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Superintendent Emails and Updates - February 2021
February 26, 2021
Dear Syosset Community,
This week, we reached a milestone when we crossed 100 days of school. Elementary level students celebrated being “100 days smarter” by reflecting on what they’ve learned over the last 100 days, showing off collections of 100 items, and creating bucket lists of things to accomplish once they reach 100 years old.
This celebratory milestone holds significant meaning for me this year. I read daily of the reopening challenges faced by schools elsewhere and I’m incredibly grateful for the efforts made by every member of this learning community - students who have adapted to new classrooms, teachers who have stunned us all with their creativity in this new environment, administrators leading confidently despite uncertainty, facilities staff asked to reinvent our building protocols from the inside out, parents who’ve cooperated with our efforts to go “above and beyond” to help keep everyone safe. Today’s accomplishments won’t guarantee tomorrow’s success, but with each day, we inch closer to our goal.
While I don’t know for sure what the next 100 days will look like, we are seeing positivity rates continue to fall nationally and regionally, which is good news as we look to continue our steady progress restoring activities we once took very much for granted. Despite all the distribution challenges, over 17% of Nassau County residents have now received their first vaccination, well above the state average of 13%, and the hope on the horizon appears that much closer.
Kids of Distinction Award Ceremony
Last night, I attended the virtual “Kids of Distinction” award ceremony hosted by Legislator Lafazan, where students across several districts were honored for their activities that benefit the community. I saw many of the students we’ve featured here as “Bright Spots” being honored publicly for their efforts. I was filled with pride for our students and their amazing accomplishments in spite of challenging circumstances. I’d like to thank Legislator Lafazan for his efforts to shine a light on deserving students working so hard to positively impact their communities, no matter their age and no matter the challenges.
Standardized Tests, Regents Exams
Earlier this week the U.S. Department of Education announced that states must administer federally mandated standardized tests for grades 3 through 8 this year, although they would be uncoupled from the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) accountability measures, and states would have flexibility in how the exams are administered. It was also announced that some Regents exams will take place, though they will not count as a graduation requirement. The NYS Education Department is expected to issue new regulatory amendments at their March Board of Regents meeting and we will keep you informed as we receive additional information.
Syosset High School senior Aayush Turakhia, one of the students honored last night by Legislator Lafazan, co-founded “For the Students by the Students,” a charity that collects excess school supplies and provides them to children in need. Inspired by an opportunity to visit a classroom in an underprivileged community in India, Aayush aims to help students build a better future by providing them with the tools needed to succeed in the classroom. Great work Aayush!
Have a #syostrong weekend!
February 11, 2021
Dear Syosset Community,
Earlier this week I attended the PTA Council meeting and our conversation turned to how much this community has been able to accomplish by working together and looking out for one another. Just a year ago what we have accomplished might have seemed unimaginable and every day I am grateful for everyone’s efforts to support the schools and to keep one another healthy and safe. We can be proud of our success to date, but we can’t celebrate yet.
As you know, we follow COVID data trends closely as part of our decision-making processes, and we make some of that data available on our website. That data has been favorable when viewed in context: for nearly all of the pandemic, our local infection rates have been lower than the county as a whole, and while we too saw infection spikes after the fall and winter holiday breaks, they were not as pronounced as the County average.
Recently, however, despite steadily improving COVID numbers for both Nassau and Suffolk counties, Syosset’s advantage appears to be slipping. The data can be volatile, but we’ve also noticed a recent uptick in cases and quarantines related to events outside of school. If these trends continue, it could place pressure on the activities we’ve worked so hard to restore, or even trigger a Yellow Zone designation.
We’ve walked halfway across the tightrope, now is no time to lose our balance. Please stay safe over the break, follow all recommended health and safety protocols, and celebrate the holidays safely.
Quarantine Requirement for Fully Vaccinated People
Today, the Governor announced that the state would follow new CDC guidance regarding quarantine after exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, “‘asymptomatic fully vaccinated individuals’, meaning those who have received both shots and at least two weeks have passed since the second shot, are no longer required to quarantine within 90 days after the second shot.” As more staff become vaccinated, this will hopefully mean fewer staffing shortages due to exposures.
Please note the State did not announce any changes to its Travel Restrictions based on recent CDC guidance. Should this change, we’ll alert the community.
February Monthly Board of Education Meeting
- The first Budget Information Meeting was held, during which Assistant Superintendent for Business Dr. Patricia Rufo reviewed the Capital and Administration Sections of the budget. The presentation is posted on the website.
- A Public Hearing on the District-Wide School Safety Plan was held. The Plan is posted on the website for the community’s review.
- A recorded presentation was given by our 5(!) Regeneron Science Talent Scholars, highlighting their impressive award-winning projects.
