02/09/14 10:00am
02/09/2014 10:00 AM
SANDRA KOLBO COURTESY PHOTO | Work by Pulaski Street School students will be featured in the April 20 edition of Newsday's Kidsday.

SANDRA KOLBO COURTESY PHOTO | Work by Pulaski Street School students will be featured in the April 20 edition of Newsday’s Kidsday.

Fifth grade student volunteers at Pulaski Street School in Riverhead recently met with Pat Mullooly, Newsday’s Kidsday coordinator, to brainstorm assignments including book and music reviews for an upcoming edition of Kidsday, a school spokeswoman said Thursday. (more…)

01/15/14 9:00am
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Pulaski Street School literacy coach Amy Brennan, left, and principal Dave Densieski at Tuesday night's school board meeting.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Pulaski Street School literacy coach Amy Brennan, left, and principal Dave Densieski at Tuesday night’s school board meeting.

Pulaski Street School students are learning to read “closely” by using more social studies materials than in previous years under the rigorous new English Language Arts curriculum mandated by the state.

Pulaski Street School principal Dave Densieski and literacy coach Amy Brennan gave a presentation Tuesday night about how Common Core in ELA is being implemented in the district’s fifth- and sixth-grade classrooms. The presentation, at the school board’s regular meeting, was the fourth Common Core discussion this school year.

Ms. Brennan said students are not only reading more non-fiction, but are also answering questions about what they’ve learned based on the reading materials.

“Close reading is not new,” she said. “It’s just really popular now. It’s a hot topic because Common Core puts such an emphasis on it.”

Close reading involves students carefully rereading text to fully understand the meaning and requiring the students to precisely attribute where they found their answers.

Mr. Densieski said he believes the academic transition from fifth to sixth grade is the most demanding for students and teachers are using the new lesson plans to help students achieve higher standards.

“Thinking is tough and it’s hard work sometimes,” he said. “It is a struggle to think problems out and to think deeper and to think critically, but that is what we’re being asked to do.”

The Common Core State Standards have been adopted by most states across the country and aim to better prepare students for college and careers by requiring instructors to teach more non-fiction and rigorous math to students at a younger age.

After New York adopted Common Core, the state published lesson plans teachers can use to help students achieve the new standards. The state doesn’t mandate use of these lesson plans, but they are available online at engageny.org.

Ms. Brennan said the school is using two of the state’s ELA Common Core modules this year. In fifth grade, teachers are using a module entitled “Becoming a Close Reader and Writing to Learn: Stories of Human Rights.” Under that lesson plan, the books students will read include “Esperanza Rising” by Pam Munoz Ryan.

As for the new sixth-grade module, she said teachers are using a lesson plan about Greek mythology.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, parents expressed concern about increasing rigor at Pulaski Street School because they believe the classes are too large. Mr. Densieski had said during his presentation that class size ranges from 25 to 28 students and teachers are receiving professional development to help customize instruction to their classrooms.
Parents also asked about the repercussions when children do not take the Common Core assessments, a movement known as “opting out.”

Superintendent Nancy Carney dismissed the term, saying that “opting out” isn’t an option for the test. A student’s name is printed on each assessment and presented to them at the start of the exam, she said.

Asked what happens if a student refuses to take the assessment, Ms. Carney said each situation will be handled individually.

She said the district isn’t allowed to give those students other work to do during the test and they might be asked to remain at their seat or move to another available room to read.
If a student is absent on the day when an assessment is given, Ms. Carney said, the test will be presented to the student again the following day when he or she returns to school. If the student decides not to take the assessment, she said, those students “won’t receive a score.”

Ms. Carney said although the district respects a parent’s decision, she recommends that students take the assessments because she believes doing so will help them academically.

“We do encourage people to take assessments simply for the fact that the more familiar students get with assessments, the better they’re going to get at taking the assessments,” she said. “Eventually, you do need to pass assessments in order to graduate.”

