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Community Connections

Community Connections photo
We invite you to join us for our School-Community Connection Series, providing information and conversation about the Port Jefferson School District community. These open discussions are an opportunity to engage with some of the important components that are integral to the educational success of our students and the future of our district.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018 LIPA and the Impact on Port Jeff Schools
Thursday, November 8, 2018 School Safety and Security
Thursday, January 24, 2019 Traditions and Progress: Can They Coexist?
Thursday, March 21, 2019 Instructional Programs: Setting Priorities
Wednesday, May 29, 2019 To Be Determined

Meetings will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Earl L. Vandermeulen High School library. We welcome your participation.


LIFEGUARDS NEEDED for Community Swim at Edna Louise Spear Elementary School. Monday and Wednesday evenings, 6:30-8:30 pm.
CPR certification, first aid certification and lifeguard certification required. Experience preferred. Please download and complete the school district application and mail it to Earl L. Vandermeulen High School, Athletic Department, 350 Old Post Road, Port Jefferson, NY 11777, or email it to:<>.

The application is located at:</>

Perspective on the LIPA Challenge Facing Port Jefferson

Legal actions taken by the Town, Village and School District to generate an equitable solution to the LIPA tax assessment challenges are intended to protect its residents and children against exorbitant property tax increases; especially in a very short interval of time. The Mayor and the Village of Port Jefferson Trustees, the Supervisor and the Brookhaven Town Council, and the Superintendent and the Port Jefferson Board of Education are all pursuing what they believe is best for their constituents.

The Port Jefferson School District is not a tax assessing entity like the Town of Brookhaven or the Village of Port Jefferson, although it does receive school tax revenue collected by the Town. Despite this fact, the District was criticized by some residents for not being more active in the LIPA legal battle back in 2010. After a few years of contributing to the Village’s research studies and legal fees to challenge LIPA’s claims, the District began its own course of action. The District’s legal battle is based on the premise that it has a vested interest in the tax assessment challenge because, although it does not assess or receive taxes directly, it can be significantly impacted financially should the court rule in favor of LIPA.

Please know, that the District fully understands that the decision about engaging legal counsel is one to be made with great care, as it always carries a financial implication while never guaranteeing a verdict in one’s favor. Therefore, as a District, we needed to consider if not being involved in a legal battle to protect those with whom we are entrusted is actually more costly than risking a court ruling that may not be in our favor. It was the District’s decision, after carefully weighing all options, that it was our obligation to our taxpayers to fight for our right to take part in the negotiation process – to at least attempt to allow our voices to be heard during the litigation process. With the support and encouragement of our residents, we worked to advocate for this chance instead of idling sitting by and waiting for a decision – one in which we had no input – to be made.  

We are disappointed that Justice Emerson did not rule in our favor in August with regard to our pursuit of having a third party interest in the legal issue with LIPA.  On a positive note, our legal action may have contributed to a delay in the process of reaching a tax assessment settlement.  This delay could very well have saved our district millions of dollars from the point we initiated legal action. This setback does not define how this lawsuit may influence the ultimate outcome of the Town’s negotiations with LIPA and may help to contribute to a more equitable resolution in the long-term. 

The Port Jefferson Board of Education is discussing whether or not to appeal the recent Judge’s decision. 

We have heard rumors that there may be a resolution to the LIPA issue this school year and that revenue from property taxes may not continue in its present form in the future. However, the details of which are not clear nor are they finalized. But the reality is, no matter what the resolution is, the status quo we are accustomed to in Port Jefferson is bound to be altered.  

As a School District, the real challenge for us moving forward will be to balance the impact of any reduction in LIPA’s assessment between our responsibility to maintain an outstanding educational program for the children of our community and our concern for the financial impact on our community residents’ property taxes. We believe the impact should be shared.

We have a deep sense of belief in our district and in our community.  We are strong and resilient. We can handle adversity and emerge stronger and wiser as a result.  We are committed to working together to persevere and continue to provide an outstanding education to the children of the Port Jefferson school community. 

