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Three Village Central School District

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Ward Melville High School. Photo by Greg Catalano

By Mallie Kim

Three Village Central School District plans to cut 30 full-time positions, primarily instructional staff, according to Superintendent of Schools Kevin Scanlon. 

The cuts are a result of declining enrollment — district data shows the student population dropped by more than 1,500 over the last decade — and the need to stay within the 2.65% tax levy increase cap the district has calculated based on state regulations for the 2023-24 budget.

“It’s unavoidable,” Scanlon said at a March 8 Board of Education meeting, noting some 75% of the school budget is payroll. “We simply don’t have enough money to sustain where we’re at right now, financially.”

Scanlon said that cuts would not lead to larger class sizes or affect programs already in place, but rather bring staffing more in line with student population levels. Excess positions will be both in elementary and secondary, he said, adding that instructional staff will be most affected because they make up the majority of employees, and the administrative team already made cuts last year.

The meeting was a step in the process of developing next year’s school budget in advance of the May 16 community vote, which will take place in Ward Melville High School’s gymnasium.

Cost increases due to inflation have added budget challenges for the school district, according to Deputy Superintendent Jeffrey Carlson. The part of the tax levy pegged to inflation can only increase by 2% but inflation in the United States at the end of last year was 6.5%.

“It’s killing us, everything is costing so much more,” Carlson said. “We’re really going to learn the difference between ‘we need something’ and ‘we want something.’”

But, Carlson said, at this point that won’t mean taking away aspects of Three Village that make it a desirable district. These include special education services, a topic that often comes up in budget conversations since the district educates students with special needs in-house as much as possible. According to Carlson, this makes the district’s per-pupil cost appears to be higher than neighboring districts, because costs associated with sending students to BOCES programs are not figured into a district’s per-pupil expenditure numbers, while costs for in-district services are. 

Carlson said at the meeting he is often asked why Three Village provides more special education services than legally mandated.

“Well, of course we do,” he said. “We give more than is mandated to all of our students,” adding that pre-K, sports, clubs and universal busing are also not mandated. “I don’t think we’d be proud of ourselves as a district if all we did was the bare minimum.”

The board is advocating with local politicians for the inflation-based cap to reflect real world inflation, Scanlon said, out of concern the rates might continue to soar. 

“We are lucky for next year where it’s not going to affect programs,” he said. “But if it continues at this [rate], it will.”

The district is also seeking additional revenue streams, according to Scanlon, like renting out portable buildings to BOCES and taking on more tuition-based students from other districts. Carlson added that the district would raise rates for after-school care, enrichment programs and facility rentals for private programs.

“We certainly have not kept pace with inflation over the years,” Carlson said, adding the district has seen these programs as a kind of community service. “But those items, too, are costing more and more and more.”

The budget conversation comes just over a month after the district was labeled “susceptible to fiscal stress” by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli (D). Carlson said this designation did not come as a surprise and reflects too little money in district reserves. Three Village spent nearly $7 million in reserve funds to keep schools open full time during the 2020-21 school year, with a virtual option. 

Carlson expressed pride that Three Village was one of the few districts nationwide to maintain full-time, in-person learning during the pandemic, and said refilling the coffers is a priority. He added the district is in the middle of a plan to replenish this rainy day fund over several years.

“We would love to be in a position where hopefully nothing like that ever happens again, but if it does, we could do that again if we wanted to,” the deputy superintendent said.

The board opened its meeting with a moment of silence to remember R.C. Murphy Junior High student Qamat Shah, who was struck and killed by a car while riding his bike on Thursday evening, March 2. He was 14.

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By Mallie Kim

The results are in. Across stakeholder categories, the clear favorite in Three Village Central School District’s restructuring survey was Option B, moving up both sixth and ninth grades to mean the two middle schools would house sixth through eighth grades, and the high school would house grades nine through 12.

