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Ninth-Graders Get a Taste of College Life

Ninth-Graders Get a Taste of College Life photo

Although they are few years away from applying for colleges, ninth-graders from Edmund W. Miles Middle School recently learned about the expectations for higher education. More than three dozen students attended College Awareness Day at Adelphi University.

There were presentations on the admissions process, study abroad opportunities and summer pre-college programs, as well as pep rally, panel discussion, question and answer session, lunch and campus tour. It helped students gain an understanding about the decisions they need to make in high school to be accepted in the colleges they desire. The 39 Amityville students who attended were chosen based on essays they submitted about honoring veterans and members of the armed forces.

Students, Sheriffs Partner for Safe Schools

Students, Sheriffs Partner for Safe Schools photo
Suffolk County deputy sheriffs recently visited Amityville Memorial High School to present the “Say Something” program. The initiative is a collaboration between County Sheriff Errol Toulon’s office and the Sandy Hook Promise. 

The deputy sheriffs spoke to students in social studies about how to notice the signs and symptoms of a fellow student in distress or with bad intentions. Students learned how to approach a trusted adult to intervene, the pros and cons of social media and the efforts taken by school and law enforcement officials to keep them safe.

Park Avenue Student has a Thoughtful Message

Park Avenue Student has a Thoughtful Message
Ryan Daly, a fifth-grader at Park Avenue Memorial Elementary School, had her work selected for the Long Island-based Child Abuse Prevention Services 2018-19 calendar. Ryan was one of 12 winners selected from more than 600 entries. 

As a fourth-grader, Ryan and her classmates took part in the Steer Clear of Bullies program led by CAPS educators, then were given a chance to enter the contest. Her “Before You Speak, Think” design appears on the January calendar page.

Historical Society Honors Superintendent Dr. Kelly

Historical Society Honors Superintendent Dr. Kelly
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mary T. Kelly was recently presented with the William T. Lauder Award by the Amityville Historical Society at its autumn dinner.

She was selected by the historical society’s board of directors, who recognized Dr. Kelly as a highly-respected educator with numerous, outstanding accomplishments during her tenure as superintendent. They cited her active participation in numerous Amityville organizations and her devotion to providing a quality education for all students. Dr. Kelly is an enthusiastic supporter of the historical society’s educational programs for the district’s youngsters. 

The William T. Lauder Award was established in honor of the third-generation Amityville resident, World War II resident and village historian. The Lauder Museum, a community, cultural and educational institution in the village of Amityville, is named in his honor and features local history exhibits. Dr. Kelly was the sixth recipient of the award since its inception in 2018.

Dr. Kelly began her career as a social studies teacher in East Meadow. She came to Amityville as an assistant superintendent in 2008 and was named superintendent in 2014. 

“Dr. Kelly guides and inspires by her own example, shows her caring with a word of support and her understanding with a smile,” said Ellen Ricciuti, chairwoman of the historical society’s autumn dinner committee. “She embodies Bill Lauder’s leadership, commitment and wisdom, and is an extraordinary and excellent superintendent of the Amityville school system.”

High School Student Shutterbugs Honored

High School Student Shutterbugs Honored
A pair of student-artists from Amityville Memorial High School had their work selected for the Advanced Visions 15: High School Artists of Excellence showcase at LIU Post. 

Juniors Brianna Desire and Jonathan Gambella are enrolled in Advanced Placement art classes with teacher Jayne Grasso. Brianna’s digital photography piece, “Space,” and Jonathan’s digital photo, “Johnny Pump,” are on display in the S.A.L. Gallery, located in the B. Davis Schwartz Memorial Library at LIU Post. The students will be honored during a closing reception on Jan. 9. 

“We are so proud to have two of our talented artists represent Amityville at this regional exhibit,” said Director of Fine Arts Dr. Fran Fernandez. “Congratulations to Brianna, Jonathan, their families, and their past and present art teachers on this fine accomplishment.”

