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Shoreham-Wading River school district

Quarterback Kieran Clifford bolts out of the backfield. Photo by Bill Landon

Shoreham-Wading River’s journey to the Division IV county championship final began with the Wildcats winning their last three games of the regular season to enter postseason play with a 6-2 record.

The Wildcats picked off Center Moriches in the opening round of the playoffs, earning the No. 3 seed to advance to the semifinals with a road game against Babylon. Trailing most of the way, SWR rallied in the final minutes to win 36-35 in a nailbiter and punched their ticket to the championship round on Saturday, Nov. 18, at Stony Brook University to face top-seeded Bayport-Blue Point.

After a three-and-out opening possession, Bayport took over, scampering 23 yards for the score on their first possession of the game for the early lead. The Phantoms scored on their next possession and again late in the second quarter to take a 21-0 lead.

Bayport never looked back, blowing the game wide open for the 49-14 victory.

SWR senior Liam Kershis took the goose egg off the board with a 27-yard catch from Kieran Clifford and a second TD catch to conclude the Wildcats 2023 campaign.

— Photos by Bill Landon

Miller Avenue School second graders in Alice Steinbrecher’s class with local veterans Photo courtesy SWRCSD

Miller Avenue School hosted an inaugural Miller Avenue Veterans Day Parade on Nov. 8. Principal Claudia Smith extended the invitation to all community veterans and received dozens of responses. Veterans were welcomed to the school with coffee and refreshments before walking alongside their cherished Miller Avenue students through the hallways. Patriotic music played, and red, white and blue flags were waved by students throughout the hallways to welcome and thank the veterans for their service to the country.

“This was truly a memorable and historic experience for our students and staff,” Smith said. “It was wonderful to thank these American heroes in person.”

It is often said that one play decides the outcome of the game and that’s just what happened when Shoreham-Wading River came calling on the Islip Buccaneers in a Division III soccer matchup Thursday Oct. 5.

Islip scored on a rebound from a penalty kick halfway through the first half to take the 1-0 advantage. The Wildcats mounted a late-game surge, getting off several shots on goal in the closing minutes of the game but failed to find the back of the net as time expired.

Shoreham-Wading River goalie Morgan Lesiewicz had five saves.

The loss drops the Wildcats to 8-2-1 (8-3-2 overall) for third place in the division, trailing Kings Park and Bayport-Blue Point.

The Wildcats have three more regular season games before postseason play begins Saturday, Oct. 21.

— Photos by Bill Landon

Shoreham-Wading River High School’s Class of 2023 Commencement ceremony on Friday, June 23. Photo courtesy SWRCSD

The members of the Shoreham-Wading River High School’s Class of 2023 proceeded onto the football field for a celebratory evening of commencement exercises on Friday, June 23.

The students were led by Principal Frank Pugliese and Assistant Principal John Holownia, followed by administrators, Board of Education members and faculty.

STEM Director Dr. Joseph Paolicelli introduced salutatorian Bryan Vogel, who shared memories with his fellow classmates and encouragement to face challenges with confidence and conviction for the future.

Valedictorian Anja Minty performed DeBussey’s “Arabesque No. 1” before Director of Humanities Nicole Waldbauer read a prepared statement introducing Anja’s many accomplishments. Anja then took the stage and shared her farewell address and words of inspiration. 

Superintendent of Schools Gerard Poole then asked students to face their families and thank them before sharing his remarks. He applauded the many local, county and state championships, academic recognitions, successful technical education pathways, music achievements and more that the Class of 2023 has attained. 

He also encouraged students to have a roadmap for the future, but if the roadmap has some bumps or derailments, to regroup, pivot and improvise. He highlighted the great opportunities offered to students in the district and underscored the foundational skills that will lead to future success. 

Pugliese then thanked all the students who took part in the ceremony, the first responders and the exceptional academic seniors. He shared his enthusiasm for the future of the students after their primary education in SWR. 

