log-ins for i-Ready and ALEKS are functioning on home computers. Those log-ins can be found in the Parent briefcase in the Infinite Campus Parent Portal. 

Schools in Seattle have already made the decision to close schools and host all learning online. The New York Times has reported how the sudden shift has impacted schools in and around the city that has been an epicenter for the outbreak of COVID-19. Instead of crowding around desks in a classroom, teachers and students hover over individual screens, though educators found they were spending many more hours working to reach students.

Poole said they have been working on those plans for potentially going online in the case of school closure, though they were still working out details, including giving access to students who may not have that technology at home.

File Photo

Shoreham-Wading River school district officials announced Monday the schools would reopen Tuesday following their closure over fears a staff member had contact with someone with the virus.

On the district’s website a notice from Superintendent Gerard Poole read:

“Please be assured that the decision to close today was not one that the district made lightly. The information we received early this morning was limited and initially indicated that a member of our security team might have been exposed to an individual with the coronavirus. In many of my messages to you, I have stressed how the safety and security of our students and staff is our district’s top priority. Those are not just words to us — we truly mean them, and thus was the basis for our decision this morning. As we were waiting for further clarification from the Department of Health and the start of the school day was imminent, we felt it prudent to close in order to be overly cautious and in the best interest of our students/staff health.  Please note that it was further confirmed by the Department of Health that no individual in our district has tested positive for the coronavirus as of this writing.

While the situation today developed, please be assured that the district worked internally to take several proactive steps to further our past efforts. We once again completed a thorough and deep cleaning of all surfaces in our schools and our buses went through a deep disinfecting process. All afterschool activities for today will remain cancelled, as our custodial staff prepare our schools for tomorrow.”

*Original Story

Shoreham-Wading River school district has closed all schools early this morning as a coronavirus case was confirmed on a High School staff member’s spouse. The call went out to parents in the early morning as some students were on the bus on their way to class.

Residents in the Shoreham-Wading River school district reported receiving a robo call from Superintendent Gerard Poole in the early morning of Monday, March 9. Students that were on the bus by a little after 7 a.m. were being kept on the bus, then being turned around to have students dropped off at home. First bell for the high school is 7:20 a.m.

“The Shoreham-Wading River Central School District is closed today due to a potential suspected case of coronavirus with a high school staff member’s spouse,” Poole said in a statement. “The district has been in contact with the Suffolk County Department of Health and while we await confirmation and guidance from them we have decided to cancel classes at all schools today out of an abundance of caution.”

The district has not yet released information about how long they expect school to be closed, but in a letter on the district website, officials confirmed the first two days of school being absent would eat up the last remaining snow days. Any days schools are closed after that would impact the school calendar, including spring break which runs April 6 through 14, superintendent’s conference day, April 28, and the friday before Veterans Day, May 22.

The district also confirmed they were considering plans for online learning options in the event schools were closed due to the Covid 19 fears. 

The options include using Google Classroom and learning platforms such as I-Ready. The district encouraged parents to confirm the logins for I-ready and Aleks are functioning on home computers.  Those log-ins can be found in the parent briefcase in the Infinite Campus Parent Portal. 

District officials also said they have placed an additional cleaner in each building to disinfect surfaces. 

Yesterday, Suffolk County confirmed its first case of coronavirus. A man described in his early 40’s is being hospitalized in the Stony Brook/Southampton hospital.  

As of Sunday, the total number of confirmed cases of Covid 19 in New York has jumped to 105.

This story will be updated when more information becomes available.

The Shoreham-Wading River Gay-Straight Alliance Club, including co-advisors Ed Stock, center, and Brittany Davis, far right. Photo by Kyle Barr

One may think the LGBT community in Suffolk County is a small minority, until there are more than 100 of them and their allies together in a room celebrating what makes them, them.

On Jan. 28, after close to half a year of planning, the Shoreham-Wading River High School Gay-Straight Alliance club hosted a Gender-Sexuality Alliance Leadership Conference, the first in all of Suffolk County. They were joined by over 100 students from 14 different schools as well as a score of adults, including teachers, parents and school administrators.