A presentation about how Common Core math is being implemented in fifth and sixth grade is scheduled for the next school board meeting on Jan. 28.

Ms. Carney said the district also plans to host a public forum to discuss Common Core and to address any concerns residents have about the district’s curriculum. She attributed the idea to parent Yolanda Thompson, who suggested at last month’s board meeting that a committee be created to enhance dialogue between the district and community.


The superintendent also gave an update on current construction projects and said facility improvements remain on schedule.

Projects at Phillips Avenue, Riley Avenue and Aquebogue elementary schools are in the final stages of construction and have a few punch list items remaining.

At the high school, she said, the new library is expected to open soon, the large group instruction room will be ready by Monday and the new science research lab will be completed in the next few weeks. The auditorium and four bathrooms have already been renovated, she said.

Construction is expected to get underway at Pulaski Street and Roanoke Avenue elementary schools and at the middle school sometime in the summer or fall, she said.

The projects are being paid for through a $78.3 million construction bond project voters approved in 2011.


For the first time, the Riverhead school board meeting was conducted “virtually” through a new online system called BoardDocs, which enables the district clerk to track meeting progress and summarize discussion in real time on a large screen behind the school board members. The software also allows board members to display a three-minute timer during the public comment portion of the meeting, which alerts speakers when their allotted time is up.

Each board member was also given Think Pads in order to follow along with the digital agenda.
In addition, BoardDocs allows the district to post and organize notices, agendas and other information online.

For more information about BoardDocs software, visit the district’s website or http://www.boarddocs.com/ny/rcsd/Board.nsf/Public

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01/13/14 5:30pm
01/13/2014 5:30 PM
COURTESY PHOTO | From left, Riverhead High School students Matthew Barnard, Amy Methven, Aidan Saltini and David White have been selected to preform at this year's Long Island String Festival.

COURTESY PHOTO | From left, Riverhead High School students Matthew Barnard, Amy Methven, Aidan Saltini and David White have been selected to preform at this year’s Long Island String Festival.

The Riverhead School District has announced with students will be participating in this year’s Long Island String Festival and the Suffolk County Music Educators’ Association Festival.

The Long Island String Festival will take place at Ward Melville High School in East Setauket. Elementary students are scheduled to perform Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Secondary level students are scheduled to perform Jan. 31 and Feb. 1-2. Riverhead High School students Matthew Barnard, Amy Methven, Aidan Saltini and David White and middle school student Jacob Nitti have been selected to preform.

The Suffolk County Music Educators’ Association Festival will be held in March. The following students have been selected to preform from Pulaski Street School: Matthew Jakubowsky, Benjamin Mancini. Jordan Devereaux, Madison Kelly. Lily Kutner. Hailey Nitti, Scarlett Olsen, Leslie Alvizures, Nathaniel Bollermann, Lana Fusco; Riverhead Middle School: Kimberlyn Ligon, Alex Montalbano, Christiana Santoro, Brady Wells, Ruby Ernst, Evelyn Kennedy, Sarah Anne Fried, Yasmine Kocan, Lauren Schaefer.

From Riverhead High School, the following students were selected: Ella Baldwin, Peter Cook, Michael Harris, Ryan Mancini, Shannon McAlister, Lauren Schmitt, Philip Schmitt, Nicholas Waldron, Ella Baldwin, Chloe Halpin, Ryan Macini, Samuel Mancini, William Pasciutti, Daniel Jones, Aidan Saltini, David White.

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12/13/13 1:32pm
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Head custodian Carl James in the hallway of Pulaski Street Elementary School, where he started working almost 54 years ago.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Head custodian Carl James in the hallway of Pulaski Street Elementary School, where he started working almost 54 years ago.

When head custodian Carl James opens the door to the basement at Pulaski Street School, a setting very familiar to him, he’s greeted by the sound and warmth of humming boilers.