The diplomas were presented by BOE President Katie Andersen, Vice President Henry Perez and trustees Michael Lewis, Robert Rose, Thomas Sheridan, James Smith and Meghan Tepfenhardt.

The Wildcats of Shoreham-Wading River, at 5-0, took on the 3-1 Comsewogue Warriors at Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field on April 19 in what’s always been a bitter Div. II rivalry.

Shoreham-Wading River struck first with a pair of goals in the opening quarter, but the Warriors rattled off five unanswered goals to surge ahead 5-2 before the Wildcats could counter. Liam Kershis’ stick retied the game at 5-all as both teams traded goals before the halftime break. 

Comsewogue attack Brayden Arias split the pipes to put his team out front 8-7 with four minutes left in the third quarter. Kershis then struck again with nine minutes left, retaking the lead 9-8 before teammates Ryan Wilson split the uprights and Alec Gregorek scored his fourth goal of the game as insurance goals. 

Kershis found the net again with less than two minutes, putting his team out front 12-9 for the final score.

— Photos by Bill Landon

In the fall of 2021, ENL students attending Accompsett Middle School in Smithtown, above, created welcome signs in their native languages. Photo from Smithtown Central School District

School districts across the North Shore have experienced an increase in English language learners over the last several years.

English language learner refers to a student who is age 5 or older and who is learning English as a New Language — formerly known as English as a Second Language. This is an approach in which students who are not native English speakers are mainly taught in English. The respective abbreviated current terms are ELL and ENL.

Students tackling English

The number of English language learners varies from district to district along the North Shore of Western Suffolk County. For example, In the Middle Country school district, a spokesperson said 639 were enrolled in the ENL program this year out of the 8,534 students attending. Smaller districts such as Cold Spring Harbor had 15 students learning English, with 1,585 students overall in 2020-21. Port Jefferson had 38 ELL students with an overall enrollment of 962, according to the New York State Education Department website, during the same school year.

While some districts have seen an increase in ELL students, some have seen a decrease or have remained steady. According to a district spokesperson for the Northport-East Northport school district, the number of ELL students has remained stable. Currently, out of the 4,533 students enrolled in the district, 167 are ELL students, which is approximately 3.7% of the student population.

A spokesperson for Harborfields and Elwood school districts said Harborfields has experienced a modest decrease from 3.8% of the student population being ELL students last year to 3.6% this year. In Elwood, the percentage has increased slightly from 6.1% at the end of June to approximately 6.3% at the beginning of this academic year.

According to administrators from local districts, while the majority of students enrolled as English language learners are Spanish speaking, other languages spoken are Chinese dialects, Portuguese, Korean, Turkish, Hebrew, Hungarian, Ukrainian and Urdu, the official language of Pakistan. A smaller percentage speak Russian, Haitian Creole, Arabic, languages from India such as Tamil and Telugu and the Iranian Pashto, according to NYSED.

Kerri Golini, Three Village school district’s director of World Language and English as a New Language, said the ENL population in the district has increased by 21% in the past year. Currently, these students represent 2% of the district’s overall population.

While 13 different languages are spoken in the Three Village program, the majority of students speak Spanish and Chinese dialects.

New York State guidelines require ELL students to have integrated and stand-alone classes depending on comprehension level. In addition to instruction, there are also opportunities for parents to partake in activities.

“All families go through an orientation when their students are screened,” Golini said. “In the fall we host a parent academy to help families navigate the website, use email to communicate, complete forms requested by the district, [submit] applications for free and reduced lunch, and access the parent portal.”

Golini said it’s the district’s “goal to increase parent engagement.”

“Student success increases when there is someone at home who is involved in the child’s education,” she said.

Vicenza Graham, director of World Languages, ENL and Library Media Services in the Smithtown school district, said, families in the district also receive an orientation with translation services “in order to help acclimate our newcomers to their new school environment.”

As for studies, Graham said, “Students receive modified work based on their proficiency levels and lesson plans include scaffolded materials with both content and language objectives.”

