A Message from the Superintendent
The Memorial Day weekend is the time we honor the brave men and women who
died in service to this country as members of the armed forces. As we begin this
three-day weekend, let us all remember, in earnest, the loved ones in our
families and those of our neighbors and friends who have made the greatest
sacrifice in the name of this country.
This weekend also represents an informal 'final turn' as we kick toward the
finish line of the school year, which follows a successful vote on the proposed
school budget on Tuesday. The budget was approved by a wide margin (656-244),
and on behalf of the the Board of Education and our staff, I thank the community
for its continued good will and generous support. We are all looking forward to
a warm June and the upcoming graduations as a celebration of student
I would also like to welcome our newest Board of Education member, Mr. Adam
DeWitt, who was joined by current Board of Education President Kathleen Brennan
and current member Ellen Boehm in their successful bids to remain on the Board
of Education. Finally, I offer best wishes to Dr. Dennis Kahn, who did not win
back a seat in this election, but who deserves our community's thanks for nine
years of devoted service.
Dr. Kenneth Bossert
Superintendent of Schools
Budget Vote and Board Election Results
Yes - 656
No - 244
Board of Education
Ellen Boehm - 639
Kathleen Brennan - 637
Adam DeWitt - 615
Dennis Kahn - 430
Edna Louise Spear Hosts 13th Annual Walk/Run
Students in grades K-5 at the elementary school participated in the district’s 13th Annual Walk/Run event. Every spring, students participate in a fitness unit called “Walk Across America” as part of their physical education curriculum. Over a period of about five weeks, participants run and walk during their physical education classes, accumulating miles that are tracked and plotted on a map of the United States. The grade levels compete with each other as they travel throughout different states on the map in a friendly race across the country, which ends in California over 3,000 miles away.
“Students enjoy a friendly competition and learn about the different states all while building their physical fitness,” said physical education instructor Benjamin Bajus. “The unit culminates with our annual walk/run event, which takes place on a ‘cross-country’ course that follows the perimeter of the school property.” Parents were also welcomed to join and run with their children on the day of the event.
The trail run took participants up and down rolling hills, including an exciting wooded trail, and finally finished on the athletic fields across from the school on Scraggy Hill Road. Teachers, staff members and student safety patrol posted along the race route helped direct students through the course. Spectators gathered at the finish line to cheer on runners as they completed their trek. A professional timing company was also at the end line to record the results.
Boys Varsity Track Runs, Jumps and Hurdles to the Top
On May 18, the high school boys varsity track team and coach Rod Cawley traveled to Schenectady, N.Y. for the William F. Eddy Championship Invitational. There, the student-athletes put their best foot forward and came home with multiple awards.
“The meet was an extremely competitive event featuring teams from throughout New York State,” said Port Jefferson Director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics Debra Ferry. “It provided a good tune-up for the team as they head into the divisional, county and state championships.”
Top 10 Finishes:
1st Place – James Burke in the mile run with a time of 4:17.4.
3rd Place – Dennis Walsh in the 400-meter run with a time of 0:50.3.
5th Place – Jasper Rubin Sigler in the 200-meter run with a time of 0:23.18.
6th Place – The 4 x 800 relay team of John Albinson, James Burke, Noah Kirschner and Dennis Walsh.
8th Place – Cihad Akkaya in the long jump with a jump of 20 ft. 3 in.
10th Place – Danny Gross in the 110-meter hurdles and 400-meter hurdles.
Hard Work Plus Confidence Equals Excellence
On May 16, 20 Port Jefferson students in grades 4-6 attended the 6th Annual Suffolk County Elementary Math Tournament, held at Stony Brook University, where they participated in individual and team competitions.
“The students were very proud of themselves and everyone had a great time,” said middle school math teacher Megan Ryan.
Sixth-grader Feiran Zhang finished in first place overall out of 265 students. Additionally, students Mayu Takeuchi and Annalisa Welinder were awarded trophies for eighth and ninth place, respectively.
Scavenger Hunt Makes for a Sweet Treat
Students in Kristen Poulos and Karen Stamatopoulos’ class were recently given the task of getting to better know their school’s leaders through a creative scavenger hunt. The teachers dispensed clues to help the students figure out who they would be visiting along the way, such as Principal Thomas Meehan, school nurse Joan Tucci, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kenneth Bossert and members of the guidance and psychology departments. The children were able to ask the staff questions as they collected their items at each stop.
“The students did not know in advance what items they were supposed to collect, but in the end were able to guess that they had gathered all of the ingredients to make s’mores,” said Poulos. “The activity helped them to improve on important language skills such as conversation initiation, following directions and making strong eye contact,” added Stamatopoulos.
Spy Ring Secrets Revealed
On May 10, renowned local historian Bev Tyler visited with fourth-graders at the school library of Port Jefferson’s Edna Louise Spear Elementary to discuss the significance of the Culper Spy Ring and how it helped the Patriots win the American Revolution. The visit served as a culminating activity for a library unit that included several historical fiction books reflective of the time period and also coincided with the social studies curriculum.
Tyler, who was dressed as ring member Abraham Woodhull, showed a PowerPoint presentation that included slides of many primary source documents, maps and a code devised for the ring by Benjamin Tallmadge. Students were able to view wax seals used for letter embossing, were taught how to write in code and created spy-worthy envelopes.
Fifth-Graders Delight with Sound at Mather Hospital
On May 10, members of the elementary school’s fifth-grade orchestra and fifth-grade select choir performed at Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson in celebration of National Hospital Week. The children’s melodies filled the hospital’s courtyard for parents, visitors and hospital staff to enjoy.
The orchestra, led by Dr. Vanessa Salzman, performed first, treating guests to a number of musical selections, including eight solo performances. The select choir, directed by Jessica Pastor, followed with songs from their recent performance at the Spring Concert, including the upbeat Latin American song “Oye.”
The American Hospital Association’s National Hospital Week was begun in 1921. This year’s theme, “A Guiding Light for Changing Times,” serves as an opportunity for community members to recognize and appreciate the dedicated professionals of health care.
