Encouraging the next generation of scientists, Wading River School’s Science Fair brought together a school community of scientific discovery and pure moments of fun.
While balloons, bubbles, plants, crystals, magnets, eggs and more may have played important roles in experiments, the action-packed, scientifically engaging event was all about the camaraderie and connections among the students as they explored their scientific interests and curiosities.
More than 100 young scientists participated, and Shoreham-Wading River High School students served as judges, noting that the steps of the scientific method were followed in each experiment.
Principal Mr. Louis Parrinello thanked all who made the Science Fair a tremendous success, including teachers, support staff, parents and chairpeople Mr. Mike Morano and Dr. Andrea Stadler. In addition to the top-level experiments of the students, highlights included Dr. Stadler’s exciting elephant toothpaste chemistry experiment and the Van de Graaff generator, an electrostatic generator that created some hair-raising moments.
An ongoing bond referendum project has aided in Albert G. Prodell Middle School’s makeover. Thanks to the $48.5 million bond voted on in 2015, repairs and expansions have led to many changes across the district, including renovations to the middle school library by the end of this summer, and a new cafeteria and kitchen addition by Jan. 1, 2019.
“It’s been a very exciting time for the district with the bond work and the renovations,” Superintendent Gerard Poole said. “Opening up the schools this fall was great with those new vibrant spaces for our students, so we’re looking forward to the work this summer.”
The construction is being headed by South Huntington-based Park East Construction, and according to Poole, the district is currently in phase three of four and right on schedule.
The middle school’s library will see an internal redesign. Currently, the library walls only reach three quarters of the way to the ceiling, and the plan is for the new walls to go all the way up. The overhead lighting and circulation desks will be replaced.
“I think part of it is modernizing it, and the other part of it is redesigning it into an instructional space,” Poole said. “The library is the heart of the building, so modernizing it is going to be great for the instruction of the students.”
The extension for the kitchen and cafeteria will include a new freezer and utilities. The kitchen, and its staff, will provide a health-based menu much like the cafeteria at Wading River Elementary School, that was completed in summer 2018. Poole said that the kitchen may provide opportunities down the road for culinary classes.
“Whenever you make a space in the school, people seem to make use of it,” Poole said. “I wouldn’t rule it out.”
“We had students where the only bathroom they could use in the whole school was the one in the nurse’s office. It was bad, because those students just wanted to be like everyone else. This has definitely made a difference.”
— Christine Carlson
The middle school is also scheduled to receive parking improvements with the addition of 20 spots in the rear of the building and main office, guidance department and nurse’s office quarters.
Cracked track asphalt and roof repairs were already completed last summer. Water fountains, carbon monoxide detectors, a phone system and additional AEDs were also added at Prodell.
Bond construction work to date
Phase one of the bond project was completed in 2016 with the reconstruction of Shoreham-Wading River High School’s tennis courts and roof. The high school’s football field was also upgraded with new turf.
Phase two of the project included renovations at both Miller Avenue and Wading River elementary schools.
Outside, Miller Avenue’s parking lot was reconstructed with additional parking in the front as well as a new bus loop that goes to the rear of the building. Inside, the school was expanded by the addition of new kindergarten classrooms, and some pre-existing classrooms were enlarged to fit internal bathrooms. Bathrooms in the front of the school have also been made handicap accessible. Miller Avenue Elementary School Principal Christine Carlson said the change has helped students feel less segregated from their peers.
“We had students where the only bathroom they could use in the whole school was the one in the nurse’s office because it was the only one accessible to them,” Carlson said. “It was bad, because those students just wanted to be like everyone else. This has definitely made a difference.”
Wading River Elementary School also saw the construction of new classrooms and renovation of several existing ones. The school’s floor was redesigned and part of the roof was refurbished. The main courtyard had major flooding issues, so a new water filtration system was installed.
The building also saw the addition of a new kitchen and cafeteria. Kitchen staff arrive early in the morning baking bow-tie pasta with fresh basil pesto, grilled chicken, steamed carrots and fresh fruit.
Wading River Elementary School Principal Louis Parrinello said that the renovations have made a huge impact on the morale of the school.
“When you’re not focused on facilities, of floods in the courtyard or a bad roof, you can turn your attention to the things that really matter — the students,” Parrinello said. “Now we can look to work on new programs and activities going into next year.”
Phase four of the bond project is expected to start next year. Those plans include a redesign of Shoreham-Wading River High School’s parking lot and traffic circle. The district still has to finalize the draft for the plans and get state approval, before receiving bids from potential construction companies.
A new, broader homework policy drafted by the Shoreham-Wading River board of education opened up a dialogue last month between parents and administrators over the best approach to after school assignments throughout the district.
