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Mineola, Sachem marching bands take top honors

In Holbrook, students at Merrimac Elementary School in

In Holbrook, students at Merrimac Elementary School in the Sachem Central School District recently opened a time capsule left by students in 1989. Merrimac alumni will visit the school later this year to view the materials as well as items that current students will place in their own time capsule. Credit: Sachem Central School District

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

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

The 46th annual event last month included more than 5,000 students 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.

"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."

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.

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.

"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.


New principals

The Huntington School District has two new principals: Traci Roethel at J. Taylor Finley Middle School and Lara Gonzalez at Woodhull Intermediate School. Roethel replaced the retiring John Amato, while Gonzalez replaced Roethel.

Roethel previously was principal of Woodhull since 2014 and before that served four years as an assistant principal at Candlewood Middle School in Dix Hills.

Gonzalez most recently served five years as an assistant principal at Oyster Bay High School.

"I am looking forward to working with the faculty and staff, and I am happy to be back at the middle school level where I started my administrative career," Roethel said.


Teen mental health

Smithtown High School East senior Alexis Albert recently succeeded in getting the Suffolk County Legislature to approve a bill she helped develop with Legis. Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) designating every November as "Teen Mental Health Awareness Month" in Suffolk County. 

Her efforts are part of a larger campaign through her school's DECA Chapter called BREATHE, which stands for Boosting, Reforming and Enriching Access to Health Education.

"Mental health is central to everyone's well-being, particularly teenagers and young adults, so it is important that we know the signs of mental illness and the resources to provide assistance," Trotta said.


Bullying prevention

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

In Lindenhurst, Daniel Street Elementary students learned to identify different ways in which someone could be bullied and the importance of including peers who may feel excluded through an interactive theater program called "Box Out Bullying."

In Amityville, students at Park Avenue Memorial Elementary and Edmund W. Miles 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.

In West Babylon, the high school hosted an assembly that featured X Games professionals performing stunts on skateboards and bikes while providing anti-bullying information. It was sponsored by the U.S. Marines. 

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