Option A represented maintaining the current configuration with kindergarten through sixth grade in elementary school, seventh through ninth in junior high, and grades 10-12 in high school; Option C would have moved up only ninth grade; and Option D was the Princeton Plan, which would have split elementary schools and placed upper and lower grades in separate buildings. All four options, including Option B, left open the future possibility of closing or repurposing an elementary school.

Among district parents, staff, secondary students and the community at large, the data followed very similar trends, with the status quo coming in a distant second place when all four options were ranked against each other. “We’re so often told that different groups are in conflict with one another — schools and parents and teachers and politics,” said Deirdre Rubenstrunk, the district’s executive director of technology, at a special meeting to present survey results to the Board of Education on Monday, March 13. “But here we got to see in this data a real alignment of where people want to go, and as a school district administrator, that was really reassuring.”

The strategic planning committee recommended the board adopts Option B, but BOE president Susan Rosenzweig said they would take their time making a decision.

“We are not in a rush to make this vote; there’s a lot to consider,” she said, pointing out that there were many helpful comments and concerns written in the survey responses, especially from some forward-thinking teachers who had suggestions from the front lines. “We’re going to do what’s absolutely the very best for the kids but while remaining within our fiduciary responsibilities.”

Restructuring plans are separate from the budget planning currently in process for the 2023-24 school year, but restructuring is under consideration because of declining enrollment trends and other budget concerns.

Even if the board votes to adopt Option B in the coming weeks, that would mark only the beginning of the work, according to Superintendent of Schools Kevin Scanlon. Whatever the board decides, he said, “the work then begins for the employees of the district — the administration, the staff.” 

If Option B moves forward, Scanlon said, district staff would need to go through all the nitty gritty details to figure out logistics, such as moving instructional staff, adjusting curriculum and planning to have enough guidance counselors in the right school buildings. That work, Scanlon said, would need to be finished by next December to make implementing changes for the 2024-25 school year possible. “We want to do this properly,” he said. “We don’t want to rush at this.”

Scanlon mentioned that making secondary school start times later, the part of the strategic planning committee process that wasn’t included in the survey, was still high on the administration’s priority list, but they have not yet figured out logistics and finances. 

The district plans to schedule four informational meetings in coming weeks, two at night and two during the day, to explain the survey results to interested parents and community members. In the meantime, the results — including comments — are posted on the district’s website and can be found by clicking on the “District” drop-down menu and selecting “Committees.”

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Sarah Sajjad, right, in a family photo with her husband and children, was on hand for the Feb. 15 meeting with three of her children so they could witness the addition of Muslim holidays to the school calendar. Photo from Sarah Sajjad

By Mallie Kim

Artificial Intelligence could one day have a place in Three Village schools, according to Deidre Rubenstrunk, the district’s executive director of technology and data protection officer.

“If I were to submit that for an AP course, it wouldn’t get me much credit.”

— Mikaeel Zohair,

“Perhaps somewhere in the next five years, how to use AI could be part of our standards,” she told the school board at the Feb. 15 meeting. “Corporate America is going crazy over this right now, and we are going to have to prepare our students to use this as a tool.” 

The comments came during time the board set aside to discuss ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence tool that has dominated headlines over the past few months. In January, the New York City Department of Education banned the technology from school internet networks and devices out of concerns students may use the bot to complete homework, since it can generate content based on user prompts.

But according to Rubenstrunk, Three Village would address that issue differently. “The only way that you promote academic integrity among students is not with Turnitin or originality reports in Google, but actually educating them in what integrity is and making it tangible for them,” she said, adding that is something she and other district staff are already working on.

Board members chimed in to support Rubenstrunk’s approach, emphasizing the importance of a “do not panic” attitude about emerging technologies. 

Superintendent of Schools Kevin Scanlon compared ChatGPT and other AI technologies to the graphing calculator, which some schools initially saw as a threat in the classroom. 

“We have to look at the technology as a tool,” he said. “We need to train staff and students on proper use of this.”

