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Mineola, Sachem marching bands take top honors

Mineola High School's marching band placed first in

Mineola High School's marching band placed first in the Small School 2 class of this year's New York State Field Band Conference Championships. Credit: Mineola School District

Marching bands from Mineola High School and Sachem Central School District were among the top groups at the New York State Field Band Conference Championships.

Mineola's band placed first in the Small School 2 class with a score of 88.7, while Sachem's band placed first in the Large School 3 class with a score of 85.55. Sachem's band includes students from the district's three middle schools and two high schools.

The 46th annual event included more than 5,000 students last month from some 50 high schools, along with three out-of-state-bands, at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. Each band's performance consisted of a roughly 10-minute show evaluated by a panel of judges on musical and visual presentation.

"It's always a big deal to win," said Mineola marching band director Christopher Toomey, noting his school also won its class in 2009 and 2018.

Mineola's performance, titled "The Walkabout," portrayed the Aboriginal Australians' rite of passage in which young males live in the wilderness for up to six months to make the spiritual transition into manhood. It included original music by the band's composer and drill writer Ken Kamping.

Sachem's show, titled “RemiX,” featured students performing with a series of X-shaped props and platforms accompanied by variations of Beethoven's "Symphony No. 5” as created by composer Randall Standridge. The district also won its class in 2008.

"I'm so beyond happy for these kids," Sachem marching band director Thomas Carroll said. "They're some of the hardest-working students I've seen come through Sachem."


New principal

Christine Dragone is the new principal of Willets Road Middle School. She replaced Robert Hanna, who held the position on an interim basis.

Dragone previously was an assistant principal at North Side Elementary School in East Williston and has taught with the New York City Department of Education.

"I am looking forward to the continued collaboration with the East Williston community to support the success of our students," Dragone said.


21st Century Learning Lab

Valley Stream School District 30 has unveiled a new 21st Century Learning Lab at the district's Washington Avenue Elementary, which previously was used as a kindergarten center and for district offices.

The lab was created using a federal grant and includes technology ranging from virtual reality headsets to MERGE Cubes. Students from the district's three elementary schools have worked on projects there ranging from creating a working battery using lemons to using modeling clay to explore Earth's layers.

"The goal of the lab is to give students uninterrupted time to allow them to focus on a curriculum-based project that's aligned to STEAM," said Jennifer Lewner, the district's assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math.


Bullying prevention

Many local schools taught the importance of kindness and respect in recognition of National Bullying Prevention Month in October.

In Franklin Square, John Street Elementary hosted an anti-bullying week that included different themes for each day, including a "Hats Off to Upstanders Day" and a "Team Up Against Bullying Day" in which students wore hats and sports jerseys to school, respectively.

In Farmingdale, Woodward Parkway Elementary hosted three assemblies featuring children's author Trudy Ludwig, who shared suggestions on how to face a bully. Ludwig's books include "The Invisible Boy," "Confessions of a Former Bully" and "My Secret Bully."

In East Meadow, eighth-graders at Woodland Middle School heard the emotional story of John Halligan, a Vermont man whose 13-year-old son Ryan died by suicide after years of bullying in 2003.

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