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Garden Club Planting Reaps Stellar Harvest

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The recent warm daytime and cool nighttime temperatures made ideal conditions for Frank P. Long Intermediate School Garden Club members to harvest vegetables planted in the school’s courtyard learning lab gardens. There were exclamations of joy and awe as the students examined and then picked the labor of their work: a bright purple eggplant, onions, peppers and a variety of lettuces. The vegetables were bagged and donated to the Lighthouse Mission for an early fall salad for its patrons. 
During the 2018-2019 school year, the District opened its new courtyard learning lab, completed with the use of district capital reserve funds while providing a flexible instructional space and an extension of classroom learning. Vegetable and flower boxes were made available for Garden Club members and classes to beautify the garden plots as part of the science curriculum. 
Previous Garden Club adviser Sarah Rauch said, “The goal of planting vegetables was to beautify the courtyard and to show students where their food comes from.”

Ms. Rauch noted that the students were particularly interested in the way asparagus plants grew. Additionally, Bellport Garden Club volunteers came each week to assist with the planting and weeding and provided the club with a $100 grant to pay for bulbs, plants and tools.

Even Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Giani caught the planting bug. He donated spicy onions from his own home garden for the students to enjoy. “The gardening plots are amazing and a wonderful opportunity for our students to learn how food is grown,” Dr. Giani said.

Frank P. Long Intermediate School teacher Diana Santos is the new Garden Club adviser and has plans in place for imminent planting and science learning with this year’s members, who meet on Tuesday afternoons after school. The students will continue taming the overgrowth and plant additional bulbs that will bloom in spring. The students are even trying to identify a spikey plant that unexpectedly grew among the flowers.  

ENL Program Opens Minds and Illuminates the Future

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In recognition of National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 – October 15), English as a New Language students enrolled in Bellport High School’s Living Environment class took time to consider whether to pursue a career in science and engineering. Under the direction of science teacher Aimee Iuliucci, high school librarian Colleen Oates-Robesch and ENL teacher Matthew Herrschaft, students learned about Hispanic and Latino-born scientists and their contributions to the STEM field.
“We are working on helping these students set goals for themselves,” Ms. Oates-Robesch said. “The goal here is to help the students open their minds and illuminate their futures.” 
The students initially discussed the profiles of scientists, dispersed among the library tables, and noted their interesting contributions to the field. They also watched videos of several scientist interviews. Scientist profiles included astronaut Dr. Ellen Ochoa, Nobel Prize recipient Dr. Mario Molina and the American Public Health Association’s first Latina president Dr. Helen Rodriguez-Trias.  
The students then engaged in a STEM challenge in which they built a tall structure using only straws and connectors. South Country Director of ELL, Bilingual and World Language Programs Monica Pullows-Tetuan was also on hand for interpretation needs. 

South Country Central School District Board Notes - September 11 Business Meeting

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The Board of Education commenced the meeting with a moment of silence and personal reflections on the events of September 11, 2001. Several of the trustees payed tribute to the teachers who kept their classrooms calm and protected the children at this time of uncertainty. 

During the Superintendent’s report, Dr. Joseph Giani described opening day as a “smooth start” and “absolutely delightful.” Bus transportation went well with a few hiccups, especially since the district has a new bus provider. Dr. Giani noted that 70% of South Haven’s students also took advantage of bus transportation. Opening day followed the successful opening of the South Haven Early Childhood Center on September 3, which was commemorated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tour of the school. Dr. Giani also addressed the issues surrounding vaccine immunizations, particularly the lack of time for some families to plan or adjust to the new law eliminating the religious exemption option. He said he has followed up with a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, expressing concerns about families’ abilities to meet the deadline. The Superintendent’s report concluded with a report on the marked improvement of grade 3-8 ELA and math assessments. Grade 3 students demonstrated a 19% increase overall in ELA and a 15% increase in math, Dr. Giani reported. 

Dr. Giani announced the hiring of Frank P. Long Intermediate School music teacher Joseph Giammona, and welcomed him to the South Country community.