Student representative to the board, Ward Melville High School senior Mikaeel Zohair, said he was not impressed with the ChatGPT bot’s output when he played around with it using essay prompts.

“If I were to submit that for an AP course, it wouldn’t get me much credit,” he said, adding the content could maybe pass for a middle school level. “Honestly, I don’t see a practical use for it but it’s fun.”

Board member Shaorui Li said she was recently exploring the limitations of ChatGPT with some high school students, and they found it could be a helpful tool in the fight against procrastination.

“You have the machine generate something you look at and [think], ‘Oh, I can do better,’” she said, adding that hopefully it would jump-start a student’s own work.

Also on the agenda at the board meeting was next year’s April 10 addition to the 2023-24 calendar of Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday celebrating the end of the Ramadan month of fasting. Scanlon said there will be a break in state Regents exams on June 17, 2024, to allow Muslim students to celebrate Eid al-Adha, also known as the Feast of Sacrifice. 

District parent Sarah Sajjad brought three of her elementary-aged children to the board meeting to witness the calendar change announcement.

“I wanted them to actually come and see, have an experience that they do get recognized,” Sajjad said after the meeting. She works as a special education aide in the district.

“Now everybody will be off, so we’ll welcome everybody to have fun and have a party with us.”

— Sarah Sajjad

Sajjad said she is thankful for the change because her kids have wondered why the school marks Christian and Jewish holidays with a day off, but not Muslim holidays. Plus, she added, it’s a great way for people of all religions to come together. Sajjad said her family enjoys taking part in her neighbors’ Christmas parties, but she hasn’t been able to reciprocate.

“Now everybody will be off, so we’ll welcome everybody to have fun and have a party with us,” she said. “We can actually celebrate with everybody in the community.” 

The district must maintain a minimum of 900 instructional hours for elementary students and 990 for secondary, and days off vary year to year depending on which holidays fall on weekends — as does Rosh Hashanah in 2023. The district has posted the approved 2023-24 calendar on its website.

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Option four in the survey, which would create primary schools for kindergarten through second grade and intermediate schools for third through fifth, has been widely panned. Setauket Elementary School pictured above. Photo by Mallie Kim

By Mallie Kim

Declining enrollment alongside a history of budget vote woes has Three Village Central School District eyeing structural changes, and the Board of Education is asking parents, students, staff and the community to weigh in by survey. 

The request for community involvement, which comes after a series of public strategic planning meetings, is a step toward forming the 2023-24 district budget after last year’s budget proposal squeaked by with 66 votes and the 2021 budget failed to pass the vote at all, forcing a tighter contingency budget and no tax levy increase. The vote this spring will be the first under the leadership of new Superintendent of Schools Kevin Scanlon.

Results of the survey will weigh heavily in upcoming budget and planning discussions, according to Scanlon. “The board and administration will only consider those options which receive the majority of support from each of the groups surveyed,” he wrote by email.

The survey, which opened Feb. 2 and will close Feb. 17, includes explanatory video messages from Scanlon and asks residents to rank the favorability of four restructuring options individually and then against each other. The options include maintaining the status quo, moving up ninth grade to high school and sixth grade to middle school, moving up only the ninth grade and finally the Princeton Plan, which calls for dividing elementary students into lower and upper grade schools.

According to district data, there’s been a 23% decrease in the student population since the 2012-13 school year, from just over 7,000 students enrolled a decade ago to about 5,500 this year in grades K-12. Maintaining the current structure of district schools may only be sustainable if enrollment increases, according to Scanlon. Proposed restructuring is an effort to prepare in case enrollment continues to decline along its current trajectory. In response to rumors among concerned parents, Scanlon has emphasized at strategic planning meetings and in the survey videos that no decisions have been made about closing or repurposing any of the five district elementary schools. Any such move “would not be considered by the administration until the budget process next year for the 2024-25 school year,” Scanlon wrote.