Nicole Waldbauer, director of humanities at Shoreham-Wading River school district, said during her five-year tenure as director, the number of students has grown steadily by a few each year. Last year, she said there were 27 students throughout the district, and this year 29. The students represent less than 1.5% of the student population.

When she started with the district, she said there was one ENL teacher, who would travel to the different school buildings as the students are spread out throughout the grades and schools. Now there are three instructors, plus additional hours for them to work. When the hours are combined, they are the equivalent of a part-time position for the district.

Depending on their levels, determined by an assessment, the students are either in a co-taught class or general education class where the ENL teacher will be available for support. Children who are less proficient in English will have a stand-alone period for one-on-one with a teacher.

“The way that the state regulations work, their level dictates how many minutes of one-to-one or small group instruction they get strictly in ENL versus how many minutes they get of integrated co-teaching,” Waldbauer said. “They’re not separated from the general population. That was a change over time that the state ed department had made to make sure that there was more inclusivity.”

Fun ways to learn

Educators have found various ways to help children learn the English language, acclimate to life on Long Island and sometimes include the parents in leisure activities.

Golini said in the Three Village distinct a social event is held for all ELL families in the spring “to provide them with an opportunity to connect with each other and feel a part of the community.”

With COVID-19 restrictions lifted, Golini said the hope is to plan more evening events for the families. She has also worked with teachers to help increase ELL students’ participation in extracurricular activities and sports.

“We had more ELLs involved in the 3V community this past year than ever before,” she said.

Other activities in the district included elementary students visiting the library and high school students touring the Suffolk County Community College campus.

Toward the end of the 2021-22 school year, Harborfields High School’s English language learners visited Stony Brook University where they toured the buildings, lecture halls, student center and library, according to a district press release. The trip allowed students to explore post-secondary education options. While on campus, the high school students also interviewed an SBU student.

In the same district, at the end of last school year, Oldfield Middle School students went on a field trip to the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City to learn about aviation and aerospace history on Long Island.

In the Smithtown school district, in the fall of 2021, Accompsett Middle School students created welcome signs in their native languages. In addition to English, the signs were written in Hebrew, Hungarian, Korean, Mandarin, Spanish, Turkish and Ukrainian.

Waldbauer said with grant money, the Shoreham-Wading River district was able to have an after-school tutoring program for ENL students from K to 8. Last year there was also a Saturday enrichment program that included field trips for the students and their families who along with the teachers and Waldbauer, visited places such as Quogue Wildlife Refuge and the Long Island Aquarium.

“The goal of that was to get the families all together and to have them make connections, but then also giving them a safe space and place to integrate into the community with people there,” she said.

Teachers

While the increase of English language learners hasn’t been drastic, districts at times compete with neighboring communities to secure ENL teachers as the number of teachers certified in the field hasn’t kept up with the increase of students.

Waldbauer said ENL teachers are special and unique people who ensure students are receiving a proper education and any services they need, plus are in touch with parents regularly answering any questions they may have: “They go above and beyond with just instructing the kids.”

Shoreham-Wading River High School students from left to right: Meghan Thrash, Anna Marino, Lauren DeRosso and Caroline Lange. Photo from SWRCSD

Four Shoreham-Wading River High School student-artists participated in an exhibition alongside some of the most talented students in the Suffolk County Art Leaders Association All-County and Senior Scholarship Show. 

Underclassmen who presented works in the show were sophomore Caroline Lange, freshman Anna Marino and junior Meghan Thrash. Senior Lauren DeRosso won third place honors in the senior scholarship portion of the exhibit. 

“It was great seeing our students share this space with so many skilled young artists,” said art teacher Samantha Shepard about the exhibition that highlights works created by some of Suffolk County’s top student-artists.

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Photo from SWR School District

More than 140 students filled their summer mornings with athletics, crafts, friends and games at the Shoreham-Wading River Central School District’s 2021 Summer Round-Out Program, which has been offering summer activities to students for close to four decades.

