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Superintendent's Corner

January 2018

Happy New Year!

As we enter a new calendar year, we are reminded of the numerous organizational and individual accomplishments that we have enjoyed in 2017 and the exciting opportunities that lie ahead in 2018. There were so many sources of Royal Pride as our students continually rose to, and then exceeded, the high expectations we held for their performances. Great organizations do not rest on their laurels or accept the status quo as good enough and the Port Jefferson School District is no exception.

Port Jefferson continued to receive national and state recognition in 2017 for the quality of our schools and district. ranked our district and high school as among the finest in the Nation. Earl L. Vandermeulen High School was selected by the United States Department of Educations as one of the best high schools in our country.

Academically, in 2017 we saw increases in students' AP scores and in the percentage of students passing New York State Regents exams with honors. We increased the number of our advanced course offerings with the intent of growing the number of students who experience challenging courses with the goal of increasing college acceptances and post graduate success. The number of Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment courses was increased. We partnered with Suffolk County Community College to offer our students college experience through their Early College Program. High school graduation and college acceptance numbers remained strong as our graduates left our district with choices for their future. Twenty five students were named as AP Scholars and two were National Merit Semi-finalists. 

We continued our focus in 2017 on promoting our students' character and social & emotional development. Students engaged in service learning opportunities through a variety of school and club activities. We began a 6th grade Promoting Wellness pilot which is currently being implemented. Our Sources of Strength program at the high school develops peer support. The Royal Educational Foundation has provided the fiscal support for school programs for students from Kindergarten through high school that promote involvement, confidence, and self- esteem.

Our music and fine arts students continued to excel in 2017 and, as a result, enjoyed County, State, and National recognition. Port Jefferson was selected once again by the NAMM Foundation as one of the “Best Communities for Music Education.” as well as Edna Louise Spear Elementary School recognized as a SCMEA Elementary School of Musical Excellence (1 of only 2 schools recognized). Our student-musicians and student-artists continue to impact our school community through their performances (Dickens Festival, Rocketship Park groundbreaking and dedication, PJ's Go Green and Health and Wellness Expos, St. Charles Memorial Concert, PJFD 9/11 Ceremony, etc.) and successful art shows and exhibitions including the Scholastic Art Awards, Suffolk County Legislator "Park a Day" competition, Shanti Fund peace celebration, and PJ Village's Harvest Fest window painting competition. We also enjoyed outstanding performances by district-wide drama students (Antigone, Into the Woods, Peter Pan Jr., and What Happened After Once Upon a Time) in 2017.

Our student-athletes enjoyed successes in 2017 as teams and as individuals. Seventy-three percent of our high school students participated on at least one athletic team. Our girls' basketball team was league, county, and state regional champs as well as New York State runner-up, losing the championship game at the final buzzer. Numerous teams earned Team Scholar - Athlete or Sportsmanship Award recognition. Boys' cross country team was county champion. The Girls' tennis team was league VI champion. A Port Jeff student was the County boys' golf champion and another student took first place in two county girls' swimming events.

Our Investment Team placed fifth in the nation in the SIFMA Foundation Capital Stock Market Competition and the only team to place from New York State. 
In 2017 we continued our cooperative relationship with our school-community. The Village Constable's office provided tremendous support during the New York State Section XI track qualifying meet hosted by our district. We hosted the Village of Port Jefferson's Annual Health Expo at the high school and numerous Village adult and youth recreational programs. The Infant Jesus youth basketball program continued to access our facilities on a regular basis.

We are confident that 2018 will continue to bring success to our students, schools, and district. In addition to our Goals and Objectives for the 2017-18 school year, there are specific challenges that lie ahead which will require our best thinking, planning, and action.

  • Focusing on Innovation and the future needs of all learners. Are our students keeping pace with their Long Island peers' development through STEM initiatives?
  • Promoting wellness in our students, staff and community. Healthy lifestyles, managing stress and anxiety, and preventative strategies related to substance use and abuse. Our work in the area of character and social and emotional development will continue.
  • Continuing our active role in the negotiations in the LIPA lawsuit regarding tax assessment to protect the Port Jefferson School District with a fair settlement.
  • Creating a fitting Armed Forces Tribute to those who have attended or been employed by the Port Jefferson School District and who have served our country in the armed forces.
  • Addressing our facility needs: aging infrastructure, safety and security of students and staff, overcrowded and overused athletic fields, and compliance with State and Federal regulations.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the result of our recent Capital Bond referendum. It was soundly defeated in December, ending 2017 on a less than positive note. Our school-community has made a powerful statement and our Board of Education and district leadership heard you and are ready to move forward, albeit slowly, from here. We intend for our process to be more inclusive of stakeholders and the general public. Although disappointed by the outcome, we are grateful that so many residents took the time to vote. The bond proposal was an effort to catch up with our facility issues by providing adequate funding. Our Board of Education and Administration are in the process of getting a better understanding of the message communicated in the bond vote results to determine which next steps would be in the best interests of our students and community. 