The options on the table this year, which have been explained and discussed publicly at the strategic planning meetings, have varying popularity among local families.

Creating sixth through eighth grade middle schools and a four-year high school would bring Three Village more in line with schools across New York state and the country, give sixth graders more course and extracurricular offerings and, according to figures provided by the board, save about $450,000 per year on transportation costs alone, for ninth graders traveling to Ward Melville High School for athletics and advanced placement courses.

The proposal to move ninth grade to the high school has received a lot of public support, due to the prevalence of four-year high schools in the United States and the fact that it would save the district money. Kim Moody, who has four children spread across all levels of district schools, agrees. “I really think it would benefit the ninth graders to be at the high school,” she said, pointing to the inefficient time management for those who bus to Ward Melville for extracurriculars and for the high schoolers who have to wait for those buses to arrive. “It is an ambiguous year that ninth graders can be part of JV sports teams, but they’re still housed separately from their teammates,” she added.

Detractors at strategic planning committees have raised hallway crowding and increased traffic around Ward Melville as primary reasons for pause.Moody is less firm in her opinion about moving sixth grade up to middle school. “I don’t think they can make a wrong decision around sixth grade, personally,” she said. Moody, who works with adolescents through the Christian organization Young Life, has noticed both in personal and professional experience that students tend to make a developmental leap around the middle of sixth grade. “As a parent, the first part of sixth grade I was glad they were in elementary school, but by the second half, I would think: ‘This kid could be in middle.’”

Some parents, including Moody, say if the change goes through, the district should find ways to scaffold this variance in readiness among sixth graders during their first middle school semester and should also begin preparing fifth graders to switch classes — something district elementary schools are already piloting this year. 

Option four in the survey, which would create primary schools for kindergarten through second grade and intermediate schools for third through fifth, has been widely panned at strategic planning subcommittee meetings and on social media. In the Princeton Plan, common in surrounding school districts on Long Island, classroom and special area teachers would specialize in a smaller range of grades while students in programs like the Intellectually Gifted classes would no longer have to bus to alternate schools. This option would also mean adding a school transition for students, splitting elementary-aged siblings and a lengthening commute time for some children, away from their neighborhood schools.

Data from the survey will be broken up into the four respondent groups: the community at large; parents of students currently enrolled in Three Village schools; secondary students and district staff and will be shared in the relevant committees before moving on to a formal presentation to the school board.

For more survey information, visit the district’s website www.threevillagecsd.org and click on School Restructuring Survey on the home page.

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By Mallie Jane Kim

Setting secondary school start times later is a priority, but the initiative faces budget barriers, according to Three Village school district Superintendent of Schools Kevin Scanlon.

Scanlon shared his strong support for a time change at a strategic planning subcommittee Monday night, Jan. 23, where he and Deputy Superintendent Jeffrey Carlson introduced proposed alternative schedules for Three Village schools. Each alternative requires additional buses, and with New York’s 2% property tax increase cap in place, that money has to come from somewhere else in the budget, Carlson said at the meeting. “Anything that goes in, something else has to come out.”

Currently, junior high students in the district start the day at 7:40 a.m., and high school students begin at 7:05. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a start time of 8:30 a.m. or later for adolescents, citing a body of research indicating too early a start time is a prime culprit in teen sleep deprivation, which negatively affects physical and mental health — and, crucially, school performance.

“We all get the idea that the start time is too early,” Scanlon said, adding later that in his 31 years working in education, “I’ve witnessed the impact of health issues on children, [including] drugs and alcohol. This is one of them, and this is something we need to address.”

But getting secondary start times past the 8 a.m. mark is complicated due to tiered busing. Currently, the district’s fleet of 47 buses transports students in four waves, starting with the first high school pickup at 6:10 a.m., and ending with the last drop-offs at Arrowhead, Setauket and Mount elementary schools, which start at 9:25 a.m. Carlson told the subcommittee he would welcome additional schedule configuration proposals but clarified that Ward Melville High School can’t simply switch start times with the late elementary schools because its Section XI sports league requires participating schools to end by 3 p.m. And starting all schools closer to the same time would require additional buses.