Across from the massive heating equipment is Mr. James’ office, where a large, shiny-black chair, found for him by a friend about 25 years ago, towers behind his desk. The chair, with armrests desperately held together by duct tape, dominates the space between Mr. James’ desk and the desk that once belonged to his former boss, Walter Budd, who hired him nearly five and a half decades ago.

“For some reason, I just held on to it,” said Mr. James as he opened a top drawer filled with keys that go as far back as the 1930s and open locks that no longer exist. He keeps the functional ones — three rings of about 50 keys each — in his own desk.

As Mr. James scanned the room — walls plastered with his achievements and old photos — he called the 10-by-15-foot office his “little home away from home.”

Now 78, he has been a Riverhead School District employee for 53 years — longer than any other school district staff member from Riverhead to Orient. In February, he’ll celebrate both his 79th birthday and his 54th anniversary at the school.

“I’ve been doing it so long, it’s like what I should be doing,” Mr. James said. “This is just my way of life.”

After graduating from Riverhead High School when it was located at Pulaski Street School, which now serves about 700 fifth- and sixth-graders, Mr. James joined the U.S. Army and toured Europe with his unit. After serving for two years, he returned to Riverhead.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Head custodian Carl James has three key rings like this full of keys and some in a couple of desk drawers in his office.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Head custodian Carl James has three key rings like this full of keys and some in a couple of desk drawers in his office.

At that time, some schools in this country were still segregated, although Mr. James said he’s never encountered prejudice in his workplace. However, racism is not unknown to him.

“It somewhat bothered me because I had been in the service and there were still places [in Riverhead] that I wasn’t allowed to go,” he said. “I couldn’t understand that. I’m not one to make a lot of stink about things, but if you go downtown, you had to go over there. If you wanted a drink of water, you drank over there and the other ones drank over there.

“I’m wearing Uncle Sam’s uniform and I gotta go through this? It just bothered me a lot, even until today,” he said.

Although he wanted to become an electrician, Mr. James accepted a custodian job at Pulaski Street School when he was 23 years old.

“I was hired right on the spot in the hallway,” Mr. James said. “They asked if I could start the next day. I said, ‘I can start today.’ ”

His first responsibilities, he recalled, included the hallway with rooms 112 through 118. A bathroom was also added to his workload. After about 12 years, he was promoted to head custodian and later started a professional office cleaning business on this side. That folded in 1993, however, when downtown offices began to close in a struggling economy.

An education and a career weren’t the only things Mr. James found at Pulaski Street School.

He and his wife, then Rose Cherry, met there and got to know each other better through church. They’ve been married for 41 years and have four daughters — Lisa, Carlene, Tina and Doreen — and nine grandchildren.

Family is very important to Mr. James, the second-oldest of five children. He and his older brother would work on farms along Sound Avenue, picking fruit before and after school.

He said his mother, Estelle, who lived to the age of 101, “taught me that you have to work hard for the things you want in life.”

Mr. James said he treasured his mother’s guidance and support and would go out to lunch with her downtown during his break.

He even went the extra mile by building a home in Northville that would have allowed his mother to move in, should her health decline.

“I told her that if anything happened to her, she didn’t have to worry about nothing,” Mr. James recalled, holding back tears.

Luckily, he said, his mother was “blessed with good health” and even continued to drive until she was 95. She moved into a nursing home during the last two years of her life, Mr. James said, and the family gathered around her bedside right before she died.

Just as his family helped shape Mr. James into the person he has become, he’s helping others who cross his path at Pulaski Street School.

Custodian Tony Madonia, who has worked at the school for six years, said Mr. James is always there to lend a helping hand.

“He has knowledge about everything that is going on here,” Mr. Madonia said. “It’s very unique because this is a building that should have at least two head custodians.”

Claude Pragliola, a 1982 Riverhead High School grad who also attended Pulaski Street, started as a custodian at Pulaski Street about 28 years ago. He said he enjoys working with Mr. James.

