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Nassau: Getting kids started

New Finley Middle School principal Nelson Iocolano shed

New Finley Middle School principal Nelson Iocolano shed his suit for a T-shirt and tongs to man the grill at the PTA’s welcoming barbecue for the incoming sixth-grade class in Glen Cove.

There's much more to the school year's start than just opening the doors.

Long Island schools hosted everything from welcome-back celebrations to building tours to mentoring sessions in an effort to ease youngsters into the classroom environment while also introducing them to new classmates, new buildings and extracurricular activities.

In Glen Head, North Shore High School held a freshman barbecue where the school's Peer Leaders Club met incoming freshmen to discuss their worries about the first year of high school, as well as help locate lockers and plot out routes to classes. Meanwhile, North Shore sixth-graders attended an orientation that included meet-and-greet games and classroom tours.

"North Shore Middle School is a place where everyone feels that they matter, where everyone takes time to care about the individual needs of others," principal Marc Ferris said in a speech to new students.

In Glen Cove, Robert M. Finley Middle School hosted a sixth-grade orientation in which social worker Linda Batson discussed the academic and community service requirements needed to eventually become a member of the school's National Junior Honor Society.

Current members led a scavenger hunt to acquaint the sixth-graders with the school, while principal Nelson Iocolano advised them to tell teachers if they ever feel bullied.

"You're in the major leagues now," said Glen Cove Superintendent Joseph Laria, who was on hand to wish kids well. "Welcome to young adulthood."

In Hempstead, Alverta B. Gray Middle School and Hempstead High School's College Preparatory Academy for Business and Law hosted orientations where incoming students obtained schedules and ID cards and learned about after-school activities.

Other events included a Superintendent's Conference Day in the Bethpage and Locust Valley school districts in which staff reviewed the previous year and discussed the challenges ahead.



New principal

Joseph M. Spero has been appointed principal of East Rockaway High School. He replaced William Fortgang, who retired.

Spero most recently served as principal of Nyack High School in Rockland County and associate principal at Ossining High School in Westchester County. Earlier he was an English teacher in Queens, a job that he said taught him to meet the needs of a diverse population.

"I am proud to bring my experience and knowledge to East Rockaway, a community shaped around a foundation of values similar to those instilled in me growing up in Flushing, Queens," Spero said in a recent letter to the school community.



New superintendent

James Opiekun is the new superintendent of the Floral Park-Bellerose Union Free School District. He replaced Lynn Pombonyo, who retired.

Opiekun most recently served as superintendent of Kinnelon Public Schools and has served in the same position at the East Rutherford and Montague school districts, all of which are in New Jersey. Other positions he held are principal of Hardyston Township School District and history teacher at Hopatcong High School, both in New Jersey.



New principals

A trio of new elementary school principals set to work in the Levittown Union Free School District: Frank Mortillaro at Northside, Keith Squillacioti at Summit Lane and George Maurer at Abbey Lane. Squillacioti replaced the retiring Sally Evans, while Maurer replaced the retiring Joann Wallace. Mortillaro previously was Northside's interim principal.

Squillacioti previously served as principal and director of special education of Northside. Maurer most recently served as assistant principal of Mineola Middle School and was an elementary and middle school teacher in the Locust Valley Central School District.



Volunteer nominations

Nominations are being accepted by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards in its search for top youth volunteers nationwide for 2013. The program honors young people in public or private middle or high schools for outstanding acts of volunteerism.

The Spirit of Community Awards are conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

State-level judges review entries and select 102 state honorees -- two from each state and the District of Columbia -- based on personal initiative, creativity, effort, impact and personal growth. State honorees receive $1,000, a silver medallion, and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C.

Ten students will be named national honorees and receive $5,000 awards. For information about submitting entries, visit The deadline is Nov. 6.

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