The other issues currently facing the school board — proposals to reconfigure elementary schools, move ninth grade to high school and move sixth grade up to form middle schools — could make some room in the budget, as could an idea to convert an existing school into a tuition-based school of the arts.

District parents making public comment at the meeting were passionate in their dislike of the early secondary start times, with one parent calling the start time “vile,” and another comparing it to a dangerous substance, saying if the district knew a substance in the schools was causing anxiety, depression, increased sports injuries and lower test scores, “we wouldn’t balk at spending this money to do something about it, without question.”

Others suggested that the elementary school students who currently start school at 9:25 a.m. could benefit from an earlier start time since younger children tend to wake up earlier, and some families have to arrange day care before school to accommodate work schedules.

District parent Barbara Rosati, who is a Stony Brook University research physiologist and founder of an advocacy group on this issue, expressed gratitude at the meeting that the new board leadership is taking the start times seriously, but is frustrated that changes have not been prioritized in the budget up until this point.

“What we are seeing here are costs necessary to keep our kids healthy,” Rosati told the subcommittee. “Whatever we don’t do, our kids’ health is going to keep suffering.” 

Scanlon, who took the helm of Three Village district last summer, emphasized that any changes the board approves would be, at the earliest, for the 2024-25 school year.

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At the start of the school year, the Three Village Central School District convened a Strategic Planning Committee to discuss the current operational functions of the district’s schools and examine alternatives that would provide for increased opportunities for students and fiscal efficiencies. The committee, which is comprised of members representing district stakeholders, was charged with discussing, researching, investigating and reporting on such topics as school start time, moving the ninth grade to the high school, moving the sixth grade to the junior high school and the configuration of the district’s elementary schools.

To ensure all residents have the chance to voice their opinions on these topics, the district will be issuing a digital survey in the coming weeks to gain input on these important matters prior to any recommendations being made to the board of education.

Parents with students currently enrolled in the district will receive the survey via email. A postcard with the survey link will be mailed to all residents so that community members who do not currently have children enrolled in the district will have access to the survey.

The results of the survey will be reviewed and discussed at a board of education meeting in March, as part of the next steps in the strategic planning process. The district thanks all residents in advance for their participation in this important process.

For more information about the Strategic Planning Committee and their presentations to date, visit the district’s website, www.threevillagecsd.org and click on the Strategic Planning Committee icon

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.


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.”

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Students in the Three Village Central School District returned to their buildings on Sept. 6 for the first day of school. Administrators, teachers and staff members welcomed students and led them to their classrooms for a day full of introductions and activities.

From the youngest students in the district to the Class of 2023, everyone was excited to start the new school year.

This academic year will resemble scholarly life before COVID-19 a bit more as the New York State Department of Health has lifted restrictions such as masks, social distancing and mandatory quarantines if exposed to someone with the virus.

Despite a few job openings, local school districts are ready for the new school year. Stock photo

With schools across the nation facing issues filling positions, including vital teaching jobs, local school districts, for the most part, are looking toward the new academic year in a good position with staffing.

While COVID-19 created severe obstacles for schools in the last couple of years, local districts are moving past them.

Some difficulties

Kevin Scanlon, the new Three Village Central School District superintendent, said the district is among those well staffed regarding teachers. Slight shortages involve jobs such as teaching assistants and monitor positions. Substitutes for teaching and various openings, including custodial, are also hard to find. Scanlon said that with more than 500 teachers in the district, 30 to 50 of them could be out on any given day.

Neil Katz, Smithtown Central School District assistant superintendent for personnel; Jim Polansky, Huntington school district superintendent; and Roberta Gerold, Middle Country Central School District superintendent, all said their districts are in the same position with permanent teaching positions being filled, but there are small issues finding noncertified employees.

