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Ward Melville High School

We start with an adrenaline-packed adventure at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai. Discover the excitement of a fearless group braving the frigid waters for a valuable cause.

Then, catch the heat as tensions rise between the Brookhaven Town Board and the municipality’s cable service provider. We’ve got the latest on the town’s television showdown.

Later, take a trip through history with our sportswriter, Bill Landon, as he reflects on the JFK assassination’s foggy memories, marking its 60th anniversary this week.

And as Thanksgiving approaches, join us in a call to action. We’re rallying our readers and listeners to support local mom and pops on National Small Business Saturday.

Tune in to The Pressroom Afterhour: Keeping it Local with TBR for a special Thanksgiving edition.

Visit tbrnewsmedia.com to read these stories and more. Follow us on:

Embark on a journey with our reporter to Sherwood-Jayne Farm in East Setauket, capturing the intensity of protesters rallying against Preservation Long Island’s plan to remove its farm animals. Then, delve into municipal land-use policy as we dissect the Brookhaven Town Board’s consideration of a zone change for the Jefferson Plaza shopping center in Port Jefferson Station.

But that’s not all — dive into the excitement of Ward Melville and Earl L. Vandermeulen high schools’ postseason volleyball runs with our sportswriter. Then, join us in reflecting on the crucial role of local election inspectors and the urgent need for more volunteers to uphold our democratic process.

Several Port Jeff runners participate in the Suffolk County cross-country championships held at Sunken Meadow State Park on Friday, Nov. 3. Photo by Bob O’Rourk

By Samantha Rutt

Each year, the Suffolk County cross-country championships are held at Sunken Meadow State Park, where the county’s best teams toe the line. Runners race a full 5 kilometers, or 3.1 miles, around the park, winding meandering trails and climbing daunting hills.

Parents, friends and spectators alike lined the course on a sunny, brisk November afternoon. With a chorus of voices cheering, signs flaunting and cowbells ringing — a cross-country staple — a spectacle emerged as the races unfolded.

For the third straight year, the Northport Lady Tigers emerged victorious at the Suffolk County championships on Friday afternoon, Nov. 3.

Led by freshman phenom Mia Wickard, the Tigers earned 57 points over Ward Melville’s 104. Northport’s commanding win earned the team a spot at the New York State meet start line next Saturday, Nov. 11.

The Suffolk County championship meet is the state qualifier, sending the winning team and the top-five finishers — not from the first-place team, but from each class — to the statewide championship.

“Not sure if I could be prouder of this group of kids,” said Northport head coach Gregg Cantwell. “The girls’ dedication and the depth of our team was key for us on Friday.”

Wickard, Northport’s top finisher, placed third in the Class A race at 19:24.51. Rounding out the scorers were seventh graders Fiona King and Jane Tucker with juniors Kayla Forsch and Maggie Taylor, each running a personal best time.

“Our top six girls [including Cate Coronato] ran their best times on the course — a few by a lot,” Cantwell emphasized of his team’s clutch performance. “We now have six all-county ranking girls, which is the most of any boys or girls team, and I am extremely happy about that.”

Joining Northport’s Lady Tigers next week, the Cougar boys of Commack High School bested their Class A rivals, collecting only 64 points and extending their postseason journey.

“Our goal every season is to try and win a league, division and county championship,” Commack coach Paul Sleavensky said. “This is the first time in program history that we were the Section XI [Suffolk County] champions,” adding, “I’m extremely proud of their performance at the state-qualifier meet.”

The Port Jefferson Royals won the boys Class C race, tallying 19 points over Mattituck’s 62. Junior Colin Veit paced the Royals, earning the individual title, as all five of the high school’s scorers placed within the top six, marking an impressive victory for the team.

“I’m very proud of our team,” said Port Jeff’s coach Andy Cosci. “We have a nice tradition here in Port Jeff, being a very successful program over the years.”

He added, “It’s not easy to win counties, and the team has worked very hard since August to accomplish that goal.”

Smithtown West’s Douglas Antaky and Rocky Point’s Trevor Green, individual champions of Class A and Class B, respectively, will make the trip to the New York State meet. Antaky, a senior, outran his opponents, completing the course in 16:09.53. Green, only a sophomore, earned his first county cross-country title, defeating his competition while running a 16:31.01.

