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Superintendent Updates - December 2022
See the most recent Superintendent's Updates listed below.
Click the links on the left to access past updates that have been sent to the Syosset community.
December 23, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
It may come as a surprise to learn I’m a big fan of the Winter Solstice. No, I’m not moving to Stonehenge (maybe when I retire), but unlike many who see the day as the beginning of a long, cold winter, I instead see it as an optimistic turning point. The days have finally stopped getting shorter and for the next six months, we’ll have a few more minutes of light every evening. Ignore the cold and snow! The Solstice is proof that ‘summer is coming!’
We love to make school fun and we closed out school for the 2022 calendar year with lots of whimsy and celebration: spirit weeks and pajama days, games and matches, musicals and concerts, ugly sweaters and yards and yards of flannel. There’s a method to all this madness - when school is a place of fun, students feel a sense of belonging and everything that happens (or is learned) becomes more memorable.
Spotlight on Instruction End-of-Year Tripleheader
Our elementary students also learned that the Winter Solstice marks the shortest day and longest night of the year. However, our third grade students at Baylis can now tell you it’s not feeling like winter everywhere. As part of their unit straddling both Social Studies and Science, students are combining what they know about latitude and longitude with the patterns they are observing from their weather observations around the world. As students collect their data at different locations, they are excited to discover patterns. They are asking important questions like: Why are the high temperatures and low temperatures for the day close or the same? Why are the states in the Midwest so cold? Why are temperatures going up here when it is almost winter? The Earth never stops providing us with curious phenomena to explore and students’ intellectual curiosity will propel them every step of their educational way. Who knows, we may have some future meteorologists in our midst (they’re welcome to join me WAAAY early on snowy mornings to help decide what to do about school)!
The sixth grade science classes at South Woods hosted Cold Spring Harbor's DNA Learning Center for a program called "Glowing Genes." The Center sends instructors to classrooms to encourage an interactive approach to learning, including hands-on experiments introducing students to molecular biology. Pairs of our sixth graders genetically engineered a harmless strain of bacteria with GFP (Green Fluorescent Protein) that codes for bioluminescence and is naturally found in a singular species of jellyfish. When the samples cultured, they glowed bright green under a UV light. I hope they found the lesson… illuminating!
On Monday, Kindergarten classes from Village Elementary took a time machine to visit their future. Well, actually they took a bus to visit their future school: Syosset High School! As part of the Childhood Education course, High School students prepared activities for their “kinderbuddies.” They made bracelets, cut out snowflakes, and drew pictures. This is the first year since 2020 that students were able to meet in person. Our littlest learners were able to make special bonds with our eldest while getting a glimpse of what awaits them in high school. This is one of those “full-circle” moments that makes this community so special.
There’s some more good news to share about our amazing athletes in Syosset–both at our schools, and in our community at large.
- Newsday has named Nassau’s Top 10 gymnasts ahead of the winter season, and Syosset Sophomore Leah Chin made the list! She placed fourth at the Nassau Team All-Around Championship earlier this year. We are so excited to see what she does this season. Congrats, Leah!
- Our Varsity Cheerleading Team competed at Regionals, taking second place in their division and earning a bid to Nationals in Orlando in February. We are all so proud of these girls, and their coaches, who consistently work hard and deserve recognition.
- On the ice, Syosset’s club team in the New York Islanders High School Hockey League is currently 9-0. They are the only team in Nassau County going into the new year undefeated.
Syosset students are spreading holiday cheer this season through song and dance in prestigious venues. Our High School Chamber Singers performed at St. Patrick's Cathedral as part of their guest concert series. This was the 23rd year the group has performed at this historic institution. The Chamber Orchestra joined the singers to share selections from Handel's Messiah.
Later, the Chamber Singers took to the stage at Radio City Music Hall to perform as the opening act for the audience seeing the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular Show. What an incredible day!
The Chamber Choir wasn’t the only group of Syosset stars performing at Radio City Music Hall. Last week, Samantha Bell (HBT), Ayla Caspi (SW), Olivia Palaganas (HBT), and Madeleine Sohn (WW) opened for the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular with a lyrical dance performance of “As The Angels Sing.” They were also featured on local television news programs PIX11 and News12. Congratulations!
I hope your holidays are restful! I’ll be recharging my batteries for the new year, so no update next week, but we’ll see everyone in 2023.
December 16, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
I wanted to update you on some important developments from the Board of Education meeting on Monday night:
- In alignment with Nassau County, the Board updated income eligibility limits for the Senior Citizens and Disabled persons property tax exemption, which hadn’t been changed since 2010.
- I presented the Board with the consultant’s report on some busing options that would facilitate a later high school start time, but would require some tradeoffs. The Board asked the administration to explore several other ideas and report back in January.