Routinely, it can be challenging also to find candidates in the fields of English as a New Language, family and consumer sciences, technology and language classes. Scanlon added that it’s difficult to find certified American Sign Language educators. 

“Also, business teachers, which is unusual because 25 years ago you probably had your choice of teachers,” he said. “Some of the local colleges in New York also used to produce 120 candidates a year in tech teachers, now they’re producing maybe 12 to18. So, the numbers are quite short of where they were years ago in those specialized areas.” 

Scanlon added finding such teachers is even more difficult than finding math and science teachers.

“We are all competing against each other trying to find them,” he said.

Polansky said, from time to time, there can be last-minute resignations at the end of the summer.

“Those can present issues, but those are few and far between, and sometimes if you have an added aide position that comes up due to class formation, that doesn’t take place until late in the summer,” he said.

Gerold said, “One of the many byproducts of the pandemic has been a smaller pool of applicants, which has impacted the Middle Country school district’s ability — as it has school districts across Long Island and the country — to hire talented educators.”

Like other districts, Middle Country found ways to ensure it was properly staffed.

“While the hiring process has been particularly challenging heading into this school year, our human resources and personnel teams have worked hard to creatively find new solutions to attract the next generation of educators to lead our community into the future,” she said. 

There has also been a need to stay proactive regarding teacher retirements. While student enrollment has declined in some local districts, the number of teachers retiring has increased.

Katz said the number of employees currently retiring makes sense as the population was growing in the area 25 to 30 years ago and schools were expanding, which led to the need to hire more teachers at the time. Those employees are now meeting their retirement requirements.

“We’re hitting that point that there’s this balloon of the number of teachers that are eligible for retirement,” Katz said, adding COVID-19 exacerbated the problem in recent years.

Polansky agreed.

“You’re going to see more in the next couple of years because it is kind of generational,” he said. “That’s another thing that we need to take into account.”

According to New York State Teachers’ Retirement System, 33% of active members could potentially retire in the next few years.


Some news outlets have reported states such as Florida dropping the requirements for people to secure a teaching position such as having a bachelor’s degree. Polansky said, “There’s a fine line between helping your teacher availability and compromising quality. You don’t want to be in a situation where actions are being taken that actually lessen the quality of the educator that’s in front of your children in the classroom.”

He added that such a move could cause more problems in the long run.

“We have to make teaching a desirable profession,” he said. “There are a couple of ways to do that, and it’s incumbent upon states and local school districts to make that happen.” 

Administrators said their districts always start the hiring process early in the calendar year to prepare for the first day of school, attending recruitment events at colleges in New York state, hosting their own career fairs and placing ads in papers.

Scanlon said the Three Village school district will run an ad in The New York Times at the end of January or early February. He added that advertising in the paper is something many high-caliber schools do. Looking toward the future, the superintendent said there are talks about bringing back a Future Teachers of America club to the high school to encourage students to choose teaching as a career.

Gerold said one of the Middle Country school district’s “initiatives has been our successful partnership with Stony Brook University to fortify our roster of substitute teachers. During the pandemic, the district partnered with Stony Brook University to place student-teacher substitutes in schools. Through this, we’ve been able to satisfy the substitute teacher needs throughout the district and identify strong educators who are poised to excel in leading classrooms.”

Katz said the Smithtown Central school district tries to reach out to different associations and offer more competitive salaries. However, even using various hiring methods and starting early, sometimes a new hire will get a better offer right before the academic year begins.

“We’re getting into bidding wars,” he said. “Candidates are pushing one district against the other in bidding wars. Kind of like the housing market.”

Despite a few job openings, local school districts are ready for the new school year. Stock photo

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School board president William Connors is running unopposed for his seat on the board. File photo by Andrea Paldy

William F. Connors Jr., 77, of East Setauket passed away on July 21.