“My goal going into this meet was to break 17 minutes and place in the top five,” Green said. “I definitely was not expecting to win with the great competition in Class B this year.”

For runners advancing into the postseason, this week will involve preparation for the meets ahead.

“The focus for the next week and beyond is going to be that our toughest races are ahead of us and that we have a chance to do something special,” Northport’s coach Cantwell said of his team.

The NYS cross-country championship meet will be held Saturday, Nov. 11, at Vernon-Verona-Sherrill High School in Verona.

By Bill Landon

The Patriots of Ward Melville (5-1), sitting in second place on the Division I leaderboard, were looking to win their final two games of the regular season in a quest to displace top-seeded William Floyd, starting with a home game against Longwood Friday night, Oct 20. It had rained most of the day on the grass field at Ward Melville High School, but the weather cleared in time for the 7 p.m. kickoff. 

The Lions would strike first on a 30-yard pass play four minutes in for the early lead before Ward Melville senior running back Griffin Kramer answered the call with a 17-yard run to the end zone and with the point after tied the game at 7-7 all with five minutes left in the opening quarter. Four minutes into the 2nd quarter Longwood struck again with a quarterback keeper to put the Lions ahead, 14-7. 

Ward Melville quarterback Ethan Burgos rolled out of the pocket and threw to the end zone finding wide receiver Brody Morgan for the touchdown. Both seniors finished the job when Burgos took the snap for the point after, and Morgan split the uprights to make it a new game at 14-14 with five minutes left in the half. 

Longwood coughed up the ball on their ensuing offensive drive and the Patriots pounced when Burgos threw 20 yards downfield again to Morgan for a first and goal. Again, it was Kramer on the carry for the score, and the Burgos-Morgan duo put the Patriots out in front, 21-14, at the halftime break. 

The Patriots never looked back when Burgos, on a keeper, punched in from 10 yards out for the score and followed it with a 45-yard touchdown pass to Morgan to take command of the game. Longwood found the end zone one last time midway through the final 12 minutes of play, but it was too little, too late as the Patriots prevailed 35-21.

Ward Melville will travel to Sachem East on Oct. 27 looking for another win in the regular season finale before postseason play begins Friday Nov. 3.

— Photos by Bill Landon

Ward Melville High School. File photo by Greg Catalano

By Mallie Jane Kim

Internet controversy over a novel taught to Ward Melville High School juniors spilled over into the public comment section of a board of education meeting Wednesday, Sept. 27, when two concerned parents stood up to support the book and caution against efforts to ban it.

The book in question, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie and a multi-award winner, is a semi-autobiographical novel about a young Native American growing up on an Indian reservation who leaves his underfunded reservation school in favor of a majority-white public school in a neighboring town. The problem expressed by some parents is that in this coming-of-age story about a teenage boy struggling to discover his identity, there are a few passages where the speaker discusses his sexual self-discovery.

The administration has received calls in favor of and against the novel, but there have been no official requests from parents of students actually studying the book, according to Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services Brian Biscari. “It’s a bigger online issue than an actual issue,” Biscari said.

The controversy started when a parent shared a passage mentioning self-pleasure in a screenshot on a local Facebook group, Three Village Moms, where it was both attacked and supported in a series of nearly 500 comments. Some commenters expressed concern over sexualizing children too early, or that the passages may be too explicit for required reading in a Regents course.

Others asked their peers to consider the passage in context of the entire book, or worried the rhetoric might foment into a movement to ban the book, in light of efforts to censor literature at school districts nationwide.

The American Library Association has noted a “record surge” in requests to remove books from libraries and public schools during the first eight months of 2023, and primarily books “by or about a person of color of a member of the LGBTQIA+ community,” according to a Sept. 19 statement.

At the board meeting, district parent Ian Farber said exposure to an unfamiliar point of view is one of this book’s strengths. “This book provides a valuable perspective of a Native American who grew up on a reservation, a perspective that would be foreign to many of us without books like this one,” said Farber, who has also been a part of the district’s budget advisory committee.

