Best Community for Music Education

For the ninth consecutive year, the district has been ranked among the NAMM Foundation’s “Best Communities for Music Education” in America, an honor which acknowledges schools and districts across the U.S. for their commitment to and support of music education as part of the core curriculum.  

The award specifically recognizes the collaborative efforts between teachers, administrators, students, parents and the community, who all work together to keep comprehensive music education an integral part of the core curriculum in Port Jefferson.

The district boasts multiple musical performing groups for students, from orchestra to choral ensembles to its bands, with each group provided the opportunity to perform within the community and learn through partnerships and relationships with Stony Brook University and the Staller Center.

“This award should be shared by the entire Port Jefferson community, which has always fully supported our music program,” said Michael Caravello, director of Port Jefferson’s music and fine arts department.

Port Jeff Educators Earn SCOPE Awards

Several district administrators, teachers and support staff were recognized by the Suffolk County Organization for the Promotion of Education as recipients of the 2015 SCOPE Awards of Educational Excellence. They were among a group of educators, support staff and volunteers from Suffolk County who were honored at the SCOPE Educational Excellence Awards ceremony at Villa Lombardi’s in Holbrook on March 23.

Port Jefferson’s honorees were John and Nikki Poulianos for community service, Dennis Christofor for teacher service, Gene Holland for support staff service, and Michael Caravello for administrator service.  

Music Students Participate in SCMEA Festival

Following exceptional performances at New York State School Music Association Solo Evaluation Festivals, along with recommendations from their music teachers, 34 student-musicians in grades 5-10 performed at the Suffolk County Music Educators Association’s All-County Music Festival on March 14 and 15 at Comsewogue High School. Additionally, the music department hosted rehearsals for the festival on March 7, 13 and 14 at the high school.

“To host a festival is truly a community event,” said Michael Caravello, director of music and fine arts. “In every aspect of the rehearsals, you saw students, music teachers, custodial staff and parents working together to make this event a success.”

The Port Jefferson School District congratulates the following band, orchestra and chorus students: Division 1 (grades 5/6): Gani Ates, Emily Hearney, Owen Okst, Ella Parker, Benjamin Procaccini, Mattea Rabeno, Michela Rabeno, Stefano Rabeno, Jack Reilly, Grant Samara, Caelan Schretzmayer, Nicole Schully, Hannah Skula, Kate Sommerstad, Kasumi Layne Stasik, Noah Teaney, Lily Tener, Brennyn Veit, Jack Worrell and Peggy Yi; Division 2 (grades 7/8): Grace Crugnale, Cole Fortier, Phoenix Jampol, Hyun Jin Lee, Francine Leung, Ryan Robertson, Ava Schully, Mayu Takeuchi and Miles Kaming Thanassi; Division 3 (grades 9/10): Ibuki Iwasaki, Trey Pisano, Anita Rescia, Joseph Kaming Thanassi and Ryan Worrell.

High School Presents Urinetown


Take a peek inside the making of the high school production of Urinetown by watching the accompanying video.

Students Create New Holidays

Following a library lesson on holidays and cultures around the word, third-graders were inspired to create their own holidays.

The students drew inspiration from the book “Palapalooza” by Daphne Skinner, which tells the story of five friends who set out to create the perfect holiday, and from their library teacher Selinda Moore, who taught the students about family traditions using a PowerPoint presentation.

Among the holidays the students created were Italian Day, National Pasta Day, Harry Potter Day, Family Get Together Day and Puppy Day.

Candidates for Board of Education

Candidates for Board of Education

Residents of Port Jefferson School District interested in running for the Board of Education, please contact the District Clerk at (631)791-4221

Star Students Recognized

Six elementary students have been named Star Students in the American Library Association’s yearlong Read Campaign.

The students chosen as March Star Students are Michael Castro, kindergarten; Max Kronberg, first grade; Julie Fite, second grade; Ottilie Philbrick, third grade; Tabitha Schully, fourth grade; and Luke Filippi, fifth grade.  

As a reward for being named Star Students, the children have their photos displayed on the bulletin board outside the library along with a summary of their favorite books.

Students Learn About ALS

Elementary students spent the morning of March 20 learning about ALS, commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease, as they welcomed Chris Pendergast of Miller Place, who has been battling the disease for more than 20 years.

During the assembly, Mr. Pendergast educated the students about ALS, discussed his Ride for Life campaign – a 12-day journey across Long Island that raises awareness and funds for the disease, and informed students on current research to find a cure.

“Students were very attentive during the presentation,” said Principal Thomas Meehan. “You could hear a pin drop.”