Varying consequences for students who don’t do their homework and an overabundance of assignments over school holidays were main topics of discussion during Shoreham’s Oct. 24 board meeting, in which community members weighed in on a planned revision to the district’s current policy.
In response to a curriculum survey sent out by the district over the summer, parents requested that its guidelines for homework be expanded. While the original policy is merely two sentences on the educational validity of homework, the new two-page proposal aims to better accommodate for individual students and incorporates recognized best practices in the development of assignments.
“The process has certainly put a lens on homework,” Superintendent Gerard Poole said. “Feedback from parents in the survey was a little mixed — the underlying theme was that homework is important but there should be consistencies across grade levels and considerations for home life. We tried to craft something that empowered the buildings to make practices come to life that make sense for students and families.”
The newly drafted guidelines, titled Policy 8440, encourage teachers to consider students’ time constraints when assigning homework, which should be “appropriate to students’ age” and shouldn’t “take away too much time away from other home activities.”
“Homework should foster positive attitudes toward school and self, and communicate to students the idea that learning takes work at home as well as in school,” the draft policy states.
While it addresses that students should be accountable for all assignments, there are no strict consequences in place for when homework isn’t done, which prompted some parents to voice their concerns.
“I think it’s very important that we establish responsibility and have consequences that teachers themselves are able to have the flexibility to put on children,” said Jeannine Smith, a Shoreham parent with children in Wading River School and Miller Avenue School.
As an educator in an outside district, Smith supported the concept of taking recess away from students in the elementary and middle school who consistently don’t hand homework in.
“I think it’s very important that we establish responsibility and have consequences that teachers themselves are able to have the flexibility to put on children.”
— Jeannine Smith
“It’s the teacher’s job to make sure children are prepared in the future and if homework’s not important in the classroom, children get the message that there is no consequence,” she said.
Shoreham resident Erin Saunders-Morano agreed, saying she believes homework is ultimately the student’s responsibility and shouldn’t be seen as something that falls on the parents.
“As we get older, if you don’t do your job, there are consequences,” Morano said. “I think we should be raising the bar for our students, not lowering it. If students want recess, they should make sure they do their homework.”
But Alisa McMorris, a member of the district’s PTA council, protested the idea, saying students who are working hard all day deserve a break. She also pointed out that difficult and time-consuming projects should not be assigned over vacations.
“I can’t tell you how many times my kids have had projects due the day we get back from Christmas break and it makes me crazy,” McMorris said. “Our Christmas breaks now are doing these projects. Vacation is vacation.”
Michelle Gallucci, a Wading River resident and an English teacher at Smithtown High School East, commended the board for drafting a policy that gives teachers academic freedom based on the students they have in the classroom. She equated the importance of homework to sports practice.
“You can’t take a math class at 9 a.m. on a Monday and not do it again until 9 a.m. the next day,” she said. “You have to practice those skills and get better because your brain is a muscle. Just as students practice for hours after school to get ready for games, students also need intellectual practice.”
Renewal bond brings construction upgrades to K-5 buildings
Administrators and board of education members within the Shoreham-Wading River school district were cheered on by smiling kids last week as they broke ground on the second phase of the $48.5 million renewal bond construction project that will bring much-needed improvements to the district’s elementary schools. The first phase was implemented at the beginning of 2016, with renovated tennis courts and a new turf field at Shoreham-Wading River High School.
Equipped with hard hats and shovels, the district team held back-to-back ground-breaking ceremonies Jan. 19 at the Miller Avenue School and Wading River School to highlight for the students their upcoming construction projects, the majority of which will take place over the summer in order to be completed by the time school starts back up in September.
Some of the work being done includes the construction of four brand new kindergarten classrooms at Miller Avenue School , as well as a complete reconfiguration of the building to make it a more child-friendly and productive space — planned installation of bathrooms in the classrooms, for instance, serves to eliminate daily lesson disruptions caused by frequent and time-consuming trips down the hallway.
“It’s really going to make instruction a lot better,” Miller Avenue School Principal Christine Carlson said.
The Wading River School will see the renovation of 10 classrooms, the addition of four new ones, the construction of a cafetorium, as well as significant interior upgrades like making its bathrooms Americans with Disabilities Act accessible.
Neither building has received major improvements since they were built in the 1960s and 1970s, and so, the bond will also go toward to replacing a lot of the original infrastructure like the weathered roofs and windows.
“It’s a long road [still], but it’s great and exciting,” board trustee and co-president of the bond committee Michael Lewis said. “It’s going to be difficult — there’s going to be a lot of construction here, some disruption for the kids and parents, but in September, everyone’s going to be overwhelmed by the amount of work that was done and how great the schools are going to look.”
