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Gaining Intrinsic Rewards through Volunteer Efforts

Gaining Intrinsic Rewards through Volunteer Efforts photo
Dozens of students from the high school and middle school joined forces with members of the Port Jefferson Rotary Club to help ready Camp Paquatuck for the summer season. 

Members of the high school Interact Club and the middle school National Junior Honor Society spent a recent weekend day to help ready cabins, dorm rooms and buildings and rake and add mulch to the flowering plants at the Center Moriches camp, which provides special needs children and young adults with camping experiences. 

According to adviser Interact Club adviser Deirdre Filippi, the annual volunteer event is always a success for the students and helps them to understand not only the needs of others, but how simple efforts go a long way in serving the greater community. 

Congratulations to our All-County Wrestling Recipients!

Seven Royals were honored at the Section XI wrestling awards dinner recently. Congratulations:

Harry Cona 182 lbs.
Luca Rohman 152 lbs.
Brendan Rogers 120 lbs.
Rick D'Elia 113 lbs.
Anthony D'Elia 113 lbs.
Anthony Evnagelista 126 lbs.
Ryan Robertson 132 lbs.

Congratulations to Coach Mike Maletta who received League 8 Coach of the Year honors for the fourth time!

Studying Ancient Musical Instruments

Studying Ancient Musical Instruments p
Fourth grade students have embarked on an art lesson involving clay and music. Along with teacher Meghan McCarthy, they learned about the long history of the ancient instrument known as the ocarina. They studied ocarinas from all over the world, starting in Central and South America, to China, Europe and North America.

After constructing the form, they then worked together on making the whistle. They were able to create multiple sounds by piercing the ocarina to create a high or low pitch.

“Students were influenced by particular ocarina forms and surface designs from the different cultures we studied,” Mrs. McCarthy said. “They had fun experimenting with the ocarinas and even making some into animals, characters or just beautiful abstract forms.”

Fostering an Interest in Mathematics

Fostering an Interest in Mathematics photo
Congratulations to Port Jefferson Middle School sixth grade students who placed in the Suffolk County Math Teachers’ Association Contest. Student Isabelle Chen tied for second place in all of Suffolk County, Alice Snyder tied for third place in the county and Emily Snyder and Mark Marinescu tied each other for fourth place.

“It is a very competitive test and these students were up for the challenge,” sixth grade math teacher Melissa Corey said. “Contests like this help them continue to foster an interest in mathematics while they gain a better understanding of the subject matter,” added Megan Ryan, also a sixth grade math teacher.

Middle School Science Olympiad: Best Small School in New York State

Middle School Science Olympiad: Best Small School in New York State photo
The Port Jefferson Middle School Science Olympiad team placed 11th out of 39 teams in the New York State Science Olympiad State competition at East Syracuse Minoa High School in Syracuse, NY on April 5th and 6th. With this ranking, they earned the honor of being named the best small school in New York State. This award is given to the highest-ranking school with an enrollment of under 500 students. The scores are determined by adding up the results of all the science and engineering events the team competed in. Coached by Mr. Adam Bouchard, the team was accompanied by Mrs. Debra Hagmeyer and Ms. Nicole Sklar.

“During the event, the students were focused and showed the drive to perform well in the competition,” Mr. Bouchard said. “They put in many hours of studying and preparation for the tournament and it showed. We continue as a team to excel and I am very proud of their achievements.”

Congratulations to all medal winners:

1st Place Sci Tech Quiz Bowl - Andrew Patterson, Hugo Onghai, Kasumi Layne-Stasik
2nd Place Fossils - Andrew Patterson, Alana Samara
4th Place Circuit Lab - Michael Melikyan, Max Paulus
5th Place Herpetology - Andrew Patterson, Kasumi Layne-Stasik
6th Place Anatomy - Gavin Onghai, Ben Perez-Flesler
6th Place Elastic Launched Glider - Andrew Patterson, Stefano Rabeno
8th Place Crime Busters - Alana Samara, Michelle Wu
9th Place Parasitology - Nicholas Smirnov, Ryan Gameng
9th Place Thermodynamics - Hugo Onghai, Michael Melikyan
10th Place Density Lab - Teppei Fukuto, Stefano Rabeno
10th Place Game On - Hugo Onghai, William Wu

Other team members included Riley Perrotta, Jonah Pflaster, Pratham Sethia and Ricky Melucci.

With a Song in Their Heart

With a Song in Their Heart photo
Chamber choir students from the high school recently visited the Water’s Edge Rehab and Nursing Center at Port Jefferson to perform for patients and nursing staff. Led by music teacher Maria Diaz, the ensemble sang an upbeat program of popular music and standards to bring joyful sounds and encouragement to those residing at the facility.

Baskets of Kindness

The freshman class at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School collected Easter candy, books and toys to create baskets for children whose families are enduring financial hardships. They also filled over 100 plastic eggs with goodies for an egg hunt at a local shelter.

“The kids were so excited to help those in need,” said Christina Carlson, freshman class co-adviser along with Melissa Zinger, who both encouraged the entire class to share in the project by bringing the holiday items to Jesse Rosen’s social studies classroom.