Northwest Students Spread Joy to Seniors

Northwest Students Spread Joy to Seniors photo

With songs, crafts and games, students from Northwest Elementary School made the holidays a little brighter for seniors at Bristal Assisted Living in Amityville.

More than 40 children made the short trip down County Line Road on Dec. 17. Participants included first-graders from Margaret Brooks’ class and second-graders from Kerrin Faulkner and Jenny Smith’s class. Ms. Brooks accompanied students on the guitar as they began their set with “If You’re Happy and You Know it” before moving on to a slate of popular Christmas tunes.

During their hour stay, children and seniors did other activities together including playing bingo, balloon volleyball and gingerbread house crafts. Ms. Smith explained that the second-grade social studies curriculum focuses on communities, so her class does several community service activities throughout the year. This is the third year they have visited the Bristal.

“The students were so excited to come and spread some Christmas cheer to people right within their own community,” Ms. Smith said.

Greeting the Grinch at Northeast

Greeting the Grinch at Northeast photo

The Grinch may not be as revered by children as Santa Claus, but children at Northeast Elementary School still celebrated the character who first appeared in a Dr. Seuss book and has been the subject of several popular Christmas movies.

Northeast hosted its first Grinch pajama day on Dec. 14. Pre-K and kindergarten students marched through the halls in their pajamas and Grinch hats before settling into the gymnasium to sing a few Christmas songs. Santa arrived on a bike to great the energetic youngsters. 

Leading up to pajama day, students completed numerous holiday-themed reading and writing assignments and art projects. 

Amityville High School Students Play Santa

Amityville High School Students Play Santa photo
Amityville High School Students Play Santa photo 2
Amityville High School Students Play Santa photo 3
Amityville High School Students Play Santa photo 4
Amityville Memorial High School students are bringing joy to children on Long Island for the holidays. The Warrior Awareness Club, commonly known as the WAC PAC, recently worked with the non-profit Christmas Magic organization for provide gifts for 69 children at a shelter in Mastic Beach.

Students went shopping at Target to fulfill the “Dear Santa” lists, then returned to the high school to wrap the gifts. Adviser Jason McGowan said the presents were then picked up by Christmas Magic to be delivered to the children. 

High School Library Named for Distinguished Nurse

High School Library Named for Distinguished Nurse photo

Approximately 150 people came out to Amityville Memorial High School on Dec. 10 to pay tribute to an American hero and a local legend. The library media center was renamed in honor of Major Nancy Leftenant-Colón, who had a distinguished career as a nurse in the United States armed forces and in Amityville.

Major Leftenant-Colón was born in 1920 and graduated from Amityville Memorial High School in 1939. She became the first member of her family to pursue higher education by attending the Lincoln School of Nursing in New York City. Her military nursing career spanned from 1945 to 1965, including service as an elite flight nurse with the Air Force. She made history as the first African-American woman to serve in the Army nursing corps, and later as the first woman to become president of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.

From 1971 to 1984, Major Leftenant-Colón was the nurse at Amityville Memorial High School. She became an inspirational figure for students with her well-known line, “The sky’s the limit.”

“It is an honor to welcome home Major Leftenant-Colón,” Superintendent Dr. Mary T. Kelly said in her opening remarks. “She is one of Amityville’s own. She taught students to believe in themselves and believe in their dreams. She is fondly remembered by Amityville alumni.”

Lt. Gen. Stayce D. Harris, inspector general of the Air Force, said the library dedication was an “incredible and most-deserved honor” for Major Leftenant-Colón. She presented her with an artistic piece that blended two photos together on a canvas  — one from Leftenant-Colón’s time as a major, and another of the two women together in 2009. 

Col. Ralph Smith, retired from the Air Force, presented a gold coin, one of only four in existence, commemorating the Tuskegee Airmen and Airwomen to be housed in the rededicated library. Dr. Kelly explained that as part of the upcoming project to renovate and expand the high school, the library media center will be updated and will include a display for Major Leftenant-Colón featuring numerous artifacts.