“This will impact K-12, arts, sports, your typical classroom settings, everything.”
Lewis formed the bond committee with other board members in an attempt to get as much done in as short a period as possible. They spent about nine months reviewing building conditions, weighing options and finding potential upgrades needed to bring the district to “modern standards of design, safety, codes and efficiency” while landing on a total cost that the community would accept.
The $48.5 million bond project was met with overwhelming approval by the community with a vote of 1,421 to 585 on Jan. 13, 2015, allowing the district to get its renovations underway.
“Each of the four schools [including Prodell Middle School] is getting between $12 and $13 million,” Lewis said. “It’s spread pretty evenly, which is great. It’s not a bond that just touches one school. This will impact K-12, arts, sports, your typical classroom settings, everything.” The Shoreham-Wading River district plans to begin construction projects to Prodell Middle School next year.
At the front of Wading River Elementary, the school’s entire student body, as well as its teachers and administrators, joined the board members in a groundbreaking celebration the ceremony, kicked off with aperformance by the fifth grade band.
Principal Louis Parrinello addressed the group of kids, calling for a round of applause to the board members.
“They’re here because behind the scenes they’re the ones that helping to make this all happen, plus all your parents at home and community members that voted to make your school even more beautiful for you, and all the little kids that are gonna come forward,” he said. “It’s going to have a big impact.”
Community helps raise over $2,000 in Tom Cutinella's memory
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By Bill Landon
Tom Cutinella remains an integral part of the Shoreham-Wading River community.
On May 15, the boys’ lacrosse team held its second annual car wash to honor its fallen friend and teammate, who died following a head-on collision with an opposing player on the football field in 2014.
The event kicked off at the Wading River School — veterans and seniors could get their car cleaned free of charge, and there was a suggested donation of $5.40 in recognition of Cutinella’s retired No. 54 jersey. All proceeds went to the Thomas Cutinella Memorial Foundation, which awards scholarships to Shoreham-Wading River and other Suffolk County seniors who meet the eligibility guidelines, which can be found at www.tom54.org.
Event organizer and Wading River resident Paul Curran, whose son Jason was a teammate of Cutinella’s, said the turnout was a testament to the respect the area has for Cutinella’s legacy, especially with so many kids pitching in to help out.
“With Thomas, veterans and seniors were two groups that were especially close to his heart — he was that way from a very young age,” Paul Curran said. “He was close to his grandmother who lived with him, which had a lot to do with it, and they’re a very close-knit family.”
Shoreham-Wading River senior Jon Constant said his teammates just want to continue to do things in their friend’s memory, and that’s what made the car wash easy to put together.
“We just wanted to help out the community, and the car wash seemed to be the right thing to do,” he said. “Keeping his memory alive is important because he was a great kid and we’ll never forget him.”
Constant said the washing started at 9 a.m., and by noon the kids had been cleaning non-stop.
“Who knows the number of cars we’ve washed, but we want to keep it hot,” he said.
Three hours into the event, Curran said that although seniors and veterans could get their car washed for free, and many came through the line, everyone wanted to contribute $5.40.
According to Curran, in addition to the scholarships given out each year, the foundation also donates to traumatic brain injury research.
Manning the rinse team was Wading River resident Brian Sheehan, a family friend whose son Chris also played with Cutinella. Brian Sheehan said the event is a great way to honor Cutinella’s memory and keep his legacy alive.
“[We do] anything to keep Thomas’ name at the top of everyone’s mind — it’s a privilege to be part of this annual event,” he said. “This is the second year and I plan to participate as long as I live in this community. It’s a great way to keep Thomas in our hearts and to raise money at the same time.”
Curran said last years’ event raised more than $2,500. This year, there was a similar turnout, which he said is a reflection of the community.
“Word of mouth is what drives this — social media and the youth leagues, and once it goes through there, you have hundreds of families,” he said.
This year, the event raised more that $2,000.
“I just think it’s a great way to show support for Tom and it’s a great way for [everyone] to come together and show their support, and we have fun doing it,” said senior Chris Rosati, another teammate of Cutinella’s. “This is definitely very important. It shows our support for him, which has a great impact on the community.”
Kevin Cutinella, Thomas’ younger brother, said that along with keeping the memory of his brother alive, the community outpour inspires his family.
“It means a lot to us that people are doing this without us telling them to do it, to keep Tom’s memory alive,” Kevin Cutinella said. “It means a lot to our family, it brings smiles to our faces and it keeps us there as a family.”
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