From History to Technology, District Students Have It Covered
On May 14, at the monthly Port Jefferson Board of Education meeting, exemplary students from the district were recognized for their accomplishments in the fields of history, science, technology and cosmetology.
Members of the Board and administration began the evening by presenting elementary school student Sophie Blumenthal, a second-grader in Darlene Wells’ class, with a certification of achievement for her Brookhaven National Laboratory Science Fair project submission. Her experiment addressed the question of whether or not the color of nail polish affected its longevity. Students in grades K-6 from more than 100 Suffolk County schools take part in the fair every year. Approximately 470 projects are submitted, and of those, only the top 10 are selected from each grade level.
Next, fourth-grader and SEAL (Studies Enriching Academic Learning) student Lucas Welinder of Kristen Boney’s class was formally recognized for his qualification to participate in the National History Bee’s National Championship. Lucas will be representing the district at the competition in Atlanta this June.
Finally, two high school students, Leanne Goldstein and Nicholas Heide, were presented with certificates commemorating their induction into the National Technical Honor Society. Nicholas was awarded entry for his outstanding performance in the field of aviation and professional pilot training and Leanne for her outstanding performance in the area of cosmetology. The NTHS is committed to providing quality recognition for outstanding students in career and technical education.
Students Touch the Sky at Spring Performance
On May 8, the elementary school hosted its Spring Vocal Concert and Art Show. Upon arrival, attendees were able to walk through the building and view the awe-inspiring displays of artwork that lined hallways from floor to ceiling and filled classrooms. Creations by students in Richard Anderson’s and Nancy Randazzo’s art classes showcased a wide array of media, including papier-mâché, pottery, watercolors and sculptures. Guests were even able to view a stop motion film that depicted a car race in a miniature landscape made entirely of candy.
After viewing the incredible displays, guests were invited to attend the musical portion of the evening led by directors Andrew Frey and Jessica Pastor. The concert began with performances by the fifth-grade select choir, who sang selections of American, South African and Latin American backgrounds, including “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Siyahamba,” a South African freedom song.
Guest pianists Elizabeth Chun and Karen Xie performed next, transitioning into the second half of the show, which featured members of the fifth-grade chorus. The group concluded the night with a moving and uplifting performance of “Touch the Sky” featured in the Disney film “Brave,” during which students held up posters that told of their hopes and dreams for the future. The evening was a true testament to the immense amount of student talent and potential.
The NAMM Foundation recently named the Port Jefferson School District a Best Community for Music Education in America for the seventh consecutive year.
Middle School Comes Alive at Art and Music Show
On May 9, the middle school hosted its Spring Concert and Art Show. Middle school art teacher Stacey Schuman organized an outstanding display of artwork created by middle school students who used media such as chalk, charcoal and pastels to create spectacular pieces. Oversized candy bars and sticks of chewing gum made for a fun display alongside exhibits in the styles of pointillism, ancient Egyptian art, cartooning, American folk art, cave art and zodiac sign art.
The musical performances for the evening began with the seventh- and eighth-grade orchestra led by Christian Neubert. The group performed five pieces for family, friends and faculty, with highlights including selections from the “Harry Potter” films.
Shortly after, the seventh- and eighth-grade band took the stage. Led by director Edward Pisano, the student-musicians impressed attendees with a variety of songs. Concluding the concert was the seventh- and eighth-grade chorus, directed by Jason Crockett and accompanist Jeanette Cooper. The group’s performance featured familiar songs such as Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” and Katy Perry’s “Firework.”
The NAMM Foundation has named the Port Jefferson School District a Best Community for Music Education in America for seven consecutive years.
History in the Making
The district would like to congratulate elementary school student Lucas Welinder, a fourth-grader in Kristen Boney’s class and SEAL student in Kimberly Pelkonen and Paige Lohmann’s class, who has qualified to participate in the National History Bee’s National Championship.
Lucas’ historic journey to success began in November 2012, when he ranked as one of the school’s top four performers in the Intramural Bee. His high score advanced him to the second round of competition – the Online Regional Qualifying Exam in January 2013. The regionals, held in Yonkers, N.Y. and attended by the top 120 scorers in each of the state’s 35 regions, consisted of three preliminary rounds of head-to-head buzzer competition, followed by a final championship round. There, Lucas was named a top champion, qualifying him for advancement to the nationals, which will be held in Atlanta on June 1.
“Of the thousands of students at schools across the country who participated in the National History Bee, only a select few are invited to advance to Atlanta to the nationals,” said Lohmann. “Lucas and 50 other elementary contestants from all across the country will compete against each other on their impressive history knowledge.” Lucas is one of six students from the New York region. There will be a preliminary round of multiple-choice questions followed by a “buzzer” round, making for an all-day event.
Senior Signs Letter of Intent
On May 9, high school senior athlete Holly Vulpis joined with her parents, counselor and members of the district administration to sign a National Letter of Intent. Holly, who has received an athletic scholarship, will be playing women's lacrosse for Niagara University in Buffalo, N.Y. Congratulations on this well-deserved recognition!
Newsweek Rankings Add to District’s Prestige
The Port Jefferson School District was featured in Newsweek’s America’s Best High Schools of 2013, with Earl L. Vandermeulen High School placing 546th in the nation, 82nd in New York State and 10th in Suffolk County. The rankings highlight the best 2,000 public high schools in the nation — the ones that have proven to be the most effective in turning out college-ready grads. The list is based on six components that are self-reported by each school: graduation rate (25 percent), college acceptance rate (25 percent), AP/IB/AICE tests taken per student (25 percent), average SAT/ACT scores (10 percent), average AP/IB/AICE scores (10 percent) and percentage of students enrolled in at least one AP/IB/AICE course (5 percent).
Although similar to last year’s list of Best High Schools, the methodology behind this year’s list is slightly different. Instead of considering the number of courses offered, which is limited even for the most ambitious high school curricula, the percentage of students enrolled in an Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Advance International Certificate of Education course was weighed.