No School


Summer Music Camp



A Stronghold for Student Leaders

A Stronghold for Student Leaders photo
A dozen students in the high school Gay-Straight Alliance attended the 23rd annual LGBT Conference at the Charles B. Wang Center at Stony Brook University recently.

Accompanied by co-advisers Kristin Britt and Dinarae Camarda, members of the school’s Gay Straight Alliance spent the day attending workshops on topics including upstander training, enhancing their school’s GSA Club, LGBT history, community and youth organizing, health and social justice.

“This annual event helps to empower students to advocate for positive social and health-related choices as well as being able to learn and share in a supportive environment,” Ms. Britt said.

More than 500 students and 600 participants were in attendance at the conference, touted as the largest to date.

Spear’s Science Sleuths

The Scientific Method was at work at the Edna Louise Spear Elementary School Science Fair with a vast display of well-thought-out and creative experiments conducted by students that included demonstrations, charts and diagrams on topics such as magnets, melting ice, colors, flavors, sounds and numerous other original cause-and-effect relationships. Great job to all the participants and congratulations to the grade level winners:

Kindergarten: Carter Maleson
Project Title: Ice Cream Soup

First Grade: Lina Awadallah
Project Title: Wind Turbine

Second Grade: Joshua Levine
Project Title: Meteorites

Third Grade: Nina Gnatenko
Project Title: Shiny Penny

Fourth Grade: Nick Rodriguez
Project Title: Who is braver men or women?

Fifth Grade: Sadie Salzman
Project Title: Mighty Mollusks

Impressive Placement at Latin Certamen!

Impressive Placement at Latin Certamen
Port Jeff students competed in a Latin Certamen with students from schools across Nassau and Suffolk County at Stony Brook University on March 26.

The fast-paced Latin contest tests students’ knowledge of Latin grammar, vocabulary, word derivations, Roman life, history, mythology and literature. The middle school and high school students competed on the level of Latin in which they are enrolled.

The district had one eighth-grade team compete at Level I, two ninth-grade teams compete at Level II, two tenth-grade teams compete at Level III, and two teams compete at the Advanced Level. The students had impressive placements throughout the competition.

Coached by Latin teacher Anne Algieri, the Port Jefferson teams who placed at this year’s Certamen are: first place, Level One Team - Luke Dickhuth, Teppei Fukuto, Benjamin Perez-Flesler and Olivia Schlegel; first place, Level Two Team A - Annie Maier, Andrew Patterson, Stephano Rabeno and Kate Sommerstad; third place, Level Two Team B - Kasumi Layne-Stasik, Hugo Onghai, Caelan Schretzmayer and Hunter Volpi; first place, Level Three Team A - Aaron Held, Mattea Rabeno, Grant Samara and Peggy Yin; second place, Level Three Team B - Liam Gameng, Ameen Khan, Michela Rabeno and Lucas Welinder; first place, Advanced Level Team A - Katie Ambrozy, David Rotunno, Ava Schully and Annalisa Welinder.

Board Appoints New Superintendent of Schools

Board Appoints New Superintendent of Schools photo
Board Appoints New Superintendent of Schools photo 2
After a comprehensive search and selection process led by the Port Jefferson School District Board of Education, months of extensive research, interviews with a strong field of candidates and community input, the Board announced the appointment of Jessica Schmettan as superintendent of schools at the April 9 Board of Education meeting. She will take the leadership reins on Nov. 1.

Mrs. Schmettan currently serves as the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

Each board member took the time to praise Mrs. Schmettan, a community resident, for the arduous and competitive process she endured, her effective communication skills, her commitment to high academic standards and her willingness to take on the financial challenges that lie ahead.

“These seven board members took this responsibility with extreme seriousness,” Board of Education President Kathleen Brennan said of the Board of Education. “There were other strong candidates and the Board was committed to selecting the best candidate that we could for Port Jefferson, and I am confident that we have done that. I am very happy that Mrs. Schmettan is our leader going forward.”

Mrs. Schmettan thanked the Board for having confidence in her abilities and applauded both current Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Casciano for his mentorship and Deputy Superintendent Sean Leister for his support during the process. Dr. Casciano, who will stay on for the transition period and will retire from the district on Oct. 31, was also praised by the Board for his leadership, guidance and bringing stability to the district.

“Like many of our residents, our schools are the reason my husband and I moved here nine years ago,” Mrs. Schmettan said. “I am so grateful to be able to serve in the place that I call home. As a parent, a taxpayer and an educator, I am deeply invested in our school community. I value our history and, even with the challenges ahead, I look forward to an incredible future.”

Oh, Say, Can She Sing!

High School vocalist Katherine Kirsch was invited by the Port Jefferson Lions Club to perform the national anthem at their March 21st meeting. Katherine, a sophomore, was accompanied to the meeting by music teacher Maria Diaz. Thank you, Katherine, for representing the music program in the Port Jefferson schools!