- The Board discussed new State Education Department regulations, released last Friday evening, requiring schools to retire Native American-themed mascots. The Board asked the administration to both research several questions and to develop a compliance plan for its consideration.
A holiday letter to the Community from the board can be found on our District website.
Spotlight on Instruction
The show must go on! Seventh grade students in HBT English classes became actors for the week, dramatizing and performing scenes from the 1967 novel The Outsiders. The classroom was modified to resemble a small theater, complete with dim lighting and auxiliary spotlights. Students worked collaboratively to rehearse their roles, create props to enhance the scene, and curate digital backgrounds with music and sound effects to recreate the novel with accuracy and dramatic flair. Students were briefly instructed in acting basics prior to ascending to the "stage." The novel came alive for the students, and some unearthed a hidden talent for drama and stage production. Activities like this encourage students to be lifelong readers – by making literature an exploration, not merely an assignment.
Newsday is recognizing top athletes from across Long Island this week–and we are excited to see so many Syosset names on these lists!
- Senior Dylan Einsenberg and Junior AJ AbuSaab were named as two of Newsday’s top 100 High School boys Basketball players.
- Seniors Melanie Lowe and Jillian Oresky, and Junior Carly Greenbaum, were named to the top 100 High School girls Basketball players list.
- Senior Jalen Li was named to the All-Long Island Volleyball second team.
- Junior Mikayla Camp was named to the All-Long Island Soccer second team.
- Syosset Swim Coach Michael Cippolino was recognized as Coach of the Year. Under his leadership, our girls swim team was able to capture a county title for the first time in Syosset’s history.
And I’m especially proud of our girls Varsity Volleyball team for winning the Section VIII Sportsmanship Award this season. We are so proud of our outstanding athletes and coaches. Of course we celebrate their success, but even more importantly, with their dedication, hard work, and character — they become true ambassadors for the Syosset community.
We are excited to recognize all of our award-winning athletes at our upcoming January board meeting.
Back in June, I mentioned the grant we used to purchase the Practical Assessment Exploration System (PAES) Lab — a research-based hands-on assessment tool that allows students with special needs to simulate real work settings to identify and improve their aptitude and employability. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to spend some cheerful time in the Lab with Ms. Fuchs, Ms. LaMonica, and several of our students, who shared with me how much they enjoy the lab work, and how it’s contributed to their success in our community-based internship program. A note of special appreciation to: Syosset Hospital, Party City, DSW, Barnes and Noble, The Gap, and All Music for being consistent partners in making those opportunities available to our students!!
With help from their experience in the PAES lab, we even have these high school students assist our teachers as a part of their vocational education. One student heads to Baylis to work with Ms. Roehrig’s first grade class on ELA goals. Another goes to HBT to work with the Speech/Language Pathologist, Ms. Cekada and Special Education Teacher, Ms. Verre to assist with small groups.
Wow. If this is Year 1, I can’t wait to see how this program will grow over time!
The weather is slated to stay rainy and chilly this weekend. Stay warm (and dry)!
December 9, 2023
Dear Syosset Community,
‘Tis the season for Winter concerts (we’ll even have a performance from the District’s acapella groups at the Board of Education meeting this coming Monday, December 12th, beginning at 8:00pm in the South Woods Middle School auditorium)! For 21 years, we have been awarded NAMMS’ designation as a “Best Community for Music Education” and there’s no better time to see the amazing fruit of our students’ talents and our teachers’ expertise!
Two years ago, the State gave the District a grant to underwrite a Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) program. We anticipate receiving another grant for the 2023-2024 school year and will shortly be identifying the list of providers. The State grant fully funds each seat, so there is no cost to families (or the District) to participate in this program. However, in the first two years of the program, the interest has exceeded the number of seats available, necessitating a lottery-based system. To ensure your child is entered into the lottery, please be on the lookout for email updates in the coming weeks with more details about how to register. To be eligible, a student must establish residency in the District, and be 4 years of age prior to December 1, 2023 and complete their registration (which requires both an online form and an in-person visit).
Safe Holiday Shopping Tips
The Nassau County Police Department occasionally asks us to share their public service announcements with families. The latest request is a reminder from Homeland Security that it is illegal for children under 16 years of age to possess an air-gun, spring-gun, or other weapon that launches any form of ammunition. See the attached flyer for more details.
Spotlight on Instruction
Here in Syosset, we like to keep our students' heads and hands churning! This week our 5th graders at South Grove studied how milk gets from farm to table in partnership with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Nassau County. The Extension’s Dairy Education Program teaches students the source and value of New York State dairy products, as well as the industries integral to their production. In this six-week program, educators from the program engage students in learning about the animals that produce dairy products, the journey of milk from animals to the cheeses we eat, pasteurization, and farming technologies. These activities are a great application of our 5th grade science unit on Matter, giving students an opportunity to learn about the viscosity of liquids, as they engage in several activities using different milk to create cheeses and butter. Students turn a liquid into a solid by shaking heavy cream in a mason jar until it becomes butter! They round out their 6-week program learning about sustainable agriculture practices, greenhouse gasses, and recycling by planting soybeans in 100% renewable composted cow manure. Although I have a dairy allergy and must avoid milk and cheese, I nevertheless think this learning opportunity is UDDERLY fascinating!
