- This Month
- July - August 2022
- 2021-2022 Updates
- 2020-2021 Updates
- Syosset Central School Dist
- This Month
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.
September 2, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
Welcome back!!!! It’s wonderful to be back to school and to have so many of the COVID restrictions and their associated challenges receding into the distance. Over the past week, I’ve visited so many classrooms and teachers and felt the excitement at having the rooms set up in more welcoming arrangements and reintroducing rugs for our littlest learners. Not every furnishing survived two years of storage, so it’ll take some time to get the rooms all the way back, but we’ve got a huge jump start already.
We’ve had a good first two days, marred only by our usual challenges with busing that are typical in the first few days, but exacerbated this year by the driver shortage and the arrival of so many brand new drivers. Drivers do perform practice runs of all the routes prior to the start of school, and once everyone, students and drivers alike, become more familiar with the routine, these challenges tend to ease.
In what has now become a first-day ritual, we were delighted to welcome many members of the Nassau County Police Department on our campuses. On Wednesday evening, I attended a forum for school administrators with the Nassau County Police Commissioner, Patrick Ryder. He shared their PREPARE plan for dealing with an emergency, but also the proactive measures they take including having each officer visit a school during their shift for a brief “Park, Walk & Talk.” So don’t be startled if you see a police car on campus – they are there to say “hi,” and we’re delighted to host them.
Two more quick updates from the Nassau Police: they are actively recruiting crossing guards to address a shortage, and warning about a new form of Fentanyl (a narcotic) designed to target children.
While many of the protocols that carried us through the last two years have been eased, we are still required to track and report COVID cases (as we do other serious communicable diseases), and while we stopped performing contact tracing (since close contacts are no longer required to quarantine), we do notify families of potential exposure so they can monitor children closely. Lastly, we will maintain our instructional support for students with COVID.
Fall sports are underway and while the bus driver shortage hasn’t eased enough to secure drivers for earlier departure times (for us or our opponents, unfortunately), we do anticipate having our turf field light project complete by October to help with lighting those late season matches. I’m looking forward to cheering for our student athletes from the sidelines!
A note: our athletic conference is having difficulties securing referees for almost all sports (I even had to pitch in last year), so if you’re someone with the ability to officiate, or know someone who could, please contact the District or the folks at Section VIII. Just as we’re looking to increase the number of referees, please help us retain the ones we’ve got: cheer for our athletes with all the gusto you’ve got, but please don’t heckle our opponents or the referees - the former are still kids and the latter have a hard enough job already. Show our true Syosset spirit by treating our visitors the way your child deserves to be treated at an away game.
Some quick back to school reminders:
- Drones are not permitted on campus without permission from both the District and Nassau Police.
- Dogs are not permitted on campus by Board policy. (If only we could somehow ban the geese.)
- School facilities (like the track) are closed to the public during the school day, or after school when students are present for scheduled events (practices and games).
- Please be patient when driving in a school zone. I saw someone get pulled over just this afternoon.
A quick word of thanks to our employee associations representing our teachers, principals, and civil service staff who underwrote a wonderful welcome-back luncheon earlier this week for our entire staff – all together in one place for the first time in over a decade. There was a tremendous sense of pride among the staff for the extraordinary work they’ve done, welcome for the new staff who will carry on our tradition of excellence, team-building to boost morale and a reminder that every single person contributing their best is what makes Syosset so special. From my travels around the District the last two days, I know the energy from that event carried directly into the classrooms - so thank you STA, SPA, and CSEA for helping us get off to a great start!
August 26, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
It was wonderful to see students in the halls of South Woods and the high school yesterday (I didn’t quite make it to HBT) for 6th grade and 9th grade orientation events. It’s a reminder that the start of school is just around the corner and we’re looking forward to welcoming back all of our young people next Thursday alongside our kindergarteners and new residents.
After more than two challenging years, we continue to restore even more of the programming our students find so meaningful, while retaining much of what we’ve learned during the last two years, particularly in the area of instructional technology. We’re not out of the woods completely yet, and this week’s new COVID guidance from New York State is a reminder that we must continue to exercise judgment and caution, but as long as the variants in circulation remain less severe, it appears it will be easier to co-exist with the virus.
We’ve produced an FAQ document to highlight the protocols in place for the start of the year, but the changes from last June are modest.
The bus driver shortage is not quite as dire as it was last year, but despite heavy recruitment efforts by our bus company, staffing levels are not optimal. The most visible impacts will be the frequent presence of substitute drivers and an ongoing inability to assign drivers for interscholastic athletics until 4:00 p.m. or so, after the elementary runs are complete.
Open House events and PTA meetings will be in person, and we anticipate more opportunities for parents to resume on-campus events. Field trips, including the 8th grade trip to Washington DC will also resume and we’re excited for students to experience these opportunities!
