School News

Westhampton Beach Union Free School District
Westhampton Beach Elementary School fourth-graders explored Native American artifacts during a special hands-on program.

Westhampton Beach

Pen Pals

To provide Spanish language students with an opportunity to make international connections and put the language they are learning to use, Spanish teacher Marica Illiano started a pen pal project.

For the project, all 60 of her Spanish II students at Westhampton Beach Middle School have been penning letters to students studying English in Barcelona.

“This project is a very real way for the students to practice the language they have been working so hard to learn,” Illiano said. “I also wanted them to be able to compare and contrast their daily lives with someone their own age in Spain and learn more about their culture.”

Upon receiving letters back, the Westhampton Beach students were surprised to learn that their counterparts in Spain share many of the same interests and hobbies. They have also been sharing recommendations for TV shows, books, and music.

“Our hope is that they continue writing back and forth for the rest of the school year,” Illiano said. “As a language teacher, one of my main goals besides teaching language is to increase my students’ compassion and understanding.”

Students Perform ‘Joust!’

Westhampton Beach Elementary School fifth-graders awed peers, family, and friends as the curtain rose on their recent musical production of “Joust!”

The show, written by John Jacobson and Roger Emerson and directed by music teacher Alexandra Gogas, conveyed the message that problems can be solved by coming together in peace.

“I really liked this show for this fifth-grade class,” said Gogas. “It matched their personalities and musical abilities.”

The fifth-graders worked after school for several weeks to perfect their performance.

Native American Lesson

History came alive for Westhampton Beach Elementary School fourth-graders on January 24 when they learned more about the life and history of Native Americans through Journeys into American Indian Territory, an annual program sponsored by the Parent Teacher Association.

The students heard from program representatives and explored a Native American museum set up in the school’s gymnasium. It featured numerous Native American artifacts, including clothing, dolls, pottery, and a replica of a longhouse. They also played traditional Native American games and took turns making corn flour.

I Have A Dream

Patricia DeCicco’s kindergartners at Westhampton Beach Elementary School learned about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on January 17. Following the discussion, the students designed posters depicting what they learned.


Digging Teeth Into Science

Third and fourth-graders at Southampton Elementary School were excited to learn more about sharks from Gregory Metzger, a marine science teacher at Southampton High School, during a special lesson on January 17.

The students made tangible connections between their current science lessons and the research Metzger conducts with his team as part of the South Fork Natural History Museum and Nature Center’s Shark Research and Education Program, for which he serves as chief field coordinator.

The fourth-graders have been investigating how waves travel in water and in air during their classroom lessons. They learned from Metzger how waves help researchers gather data about thresher and white sharks off the Long Island coastline through satellite and acoustic tags.

The third-graders learned how Metzger’s research is helping scientists understand shark behaviors and physical characteristics. The students will continue the lesson by conducting their own research on endangered animals, including their environment, human impact, and how they can help protect such wildlife.

A Flurry Of Friendship

As part of its character-education program, Southampton Elementary School has inaugurated a winter-themed friendship initiative.

In learning about the character trait of friendship, students and staff are encouraged to “help each other keep warm” by being a friend to all. When a student or staff member catches someone being a friend to someone else, they can write a sentence and draw a photo describing the act on a paper snowball. All of the snowballs are displayed around Sammy the Friendly Snowman, who adorns the main hallway of the school.

Friendly gestures have included students holding the door for one another, and asking how their peers are doing if they appear sad.

“The goal is for everyone to get caught up in a ‘flurry’ of friendship,” said Assistant Principal Jeremy Garritano.

Rotary Student Of The Month

Southampton High School senior Isabella Ellams was recognized by the Rotary Club of Southampton as the student of the month for January.

Ellams earned the honor for her dedication to her studies and school community. She is a member of the National Honor Society, Chess Club, Integrity Club, Varsity Club, and SADD Club, and participates in the International Spanish Academy. A multisport athlete, she captains the varsity tennis team, plays softball, and runs track and field.

Outside of school, Ellams enjoys surfing, skateboarding, photography, and the culinary arts. She plans to attend college on a pre-med track in the fall.


Digital Project Wins Big

Six students from Riverhead High School won the opportunity to visit Google’s offices in New York City in March after recently competing at Stony Brook University in a multi-school collaborative research project as part of their digital generation class.

The winning students worked via internet with students from the Sayville, Northport, Half Hollow Hills, and Westhampton Beach school districts to collaboratively research a project during the course of several months. They presented their research at the Stony Brook competition.

“The experience of working with strangers is like none other for kids,” said student Ethan Halsey. “Working with people you don’t know can be scary, but teaching us at a young age to do so is so valuable to our future.”

The digital generation course was designed to teach students how to use the internet and social media to create a positive digital footprint and better understand their relationship to successful business practices.

Fight For A Fair Share

Led by Superintendent Dr. Aurelia Henriquez, the Riverhead community united during a rally for the Riverhead Central School District’s fair share of state aid on January 18.

Gathered at Riverhead Middle School, the large crowd held signs and cheered on speakers who demanded that the state provide the district with the $31 million in aid it is owed. The aid would help fund needed staff, a nine-period day, and an alternative high school.

“I am so proud of our community for coming together to fight for our fair share of foundation aid,” Dr. Henriquez said. “We will not stop until our voices are heard.”

Sensory Path

A new, colorful sensory path at Aquebogue Elementary School is providing students with an outlet during the school day where they can jump, spin, squat, and hop.

The path, which runs down one of the school’s main hallways, was spearheaded by teacher Susan Leyhane and not only offers physical activity, but academic content. Students can work on their letters and numbers as they make their way down the path.

