The PTA at Plaza Elementary School in Baldwin was recognized...

The PTA at Plaza Elementary School in Baldwin was recognized for its Pick a Reading Partner Program, which had the theme, "A Minion Reasons to Read." Credit: Baldwin School District

The PTAs at Plaza Elementary School in Baldwin and Flower Hill Primary School in Huntington were recently recognized for their efforts to encourage a love of reading.

The groups were regional winners in this year’s Pick a Reading Partner Program, which is a literacy initiative sponsored by the New York State PTA. The program asks adults to read with children for at least 20 minutes a day.

The state winner was the PTA from upstate Rensselaer Park Elementary School.

“We are excited to share this news with the district and Huntington community,” said Gina Leiter, who coordinated this year’s PARP program at Flower Hill along with fellow parent Jenna Prada. “Last year, our PARP program was selected as the Suffolk County winner, so we are just thrilled to be recognized on a state level this year.”

Flower Hill’s theme, “Blast Off With Reading,” kicked off last spring with an assembly that featured representatives of the Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium in Centerport, which provided students with moon posters and planetarium tickets. In addition, more than 100 “mystery” readers — including parents and grandparents — read over 5,100 minutes to classes during surprise visits, and children took home 1,500 free books during a book swap.

At Plaza Elementary, where the theme was “A Minion Reasons to Read,” students wore blue and yellow during some activities and received special glasses that made them look like the yellow creatures from the movie “Despicable Me.” Their program culminated with an assembly that featured children’s author and poet Darren Sardelli, who wrote a special poem for the school.

“Our PARP program reflected creativity, an emphasis on fun, and a genuine desire to bring together our reading community in a successful way,” said Plaza Elementary Principal Mark Gray.


New principal

Erin Hayes has been appointed principal of John F. Kennedy Middle School in the Bethpage School District. She replaced Kevin Fullerton, who is now the district’s assistant superintendent for human resources.

Hayes had served as the school’s assistant principal since 2017, and before that was a related services administrator in the district.

“I am so appreciative to continue to serve the Bethpage community and remain committed to fostering an environment that nurtures the potential of every student and celebrates their unique talents,” Hayes said.


New principal

Michael Cox has been named principal of the Bridgehampton School. He replaced Michael Miller, who is now superintendent of the East Quogue School District.

Cox served the past five years as Bridgehampton’s assistant principal and director for data and instructional services. Before that, he was an elementary chairman and elementary math and science teacher in Shelter Island.

“My goal is to empower our school community, enabling students to develop and maintain the essential skills required for success in an ever-changing and unpredictable future,” Cox said.


New superintendent

Christine Criscione has been named superintendent of the Mount Sinai School District. She replaced Gordon Brosdal, who retired.

Criscione served the past six years as assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in the Sayville School District. She has also been a principal in Deer Park and an assistant principal for Nassau BOCES.

“The opportunity to serve our community, our staff and, most importantly, our students, is both an honor and a responsibility I deeply cherish,” Criscione said. “I’m particularly looking forward to cultivating an environment that inspires curiosity, fosters intellectual growth and promotes a deep-seated commitment to community.”


New principal

Lauren Iocco is the new principal of Plainedge High School. She replaced Robert Amster, who retired.

Iocco previously served two years as principal and nine years as assistant principal of Cypress Hills Collegiate Preparatory School in Brooklyn, where she started her teaching career as a founding and lead science teacher.

“I am looking forward to continuing to build and expand upon the amazing opportunities and programs that are currently present for the students and staff,” Iocco said. “I believe in creating a safe and welcoming environment where all students have the opportunity to pursue their individual interests and passions.”


New principal

Georgia Afxendiou is the new principal of Samoset Middle School in the Sachem Central School District. She replaced James Horan, who retired.

Afxendiou, who started her career as a social studies teacher in the district in 2006, was most recently an assistant principal at the district’s Seneca Middle School in Holbrook.

“I am looking forward to building strong relationships with the families and the community we serve,” Afxendiou said. “I will work tirelessly to create a culture where every child is loved, cared for, valued and given every opportunity to reach their full potential.”


New principal

Thomas Burke is the new principal of Forest Lake Elementary School. He replaced Jessica Zimmer, who is now principal of Shelter Rock Elementary School in Manhasset.

Burke served the past seven years as an elementary school principal in the Seaford School District, and before that spent two years as a middle school assistant principal in the district. He also taught fifth grade at Mandalay Elementary School in Wantagh and sixth grade at Wantagh Middle School.

“I’m excited about returning home where I started as a teacher and reconnecting with staff and the families,” Burke said.

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