The program, grouped by age and held at Miller Avenue School, enabled students to participate in creative art projects, outdoor sports and themed activities, with high school and college students working as their counselors. Directors Dylan Busch and Bob Szymanski made certain the diverse opportunities for the students were geared to further develop social, recreational and educational skills in a safe and fun environment.

Many of the counselors were former campers including recent graduates Meghan Klotz and Emma Longboat, who both shared that they enjoy witnessing the new friendships formed among the younger students.

File photo

By Harry To

The Shoreham-Wading River board of education will be conducting its budget vote and board elections on May 18. The two candidates are running unopposed.

Robert Rose

Trustee Robert Rose is running unopposed, making this his fourth reelection since 2012. 

In an email interview with TBR, Rose highlighted his success in getting students back in the classroom. 

“I think the biggest accomplishment has been getting our students back in school every day,” he said. “I think our teachers and staff have done a great job during this global pandemic. I also think that our facilities have drastically improved over the last several years.”

Rose has more-than 20 years of experience in education. For the past 15 years, he has served as the assistant principal at Smithtown High School East.

James Smith

Board member James Smith is also running unopposed. He was first elected in 2018 after his second run for office. 

In the 2018 election Smith ran on a campaign of greater psychological and emotional resources for students, calling for more psychologists and social workers in schools. 

Smith has been an active Shoreham resident for about nine years. In that time, he became vice president of the PTA. He also coached kids through Sound Beach Soccer Club and Father Joe’s Soccer.

Smith did not respond to TBR’s request for comment.

Voting

Board elections will take place with the budget vote for a 1% tax levy increase and two capital project propositions Tuesday, May 18, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Shoreham-Wading River High School gym, located at 250A Route 25A in Shoreham.

Stock photo

This week, Long Islanders acknowledged the one-year mark since the coronavirus hit officially hit and impacted the area. In March 2020, schools began to close, as stay-at-home orders were put into effect. 

Throughout the remainder of the school year, districts had to figure out new learning models in a virtual world and create a socially distanced environment when schools opened back up nearly six months later. 

Now, many districts in the area have opted to bring students back in-person all five days a week, hoping to give children, teachers and families a sense of normalcy. 

Rocky Point Union Free School District 

Rocky Point school district has been back full time for K-5 since September, according to superintendent of schools, Scott O’Brien. 

By November, secondary schools began attending in-person classes four days a week, and now have implemented five days as of last week. “Reopening our schools this year and embracing a phased-in approach to safely bring our K-12 students back to school full time was a truly collaborative effort, and I can’t thank all of our stakeholders enough for their unwavering support,” he said. “Our elementary students have been thriving, learning in person full time since the start of the school year and our district was able to successfully and safely increase our in-person learning days from two to four by November for our secondary students.”

He said that “it was clear pretty early into the increased learning plan how much this move tremendously benefited our students, not only academically but socially and emotionally as well.”

O’Brien said that the district is continually working to ensure their learning environments remain safe. 

Middle Country Central School District  

Roberta Gerold, superintendent of Middle Country school district, said that pre-K through grade 8 will be returning to five days April 5. 

For grades 9 through 12, it was be a slower process to ensure everyone’s safety. 

“By the end of the school year, the goal is to be back to five days,” she said. “We want kids to have muscle memory of what it was like to be in school.”

Gerold said that bringing kids back to schools was the goal all along. 

“Kids are missing the classroom experience,” she said. “The interaction, the energy and it’s good for teachers, too.”

She said that they are following all the necessary precautions, including barriers and mask requirements. Due to space limitations, she said that the 6-feet social distancing rule is unobtainable, but desks and distances are closer to 5-feet apart. 

She said it’s exciting to see how happy her students are at slowly coming back to school. 

“I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “It’s neat to see how excited the kids are and it’s good to start feeling a sense of normalcy again.”

Middle Country is still offering a full virtual option for families who declared so early on. Gerold said right now about 20% of the student population is virtually learning. 

SWR Central School District

Superintendent Gerard Poole said that since September, Shoreham-Wading River has been back full time, five days a week, and there have been no problems for all levels. 