Retired Army Lt. Col. Jacqueline A. Gordon, spoke of the path that Major Leftenant-Colón paved for women in the armed forces. Lenore Braithewaite, of American Legion Hunter Squires Jackson Post 1218 in Amityville, fondly recalled her former school nurse and presented Major Leftenant-Colón with the American Legion’s 100th anniversary commander’s pin.

Several elected officials presented Major Leftenant-Colón with proclamations included Gordon, a Town of Babylon councilwoman, Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory and state Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean-Pierre.

Keynote speaker Chaplain Joanne Bedford Boyd, spoke highly of her aunt and how she has always been a role model for young people. She cited Major Leftenant-Colón’s desire to succeed and achieve her dreams, and her refusal to back down from challenges. 

Chaplain Boyd explained the value that Major Leftenant-Colón has always placed on education, so it is fitting to have the school’s center of knowledge — the library media center — named in her honor.

Following presentations in the cafeteria, all guests were invited up to the library to see the new dedication sign along with pictures of Major Leftenant-Colón from her military service and her years as high school nurse. Student Council members presented Major Leftenant-Colón with flowers, and there were musical performances by the Amityville Memorial High School jazz ensemble and Edmund W. Miles Middle School ninth-grade string ensemble.

Creating the Coders of the Future at Park Avenue

Creating the Coders of the Future at Park Avenue photo

The jobs that many elementary students will have don’t yet exist, but that didn’t stop youngsters from getting a head start on their futures at Park Avenue Memorial Elementary School.

The school celebrated Computer Science Week from Dec. 3-9 by having students participate in the Hour of Code during their library periods. After a short introduction by librarian Timothy Quinn, children did coding activities on the KidOYO platform using laptops. Fourth- and fifth-graders did Maze Code, a leveled application in which students had to drag and drop directions to have a white arrow reach a green X. Each level got progressively harder. Although they weren’t writing the code themselves, they were able to see it to gain an understanding of the work that goes into computer programming. 

Sixth-graders used Hatch, which gave them an introduction to the Scratch coding language. Mr. Quinn said the KidOYO mission is “on your own,” so he provided limited support to students as they used their critical thinking and problem solving abilities to complete the challenges. He added that the Hour of Code helps prepare them for STEAM-based courses in middle school and high school, and for careers in the ever-growing field of programming.

“Computer science is a key component of advanced technology,” he said. “This is the beginning for them in understanding that concept.”

Students Decorate Amityville With Holiday Paintings

Students Decorate Amityville With Holiday Paintings photo

Art students from Amityville Memorial High School and Edmund W. Miles made their community more festive for the holiday season. The community window project was a collaborative effort among the two school, led by art teachers Jennifer Dibble, Jayne Grasso, Heather Rickard and Nicole Scoca as well as Director of Fine and Performing Arts Dr. Fran Fernandez.

The project started with a drawing contest among middle and high school students with high school teachers judging the submissions. The winners attended an outdoor field trip in Amityville in which they painted their drawings on the windows of local businesses on Nov. 29.

The inspiration for the project was generated by high school guidance Transition Coordinator Karen Gross and the Amityville Chamber of Commerce. Participating businesses included Gerald's Market, Great South Bay Dance Studio, Wrapping It Up, Amityville Men's Shop, Park Avenue Grill and Francesco's Pizza

“Students were able to see their personal creations come to life,” Ms. Dibble said, “It was a wonderful experience for them, their art teachers, and the Amityville community.”

Creating a Community of Learners in Amityville

Creating a Community of Learners in Amityville photo

More than a dozen courses in health and wellness, language, technology and more were offered by the Amityville Union Free School District this fall as part of its Adult and Continuing Education program.

