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South Country Board of Education Notes – June 9, 2021 Business Meeting

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During the start of the June 9 Board of Education meeting, there was a moment of silence for the untimely passing of Brookhaven Elementary School teaching assistant Mark Brown, a faculty employee for 15 years. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Giani remarked that Mr. Brown was also a Bellport alumnus who was enthusiastic and dedicated to making a positive impact on anyone he interacted with each day. On behalf of the District, Dr. Giani also sent thoughts and prayers to his family.

The meeting also marked the tenure and retirement of South Country faculty. In lieu of the traditional reception, library media specialist Colleen Oates-Robesch prepared a virtual Retirement and Tenure Recognition Video, which was played and can be further viewed on the District website.

The Board of Education also thanked Ex-Officio Board Member Jack Frankie for his service and contributions to the board.

Suffolk County held a successful pop-up vaccination event at Bellport High School on June 5. The event was conducted by Suffolk County Department of Health and 45 individuals were vaccinated. Dr. Giani also reported that masks and face coverings are no longer required when outdoors on school property, according to the New York State and Suffolk County Department of Health. Masks and face coverings are still required indoors. As of June 9, 2021, there were 106 faculty and staff and 316 students who tested positive this school year. Additionally, there was 1 faculty or staff member and no students in quarantine due to close contact.

Teacher Union President Wayne White addressed the board during the public commentary section. Mr. White thanked the teachers for their resiliency and patience during the pandemic and urged the Board to make sure these amazing teachers are kept in the district. He also announced that on July 12, 2021, he will take the position of New York State Director of Social Justice, a position in which he feels he can impact the country and every district and geography in each state.

The first item for discussion was an Advanced Placement Seminar presentation by Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Accountability Elizabeth Doyle, Director of Humanities Jaclyn O’Hagan and teachers John Bishop and Kristen Fehr-Thompson. In addition to describing the program, students Kaitlyn Foley and Alexandria Lewkowski provided video testimonials on their experiences and a description of their projects.

A second topic of discussion was the district website and public relations. Dr. Giani explained that a website committee has met throughout the year with a focus of cleaning up the website and making it more user-friendly. The focus for the following year will be to explore new or improved website options. There was also discussion amongst the Board of Education whether to reevaluate how it utilizes its public relations services. The district is currently exploring what additional services may be available to the District.

The Board of Education updated its reopening plan to reflect current guidance regarding quarantine guidelines. The reopening plan now states that testing is not required to end quarantine if no symptoms have been reported during the quarantine period. However, a test is required if symptoms develop during the 14 days after exposure.

There was a second reading and approval of Board policies 7530 (Child Abuse and Maltreatment) and 8140 (Equity, Inclusivity and Diversity in Education).

Suffolk County School Superintendents Recognize Class of 2021 Valedictorian Anthony Notartomaso

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On Thursday, June 3, the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association continued its long-standing tradition of recognizing the highest-achieving graduates in Suffolk County. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 27th Annual Celebration of the Class of 2021 Valedictorians was presented as a virtual event. School superintendents, valedictorians and their parents gathered in small groups, within their own school districts, to view the event and celebrate the outstanding accomplishments of this year’s valedictorians.

SCSSA President and Center Moriches School District Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ronald M. Masera hosted the event, thanked the association’s corporate partners for their support in helping to make the event possible and congratulated the valedictorians on their success.

“Some of the most highly regarded schools in the nation are located in Suffolk County,” Dr. Masera said. “To achieve the status of a Suffolk County valedictorian is an extraordinary achievement.”

This year’s keynote speaker was Jon Gordon, well-known author of several books including “The Energy Bus” and “The Power of Positive Leadership.” He spoke to the valedictorians about the benefits of positive leadership and the true meaning of encouraging others to succeed.

“You have the power to transform the world,” Mr. Gordon said. “You decide your future. Be a positive leader and impact the people around you. Remember, the best is yet to come.”

The SCSSA would like to congratulate all of this year’s valedictorians, including Bellport High School Class of 2021 Valedictorian Anthony Notartomaso.

This year, on behalf of the SCSSA, South Country Central School District Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Giani presented Anthony with a commemorative program, congratulatory video, a certificate of achievement, a cherished childhood storybook, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” by Dr. Seuss and Jon Gordon’s book “The Energy Bus.” The program and video, which was created especially for the Class of 2021, featured information about each valedictorian’s school district, their formal senior yearbook photo, their college of choice and anticipated major. The choice of the storybook was certainly appropriate, as this year’s valedictorians plan to attend some of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the nation.