“He’s wonderful,” Mr. Pragliola said. “He’s a great man. A great man. He puts up with a lot from a lot of angles and I try to learn his patience.”

Mr. James said his workday starts at 7 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. if he’s lucky, although he may not be not be coming in much longer.

At his family’s request, he is thinking about retiring this summer, though members of his staff will say they don’t believe he’ll go through with it.

“I’ve heard him say ‘one more year’ since I started in 1995,” said custodian Taylor Wayland. “He’s got about five more years.”

Soon after Mr. Wayland made this statement, Mr. James got a call on his walkie-talkie: “Carl, there’s a puddle in the boy’s bathroom.”

“OK,” Mr. James responded. “I’ll send Taylor.”

“You heard that Taylor?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Mr. Wayland said from down the hall. “I heard.”

Asked if he gave Mr. Wayland that task as payback for bugging him about staying with the district until he hits the 60-year mark, Mr. James laughed and said, “Of course.”

But even though his staff of seven custodians fondly pressures him to stay on, Mr. James admits he thinks about retiring every year.

“I might just say, ‘OK. That’s enough,” he said of the possibility he really will retire at the end of this school year. “But if things look promising and upbeat, I may say, ‘One more,’ like I have been saying for the last 20 years.”

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12/03/13 5:11pm

BARBARAELLEN FILE KOCH PHOTO | Riverhead High School band director Lee Hanwick conducts ninth-graders Jessica Sisti (left) and Kayla Myers in playing ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ during the school’s March concert. The orchestra and senior band also performed.

The Riverhead School District has announced its upcoming event and concerts.

• Phillips Avenue’s concert is set for Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the school.

• Riley Avenue’s concert is scheduled for Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium.

• Aquebogue’s winter concert will take place Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. in the school.

• Pulaski Street’s winter concert is set for Dec. 18 at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium.

• Roanoke Avenue’s winter concert is scheduled for Dec. 19 at 7 p.m. in the school.

• The middle school’s eighth-grade winter concert will take place Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium.

• The middle school’s seventh-grade winter concert is set for Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium.

• The middle school’s choir, chamber orchestra and jazz band will perform at Martha Clara Vineyard on Dec. 21 at 11 a.m.

• The high school’s chamber choir is scheduled to perform at House of Praise on Hubbard Avenue in Riverhead on Dec. 11, at 6 p.m.; and the Jamesport Meeting House next Friday, Dec. 13, at 6 p.m. On Dec. 15, the chamber choir will also perform at Diliberto Winery at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. at First Baptist Church located on Northville Turnpike in Riverhead.

• The high school’s winter concert is set for Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at the school. Performances include full choir, and 10th-12th grade band and orchestra.

• The high school’s chamber orchestra is scheduled to perform at Long Island MacArthur Airport on Dec. 19 at 4:30 p.m.

• The high school’s ninth-grade band and orchestra is set to perform the second winter concert on Jan. 15 at 7 p.m. in the auditorium.

• Riverhead Free Library is currently exhibiting student art work. Pieces from Pulaski Street will be on display this month; Roanoke Avenue next month; Aquebogue in January; and Phillips Avenue in February. Riley Avenue and high school students’ art work will be displayed in March.

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12/03/13 11:15am
FILE PHOTO | Whooping cough cases have been confirmed at Riverhead High School and Pulaski Street School.

FILE PHOTO | Whooping cough cases have been confirmed at Riverhead High School and Pulaski Street School.

An unidentified amount of whooping cough cases have been confirmed at both the Riverhead High School and Pulaski Street School, according to a voicemail message sent to parents by the district Monday night.

Assistant superintendent of personnel David Wicks said in the voicemail, “At the time the cases were confirmed, the individuals were no longer contagious.”

“We will be taking necessary precautions to ensure the health and well-being of the students and staff of these buildings,” he continued. “These precautions include, but are not limited to, sanitizing desks and other surfaces throughout the building. If your child develops a severe, uncontrolled cough, you should call your doctor immediately.”

