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Superintendent Emails and Updates - April 2022
April 29, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
I hope everyone had an enjoyable Spring break and shares in my excitement as we enter the home stretch of the school year. We hope to update you on a few items.
District-Wide Art Show
Last night, Syosset High School was packed with students from elementary school through their Senior year whose art was featured in the annual District art show. Since coming to Syosset almost 8 years ago, I continue to be astonished at the quality of the work prepared by our students and the amazing art instruction they receive from their teachers. The many elementary art teachers in attendance had wonderful reunions with middle and high school students they had taught years before. Soon, many of our students, whose artwork was awarded the “All-County” distinction, will have their pieces displayed in an online gallery. Watch for the link in an upcoming Community Update.
Although we try not to get wrapped up in rankings, there’s no reason not to share nice news. This week, US News and World Report listed Syosset in the upper third of its already prestigious list of top high schools. Syosset High School was also recognized as a “Top 300” school in the Jay Matthews Challenge Index which originated with Newsweek and the Washington Post. Congratulations to the hard work of all our students and teachers – from Kindergarten on up – which is ultimately reflected in these nice recognitions.
Catalytic Converter Theft
We are ever grateful for our partners at the Nassau County Police Department. From time to time, they ask us to distribute information to the public on their behalf and we are happy to help. They have recently noticed an alarming trend of thefts of catalytic converters from cars, trucks and even school buses. Please see this flyer they prepared to inform the public.
This week, the District and Advanced Cardiovascular Diagnostics PLLC (ACD) terminated their contract through mutual agreement. This organization had been using the Woodbury School as a site to perform community COVID testing (with an overflow site at Syosset High School). Prompted by recent news reports, we have received some inquiries about the nature of the relationship with ACD. They are an independent healthcare provider that was permitted to establish a satellite facility on school grounds as a convenience to the Syosset community. We do not have any financial relationship with ACD – we did not pay for their services, receive reimbursement for their use of our property or participate in their billing process or practices.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have made every effort to help our learning community and the Syosset community at large stay as safe as possible. We will continue to evaluate those needs as circumstances evolve in order to prioritize continuity of in-person operations. At the current time, the District has an ample supply of at-home rapid tests available to the community. Please reach out to your building’s nurse should you wish to pick one up.
As a reminder, the District will be closed this Monday, May 2 in observance of Eid al-Fitr (the closure date was amended from the originally planned date of Tuesday, May 3).
Syosset High School 10th grader Alex Benson has a passion for preserving the environment, which blossomed during the time he lived close to the mountains and forests of Japan. In Ms. Amanda O’Rourke’s Computer Art class, Alex created an impressive original project using Adobe Photoshop, inspired by the work of famous pop artist Keith Haring. Alex then donated his artwork to the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, and the organization chose to use it to aid in their efforts to raise awareness of tropical forest stewardship, biodiversity conservation and global climate stability. Alex’s artwork was featured on all the organization’s social media accounts as part of their Earth Week content. Great job Alex!
Please enjoy this beautiful weekend.
April 13, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
Monday night, we brought back a wonderful event, the Syosset Council of PTAs’ Reflections Awards Ceremony. The event was held outdoors, but the crisp evening air couldn’t chill the warmth we felt for these student winners, who each had their own special take on this year’s Reflections theme: “I Will Change the World By…” I can hardly think of a more perfect theme for our students. Since arriving in Syosset almost 8 years ago, I’ve been astonished by our students’ efforts to fight disease, save lives, give through charities and start student-led organizations that make the world a better, kinder place. This year’s theme illustrated what Syosset’s students have known all along (to paraphrase Margaret Mead): “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” Highlighting their efforts in these updates has been a delightful way to let our community share my pride and to allow these young leaders to inspire the next group of thoughtful, committed people! Click here to see the impressive work of our Reflections winners.
And speaking of in-person events, we are looking forward to the Syosset High School in-person, indoor graduation ceremony at Hofstra on June 22. The Moving Up ceremonies for the other schools are planned outdoors and details will be forthcoming shortly. I know we’ll all appreciate more than ever celebrating these important milestones together.
I’d like to express my appreciation to the students who performed for us at Monday night’s Board of Education meeting. The two Chamber ensembles that were invited to perform in the elite Lincoln Center Regional Competition earlier this school year, the Borodin Sextet and the Mendelssohn Octet, provided entertainment for us as we transitioned from the Reflections ceremony to the Board meeting, and it was a delightful way to start the meeting. A quartet from the SHS Adelettes then performed a moving rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
These Lincoln Center worthy performances are representative of the incredible music education Syosset provides. Just this week, we were again named to NAMM’s Best Communities for Music Education - for an incredible 21 years in a row!
