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Superintendent Emails and Updates - June 2022
June 24, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
This week, we hosted moving up ceremonies for both middle schools at the track and field on our campus, and the high school Commencement at Hofstra University. Click here to view photos from the middle school ceremonies, and here for photos from the high school Commencement. I concluded my remarks to the Seniors (delivered by Deputy Superintendent Mr. Cardillo as I recover from illness) with this wit and wisdom from Winnie the Pooh:
“I always get to where I’m going by walking away from where I have been.”
Graduations are the bittersweet departure that starts the next big adventure. I’m so incredibly proud of all the students. The resilience and perseverance this class has shown is remarkable, and their accomplishments, achieved during such challenging times, all the more impressive. I have no doubt our students are well prepared for their adventures and I cannot wait to see where their journey leads.
Summer School 2022
We’re excited about the changes made to our Summer School program. Given the strong interest in last summer’s program, and wanting to support all our students as we transition past these pandemic years, we asked our summer school faculty to build a refreshed program with opportunities emphasizing play, exploration, and innovation. You can find the brochure here. Summer school will be held at HB Thompson Middle School while the High School undergoes extensive renovations.
Spotlight on Instruction
When we built the Fitness Center at Syosset High School, it was to replace 3 dilapidated “portable” trailers (over 20 years past their planned retirement date!) that had housed students' fitness equipment. The new facility was completed during the pandemic, so when interscholastic athletics weren’t permitted, we made “intramural” opportunities for our students and student-athletes to stay conditioned until sports resumed. We also began offering strength and conditioning classes to students as part of the physical education program - to enable them to learn the skills to pursue their own lifetime fitness goals as adults. Now into the facility’s 3rd year, interest in these classes has exploded - going from 3 sections to 18 - and encompassing a broad cross-section of the student body in addition to the interscholastic athletes. Our students are making great use of the community’s investment in this terrific resource!
Elementary Curriculum Celebrations for the 2022-23 School Year
Even though this school year has only just finished, we’ve been busy planning for next year, looking for ways to amplify not only the student experience, but the parent experience as well. I’m excited to announce we’ve planned an expanded Elementary Open House experience to kick-off the school year, with a “gallery walk” through the school building and teacher presentations in each classroom. Elementary-level parents and guardians won’t want to miss this event, so mark your calendars for September 8.
In addition, we are planning ongoing Elementary Curriculum Learning Celebrations, during which parents and guardians will be invited into the classroom to experience the Syosset curriculum first-hand and have the opportunity to observe how their child receives instruction, collaborates with peers, and articulates skills to engage with the learning concepts. We’ve also expanded the number of spring Parent-Teacher Conference time slots, ensuring all parents will have the opportunity to schedule a second conference in the spring. I know limited access to the classrooms, necessary to keep everyone safe during the pandemic, was challenging for us all, but we are more excited than ever to showcase the magic that takes place in our classrooms.
Syosset students have long supported Sunrise Day Camp, a local summer camp that aims to bring laughter and happiness to children struggling with cancer, free of charge. This year, 78 Syosset students from the Community Service health class, the Interact Club and the Peers Reaching Out (PRO) club raised over $16,000 for the camp. They ran a variety of fun community events to raise this sum, including a Zumba-thon, and Chipotle and Ralph’s Ice fundraisers. Not only did they donate funds to ensure a fun-filled summer for these deserving children, they also tie-dyed 500 bandanas for them!
This Friday update will come with less frequency over the summer months - I’m hoping to get some downtime and hoping you all do too. So until the next time, have a great…
June 17, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
It’s been a joyful week of Moving Up ceremonies at each of our elementary schools. Click here to view some photos of the celebrations. I’m delighted to announce that we’ve overcome some technical challenges in order to livestream our outdoor Middle School Moving Up Ceremonies as well as the High School Commencement Exercises at Hofstra University. Each principal will send out a link to their families.
This week, we also celebrated and congratulated staff members who reached 25 years of service to the community, all our teachers and administrators receiving tenure, and all of our retirees, many of whom postponed retirement to help us through the pandemic. I am always moved by such an incredible accumulation of dedication and service – it is the backbone of this truly outstanding learning community.
Spotlight on Instruction
From my early days in the District, the Board of Education has recognized our wonderful STEM programs (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math) as both an asset and an opportunity. The Board set ambitious goals and invested in new curriculum, robotics programs, K-12 coding initiatives, and new science laboratories at the High School.
At this month’s Board of Education meeting, Mr. Ray Loverso, Coordinator of Science and Technology, and Dr. John Genova, Coordinator of Mathematics, shared how we built on these investments using a technology-rich, interdisciplinary approach to STEM instruction that not only increases student knowledge, but their capacity to think critically. Next up are plans to expand the robotics program, partner with Long Island University's unique artificial intelligence prototyping project (with applications in robotics, engineering and more), and add two interdisciplinary science electives.