"We are very pleased with this recognition of our outstanding academic excellence,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kenneth Bossert. “It is a direct reflection of the efforts of our students, faculty, staff and parents. Placement on this noteworthy list is something the community can take great pride in."
In April, the Washington Post released its annual list of America’s Most Challenging High Schools in the United States. Earl L. Vandermeulen High School was ranked 339th out of 1,933 schools nationally, placing it 38th in the Northeast, 28th in New York State and third in Suffolk County. Port Jefferson has improved 14 spots in the state from 42nd in 2011.
Instrument Petting Zoo Returns
The elementary school recently hosted its sixth annual Instrument Petting Zoo. On May 3, members of the high school instrumental ensembles traveled to the elementary school to give the third-graders an opportunity to get an up-close experience with band and orchestra instruments.
“Students were able to hear the instruments performed and ask questions about each instrument, as well as experience the excitement of holding many of them for the first time,” said Director of Music and Fine Arts Michael Caravello. “In the coming weeks, the same third-graders will be selecting the instrument they would like to begin learning in the fall.”
The district would like to thank music teachers Christine Creighton, Mark Abbonizio and Dr. Vanessa Salzman for organizing this event.
Middle School Students Inducted Into National Junior Honor Society
Family, faculty and members of the administration came together on May 2 to honor the newest inductees of the school’s chapter of the National Junior Honor Society. The middle school chamber ensemble, led by Christian Neubert, provided musical accompaniment throughout the program, during which students in the seventh and eighth grades were recognized for their achievements.
The evening began with a warm welcome to all from middle school principal Antonio Santana, who told parents that they should be “extremely proud” of all that their children have accomplished. He noted that these accomplishments were “nothing short of remarkable,” adding, “Not only do they manage to maintain a 92 grade point average throughout all of their academic courses, but they also demonstrate characteristics of leadership, scholarship and character in their everyday activities.”
Current NJHS President Virginia Albinson spoke next, addressing and congratulating her peers. “Your hard work and dedication has paid off,” she said. “The Port Jefferson School District gives its students many opportunities to show their merits – whether they be accelerated classes, clubs or sports – and you are here because you have taken those opportunities and made them into something great.”
The service continued with NJHS adviser Michelle Landetta leading the ceremony of the candle lighting, where inductees lit their own individual candles from one of the five pillar candles representing scholarship, service, leadership, character and citizenship. During this time, inductees were also presented with a certificate, pin and official NJHS membership card. Additionally, an honorary National Junior Honor Society Award was granted to building representative Bonnie Kelsch for her service to the district and local community.
Concluding the evening was Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kenneth Bossert, who advised the new inductees to “take advantage of all the opportunities that you have available...become very active in the school, become very active in your community, and continue to exemplify all these wonderful traits that you have displayed thus far.”
Grade Eight Members:
Raquel Accardo, Virginia Albinson, Mary Alter, Nicholas Andriani, Lev Bershadsky, Jacklyn Brown, Sarah Buck, Hunter Buehler, Anthony Buono, Erin Burke, Nicole Callahan, Sean Cavanagh, Katie Chorao, Jillian Colucci, Emma D’Amario, Anna Desan, Vicki Fan, Jamie Gallo, Piper Heide, Xinyi Hong, Nicholas Kafeiti, Samara Kelson, Gillian Kenah, Michael Kennedy, Sarah Kirchner, Isabella Koutsantanou, Isabel Lebron, Courtney Lewis, Richard Liebert, Brian Mark, Neal Masone, Eve Milusich, Juliana Napoli, Clare O’Connor, Alessandro Perinuzzi, Siobhan Petracca, Alexander Preston, Chiara Rabeno, Anita Rescia, Arunima Roy, Vanessa Rubenstein, Amanda Sarubbi, Corinne Scannell, Emma Schoepflin, Aidan Schretzmayer, Chandler Sciara, Charles Scott, Bethany Seagraves, Alexander Senesi, Daniel Strehle, Victoria Sund, Elisa Ueno, Alexa Wakefield, Camryn Ward, Ji Won Woo, Mikayla Yannucci and Amelia Zamek.
Grade Eight Inductees:
John DiCarlo, Edward Finkelstein, Brandon Kafeiti, Julia Postol, Ryan Righi and Rebecca Stafford.
Grade Seven Inductees:
Allison Abbonizio, Samantha Acampora, Julie Albergo, Abigail Bossert, John Collins, Joseph Collins, Eli Doyle, Isabella Engelhardt-Apple, Nicholas Gertz, Jasmin Govits, Emma Gutmann, Olivia Hayde, Leland Held, Tamara Idir, Ibuki Iwasaki, Aidan Jordan, Connor Kaminska, James Kennedy, Cezanne Lojeski, Matthew Luca, Thomas Mark, Louis Martin-Deprez, Jack McGorry, Quinn Nenninger, John O’Connor, Max Okst, Matthew Pifko, Trey Pisano, Hailey Reale, Michael Ruggiero, William Scannell, Brianna Scarda, Michael Smith, Luigia Than, Eric Tischer, Alexandria VanOverberghe, Olivia Wennerod and Zoe Zeniou.
Select Choir Performs at Maritime Festival
On May 4, fifth-grade students from the elementary school select choir performed at the 2nd Annual Port Jefferson Boater's Maritime Festival. While visitors enjoyed the array of boats, demonstrations and other exhibits along the harbor front, the fifth-graders, led by their music teachers Jessica Pastor and Andrew Frey, performed selections from their upcoming spring vocal music concert.
A Taste of Italy
On April 9, high school language students in Nicole Pennino-Costa’s Italian class attended an "Afternoon in Italy" cooking class at the A la Carte culinary school in Lynbrook. Students worked together at the full-service, state-of-the-art culinary center to create five Italian dishes, including bruschetta and tiramisu. They also learned about regional dishes from northern and southern Italy.
