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Ward Melville High School

The Northport Tigers hit the ground running against Westhampton for the overall Section XI title game. The team was leading from the start to finish, beating the Hurricanes 72-45 March 5 at Ward Melville High School.

Senior Danielle Pavinelli led the way for the Tigers with three triples, four from the floor and a pair of free throws for a team high 19 points. Kerry Dennin, a senior, followed with 13 as did sophomore Sophia Yearwood. Teammate Sophia Bica netted 11 and senior Kelly McLaughlin banked 10.

Northport retakes the court for the Class AA Long Island championship round to take on the Nassau County champion at St. Joseph’s College March 15. Tickets are $10.00 at the door or $8.00 on line here: https://gofan.co/app/school/NYSPHSAAXI

Game time is 4:00pm.

It was the best of the best competing in the Long Island Elite Meet at St. Anthony’s High School Saturday, Feb. 29.

Ward Melville senior Megan Wood shined in the final event before states. Wood tossed a pair of throws 43 feet, 6 inches along with 42’11” good enough for third in the weight throw event but was the class of the field in the shot put throwing 42’3” and a pair of 41’4” for the top spot in the event against competitors from all over Long Island.

Wood has her sights set for her next competition at the New York State Championships at the Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex in Staten Island.

“The next step is to show up to states and be a competitor next Saturday,” Wood said. “I’ll try to get in some higher reps in the beginning of the week but then we’ll tone it down so I’m well rested for the day”.

Teammate Allison D’Angio, a senior, clocked at 9.44 in the 55-meter hurdle event, and sophomore Arianna Gilbride placed fourth in the 300 dash in the Frosh/Soph event with 43.70.

Kings Park senior Richard Mangogna cleared 13 feet 3 inches in the pole vault event, placing him seventh overall in the Long Island Elite Meet at St. Anthony’s High School Feb. 29.

Teammate Sam Estherson, a junior, competed in the 55m hurdle event with a time of 8.17 seconds and clocked in at 8.98 at the 60m distance.

 

 

 

 

Chloe Bucher

By Melissa Arnold

Like most high schoolers, 16-year-old Chloe Bucher has a lot going on. The Ward Melville High School junior is balancing schoolwork, two jobs, a social life and extracurriculars while also pondering big questions about her future.

In the midst of all that, Bucher has never stopped thinking about others, particularly people with disabilities and special needs. Since she was an eighth grader at Paul J. Gelinas Junior High School in E. Setauket, Bucher has been a part of a Buddies Program that builds friendships and support for special needs students through games, crafts, parties and other activities. 

When she arrived at Ward Melville in 9th grade, Bucher was one of several students who petitioned to launch a similar program for the high school.

“People assume a lot of things when you have special needs — they might think ‘oh, they’re just dumb.’ But it’s not like that at all,” Bucher said in a recent interview. “The Buddies Program in middle school was amazing, and we wanted to keep the inclusivity going. It’s a lot of work to accommodate each person’s individual needs and skills, but it’s so worth it.”

Last week, as local students had a week-long recess, Bucher was hard at work on her latest project — Come Support and Change Lives — a fundraiser to benefit the special needs community on Long Island.

On Saturday, March 7 beginning at 7 p.m., Bucher is hosting an evening of appetizers, drinks, raffle baskets and entertainment at the charming Bates House, nestled in Setauket’s Frank Melville Memorial Park.

Proceeds from the event will support the Developmental Disabilities Institute (DDI), Long Island’s leading provider of educational, vocational, day program and residential services for more than 1500 children and adults living with autism and other developmental disabilities. The organization was founded in 1961 and has since grown into an energetic, multi-site nonprofit agency.

“I really wanted to broaden the spectrum of who I was helping,” Bucher said. “A family friend has a son with autism who benefited from DDI, and I know they do so much for the community. They’re a great team.”

Jean Smith, director of development at DDI, said that the organization is thrilled to partner with Bucher.

“It is wonderful to see that there are young people in our local community like Chloe, who are passionate about enhancing the lives of individuals with autism and go above and beyond to show their support,” said Smith. “On behalf of the individuals DDI serves, I would like to thank and commend Chloe for her kindness and generosity.”

Bucher is still unsure about what she wants to do after graduation, but is leaning toward becoming an educator. 

