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Long IslandEducation

More pre-K programs coming; Newsday's Marcus A. Henry award winner named

This week's top stories

1. Long Island adding thousands to pre-K rolls

Long Island will add roughly 5,200 4-year-olds to the prekindergarten rolls this fall, after the region received an additional $31.9 million in state funding, according to data reviewed by Newsday.

The state Education Department said 232 districts statewide will receive new or increased funding, adding more than 14,000 full-day pre-K slots for students.

"This is the first year of these expanded funds, and we would like to see the state continue that funding long term," said Judith LaRocca, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in the Valley Stream 13 district.

Read the full story.

2. Wyandanch teacher files suit against principal

A former Wyandanch Memorial High School teacher has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the school’s principal, alleging in court documents that he harassed her and kissed her on the mouth without her consent, according to a complaint filed in U.S. Eastern District Court in Central Islip.

  • In the June 1 filing, Filomena Russo, 52, alleges that Principal Paul Sibblies sent her inappropriate texts and videos, made comments about her appearance and touched her without her consent.
  • She said in court documents that her civil rights had been violated.

Read the full story.

3. Local teen wins vaccine scholarship

A Nassau County girl is among the 10 raffle winners of a full scholarship for young people who received a COVID-19 vaccination to any SUNY or CUNY college.

  • Amaya Thalappillil's name was announced by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in the last drawing of the five-week raffle.
  • An incoming freshman at Great Neck South High School, the 14-year-old is interested in studying fashion in Manhattan and may want to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology, said her mother, Tiffany Thalappillil.

Read the full story.

4. Prom gown inspired by Disney villain

When senior prom was approaching, S. Ashton Rosato, 18, was hit with inspiration in the form of a cunning, vengeful, and arguably the most fashionable Disney antagonist: Cruella de Vil.

  • For two years, Rosato has been taking fashion design and merchandising classes in the Bixhorn Technical Center at Eastern Suffolk BOCES, alongside his studies at Connetquot High School.
  • So for prom, he had a plan: to design his own attire, inspired by Cruella. It took him more than 40 hours to create.

Read the full story. (w/link)

5. Standout student honored by Newsday

Favour Okodogbe, 16, of St. John the Baptist High School is the 2021 recipient of Newsday's Marcus A. Henry Award.

  • An academic standout her whole life, Okodogbe twice was promoted to skip a grade and arrived at high school as a 12-year-old freshman. She became a top performer on the Cougars' girls swimming team and ultimately a captain.
  • The honor is given annually by Newsday to a Long Island high school athlete who excels in the classroom, shows great leadership and gives back to the community. Henry was a sportswriter for Newsday until his death on April 1, 2014, at age 41.

Read the full story.

Resources for you

  • Suffolk County Community College has made the 2021 list as one of the Best for Vets colleges as noted by Military Times, which ranks the top schools for military service members and veterans nationwide.
  • The state Education Department has awarded more than $24 million in state-funded grants for extended school day and school violence prevention programs to 83 school districts and nonprofit organizations across the state, including some on Long Island.
  • Summer is a great time for college visits, and here are some tips to consider before taking a tour.

Round of applause

A Westhampton Beach High School student whose brother has autism has given back to the center he attends in the form of $30,000.

Abby Edwards, a junior, coordinated a pajama day fundraiser for the past five years to benefit the upstate Anderson Center for Autism, which her brother, Riley, attends. The most recent fundraiser collected $12,000, her biggest amount yet, and was held in conjunction with Autism Awareness Day in April.

"Little did I know that when I started this I would be doing it annually, raising more than $30,000," said Edwards, who collects donations through, a website she created.

Your questions answered

Have questions? Send them to Newsday’s education reporting team will pick one to answer in this space each week.

How can parents find out about free summer food service programs?

The 2021 Summer Food Service Program, which provides free meals to about 400,000 children, kicked off this month at more than 3,000 sites statewide, state Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa announced recently. An interactive site helps families find a service site by address, city or ZIP code.

"Even though the school year has come to an end, we continue to assist students and families that rely on their school community for nutritious meals," Chancellor Lester W. Young Jr. said. "Thanks to the work of our Summer Food Service Program partners across the state, thousands of New York children will have access to healthy food options throughout the summer months."

The Summer Food Service Program was established to ensure that low-income children, 18 and younger, continue to receive nutritious meals when schools are not in session. USDA Food and Nutrition Service administers the Summer Food Service Program at the national level, and the New York State Education Department administers it at the state level.

The majority of New York sponsors begin operating Summer Food Service Programs in July.

Locally, Island Harvest expects to provide 115,000 meals to about 1,200 children at 35 sites on Long Island during its Summer Food Service Program, which began last week, officials said. Long Island Cares, another regional food bank, is participating in the program as well, with 28 distribution sites across the Island. It expects to serve more than the 37,000 meals it provided last summer.

Island Harvest has 35 locations where it's operating the program, a dozen of which are open to the public. They are the Baldwin Library, Kennedy Memorial Park in Hempstead, Roosevelt Public Library, Uniondale Library, Pronto of Long Island in Bay Shore, Brentwood Library, Brookhaven Elementary School, Central Islip Library, Huntington Public Library, Eagle Avenue Elementary School in Medford, Patchogue-Medford Library and Wyandanch Plaza.

— Find the latest education news at Joie Tyrrell can be reached at or on Twitter @JoieTyrrell.

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