An Act of Kindness Spreads to Village

An Act of Kindness Spreads to Village photo
As part of a class project, students in Dana St. Pierre’s fourth-grade class thought about some random acts of kindness that they could do and came up with various ideas including washing dishes for a mother who works late, checking on an elderly neighbor, saying something encouraging to a schoolmate or just giving a smile to help someone feel better. Student Hudson Philbrick decided to write a letter to the members of the Port Jefferson Fire Department and hand deliver it. He thanked the firefighters for their commitment to the local community and their dedication and service to the residents of Port Jefferson. He, in turn, was met with an act of kindness when he received a certificate from the fire department for his kind words.

“People should always be ready to commit a random act of kindness,” Hudson said. “It’s something you will always feel good about.”

Artists on Display


The Port Jefferson School District’s Fine Arts Department invites the community to view the artwork of K-12 students at the Spring Art Show at the Port Jefferson Village Center. The vast display features their creative works as instructed by Richard Anderson and Meghan McCarthy at Edna Louise Spear Elementary School; Stacey Schuman at Port Jefferson Middle School and Lynne Edsall and Nancy Randazzo at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School.

The show runs through April 26 and can be viewed from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. daily.

Cultivating multi-dimensional wellness

Cultivating multi-dimensional wellness photo
Port Jefferson Middle School and Edna Louise Spear Elementary School teachers continue to gain valuable instructional and behavioral tools to incorporate into their classrooms with the district’s partnership with Diane McDonald from It Takes a Village Wellness in Port Jefferson village.

Breathing, movement, mindfulness techniques and social emotional activities are taught and classroom challenges are discussed during the professional development sessions that help meet the needs of students and staff alike.

Lighting it Up Blue

Lighting it Up Blue photo
Port Jefferson Middle School students and staff took part in World Autism Awareness Day when they shared their support and acceptance of Autism by wearing blue.

The students were inspired by one another to celebrate the diversity of the global community and to help strengthen the message that speaks out against discrimination.

“We had a great turnout,” special education teacher Christina Carlson said.

Messages of Tolerance and Acceptance

As an enhancement to the eighth-grade social studies curriculum, students at Port Jefferson Middle School learned important lessons on tolerance and injustice from Werner Reich who described his personal experiences as a young boy growing up and surviving the Holocaust.

Organized by teacher Kayleen Everitt and welcomed and introduced by students Kenneth Dixon-Lanza and Nicolina Gionnala, Mr. Reich shared a personal story of hardship and fortitude peppered with wisdom and inspirational messages that he hoped would resonate with today’s generation.
Before he took to the podium, student Peyton Broyles gave an overview of a poetry assignment that the class worked on and students Sophie Blumenthal, Regan Byrne and Ruby Ray read their own words of inspiration.

The dynamic presentation continued when students viewed a comprehensive slideshow that featured photos, political cartoons and newspaper articles written during World War ll.

“It is of utmost importance that we educate and inform each other so that history doesn’t repeat itself and so that nothing similar can ever happen in the future,” said Kenneth in his welcoming remarks.

Revised 2018-19 School Calendar

No School Closures for Weather Emergencies this School Year
NO SCHOOL on April 17, May 24, May 28
As a result of not losing any school days due to weather emergencies or any other reason this school year, the following changes are being made to the Port Jefferson School District’s calendar for the remainder of the 2018-19 school year.
All schools will be closed for classes on: Wednesday, April 17th, Friday, May 24th and Tuesday, May 28th.

Classical Masterclass for Music Students

Music students from the middle school were recently visited by members of the Three Village Chamber Players, a classical ensemble. During the visit, the group held a masterclass with Dr. Vanessa Salzman’s sixth-grade orchestra students followed by a performance for several of the middle school music ensembles. Featuring the music of Mozart and Brahms, the group also addressed the unique musical skills required for performing in a small ensemble.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to have performers of this caliber help to continue to build upon the successful music program in our schools,” Dr. Michael Caravello, the district’s director of music and fine arts said. “Their goals of working to be an essential source of artistry in Suffolk County align with our mission of encouraging students to explore and discover meaningful and creative participation in musical and fine arts experiences.”

Humor, History and Harmony on High School’s Stage


Earl L. Vandermeulen High School’s high-spirited and entertaining spring musical gave the audience history lessons and glimpses into New York lifestyles and landmarks when the Drama Club showcased “Celebrate New York” a musical tribute to the Empire State on the school’s stage.

Directed by Tony Butera, the unique look at all things New York highlighted the fast pace of Manhattan, the competitive rehearsals for Broadway shows, the birthplace of Teddy Roosevelt and how we came to know the teddy bear. It also chronicled historic events and venues, tourism, the rush for morning coffee and so much more. The production’s talented students even gave a nod to several of the district’s own who have achieved notable recognition after graduation from the high school.

Once again, the hard work, dedication and months of planning and rehearsals were met with positive reviews for the actors, musical performers, stage and costume crews and Mr. Butera!

Girls Basketball All-League Honors

Girls Basketball All-League Honors
Congratulations to the Earl L. Vandermeulen High School girls basketball team for their accomplishments this season and players Hailey Hearney, Lola Idir, Abigail Rolfe and Evelyn Walker for their All-League honors.