“The kids that I work with make me want to do this for a lifetime,” she said.

The Bates House is located at 1 Bates Road in Setauket. Tickets to the event are $50 per person. To purchase, contact Chloe Bucher at 631-521-1478 or by email at ChloeBucher1@yahoo.com. To learn more about DDI, visit www.DDINY.org. 

Girl Scout Hailey Van Cott works on the prey pen at Sweetbriar Nature Center. Photo from Hailey Van Cott

When choosing a project for her Gold Award, one Stony Brook Girl Scout drew on her love for animals.

Hailey Van Cott, a junior at Ward Melville High School and a Girl Scout since kindergarten, recently began repairing the prey pen within the flight aviary at Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown as part of her Gold Award project. A visitor to the center for years, she knew the location was the right choice.

“I really love what Sweetbriar stands for and I knew I wanted to help them out for my Gold Award,” she said.

To help with her project, PSEG Long Island awarded the Girl Scout $200. She said she plans to use the money to put down Astroturf around the sides of the prey enclosure, which helps the birds grip as it’s a softer texture than a piece of wood and in turn prevents foot problems.

PSEG representatives said the project is in line with their goal to relocate osprey and other raptor nests from electrical facilities to safe nesting locations.

“I really love what Sweetbriar stands for and I knew I wanted to help them out for my Gold Award.”

– Hailey Van Cott

“We want to help ensure these wonderful birds continue to return to the area year after year while, at the same time, protecting the reliability of the energy grid,” said John O’Connell, PSEG Long Island’s vice president of transmission and distribution. “Hailey’s project aligns with our commitment to protecting the local raptor population.”

Her mother, Deb, said she wasn’t surprised when her daughter chose to help out at Sweetbriar.

“She’s always liked to help animals,” the mother said. “She’s definitely a big animal person. She’s also always liked to do community service.”

Her mother said with Girl Scout Troop 2867, her daughter has helped Smithtown Animal Shelter by making dog toys and conducting supply drives for them. Outside of Girl Scouts, Van Cott has made memory wire bracelets and sold them at her father’s office and donated the money to Save-A-Pet Animal Shelter in Port Jeff Station.

Isabel Fernandes, a wildlife care coordinator at Sweetbriar, said Van Cott has done an amazing job repairing the prey bin, and Sweetbriar is always appreciative for the help they get from Scouts.

“We are a small staff so it’s important that we have people who can help us and get projects and other things done here,” Fernandes said.

The coordinator explained that the pen is enclosed in the 80-foot flight conditioning enclosure aviary, which is used for wildlife rehabilitation to help injured birds fly again and exercise their muscles before they can be released. The center prey pen ensures the birds maintain their hunting skills.

Fernandes said there is currently a great horned owl in the aviary that was removed when Van Cott was working on the enclosure, as it’s important to keep human contact as limited as possible — something she has now learned through experience.

“The more interaction with humans they have, the more adjusted they will become,” the Girl Scout said. “They need to learn how to capture the prey themselves and how to survive on their own.”

As part of her Gold Award project, in addition to working with her family on the enclosure, she will talk to younger Girl Scouts about the project, Van Cott said, as well as educate them about the importance of animal rehabilitation and how birds of prey control the rodent population.

“Every animal has its part in the ecosystem,” she said. “I’ve always loved big birds. I’ve always loved seeing them out in the wild just looking up and seeing a hawk every now and then.”

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With four pins in the match, it was Ward Melville’s Nick Gaffney who led the way for the Patriots with a pin just 16 seconds in. Aidan Toomey did it in 33 seconds, senior Co-Captain Daniel Cassera won his match at the 1:09 mark and Ethan Herschander pinned his opponent 43 seconds into the second period.

With scores like those, the Patriots dominated visiting Hampton Bays, winning 59-14 in a non-league matchup at home Jan. 23. Ward Melville junior Matt Cracchiola, at 126 pounds, notched another win with a 16-0 technical fall who surpassed his 100th career victory earlier in the year and hopes to bring that momentum into the league and county finals. Patriot head coach Garrett Schnettler said Cracchiola will have his work cut out for him as he’ll be competing in the deepest weight classes in the state.

Ward Melville sophomore Christian Lievano, at 99 pounds who in his third year on varsity, is undefeated in Suffolk County this season, and has amassed a career record of 31-3.

