The Westhampton Beach Junior Fire Department has earned the state's top honor for its dedication to fire safety and community service.
The 28-member junior program, which consists of area students ages 12 to 18, has been named the 2020 Youth Group of the Year by the Firemen's Association of the State of New York. Three students attend Westhampton Beach Middle School, while the rest attend Westhampton Beach High School.
This is the fifth consecutive year the honor has gone to a junior fire department on Long Island. The previous four winners came from Mineola, Mastic, Hicksville and Great Neck.
"The juniors deserve the credit for their commitment to the program and their community," said Paul Hoyle, head adviser for the Westhampton Beach Junior Fire Department. "They truly embody the meaning of giving back."
Westhampton Beach's junior program allows youth the opportunity to gain technical skills they can apply toward a future career, or as a volunteer, in the fire and emergency services.
Members also accumulated over 1,000 hours of community service this past year through events ranging from a beach cleanup to a fundraiser in which they rolled in the mud at the middle school to benefit childhood cancer research.
Sharon Deland is the new principal of Medford Elementary School.
Deland has held various teaching positions in the Patchogue-Medford School District — including serving as director of elementary humanities, reading and libraries; the director of K-12 English language arts, reading and libraries; and the director of English as a new language, world languages and bilingual programs. She also served as administrative assistant to the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction and the assistant principal of South Ocean Middle School.
"This year will certainly bring some distinct challenges given the situation we find ourselves in with this pandemic, but I'm confident that by working together we can meet those challenges and prevail for the benefit of our students," Deland said.
Christine Tona has been named interim superintendent of the Riverhead Central School District. She replaced Aurelia Henriquez, who resigned.
Tona previously served as the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for the district, which she joined in 2016. Before that, she served as the executive director of curriculum and instruction for the West Babylon School District and principal of the district's Forest Avenue Elementary School.
"With the challenges presented by the current health crisis, I am eager to see our students return to our schools," Tona said. "Throughout the school year, I look forward to collaborating with our students, staff and families to celebrate the wonderful programs and opportunities that exist in Riverhead and explore new ones that would help our students reach their fullest potential."
Jason Westerlund has been appointed principal of Frank J. Carasiti Elementary School. He replaced Viriginia Gibbons, who retired.
Westerlund spent 14 years at PS 101, where he was on the school leadership team as a data specialist and the math lead teacher. He has also served as a senior math Common Core fellow for New York City and as an assistant principal at PS 144.
"At my core, I believe in student-centered learning, the power of targeted small-group instruction, and the importance of social-emotional learning alongside academic instruction," Westerlund said. "I look forward to partnering with an amazing staff and community that is near and dear to my heart as we guide our students toward reaching their potential as lifelong learners both inside and outside the classroom."