We do hope that our community learned in the process that we have school facilities that are in need of constant attention. Since I began my tenure as Superintendent in July of 2016, we have had to address; lead in drinking water, failure of a main electrical line in the high school and middle school, installation of air conditioning units and sufficient electrical lines to accommodate student medical needs, and the bursting of an 80 year old waste water pipe under the stage and pit area in the high school auditorium. None of these facility concerns were expected or budgeted for.

The Port Jefferson Board of Education and Staff are excited about 2018 and although there are challenges ahead, we view each new challenge as an opportunity to excel. Based on our successes in 2017, we have every reason to be optimistic as we enter the New Year.

Paul Casciano, Ed.D.

November 2017

It's November and we are nearing the end of the first quarter of the 2017-18 school year. Our students are deeply engaged in their studies. Many co-curricular and extra-curricular programs, including music, drama, organizations, clubs, and athletics, are well underway and pursuing their goals. Port Jefferson students are already receiving recognition for their achievement and efforts. Our high school's designation as a National Blue Ribbon School was announced in September and is a source of great pride.

Three years ago, our Board's Facilities Committee initiated a discussion about how best to improve our facilities with a particular focus on the Tech building and the safety of our students. In 2015, we completed a School Conditions Survey in compliance with New York State regulations. The results of that survey made it clear that something had to be done to address our facilities. It led to the planning of a capital improvement project that would address the concerns about the condition of our schools and the safety and security of our students.

The original list of projects exceeded $100 million dollars. Over the three year period, that list and costs were pared down to just under $30 million. We have been conducting public meetings and building "walk-throughs" to assist our residents in understanding the scope and the need for the elements of the proposal. We have created a virtual tour which appears on the district website and Facebook page for residents who want to know more about our proposed plans but cannot attend the facility tours

Ultimately, residents must decide if they want the proposed improvements for the children of our community. Regardless of whether you support the capital improvement bond proposal or not, it is essential that you exercise your right and privilege to vote on December 5th.

Paul Casciano, Ed.D.

August 2017

I hope you have been enjoying a relaxing and rewarding summer. The 2017-18 school year holds so much promise for our students; and, we are excited to get it started.

Throughout the summer, our custodial, building & grounds, technology, clerical and administrative staff members have been working tirelessly to have everything in order for the arrival of students in September. Teachers have been diligently preparing their classrooms for our opening. There have also been a number of facility upgrades to enhance our learning environment.

After completing my first year in the Port Jefferson School-Community, I believe there is no limit to what we can accomplish if we work together on behalf of our students.

I look forward to working in partnership with you throughout the school year.

Paul Casciano, Ed.D.


Summer 2017

It’s hard for me to believe that my first school year in Port Jefferson is over and that we are already busy preparing for a successful start to the 2017-18 school year. This past year was a very rewarding experience as I had the privilege of working with our students, staff, parents, and community. We wish our 97 graduates of the Class of 2017 well and look forward to hearing about their future accomplishments. I know that they will continue to make us proud.
The past school year resulted in many noteworthy accomplishments. Students excelled in all academic disciplines, the arts, and athletics. Students took advantage of the many opportunities that our school-community has to offer by participating in many clubs, competitions, and organizations, supporting many worthy causes, and being good citizens of our schools and community.

With the start of the 2017-18 school year just weeks away, administrators, teachers and staff are busy working to prepare our buildings, enhance and strengthen curriculum and develop new programs and courses. All of us in Port Jefferson are looking forward to watching students flourish in the new school year under the instruction, guidance and support of our talented educators.

While we prepare to strengthen the educational experience for our students, our Board of Education has commenced discussions on a bond proposal focused on improving our district’s facilities. In the near future, community residents will be invited to participate in conversations regarding potential capital improvements to be included in the bond and to provide input on the development of the project. We expect our first meeting to be held sometime in August.

I would like to thank the community for your continued support of our students and the Port Jefferson School District.

Have a safe and enjoyable summer!

Paul Casciano, Ed.D.
Friday, January 19, 2018