The Patriots retake the mat in the Wes Dolon Invitational at Mattituck high school Feb. 1. First bout is 8 a.m.

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Three Village Parents in the last few months have talked to the Three Village board of ed about the benefits of teenagers starting school later in the day. Photo by Andrea Paldy

By Andrea Paldy

What began as a lone parental voice during a Three Village school board meeting has blossomed into a movement.

Six months ago, Barbara Rosati, mother of a P.J. Gelinas Jr. High student, asked the board and district administration to consider changing the secondary school start times.

“We also would like to thank deeply our board of education for recognizing our concerns and listening to us and being the leaders that we were hoping you would be.”

— Barbara Rosati

Last week, following a presentation for a path toward meeting parents’ requests, the Three Village school board voted to institute a school start time committee to further investigate the viability of a later start time at the district’s high school.

Rosati, founder of It’s About Time: Three Village Parents for a Later Start Time, was grateful.

“I’d like to thank the administration,” she said. “We really appreciate it. We also would like to thank deeply our board of education for recognizing our concerns and listening to us and being the leaders that we were hoping you would be.”

Rosati, a research assistant professor in Stony Brook University’s Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the Renaissance School of Medicine, had organized parents and held information sessions about sleep deprivation in adolescents. In the months that followed her initial appeal, other parents, students, Ward Melville High School graduates and medical experts all appeared before the school board to express concern about early start times. More than 1,600 signatures were collected, letters were written to the school board and some advocates even traveled to a Start School Later workshop in Pennsylvania.

Chief among the concerns was the pervading sleep deprivation among teens. Research has shown that adolescent circadian rhythms make it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m. This results in a later sleep cycle interrupted by having to wake up for early classes. Not only does it prevent them from getting the required eight to 10 hours of sleep their growing bodies need, research indicates that it also means difficulty concentrating and puts them at risk for depression, injuries during sports and drowsiness while driving — among other issues.

These concerns prompted district Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich to form a working group of administrators to conduct a preliminary investigation into later start times. Pedisich also pointed to improved academic performance, higher test scores, better focus and self-regulation as additional reasons to look into the change.

The group began its preliminary investigation with certain assumptions in place, the superintendent said.

There would be no redistricting or closing of schools; no students would be at a bus stop earlier than 7 a.m.; and there would be no negative impact to athletics, which means that the high school could not end later than 3 p.m. The final assumption was that the district would continue to support and maintain cocurricular activities while also maintaining the required number of hours of instruction at all grade levels.

“I see the value in looking at this with open eyes.”

— Cheryl Pedisich

Pedisich and Jeff Carlson, deputy superintendent for business services, presented 10 possible scenarios that would move the Ward Melville start time from 7:05 a.m. to 8:20 a.m. with an ending time of 2:55 p.m. Additionally, in half of the configurations, start times at the two junior high schools, P.J. Gelinas and R. C. Murphy, would change to 9:10 a.m., with the day ending at 3:46 p.m.

To make a later start for Ward Melville possible, each period at the high school would be decreased from 41 minutes to 40, and the periods at the junior high would fall from 42 minutes to 41 — decreases that the deputy superintendent said would not “adversely impact the educational program,” but would assist with logistics.

The greater effect could be on student after-school activities or employment, since the school day would end later. The committee found that the time shift could affect students who take afternoon BOCES classes and possibly affect child care needs for staff. The preliminary investigation also found that some athletes might sometimes need to leave ninth period early.

The district currently has four bus runs — high school, followed by junior high, two elementary schools and then, finally, the last three elementary schools. The proposed scenarios would move the district from a four-tiered bus system to a three-tiered one and could affect the start times for the other schools.

The biggest variation in the scenarios was in start times at elementary schools and junior highs. In some projections, the elementary school day starts earlier and runs from 7:40 a.m. to 1:55 p.m. In others, the day runs from 9:25 a.m. to 3:40 p.m., which is the current schedule for the district’s late elementary schools.

When the elementary day starts early, the junior high day starts at 9:10 a.m., and in the scenarios where the elementary day starts after 9 a.m., the junior high schools start earlier, keeping their current start time of 7:35 a.m.

The most expensive transportation scenario moved the sixth grade up to junior high and ninth-graders to the high school. It required eight additional buses and 11 additional minibuses that could run the district about $1.5 million, Carlson said.

