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Long IslandEducation

LI schools host back-to-school events

Students in the South Country Central School District

Students in the South Country Central School District received free books this summer from the district's mobile library, which was driven to neighborhoods by members of the Bellport Teachers Association. Credit: South Country Central School District

The new school year began before the first bell even rang for many schools across Long Island.

Local students participated in everything from team-building activities to orientation sessions to back-to-school socials to help ready themselves for the classroom before the first day of school.

In Greenlawn, upperclassmen led incoming freshman on individualized tours as part of a buddy program at Harborfields High School. The freshmen were divided into smaller groups based on their interests in clubs or sports, with those groups' leaders then helping the new students understand their schedules and the school's layout.

"It was great when I was a freshman," Harborfields junior Mia Kushner said of the program, recalling the anxiety she felt entering her first year of high school. "It's exciting to be on the other side of it."

In Ronkonkoma, incoming kindergartners forged new friendships during a playdate on the playground of Helen B. Duffield Elementary School. Participating children also tackled an arts and crafts project and enjoyed a reading of Jonathan Allen's children's book, "The Little Rabbit Who Liked to Say Moo," by Principal Lisa Farrell.

In Amityville, incoming seventh-graders attended discussions on the character-building programs, extracurricular opportunities and Chromebook initiative at Edmund W. Miles Middle School. They also received free supplies, including binders, notebooks and pencils.

In Bellport, the high school held a freshmen orientation that included a presentation by motivational speaker Chris Poulos, who grew up with ADHD and is best known for winning the 1991 Bicycle Stunt World Championships in Denmark.


Yvette Mercado-Tilley and Brian Foster are the new principals of Longwood Middle School and Charles E. Walters Elementary School, respectively, in the Longwood Central School District. Mercado-Tilley replaced Tracy Adams, while Foster replaced Mercado-Tilley.

Before becoming principal of Charles E. Walters in 2014, Mercado-Tilley was an assistant principal at that school and at Ridge Elementary School. 

Foster had served as an assistant principal at Charles E. Walters since 2017 and was an English as a second language teacher in Huntington.

"Throughout my tenure at Longwood, my goal has been to cultivate a positive environment where students can develop into successful lifelong learners," Mercado-Tilley said.

"I'm committed to working collaboratively with staff and parents to nurture the academic, social and emotional development of our students," Foster said.


Denise Sullivan has been named superintendent of the Remsenburg-Speonk School District. She replaced Ronald Masera, who is now superintendent of Center Moriches School District.

Sullivan previously was assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and assessment and the director of curriculum and instruction in the Hampton Bays district. Before that, she was an assistant principal at Hampton Bays Elementary. 

"By far, what I am most looking forward to is the opportunity to connect with students, to be able to forge relationships with them, and to have kids know my name again," Sullivan said. "I am excited to work with teachers in order to take all of the great work that has already been accomplished here and to bring it to the next level."


Denisha Van Liew has been named principal of John F. Kennedy Elementary. She replaced Gregg Cunningham, who retired but will serve as an interim principal at Forest Avenue Elementary.

Van Liew previously was an acting principal and assistant principal at West Middle Island Elementary. Before that, she was an elementary teacher in the school.

"As a graduate of West Babylon, I have a special connection here," Van Liew said. "I am looking forward to getting to know the community and staff and working together with them to provide the best educational experience for our JFK students."

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