Southampton High School is one of nine schools statewide — and the only one from Long Island — to be recognized for its leadership's efforts to create an inclusive school community.
The school has been named a National Banner Unified Champion School by Special Olympics International, a distinction that marks the highest level of achievement among the nation's 10,000 Unified Champion Schools. Nationwide, 155 schools received the designation.
Unified Champion Schools are those that demonstrate a commitment to social inclusion with sports as a foundation, according to Special Olympics.
"This is an amazing honor for Southampton, one that our schools, students, parents and entire school community has accomplished together," said Southampton Principal Brian Zahn.
To be eligible for the designation, schools must have students with and without intellectual disabilities play on the same interscholastic sports team. The students also must serve as youth leaders who engage the school community in activities that encourage and promote inclusion among peers.
Southampton's efforts have included unified programs for basketball, bowling, floor hockey, soccer, and track and field. The school district also has a unified physical education program and hosted a Special Olympics track and field competition during the 2013-14 school year.
"Every day, I see teammates with and without intellectual disabilities forming real connections by training and competing together," said Southampton's Unified Coach Brian Tenety. "That connection, and that confidence, transcend the playing field."
Brenda Almendarez-DeBello is the interim principal of Tamarac Elementary School. She replaced Michael Saidens.
Almendarez-DeBello had been an assistant principal at Sachem High School East since 2017, and before that was an administrative intern and bilingual mathematics teacher in the Uniondale School District.
"For this upcoming school year, we may not have the opportunity to make it look like it has in the past, but we do have a chance to make it better," Almendarez-DeBello said. "While I can't promise perfection, I hope to reassure you that I will always work tirelessly and collaboratively to address these concerns and establish a safe and secure learning environment for our children and staff."
Brittany Carriero is the new principal of Pierson High School. She replaced Jeff Nicholas, who is now the district's superintendent.
Carriero has been the principal of Pierson Middle School since 2018 and will continue in that role along with her principal post at the high school.
"There is no better candidate to lead our secondary school through the challenges we are facing under a global pandemic," Sag Harbor Superintendent Jeff Nichols said. "Her leadership experience, knowledge of our students and school community, and her genuine passion for education make her an ideal fit for our district."
Merit scholarship semifinalists
Nearly 250 high school seniors from Long Island are among about 16,000 nationwide named semifinalists for 2021 scholarships issued through the National Merit Scholarship Corp. They now have the opportunity to continue in the competition in spring 2021 for more than 7,600 scholarships worth more than $30 million.
Long Island's school districts with the most semifinalists were: Syosset, 32; Great Neck, 29; and Jericho, 21. The Half Hollow Hills and Port Washington school districts each had 16, while Manhasset had 13, and Herricks had 10.
To become a finalist, the student and a school official must submit a detailed scholarship application in which they provide information about the pupil's academic record, community service efforts and leadership experience, among other things.