I encourage you to view the presentation or view a recording of the meeting to learn more about the innovative and engaging programs, including an update on our rapidly expanding K-12 Robotics program. Also included are pictures of our newly renovated research laboratories at the high school, allowing students to conduct college-level, competition-worthy research and programming projects here on site. It’s very exciting work, and I’d like to thank the Board of Education for their vision and commitment to advancing STEM education in Syosset.
On Monday evening, I provided an update to the Board on the installation of field lighting on the turf field at the high school, which the Board approved last November and was enacted by the successful passage of this year’s budget. We are now awaiting building permit approval from the State Education Department, and dealing with supply chain issues. Knowing the long lead times on these items, we have been working to reduce the duration of the procurement and design processes so we can take advantage of the lights during this fall season. Our most optimistic timelines show completion at the beginning of October, but we will keep the community updated of our progress and any developments.
Also discussed was the need for restrooms closer to the fields. While bathrooms accessible from the outdoor fields were newly made available as part of the high school fitness center renovation, we recognize the need for additional outdoor restroom capacity and are currently exploring solutions for the fall sports seasons.
Lastly, due to extensive work being done at the High School, summer school will be housed at HBT Middle School, We hope to maintain some sporadic access to the high school pool when it is safe to do so.
Operation Natalie Video
Earlier this week, school district leaders met with Commissioner Ryder of the Nassau County Police Department. The NCPD has invested deeply in their efforts to protect schools, so there were few changes to share; however, the Commissioner wanted to reassure the school community that his officers were trained and equipped to engage right away should there be a threat. We admire and appreciate their courage.
One change they will be implementing is increased school visits. So residents should expect to see more police presence on school grounds as a normal course of events and not an indication that something is amiss. We have great relationships with our officers here in the 2nd Precinct who already know they are welcome here any time.
The Commissioner did express concern about a county-wide increase in overdoses among young people and asked that we share this video regarding Operation Natalie, a program that aims to raise awareness in the community on the dangers of fake and fentanyl-laced drugs.
Syosset High School sophomores Riddhi Jain, Yannie Li, and Emily Su were looking to make an impact on the local community, so they reached out to Family Service League, an organization that serves Long Island’s most vulnerable citizens, to see how they could help. In collaboration with the Syosset Public Library and Shoprite, they organized two donation drives for local homeless shelters, during which personal care items and non-perishable food items were collected and donated to the organization. It can be easy to overlook the less fortunate, I’m so proud they instead chose to offer to help and, as ever, amazed by the generosity of this community. I look forward to hearing about their future endeavors!
As a reminder, all schools will be closed on Monday, June 20, in observance of New York’s newest state holiday: Juneteenth, a commemoration of the day Union soldiers brought the news of emancipation to the city of Galveston, Texas in 1865, some 2 ½ years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
I hope you all enjoy the long weekend. For those students with a few exams remaining: do your best and good luck!!
June 10, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
It is hard to believe we are nearly halfway through June and rapidly approaching the end of another year. We’re excited that most events are nearly back to normal, so our seniors are able to celebrate all of the fond traditions this season entails. Having seen the challenges that faced the classes of 2020 and 2021, I’m sure the Class of ‘22 has perhaps a little extra appreciation for these events that we once took for granted.
I know it’s also easy to take our music programs for granted. We shouldn’t. Last week, a musician friend was visiting from out-of-town and I invited him to the high school orchestra concert. Seeing the program through his eyes (or rather, his ears) was a treat. He remarked on just how special the performances were, and I was as proud as any parent in the audience. I can’t attend everything (sorry band - next year!), but I also managed to catch most of the SHS vocal program last night. I was equally impressed by the skill and the repertoire which ranged from fun standards to pieces that showcased diverse artists and fascinatingly intricate cross-cultural collaborations. I think my brain grew 2 sizes last night!
As we enjoy these last weeks packed with end-of-year celebrations, I hope you too approach them with new appreciation as we restore so much of what we love, and see with fresh eyes (or ears) what makes our learning community so special.
Spotlight on Instruction
I’m excited to announce that the District has secured grant money to fund the purchase of a Practical Assessment Exploration System (PAES). PAES is a research-based hands-on assessment tool which will allow students enrolled in the Work-Based Learning Seminar and the Life-Skills program at Syosset High School the opportunity to explore nearly 300 jobs in 5 careers. In a classroom converted to a workplace lab, students will find a unique opportunity to engage in various employment experiences with support from faculty and staff to develop pre-vocational and work-readiness skills, while exploring their interests, strengths, and preferences. PAES encourages and promotes workplace independence, facilitates transition planning and job placement, and allows students to strengthen their skill set for future competitive employment, and I look forward to the program coming to Syosset.
