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Long IslandEducation

Hispanic Heritage Month celebrated in Long Island schools

Students in Amityville High School's Hispanic Heritage Club

Students in Amityville High School's Hispanic Heritage Club perform a flag dance. Photo Credit: Amityville School District

Many Long Island schools added a cultural twist to their curricula in recent weeks in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, which ended Saturday after kicking off Sept. 15.

In Amityville, the high school’s Hispanic Heritage Club presented a flag dance that paid tribute to nations with significant Latino populations and a video featuring famous Hispanics, including politicians, scientists and musicians.

The event culminated with a performance by singer-songwriter Raffi, who focused on different types of Spanish music, such as salsa and tango.

“The students loved it — they embraced the music and were so into it,” said Maria Leon-Piñeros, co-adviser of the school’s 40-member Hispanic Heritage Club, which launched last school year. “In this anti-immigrant era, it’s good for students to validate who they are as a valued member of society.”

In North Bellmore, fifth-graders at Martin Avenue Elementary School made Mexican folk art, known as papel picado, by cutting designs into colored strips of construction paper using scissors or hole-punchers, then gluing them together to finish their designs.

The kids also created self-portraits in the style of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.

“We always want a great project to excite them when they come back to school,” Martin Avenue art teacher Jill Emmer said. “It makes multiculturalism real for our students.”

In Freeport, 15 transitional bilingual students at Caroline G. Atkinson Intermediate School wore sombreros as they performed the Mexican folk song “Al Citron” last month at a Board of Education meeting.


New Sherwood principal

Chad Walerstein is the new principal of Maud S. Sherwood Elementary School.

Walerstein, who replaced Maureen Martin, previously served as an assistant principal at Eastport-South Manor Junior-Senior High School and Islip Middle School.

“Islip has always felt like a second home,” Walerstein said. “I will work tirelessly to ensure that Sherwood remains the amazing place it has always been while helping our students learn the skills necessary for success in the 21st century.”


New principals

The Smithtown school district has two new principals: Kevin Simmons at Smithtown High School East and Daniel McCabe at Nesaquake Middle School.

Simmons, who had been principal at Nesaquake since 2008, replaced Edwin Thompson, who retired. Earlier, Simmons was an assistant principal at Nesaquake and at Smithtown Middle School, and a social studies teacher in Syosset.

“What excites me most regarding this new position is my ability to complete the educational journey I have initiated in sixth grade with many students at East,” Simmons said.

McCabe earlier was assistant principal of the district’s Accompsett Middle School. Before that, he served as a business teacher, instructional specialist and assistant principal at Smithtown High School West.

“As I embark on my 18th year working for Smithtown Central School District, I am thrilled to be able to continue to serve the students and parents of the Smithtown community and work with a gold-medal faculty and staff,” McCabe said.


‘Students of the Year’ contest

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has launched a first-ever fundraising competition titled “Students of the Year,” enlisting Long Island high schoolers to raise funds for blood cancer research. The candidate raising the most after six weeks will win a $2,500 scholarship.

A leadership committee will select participants based on their applications, and those selected will form teams of three or more to help with the campaign. Three teens also will win a $500 Citizenship Award.

Applications are online at The deadline is Friday, Oct. 21.


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