The Board unanimously approved the Board Priorities for the 2019-2020 school year. At the Board’s request, Dr. Giani added the District’s Mission Statement and Strategic Planning Goals to the final draft. Board Vice President Jack Nix said the document was the clearest set of priorities he has seen thus far, while President Hayes said she liked the layout and inclusion of the Mission Statement and Strategic Planning Goals.

The Board also discussed the dissatisfaction among parents in the community about a letter from the middle school indicating that students can no longer “opt out” of taking a local assessment called the NWEA. Dr. Giani explained that this measure of academic progress is a local assessment and does not have a refusal or opt-out provision. He also explained that the NWEA serves as a “universal screener” to identify students in grades K-8 who may need additional support or services. Dr. Giani said the letter’s purpose was a good effort to better inform parents of the importance of taking the assessment so that children can acquire the support they need and student learning can be improved overall. However, several members of the community expressed their dissatisfaction about the strong language in the letter and its timing, claiming that parents should have a say in whether their children take the test or not. President Hayes asked Dr. Giani to prepare an NWEA workshop so that the Board of Education and community can be better informed about the purpose of this particular assessment.

The Board also continued their discussion on allowing consent for school security cameras to be linked to the Suffolk County Police Department in cases of emergency. Dr. Giani and the Board further discussed concerns regarding how the language of the agreement potentially affects student privacy under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Counsel weighed in, suggesting that the District still needs to acquire the “nuts and bolts” of how this technology works, and reported that details about the agreement have not been completely ironed out. There is also the looming question on whether the SCPD will have access to data when maintenance on the technology is performed.

Trustee Chris Picini also informed the Board about the voting practices of the New York State School Boards Association’s proposed by-laws. He recommended that the trustees read the 38-page document to familiarize themselves with the issues, prior to voting on October 25.  

In closing, Trustee Clyde Parker shared experiences of watching firsthand the Twin Towers collapsing on September 11. He said he was most touched by the way people came together and that we need to continue finding the love that unites communities and people. 

The next Board of Education meeting will be held on September 25 at 7:30 p.m. in the Board Room.

Flamenco, Ole!

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In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 – October 15), Brookhaven Elementary School students participated in a form of Hispanic culture practiced in homes throughout the world. During a return visit from the Sol y Sombra Spanish Dance Company, students received an up-front view of the popular and spicy art form of flamenco dance during a program named “Flamenco, Ole!”

The dance program was generously sponsored through a grant donated by the South Country Education Foundation and secured by teachers Jessica Weinberg and Michelle Procida, with assistance from English as a New Language teachers Meredith Milana and Sonia Orfin, and Dual Language Program teachers Natalie Baeza, Steven Davila and Tirsa Oliva. 

During her introduction to the program, Principal Dr. Rebecca Raymond told the students, “During National Hispanic Heritage Month, we celebrate Latino and Hispanic people and all the wonderful things they’ve done for our country.” 

Dancer Maria Loreta explained to the students that flamenco dance has three art forms: the singer who tells the story (el cante), the melody and playing of the guitar (el toque) and the dance describing how one feels (el baile). She also discussed the meaning behind the Spanish wording of the dance company’s name. The troupe then performed  the Welcome Dance, a happy dance and the Farruca with fast turns, quick and intense footwork and accompanied by a celebratory cape. The students were also delighted as they tried dancer Ricky’s fancy footwork and stomping. 

Bellport HS Photographer Earns Top Art Honors

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The District is pleased to announce that the Long Island Arts Alliance presented high school student Courtney Gerard with an Award of Merit during the 2019-2020 Long Island Scholar-Artists Award ceremony, held at Long Island University’s Tilles Center for the Performing Arts on September 11. Courtney was recognized for her excellence in academics and in the area of photography.

To be considered for this prestigious designation, students must be nominated by their school for representing the highest level of artistic excellence in media arts, visual arts, music, dance or theater. The student must also submit a portfolio of their work for consideration by the selection committee and must hold an unweighted grade point average of 90% or above.  

The District congratulates Courtney on this outstanding artistic accomplishment.
Monday, September 23, 2019
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