No other details about the reported respiratory illnesses, technically called pertussis, were mentioned in the voicemail.

Mr. Wicks and Superintendent Nancy Carney did not immediately return an email request seeking further details.

The only whooping cough case posted on the district’s website as of 10:30 a.m. was of the district’s last reported case on Nov. 13, in which a case of whooping cough was confirmed at Riverhead High School.

Whooping cough, which health officials have described as “highly contagious,” is transported through the air by coughing and can be fatal for infants.

Early symptoms of whooping cough are a mild cough, a runny nose and a low fever, according to the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As the disease persists the traditional symptoms of a high pitched “whooping” cough, vomiting and exhaustion after coughing fits may appear. Coughing fits may persist for weeks, health officials said. The best way to prevent the disease is immunization, the CDC states on its website, though those vaccinated can still be infected as vaccination “wanes over the years.”

Adults and children, however, may develop pertussis even if they are up to date on their vaccination since immunization wanes over the years, according to the health department. If you suspect that your child has contracted whooping cough, it is urged you contact their physician and request your child is tested for the disease using a special nasal/throat swab.

Those suffering from whooping cough are asked to stay home until he or she has completed five days of antibiotic treatment, according to the county health department.

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10/02/13 12:47pm

FILE PHOTO | Riverhead School District’s Project Fit America program will be unveiled next week at Pulaski Street Elementary School.

The Riverhead School District will hold its Project Fit America opening day celebration Oct. 10 at Pulaski Street Elementary School.

Officials said Riverhead is the state’s first school district to launch the Project Fit America program, a nonprofit a national charity dedicated to promoting children’s fitness, health and wellness in schools.

The program will be implemented in each of the five elementary schools, officials said, and physical education teachers will learn the program’s lesson plans.

The district is also expected to receive exercise equipment under the plan.

In addition, the district is collaborating with Peconic Bay Medical Center and Suffolk County Lions Club Diabetes Education Foundation to create the new fitness initiative.

The event is scheduled to take place between 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.

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06/15/13 4:52pm

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Fifth Grader Daniel Arias reads his essay at the Juneteenth Day picnic held in Ludlam Park in Riverside Saturday afternoon.

The theme of the annual essay writing contest for Pulaski Street School fifth graders is remembering our nation’s struggle with slavery and the reason why it took two and a half years for the slaves of Texas to learn of the Emancipation Proclamation to gain their freedom.

The Juneteenth Day celebration is named for the June 19 state holiday which commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas.

The event, now in its 11th year, is sponsored by the East End Voters Coalition and coordinated by retired school teacher Maryanne Harroun. The students, who study the Civil War as part of their American history curriculum, have to follow a particular writing format, with a certain number of words, and write the essay in the first person as a diary entry as if they were a slave. This year, 120 essays were submitted.

Ultimately, Juneteenth Day is a celebration of freedom. The Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Abraham Lincoln on September 22, 1862 but some slaves in the Confederate states didn’t learn about it until June, 1865.

On June 19, 1865 a Union general announced that “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, that all slaves are free.” Ms. Harroun asked the students to describe in their essays their reaction to that news and what it means for them to grow up free.

The essay contest winners are Angelina Casado, 11, Daniel Arias, 10, and Nadia Rebentisch, 11. Ms. Casado ended her essay with this sentiment, “I smile and know I will now grow up free.” The three winners were given a certificate of appreciation and $50 by EEVC co-chairman Robert ‘Bubbie’ Brown and Larry Williams at a picnic held in Ludlam Park in Riverside Saturday afternoon.

The special guest speaker was Riverhead Charter School executive director Raymond Ankrum. In his remarks he said, “In 2013 we have made a lot of progress, but we still have more to do. We need to focus on  how important education is. This holiday is so powerful it deserves the attention of all.”