Although we are experiencing a labor shortage in our cafeterias too, staffing levels have increased enough to enable a broader range of menu items, and a return to cafeteria seating in elementary school.
Looking over the last 2 ½ years, I’m extraordinarily proud of how our community pulled together and indeed pulled through this challenging time. I am amazed at how our faculty and their leaders navigated all of the twists and turns of remote, hybrid, socially distanced, and tech-enabled learning to maintain students’ educational momentum, and equally impressed at how the staff who support all of our infrastructure made it their mission to ensure our buildings and classrooms would be as safe and supported as could be. No one could have predicted how the last few years would test us; and while at times we bent, we never broke.
New Staff Members
This week marked our New Teacher Institute. I was delighted to welcome these new staff members to our faculty. In my welcome, I reflected on the remarkable community of educators they were joining – and my own observation that my predecessors had hired well – along with an acknowledgement that they, in turn, will be the future of Syosset, keepers of our tradition of educational excellence and “whatever it takes” approach. Having interviewed each new faculty member and administrator, I’m confident that in some distant future, our successors will pay us the same compliment of observing that we “hired well.” Please make these new staff members feel welcome to our tight knit community.
A word of appreciation for the returning students who served as orientation group leaders. I was at the high school giving a colleague from a nearby school district a tour of our new Fitness Center. Right on cue as I was sharing that the enthusiasm generated by the facility reached well beyond our athletes, group after group entered and their student leaders proudly introduced our freshmen class to the space. Thanks, student leaders for giving up a beautiful summer day to help to welcome our freshmen to the high school!
We’ll see everybody back next week!
PS - For those enjoying the summer read-alouds, the latest (!) has been posted.
August 19, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
On Monday night, we had one of my favorite culminating activities for summer school - the annual performance of our “Summer Stock” theater students at the Board of Education meeting. They shared selections from the musical “Hats,” and while the songs are lighthearted, the themes of individuality and acceptance are profound. Bravo!
Even though that performance signals the end of summer school, the pace of administrative and facilities work actually picks up this time of year. I reported to the Board of Education on the facilities projects underway, including:
- solar power at the high school,
- roof replacements at the high school and South Woods,
- improvements to the walkway at Pell Lane to make it safer for pedestrians and athletes,
- boiler replacements and underground fuel storage tank removals, and
- two exciting athletics projects: refinishing the high school main gym floor (which is now complete) and adding lighting to the new turf field, which we hope to have operational in early October.
Next week, we welcome our new teachers and administrators for a 3-day orientation institute, and the following week, we welcome back our entire staff for professional development and preparation for the start of school. We’re hoping to strike a celebratory tone as the pandemic restrictions continue to recede and we have fewer impediments to doing our best work with students.
Speaking of reopening, we were notified by the State that new school reopening guidance (based on the new CDC guidance released last week) will be forthcoming in the next 2 weeks. The CDC’s changes were limited and while we can’t predict what the State will do, we are proceeding as though the State’s changes will be modest as well.
Nassau IDA and Amazon
Also at the Board meeting, President Tom Rotolo and I each reported on our recent interactions with the Nassau IDA, which last Thursday voted to end the tax breaks they had granted for the Amazon warehouse project on Robbins Lane. Seeing media reports suggesting that such a decision might be forthcoming, we alerted the IDA to a potential unintended consequence – the school budget was adopted by the public last May, so any change to the PILOT payment (one of the IDA’s tax breaks gives Amazon’s landlord the ability to substitute reduced “PILOT” payments for property taxes) could result in a significant loss in revenue to the school district after the school budget is already set. Nassau IDA Chairman Richard Kessel acknowledged the issue at their meeting last Thursday and assured us that they would “work with us” to avoid a negative impact on the school district. We are appreciative of this assurance and counting on their skill and expertise to find a way to do so.
We’re proud of our Adult Education programs, which allow the school district to “give back” to a community that supports its education system so passionately. The catalog is just hitting mailboxes now - and many of these programs fill up fast - so keep an eye out for it. Unfortunately, the welcome letter from the Board of Education was misprinted – both the letterhead and one of our Trustee’s names were cut off from the top and bottom of the page. We regret the error (sorry, Dr. Park!), but are seizing the opportunity to share the corrected catalog electronically.
Bank of America recognized 5 Long Island high school seniors, including Syosset’s Anika Shah, as “Student Leaders” in their national summer program. Anika worked at Island Harvest, getting first-hand experience in the operation of a non-profit organization – from boardroom meetings to fundraising to the truly “hands-on” experience of harvesting hundreds of pounds of zucchini at their farm to share with Long Island families in need. Anika plans to remain affiliated with Island Harvest and even recruit fellow classmates to this worthy cause starting with a fundraiser for Hunger Action Month this September.
My heart always swells when I see Syosset’s students making a positive difference in the world!