There's much more to the school year's start than just opening the doors.
Long Island schools hosted everything from welcome-back celebrations to building tours to mentoring sessions to ease youngsters into the classroom environment, while also introducing them to new classmates, new buildings and extracurricular activities.
Incoming sixth- and ninth-graders at Copiague Middle School and Walter G. O'Connell Copiague High School, respectively, attended a back-to-school barbecue where they received daily schedules, plotted routes to classes and practiced opening lockers, among other things.
"Today is geared to help students ease the transition from elementary to middle school -- to help them get the layout of the building, practice using their lockers and meet their teachers," Copiague Middle School principal Andrew Lagnado said.
In Huntington, incoming freshmen attended an annual picnic that introduced them to Student Council leaders, faculty advisers and after-school activities. It also featured a role-playing segment in which peer mediators demonstrated situations the teens might face.
Meanwhile, parents met with administrators for a discussion of the high school's policies, academic opportunities and community-service initiatives.
"We will remain dedicated to helping every student reach his or her individual academic and social potential," said James Polansky, the district's superintendent.
In Deer Park, incoming kindergartners attended in-school play dates before the first day that included playground interaction and snacks provided by their school PTA. Kids also boarded a school bus to practice safe-riding techniques and learn proper etiquette.
Other events included a Back-to-School BBQ at Central Islip High School and ice-cream socials at Riverhead School District to help familiarize families with their school community.
Rhonda P. Pratt has been named principal of Burr Intermediate School. She replaced Charles Heppeler, who retired.
Pratt has served as principal of Bayview Elementary School in West Islip since 2007. She began her career as a reading specialist in the North Central School District in upstate New York after serving as an administrative intern at an elementary school in Phoenix, N.Y.
"I consider it an honor to have been appointed principal of Burr Intermediate School, and I am very excited about the opportunity," Pratt said. "I look forward to meeting the staff, students and parents within the community and working together to enrich the lives of each and every student."
Enrico Crocetti is the new superintendent of the Mount Sinai School District, replacing Anthony Bonasera, who retired.
Crocetti previously served as assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in the Central Islip school district and as director of technology and career education in the Middle Country Central school district. Other previous positions include administrator for information support services and professional development for Deer Park public schools as well as teaching in the Half Hollow Hills, Harborfields, Sachem and Westbury school districts.
Brian Zahn is interim principal of Southampton High School replacing Timothy Mundell, who resigned in the early summer. Zahn was assistant principal at Southampton Elementary School for three years.
"With any major change, I believe effective communication will ensure success," Zahn said in a recent letter to the community. "It is my belief and responsibility to ensure that all stakeholders, inclusive of our teachers, students, parents and community members, have a voice in the critical decisions ahead."
Nominations are being sought by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards for top youth volunteers nationwide for 2013. The program honors public or private middle- or high-school students for outstanding acts of volunteerism.
The Spirit of Community Awards are conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
State-level judges review entries and select 102 state honorees -- two from each state and the District of Columbia -- based on personal initiative, creativity, effort, impact and personal growth. State honorees receive $1,000, a silver medallion, and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C.
Ten students will be named national honorees and receive $5,000 awards. For information about submitting entries, visit prudential.com/spirit. The deadline is Nov. 6.