The importance of peace was one of the first lessons many Long Island students learned at the start of the academic year, as schools hosted activities in recognition of the United Nations' International Day of Peace on Sept. 21.
In Valley Stream, fifth-graders at Alden Terrace Elementary School took "peace pledges" in which they vowed to speak kindly, respect others and care for the Earth. They also reflected on peace-themed quotes by historical figures such as Nelson Mandela and John Lennon, and discussed the importance of communication as a problem-solving tool in world conflicts.
"When we show acts of peacefulness and kindness, we are teaching the students how to be good citizens," fifth-grade teacher Karyn Faster said.
Students at Denton Avenue Elementary School in New Hyde Park participated in a conference call via Skype with Jeremy Gilley, founder of the nonprofit Peace One Day. During the call, children promised to spread kindness by including kids sitting alone on the playground in games and exchanging enthusiastic high-fives and greetings daily with classmates.
In North Massapequa, second-graders at Eastplain Elementary School decorated homemade pinwheels with messages of peace and placed them on the lawn near the building's entrance as part of "Pinwheels for Peace," an international art installation project.
High school students in Amityville recited peace-themed poetry, sang peace-themed songs and planted their own pinwheels in the shape of a giant peace sign.
"While promoting peace through music, art and poetry, students can contribute to our society," said Fran Fernandez, director of fine arts at Amityville Memorial High School.
In West Babylon, children at Santapogue Elementary School decorated dozens of homemade pinwheels with messages of peace and planted them in the shape of a giant peace sign in the school's inner courtyard. The effort was held in conjunction with "Pinwheels for Peace," an international art installation.
" 'Pinwheels for Peace' enables the students to participate in a real-world way in promoting peace at our school," Santapogue Principal Eleanor Levy said.
Students at Tangier Smith Elementary School in Mastic Beach formed a human peace sign on the school lawn to kick off the William Floyd school district's Sixth Annual Unity Week. The week, held in collaboration with the nonprofit Shanti Fund, consisted of age-appropriate activities intended to promote peace and deter bullying in the district's eight schools.
Fourth-graders at Coram Elementary School in Middle Island created "Pebbles for Peace" by decorating rocks with messages of hope and placing them in the school's garden.
In Mattituck, about 30 students and educators from Mattituck-Cutchogue High School were invited to join peers from two dozen schools worldwide at the UN in Manhattan, where they exchanged ideas to help promote peace at the local, national and international levels.
GREAT NECK: New appointments
Teresa Prendergast has been appointed superintendent of the Great Neck school district, replacing Thomas Dolan, who retired.
Prendergast most recently served nine years as assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in the Garden City school district. Before that, she was assistant superintendent for curriculum and personnel and a middle school principal in Lynbrook.
"It is my hope that by working collaboratively with the members of the school community -- communicating, listening, trusting -- we may continue to build upon Great Neck's outstanding tradition of excellence," Prendergast said.
In addition, Gerald Cozine is the new principal of Great Neck North Middle School, replacing Anael Alston, who now is superintendent in upstate Hamilton. Cozine previously was assistant principal at Great Neck South Middle School and at Grand Avenue Middle School in Bellmore.
HERRICKS: New principal
Samuel M. Thompson is the new principal of Herricks High School, replacing Jane Modoono, who retired. Thompson had been assistant principal of Farmingdale High School since 2007.
"I will devote my time this year to exploring and assessing much of the successful things that have been established," Thompson said. "In this way, we can consider ways to increase the breadth and depth of each student's personal and academic development."
HICKSVILLE: New superintendent
Carl Bonuso is the Hicksville school district's new superintendent. He served as interim superintendent during the 2014-15 school year.
Before his work in Hicksville, he was interim superintendent of the Sag Harbor school district and superintendent of the Wantagh school district.
"During the past several months, as the search process unfolded, it became increasingly evident Dr. Bonuso possessed the superior qualities the Board of Education was seeking to lead the Hicksville district and students to the next level of excellence," school board president Phil Heckler said.
Bonuso said, "I look forward to continuing to work together on behalf of the children we love, support and serve."
PORT JEFFERSON: New principals
The Port Jefferson school district has appointed two new principals: Robert Neidig at Port Jefferson Middle School and Christine Austen at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School.
Neidig most recently was assistant principal of North Country Road Middle School in Miller Place. He replaced Antonio Santana, who now is principal of Glen Cove High School.
Austen replaced Matthew Murphy, who had resigned. She previously served as Port Jefferson's dean of students, technology integration specialist and library media specialist.
"It's wonderful to be given this opportunity to come home and give back to the community," Austen said. "Our goal is to prepare our students with skills that will last a lifetime."
EAST ISLIP: New principals
The East Islip school district has two new principals: Danielle Naccarato at Timber Point Elementary School and Hillary Bromberg at Ruth C. Kinney Elementary School.
Naccarato, who replaced Lisa Belz, was principal of Ruth C. Kinney Elementary for more than a decade. Bromberg, who replaced Naccarato, had been an assistant principal at William T. Rogers Middle School and at Fort Salonga and Park View elementary schools -- all in the Kings Park school district.
"I have a passion for education and the energy to help the learning environment thrive in an engaging way," Bromberg said. "I look forward to working with the community and staff as partners in education to help ensure children receive the best possible education in the globally competitive environment of the 21st century."
GREENPORT: New secondary principal
Gary Kalish is the new secondary principal in the Greenport school district, replacing Robert Feeney, who held the position on an interim basis.
Kalish, who is in charge of the high school and the junior high school, most recently was an assistant principal and International Baccalaureate coordinator at Pierson High School in Sag Harbor.
"I'm thrilled to be part of a community so rich in history," Kalish said. "I have felt very welcomed since my arrival. I look forward to building upon Greenport's legacy of success."