A Musical Message of Remembrance

A Musical Message of Remembrance photo
Members of the middle school’s seventh- and eighth-grade orchestra paid tribute to those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, by giving a moving performance during the Port Jefferson Fire Department’s annual 9/11 memorial service. Led by music teacher and Port Jefferson volunteer fireman Christian Neubert, students Alexa Ayotte, Tabitha Schully, Olivia Schlegel, Anna Rebic and Teppei Fukuto performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful.”

Important Safety Message from Suffolk Police


Middle School Students Recognize 9/11

Middle School Students Recognize 9/11 photo
As Port Jefferson Middle School students settled into the first week of school, they also took time to pause in honor of those affected by the events of September 11.

Students were encouraged to share their patriotism by wearing the colors of the American flag to recognize the courage of the first responders, the ordinary people who became heroes and the families of those who lost their lives on the day that is now part of our history.

“We want our students to understand the spirit of unity that occurred after that tragic day,” said teacher Monica Consalvo. “As they were not even born in 2001, it is important to know that the American vitality still prevails.”

Sunflowers Shine in Student Artwork

Sunflowers Shine in Student Artwork photo
Students in Meghan McCarthy’s second-grade art class brought the exuberant brilliance of sunflowers into their first assignments of the school year. They are learning the elements of design in art simply by observing the late summer flower in the organic line drawing unit of study.

“They are recognizing the visual components of color, form, line and shape before even putting pencil to paper,” said Mrs. McCarthy.

New BOE Member Sworn In

New BOE Member Sworn In photo
The Port Jefferson School District Board of Education has appointed Ryan Biedenkapp to the Board seat vacated by Adam DeWitt, who served the district for two full terms and resigned on Aug 1. to commit to other professional and personal obligations.

The Board discussed several options including leaving the seat open, holding a special election or appointing someone to fill the seat until the May 2019 vote. Biedenkapp was the fourth highest vote getter at the May election. He swore the oath of office administered by District Clerk Janice Baisley on Sept. 4.

Port Jefferson District Plans and Prepares for 2018-19 School Year

Port Jefferson District Plans and Prepares for 2018-19 School Year photo
Proactive measures and protocols were on the agenda for the faculty, staff and administrators during Superintendent’s Conference Days.

After a welcome by Superintendent Dr. Paul Casciano and Board of Education President Kathleen Brennan, staff members took part in numerous workshops that reflected on the theme of “Keeping Our Students and Staff Safe.”

Guest speakers from the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, the Port Jefferson Volunteer Ambulance Corps and the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence were in attendance to lead the Port Jefferson educational community in procedures and actions to enhance the security and protection of all who enter the district buildings.

The two-day conference also featured a mindfulness lesson with high school teacher Dawn DeLeonardis, as well as planning and collaboration among faculty members and administrators.

Recharged and Ready for a New School Year

Recharged and Ready for a New School Year photo
Ready for an academic year filled with educational opportunities and achievements, hundreds of students were welcomed back to school in the Port Jefferson School District on Sept. 4.

Edna Louise Spear Elementary School, Port Jefferson Middle School and Earl L. Vandermeulen High School students got right to work, getting to know their teachers, becoming familiar with their new schedules and navigating the routes to their classrooms as they settle into the autumn routine of school days.

Incoming Class of 2031 experience bus ride to school

Incoming Class of 2031 experience bus ride to school photo

Incoming kindergarten students at Edna Louise Spear Elementary School had an opportunity to experience their new routine to school with a bus ride before the start of classes on Sept. 4.

The traditional event helps to prepare students for their entry into kindergarten and become familiar with their school and new classmates.
Parent volunteers were on hand to greet them with cookies and drinks before they enjoyed the playground and Gaga ball pit.

New Staff Learn the essentials of Our Educational Community

New Staff Learn the essentials of Our Educational Community photo

The district welcomed new members to its educational community during a new staff orientation, setting a positive tone for expectations of professionalism and instruction. Covering a wide range of topics, the detailed program helped to ensure a smooth transition into their new roles in the district.

From becoming familiar with the district’s technology and resources, to taking a bus tour throughout the district and Port Jefferson Village, led by Edna Louise Spear Elementary School Principal Thomas Meehan, the new staff members learned the Port Jefferson School District’s goal of creating a rigorous learning environment for students that encourages individual interests, talents and potential.