Bill Connors

He was born March 31, 1945, in Brooklyn and was the son of the late William and Ethel Connors. He spent the past 50 years married to the love of his life, Susan Connors (Edwards), and together they raised four children: Terence, Corinne Keane (Edward), Kristin Mangini (Ken) and their daughter Jessica Connors who predeceased Bill in December 2021.

One of Bill’s favorite roles was proud Papa to four adoring grandsons: Conor Mangini (17), Gavin Mangini (14), Caden Mangini (11) and Braeden Keane (7). 

Bill enjoyed a life filled with a very large extended family that spent significant time together and is extremely close knit. His family and loved ones were fortunate to always know how loved and adored they were as Bill “wore his heart on his sleeve” and never passed up the opportunity to let the people he loved know how much he cared about them.

Bill received a bachelor’s degree in history from Saint Anselm College, a Master of Education in counseling psychology from Springfield College, and a Master of Public Administration in management from Long Island University. He retired from Suffolk County Community College in 2011 after holding a variety of faculty and senior administrative positions spanning 44 years. These included associate vice president for academic affairs/college dean of faculty, executive dean/CEO of the Ammerman and Eastern campuses, associate vice president for student affairs, and dean of faculty at the Ammerman and Grant campuses. 

Always looking to contribute to his community, Bill was involved in numerous service activities. He served as a member/vice president of the board of trustees of the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in Setauket between 1984-92. He was on the Three Village Central School District board of education for a total of 21 years. He served on the board between 1994-2006 and served as vice president between 1995-96 and president between 1996-2006. After a six-year hiatus, he was reelected to the board of education in 2012 and served through 2021. He served as vice president 2013-14 and president between 2014-20.

Bill was also a member of the Saints Philip and James R.C. Church in St. James since 1973. Over the years he has been involved in numerous aspects of parish life and has served as an Eucharistic minister, member of SSPJ school board, and was a member of the pre-baptismal preparation program which he conducted along with his wife.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of East Setauket. Calling hours were held Monday, July 25, and the funeral Mass was held at Saints Philip and James R.C. Church the next day. Interment was private. Visit www.bryantfh.com to sign the online guest book.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that people consider making a donation to The Jessica Connors Memorial Scholarship as Bill was immensely proud of this scholarship created in his youngest daughter’s memory. This annual scholarship is awarded to a graduating Ward Melville High School student who has a connection to or has made contributions to students with learning differences or special needs. It would mean the world to him to know that friends and loved ones continued to support this effort to memorialize her in his name. Donations to the scholarship can be made by visiting gofundme.com/f/the-jessica-connors-memorial-scholarship or by mail to The Jessica Connors Memorial Scholarship c/o Corinne Keane, P.O. Box 750, East Setauket, NY 11733.

Connors remembered

In an email, Three Village Superintendent of Schools Kevin Scanlon informed district residents of Connors’ passing. Scanlon described him as “a symbol of strength, dignity and reason for decades in Three Village. He epitomized the phrase ‘a gentleman and a scholar.’”

Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich said in an email, “I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my friend and colleague, Bill Connors. I served with Bill on the Three Village board of education for a number of years and grew to appreciate first and foremost his deep and abiding love for his family; his commitment to serve our community; and his wisdom and experience in the field of education. He was tremendously decent and compassionate, with a gentle temperament and a kind word for all, and I will miss him very much.”

Anthony Parlatore, a member of the Emma Clark library board of trustees for more than 30 years, said his tenure on the library board overlapped that of Connors for about a year or so.

“We were very close when he was on the board,” Parlatore said. “He was just a quality human being. He was very positive on the board, always maintained a smile and you can just tell he enjoyed being on the board.”

While the board has always functioned well, Parlatore said, Connors added to the high-quality operation, making “his presence known in a very quiet, dignified manner.”

“He listened to everybody politely, and he was a consummate gentleman, expressed his opinion and was never argumentative,” Parlatore said “All the qualities you’d expect. It was a pleasure serving with him.”