Relaunched last spring, the program is part of the district’s effort to strengthen community connections and provide residents with opportunities for growth. This fall’s catalog included 18 courses which ran from mid-October through early December and are taught by Amityville teacher and local experts. 

Learn to Love Your iPad or iPhone was a personalized technology course. Instructor Terrylynn Bayon, who also taught a Microsoft Word and Excel course, helped participants with basic and advanced skills like texting, downloading and using apps, and taking and storing photos.

“My kids are thrilled that I’m learning this,” said Amityville resident Linda Walker. 

Residents have been able to learn life-saving first aid and CPR skills, research their family genealogy, understand the rules of Mah Jongg, train to be a notary public or stay fit with Zumba or T’ai Chi Chaun. Other courses included defensive driving, ESL, knitting, photography, self-defense, Spanish and yoga.

“It’s great,” Corky Amico said of the knitting class. “I learn something different and I get to socialize. I’ve always wanted to learn how to knit.”

Program coordinator Dr. Diane Impagliazzo said that all of the courses were cost-effective and bring the community together to learn life and career skills and pursue their interests.

“There’s a sprinkling of courses for everybody’s tastes,” Dr. Impagliazzo said, adding that the spring 2019 session will include both new and repeat courses. 

High School Students Make a Cross County Connection

High School Students Make a Cross County Connection photo

Members of Amityville Memorial High School’s Warrior Awareness Club eagerly waited at the front door for their guests to arrive on Nov. 15. After a 23-mile ride across Suffolk County, 28 students from Bayport-Blue Point High School and their chaperones pulled up on a school bus and were warmly greeted by their hosts.

The Cultural Exchange program, an annual tradition in Amityville, is designed to connect students from across Long Island. It creates bonds and establishes new friendships, as the teens typically keep in touch through text message or social media. 

Students from both schools gathered in the cafeteria for breakfast and icebreaker activities that helped them find common interests. WAC PAC adviser Jason McGowan called out two words, like bacon or sausage, or Christmas or Halloween, and students went to one side of the room or the other. There was also great enthusiasm during a rock-paper-scissors competition. 

Each Bayport-Blue Point student was paired up with an Amityville student and they attended classes together throughout the day before coming together again for a pizza lunch. The students will meet up in the spring when Amityville students will visit Bayport-Blue Point High School. 

Physical Education Students of the Year

Physical Education Students of the Year photo
Seniors Carlos Ponce and Ashley Sanz were named physical education students of the year for Amityville Memorial High School by the New York State Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.

Learning Will go Virtual in Amityville

Learning Will go Virtual in Amityville photo

Appealing to a generation of tech-savvy students, the district will be introducing the virtual reality experience zSpace to support the curriculum.

The district will add a laptop cart of zSpace systems, becoming the first on Long Island to have this resource. It will be available for use at Amityville Memorial High School, Edmund W. Miles Middle School and Park Avenue Memorial Elementary School, along with desktop units for each of those schools. 

By using the software, students will have the opportunity to interact through augmented and virtual reality with a variety of content that supports all subjects areas. They will be able to learn about the life cycle of a butterfly, the anatomy of a human heart and the history of flight, and explore famous artwork.

“Students are drawn to technology, and zSpace provides an engaging way to support our curriculum,” said Dr. Carole Polney, the assistant superintendent for technology and administrative services. “We always look to add new and innovative resources that provide meaningful learning experiences.”

Park Avenue students had a chance to experience the technology when the zSpace mobile classroom stopped by for a few hours on Nov. 9. The children were able to put on the virtual reality glasses and explore the interactive educational content. The purchase of the hardware and software will come from the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grant that the district received in the summer. Amityville was one of 38 school districts selected by the New York State Education Department to receive federal funds for technology enhancement through the Every Student Succeeds Act. 

Awareness Weekend Builds Bridges at High School

Awareness Weekend Builds Bridges at High School photo

For 97 Amityville Memorial High School students, their school day didn’t have a typical ending on Nov. 9. Instead of going home for the weekend, those students spent the next 32 hours in the school participating in bonding activities and listening to inspirational speakers.