New to the district are Lauren Berry, speech teacher; Maria Garcia, music leave replacement; Melissa Garcia, science; Charles Hafner, science; Dannie Holland Jr., teaching assistant; Omar Karasu, teaching assistant; Kristin Laudicina, clerical; Jessica Meaney, teaching assistant; Cassandra Meehan, teaching assistant; Jennifer Mezzatesta, teaching assistant; Melissa Mott, teaching assistant; Valeria O’Brien, teacher of LOTE; Alexandra Peskin, teaching assistant; Danielle Post, music leave replacement; Amy Serr, physical education and health; and Kathleen Thrash, teaching assistant. Both Holland and Meehan began their careers in Port Jefferson during the middle of the 2017-18 school year and were welcomed during the staff orientation days.

“We are pleased to welcome these new members to our school community,” said Jessica Schmettan, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction. “We look forward to a successful year of their talents in helping to stimulate the academic successes of all our students.”


Important Message Regarding the Superintendent

At yesterday’s Board of Education meeting, the Port Jefferson School Board accepted a letter of resignation from Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Casciano, effective June 30, 2019. The District thanks Dr. Casciano for his unwavering leadership since 2016 and his commitment to serve the district beyond the initial interim role. This departure was one that Dr. Casciano and the Board serving at that time agreed upon before the extended contract was ratified in 2016, at which point Dr. Casciano agreed to an extended two school years of service through the 2018-2019 school year.

“I thank Dr. Casciano for his service to Port Jefferson,” said Board President Kathleen Brennan. “Dr. Casciano did not come looking for Port Jefferson, Port Jefferson went looking for Dr. Casciano when we were looking for an interim superintendent. He will be a tough act to follow.”

The Board will be meeting in the coming weeks to discuss the next steps to search for a new superintendent of schools.

A copy of the letter Dr. Casciano submitted to the Board of Education is attached below.


Honoring the next generation of community leaders

Honoring the next generation of community leaders photo
2018 graduates Samantha Acampora and Cezanne Lojeski were presented with scholarships by the Rotary Club of Port Jefferson for their collective community service projects. Samantha was honored with the Rotary Club of Port Jefferson Community Service Scholarship. In September, she will begin her post-high school studies at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Cezanne received the Rotary Club of Port Jefferson Interact Recognition Award. She will start her college career at the University of Pennsylvania. Principal Christine Austen commended the students for their extraordinary service to the community and wished them well on their higher education goals.

Hello Sixth-graders!

Hello Sixth-graders photo

Incoming middle school students became acquainted with their new school at the sixth-grade back-to-school social on Aug. 22.

The annual welcome event helps to prepare students for their entry into middle school, familiarize them with the layout of the building and is an opportunity to catch up with classmates and seek new friendships for the upcoming academic year. The festive atmosphere was the backdrop for the PTSA-sponsored pizza, beverages and flavored ices served by parent volunteers.

Students were met by Principal Dr. Robert Neidig, who presented each of them a welcome gift of earbuds, which are a necessity for the school’s Google classroom features. Dr. Neidig then spoke about the independence that comes from being in middle school as well as the responsibilities, including cultivating the characteristics of good citizenship.

Assistant Principal Claudia Smith and numerous teachers were on hand to greet the students, who also toured the school, worked on opening their assigned lockers, picked up their school supplies and were given their class schedules.

Fall Sports Overview

Fall Sports Overview photo
Please join Port Jeff’s new Athletic Director Adam Sherrard and the fall sports coaches on Monday, August 27 at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium for an overview of the fall sports season. Parents/guardians of all varsity and junior varsity student-athletes are encouraged to attend. Frank McCoy of Advanced S.P.O.R.T.S. Physical Therapy will be the guest speaker.

Spotless audit commends district’s efficiency

Spotless audit commends district’s efficiency photo
The Port Jefferson School District received an audit report from the Office of the New York State Comptroller’s Division of Local Government and School Accountability that lauded its continued commitment to fiscal responsibility.

The goal of the audit is to provide objective analysis to assist those governing and overseeing payment performance and operations and initiate corrective actions if needed. The audit reviewed dozens of both general fund and extra-classroom activity claims totaling more than $300,000 and found that the district’s voucher system has been properly established and implemented by the Board of Education.