- I provided an update on the Athletics program and the Proposed Amazon Warehouse Project.
- Following the resignation of Board Trustee Mr. Chris Ulrich due to his relocation, the Board decided to leave the seat vacant during the short period of time until the Annual District Election, to be held in May, when the community will have an opportunity to vote on a replacement.
- A recording of the February Monthly Meeting can be found here.
COVID Notifications Over Presidents Week Recess
As with Winter Recess, the Contact Tracing Team will continue its work during the Presidents Week recess. It remains very important to notify us immediately if you or your child has tested positive or been identified as a close contact by completing the Report COVID Hotline form as soon as possible. If your child develops COVID while in quarantine, please notify us of that as soon as possible as well.
To minimize emails sent during the break, community notifications regarding positive COVID-19 cases will only be sent on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of next week. Also please note that the COVID-19 rapid test sites at the old Woodbury Grade School and Syosset High School will both be closed on Monday, February 15, but will be open for the remainder of next week.
The Nassau County Police Department has asked us to share information on a free service named Smart911 that allows you to create a private and secure safety profile for your family, including any information you want 9-1-1 to have during an emergency. You can find more information here.
Brothers Joseph and Jake Gagliano have long recognized the importance of community service, and this year they decided to expand their efforts and inspire others by creating a volunteer organization they named The 364. The name serves as a reminder that giving back to the community should be a year-round endeavor, not a once-a-year activity. Joseph, a sophomore at Syosset High School, and Jake, an 8th grade South Woods Middle School student, have already recruited a team that has distributed toiletries to Long Island shelters and plans to volunteer at a food pantry. Their organization’s website states, “By bringing together our peers, we can accomplish so much good through fundraising and donating our time,” and I couldn’t agree more. Keep up the great work!
I wish you all a restful and restorative break next week. Please be safe, keep one another safe, and, like Jake and Joseph, do something nice for someone you barely know.
#staysafe #staystrong #syostrong
February 5, 2021
Dear Syosset Community,
I hope everyone stayed safe in the winter storm earlier this week and enjoyed some good old-fashioned snow day fun on Monday. On Tuesday, while the storm lingered, we successfully shifted to virtual learning for all students, the “next best thing” that allows us to preserve our instructional days while keeping everyone safe. I’d like to thank the Town of Oyster Bay workers and our District facilities workers, who had the daunting task of clearing a tremendous amount of snow so that we could return to in-person instruction on Wednesday.
Today we announced that Joshua Langman was named the Class of 2021 Valedictorian and both Maiya Raghu and Jacob Rosenberg were named Salutatorians. It’s been over 10 years that we’ve had 2 salutatorians, the result of a tie in G.P.As, and it’s fitting that we are able to extend the honor this year. These students have worked so hard and persevered through an evolving educational environment, and being named to the top of this most impressive group of students is quite an accomplishment.
With the big game coming up this weekend, I’m sure many of us will be watching to see how the aging quarterback with a cool first name performs. This week, Nassau County’s average positivity rate finally dipped below 6% and we’ve gotten back to where we were in mid-December. Let’s not give up those painstaking gains by taking unnecessary risks. The sooner we can get back to where we were before Thanksgiving, the better it will be for athletics and other activities. We’re all hopeful we are in the home stretch in our battle against this virus. And as any of our student-athletes can tell you, it’s the home stretch that really counts.
Also coming up is the Lunar New Year holiday and Presidents Week recess. School will be closed from Friday, February 12 through Friday, February 19. As a reminder, the State travel advisory remains in effect. Out-of-state travel (with the exception of contiguous states) requires a quarantine of 10 days. That quarantine may be shortened with negative COVID tests prior to and following arrival back in New York. Please review the details of the travel advisory carefully should you have any travel plans.
COVID-19 Rapid Test Sites
Please be aware the COVID-19 rapid test site located at the high school will be closed on Lunar New Year, February 12th, and President’s Day, February 15th. The rapid test site located at the old Woodbury School will be closed on President’s Day only. Both will be open for the remainder of the recess. Demand for testing has recently increased, so please be sure you have an appointment before arriving at either location.
The newly formed Syosset Relief Club at the high school, led by Co-Presidents Ethan Chiu and Brian Chou, is already making quite an impact. Formed just last school year, the club is an official American Red Cross Club with over 200 members. They’ve engaged in beach clean-ups, fundraising, and local food drive partnerships, and once COVID-19 hit, they raised almost $5,000 for the American Red Cross and donated 1,000 masks to the Nassau University Medical Center. The club now has formed a partnership with Luv Michael, a NYC-based non-profit that provides support and resources for adults with autism, including a granola bar business that provides a livelihood for these adults. If any students are looking for volunteer opportunities, Ethan and Brian have got you covered.
Have a great weekend and please stay safe!