Well over 100 people from different Gay-Straight Alliance clubs throughout Suffolk County at the Shoreham-Wading River High School Jan. 28 conference. Photo from SWRCSD

“Not only did it bring together a group of kids that were not only like-minded, but were also there to support each other,” said club co-advisor Brittany Davis. “It really felt like there was a sense of community that was just beautiful, that we did something that changed everyone’s outlook on this and really changed the whole dynamic of the comfortability in the school.”

Senior and club member Ray Colon said it was an event unlike any he has experienced at the school setting. Students who felt they were marginalized or pushed to the boundaries in their own schools could talk freely.

“It was awesome to hear them share their own stories and their own struggles back at home,” he said. “At school, they don’t have that space to be free always — it allows them to open up.”

Between the discussions and presentations, Davis said students flooded into the upstairs balcony in the library for an impromptu dance party.

“They might be that quiet kid in class, but when they’re with others they can finally feel comfortable,” Davis said. “It was really cool to see them be themselves — their energy went throughout the room and made everyone smile.” 

High school senior Emily Mulcahy, the club president, said while they were initially unsure how successful an event it would be, upon reaching out and getting a score of immediate responses, their doubts were eased. In fact, they had so many responses they could simply not fit all into the small space of the library.

Nearly five months of planning led to an event that included discussions about themselves and their place in the LGBT community, but also the recognition of administrators, including high school Principal Frank Pugliese and Superintendent Gerard Poole.

“In our building and district, we celebrate diversity, we don’t look down on it,” Pugliese said. “The fact so many districts felt the same way, I think even strengthened that message even more.”

The principal added he hopes this event will become “a normal part of the calendar.”

Fellow club co-advisor Ed Storck has been at the head of getting the whole event started. The fact that two school administrators could show such open support, he said, means a lot considering where the LGBT community has come from, especially in schools.

“So many kids were saying, ‘I didn’t know how many people were in support,’” he said.

SWR High School senior Ray Colon, of the Gay-Straight Alliance club, is flanked by GSA co-advisers Ed Storck and Brittany Davis. Photo from SWRCSD

Storck said the idea for the conference originally came to light when the club invited Jeremy Thode, an assistant principal at Center Moriches High School and the president of the Smithtown board of education, down to the school to speak to the club. Thode has been advocating for and educating about LGBTQ for little less than a year now. His son, Noah, came out as transgendered last January, and Thode has taken his experiences with his family’s path toward transition and acceptance and used it to advocate and educate both districts and parents.

“This event clearly told us that these kids, when with people who understand them, they are authentically themselves,” Thode said.

The club is planning future events for this year, including a visit this month to the LGBT Network of Long Island, a nonprofit support network that connects services on Long Island and Queens, where club students speak about the importance of allies in the community and how they wish to be treated by them. Later this year the club is planning a positivity week, which the club started three years ago. That week ends with a day of remembrance, where any participating student remains silent throughout the day to honor the people who have lost their lives due to discrimination in the past. On June 5, the district is also hosting the third annual Unity Dance for the other GSA clubs in Suffolk.

But club members also understand they have started something that may become a “legacy,” as Mulcahy put it. With Thode at the helm, the Smithtown school district is planning a similar event May 5. With more space in Smithtown High School West, they are able to fit the districts that were unable to come to the original event due to space.

“Ultimately, what needs to happen is more awareness, education and acceptance, not only in GSA’s, but in the wider community.” Thode said.

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Shoreham-Wading River High School was one of 362 schools recognized as Blue Ribbon Schools for 2019 as announced by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Sept. 26. The distinction is the second time the school has been honored, being one of the early honorees in the 37-year-old program as a 1987-88 Blue Ribbon School.

“This honor points to the collaborative efforts of our administrators, teachers, students, families and larger community in helping to encourage, engage and educate students who graduate from our high school as productive members of society,” said SWR High School Principal Frank Pugliese.

In her remarks via a video message to the honorees DeVos stated the schools important work in preparing students for successful careers and meaningful lives.

“As a National Blue Ribbon School, your school demonstrates what is possible when committed educators hold all students and staff to high standards and create vibrant, innovative cultures of teaching and learning,” she said.

