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Superintendent Emails and Updates - March 2022
March 25, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
While I’m not one to get overly invested in rankings, it’s no reason not to celebrate good news. Niche recently ranked Syosset as the 2nd Best Place to Raise a Family in New York, and the 5th best in the country. The Syosset School District is currently ranked as the 9th Best School District in America by Niche. I’m honored to be a part of this community and proud of the relationships between parents, students, community leaders, and the school district that all contribute to making this one of the best places to live and raise a family.
At Monday evening’s Board of Education meeting, the second school budget information session was held to review the Program section of the budget. As we’re coming out of the pandemic, the District has seen some enrollment growth, and as you would expect, we anticipate some significant increases for health care and fuel costs. For more detail, the presentation can be found here.
We’ve had some questions about the COVID-related protocols that remain in place. We’ve updated our one-page overview of the most important things to know about illness, exposure, and isolation. It can be found here on the website. As always, please reach out to the school nurse at your child’s building with any questions or concerns.
At Monday evening’s monthly Board of Education meeting, the 2021-22 calendar was amended to move the school closure date for Eid-al-Fitr from Tuesday, May 3, 2022, to Monday, May 2, 2022. Additionally, the 2022-23 calendar was amended to reflect that schools will be closed on April 21, 2023, for Eid-al-Fitr. Updated calendars can be found here. I understand shifts to school closure dates can be troublesome and we are now working with a national organization to ensure our future calendars accommodate our diverse community without disruptions.
It is so nice having students back in person at the monthly Board of Education meetings. This Monday was particularly exciting as Student Government President Caroline Zhu gave a report on the dizzying number of initiatives under way at Syosset High School. She was followed by an exciting and entertaining video montage showcasing highlights of the high school production of The Addams Family. I’m still startled by the talent of the cast and crew, and a comedy was just what we all needed. If you missed it, you can see the video here. (A special thank you to Ms. Eliassof for putting it together!)
And the fun didn’t stop there. Syosset Varsity Kickline's Hip Hop team was recently named the Small Varsity Hip Hop National Champions 2022 at the NDA National Championship Competition in Orlando, FL, and we were treated to a live performance of their winning routine. The energy was infectious and the talent amazing, with the cheers from the audience adding to the fun. What a way to start the week!
The first few days of Spring sports are among my favorite days of the year. The fields, the track, and the tennis courts are full of student athletes preparing for the season, the winter weather has finally broken and the energy always feels like a renewal. That feeling was particularly palpable this year. Hoping for more bright spring days for us all!
March 18, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
I hope everyone who had the opportunity to attend the high school production of The Addams Family and the HBT production of Legally Blonde Jr. The Musical was as entertained and impressed as I was. It is so refreshing to see our students back on stage in front of a live audience following their passions and displaying their incredible talent. Congratulations to the casts and crews of both productions! If you missed the high school play, we’ll be showing a video montage on Monday night at the monthly Board of Education meeting. The Varsity Kickline hip hop team will also be performing live the routine that won the Small Varsity Hip Hop 2022 National Championship!
With the decline in case numbers, there has been a corresponding decrease in demand for COVID testing. Therefore, testing at the Syosset High School site has been paused at this time. All COVID tests will take place at the old Woodbury Grade School site. Please click here should you need to schedule an appointment for a test.
I take great pride in the charitable endeavors of Syosset students, which have had profound positive impacts both locally and globally. This week, I’d like to highlight two such amazing efforts currently underway.
- The Syosset High School Student Government is partnering with the Brooke Jackman Foundation and hosting a donation drive to aid Ukrainian refugees. They’re collecting supplies for comfort backpacks for Ukrainian children, general supplies for refugees, and monetary donations. And … Student Government has pledged to double the donations received up to $5,000! Collection bins are available at the school buildings and information on making a donation can be found here.