Students Try Out Instruments at ‘Petting Zoo’

Third-graders received a taste of musicality as they welcomed high school musicians on March 19 for the annual Instrument Petting Zoo.

During the event, the high school musicians introduced the third-graders to the many band and orchestral instruments they can select to play when they enter the fourth grade, including the violin, cello, saxophone and flute. Students were able to hear and touch each of the instruments represented.

Motivated Student Recognized

For her hard work as a diligent student, Port Jefferson Middle School seventh-grader Kyra Sommerstad was recognized by the Rotary Club of Port Jefferson as its Most Motivated Student for March.

During its March 10 meeting, the Rotary presented Kyra with a certificate as her father, Ray, Principal Antonio Santana and teacher Phil Giannusa stood by her side.   

“Kyra possesses an internal drive that persists in seeking to do things better,” said Giannusa. Santana added that teachers often speak positively about Kyra, who is a “fantastic student.”

“She strives to keep her grades up and to learn as much as she can,” said Santana.

Aside from her academic successes, Kyra plays basketball and is an avid swimmer with the Ward Melville team, breaking team records.

Students Learn Technique, Civic Virtues

With bamboo brushes in hand, Port Jefferson Middle School students recently learned an ancient ideogram brush stroke technique, as well as character education principles dating back to Confucius.

While drawing their pandas on rice paper with Sumi ink, the sixth- and eighth-grade art students were taught a number of civic virtues about endangered species, including the panda bear. They also gained an increased awareness of self.   

HS Junior Prom Rescheduled

Due to the weather, the HS Junior Prom has been rescheduled to Friday, April 17. Please note that the new time for the event will be from 6 to 10 p.m.

String Students Treated to Master Class

Port Jefferson Middle School sixth-grade orchestra students honed their string-playing skills in a master class conducted by the Calidore Quartet, currently the quartet-in-residence at Stony Brook University.

During the Master Class, which was held at the Earl L. Vandermeulen High School on March 9, three members of the quartet worked with the students to fine tune their current music piece, “Air and Caprice” by Larry Clark.  

The master class was made possible through the district’s partnership with the Staller Center and Stony Brook University.

Student Recognized in Art Competition

Caroline Strauss, a senior at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School, earned a “Silver Key” at this year’s annual Scholastic Art and Writing Awards for the Northeast Region. Strauss’s painting, “Self-Portrait,” received the award based on the judge’s criteria including originality, technical skill and sense of vision.
The Port Jefferson School District congratulates Caroline on her artistic achievement.

College Fair Offers Students More Choices

To get students thinking about college choices, the Earl L. Vandermeulen High School guidance department held a spring mini-college fair on March 10 for sophomores and juniors.

This year, the annual fair was expanded to accommodate more than 90 college representatives, who set up information booths in the high school gym and answered questions.

Prior to meeting the college representatives, students were prepped by the guidance department on questions they should ask and how to make a good impression.

“This is a great opportunity for students to meet representatives and discover what types of colleges are out there,” said school counselor Kerry Fallon.

Sophomore Jackie Brown said the fair was especially helpful to her since all of the colleges she is interested in were represented.

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss

To celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday and Read Across America Day on March 2, students and staff at Edna Louise Spear Elementary School participated in a number of activities.
“Read Across America Day is our biggest reading party of the year,” said school librarian Selinda Moore.

Throughout the day, the Port Jefferson students, wearing their foxiest socks and as many stripes as possible to honor the books “Fox in Socks” and “The Cat in the Hat,” listened to Dr. Seuss books read by guest readers, who included nurses, custodians, administrative assistants and food service personnel. Students also donated books, met representatives from the Port Jefferson Public Library, and received a special treat when the Cat in the Hat himself showed up to take photos with them.

During the week leading up to the celebration, students learned about the life of Dr. Seuss and his many characters through books, Smart Board activities, video clips and research on iPads.  

Talent Show Benefits Friends of Karen

For the 10th straight year, Port Jefferson Middle School students showed off their talents in an effort to raise money for the Port Jefferson-based charity Friends of Karen. This year, the students’ efforts yielded close to $1,200 for the organization, which assists families who have a child with a life-threating illness. Over the years, the middle school talent show has raised more than $12,000 for Friends of Karen.

“When I first started the show 10 years ago, I never could have imagined that we would have raised over $12,000 for such a wonderful organization,” said talent show coordinator Allison Giannusa. “None of it would be possible if not for the talented students in the Port Jefferson Middle School and the supportive community.”

This year’s talent show was held on Feb. 27 and featured 16 performing acts, including singing, dancing and instrument playing.