Sophomore Shows All the Right ‘Sines’ For Success
High school 10th-grader Ryan Burgert recently received a silver medal at the Al Kalfus Long Island Math Fair finals competition for his project "Calculating the Sine and Cosine of Any Angle using Numeric Methods.”
Ryan first entered into the fair on March 26 at Suffolk Community College, where he presented his project to various judges and competed against other Long Island students. He then qualified for the finals, held on April 26 at Hofstra University, where he was awarded a silver medal.
“Ryan is very excited about his accomplishments, as am I,” said math teacher Winifred Kuemmel. “He is looking to pursue another mathematical topic of interest for the upcoming fair next school year.” Hofstra University, the Suffolk County Mathematics Teachers Association, the Nassau County Mathematics Teachers Association and the Nassau County Association of Mathematics Supervisors sponsor the competition.
Revised Calendar - June 2013
The calendar for the month of June 2013 has been revised for both the Earl L. Vandermeulen High School and the Port Jefferson Middle School.
First, the last day of classes for High School students will be on Thursday, June 6th rather than Friday, June 7th. This date was changed to allow two days of final exams prior to the administration of the NYS Regents exams. The other significant item is that the last day of classes for Middle School students will be on Tuesday, June 11th followed by five days of final exams.
The revised calendar for June has been inserted into the online district calendar and is posted in the announcements section of the website. Please contact me if you have any questions.
Executive Director of Curriculum & Instruction
Leo Club Honored for Civic Engagement
High school Leo Club officers Danny Gross and Jake Cavanagh were honored at the 2013 Civic Engagement Program’s annual ceremony held on May 1 at Mount Sinai High School. Students, teachers and parents from various parts of Suffolk County joined together to share their accomplishments with U.S. Rep. Tim Bishop. The program, developed by Rep. Bishop in 2005, encourages students to take on leadership roles in their communities.
The Leo Club, under the direction of co-advisors Brian Chalmers and Kristine Vaccaro, was recognized at the Civic Engagement Program ceremony for its dedication to the local community. During the 2012-13 school year, members participated in the Port Jefferson Dickens Festival and organized projects such as “Blizzard Bags” for Meals on Wheels, a blood drive for the New York Blood Center, a three-mile walk for the March of Dimes, the American Cancer Society’s “Daffodil Days” fundraiser, and food drives and bake sales for Island Harvest.
District Teacher Recognized By SUNY Stony Brook
On April 29, Earl L. Vandermeulen High School art teacher Lynne Edsall received the 2013 Alumni Recognition Award at the SUNY Stony Brook Student Arts Festival. Edsall, who teaches studio in art, Advanced Placement studio art/portfolio and digital photography at Port Jefferson, was recognized for her commitment and years of dedication in the arts as a former graduate of SUNY Stony Brook. Congratulations to Ms. Edsall on her achievement!
District Welcomes Dr. Lisa Scheffer, New Executive Director of PPS
The district would like to welcome Lisa Scheffer, Ed.D. to the Port Jefferson school community. At a public meeting of the Board of Education in March, Dr. Scheffer was appointed executive director of pupil personnel services, effective June 1, 2013.
“I am very much looking forward to my new position and am excited to get to know the staff, community and families on a personal level,” said Dr. Scheffer. “I bring with me much experience and am eager to provide leadership and stability to the pupil personnel services department.”
Dr. Scheffer is certified in school district administration as well as school counseling. Her educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in psychology from New York University, a Master of Science in school counseling from the College of New Rochelle, a professional diploma in school district administration from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and a Doctorate of Education in educational administration, leadership and technology from Dowling College.
Dr. Scheffer comes to the district with a tremendous amount of experience, most recently as the director of pupil personnel services for the Sag Harbor Union Free School District, a position she has held since 2006, and as an assistant professor at Long Island University since 2011. She has served as an assistant coordinator to the Bilingual/ESL Technical Assistance Center at Eastern Suffolk BOCES, a project director and guidance counselor at Western Suffolk BOCES Wilson Tech, and an adjunct professor of undergraduate and graduate psychology at Five Towns College. Furthermore, she served as a bilingual guidance counselor for the Brentwood UFSD and the Lavelle School for the Blind, a NYSED 4201 school.
Dr. Scheffer will be replacing Carmen Iannotti who worked on an interim basis for the 2012-2013 school year. Please join us in welcoming Dr. Scheffer to the district, where she will surely be a wonderful addition.
Newest Members Inducted into National Honor Society
On April 24, the Earl L. Vandermeulen High School chapter of the National Honor Society inducted 44 new members. Organized in 1952, the district chapter is currently led by teachers Michel Krivosta and Laurie McMillen. The high school chamber ensemble, prepared by Director of Music and Fine Arts Michael Caravello, provided musical accompaniment throughout the evening.
The ceremony began with a greeting from high school principal Dr. Matthew Murphy, who encouraged honorees to be proud of their accomplishments, not only in academics but also with everything they have done to serve the community. During the school year, current members of the National Honor Society have participated in several service activities such as letter-writing campaigns to service men and women overseas, raising money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, serving as guides to parents on Back-to-School nights and peer tutoring. “Let me be the first to encourage you to continue to strive to be the best in everything you do,” said Murphy. “Keep your burning desire to achieve constantly alive.”
Next, the group’s advisers and chapter president Julia Woznicki welcomed students, faculty and attendees before the ceremony of the pin address, given by David Kahn, DDS, a 2002 Earl L. Vandermeulen graduate. Dr. Kahn emphasized the importance of acknowledging, understanding and following the necessary processes to achieve one’s goals.
“There are some people who have said to reach for the stars, and if you don’t make it you will land among the clouds,” said Kahn. “I say to reach for the stars without a plan is just wishful thinking. If you can develop the right plan you will be able to name your star.”
The induction continued with the ceremony of the emblem, ceremony of the candle-lighting and the roll call of inductees, all led by current honor society members. Five colored candles represented the pillars of the National Honor Society – knowledge, character, scholarship, leadership and service. Inductees lit their own individual candles from one of the pillar candles representing the ideal that they choose to most closely follow.