Poems For Peace

To celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, third-graders in Donna Verbeck’s class at Roanoke Avenue Elementary School penned poems about dreams they have for themselves and for the world. Their poetry was inspired after reading “I Dream a World” by Langston Hughes.

Students Of The Month

Riverhead Middle School students were recognized as students of the month for November and December at a bagel breakfast and ceremony on January 17. The honorees were also presented with special awards for citizenship, academic achievement, and most improved, among others.

Hampton Bays

Flag Flies For John Dekas

In continuing its mission to take history out of the textbooks by honoring a local veteran each month of the school year, the Hampton Bays School District paid tribute to U.S Air Force veteran John Constantine Dekas by flying an American flag in his honor throughout January.

“The district is proud to honor Mr. Dekas for his bravery and service to the United States,” said Superintendent of Schools Lars Clemensen.

Dekas was recognized at a ceremony on January 24 at Hampton Bays Elementary School, where middle school students in the district read his biography. The middle school jazz band performed “What’s Cookin’” by Victor Lopez, and Kelly Velasquez read her winning Patriot’s Pen essay, “What Makes America Great.” The event culminated with the raising of the flag on the school’s flagpole.

Dekas was born in 1936 in Boston. He attended Boston Trade High School, which he completed in two years. Upon graduation, he decided to use his intellectual capability in the U.S. Air Force. The Air Force tested him extensively, and allowed him to enlist in 1954 at the Air Force at the Boston Army Base before transferring to Sampson Air Force Base in New York. He received a top-secret, cryptographic, government security clearance because of his training at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi in highly-specialized technical areas.

In 1955, he was assigned to classified missions that included Shiroi Air Force Base in Japan, working with the British in Kowloon, Hong Kong, China, and working at Da Nang Air Base in Vietnam, and back on Long Island was assigned to the Suffolk County Air Force Base, now Francis S. Gabreski Airport, with the 52nd Fighter Wing.

Dekas served more than 20 years of active duty and was honorably retired in 1974 with the rank of technical sergeant. Returning to Long Island, he completed his education as a certified financial planner at Adelphi University.

He is a past commander of the American Legion, an active member of the Suffolk County American Legion, and a member of the board of governors of the Veterans Administration Volunteer Services. He and his wife, Patricia Ann Micari-Dekas, have a daughter, Dione, and a son, John Jr. Including twin daughters, Brenda and Bridget, from a previous marriage, he has a total of 10 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.


Robotics Competitors

The school’s three Lego robotics teams recently competed in their first qualifying competition at Huntington High School.

As part of their project, one of the teams, The Robonackers, wrote a letter to East Hampton Town’s director of bay management, John Barley Dunne, and the East Hampton Town Trustees asking if they could have a place to start a small oyster farm for the school.

“We thought it was important to educate our school on the shellfish and filter feeders to keep our waters clean from pollution,” team leader Judy Mullarkey said.

A cage of oysters was added to one of the trustees’ oyster gardens in Accabonac Harbor.

Learning About Diversity

Springs School hosted its third annual diversity institute, which was open to students and their families in sixth through eighth grade. They shared ideas about cultural diversity and sensitivity in a complicated world, and worked together on an art project that celebrates the diversity at the Springs School.

“The purpose of the diversity institute is to accelerate this transition by educating students and parents on the importance of cultural tolerance and inclusion in our school and society,” Assistant Principal Christine Cleary said.

Artwork Competition

Students in fourth and fifth grade are having a contest to see whose drawing will be featured on the cover of “High Tide.” The magazine features the writing and artwork of students in kindergarten through eighth grade and is published once a year. The second-place winner’s illustration will be featured on the back of the magazine.

Heart Association Donations

Students in physical education classes have started the Kids Heart Challenge. Students are learning and practicing jump roping while collecting donations for the American Heart Association.


Science Fair

Mr. Malave helped students get ready for the annual science fair. Kate Rogers, who presented “The Climate Reality Project” to the students, was the guest speaker.

Mr. Brunn, Ms. Pombo, Mr. White, Ms. Adamcewicz, Ms. Restrepo, Ms. Jones, and Ms. Krug also helped, and Mr. Stein and the custodial staff ensured the gym was set up in time.

Pasta Supper

The Montauk Parent Teacher Association held another successful pasta supper, put on by Ms. Newbery. The beef pot pie, a popular dish at the event, was served up by retirees.

Student Art Festival

Guild Hall’s Student Art Festival, “Made By Water” is running through February 9, and Montauk students are involved. High school students worked with Ms. Cutillo, Mr. Salzman, and Mr. Lorefice to get their work featured.

Touch Tanks

Stacy Meyers brought her touch tanks to school for a project with the primary grades. The students learned about local marine life and had their hands on everything.


Excitement On The Ice

Bridgehampton School second and third-graders experienced an outdoor adventure when they took to the ice at Buckskill Ice Rink in East Hampton. The no-cost ice skating fun was provided by board of education trustee Douglas DeGroot and his wife Kathryn DeGroot, proprietors of the rink. The school has been taking part in this winter activity for more than seven years.

Exchanging Artistic Values

Ninth-graders visited the Parrish Art Museum to work with artist Bastienne Schmidt on a collaborative collage project that will be displayed at the annual student exhibit in the spring. They were accompanied by art teacher Robin Gianis and English teacher Tom House.

Student Of The Month

Bridgehampton High School freshman Scott Vinski was named student of the month for January. A captain on the varsity basketball team, he was lauded for his leadership skills both on and off the court.


The Rock Cycle

On Wednesday, January 15, second-graders in Antoinette Counihan’s and Rebecca Dansereau’s classes visited The Long Island Science Center in Riverhead to participate in a program called The Rock Cycle. The students are learning about things that can change the surface of the Earth.

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