Hailey was a two-time award winner, scoring 7.3 points per game, with a 4.5 average per game, 36 steals and 18 three-point field goals. Lola was honored with both All-League and All-Conference honors for her record of 15.6 points per game, a 2.2 average per game, 36 steals and 37 three-point field goals. Abigail received 7.9 points per game and 9.3 rebounds per game and Evelyn scored 6.7 points per game and 25 three-point field goals. Congratulations!



Board of Education Will Not Pursue Appeal of Court Decision

The Port Jefferson Board of Education approved a motion at their meeting on Tuesday night, March 26, 2019, to rescind the appeal of the State Supreme Court Short Form Order. The decision by Justice Emerson on August 15, 2018 had dismissed all of Port Jefferson School District’s pending causes of action against the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA). Since that time, the Town of Brookhaven entered into an agreement with LIPA on December 14, 2018 regarding property tax assessment of the plant which indirectly impacts the District.

Although the District believes the State Supreme Court decision was in error, the Town’s settlement and the ongoing cost of contesting the decision were main considerations in the Board’s decision. The Port Jefferson School District is ready to move forward and meet the fiscal challenges in the post Town-LIPA settlement era.

Port Jeff Problem Solvers!

An educationally enriching experience took place for Port Jefferson Middle School students when they participated in the 2018-19 annual sixth-grade New York Mathematics League contest.

Sixth-graders Thales Cheng, Sofia Freitas, Evan Monaghan, Emily Snyder and Colin Veit worked together on the academically oriented competition, which consisted of a variety of math topics, including algebra, geometry and problem-solving. According to sixth-grade math teacher Megan Ryan, they enjoyed the challenge and are on a positive path in exploring further mathematical ideas.

“This is an exceptional achievement and the students definitely benefit from the challenge by learning how to think about and solve complex problems,” Ms. Ryan said.

Promoting the Pillars of Character

Promoting the Pillars of Character photo
Students in Michael Maletta’s seventh-grade health class have been learning about the six pillars of character – trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship – and were assigned to create posters to promote the positive and negative aspects of each pillar.

“They are learning that these core ethical values are essential in helping them to think before they act,” Mr. Maletta said, “and to reinforce that they are responsible and accountable for their choices.”

Freshman Hugo Onghai Performs at Carnegie Hall

As part of the New York International Competition for Young Artists, Earl L. Vandermeulen High School music student Hugo Onghai was recently featured as a cello soloist at Weill Hall at New York’s famed Carnegie Hall. A ninth-grader, Hugo performed French composer Gabriel Faure’s “Sicilienne, Op. 78.” His performance was from memory and his unique opportunity to perform was a result of his second-prize win in the NYIC’s Young Professional Strings Category for students between the ages of 13 and 18.

Students Engage with Grammy Award Performers

Students Engage with Grammy Award Performers photo
Port Jefferson music-students and their families had an opportunity to attend a concert by the renowned, two-time Grammy award winning Turtle Island Quartet. Their musical performance “The Art of the Groove” was recently performed at Stony Brook University’s Staller Center.

The tickets were provided courtesy of Staller Center Outreach Endowment as a continuation of a partnership between music teacher Dr. Vanessa Salzman and Paul Newland, outreach coordinator at Stony Brook University.

The quartet performed several works for the students including an original composition by founding member David Balakrishnan, and an arrangement of the Jimi Hendrix version of “All Around the Watchtower,” a song written by Bob Dylan.

Each member of the quartet spoke to the audience and introduced a different technique in their playing and shared their backgrounds in music. Topics discussed included the elements of vibrato, plucking techniques and the difference between the viola and violin. The also shared the use of improvisation in their performances and the “chop” – a percussive technique that provides rhythm and groove – in their playing which makes up for the fact there are no drummers in their ensemble.

The students also enjoyed a tour of the Paul W. Zuccaire Art Gallery with gallery director Karen Levitov.

Math Educators Honored by BOE

The mid-March Board of Education meeting, which took place right before the internationally recognized Pi Day (March 14), was an opportune time for Port Jefferson math educators to be recognized.

Port Jefferson Middle School Principal Dr. Robert Neidig commended the work of teachers Melissa Corey, Matthew Garofola, Megan Ryan and Jamie Veraldi for their tireless and innovative efforts in teaching students about the complex mathematical world around them and help to meet the challenges with success.

“These four educators have devoted their lives to helping students come to the realization that not only can they can do math, but they can do it well,” Dr. Neidig said as he and the Board thanked and congratulated them for their efforts in forwarding the goals of the middle school math program.

The district extends a thank you to all the math teachers for continuing to help students achieve through classroom studies and problem-solving as well as challenging them to compete in regional competitions.

International Club Raises Money for Humanitarian Organization

International Club Raises Money for Humanitarian Organization photo
Students in the International Club set out to raise funds for the humanitarian organization Plan International. With advisers English as a Second Language teacher Jennifer Walling and French teacher Heather Marshak, they came up with a fun way to help a child while also promoting school spirit.

Students in the club encouraged classmates to purchase a strip of tape and to be able to help tape middle school guidance counselor Keith Buehler to a wall.