The ceremony concluded with a reciting of the society’s pledge, as well as remarks from Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kenneth Bossert, who thanked parents for their continued support of the school and of their children. He then commended the honorees for their hard work and dedication.
“You’ve done a wonderful job of grasping the offerings that have been made available to you, rising to the challenges that your teachers have placed before you and really demonstrating the excellence that makes us proud to be a part of this school community.”
Aaron Accardo, John Albinson, Corbin Apple, Megan Augsbach, Justin Bove, Alexander Bruno, Natalie Buck, Elizabeth Ciancarelli, Katherine Colantuoni, Kirsten Crovello, Tyler D’Accordo, Melissa Darling, Kelli DiTomasso, Jonathan Famularo, Richard Finkelstein, Marcus Glover, Cassandra Gray, Danielle Grier, Daniel Gross, Katherine Gwydir, Ghada Hassan, Nicholas Heide, Evan Kelly, Eric Keresztes, Rachel London, Gabriella Martinez, Leah Neiman, Romain Popescu, Francesca Racanelli, Olivia Racanelli, Hunter Reiter, Chiara Repetti-Ludlow, Alberto Rescia, Steven Rose, Jasper Rubin-Sigler, Elijah Sanders, Maria Simmerling, Joshua Skula, Gabrielle Stark, Mairead Swords, Cailyn Teran, Kent Ueno, Demitria Ulino and Shannon Walsh.
Nicholas Aiello, Julia Altebrando, Luca Amarca, Kevin Anderson, Blake Bohlen, Jonathan Chun, Connor Crovello, Emma Crugnale, Nicholas D’Auria, Gabriel Davis, Caitlin Dennehy, Yufan Ding, Jaclyn Dombroski, Amber Edley, Jessica Eichinger, Erik Esposito, Chan-Wei (Jerry) Fan, Leanne Goldstein, Zachary Graziano, Katherine Hoey, Justin Jones, Emilie Jourdain, Gregory Klesaris, Todd Lewis Jr., Jessica Loehr, Miriam Marx, Julianna Pollina, Dana Prohovnik, Gerard Racanelli, Alexandra Raso, Patrick Rubenbauer, Amanda San Roman, Hannah Sheinkopf, Constantine Spentzos, Rebecca Spinner, Sruthi Sridevan, Kelsey Van Houten, Dennis Walsh, Chase Watkins, Sandi Woodhead, Julia Woznicki and Jason Zimmermann.
Students Dress for Success
In an effort to boost morale during recent New York State assessments, elementary school special education teacher Jacqueline Gandolfo implemented a positive, creative activity with students in AmyJean Castaldo’s third-grade class. Students chose favorite inspirational quotes and inscribed them on plain T-shirts, which they decorated and wore during testing.
“Wearing the shirts helped us to believe in ourselves and be more confident,” said one student. Concurring students added that reading the motivational quotes encouraged them to work even harder and made them feel “less afraid” about the testing. “Plus, we all look fabulous!” exclaimed another.
The children’s shirts emphasized the power of perseverance, self-confidence and resilience, qualities that they surely displayed post-assessment. “I am so proud of them and all that they do,” said Gandolfo. “They work so hard and are very proud to wear their shirts.”
Springing into Action for Earth Day
Students at the elementary school celebrated Earth Day in many special ways this year. On April 19, Melissa Martin’s kindergarten class invited parents and relatives to partake in a pre-Earth Day classroom celebration. The children worked together on activities which included tie-dying t-shirts, creating entries for a class “ecology” book, a nature walk of the beautiful on-campus trails, the decoration of earth window-clings and even a Smart Board exercise of virtual recycling. The students also participated in the design and creation of persuasive Earth Day posters, encouraging others to be more conscious of their impact on the environment. Incorporating recently learned persuasive writing techniques, the posters focused on topics such as pollution, litter, recycling and the importance of “doing your part” to help the earth.
On Earth Day, April 22, Kristen Poulos and Karen Stamatopoulos organized a unique earth-themed event in which students made “dirt pudding.” Complete with gummy worms, the students meticulously followed recipe instructions that turned Oreos, chocolate pudding and whipped cream into a decadent dessert resembling dirt. The activity served as a kick-off to the week’s discussions about ways to make the earth a cleaner and happier place.
Students Named High Performers on PSAT/NMSQT
High school students Danielle Grier, Leah Neiman, Alberto Rescia and Kent Ueno were recently notified that their preliminary scores on the 2012 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test met the requirements needed to enter the 2014 National Merit Scholarship Program. These students’ scores rank them among the top 50,000 highest performers with a selection index of 203 or higher. More than 1.5 million students participated.
Of the 50,000 high scorers nationwide, approximately 16,000 will be named National Merit Program Semifinalists and 34,000 will be Commended Students. The district will be notified of the students’ standings in September 2013. Semifinalists will have the opportunity to continue in the competition to be considered for one of the approximately 8,300 National Merit Scholarships.
District Hosts Annual Health and Wellness Expo
On April 20, the district hosted the fourth annual Health & Wellness Expo sponsored by the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce. More than 50 exhibitors filled the high school gymnasium with an array of booths dedicated to all levels of health, wellness and fitness and provided important information for planning and meeting health and wellness needs.
The event kicked off with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, in which Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kenneth Bossert participated, commemorating the Village of Port Jefferson officially claiming April 20 as the district’s “Health and Wellness Day.” Members of the middle school seventh- and eighth-grade orchestra, led by teacher Christian Neubert, performed classical music selections as attendees walked about the fair. Additionally, contest winners from the elementary and middle school had their posters displayed for viewing.
The expo received supplementary sponsorship from local organizations including St. Charles and Mather hospitals, the Times Beacon Record, Bethpage FCU, Jefferson’s Ferry Lifecare Community and Moloney’s Funeral Home.