I’d also like to thank the South Woods Student Council representatives for updating us on all the exciting things going on at the school.
It was particularly gratifying to honor the student-athletes on their successes during the winter season. Syosset now fields some 126 teams, all the more remarkable because of our limitations on gymnasium space - and some of our biggest successes have come from our newest programs. In Syosset, we pride ourselves on the breadth of opportunities we provide for students — both in and out — of the classroom, and they respond with all the enthusiasm of someone following their passions.
Lastly, at the Board of Education meeting, the Board asked the administration to revive our pre-pandemic effort to explore a later high school start time - to improve the quality and duration of students’ sleep which research has associated with several physical and mental health benefits. The history of our efforts, along with my presentation to the Board on Monday can be found here.
Since no snow days were used this year, all schools will be closed on May 26th and 27th, the Thursday and Friday before Memorial Day. I hope everyone will enjoy the extended weekend.
I don’t know if you subscribe to Newsday’s Faces of Long Island series. I’m inspired by reading about some of Long Island’s “bright spots” and the wonderful ways they make this such a special place to live. This week, I spotted a familiar face in the feed - one of Syosset’s own young people, Desiree Mohammadi, whose efforts to fight hunger were highlighted. At the age of only 4, Desiree decided to take action so that those in need would have access to fresh fruit and vegetables. She began collecting seeds to plant, and eventually teamed up with the head farmer at Island Harvest. Now a 4th grader at Berry Hill, Desiree volunteers her time to plant the seeds she collects that will provide a bounty of fruits and vegetables to fill donation boxes. I’m just so proud of her determination and the results of her effort. You can read more about Desiree here: Syosset girl, 9, collects seeds to grow food for the hungry - Faces of Long Island
I don’t customarily offer religious holiday greetings -- I’ll inevitably overlook an important holiday, and thus an effort to give everyone a sense of belonging will instead leave someone feeling excluded. But I requested and received some advice from several leaders in our PTA’s Cultural Unity efforts. They understood my concern, but saw value in acknowledging this aspect of our diverse community. So, recognizing that there are so many faiths with holidays this month: happy, contemplative holidays to all who are celebrating. For those, like me, who are off to visit loved ones (or just taking advantage of great Spring weather) – safe travels.
April 8, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
Having gotten the more practical news out of the way earlier this week, tonight’s message can be devoted entirely to:
- I had a wonderful beginning to the week with a visit to Walt Whitman where I met with students in Ms. Schaefer’s class. The students had worked in groups to each send me a single Pringles potato chip through the US Mail. As you might imagine, there was quite a bit of imagination (not to mention cellophane tape!) used in packaging the chips so they wouldn’t be damaged in transit. I returned the packages to the classroom and the kids opened them with excitement. Not every chip survived the journey intact, but every child was a winner for learning how engineers design, prototype, test, and iterate their inventions.
- A quick word of appreciation for our wonderful Syosset Fire Department. Not only do they keep us safe, they annually help our physics students test the laws of gravity by dropping pumpkins from a ladder truck. This week, the ladder truck gave us a little more practical assistance - helping us repair a flagpole whose rope had snapped. Always ready to help with things both big and small, SFD is the best!
- A few weeks ago, I told you about the Syosset High School Student Government’s plan for a donation drive to aid Ukrainian refugees. I’m happy and most certainly not surprised to report that it was a huge success. Collection bins were overflowing in all our school buildings. Students from South Woods and Berry Hill teamed up with the high school students to collect, sort and assemble supplies to fill 250 backpacks for children, plus collect 50 bags of clothing, medical supplies, food, and toiletries, AND collect over $8,800 in donations. And at Baylis, students and staff partnered with the Baylis PTA and parents to collect, sort, and pack 5 carloads of donations including warm clothing, medical supplies, and personal hygiene products. The items were delivered to the Holy Family Ukrainian Catholic Church in Lindenhurst on Saturday, March 26th. What truly remarkable efforts by students across the school district.
As a reminder, next Thursday begins our spring recess. Schools will be closed on Thursday and Friday, and the following week.
April 6, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
It has been great to see the transition to spring sports. After a frigid start to the season, the weather is finally catching up with the calendar. We’re also excited for many of the culminating concerts that highlight our students’ progress throughout the year.