The projected cost of the proposed scenarios considered only transportation costs and did not take into account savings from staffing within the schools, Carlson said.

There could, however, be savings in other areas due to the restructuring of the junior and high schools, he added.

Carlson reiterated that these scenarios are just “a starting point to get people thinking and talking” and are not the only possibilities. It would be up to the new committee to further investigate and look into other solutions. The committee, which will meet in January, will be chaired by Pedisich and Carlson. It will be comprised of administrators, staff, parents and high school students and will determine a timeline once it gets underway, Pedisich said.

“I have to say that I see a lot of viability to this,” the superintendent said. “I see the value in looking at this with open eyes. I look forward to working with the committee and with Mr. Carlson as we begin to look at what the options are for our students, so that we can do the best that we can for them.”

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From left, Jessica Chen, Isabel Xu, Riley Gavin, Kaitlyn Ehlers and Hannah Lin from Ward Melville’s girls swimming team competed in state championships in November. Photo from Riley Gavin

The Ward Melville girls swimming team has a storied history in Long Island high school sports, at one point winning 23 straight years county championships. The 2019-20 team capped off another successful season by securing another league and county crown for the school.

Chris Gordon, head coach of the swimming team for 26 years, couldn’t have been prouder of how the team did this season.

“The team has done a great job this season, the mix of the team was really good … we had some young swimmers and some with a lot of experience,” he said.

The head coach said he was unsure how the season would play out as they lost some important swimmers to graduation. He pointed to their league victory against Northport as a turning point in their season. 

“They are always stepping up at the biggest meets, all the credit goes to them,” Gordon said.

He also credited the Three Village Swim Club for helping in the development of the swimmers as many of them go there for additional practice outside of school.

After winning the county championship Nov. 9, Ward Melville went on to compete in states. Riley Gavin, Hannah Lin, Jessica Chen and Kaitlyn Ehlers competed in the 200 medley as well as the 400 free relay along with Isabel Xu. Gavin also qualified and competed in the 200 individual medley and the 100 back. She went on to finish in the top 10 in all her events.

Gavin, senior captain, who will continue her swimming career at the U.S. Naval Academy said the nine-member team finished the season on a strong note.

“There were a lot of unknowns going into this season,” she said. “I think this was arguably one of the best seasons we’ve had in the four years I’ve been on the team.”

Gavin said they kept improving throughout the season and in turn grew closer with each other. She thinks the team has potential to be even better next season.

“It is bittersweet,” Gavin said. “I remember when I was a freshman it was always tough to say goodbye to the seniors back then. Two freshmen [Lin and Xu] came to states with us, I thought it was a good experience for them … I think they have the potential to win counties again and compete for states.”

By John Dielman

The Commack Cougars were no match for the Patriots at Ward Melville High School’s homecoming Oct. 19. The home team did not disappoint, delivering a 35-14 win on the big day.

The win topped off the homecoming carnival, and during the game, both the junior varsity and varsity cheerleaders performed as well as the school’s band.

The Patriots now are at 4-2 in Division I, while Commack is 3-3. The Ward Melville football team will travel to Sachem East Oct. 25. Game time is 6 p.m.

 

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Sophia Zhukovsky, a Stony Brook University sophomore and Ward Melville High School graduate, addresses the school board Sept. 18. Photo by Andrea Paldy

By Andrea Paldy

Activism is strong in Three Village.

At the Sept. 18 Three Village school board meeting, parents, students and alumni came out in support of an issue that has concerned many members of the community: school start times.

“It’s very strenuous to strive for academic and personal success on half the medically recommended sleep time for people my age.”

Sophia Zhukovsky

Earlier in the month, the board heard from parents in favor of later start times for the district’s three secondary schools. Last week, the board heard from Ward Melville graduates and students, themselves.

“Sleep deprivation does not have to be a part of Ward Melville culture,” said Sophia Zhukovsky, a sophomore at Stony Brook University and a Ward Melville graduate.

“Ward Melville has a great deal of high-achieving, dedicated and bright students, but it also has a great deal of exhausted students,” she said. “It’s very strenuous to strive for academic and personal success on half the medically recommended sleep time for people my age.”