Team’s Ability Knows No Boundaries
The middle school Science Olympiad team recently proved that anything is possible when you put your mind to it. The team, which placed fourth at the Suffolk County Regional competition in March, participated in the New York State competition held at Syracuse University. Team coach Adam Bouchard, along with Deborah Hagmeyer and Laurie McMillen, accompanied the students on their trip.
The Port Jefferson team competed against top schools from 11 regions across the state and placed 26th out of 137.
“They worked hard and learned scientific concepts on a high school and college level,” said Bouchard. “Everyone enjoyed being in Syracuse, which was a beautiful and accommodating campus, and we hope to return next year to build upon our team’s successes.”
1st Place – J.R. Knapp and Chandler Sciara for Helicopter
5th Place – Xinyi Hong and Arunima Roy for Place Endangered, Exotic, Extinct
Top 20 Finishes:
8th Place – Eli Doyle and Connor Kaminska for Reach for the Stars
12th Place – Andrew Lioio and Neal Masone for Place Meteorology
16th Place – Xinyi Hong and Arunima Roy for Forestry
18th Place – Eli Doyle and Connor Kaminska for Mission Possible
20th Place – Justin Julich and Andrew Lioio for Water Quality
Competing Team Members:
Nick Caltagirone, Spencer Cona, Anna Desan, Eli Doyle, Xinyi Hong, Thomas Hull, Justin Julich, Connor Kaminska, Michael Kennedy, J.R. Knapp, Isabella Koutsantanou, Jefferson Koutsantanou, Andrew Lioio, Neal Masone, David Moir, Ryan Righi, Arunima Roy, Aidan Schretzmayer, Chandler Sciara and Ben Zaltsman.
Robotics Team Produces Success and Scholarships
Students on the high school Robotics Team competed in the Long Island FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Regional Robotics Competition on April 4-6 at Hofstra University. The organization’s mission is to encourage young people to be science and technology leaders by engaging them in exciting, mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills that inspire innovation and foster well-rounded life capabilities, including self-confidence, communication and leadership.
“Students and their mentors spent six long weeks – working up to six days a week – constructing a robot from raw materials such as aluminum and plexiglass pieces combined with digital electronic components, electric motors, cameras, transmissions, wheels and a host of other robotic parts,” said club adviser Brian Chalmers. “The mentors really enjoy having the opportunity to share their knowledge with other student team members.”
The team’s android performed strongly during the competition on all assigned tasks, which included shooting Frisbees onto a small platform atop a 10-foot-tall pyramid. The robot’s drive team coordinated the machine’s functions. Overall, the team placed within the top 20 out of 50 schools from around the state.
Furthermore, senior members Michael Colucci and Greg Klesaris were awarded FIRST scholarships of $24,000 from Adelphi University and $30,000 from Stevens Institute of Technology, respectively. Michael will receive $6,000 annually for four years and Greg will receive the same amount over the course of five years should they choose to enroll in those universities.
Student-Musicians Inducted Into Tri-M Honor Society
The Earl L. Vandermeulen High School Chapter 2172 of the Tri-M Music Honor Society hosted its sixth annual honors recital and induction on April 17. The evening began with a welcome from high school Principal Dr. Matthew Murphy and was followed by a recital of 17 instrumental and vocal performances by students, including pieces by Mozart, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Bach.
The evening continued with a brief address by Director of Music and Fine Arts Michael Caravello, who thanked parents for supporting and nurturing their children’s music education and highlighted the wealth of talent present. “To dedicate and share your music with others is truly a gift,” he said.
Family, friends and faculty looked on as continuing members were recognized and new inductees were honored for their efforts. Requirements needed to become a member of Tri-M are based on the society’s five points of distinction: scholarship, character, cooperation, leadership and service. The induction marks an individual’s successful completion of a term of candidacy.
“A Tri-M member is one who sets a good example, is always willing to assist those students who are striving to better themselves in the music department, and is always one who remembers that it is a real honor to carry these responsibilities,” said Tri-M adviser Christine Creighton.
“Whether it’s going to local hospitals during the holidays or assisting the district hosting the Mid-Island Band Festival this year, their dedication and commitment to music serves as an example to others of what can be accomplished with hard work, self-discipline and a lot of practice,” said Caravello of the society’s members. Addressing them, “I hope that all of you continue your passion and love for music over the years and take it with you into college, adulthood and for the rest of your lives.”
Caroline Biondo, Taylor Carley, Jonathan Chun, Andie Fortier, Rachel Geiser, Steven Geiser, Christopher Graci, Ju Mi Ha, Margo Martin-Deprez, Alden Mohacsi, Kayley Okst, Chiara Repetti-Ludlow, Alberto Rescia, Morgan Sakovich, Lara Sarubbi and Gabrielle Stark.
Nicholas Aiello (secretary), Jonathan Chun, Gabe Davis (vice president), Zachary Graziano, Michaela Griffin (co-president), Grace Napoli (historian), Dana Prohovnik, Gerard Racanelli (treasurer) and Rebecca Spinner (co-president).
They Came, They Saw, They Conquered
Latin Students Place at Certamen
Earl L. Vandermeulen Latin students, led by teacher Anne Algieri, performed at the Latin Certamen held at Stony Brook University on April 9. The Certamen is a fast-paced contest testing students' knowledge of Latin grammar, vocabulary, word derivations, Roman life, history, mythology and literature.
Latin students from schools throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties compete at their respective levels. Port Jefferson teams placed within the top three in every level in which they participated.
Level Two Winners:
1st Place – Ginny Albinson, Thomas Hull, Eric Kilgore and Billy Witrock
Level Three Winners:
3rd Place – Neil Alvarez, Ryan Burke, Noah Davis and Natasha Zaliznyak
Advanced Level Winners:
3rd Place – Jonathan Chun, T.J. Lewis, Alberto Rescia and Kent Ueno
Interact Club Beautifies Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck
On April 7, members of the high school Interact Club made their annual trip to Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck located on the shores of Kaler’s Pond in Center Moriches. There, students participated in a “spring cleanup” of the grounds, which included raking leaves, mulching, planting flowers, painting and preparing dorms for campers. Also in attendance were members of the Port Jefferson and Rocky Point rotary clubs and members of the National Junior Honor Society.
Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck’s mission is to help children and young adults ages 6 to 21 with both physical and developmental disabilities achieve equality, dignity and maximum independence through a safe and quality program of camping, recreation and education in a summertime environment.
“It is a special place where children can experience firsthand the pleasures that an active life has to offer,” said club adviser Sarah Ogden.
Student Performs at Juilliard School of Music
On April 6, Annalisa Welinder, a sixth-grade student, performed a violin recital at the Juilliard School of Music's Paul Hall as part of the pre-college division. Proud family members were in attendance, as well as members of the Port Jefferson sixth-grade orchestra and teacher Dr. Vanessa Salzman. The district congratulates Annalisa on her outstanding musical achievement.
Mathematicians Formulate Excellence in Competition
Earl L. Vandermeulen mathematics teacher and math team adviser Dennis Christofor recently announced the results and district winners of the American Mathematics Competition and the Suffolk County Math Teachers Association Contest.
In February, high school students participated in the American Mathematics Contest 10 and the American Mathematics Contest 12. Both tests contain 25 multiple-choice questions and are 75-minute examinations in secondary school mathematics containing problems that can be understood and solved with pre-calculus concepts.
In March, students in both the high school and middle school participated in the annual SCMTA competition. Levels E and J are generally for accelerated students, while Level IV is for pre-calculus students. Their scores represent their standing among students across Suffolk County.
AMC 10 Winners:
1st Place – Noah Davis
2nd Place – Ju Mi Ha
3rd Place – Ryan Burke
AMC 12 Winners:
1st Place – Kent Ueno
2nd Place – Romain Popescu
3rd Place – Alberto Rescia
SCMTA Level E Winner:
2nd Place – Feiran Zhang
SCMTA Level J Winners:
2nd Place – Annalisa Welinder
3rd Place – Mayu Takeuchi
SCMTA Level IV Winner:
2nd Place – Ryan Burke
Community Pays Tribute to True District Royalty
Peter Esposito, director of technology and assistant principal for grades pre-K through 12, will be leaving the district this school year and was honored at this month’s Board of Education meeting. At the March meeting of the Board, Esposito tendered his resignation so that he may pursue an opportunity in a neighboring district.
Since his appointment as teacher by the district in 2001, Esposito has also served as robotics team coach, adviser to the Science Olympiad team, science, math and technology club leader, soccer coach, baseball coach and dean of students. Additionally, he has served as the district’s “energy czar” for the past three years, bringing substantial savings to the district through his efforts.
Board of Education President Kathleen Brennan shared her sentiments and thanked Esposito for his many years of service and for the “care and concern for the students whose lives you have touched.” Brennan first came to know Esposito through the school’s Robotics Club, to which he dedicated a tremendous amount of time, energy and effort. “He really helped to foster the program and encouraged students to remain interested in robotics,” she said.
“I am constantly impressed and amazed that whenever I am at the school, Pete is always there,” said board trustee Mark Doyle, who remarked on the “innumerable” evenings and weekends that Esposito had dedicated to the school and its well-being. The district’s “energy czar,” as he was referred to by fellow faculty and staff members, even went as far as walking around the buildings, turning off lights and monitors as part of his constant effort to conserve energy.
In addition to the many accolades from the board trustees, members of the Port Jefferson community attended and spoke publicly to show their tremendous support and gratitude. One parent emphasized Esposito’s ability to earn the trust and respect of the students, saying, “Those are two things you don’t typically hear a teenage boy talk about.”
“He is a community member, educator and valued member of the staff,” said Assistant Superintendent for Business Sean Leister. “Everyone will truly miss him and all that he brings to the district.”
Senior Student Athletes Sign On for Success
On March 20, Earl L. Vandermeulen High School senior athletes Joseph Booker and Blake Bohlen joined with their family members, coaches, counselors and members of the administration to sign National Letters of Intent. Joseph will be playing baseball for Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire and Blake will be playing soccer for Fordham University in New York. Both students received athletic scholarships. Congratulations on this well-deserved recognition!
Students Sold on Learning
An intellectual and creative collaboration between middle school teachers Michelle Landetta and Stacia Schoen provided students in Landetta’s class with a real-world activity in a familiar setting. The creation of a class “store” gave participants the opportunity to utilize their math skills by “purchasing” and “selling” store items as they acted out the roles of customer and cashier. Every student was able to purchase the items of their choice and complete transactions in their roles.
Holocaust Survivor Inspires Students to Be Just People
Middle school students in Kayleen Moran’s eighth-grade English class and high school students in Philip Giannusa’s Holocaust elective course came together this month for a two-part, in-depth look at the Holocaust. The two teachers collaborated to produce an interdisciplinary unit that explored and explained the distressing World War II event.
On March 22, Holocaust survivor Werner Reich spoke to district students, faculty, staff and administration during an unforgettable presentation about his life, the Holocaust and what it means to be a just person.
Reich began the assembly by defining the Holocaust and what he describes as “the good people who did nothing” throughout time, referring to the individuals, political leaders and countries that knew of the atrocities that were happening but did little or nothing to help those suffering. He stressed the importance of defending personal beliefs, helping those in need and acting on what you know is right.
“Don’t wait for other people to act – be the first,” said Reich. “Ask yourself what the right thing to do in a situation is and then do it.”
The presentation outlined Reich’s personal experience as a teenager who survived the Terezín, Auschwitz II-Birkenau and Auschwitz I concentration camps. “I am lucky to have survived,” he said. “It is my responsibility to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.”
Reich’s main message, “just people are just people,” affirmed that the average person can save a life simply by speaking up. He urged listeners to follow four simple steps when faced with an adversity: judge the situation, understand the problem, solve and take action, creating the acronym JUST. “Indifference kills,” stated Reich. “Do not tolerate bullies or allow them to silence you.”