They raised $125 and will sponsor a child from Haiti. They will be writing to the child in French and are planning to send gifts and cards throughout the school year.

“The event truly created some great school spirit,” Ms. Walling said.

Science Olympiad Team Places at State Competition

Science Olympiad Team Places at State Competition photo
The Earl L. Vandermeulen High School Science Olympiad team competed in the New York State Science Olympiad against the best teams across the state at Le Moyne College in Syracuse this past weekend. They were one of only six teams from Long Island in the competition.

Accompanied by advisers and science teachers Amanda Brideson and Adam Bouchard and chaperones Danny Holland and Nicole Sklar, the team came in 25th place out of a total of 56 teams and came home with three medals.

Sinan Ates, Chloe Andriani and Peggy Yin placed third in the Protein Modeling category; Grant Samara and Aaron Held placed fifth in the Fossils category and Reid Biondo and Aaron Held also placed fifth in the Water Quality category.

“We are extremely proud and impressed with all of the hard work our entire team has put in this year in our STEM science events,” said Ms. Brideson. “Their hard work and dedication to the Science Olympiad team shows through their awards and standings,” added Mr. Bouchard.

The district congratulates all the members of the team who continue to refine their skills for competition and future careers: seniors Chloe Andriani, Gavin Barrett, Reid Biondo, Ju Eun Ha, Eadan McSweeney, David Rotunno and Christine Scott; juniors Sinan Ates, Gavin Chambers, Kyle Onghai, Dylan Scott and Gil Zaltsman; and sophomores Gani Ates, Liam Gameng Aaron Held, Grant Samara and Peggy Yin.

Port Jefferson Hosts County Music Festival


Earl L. Vandermeulen High School was the site of the recent Suffolk County Music Educators’ Association’s Division 1 East All-County Festival.

More than 400 Suffolk County music students in grades 5 and 6 participated in the festival, performing in band, chorus and orchestra. During the event, Port Jefferson music faculty and student volunteers from the Tri-M Music Honor Society assisted with rehearsals, auditions, ticket/food sales and guiding visitors through the building.

“We congratulate our students, music teachers, custodial and security staff for helping to make a memorable music experience for so many of our county musicians and teachers,” said Dr. Michael Caravello, the district’s director of music and fine arts.

Port Jefferson Students Learn To Be Upstanders

Port Jefferson Students Learn To Be Upstanders photo
With a powerful message to be upstanders and not bystanders, Port Jefferson middle school and high school students took part in Sandy Hook Promise’s national Call-to-Action Week.

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. and two deputy sheriffs visited the school for “Say Something,” two assemblies that provided students with information on how they can help the school and community by being aware of warning signs and threats, especially in social media, of individuals who may intend harm to themselves or others and to say something to a trusted adult to get help.

With actual quotes taken from social media accounts and video reenactments of possible tragedies, the students learned some key skills to prevent them. They then joined together to read aloud a pledge projected on the screen to help create healthier schools, homes and communities.

Deputy Sheriff Brian Butler addressed the high school students and Deputy Sherriff Keith Hoffman addressed the middle school students and both reiterated the fact that each student has more power to prevent life-threatening incidents than either of them do, as many people learn about threats via social media.

“We definitely learned that we have the power to help,” said sixth-grader Braden Snow.

The two assemblies were followed by question-and-answer sessions, an additional way to engage the students with the importance of law enforcement.

“This impressive assembly empowered students and reminded them of the important role they have when it comes to school safety,” Port Jefferson Middle School Principal Dr. Robert Neidig said.

All-County Honors!

The Port Jefferson Royals entered the Section XI county wrestling tournament at Center Moriches High School on a mission. The mission was simple: Be relentless in the pursuit of victory. No matter the circumstance or score, the Royal wrestlers never quit.

Their perseverance paid off.

Seven wrestlers from PJ Nation finished the tournament with All-County honors.

Seniors Harry Cona, Rick D’Elia, Ryan Robertson and Brendan Rogers, juniors Lucas Rohman and Anthony D’Elia, and freshman Anthony Evangelista all finished near the top of their weight classes.

“Having one-third of your team finish as the top wrestlers in the county says a lot about the dedication, discipline and desire our wrestlers and coaches put forth on a daily basis,” Athletic Director Adam Sherrard said.

Rick D’Elia also placed first at the county meet at 113 lbs. and qualified for the New York State wrestling championships, in which he finished fourth overall.

Music Students Selected for SCMEA All-County Festival

Music Students Selected for SCMEA All-County Festival photo
Forty Port Jefferson School District music students were selected to participate in this year’s Suffolk County Music Educators Association All-County Festival.

Students from Edna Louise Spear Elementary School and Port Jefferson Middle School who were selected to perform in Division I with other fifth- and sixth-graders are Emma Batter, Kieran Casey, Rowan Casey, Isabelle Chen, Caitlin Dickhuth, Mari Fukuto, Marija Garue, William Harris, Kevin Hong, Ana Kelly, Meara Kelly, Madison Testa, Breyden Horstman, Hailey Johansen, Vivian O’Brian, Marco Puopolo, Samantha Reichers, Sadie Salzman, Maya Shand, Jack Snyder, Isabella Thomsen, Gianna Viviano, Devon Welsch and Cassidy Worrell.