Awareness Weekend has been an annual tradition for 15 years. The 10th-, 11th and 12th-graders who participate say it is a transformative experience that cultivates new friendships and leads to self-reflection.

“You feel welcome,” said senior Jeridania Rodriguez, a first-time participant this year. “This is an opportunity to express yourself in a different environment and no one judges you here.”

An essential part of Awareness Weekend are the family groups. Students are typically paired with others who are not part of their normal friendship circle, and each team has a facilitator. Family groups have follow-up discussions based on the speakers, share personal experiences and participate in icebreaker activities. 

This year’s keynote speaker was Bobby Petrocelli, whose “You Matter” presentation kicked off Awareness Weekend on Friday afternoon. He told students that the world deserves their greatness and that they should never be hindered by something in their past. He spoke of a tragedy in his life, and how bad decisions by one person can have consequences for many.

Chris Memoli was involved in a car accident at 16 and suffered brain injuries as a result of no wearing a seatbelt. He communicates through typing device and shared his story about he overcame tragedy to earn his master’s degree in computer science. Hashim Garrett, a former gang member who paralyzed from waist down, spoke about forgiveness, overcoming adversity and learning from mistakes.

Alisha Armellini, mother of senior Imagine Halyard, said Awareness Weekend has been tremendously valuable for her daughter. During her sophomore year, Imagine was able to share a personal story about a traumatic event in her past. That revelation ultimately had a positive impact on her home life and her emotional well-being. 

“Awareness Weekend saves lives and saves families,” Ms. Armellini said. “It has brought so much goodness to our family. Every student should participate in this program.”

Students and their faculty chaperones spent the night in the school in sleeping bags and on air mattresses in classrooms. Awareness Weekend ended at 10 p.m. on Saturday night with goodbyes and hugs. Special education teacher Jason McGowan, who coordinated the event, said it was inspirational weekend for both the students and the teachers.

“Our 97 participants truly did break down walls and build bridges,” said Mr. McGowan, citing the weekend’s theme. “These students left here on Saturday night as new people. They learned a little about themselves and more importantly, learned from their peers. They also realized is that they are not alone and that they matter.”

VIDEO: Career Day at Park Avenue


Students learned the keys to success from speakers representing dozens of professions.

Experts Dole Out Career Advice in Amityville

Experts Dole Out Career Advice in Amityville photo

Nearly three dozen professionals visited Park Avenue Memorial Elementary School on Nov. 2 to share their words of wisdom. The guest speakers visited fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade classes for Career Day to inspire children to do well in school so they can achieve their dreams.

Among the guests were a Broadway producer, state assemblywoman, karate instructor, radio DJ and Amityville police officers and firefighters. Others represented the financial industry, the medical field and the United States military. Several speakers discussed their journeys in starting their own businesses.

There were numerous interactive presentations. Risa Stein, director of the science and technology program at Farmingdale State College, led students in a STEAM-activity. Sixth-graders worked in groups to build wind-powered cars using a piece of paper, two straws, four Life Savers, paper clips and tape. Local entrepreneur Denise Totter of Mama T’s Herbaceous Teas led students in a beverage tasting. 

The school partnered with the Amityville Chamber of Commerce and Amityville Parent-Teacher Council to bring in presenters, who spoke about their job responsibilities and the necessary qualifications.

Guidance counselor Kimberly Balducci said that this is the culminating event in College and Career Week. The purpose is to inspire students to start thinking about their futures so they can take the necessary steps in elementary, middle and high schools to achieve success and attain their career goals. 

Board of Education Recognized for Service

Board of Education Recognized for Service photo
Before they got down to business, trustees on the Amityville Board of Education heard words of gratitude at their Nov. 14 meeting in honor of School Board Recognition Week.