At the assembly’s conclusion, Middle School Principal Antonio Santana echoed Reich’s sentiments, saying, “It’s not enough to just be a good person. Our differences do not give us the right to treat people differently; they are there for us to embrace because they are what enrich our lives.”
Earlier in the month, Moran’s students, who had been studying Eliezer Wiesel’s Holocaust novel “Night,” were given a guided tour through a Holocaust museum in the middle school/high school library that was created and constructed by students in Giannusa’s class.
“The concept of genocide is almost unfathomable to the students,” said Moran. “Phil and I are using this as an opportunity to break it down so that it better relates to everyday situations.”
A poster exhibition of WWII images lined the staircase leading to the museum, helping visitors to attain the proper mindset before entering and providing a visualization of the facts and statistics that were being read to them throughout the program by the upperclassmen, who acted as tour guides.
Inside, black drapes, candles, low lighting and opera music contributed to the museum’s setting, lending a serious yet respectful tone. Viewers were walked through stations detailing life in the concentration camps, the widespread Nazi destruction, survival and Hitler’s Final Solution, the most deadly phase of the Holocaust. The driving message throughout the presentation likened acts such as bullying and oppression to the Nazis’ means of wiping people of their individuality and identity through acts of humiliation and stereotyping.
At the conclusion of their tour, students filled out pledge cards describing their personal vows to fight against genocide.
Student Government Makes Impact on Local Community
Members of the elementary school student government, led by advisers Dana St. Pierre and Michele Smith, hosted a food collection to benefit the Outreach program at Infant Jesus R.C. Church. The student leaders did their best to make a difference in the local community by collecting nonperishable food items as well as toiletries to help keep the food pantry’s shelves stocked.
“Our mission is to try and make a difference around us in any way we can, starting with our small ‘world’ – meaning what occurs in and around our school,” said Smith. “We also want to make a difference in the bigger ‘world,’ the community we live in, and lastly, the entire world around us.”
This year’s food drive correlated with the school’s Scraggy Olympics, an event where teachers and parents compete in sports and games. The student government asked attendees to donate nonperishable items and drop them in collection bags for the team they were supporting.
Girls Varsity Basketball Team Recognized
Congratulations to Courtney Lewis and Corinne Scannell of the girls varsity basketball team for receiving All-League recognition from the Suffolk County Girls Basketball Coaches Association. In addition, senior Rachel London was honored as an All-Academic and All-County recipient. The team had a great season with a league record of 9-3 and made it to the first round of playoffs. Excellent job, girls!
Student-Musician’s Career Hits a High Note
Middle school student-musician Mayu Takeuchi has recently been named a recipient of the Suffolk County Music Educators Association Burnhart Rydzeski Scholarship, one of two New York State Music Festival at SUNY Oneonta scholarships. The gifted sixth-grader will receive full tuition to attend the New York State Summer Music Festival, a six-week program that challenges its students to achieve the highest levels of musicianship.
A letter from SCMEA President Patricia Isenberg to Mayu states, “The committee reviewed numerous applications and was quite impressed with your musical background, experiences and talent. They are pleased to award you this scholarship for the purpose of continuing your music education this summer.”
As part of the application process, Mayu was required to write about her musical experiences and desire to attend the summer program. Notes listing her honors – including New York State School Music Association ratings and Long Island String Festival Association and SCMEA accomplishments, as well as a letter of recommendation by elementary/middle school orchestra teacher Vanessa Salzman – accompanied the application. Mayu was presented with her award at the SCMEA Division I East All-County Concert on March 10 at Sachem East High School.
Mayu, who has been playing the violin since the first grade, says she is looking forward to making new friends through music at the camp this summer. “I am excited for everyone to play together and to just have fun.”
Students Jump and Hoop for Healthy Hearts
Elementary school students jumped to their feet and scored a winning basket in the fight against heart disease and stroke during their annual Jump Rope for Heart and Hoops for Heart programs. The event, a collaborative effort between the Parent Teacher Association and the physical education department, raised $6,000 for the American Heart Association.
“The kids love it and it’s a lot of fun for everyone,” said physical education instructor Françoise Schachner, who has been participating in the program since joining the district in 2001. “The district has been a supporter of this organization and event for decades.”
Students in grades two and three participated in the “Jump Rope” program, while fourth- and fifth-graders participated in the “Hoops” program. Faculty and members of the administration, including Principal Thomas Meehan and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kenneth Bossert, stopped by to cheer the students on and show support.
Language Students Explore Seven Worlds in One Day
On March 21, Italian language students in grades 10 through 12 attended the bilingual spectacular "Sette Mondi" (Seven Worlds) at the Queens Theater in Flushing. The interactive musical took viewers on a journey through seven magical worlds and seven different themes and adventures, one for each day of the week. There, students were able to take a closer look at Italian culture and language through music. Teachers Greg Gorniok and Nicole Pennino-Costa accompanied the trip.
Environmental Club Works to Keep Local Beach Clean
Eleven members of the middle school Environmental Club attended the Coastal Steward Adopt-A-Beach cleanup of the eastern side of Port Jefferson Harbor. The event, sponsored by the Village of Belle Terre, is part of the International Coastal Cleanup effort that has removed more than 320 tons of debris to date. Participants Gavin Barrett, Emma Gutmann, Leland Held, Tamara Idir, Miles Kaming-Thomassi, Patrick Kleaka, Matt Luca, Abbie Murphy, Matt Murphy, Michael Smith and Jordan Suarez, along with parent Kevin Kleaka and club adviser Peter Burawa, were provided with water, garbage bags, gloves, sun block and snacks for the day’s work.
“The students scoured the beach and adjoining upland, pulling and carrying the flotsam and jetsam from the area,” said Burawa. “Plastic bags and wrappers were the most time-consuming to clean up, as they would wrap around trees and branches, some of which had thorns.”
After five hours of hard work, nearly three tons of debris had been collected. The students are making plans to join Coastal Steward on future cleanups and helping with the program’s oyster restoration project.