Lawmakers Asked for 'Thoughtful Debate' of Governor’s Reform Agenda

The Alliance to Save Public Education is a group of (mostly) school superintendents and individuals involved in public education, the vast majority of whom are from Long Island (though the group has now expanded to upstate NY). The group is asking legislators to engage in 'thoughtful debate' over the Governor’s education agenda, which includes a controversial proposal to change the teacher evaluation system, among other major shifts.

It has written a letter to lawmakers that you can read here.

“The Governor has categorized the majority of the state’s school districts as failing in the context of promoting his reform agenda, even though his own data suggests that here in Suffolk, 99% of the districts are succeeding,” said Superintendent Ken Bossert. “We are encouraging the legislature to carefully review the reform agenda that was not written by educators and may very well have a negative impact on the successful schools of our state."



A meeting of the Port Jefferson School District Board of Education will be held on March 24, 2015, 6:00 p.m., at the District Office, for the purpose of entering executive session to discuss personnel and legal matters; and any other business as may be needed.

The regular monthly business meeting of the Port Jefferson School District Board of Education will be held on April 14, 2015, 7:30 p.m., at Edna Louise Spear Elementary School. Call to order will be at 6:00 p.m. for the purpose of entering executive session to discuss personnel and legal matters.

String Players Perform for Seawolves

Port Jefferson Middle School orchestra students kicked off the Stony Brook University men’s basketball game on Feb. 25 by performing the national anthem.

Among the students performing for Seahawks fans were bassist Jack Kelly, violinists Grant Samara and Noah Teaney and cellists Nichole Schully and Lucas Welinder.

Senior Shows Off Math Skills

Senior Ryan Burke demonstrated his mathematics mastery after participating in two recent math contests.

At the Suffolk Math Tournament at Suffolk Community College, Ryan competed against a few hundred students and placed fifth in the individual round.

Ryan also excelled in the American Math Contest, where he scored in the top five percent, qualifying him for the American Invitation Mathematics Exam in March. This is the second year he qualified for the exam.

This year, Ryan placed 9th overall individually throughout Suffolk County leading the A-team to a first place finish in the Division 1 (small school) Mathletes League.

Ryan serves as captain of the Mathletes team and is a member of the Suffolk Math team, which competes nationally.

The Port Jefferson Mathletes advisor is H.S math teacher Dennis Christofor.

Schools will now be open on April 1 and April 2

A Lesson in Friendship and Diversity

As part of their character education, all students at Edna Louise Spear participated in a workshop about diversity on Feb. 26.

The students heard from Alisty Joy Keneth, president of AJK Diversified, who spoke about the meaning and importance of diversity and how they can reach out and become friends with someone who may seem different.

“Everyone has feelings, wants to belong, and deserves to be treated equally and with respect,” said Ms. Keneth, who challenged students to go out of their way to be a friend to someone they don’t know in school.

Student Violinist Wins Young Performers Competition

Eighth-grader and violinist Annalisa Welinder recently placed first in the Island Symphony Orchestra’s Young Performers Competition.

Annalisa, who has been playing since the age of 3, now has the opportunity to perform in concert with the Island Symphony Orchestra on May 3 at Suffolk County Community College’s Van Nostrand Theatre.

This is not the first time that Annalisa, who has received extensive training at the Meadowmount School of Music, has been recognized for her talents. In 2014, she won first place in the Sound Symphony Orchestra’s annual solo competition. She also took second place in the Long Island Philharmonic’s 26th annual Young Artist Competition.

Annalisa is a member of the World Alliance Chamber Orchestra, has served as concertmaster and principal second violin for the Juilliard pre-college string ensemble, and performed at the Oyster Bay Chamber Music Festival.

Science Olympiad Team Heading to States

The high school’s Science Olympiad team has secured a spot in the New York State Science Olympiad Competition following their success at the Suffolk County Regional Division C Science Olympiad Competition.

During the regional competition at Brentwood High School, the Port Jefferson team placed fifth among 50 other teams. Events tested students’ skills in earth science, biology, chemistry, physics and engineering. The state competition will be held on March 13 and 14 at Le Moyne College in Syracuse.