- Last year I told you about “The 364”, an organization started by brothers and SHS students Joseph and Jake Gagliano to help those in need on Long Island (the name serves to remind that giving back to the community should be a year-round endeavor, not a once-a-year activity). Avid hockey players and fans, they’ve turned their passion into an event to raise funds to help families of those diagnosed with ALS pay for necessary home remodeling or healthcare costs. Syosset’s club hockey team will be playing a south shore rival. The brothers say: the game is “not about who wins, but who it helps.” I say: doing what you love while helping others in need is a win-win even before the first face-off. The game will take place on April 8th and tickets are only $10. Here is the flyer for more information.
Enjoy this weekend’s wonderful spring-like weather!
March 11, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
We have just completed our second week with masking optional in schools and I want to share my pride in how well our students (and our staff) have adapted. Our incredible students have navigated the shifting demands and protocols of the last 2 years with remarkable agility and poise, and the last 2 weeks have been no exception. Everyone has different comfort levels and circumstances, and we’ve all been great at giving one another a little space - sometimes literal space - in order for us all to keep forging ahead.
Yesterday, Nassau fell to 7 daily cases per 100,000 residents for the first time since last July. As case numbers continue to fall, we will continue to restore pre-pandemic activities and protocols. Starting next week, we will remove temperature scanning from the arrival protocol (but please assess your child each morning and keep them home if they feel unwell). We are also now reporting COVID cases online, instead of by email. We will also suspend testing of athletes in “high-risk” sports for the Spring season.
Planning is well underway for spring concerts and other events and we’re looking forward to accommodating larger audiences and more typical performances. Speaking of which, I attended the SHS school musical – The Addams Family – last night and I was blown away by the quality of the production! Great seats are still available for this weekend’s performances!
The Winter sports season has finally wrapped up. We’ve compiled a complete list of all of the amazing performances and accolades earned by our student athletes here - you’ll see why it is so hard to do them all justice in this brief update. But special recognition goes to our kickline team which this week won the National Championship in “Small Varsity Hip Hop.” Congratulations to all our athletes and coaches for another outstanding season.
Congratulations too, to South Woods Middle School for winning the 4th annual “Hackathon.” What’s a hackathon? I’m glad you asked! It’s a computer coding competition where student teams with the quickest and most elegant solutions to challenging problems accumulate wins. A Syosset team has won 3 of the 4 years, even as the competition has grown from 10 teams to 19 teams. Our approach has been to treat coding from a very early age like a form of literacy – understanding how computers use algorithms to break down complex problems into simple logical tasks which can be reassembled as results. #SyoProud of the teams and their teachers!
And, speaking of teachers, we’re also proud of Krista Hachadoorian (HBT) being named a NYS Master Teacher and Carisa Steinberg (SHS) being named a Harvard Club of LI’s Distinguished Teacher. You both represent our community and your colleagues so well, and our students are the beneficiaries of your dedication and expertise.
Two years ago today was our last day of regular classes before the shut down. Seeing the high school musical reminded me of that last performance of The Little Mermaid just before things changed so dramatically. It’s wonderful to be getting back to normal. Have a terrific weekend!
March 4, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
Warm greetings on this chilly day! Though we’ve only just said good-bye to February, spring somehow seems nearer than ever.
I want to start by complimenting our amazing students who took this week’s major development of optional masking totally in stride. As they have with all of the twists and turns of the last 2 years, our students have shown agility and resiliency far beyond what I would have expected or imagined, and they once again led by example through one of our biggest transitions yet.
We have reviewed the updated guidance issued by the State along with an accompanying FAQ document and have released our own FAQ, which we hope will answer questions we’ve been getting. The major changes of note are:
- Face masks are now optional for students and staff both in school and on buses;
- The “3-foot” exemption to the determination of “close contact” does not apply if either student is unmasked — therefore, we anticipate larger numbers of students being deemed close contacts for any individual case in school.
- But, asymptomatic close contacts will no longer be excluded from school (i.e. quarantined) – irrespective of vaccination status – as long as they remain masked in school for 10 days and undergo COVID testing in the first 5 days post-exposure.
- Individuals recovering from COVID may return to school after 5 days of isolation, but must remain masked in school on days 6-10 (where the first day of symptoms is considered “Day 0”).