Students Alexa Ayotte, Sophie Blumenthal, Luke Dickhuth, Kenneth Dixon-Lanza, Alexa Eichinger, Viviane Kim, Nathanial Lawler, Chloe Pipia, Ruby Ray, Anna Rebic, Tabitha Schully and Matthew Wengatz were selected to perform in Division II with other seventh- and eighth-grade students.

Students in grades 9 and 10 who performed in Division III are David Lawler, Jack Reilly, Nicole Schully and Sierra Welsch.

All three divisions took part in three days of rehearsals with a final performance at Southampton High School on March 10.

“We congratulate all of these students on this exceptional achievement,” said Dr. Michael Caravello.

A Plus for Senior Math Scholar

A Plus for Senior Math Scholar photo
Congratulations to senior Tianna Couch who was selected as a Dr. Jong-Pil Lee Scholarship recipient from the Long Island Mathematics Conference Board. She will be presented with a $1,500 scholarship at the introductory ceremonies for the Long Island Mathematics Conference on March 15 at the SUNY College at Old Westbury.

Citing math and statistics as favorite subjects to study, Tianna’s successful high school career is varied and interesting. She has taken numerous Advanced Placement courses, is a member of both the cross-country and track teams, is involved in student government, the Environmental Club and numerous STEM initiatives, and is a member of the National Honor Society. In addition, Tianna took a Python programming course through the Institute for Advanced Computational Science at Stony Brook University and attended the University of Connecticut precollege summer program. She is involved in Girl Scouts, held a position as an intern in a Port Jefferson Village law office, babysits, works in a local shop as a cashier and takes part in community service activities through the high school’s Student Organization.

Tianna describes lessons she has learned from high school math teachers Christine Morgan and Dennis Christofor that have set her on a path to study statistics or data science in college.

“I learned from Mr. Christofor that you need to work hard to do well in math. This helped me gain confidence in my abilities,” she said. In Ms. Morgan’s class, she realized that there is more than one way to look at even the easiest problem. “I also learned that if you love something and work hard, success will follow.”

Seventh-grader Shares Musical Talents on University Stage

kim photo
Port Jefferson Middle School music student Viviane Kim was featured as a piano soloist with the Stony Brook University orchestra at the family orchestra concert on March 5. Viviane was selected as the winner of the university’s Young Artist Program Concerto competition this year.

A seventh-grader, Viviane had the opportunity to enhance her public musical performance skills on the Staller Center’s main stage alongside dozens of the university’s orchestra members. The theme of the concert was Dance in Orchestra, and among those in the audience were Viviane’s proud parents as well as students and faculty members from the Port Jefferson School District.

Students Investigate Long Island’s Watershed

Students Investigate Long Island’s Watershed photo
Students in Janelle Bellotti's sixth-grade science class had a hands-on opportunity to learn about Long Island’s watershed and non-point source pollution when Tracy Marcus, a marine youth education specialist from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, visited them. Funded by Port Jefferson Village as part of the storm water management program, the goal was to teach the class about the local watershed, what a storm drain is and its importance, and how water pollution affects local marine life. The students discovered ways to help prevent pollution from entering the local watershed by building a small model of a storm drain to demonstrate where water goes during a rainstorm, creating pollution using water and food coloring. They then executed how the water enters the drain and discussed the impact of it along with ways to prevent it. The students then took this information and did some stormwater detective work, investigating and solving the mystery of why a fish kill happened. They learned that fish kills occur in natural populations because of disease, poor water quality or toxins and when they tested a water sample they discovered it was a high level of nitrates, which were found to be at 50 ppm (parts per million). In addition to gaining the ability to look at a problem posed to them, investigate it and collect evidence to formulate their conclusion, “the students really enjoyed this program and had a lot of fun,” Ms. Bellotti said.

Spotlight on Long Island Schools

Spotlight on Long Island Schools photo
Fifteen students were interviewed by Long Island News Radio host Bob Vecchio for the Spotlight on Long Island Schools radio program. This is the second radio program that the district has taken part in this academic year.

High School students Reid Biondo, Jonathan Cadicamo, Mattea Rabeno and Giuseppina Than spoke about the successes of the school’s STEM program and Reid joined Chloe Andriani, Ameen Khan and Emmett Maier in a conversation about the school’s numerous opportunities for students to develop leadership skills. Eighth-graders Alexa Ayotte Kacey McGorry Tabitha Schully and Amy Whitman were accompanied by Principal Dr. Robert Neidig and shared their commitment to the school and community through their work in student government.

The question-and-answer format, 30-minute show also included middle school students Teppei Fukuto, Jonah Pflaster, Riley Perrotta and Matthew Riccobono who spoke about how they think like scientists and engineers with their LEGO League challenges
along with technology teacher and adviser Kyle Dunlop.

To hear more about the accomplishments and activities of these students, tune in to Long Island News Radio 103.9 FM on Saturday, March 9 and Saturday, March 16, both at 10:30 a.m.

