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LI students, teachers ease back into school with barbecues, bus tours

More than two dozen new teachers who are

More than two dozen new teachers who are beginning their teaching career in the Islip School District participated in a bus tour to familiarize themselves with the local community. Credit: Islip School District

The first activities for many students and teachers this academic year took place before a bell rang on the first day.

Across Long Island, schools eased into back-to-school with everything from barbecues to teamwork-building exercises.


In the Herricks district, teachers and administrators established connections with each other during a two-day orientation. They tackled some unusual activities, such as navigating a ropes course while harnessed and suspended at the height of a telephone pole. The course was constructed by Visionary Adventure in East Setauket.

"In addition to developing our staff members' connections with their colleagues, the elements course helped them understand how many students feel when they are outside their comfort zones," Superintendent Fino Celano said. "The activity strengthened our teachers' ability to relate to and empathize with students."

Freshmen at Sanford H. Calhoun High School in Merrick rotated among five stations to discuss school policies, athletics, student responsibilities, clubs and technology -- all part of an effort to familiarize them with the school's day-to-day routine. Principal Nicole Hollings also shared information on community service opportunities during the orientation in August.

In Freeport, incoming fifth-graders at Caroline G. Atkinson Intermediate School participated in a treasure hunt and completed word searches and crossword puzzles as a way to interact with each other. Upperclassmen took the younger students on a tour of the school.

More than 200 incoming sixth-graders at North Shore Middle School in Glen Head attended a barbecue, during which they learned to open their lockers and met their new teachers.


Incoming seventh-graders at Babylon Junior-Senior High School were introduced to their new surroundings with an orientation that included a video tour of the building and an overview of the school's clubs, sports and extracurricular activities. They also learned to open their lockers and attended mentoring workshops led by Student Council members.

"Transitioning from one school to another can be an intimidating experience," said Babylon Superintendent Linda Rozzi. "But with this orientation and the wonderful work of our upperclassmen volunteers, incoming seventh-graders will be at ease and well-prepared."

New teachers in the Islip and William Floyd school districts were treated to bus tours of their school communities to familiarize them with local history and neighborhoods. The 90-minute William Floyd tour included stops at Smith Point County Park, the TWA Flight 800 Memorial and Mastics-Moriches-Shirley Community Library.

Freshmen at Bayport-Blue Point High School were treated to a pizza lunch orientation preceded by group tours of the school led by upperclassmen. School administrators also discussed electives, graduation requirements and how students can best prepare for college.

Incoming sixth-graders at Port Jefferson Middle School attended a welcome-back barbecue to become better acquainted with each other, their new teachers and the school.

ELMONT: New high school principal

Kevin Dougherty is the new principal of Elmont Memorial High School, replacing John Capozzi, who now is the district's assistant superintendent for personnel and administration.

Dougherty most recently served as principal of Promise Academy in Harlem, and before that was an assistant principal and math teacher at the school. He also has been a staff developer in a Pennsylvania district.

"It is a privilege and honor to be a contributing member of the Elmont community," Dougherty said. "I look forward to working with students, staff, parents and community members to build upon the great work already being done and provide our young people with the greatest opportunity for success in college and beyond."

LYNBROOK: New middle school principal

Caryn Blum has been appointed principal of Lynbrook South Middle School. She had held the position on an interim basis last school year as a replacement for Margaret Ronai.

Blum previously served as assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and assessment for the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District. She was principal of Merrick Avenue Middle School for 13 years and also was a teacher and a principal at schools in Queens and Brooklyn.

"I am so excited to become a permanent member of the Lynbrook public schools," Blum said. "I look forward to working with the children and community for many years to come."

VALLEY STREAM: New high school principal

James Bolen is the new principal of Valley Stream North High School, replacing Clifford Odell, who now is the district's assistant superintendent for personnel and administration.

Bolen most recently was assistant principal at Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK High School.

"This is an exciting opportunity -- to be called on by a district like Valley Stream Central High School District is truly an honor," Bolen said. In the new post, he said it is "vital" that he get a sense of the needs and goals of students, parents and faculty, and work to address those.

HUNTINGTON: New high school principal

Brenden Cusack has been appointed principal of Huntington High School. He replaced Carmela Leonardi, who retired.

Cusack previously was the school's assistant principal for three years, and before that held the same position at Hicksville High School. He also was an administrative dean at Walt Whitman High School in Huntington Station.

"I'm very excited about working with faculty and students in an effort to continue our trajectory of success," Cusack said. "Over the last few years, we have seen our kids achieve at increasingly high levels. I look forward to building upon this success and helping Huntington High School move to the next level of college and career readiness for our students."


Patricia Trombetta is the new principal of Sachem High School North, replacing John Dolan, who is now school chief of the East Islip school district.

Trombetta most recently was principal of Sagamore Middle School in Holtsville, also in the Sachem Central School District. That position now is held by Andrew Larson, who previously was assistant principal at Sachem High School East. Trombetta also has been an assistant principal at Sagamore and principal of Grundy Avenue Elementary School in Holbrook.

"I am very excited to be at North as principal, as it was the high school I graduated from," Trombetta said. "I look forward to continuing some of the Sachem traditions and instilling the pride that goes along with being a Sachem graduate."

ORIENT: New elementary principal

Jennifer Wissemann is the new principal of Oysterponds Elementary School. She replaces Joan Frisicano, who had held the post on an interim basis.

Wissemann has been a teacher at Oysterponds for 15 years, teaching grades four and five. She most recently served as a science, technology, engineering and math teacher at the school and will keep that role.

"I am thrilled to begin my role as the new principal while continuing my role as the STEM coordinator and instructor," Wissemann said. "My goal is to continue to collaborate with teachers writing curriculum and creating hands-on learning experiences for our students."

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