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Superintendent Emails and Updates - May 2022
May 25, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
I know that even as we grieve alongside the families dealing with tragedy in Texas, that our thoughts understandably turn to safety closer to home. Security has been and remains a major District priority. A comprehensive list of the initiatives implemented was compiled for the community in 2019. In the years since, the District has additionally:
- Further increased security staff, upgraded their credentials, extended their hours to include evenings, and hired an assistant director, who like our Director of Security, was formerly with the NYPD;
- Installed ballistic doors on every classroom District-wide (despite the construction challenges of the pandemic);
- Implemented RAVE “panic buttons,” constantly monitored by Nassau Police;
- Hired 5 social workers; and with the budget passage, will hire 2 more (for a total of 5 full-time and 2 part-time people, including Chinese and Spanish speakers);
- Added Go Guardian monitoring of student-issued devices;
- Created a student assessment protocol to monitor at-risk student behaviors; and
- Formed a community partnership with Central Nassau Guidance (CNG) to provide counseling/psychiatric services to students and families in need.
As was mentioned last night, the administration and security team work closely with the Nassau Police on evaluating our facilities, training our staff, and updating our plans. Additional security work on our facilities is planned for this summer.
We know that events like this are not only tragic and painful, but they can often lead to anxiety for young people. We encourage you to reach out to your child’s school counselor, principal, psychologist or social worker should you need any support from the school district. Additionally, below are some resources that may be helpful:
- American Psychological Association: Helping Your Children Manage Distress in the Aftermath of a Shooting
- National Association of School Psychologists: Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers
- Common Sense Media: How to Talk to Kids About School Shootings
We remain committed to maintaining a safe, secure, and welcoming school environment for our students and staff.
US History and Government Regents Exam Canceled
The NY State Education Department canceled the Regents Exam in US History and Government, originally scheduled for Wednesday, June 1st. As a result, June 1 will now be a regular day of instruction for all students grades 9-12. All students who were scheduled to take the exam will be granted an exemption.
At times like these, I take solace in the good things that are happening.
- Last weekend, I had the opportunity to join more than 3 dozen girls from Baylis, Berry Hill and Village elementary schools (as well as a combined Syosset-Woodbury team) at the spring Girls on the Run (GOTR) fun run at Eisenhower Park with over 900 participants. I’m so grateful to the parents and teachers who volunteer to coach GOTR teams after school, and the important lessons they teach about building a lifetime of wellness habits. I joined our girls and staff for the 5K run (after politely declining the face paint option) and tried hard despite the heat to keep up with South Woods student (and track athlete) Melody Chen. She set a great pace, but then left me in the dust a half-mile from the finish! GOTR can always use more adult volunteers, so please consider contacting your building principal if interested.
- I’m delighted to share that two Syosset students were recognized at the national level for their entries into the annual National PTA Reflections Program! Only 12 students from the state were awarded national recognition, two were ours! Max Greene, a Syosset High School student, was recognized with an Award of Excellence for his work titled "Alla Vita, Alla Creatività." And Berry Hill student Jessica Chenjia Liu was recognized with an Award of Merit for her submission titled “Ripple of Kindness."
I hope everyone enjoys the extended Memorial Day holiday. We will be closed Thursday, Friday and Monday, with school resuming Tuesday 5/31. After a 3-year hiatus (rained out in 2019!), our middle and high school bands will again be marching in the annual Memorial Day parade up Jackson Avenue. While the event won’t be quite the same without Gus Scutari, who organized it until his 99th birthday, his tradition of appreciation for our Veterans’ service and sacrifice lives on in all of us.
May 20, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
Thank you to all who came out on Tuesday to participate in the annual school budget vote and Board of Education Trustee election. The school budget was approved for the 2022-23 school year, and we sincerely appreciate your continued support of our schools and the exceptional academic, extracurricular, and co-curricular programs offered here in Syosset. And congratulations to Thomas Rotolo, who was re-elected to the Board, and to Lynn Abramson and Jack Ostrick on being elected as Board Trustees.
Today, we resumed one of my favorite activities, what has come to be known as the “Board Tour,” during which our Board of Education Trustees visit each of our 10 school buildings to experience our curriculum in action. While this event was paused for the last two years, we restarted with some adjustments in light of COVID, but maintained an engaging, productive and fun day!