Middle School Musicians Perform at Art Auction

Middle School Musicians Perform at Art Auction photo
Ten members of the middle school string chamber ensemble performed at an art auction hosted by The Royal Educational Foundation at the Old Field Club in Setauket on March 1.

Attendees enjoyed light classical works by the student-musicians during the preview session of the auction. The musical performance of Alexa Ayotte, Teppei Fukuto, Gavin Onghai, Kay Ranjbar, Ruby Ray, Anna Rebic, Alana Samara, Olivia Schlegel, Tabitha Schully and Nicholas Smirnov added to the festive fundraising event.

The Royal Educational Foundation’s mission includes facilitating student development in the Port Jefferson School District by encouraging excellence through creative learning as well as providing funds for learning activities which supplement, complement and augment the basic educational program.

“We congratulate the students for taking part in this special fundraiser in support of innovative and creative programming in the Port Jefferson School District,” said Dr. Michael Caravello, the district’s director of music and fine arts.

Elementary Students Celebrate Read Across America Day

Elementary Students Celebrate Read Across America Day photo
Elementary Students Celebrate Read Across America Day photo 2
Elementary Students Celebrate Read Across America Day photo 3
Edna Louise Spear Elementary School students joined thousands of schools nationwide to celebrate the birthday of renowned author Dr. Seuss and Read Across America Day.

To plan for the annual celebration, school librarian Selinda Stout encouraged students at all grade levels to share their favorite book with their peers.

Twenty-eight students were assigned as these special guest readers and to honor the author, many dressed in stripes, crazy hats and striped socks.

I was happily overwhelmed with the number of students who wanted to participate,” said Ms. Stout. “They did a fabulous job reading to their peers, which is not an easy thing to do. I was proud of all of them!”

The Dr. Seuss theme was carried out in the decorated library and adults dressed as The Cat in the Hat and The Grinch made several appearances throughout the day. Numerous local businesses contributed to the celebration including red and white balloons donated by Party Hardy and a large decorated Dr. Seuss-inspired sheet cake for the entire school staff donated by local bakery La Bonne Boulangerie. Ms. Stout also held a raffle with prizes including ice cream from Kilwin’s and the Frigate and gift certificates to Port Jeff Bowl, Applebee’s and Panera Bread.

Great Job!


The Middle School Science Olympiad team placed third at the Suffolk County Regional Division B Science Olympiad Competition. This success qualifies the team to compete at the New York State level, which will take place in early April at East Syracuse Minoa High School in Syracuse, NY.

Students from grades 6-9 competed against 35 teams in events which tested their skills in earth science, biology, chemistry, physics, engineering and scientific problem-solving. Coached by Middle School science teacher Adam Bouchard, the team received medals in 20 of 22 events.
“The hours of hard work, commitment and enthusiasm that these students demonstrate exemplifies their knowledge of inquiry-based learning,” Port Jefferson Middle School Principal Dr. Robert Neidig said. “As a coach and a teacher, Mr. Bouchard continues to motivate his students to develop the skills to think like scientists and gain a natural curiosity into scientific perspectives.”

Congratulations to all the Medal Winners!

First Place, Elastic Launched Glider - Andrew Patterson and Stefano Rabeno
First Place, Fossils - Alana Samara and Andrew Patterson
Second Place, Circuit Lab - Michael Melikyan and Max Paulus
Second Place, Meteorology - Ben Perez-Flesler and Jonah Pflaster
Second Place, Science Quiz Bowl - Hugo Onghai, Andrew Patterson and William Wu
Fourth Place, Elastic Launched Glider - Pratham Sethia and Ryan Gameng
Fourth Place, Game On - Hugo Onghai and William Wu
Fourth Place, Potions and Poisons - Hugo Onghai and Kasumi Layne-Stasik
Fifth Place, Dynamic Planet - William Wu and Riley Perrotta
Fifth Place, Herpetology - Andrew Patterson and Kasumi Layne-Stasik
Fifth Place, Roller Coaster - Teppei Fukuto and Riley Perrotta
Fifth Place, Write It Do It - Pratham Sethia and Nicholas Smirnov
Sixth Place, Anatomy - William Wu and Ben Perez-Flesler
Sixth Place, Crime Busters - Alana Samara and Michelle Wu
Seventh Place, Disease Detectives - Hugo Onghai and Andrew Patterson
Eighth Place, Battery Buggy - Michael Melikyan and Max Paulus
Eighth Place, Circuit Lab - Ryan Gameng and Eric Chen
Eighth Place, Density Lab - Teppei Fukuto and Stefan Rabeno
Eighth Place, Heredity - Ben Perez-Flesler and Kasumi Layne-Stasik
Sixth Place, Water Quality - Alana Samara and Michelle Wu

Salt, Sun, Spartina & Seaweed at Spear

Salt, Sun, Spartina & Seaweed at Spear photo
A science lesson in Amy Castaldo’s third-grade class took a creative turn when students put together dioramas that included many native plants in salt marshes that they were learning about. As they learned about the importance of salt marsh ecosystems and the benefits they provide to both humans and the environment, they discovered the distinct zones of vegetation determined by elevation and how they shield land from coastal storms. They were also taught many new vocabulary words including phragmites, photosynthesis and intertidal as well as many of the plants such as purple plume, glasswort and sea lavender that they used to dot the shoreline of their dioramas while seaweed seemed to float in the water on many of their projects.

