Incoming Central Islip kindergarteners, wearing Class of 2036 t-shirts, and their...

Incoming Central Islip kindergarteners, wearing Class of 2036 t-shirts, and their parents attended an orientation session designed to familiarize families with what will be expected of students this school year as well as the services offered to them.  Credit: Central Islip School District/Barbara LaMonica

The first assignment for many students and staff this school year was to connect with their classmates, colleagues and communities.

Many Long Island districts hosted back-to-school events in recent weeks, ranging from backpack giveaways to orientation sessions, in preparation for the 2023-24 school year.

One such event was a two-day orientation for new teachers in the Northport-East Northport School District that included a bus ride through town and a question-and-answer session hosted by high school students to help the teachers familiarize themselves with the seven schools in the district and their communities.

“While every student’s environment is unique to them, it can be beneficial for new staff to get an idea of students’ surroundings and use that knowledge to build connections at the start of the school year,” said the district’s assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, Dana Boshnack.

In Valley Stream, pre-kindergartners and kindergartners came together for an outdoor reading of Mo Willems’ children’s book, “The Pigeon HAS to Go to School,” and made pigeon crowns for a group photo at Forest Road Elementary School. Meanwhile, Clear Stream Avenue Elementary School welcomed children for a day of interactive activities that included navigating a chalk maze.

In North Babylon, the district distributed new backpacks and food items to more than 450 students courtesy of partnerships with local organizations including Island Harvest. The giveaway also included free haircuts from a mobile barber shop called Three Jays Express Cutz.

In Deer Park, incoming sixth-graders had the chance to open their lockers and make new friends during an orientation at Robert Frost Middle School.

“We hope this orientation helped them to start to feel like Robert Frost will be their home,” Principal Eliana Levey said.

BABYLON

New principal

Lauren Fretto has been named principal of Babylon Memorial Grade School. She replaced Jeffrey Haubrich, who is now the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

Fretto previously served as the school’s assistant principal since 2019. Her other past positions include having been a teaching assistant for the Rockville Centre School District and a probationary reading specialist for the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park School District.

“My goal is to keep the best interests of the students at heart, while continuing to promote student-centered classrooms that set high expectations for teaching and learning,” Fretto said.

PLAINVIEW

New principal

Heather Dvorak has been appointed principal of Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK High School. She replaced James Murray, who retired.

Dvorak served the past eight years as assistant principal of Mineola High School.

“I have always been drawn to education, and I have always loved mentoring,” Dvorak said. “In the secondary level, so much of what the students are learning will shape their first steps into adulthood. I look forward to helping Plainview’s students take those first steps.”

SEAFORD

New principal

Jennifer Bisulca is the new principal of Seaford Harbor Elementary School. She replaced Thomas Burke, who is now the principal of Forest Lake Elementary School in Wantagh.

Bisulca has spent the past six years as an assistant principal in the Seaford School District, first at Seaford High School and then moving to Seaford Middle School in February 2022. Before joining Seaford, she worked as a secondary English teacher.

“I know how to prepare students for the next two levels, and I know the great opportunities that lie ahead for them,” Bisulca said. “I’m looking forward to building relationships with students and their families at the Harbor.”

VALLEY STREAM

New superintendent

Unal Karakas has been appointed superintendent of Valley Stream School District 24. He replaced Don Sturz, who retired.

Karakas was previously assistant superintendent for human resources in the Glen Cove School District. His other past positions include being principal of Brookside Elementary School in Baldwin and an elementary school principal in the Bronx.

“I embark on this journey with great enthusiasm, knowing the immense responsibility we have in supporting our students,” Karakas said. “I look forward to working collaboratively with our entire community to ensure that our schools continue to be a place where every child can thrive and reach their fullest potential.”

WYANDANCH

Interim superintendent

Arlise Carson has been named interim superintendent of the Wyandanch School District. She replaced Gina Talbert, who is now superintendent of the Amityville School District.

Carson was most recently the assistant superintendent for central office data, assessment, attendance and registration for the Roosevelt School District. She had also served as central office director of curriculum and instruction for grades 3-6.

“I look forward to meeting and working with the administrators, staff, parents, scholars and community residents as we work together to continue to provide opportunities for all scholars to reach their highest potential,” Carson said.

SUFFOLK COUNTY

Elementary science fair

Seven Long Island students were first-place winners this summer in various grade levels of the Brookhaven National Laboratory’s 2023 Elementary School Science Fair. Projects ranged from studying how different materials react in salt water to showing how hydrogen can be produced through water electrolysis.

First-place winners were: Aditri Arun, Bretton Woods Elementary School in Hauppauge; Vincent Calvanese, Pines Elementary School in Hauppauge; Juliana Gianmugnai, Ridge Elementary School; Emma Kowalik, Ruth C. Kinney Elementary School in Islip Terrace; Siena Roseto, Cutchogue East Elementary School; Norah Sobral, Babylon Memorial Grade School; and Cameron Wallace, Clayton Huey Elementary School in Center Moriches.

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