Unchanged is the weekly requirement for unvaccinated staff to be COVID-tested. Also unchanged (for now) are other aspects of our health and safety protocols. However, over the coming weeks, we are looking forward to carefully considering other opportunities within the guidance to continue returning to a more familiar school environment. Given the differing physical configurations of the buildings, it may not be practical for every change to be uniform.
There are some aspects of the State’s documents that appear ambiguous, so for safety’s sake we’re implementing the most conservative interpretations until clarifications are issued.
As this week comes to a close, the impact from travel over the February break has been modest, and case counts both in Nassau and locally continue to fall. We will monitor the impact of this week’s protocol changes to masking, close contact, and quarantine before making other significant changes.
SHS Musical - “The Addams Family”
Syosset High School's Theatre Arts Spring musical is The Addams Family. Performances will take place Thursday, March 10 (7 pm), Friday, March 11 (7:30 pm), Saturday, March 12 (7:30 pm) and Sunday, March 13 (2 pm). Plenty of tickets remain for purchase online at www.syossettheatre.com. This show is appropriate for audiences of all ages.
Winter Athletics Successes
What an incredible winter season for our athletes! We still have several teams competing, so we will do a complete roundup of all our teams in a future update as well as recognize our athletes at the April Board of Education meeting. Still competing are:
Girls Basketball – Competing in the Nassau County Championships this weekend!
Gymnastics – Competing in the NY State Championships this weekend!
Competitive Kickline – Competing at Nationals this week!
Boys Swimming – Competing in the NY State Championships this weekend!
Boys & Girls Winter Track – Competing in the NY State Championships this weekend!
I was treated to a visit at Village Elementary yesterday, hosted by two 5th grade members of my “Student Cabinet.” As they were proudly showing me around their school, they stopped to have me pose in front of a sign with an important message. Later, as we participated in a kindergarten art class, my guides began spontaneously assisting the younger students with their cleanup. Thanks, Matteo and Meera, both for the tour and for setting such a good example of kindness yourselves!
March 1, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
Tomorrow will mark an important milestone in our recovery from the pandemic. Mask wearing will become optional in schools and school buses effective Wednesday March 2, 2022.
From the initial days of remote learning and the first reopened classrooms full of plexiglas, we have come a long way to this point. It’s worth celebrating what we’ve accomplished as a community.
Our strategy has been to use layered mitigation until such time as risks could be reduced through other means such as:
- readily available vaccination,
- widespread availability of COVID testing,
- more effective treatments, and
- reduced COVID incidence.
As each of the first three items on that list became available and as we’ve learned more about what health and safety protocols are most effective, we have methodically restored many of our pre-pandemic activities, digesting the impact of each change before making another. That strategy has served us well - even during the height of the Omicron surge we did not have to retreat, only to briefly pause.
Now that COVID incidence has dropped to levels not seen since last July, making masks optional will be a very significant next step, and over the course of the remainder of this week, we will be focused on helping students feel comfortable with that transition – making sure everyone feels supported, that no one is treated differently depending on whether or not they choose to wear a mask, and hoping everyone pulls together as a community.
I apologize for the late hour of this communication. We had been awaiting updated guidance from the NYS Department of Health which just arrived and addressed the issue with making masks optional on school buses. Over the next day, we will review this new guidance with our attorneys to produce an FAQ document for the staff and community. Over the coming weeks, we are looking forward to methodically taking advantage of any other opportunities within the guidance to continue returning to a more familiar school environment. However, until that review is complete, we will not make any other changes beyond making masks optional.
At some point, I’ll have to determine what is the right decision for me personally; but for the next little while if you see me indoors, I’ll have a mask on — because my extended family just welcomed 2 preemie newborns into the world and I hope to keep them safe when we get the chance to finally meet them. But my personal circumstances illustrate that we shouldn’t try to read too much into other folks’ decisions. Our choices may be dictated by our circumstances as much as our preferences, and we can all spare one another a little grace.