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Suffolk School Notebook: Virtual visitors include celebrities, authors

In East Islip, second-graders at Connetquot Elementary School

In East Islip, second-graders at Connetquot Elementary School were treated to a virtual visit from Reena Pagnoni, author of the "Rambee Boo" children's books series, via Google Meet. Credit: East Islip School District

Long Island schools have been inviting a variety of virtual visitors — ranging from celebrities to children's authors — into their classrooms amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In New Hyde Park, Village Mayor Lawrence Montreuil recently discussed his day-to-day responsibilities through Google Meet with students in the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park School District. Meanwhile, John Contratti's fourth-grade class in the district's Garden City Park School have been interviewing well-known performers — such as actress Maureen McCormick from the 1970s sitcom, "The Brady Bunch."

"My main goal of hosting these Skype interviews is to show the students how to hold meaningful conversations with people," said Contratti. "Maybe it will spark an interest in a future career in broadcasting."

In Ronkonkoma, kindergartners at Edith L. Slocum Elementary School supplemented their unit on weather with a visit from NBC New York meteorologist Matt Brickman on Google Meet. Brickman incorporated prerecorded videos by his colleagues to teach about climate and covered his arms in shaving cream to demonstrate different types of clouds.

In East Rockaway, sixth-graders at Centre Avenue Elementary School were joined by Richie Chu, a software development engineer for Amazon Robotics, during Computer Science in Education Week. Chu's topics lncluded programming robots and college and career readiness.

In Riverhead, Pulaski Street Elementary School students were visited by children's author Beth Anderson, who explained how she creates her books through the use of photographs, research papers and Post-it notes.

"This visit inspired many students to start writing their ideas and creating their own stories," Pulaski library media specialist Amelia Estevez Creedon said.


Volunteer translators

More than 60 students from Brentwood High School recently served as volunteer translators during a day of scheduled conferences between parents and teachers.

The teens attended the meetings via the communication platform Microsoft Teams and interpreted languages ranging from French Creole to Urdu, the official language of Pakistan. Spanish translators were the most requested, school officials said.

"This initiative proactively involved Brentwood guardians in their child's education and provided them the opportunity to understand the extent of their child's educational performance, opening doors to further enhance parent-teacher relationships for the betterment of our students," Brentwood School District Superintendent Richard Loeschner said.


Earbud donations

Pulaski Street Elementary School recently received a donation of nearly 800 earbuds from the Riverhead Community Awareness Program and telecommunications company T-Mobile.

The earbuds will assist with remote and hybrid learning by enhancing students' concentration and helping them "be more successful overall," T-Mobile officials said.

"Many Riverhead students don't have a dedicated space or enough privacy to fully engage in virtual learning," said the program's executive director Felicia Scocozza. "We are grateful that T-Mobile partnered with us to help these students succeed in their new learning environment, which has been quite challenging for them."


New superintendent

Vito D'Elia has been named superintendent of the South Huntington School District, effective July 1. He will replace David Bennardo, who is retiring.

D'Elia is currently the district's assistant superintendent for business and district operations and before that was principal of the district's Maplewood Intermediate School. He is also an adjunct professor at Stony Brook University, where he teaches a graduate course in the Educational Administration Program.

"Our goal in South Huntington will be to have students become lifelong learners where every student that graduates from Walt Whitman High School will have the ability to go on and extend their knowledge," D'Elia said. "Our work will be to enable students to be college-ready, career-ready and citizenship-ready."


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