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John F. Kennedy High School student named national finalist

Tyler Bissoondial, a freshman at John F. Kennedy

Tyler Bissoondial, a freshman at John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore, is one of 30 finalists in the Broadcom MASTERS science competition. Credit: Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District

A John F. Kennedy High School student has been named a finalist in a prestigious national science competition for the second consecutive year.

Tyler Bissoondial, a freshman at the Bellmore school, is one of 30 finalists in the ninth annual Broadcom MASTERS, which is a science competition for middle schoolers and a program of the Society for Science & the Public. He is the sole finalist from Long Island.

His project was titled "Identification and Characterization of Salt-Tolerant Mutants in Raphanus sativus [Radish]." It focuses on global soil salinization, which is an emerging problem facing crop productions.

As a finalist, Bissoondial will compete for more than $100,000 in awards at the finals in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 25-30.

"Many people are not aware of the impact of soil salinity on crop production," Bissoondial, 14, said. "With increasing salinization and climate change, we need to develop more crops that can cope with these harsh environmental changes. My research helps identify radish plants that can survive and grow well in high saline environments."

About 2,300 students nationwide were nominated for the competition by placing among the top 10% of middle school competitors at society-affiliated regional and state science fairs. From those entrants, 300 were selected as semifinalists and 30 as finalists. 

Other local semifinalists were Adhith Jacob and Dillon Moi, both freshmen at Wellington C. Mepham High School in Bellmore.


New principals

Freeport School District has two new principals: Tiffany Pendola at Caroline G. Atkinson Intermediate School and Alma Rocha at Columbus Avenue Elementary School.

Pendola, who replaced the retiring Connie Velez, was previously principal of Intermediate School 349 in Brooklyn. She also has been an assistant principal for instructional support services at a high school in Queens and for the Food and Finance High School in Manhattan. 

Rocha, who replaced Meg Sheehan, previously served as Columbus Avenue's assistant principal, as well as assistant principal of the district's Bayview Avenue Elementary School and a pre-K Spanish teacher.

"I am excited to continue with the strong vision that the Freeport School District has established in regards to providing quality education," Pendola said. "I promise to nurture each of the great minds that walk through our doors while building upon the strong sense community within our school.

"Starting as a teacher at my beloved Columbus, becoming the assistant principal and now returning as its principal, it's an overwhelming feeling," Rocha said. "Since I realized what was ahead of me, I called my new position an unexpected gift. I am humbled and honored to serve as the new Columbus Avenue principal. It is truly a loving feeling." 


New principal

Cynthia Cameron is the new principal of Francis X. Hegarty Elementary in the Island Park School District. She replaced Jacob Russum, who is now the district's director of pupil personnel services.

Cameron previously served as an elementary school assistant principal in the Elmont School District since 2012. She also has served as the principal of Elmont's Academic Summer School, as well as its Enrichment Program, and has been a consultant for Nassau BOCES' Education Testing Services.

"The Island Park School District is truly a family community, and I am beyond lucky to have this opportunity," Cameron said.


New principal

John Frias is the new principal of Wheeler Avenue Elementary in the Valley Stream School District 13. He replaced Gayle Steele, who is now the principal of Maplewood Intermediate School in Huntington Station. 

Frias previously served as assistant principal of Hewlett Elementary. He also has been a fifth-grade teacher and instructional math coach in Valley Stream 13 and a fifth-grade teacher in the New York City school system. 

"I am honored to be able to work with students, teachers and the community to create a safe and secure environment where all students feel welcome and have every opportunity available to them," Frias said.

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