I’m told that the last game to be played in the Nassau Coliseum prior to the COVID shutdown was when our Varsity girls played in the Nassau County Basketball Championship on March 8, 2020. So it seems fitting that when the Long Island Nets chose one team each to represent Nassau and Suffolk counties in an exhibition game last night, Syosset was invited back to the Coliseum! Having attended that Championship game almost 3 years ago, it was a surreal full-circle moment for me, and it was a wonderful night for our ladies who took home both a win and a cool souvenir from the Nets! #GoSyo!!
Wishing everyone a happy weekend!
messages/attachments/59f5cb8e24fedb7fc93affd4661aa8df/No_BB_Gun_for_the_holidays_2022.pdf (307.4 KB)
December 2, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
I hope everyone had a restful and “feastful” Thanksgiving holiday break. As a frequent holiday traveler, I’m grateful that the traffic wasn’t quite as bad as I was anticipating!! I know we’re hoping to return to pre-pandemic normalcy whenever possible, but I need to share two alerts about lingering challenges we’re facing.
Bus Driver Shortage
We’ve previously described the industry-wide bus driver shortages that have been challenging schools on Long Island the last two school years. I wanted to update the public that the situation remains tenuous. Nassau BOCES has struggled to cover routes since the start of school and neighboring districts have experienced similar issues. Syosset’s disruptions have been minimal, but we are still not at the staffing levels we, or our contractor, would consider optimal. However, as winter approaches, the challenge will be exacerbated by holiday travel and illness. We continue to aggressively search for additional drivers and have replaced well over 100 drivers who have turned over in the past year - to put that number in context, there are about 140 drivers on any given day. We will do our best to avoid disruptions, but want to keep you informed about the magnitude of this challenge and the winter impacts we anticipate.
Sick… just not with COVID
This has already been a very bad flu season - starting earlier and accelerating faster than in any recent year.
See chart below for details:
So remember, children who don’t feel well should stay home from school – even if they test negative for COVID! Sending a sick student to school slows their recovery, inconveniences a caregiver who will simply have to come get them, and needlessly exposes others to disease. The formula to stay healthy remains unchanged: please remind your children to wash their hands, cover their mouths when sneezing, go to the nurse’s office if they feel sick, and stay home if they aren’t feeling well.
— now, on to happier news!
Twice a year, I meet with my “student cabinet.” Students representing each of our schools are chosen to provide me and my central office administrative colleagues a kids’-eye view of our District. We covered everything from start times to recess opportunities to lunch lines, and with older students got into meatier topics like student mental health and stress. I’m pleased to report that when we asked our older students if they fell behind due to the pandemic—they shared that they still felt well-prepared, despite the challenges and compromises of the last 2 years.
I appreciate them sharing their time and insights as well as representing the thoughts and opinions of their classmates as we work to make their experience here in Syosset the best it can be.
Spotlight on Instruction
On November 30th, the Theatre Arts program invited Syosset alumni back to the High School to spend the day sharing their experience in the world of performing arts with current students. This annual forum gave our high school students who are interested in theater an opportunity to speak to working artists and professionals who've been exactly where they are now. Nearly 50 students heard from a panel of eight Syosset alumni who are performers and producers; technicians and designers. This experience highlighted the message that there are multiple pathways after high school to have a successful career in the performing arts. Special thanks to this year’s panel: Sofia Shah ('20), Jillian Smith ('19), Paul Esswein ('18), Phil Rosenberg ('10), Tracy Cowit ('07), Andrew Wheeler ('05), Alexander Sovronsky ('01), and Iris Wiener ('99).
One perk of my job is a front-row seat for my favorite teams’ sporting events. Of course, not everyone’s favorite teams play for free right outside of their office! Syosset High School Senior Luke Silverman has a fond early memory of the excitement of being at a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden. His passion for sports led him to realize that not everyone would be fortunate enough to have the same opportunity, which drove him to start a charity to help young fans who can’t afford tickets get to professional sporting events to experience the thrill of a game. The charity is called Take Me Out With the Crowd and they’re hosting a fundraiser this weekend. Way to go Luke!
Speaking of my favorite teams… all 11 of our fall Varsity teams earned the Scholar Athlete Distinction from NYSPHSAA (the New York State Public High School Athletic Association). #SyoProud of our athletes, their coaches and their teachers!!
Have a great weekend!