In addition to recognizing the valedictorians, the SCSSA and their corporate partners awarded scholarships in every high school in Suffolk County to a highly deserving graduating senior planning to pursue a career in education or social services. These worthy scholarship recipients were selected by their own school districts for this special recognition.

South Country’s Megan Bevan named Social Studies Teacher of the Year

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The district is pleased to announce that Bellport Middle School social studies teacher Megan Bevan was named Social Studies Middle School Teacher of the Year by the Long Island Council for the Social Studies. Nominated by Director of Humanities Jaclyn O’Hagan, Ms. Bevan was formally recognized for her teaching accomplishments during an awards ceremony, held on June 10 in Melville. As a winner of the Social Studies Middle School Teacher of the Year Award, Ms. Bevan has been invited to present at the 40th annual LICSS Conference on Oct. 29, 2021.

Ms. Bevan has taught social studies at Bellport Middle School for 17 years and currently teaches seventh and eighth grade inclusion social studies. She is also the lead social studies teacher at the middle school.

“As a social studies teacher, my goal is to help students develop an interest in social studies and civic engagement,” Ms. Bevan said. “As an inclusion teacher, I also try to create a classroom environment in which students value each other’s differences and work together to achieve goals.”

During the past two years, the Bellport Middle School social studies department has developed a project-based learning experience for seventh graders. One example is Civics Day, in which students identified problems in the community, researched the causes and provided solutions to district administrators and local officials.

Bellport Middle School Students Lead the Change

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Bellport Middle School seventh grade students are not only talking about changes they would like to see in their community, but are, instead, leading the change. During the school’s first Civics Day, held in the library on June 1and June 3, teams of students virtually showcased the work they are doing to make a positive impact on the school and the community. Various issues included bullying, a need for recess, depression, the school’s cellphone policy, reckless dirt bikes and quads, youth crime, speeding, student voices in school decision-making, and homophobia and racism.

District Director of Humanities Jaclyn O’Hagan told the students that Civics Day is an historic one in that the students are poised to make effective change. “We cannot be more inspired by you and the work you are presenting today. Thanks for making this a better place.”

Social studies teacher Megan Bevan explained that for the past two years, the middle school’s social studies department has developed a project-based learning experience for seventh graders in which they are required to identify problems in the community or at school, research the causes and provide solutions to district administrators and local officials. Through preparation for Civics Day and in partnership with Generation Citizen’s action-civics curriculum, seventh graders have learned to effect policy change by engaging in local government and leaders to solve community issues, critical thinking skills they will need throughout their lives.

Utilizing the district’s technology, each student team presented the issue researched, the root causes of the problem at hand, results of surveys rendered to peers, policies in place that affect each issue, and a plan for action. Local officials who joined the virtual sessions were Bellport Mayor Ray Fell and New York State Senator Alexis Weik, as well as South Country Central Office administrators and Board of Education trustees.

Bellport Middle School Principal Dr. Jamal Colson called the students’ research very powerful. He said being seventh graders allows the students to attend another year at the middle school where they will have further opportunity to find or apply solutions to the issues they presented. “You have tackled different issues that no one necessarily wants to talk about,” Dr. Colson said. “More importantly, you have taken ownership [of these issues] and have researched how we can improve our building and the community.”

Bringing Poetry from the Page to the Stage

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Bellport High School students brought the printed black and white words of poems from the page to the stage during a Poetry Alive! performance and two workshops. A grant provided by the South Country Education Foundation provided the special English language arts activity that was hosted virtually by the Poetry Alive! performance group out of Asheville, North Carolina.

During the performance, Poetry Alive! presented popular and not so well-known poetic verse as theater and transformed poems into scripts and the students as actors. With the high school library as a stage, students participated in an interactive experience that sparked their interest in the poetic word. Students enrolled in English Language Arts, English as a New Language and public speaking and debate classes learned to express themselves through such poems as Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” and Langston Hughes’ “Harlem.” Many of the students had the opportunity to try their hand at blackout poetry, a way of changing the meaning of a poem by blacking out the words of a poem except for a select few.
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