“This report reflects proper oversight by the Board of Education and the stringent controls put in place and carried out by our Business Office personnel,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Casciano said. “The carefully conducted examination and positive results are a testament to the district’s comprehensive policies and procedures for claims payments.”

The report, which included comprehensive information from the audit period conducted between July 2016 and September 2017, highlighted the criteria for an effective claims process and noted that Port Jefferson’s thorough review and adequate procedures and segregation of duties were properly executed.

“The examination reviews all district processes and then thoroughly focuses on one particular area for detail testing,” Deputy Superintendent Sean Leister said. “Given that there were no negative findings indicates the district’s claims process has an overall well-designed system. As our district places a strong emphasis on ensuring tax dollars are spent effectively and efficiently, we are pleased with the outcome of this auditing process, as it reinforces from an external perspective.”

Track Project Complete

The resurfacing of the Port Jefferson High School track is now complete! The track is open to the public when not in use by the athletic program or during normal school hours.

High Rankings on Best School District List

High Rankings on Best School District List photo
In recognition of its exceptional educational program, the district has received high rankings in’s annual list of best elementary, middle and high schools, and school districts.

The district has been ranked No. 2 in Suffolk County, with the high school, middle school and elementary school receiving rankings of No. 10, No. 5 and No. 6, respectively. It also received a ranking at No. 29 in New York State and No. 144 nationally.

Port Jefferson’s academics, administrative leadership, college preparation, attention to health and safety, quality of teaching, resources and facilities for students, clubs and activities, and sports programs received an overall grade of A+ from the organization. Rankings are based on comprehensive school data from the U.S. Department of Education, as well as school reviews and online survey responses. According to, public school districts are carefully selected, with ranking criteria representing a healthy balance between statistical rigor and practical relevance.

District welcomes new athletic director

District welcomes new athletic director photo
The district has named Adam Sherrard the new Director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics, effective July 25, 2018.

Mr. Sherrard possesses an extensive background in educational leadership, teaching and coaching in Prince George County, MD, as well as locally in Smithtown and Huntington. He holds New York State professional certifications in school district and school building leadership, physical education, health and as an attendance teacher. He is also certified in crisis prevention intervention, CPR, first aid and AED (Automated External Defibrillation).

Throughout his professional career, Mr. Sherrard has taught physical education at all grade levels, most recently at the Jack Abrams STEM Intermediate School in the Huntington Union Free School District. His diverse undertakings include implementing and ensuring the knowledge and compliance of New York State Public High School Athletic Association, Section XI and Department of Health regulations, securing grant funds to support student wellness – including a filtered water fountain and fitness equipment for an adaptive physical education program, collaborating on and implementing a district student wellness policy, and leading professional development to physical education teachers on incorporating technology into the curriculum.

“The energy and enthusiasm that Mr. Sherrard exudes will serve our district well,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Casciano. “We look forward to his leadership and progressive ideas in building on the many successes of our athletic program. Mr. Sherrard will continue to move us in the positive direction of our physical education and health education programs. This includes social and emotional growth opportunities to ensure our students have the support systems needed to succeed.”

Mr. Sherrard, a resident of Farmingville, earned an advanced graduate certificate in educational leadership from SUNY Stony Brook and a Master of Arts in educational leadership and administration from Touro University International. He holds a Bachelor of Science in physical education from Cortland University.

“I’m eager to work with the students, staff, nurses, administrators, coaches and parents in the district,” Mr. Sherrard said. “Since I first arrived here, I noticed the commitment to the well-being of students is profound and I look forward to continuing to strengthen the positive environment in the Port Jefferson School District.”

Two selected for athletic leadership roles

Two selected for athletic leadership roles photo
Two students from the high school have been selected to serve as Suffolk County representatives for the Section XI Student-Athlete Advisory Council.

Samantha Ayotte, a sophomore and Lia Desmond, a junior, will both serve in this leadership role with approximately 22 selected students throughout Suffolk County who will work together to help enhance the high school student-athlete experience.

Athletic Department representatives from each school from the 130+ member schools in Section XI were asked to nominate three students, making it unique that two from Port Jefferson were selected.

Congratulations to Samantha and Lia for their dedication in helping to promote sportsmanship and positive relationships with other student-athletes, coaches, spectators, families and administrators.
Friday, September 21, 2018