“We have a fully remote option, but about 97% have been attending in person,” he said.

By following all the correct protocols and by reopening a vacant elementary school to help with distancing, students and parents have been thrilled. 

“It’s been fantastic, a huge success,” he said. “It’s good for the students’ mental health, and helps the parents get back to work.”

He said that it takes a collective effort to make things like this happen.

“It can work,” he said. “It does work, and all the other health and safety protocols work. So, I think the fears of COVID are real, but so are the effects of students not being in school every day.”

Comsewogue School District

Superintendent Jennifer Quinn said that beginning April 6, after spring break, high schoolers will be returning to a normal week. Grades K-6 have been back since September. 

“Nothing replaces live instruction,” Quinn said. “The [COVID] numbers are low at this point and we’ve watched from some of the surrounding districts that their numbers are not significantly different than ours. … We want the students to be in school. Live instruction is the best way to learn.”

She added that the district’s teachers and the community as a whole have done “an amazing job during this difficult situation.”

“It’s a hard decision, people are afraid,” Quinn said. “It’s not right for everybody, but the key is this was the plan, and we were working toward this for a long time.”

Comsewogue will still have an option for families to remain virtual. 

“One size doesn’t fit all,” said Joe Coniglione, assistant superintendent. 

And while it’s still a difficult time, Quinn said that everyone is excited to be going back to five days. 

“We’re going to be as safe as we can possibly make it, and we need students to feel that this is their safe place,” she said. “Overall, the kids are suffering. It’s not normal to be home every other day and not being able to see their friends.”

Port Jefferson School District

Since Jan. 18, the Port Jefferson School District transitioned students in grades six through 12 back to in-person learning four days a week. 

“Thus far, we have not seen a rapid rise in our positive COVID cases in our middle school and high school,” Superintendent Jessica Schmettan recently wrote in a letter to parents. “Unfortunately, it has become evident that during this pandemic, our students have not been as successful academically and are struggling with their mental health. We have seen an increase in social and emotional needs similar to those reported in the news across the country.”

She said that from a health perspective, mandating masks, cleaning procedures, hand hygiene and distancing when possible have resulted in minimal transmission within the school. With that in mind, the board of education voted on returning secondary students to in-person learning five days per week beginning on March 8. 

“We as parents are thrilled about that and we as a community are thrilled about that,” Port Jefferson Village trustee Kathianne Snaden said in a virtual board of trustees meeting on March 1. “There’s nothing going to be better for our kids, and then to get them back into school with their friends and teachers and all the things they need in school, we’re so happy about that.”

Schmettan added, “Currently, students very easily shift in and out of the remote environment. Although convenient for parents and families, this irregular pattern of instruction is disruptive

and unfair to teachers and students.”

There will only be a few reasons for virtual learning, including students who opted in for the remainder of the year, students mandated to quarantine due to COVID-19, or students who have a significant documented medical event that will not allow them to attend school for a long duration of time.

Comsewogue School District

Superintendent Jennifer Quinn said that beginning April 6, after spring break, high schoolers will be returning to a normal week. Grades K-6 have been back since September.

“Nothing replaces live instruction,” Quinn said. “The [COVID] numbers are low at this point and we’ve watched from some of the surrounding districts that their numbers are not significantly different than ours. … We want the students to be in school. Live instruction is the best way to learn.”

She added that the district’s teachers and the community as a whole have done “an amazing job during this difficult situation.”

“It’s a hard decision, people are afraid,” Quinn said. “It’s not right for everybody, but the key is this was the plan, and we were working toward this for a long time.”

Comsewogue will still have an option for families to remain virtual.

“One size doesn’t fit all,” said Joe Coniglione, assistant superintendent.

And while it’s still a difficult time, Quinn said that everyone is excited to be going back to five days.

“We’re going to be as safe as we can possibly make it, and we need students to feel that this is their safe place,” she said. “Overall, the kids are suffering. It’s not normal to be home every other day and not being able to see their friends.”