In addition to the team win, several teammates earned medals. Congratulations to the following Science Olympiad members:

Janella Damaskos and Erin Burke – 1st place, Write It Do It
Ryan Burgert and Paul Simmerling – 2nd place, Scrambler
Chandler Sciara and Paul Simmerling – 2nd place, Wright Stuff
Eric Kilgore and Ryan Burke – 2nd place, Compound Machines
Caroline Biondo and Aliza Doyle – 4th place, Invasives
Julia Kharzeev and Ryan Burke – 5th place, It’s About Time
Ryan Burgert and Chandler Sciara – 6th place, Mission Possible
Caroline Biondo and Shannon Christ – 7th place, Green Generation
Julia Kharzeev and Ryan Burke – 7th place, Disease Detectives
Caroline Biondo and Noah Davis – 8th place, Dynamic Planet
Natasha Zaliznyak, Paul Simmerling and Shannon Christ – 8th place, Protein Modeling
Eric Kilgore and Ryan Burke – 9th place, Chemistry Lab
Lev Bershadsky and Brandon Hoffman – 10th place, Mission Possible

Student Council Raises Money for Lymphoma Society

The Port Jefferson Middle School student council raised more than $1,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through a “Pennies for Patients” campaign.

Throughout January, the students collected money through a combination of an online and in-school fundraiser, including a “Pay to Play” fundraiser where students could buy passes to play computer games during lunch.

In addition to collecting money, student council members shared information with their classmates about the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Visiting Musician Performs for Music Students

The sweet sounds of the viola resounded through the Edna Louise Spear Elementary School music room on Feb. 12 as students listened to a performance by visiting violist Jacob Clewell during their music class.

Mr. Clewell, a graduate student at Stony Brook University, aimed to demonstrate through his visit the beauty of the viola and the wonderful sounds it can produce.

Following his performance of “Asturias” by Isaac Albeniz, Mr. Clewell performed two pieces, W.A. Mozart’s String Duo No. 1 for Violin and Viola in G Major and Bohuslav Martinu’s Three Madrigals for Violin and Viola, with Vanessa Salzman, the district’s elementary and middle school orchestra teacher, who is also a violinist.

In addition to performing for the elementary school students, Mr. Clewell visited the middle school, where he conducted a workshop for sixth-grade orchestra members.   

Art Students Create Henna Illustrations

As part of a recent study on the ancient drawing technique of henna, art students in Stacey Schuman’s class at Port Jefferson Middle School designed their own henna-inspired illustrations. The students were instructed on how to create the designs using drawing materials such as markers and pencils.

Aside from learning the art of henna drawing, the students also gained an understanding of the henna plant and its multitude of uses dating back to ancient times.

Motivated Students Honored

During its Feb. 10 meeting, the Port Jefferson Rotary Club honored two Port Jefferson Middle School students as Most Motivated Students. Sixth-grader Mattea Rabeno received the award for January, while eighth-grader Jillian Lawler was presented with December’s award.     

According to her math teacher, Meg Ryan, Mattea earned her award for being an extremely hardworking student who is especially thoughtful and kind. She is also a valued member of the Port Jefferson Middle School Student Council.          

English teacher Kayleen Everitt said of her student Jillian that she earned her award for being a stellar student, especially when it comes to writing and reading.

BOE Recognizes Staff

While students and staff were snuggled warm in their homes during the last few snowstorms, the Port Jefferson School District’s Operations and Maintenance staff were hard at work ensuring that the district’s parking lots and sidewalks were safe and clear of snow and ice.  

For their hard work, the Port Jefferson Board of Education paid tribute to the crew by presenting them with certificates during the Feb. 10 Board of Education meeting.

“The work has been extensive, with crews working for 36 hours in a row just during the blizzard,” said Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Bossert. “Some of them even stayed overnight in sleeping bags. We would be remiss if we did not thank them for their efforts.”

Speaking to the Operations and Maintenance staff in attendance, BOE President Kathleen Brennan said, “You have been tested by water, wind, snow and repairs. On behalf of the BOE, I thank you.”

‘School House Rock Live!’

Audiences clapped and cheered as the Port Jefferson Middle School’s Drama Club presented “School House Rock Live!” on Feb. 6 and 7.

The musical production featured 19 middle school students, as well as high school volunteers and a full orchestra made up of volunteer community members.

Highlights of the show included Drama Club president Saoirse Cohen singing “Interplanet Janet,” and Cole Fortier, Drama Club past president, belting out “Conjunction Junction” and “Magic Number.” Equally entertaining was when Katie Ambrozy sang, “I’m Just a Bill” and Ava Schully performed “The Preamble.”

“We are very proud of this talented ensemble cast and crew,” said Mary LaSita, middle school Drama Club co-advisor.

Celebrating 100 Days of School

To celebrate the completion of the first 100 days of school, kindergarten students in Ms. Allison Coppi’s class spoke about everything they learned so far this school year, from learning their letter sounds to counting to life skills, including sharing and making new friends.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015