Student and parent speakers echoed Zhukovsky’s sentiments. They described mornings as a “time of family anxiety and stress” and shared personal stories about the impact of sleep deprivation on family time and emotional health.

“Even 30 minutes would do a lot for students at the school in terms of both mental health and for fostering community,” wrote Kirti Nath, 2017 Ward Melville valedictorian. Nath couldn’t attend the meeting, but her letter was read to the board by high school student Natalia Newton.

“Ward Melville is undeniably one of the best public high schools that I know of, and I am incredibly grateful to have gotten my start there,” said Nath, a University of Pennsylvania sophomore. “I write this because I think that the Ward Melville experience can be even better.”

Annemarie Waugh, a local artist, P.J. Gelinas parent and founder of Sidewalks For Safety, said allowing students more time to sleep would “level the playing field” both athletically and academically. She added yet another concern.

“The system now encourages inexperienced teenage drivers to be driving in the dark at the same time other students are waiting on busy roads with no sidewalks in the dark,” she said. “This arrangement doubles the risk of tragedy.”

In addition to drawing even more supporters than the previous board meeting, the It’s About Time: Three Village Parents For A Later School Start Time movement gathered more than 1,400 signatures in a little more than a week.

But breaking through the chorus of support for a later secondary start time was Vincent Sperandeo, a parent of Ward Melville graduates. “Changing us would also mean that other districts would have to change as well,” he said.

He pointed out that Ward Melville was within the range of start times for surrounding school districts and changing Three Village’s junior high and high school start times would have to be done “in coordination with other districts.”

While Ward Melville starts at 7:05 am, nearby districts range in start time from the 7:02 a.m. warning bell at Miller Place High School to 7:10 a.m. at Comsewogue High School, 7:20 a.m. in Smithtown and 7:30 a.m. in Commack, Port Jefferson and Mount Sinai.

“The real world out there is not starting at 9 o’clock,” Sperandeo said. “The real world out there is starting when your job is telling you to start.”

Although districts in the immediate area have start times well before 8 a.m., schools across the nation have been taking a serious look at delaying start times.  Ever since the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended in 2014 that secondary schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m., attention to the issue has grown. The State of California has even gone so far as to propose a bill pushing back start times for all of its secondary schools.

According to research, biological changes in the adolescent circadian rhythms make it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m. Waking up to catch an early bus interrupts the later part of their sleep cycle, preventing them from getting the recommended 8 to 10 hours of sleep their developing bodies and brains need.

Researchers at Seattle’s University of Washington and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, found that students at two Seattle high schools that changed to later start times got more sleep during the week, had fewer tardies and absences in their first period classes and had improved academic performance.

“Changing us would also mean that other districts would have to change as well.”

— Vincent Sperandeo

Despite the abundance of information favoring later start times, most U.S. high schools start before 8:30 a.m., and some schools that considered change decided against it because of logistics.

That’s why Barbara Rosati, founder of It’s About Time, has suggested that Three Village officials attend the Adolescent Health and School Start Times Workshop, in Pennsylvania, which would cover the “science, strategies, logistics and tips” for making a shift.

The Nov. 13 workshop is already full. However, the website indicated that the organizer — the national group, Start School Later — was considering a second session.

Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich, who described the research on later start times as “cogent, valid and reliable,” said last week that the district would begin phase 1 of its investigation into the shift. This would mean “data gathering” so that there could be “meaningful conversation,” she said.

This process, the superintendent said, would include surveys of parents, staff and students, as well as conversations with districts that have made the time change and those that considered it, but decided against it. Pedisich estimated that if the board moved forward with a committee, it would take shape in January.

“The last thing in the world we want to do is give the impression that we’re not listening,” said board president William Connors during a telephone interview. “Fourteen hundred signatures is compelling and shows we have to listen and do our due diligence.”

But there are also a lot of factors to consider, he added, such as the “domino” effect on other grades and the fact that a shift could cost the district “literally millions of dollars” in additional transportation costs.

“I don’t like the idea of kids getting up at 5 in the morning, but we have to look at the alternatives and establish our priorities,” Connors said.

NEVER FORGET

John Dielman snapped this solemn photo of Ward Melville High School on Old Town Road in East Setauket at sunset on September 11. “Ward Melville honors 9/11 every year with American flags as a school tradition,” writes Dielman, who graduated from the school in 2015.

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