Superintendent Dr. Mary T. Kelly said that the seven board members are volunteers who spend much time learning about policy and governance, in addition to attending meetings and school events. She gifted each trustee a mug with the Amityville Warriors logo.

“Amityville is blessed to have a very supportive school board, serving the needs of the children and the community,” she said.

Art teacher Nicole Scoca and students in the TEACCH program at Park Avenue Memorial Elementary School created a thank-you banner for the board. A group of Park Avenue choral students, under the direction of Megan Ashe, sang John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

Second-Graders Sample Stories at Northwest

Second-Graders Sample Stories at Northwest photo

“Non-fiction is tasty” was theme in a second-grade classroom at Northwest Elementary School where students participated in a book tasting.

To begin the non-fiction unit in Reader’s Workshop, students on Nov. 5 visited the Smaulkner Café, named for second-grade co-teachers Jenny Smith and Kerrin Faulkner. With red tablecloths and teachers wearing chef hats, the room truly resembled a restaurant. 

There were seven tables and each had a different theme: animals, holidays, insects, people, polar animals, weather and vehicles. Each seat had several books on that topic for students to sample.

After five minutes of reading, students discussed the books with their classmates while also enjoying themed snacks like candy corn at the holidays table and gummy worms at the insects table. They rotated through all seven stations. 

Before their tasting, students learned about the different elements of non-fiction books such as the table of contents, headings, glossary and diagrams. Ms. Faulkner said that students will soon be creating their own non-fiction stories through Writer’s Workshop. Each child will be charged with selecting a topic to become an expert about. 

“The book tasting exposes them to a lot of different non-fiction stories to broaden their horizons and find topics they want to learn more about,” she said. 

Veterans Share Their Stories in Amityville

Veterans Share Their Stories in Amityville photo

History came alive for students in the district as veterans, representing different branches of the military and different conflict periods, shared their experiences. Edmund W. Miles Middle School hosted Veterans Appreciation Day on Nov. 13, and Amityville Memorial High School’s program followed on Nov. 15.

At the middle school, a dozen veterans spent the day visiting social studies classes. Among the speakers were Board of Education First Vice President Juan Leon, Amityville Village Trustee Nick LaLota and district staff members. A few active servicemen communicated with the students through videoconferences.

They discussed their reasons for joining the armed force, basic training, military life, responsibilities, challenges and return to civilian life. Many of the speakers said what they enjoyed most about serving was having the opportunity to travel all over the world.

“The military is so much more than combat and war,” ninth-grade social studies teacher Jack Zider said. “We wanted to give our students an appreciation for our veterans and their many roles in serving our country.”

Veterans also spoke to students in their social studies classes at the high school. Social studies department Chairwoman Dawn Mizrachi said that their personal experiences provided students with a deeper understanding of history.

Videos Support Middle School Math Instruction

Videos Support Middle School Math Instruction photo
Math teacher David Takseraas is creating a more interactive learning environment for his students at Edmund W. Miles Middle School. He recently began creating videos that connect the technology-savvy students to the content and also creates more time for instruction.

Mr. Takseraas said he was inspired by YouTube videos created by other teachers that review mathematical concepts, and decided to make his own to personalize it for his students. His videos specifically review the nightly homework and show students how to solve the word problems. 

The videos allow Mr. Takseraas to spend less class time reviewing homework and more time teaching new material. That is important because all students at Edmund W. Miles Middle School are accelerated in math, meaning they take algebra in eighth grade and geometry in ninth grade. Both of those high school-credit-bearing courses end with Regents exams. 

“The students can watch the videos at their own pace,” he said. “There’s a lot of material in the curriculum and this is a different idea that helps make the most out of our class time.”

Mr. Takseraas makes the videos in his classroom during free periods and shares them with students through Google Classroom along with the homework assignment sheets and notes. They can watch on their phones, home computers or any devices. Students can also ask questions in the comments section and get support outside of school hours from their teacher or classmates. 
Wednesday, January 16, 2019