We started our day being given green ribbons to wear in recognition of Mental Health Awareness Day, and the focus for this year’s tour was on student’s mental wellness and the skills we help students build from a young age to handle adversity, manage their emotions and treat one another with kindness. Board members had the opportunity to observe how topics such as relationship building, conflict resolution, collaboration, self-awareness, and self-management are woven into the curriculum, kindergarten through 12th grade. Since the day I arrived in Syosset, I’ve been impressed with what a caring learning community this is, and these important lessons continue to build on that extraordinary foundation. We hope to bring even more attention to the resources the District has developed to assist our students, and to continue adding to those supports.
The Board also focused on the physical infrastructure of the District – both the improvements resulting from our recent investments and the ongoing work of keeping our 60+ year old buildings in good working order.
Twice a year, I gather groups of students from each of our schools (my “student cabinet”) to specifically gain feedback on District initiatives from the perspective of those they affect most. As you might imagine, there was universal enthusiasm for our return to “nearly normal,” students appreciated the technology updates (and had suggestions for further improvements!), and offered their thoughts on what we might want to preserve from what we learned about schooling in a pandemic. Older students gave us feedback on changing start times (which paralleled the feedback we got from adults when we studied this several years ago), their thoughts on finding balance in the face of Syosset’s many academic and extracurricular opportunities, and reflections on the advisory program that was instituted for their support. It’s a great opportunity for me to get to know these students a little better, and I appreciate their thoughtfulness and candor. My administrative team pauses after each meeting to debrief the feedback we get from these terrific young people as we plan the year ahead.
As a reminder, the District will be closed next Thursday and Friday, May 26 and 27, as a result of no snow makeup days being required. Schools will also be closed the following Monday, May 30 in observance of Memorial Day. I hope everyone enjoys the extended weekend.
In an earlier update I highlighted some of the extraordinary accomplishments of Syosset High School junior, Sabrina Guo, founder of both an organization that works to improve the lives of socioeconomically disadvantaged, migrant, and refugee girls, and a student-run initiative whose mission is to aid medical professionals and first responders during COVID. We’re not the only ones she impressed as she recently received some noteworthy accolades:
- This week, Sabrina was selected from among all regional winners to be honored as the State Winner of the NYS PTA Youth Humanitarian Award for displaying humanitarian principles and demonstrating outstanding volunteer community service.
- She will be featured in the August 5th publication of the Long Island Business News (LIBN) as a “Next Gen Award” winner, a special category of LIBN’s “30 Under 30 Awards,” honoring those under the age of 20 who contribute to the Long Island community through public service.
- The Princeton Prize in Race Relations recognized Sabrina with a Certificate of Accomplishment for her leadership and commitment to fighting hate and bigotry (the importance of which was underscored by last weekend’s horrific events), and I was privileged to be invited to attend the ceremony in New York City.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Musical?
What a treat last night to drop in on our thespians’ production of a venerated Shakespearean comedy with several modern twists, including a cello duet and a guitar-backed fairy chorus (I did not see that one coming!). The enthusiasm (and courage!!) with which this intrepid group of performers tackled this challenging material was admirable, as was their ability to find something new and current in their production of this classic work. As a special opportunity for the students, there was an Adjudicator from the Theater Association of NYS (TANYS) in the audience, who stayed after the performance to offer the students an hour of professional feedback on their performance, which the students thoroughly appreciated, despite their exhaustion. #SyoStage!!
Many of our athletes are finishing their seasons or starting playoffs. To all those headed into this playoff season, we’re all cheering you on!! #SyoStrong
May 13, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
This week is National Nurses Week, with National School Nurse Day celebrated on Wednesday. I’d like to recognize the efforts of our school nurses, especially through the challenging last 2 years. They provide compassionate care to our students and represent an additional layer of safety in our school buildings. We are truly grateful for their work and dedication to our community. And to all the nurses in our community serving on the front lines of our healthcare system, thank you for your selfless commitment to the well-being and care of others.
U.S. Presidential Scholar
This week, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona announced the 2022 U.S. Presidential Scholars, and I was so proud and excited when I learned that Syosset High School senior Ethan Chiu was awarded this prestigious recognition. Ethan was one of 161 students nationally, and the only Long Island student, to achieve this honor. He was also a finalist in the elite Regeneron Science Talent Search competition earlier this year. Ethan, I’m so proud of what you’ve accomplished during your time here at Syosset, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for you as you head to Yale University this fall!
Seal of Biliteracy
Next month, an outstanding 116 Syosset students will graduate with the New York State Seal of Biliteracy, with two students earning Seals in two languages! This designation honors students who have attained a high level of proficiency in English and one or more languages. In addition to a special seal on their diplomas, the students will receive a medallion to wear at graduation. Congratulations to all the students who worked so hard to achieve this designation.