The Syosset school district values our relationships with community institutions within the District. For example, we maintain close communications with Mercy First – both through representation on their Community Advisory Board and at a leadership level. While it is not our role to speak for them, from time to time they ask us to share important information on their behalf. Earlier today, they issued this statement and asked that we make it available to our learning community.
- At yesterday’s high school staff recognition event, held by the PTA, staff were handed bags with a special gift assembled by students who participate in the Work-Based Learning program at Syosset High School. Under the guidance of Speech Teacher Ms. Krimitsos, Occupational Therapist Ms. Pantell and Library Media Specialist Ms. Holzweiss, students designed, created, and packaged buttons not only expressing appreciation for the staff, but also fostering mental wellness with positive messaging. In creating the packages, the students had opportunities to develop essential speech/language, motor coordination and career readiness skills, and they brought smiles to the faces of so many staff and community members. I was very impressed by their work and want to extend my gratitude to all involved in this rewarding experience.
- SHS student Alan Huang recently competed in the USA Wushu Kungfu Federation (USAWKF) Team Trials and was ranked first in 3 of the 4 events he competed in! Alan qualified to compete in two prestigious international events - the 13th Pan-American Wushu Championships in Brazil taking place in July and the 8th World Junior Wushu Championships taking place in Indonesia in December 2022. Congratulations to Alan and the other Syosset students who competed in the USAWKF Team Trial, including Alex Chen, Maggie Chen, and Katie Yan.
If you have the opportunity, I highly encourage you to visit the Syosset Library to see the work currently displayed in the Gallery by Syosset High School National Art Honor Society members. This year’s theme is “Our Hometown,” with works depicting our wonderful community in a variety of media. The exhibit will be on display through June 22.
June 3, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
There’s so much happening around the District as we enter the final month of the school year. It’s exciting to witness the buzz of spring concerts, field days, yearbook signings, staff recognitions and other end-of-year events. Today, approx 350 SHS juniors and seniors participated in a lively Battle of the Classes on the turf field. Congrats to the triumphant Senior class! We’re also coming to the end of an exciting spring athletics season and I’m looking forward to celebrating our spring athletes at the June Monthly Board of Education meeting.
Spotlight on Instruction
What a treat to visit Berry Hill Elementary’s STEAM Day this week. I arrived early in the day, as the 5th grade student “STEM Helpers” were leading their kindergarten peers through fun, creative activities that taught mathematical and scientific principles – and even computer coding with Ozobots! We’ve put a lot of energy over the past 5 years into enhancing our elementary science program to make it more inquiry-based, with richer lab experiments, and a focus on the “scientific method” – hypothesize, test, and revise. The kids’ enjoyment was an obvious validation of that effort, and I loved how our 5th graders were developing leadership skills while deepening the building’s sense of community.
Last week, I shared some details about the many efforts the District has made to elevate our security in the past several years. As I said, we work closely with our partners in the Nassau County Police Department and we enjoy excellent communication and support. Commissioner Ryder asked us to share this letter with the community detailing some of the strategies they employ to keep our County safe.
Nassau County Shared Mobility Management Plan
The Nassau County Department of Public Works is hosting a virtual meeting to discuss its Shared Mobility Management Plan on Thursday, June 9 at 7 p.m. and has asked that we share this information with our community. The Plan will identify opportunities for new and enhanced transportation services, including options to complement/extend existing transit services, to promote environmental sustainability and economic development. To register to attend the virtual meeting, please click here.
Syosset Council of PTAs Celebration of Culture Event
This week, the final PTA General Council meeting of the school year was held in person for the first time in over 2 years and it was a wonderful feeling to be together once again. The partnership between the school district and the PTA is part of our “secret sauce” here in Syosset, and I am so grateful for the hard work and dedication of our parent leaders who help make a Syosset education extra special.
Just prior to the meeting, I was delighted to attend the Celebration of Culture reception. Earlier this year, the Syosset Council of PTAs Cultural Unity Committee created a new program for students to celebrate the many cultures in our community. Students were invited to submit a piece of literature, art, digital art, photography, or a dance/music/video composition that conveys what culture means to them, how it is celebrated in their homes, or what culture has taught them. The submissions, from kindergarteners to high school students, were heartwarming, creative, and so impressive. Seeing the students and their families at the event was a wonderful reflection of the many different cultures represented in Syosset – where over 20 different languages are spoken at home – all together in one room as one community. #AltogetherSyo!
SHS 10th grader Kimberly Saltsberg has dedicated herself to raising funds for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, and over the last 3 years has raised over $36,000! For her most recent fundraiser, she teamed up with award winning sports artist Tony Capparelli and Blue Line Deli & Bagels in Huntington to run a New York Islanders’ themed raffle that raised over $11,000, which will aid the organization’s efforts to find a cure. I admire Kimberly’s commitment to this cause and am very impressed by the results of her hard work.