Annalisa Welinder Advances to National Merit Finalist Round

Annalisa Welinder Advances to National Merit Finalist Round photo
Congratulations to senior Annalisa Welinder who has advanced to the Finalist standing in the 64th annual National Merit Scholarship Program.

Annalisa took the qualifying test as a junior and is now among approximately 15,000 high school students nationwide who were awarded the distinction. In the next several months approximately half of those students will be selected to receive a Merit Scholarship award, which is based on their abilities, skills and achievements.

An accomplished and well-rounded student, Annalisa excels in academics, music and athletics. Her Finalist designation exemplifies our school district’s high level of student achievement and academically rigorous program for all students.

National Merit Scholarship winners will be announced in the spring.

Six Honored for Contributions to Athletic Program

Six members of the Port Jefferson School District community were honored at the Feb. 28 Board of Education meeting for their dedication and contributions to the district’s athletic department.

Athletic Director Adam Sherrard addressed the Board of Education and commended administrative assistant Cathy Hoffman, athletic trainer Eric Fells and groundskeeper Rich Lautato for their self-motivated and tireless efforts in being sure all activities, games and events through the department are properly put in place. Also honored were students Reid Biondo and Mattea Rabeno and teacher Dawn DeLeonardis for their commitment and initiatives in sharing the mindfulness program to the school community.

After the recognition, Mr. Sherrard shared with the Board updates on the district’s Wellness Policy including positive effects of exercise on the body, data on the vending machines’ healthier offerings and approvals for more creative fundraising ideas that sell nutritious foods and drinks and encourage more physical activities.

Under the Sea at Spear!

Under the Sea at Spear photo
When students in Kari Costanzo’s fifth-grade class started their Living Systems science curriculum, the opportunity to investigate starlet sea anemones came to life when they worked with two scientific educators who also happen to be parents to a student in the class.

Dr. Gerald Thomsen, a professor in Stony Brook University’s Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, and Julia Tudorov-Thomsen, a biologist and marine scientist, (and parents of Isabela) conducted a lab experiment with the students, in which they observed the anemones eat marine life and then cut a piece of them to investigate the regeneration process.

The students recorded their observations in a sketch pad, and Dr. Thomsen returned a week later to check out their investigative findings. As Mrs. Costanzo guided the students in what they could record, how they anemones changed shapes during the experiment and asked each of them to present and explain their findings, she recognized that their curiosity was peeked and their enthusiasm for the unit was compounded by the professional visits.

“They all had great questions about how anemones can regenerate while other organisms cannot,” Mrs. Costanzo said and as Dr. Thomsen pointed out – for scientific investigation, there are no right or wrong answers. “As we document our work and share our research, it’s just a cool thing to show off,” he said.

Notification Service Now Available for All School District Residents

Dear Resident of the Port Jefferson School District:

The Port Jefferson School District uses a communication service called SchoolMessenger, to communicate regularly via email and recorded phone messages, to residents who have children attending our school district.

We are pleased to announce that all residents of the school district will now have the same opportunity to receive school messages. The school district has contracted with West Corporation, the provider of SchoolMessenger Solutions, to implement a program called Communicate providing this same service to all district residents.

In order to accurately deliver this service to residents without children attending our school district, we need your assistance. If you would like to receive school district messages, we kindly request that you create your own contact preference profile using our school district’s subscriber website for Communicate. This will enable you to control the ways in which you prefer to be contacted. It also works like a mailbox, giving you a place to review messages that you may have missed.

In order to utilize this feature, simply follow the steps below to create an account through this secure website.

For additional information, please call Kathy Hanley at 631-791-4221.

Steps for setting up your account:

1. Enter the following URL into your web browser:

2. Click the Sign Up Now link near the bottom of the page.

3. You will be taken to the Sign Up page where you will need to confirm the encrypted image, your name, a valid email address and a password. You’ll use your email address and the password you entered to access your account. Review and accept the Terms of Service. Click Create Account when you are done. (Note: West Corporation has a strict privacy policy and does not sell or distribute your contact information to any third-party organizations.)

4. Check your email. You should receive an account activation email from with the subject “Account Activation.” Follow the directions to activate your account - activation codes are valid for 24 hours. Next, click on the link which takes you to a confirmation page. You must enter your password in order to activate your account. (Note: Do not reply to this email directly – you only need to follow the directions).

5. Once your account is activated, you’re ready to select your notification preferences.

6. Simply select the type(s) of notifications you wish to receive and the groups to which you belong.

7. When you have finished making selections, click Save.

8. Follow the instructions to add additional contact information to your account, ie. additional emails, phone numbers, etc.

Please know that you will need to reactivate your account each school year.

We hope you enjoy Communicate and take advantage of this opportunity to stay connected to our school community.
Thursday, April 25, 2019