The department recognizes all schools in one of two performance categories, based on all student scores, student subgroup scores and graduation rates:

• Exemplary High Performing Schools are among their state’s highest performing schools are measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests.

• Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools are among their state’s highest performing schools in closing achievement gaps between a school’s student groups and all students.

Artie Gross, behind him his office at the SWR middle school. Photos from Gross

“It was a good time. I enjoyed the opportunity to teach a lot of talented kids,” said Artie Gross, reflecting on a more than three-decade music teaching career, much of it spent at Shoreham-Wading River. 

Gross, who has been a mainstay in the Shoreham-Wading River school district as a middle school vocal music teacher for the past 35 years, retired at the conclusion of the 2018-2019 school year. 

“He was the ultimate professional.”

— Kevin O’Brien

“I just knew it was time,” he said. “Thirty-five years is a good number.”

Gross said that since he was a kid he knew he had a passion for music. As a young man he remembered constantly playing guitar and singing.

“I would bring my guitar to school — I was the class musician, I got involved in some of the school’s shows and plays,” he said. 

When it came time to decide what he wanted to pursue as a career, Gross said he knew his parents wouldn’t pay for guitar lessons. 

“It was pretty obvious I wasn’t going to school to be a guitar performance major,” the Port Jefferson resident said. 

Despite that, Gross found his answer while being in a high school chorus class.  

“My high school chorus teacher made such an impression on me and I was like ‘This is what I want to do,’” said Gross.  

After graduating high school, he went to the University of Rhode Island for one year before transferring to SUNY Buffalo to complete his bachelor’s in music education. Gross would then go get his master’s degree at Ithaca College. 

From there, Gross got his first gig teaching in the Bethpage school district, filling in for a music teacher who was out sick for the year. 

“From February to June of that year I was full-time teaching strings,” he said. “I ended helping out with shows and doing a little bit of singing.” 

The following year, Gross initially thought he would be going back to Bethpage but the district told him it was now a brand-new position and would bring him down to starting sub-salary. 

“They told me I’d be teaching seven elementary school classes a day and I was like, this doesn’t sound good,” he said. 

While Gross ultimately decided not to stay at Bethpage, he had heard there was an opening for a music teacher at SWR and called to see if the job was still available. 

“They told me it was still available. The superintendent didn’t like the person we sent up,” he said. “I met with the assistant principal and principal — and boom, I was hired that day. Just a few days before the school year [in 1984].”

Gross said during his first year he wanted to build up the chorus program in the middle school. After one year it went up from 48 kids to more than 100 kids participating. 

After his first year in the district, Gross began splitting time at the high school and middle school as a traveling teacher. During his time at the high school he was involved in music direction for shows as well as taking charge of the chorus. Starting in 1990, he came back to the middle school full-time. 

Linda Jutting, a former orchestra teacher at SWR, first met Gross during his first year on the job in 1984.

“It wasn’t until 2002, when I came back to the district, that I worked with him at the middle school for 15 years until I retired,” she said.

Jutting said her own three children had Gross as a teacher and said he had an amazing work ethic.

“He was really dedicated to his craft and his students,” she said. “He went above and beyond.”

Gross said he had a strong passion for what he did and wanted to share it with the kids. 

“I think one of my strengths is being able to connect with middle school kids and treat them like young adults,” he said. “I think one of the most important things is believing in them and getting them to believe in themselves.”

“He was really dedicated to his craft and his students.”

— Linda Jutting

Kevin O’Brien, district band director at SWR, said he can’t say enough good things about Gross. 

“I worked with Artie in the same building for 12 years. He mentored and helped me during my first couple of years in the district,” he said. “He was the ultimate professional.”

Gross mentioned when he retired, he received a signed poster from former students. He realized all the people he had affected positively.  

“I was just doing my job, I didn’t think I was doing anything special,” he said. “One girl told me, ‘I became a social worker because of the way you treated me.’”

Gross said he is looking forward to practicing playing his guitar more and hopes to visit his children in Wyoming and Australia. The Port Jefferson resident also hopes to be involved in the middle school shows in the future and is currently giving private lessons. 

“I had a good career. I got to share something that I loved, which was music,” he said.