Farber shrugged off the concerns over the passages about an aspect of human sexuality that, he said, most students know about by 11th grade. Instead, he praised the “robust and diverse” curriculum in Three Village school district and emphasized that the passages causing outrage are not even a main point of the book.

“He had a teacher that inspired him to do more with his life than previous generations — we should all want our children to achieve more than we have. This is a key part of the American Dream, and as such this book is patriotic in the best sense of the word.”

Anne Chimelis, a retired teacher and parent in the district, agreed in her public comment. “If we start banning books due to a single word that makes some people uncomfortable, we’re going down a very slippery slope,” she said.

Biscari noted that the district is happy to provide a list of novels taught in Three Village schools to parents who ask, and there is a clear process for parents to request for a materials review for novels in their child’s grade level if they have a concern. If that process does not go the way parents hope, he added, each parent is also welcome to opt a child out of a particular book.

On Alexie’s book, though, Biscari said most of the calls he’s gotten are from parents “who love the fact that there’s a book their kids can read and relate to.”

Ward Melville High School. File photo by Greg Catalano
Moving 9th grade to high school logistically complex

By Mallie Jane Kim

Three Village Central School District needs more time before restructuring the grade makeup of its buildings, according to Superintendent of Schools Kevin Scanlon, who officially recommended a delay on proposed changes until the 2025-26 school year.

“It’s best we do this right and not fast,” Scanlon told the board at a Sept. 13 Board of Education meeting. He also followed up with an email to district parents explaining the delay.

The board previously charged the administration with researching the feasibility of a proposal to move up sixth grade to junior high and ninth grade to the high school, based on the preferences of a majority of stakeholders in the community surveyed last year. 

At the meeting, Scanlon said administration staff spent the summer “working very heavily” to explore logistics of the proposed changes, such as secondary class schedules, staffing needs and classroom requirements.

The superintendent previously warned that restructuring likely wouldn’t be possible by the original target of fall 2024, and the summer research found enough snags to give Scanlon and his team pause.

The junior high schools would simply exchange one grade for another — ninth grade would move out to the high school and sixth grade would move in from elementary — a nimbler change than adding a fourth grade level to the high school, which currently houses grades 10-12. It’s not a matter of the number of students, Scanlon pointed out. Due to declining enrollment over time, the population at the high school with an added grade would be roughly on par with its population about a decade ago — just shy of 1,800 students, according to district data. But each grade has specific classroom requirements.

“Ninth grade does require some different courses — certified teachers in areas of science and languages — that need to be maneuvered around,” Scanlon explained, saying major considerations include the number of appropriate classroom spaces for art, music and science labs. “We just need a little bit more time to figure out those particulars.”

The board opted last April to table any decision on officially adopting the proposed restructuring until the administration could present research on logistics and cost, and also find a way to address concerns over early start times at district secondary schools.

Scanlon indicated the logistical research should wrap up next month, and a committee looking into start times is in full swing, with plans to send out a survey early this fall to assess related community needs. A possible second survey with more specific proposals may go out by the end of the calendar year, he added.

When asked, Scanlon didn’t rule out the possibility of changing start times sooner than 2025, but indicated that particular conversation would take place in the context of the upcoming survey results.

By Bill Landon

Ward Melville boys volleyball looked to build on their season opening win two days earlier when the Raiders of Patchogue-Medford came calling in a league matchup Thursday night, Sept. 7. Pat-Med stayed within striking distance in all three matches, but the Patriots prevailed, sweeping the Raiders, 25-22, 25-17, 25-21.

Kyle Fagan was the spark for the Patriots, leading his team with 13 kills, nine digs and a block. Teammate Brady Reyling killed nine while Shawn Legge and Shaun Mischler had six kills and three digs each. 

The team retook the court with a road game against Smithtown East, Sept. 11, and had another three-set win, lifting the Patriots to 3-0-0 in the early going.

 – Photos by Bill Landon

Members of the Ward Melville High School Class of 2023 proudly walked through balloon arches and out onto the front lawn of the school on June 25 to celebrate their graduation. Family and friends cheered the soon-to-be graduates on, as the Ward Melville Symphonic Band played “Pomp and Circumstance.”