This spring, we have enjoyed gradually adding back other activities and in-person events that are important parts of this season, and we certainly want to continue our momentum. However, we also promised to monitor conditions and alert the public of any concerning trends.
Since early March, there has been a steady increase in COVID-19 cases in Nassau County and our local area, but fortunately nothing quite like the steep surge seen last December. Nevertheless, in the past 10 days, there have been 84 cases identified in our learning community. We haven’t experienced a similar 10-day period since the end of January 2022.
In light of these trends, we want to share 3 things:
- We’re not quite out of the woods yet. The current trend is attributed to the BA.2 subvariant which appears to be the most transmissible yet. Even during the initial Omicron surge, instances of potential school-related transmission in Syosset were very rare, but have become much more frequent in the last month.
- We’ll return to the bi-weekly reports. Given this recent experience, we are informing all parents in a classroom where multiple cases have been identified and reporting building-level data to the community twice weekly again. Positive cases are also posted to the website in the COVID-19 section, where you will also find information on the health and safety protocols in place.
- We’re offering reminders. Thankfully, COVID-19 symptoms in children resulting from the 2 subvariants currently in circulation have typically been mild, often mistaken for those from the common cold or allergies that are common this time of year. Still, we do not want the spread to accelerate, so please carefully review the following reminders:
- Please closely monitor your child(ren) for symptoms.
- As was always the case prior to COVID, if your child develops symptoms of illness, do not send them to school. As before, consult with your pediatrician and notify the school nurse.
- A child who has been exposed to COVID and subsequently develops symptoms is presumed positive (even if a rapid home test is negative) until you’ve consulted with your school’s nurse.
- If your child is identified as a close contact, you will be contacted by the school and notified of what to do next. Please monitor your email for notifications.
As we head into the April break, we are fortunate to have an ample supply of home COVID test kits available for families at the nurse’s office in every building. To request COVID home tests, please contact your child’s school’s health office. The kits may be especially helpful if you are planning to travel over the Spring Recess.
Thank you for your partnership in keeping our community healthy and safe. We will continue to keep you updated with any new developments.
April 1, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
This week, 368 Syosset seniors were inducted into the National Honor Society (NHS) and, for the first time since 2019, we were able to honor the students during an in-person event. The National Honor Society students work incredibly hard to earn high grades, participate in school activities, and provide service to their Syosset peers and community. The Society honors not only academic achievement, but also integrity and community engagement, exemplified by the four pillars of the National Honor Society (scholarship, service, leadership, and character). These qualities are reflected in Syosset’s commitment to prepare our students to take agency of themselves, their communities, and society as a whole.
Membership in NHS does not come easy, but this group of students has had to overcome more obstacles than most, being part of a class that had 3 of their 4 high school years impacted by the stresses of the pandemic and the instructional inconsistencies it created. Their resolve and perseverance make their accomplishment all the more remarkable. Click here for a list of the newly inducted National Honor Society members.
As we’ve navigated the challenges of the last two years, the mental well-being of our students has been a principal area of our focus. Since 2017, we have hired 4 social workers, including persons bilingual in Mandarin and Spanish, and this year, we have recommended that the Board add an additional 1.5 full time social workers for the fall. Mental wellness is also an area where we’ve seen our students amplify their involvement and voice. Recently four student leaders from the Bring Change to Mind club at the high school, Celina Chen, Griffin Gurewicz, Jia Walia, and Scott Wong, attended the Nassau County Youth Wellness Summit. The students, along with Ms. O’Rourke, social worker, and Ms. Jones, special education teacher, had the opportunity to engage with other Nassau County schools in workshops and discussions on mental health, coping skills, leadership, self-esteem, healthy relationships, and effective communication. The knowledge gained will further empower the students to carry out their mission of raising mental health awareness, encouraging dialogue, and eliminating mental health stigma. I’ve been so impressed by the events the student members of this club have held at the high school, such as test anxiety workshops, relaxation stations, gratitude tables, and more, and I admire their hard work and dedication to this important work.
We all know how important it is to show gratitude, and just how good it feels to be appreciated. The Bring Change to Mind club members recently wanted to show their appreciation for the high school faculty and staff. Club members worked hard to put together over 300 wellness bags with items to remind the staff they are cared for and appreciated. The bags included notes of appreciation from the National Art Honor Society students, and students in the Work-Based Learning program assisted in delivering the bags to faculty and staff. It was a wonderful collaboration that brightened spirits all through the building!
No April Fools’ Day jokes from me - just a wish for a wonderful weekend as we hopefully shed the frigid air and head into warmer weather!