I’m so proud of Syosset’s World Language Program, which continues to evolve to meet the needs of students living in a multilingual society. The program currently offers courses in 9 languages, the most offered by any school district in the state, and an astonishing 3 out of 4 seniors remain enrolled in a World Language! For the first time this year, learners in grades 8, 10, and 12 will take the Assessment of Performance toward Proficiency in Languages (AAPPL), a modern proficiency and performance assessment which focuses on communication, and next year (along with Chinese, French, Italian, and Spanish) Korean will be added as a language option for 6th graders, increasing to 5 the number of world language choices a student can start in middle school and pursue through longer sequences to greater proficiency.
2022-2023 Annual Budget Vote and Board of Education Election
As a reminder, Tuesday, May 17, is the annual school budget vote and Board of Education trustee election. Voting will take place between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.
- If you are unsure of your voting location, please click here.
- For the Syosset Pride Budget Newsletter, please click here.
- For additional information on the proposed budget, including the presentations given at the Budget Information Meetings, please click here.
Syosset is renowned for the quality of its Fine and Performing Arts programs, and we are all so proud of the charitable endeavors of our students. You can imagine how exciting it is when I can talk about both in one Bright Spot! With the goal of aiding Ukrainian Refugees, SHS 10th grader Abigail (Abi) Ahn planned and performed in a benefit concert, playing her flute solo and in duets. Abi received just over $1,300 in donations from the concert, with all the proceeds going to Ukrainian refugees in Poland. Great job, Abi!
Enjoy the weekend!
May 6, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
We had an exciting week at the District as we ushered in the new month. On Tuesday, Syosset High School seniors celebrated each other’s post-graduation plans in honor of National Commitment Day, and it was such a joy to see the excitement on their faces as they took pride in their success during high school and looked towards their next chapters. On Wednesday, 8th graders from HBT and South Woods kicked off a host of year-end activities to commemorate their time in middle school and enjoyed a day of fun at Adventureland. And I had the opportunity to go to the Derby! The A.P. Willits first Annual Derby took place yesterday afternoon, complete with fancy fascinators, bonnets, and a classic bugle call!
This week is National Teacher Appreciation Week, and I’d like to recognize the extraordinary Syosset educators who inspire lifelong learners every day and play a pivotal role in our students’ lives. They work tirelessly, demonstrate care and compassion, and empower students with the skills and knowledge essential to achieving their dreams. While their work is never taken for granted, the challenges presented over the last two years make their accomplishments all the more remarkable. To all our amazing educators, you have my support, my admiration, and my sincere gratitude, this week and all year long.
Budget Vote and Election
This week, you should have received the Syosset Pride Budget Newsletter which outlines the proposed 2022-23 school budget and voting information for the upcoming school (and Syosset Library) budget vote(s) and Board of Education election, taking place on Tuesday, May 17, 2022. The newsletter is also available online, along with the presentations given at the Budget Information Meetings held during the monthly Board of Education meetings. This coming Monday, May 9, the Budget Hearing will take place at 8 p.m. at South Woods Middle School and via livestream.
All-County Art Exhibit
The 18th Annual Nassau All-County Art Exhibition is now live, and you won’t want to miss out on this virtual experience that showcases the work of exceptional student artists from across the County. An impressive 60 Syosset students have been honored with the All-County designation, and all their work is displayed in this fascinating online “walk-through gallery” where the technology is almost as captivating as the artwork!
Syosset All County Art Exhibit - 3D virtual exhibition by Art Supervisors Association
This week, I was excited to hear about the work of South Grove Girl Scout Troop 3753. With the goals of helping the environment, increasing oxygen production, and making the world a better place, the girls created and executed a plan to earn their Bronze Award. First, they applied for and received a Difference Makers youth grant from Bethpage Federal Credit Union that allowed them to purchase all the necessary supplies for the project, then they spent time last Saturday planting three Kwanzan Cherry Trees at South Grove school. I first encountered these ladies in the fall when they were in the planning stages of this important community improvement project, and it is so exciting to see it come to fruition. I’m inspired by the initiative of these young students, leading their younger peers by example. Many future South Grove students will benefit from the fresh air and cool shade these trees will someday bring. Great job, ladies!
Wishing a Happy Mother’s Day to all the amazing, caring, selfless moms and mother figures in our community. I hope you have a wonderful weekend.