Commencement exercises began with the Pledge of Allegiance led by student government president Mikaeel Zohair, followed by a performance of the Star-Spangled Banner by senior Adam Bear. Principal William Bernhard welcomed the crowd and touted the school’s recent Blue Ribbon School designation, crediting in part, the accomplishments of the graduating class. Additionally, Mr. Bernhard recognized graduating senior Jesse Guise for having perfect attendance since kindergarten — an achievement only recorded one other time in Ward Melville history.

Board of Education President Susan E. Megroz Rosenzweig gave opening remarks and offered advice to the Class of 2023. Bernhard then welcomed this year’s keynote speaker, Edward Bonahue, president of Suffolk County Community College and graduate of Ward Melville High School. Bonahue praised students for their resiliency during the pandemic and encouraged them to continue to persevere through challenges.

Zohair returned to the podium to reflect on his time at Ward Melville High School. On behalf of the student government, Zohair presented the class gift — banners to hang on the campus light poles with messages of Patriot pride.

Bernhard introduced the top academic leaders of the Class of 2023, valedictorian Ava Della Pietra and salutatorian Serene Stoller. Both students delivered speeches that reflected on their journeys. Stoller first touched on the concept of invisibility and encouraged her peers to be leaders, even when it doesn’t require being in the spotlight.

“We live in a world that appreciates the strength of vibrant voices and celebrates visible accomplishments,” Stoller said. “But we must remember that behind every ground-breaking innovation, every transformative idea and every societal change, there are countless invisible heroes who toiled away, uncelebrated but essential. So, I urge you to seek out the problems that society overlooks and find innovative solutions.”

Della Pietra spoke about the importance of being connected and noted how the class will always be connected through their experiences in Three Village.

“As we reflect on this chapter in our lives, let’s not forget the value of human connection,” she said. “If you retrace your path through high school, you’ll probably find your most cherished moments brimming with shared experience, because life is so much sweeter when you have someone to share your triumphs and failures with.”

Following the remarks, the seniors walked across the stage and received their diplomas from members of the board of education. Bernhard presented the graduating class, and Class of 2023 representative Anna Calise led the turning of the tassels. Students threw their caps into the air, signifying the end of their time at Ward Melville High School.

Patrick Comiskey, TVHS Director Mari Irizarry, and the TVHS board try out the new picnic tables on April 12. Photo by Rob Pellegrino

Three Village Historical Society welcomes the community to take a load off and stay a while, thanks to Eagle Scout candidate Patrick Comiskey of Troop 70, a Setauket resident and senior at Ward Melville High School.

Just one month shy of his 18th birthday, Comiskey organized a team that built three cedar picnic tables adding to the original two tables at the property that hosts frequent events for the community including the weekly Three Village Farmers Market.

Comiskey, a regular visitor to the historical society, recalled TVHS’ Director Mari Irizarry mentioning to him the need to create a more inviting area for the community at the nearly 3 acre property. 

“I saw the conditions of the tables at historical society and thought that building new ones was something that I could accomplish,” he said.

Few Boy Scouts attain Scouting’s highest honor before they turn 18, but Comiskey was determined to get the job done. After raising more than $2,800 through donations, Comiskey completed the construction of the project over the course of two days with more time being spent in research and planning.

With support from family, Troop 70 and adult leaders, Comiskey assembled and installed the finished tables at TVHS on March 19.

The public is always invited to visit the Three Village Historical Society, located at 93 N. Country Road in Setauket, and next time you pass by, have a seat on the new picnic tables and tip your cap to Patrick Comiskey, another Three Village Eagle Scout in the making. For more information, call 631-751-3730 or visit www.tvhs.org.

At 11-3 on the season, the Patriots of Ward Melville opened game one of the best of three game series at home against Bellport (6-8) on Monday, May 1, having defeated the Clippers decisively back in early April.

The Patriots bats spoke first, building a 7-4 advantage after four innings with pitcher Thomas Ruehle working his way out of a jam on two occasions in the early going. The Patriots prevailed, winning the League IV matchup, 9-5.

The Patriots trail top-seeded Connetquot by one game with five games remaining before postseason play begins May 16.