A slew of changes in tiny New Suffolk district

New instructors and new lessons, as well as a longer school day, will mark some changes for 2014-2015 in New Suffolk. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)
New instructors and new lessons, as well as a longer school day, will mark some changes for 2014-2015 in New Suffolk. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Returning New Suffolk students are being met with, well, restructuring this school year. The arrival of two new instructors and the return of a special assignment teacher has forced the tiny three-classroom district to change how classes were being taught. 

Martha Kennelly, a former New Suffolk teacher who has served on special assignment at the Mid East Suffolk Teacher Center since 2004, has decided to return to the district, but she won’t be in the classroom, said school board president Tony Dill. Instead, he explained, “She will be working on a new curriculum for all of our grades that reflects Common Core [standards]. It is an attempt to try and build upon the experience she had working at the teacher center.”

Ms. Kennelly, who was director of the Ridge center, said she decided to return to the district following the resignation of former head teacher Holly Plymale. The center, which is funded through the state education department, provides professional development, technology training and resources to Suffolk County educators.

“If this is the capacity [in which] they see me best benefiting the district, then that’s what I need to do,” she said, while admitting she was disappointed to not be back teaching.

Still, she said she would work hard to write “fabulous curriculums” to benefit the teachers and students of New Suffolk.

Mr. Dill said Ms. Kennelly will work directly with district Superintendent Michael Comanda, who will oversee her work.

The district has also hired a second full-time teacher assistant, Lisa Mauro of Laurel, to help Sara Campbell teach the school’s upper-grade students.

Ms. Mauro will help Ms. Campbell teach the 10 students in grades two through six.

Returning teacher assistant Karen Costello will help teacher Nicole Pollina with the district’s seven pre-K and first-grade students.

Both Ms. Lauro and Ms. Costello hold advanced teaching and special education certifications, Mr. Dill said.

Last year, head teacher Holly Plymale taught the primary grades with the help of Ms. Costello, while Ms. Campbell taught math and science and Ms. Pollina taught English and social studies to the elementary grades.

“There were four teachers in the school last year, and this year we will have four again,” he said.

Students in grades 3 through 6 will benefit this year from expanded school days, which will now end at 3:15 p.m., to accommodate a foreign language program to be taught by newly hired part-time foreign language teacher Anne VanHemmen of New Suffolk. Instructors will use the expanded period to offer students extra help and to offer an enrichment-type program, Mr. Dill explained.

“We are trying to give them some idea of how things they are learning in their classes — whether it be engineering, science or math — have practical applications in the real world, “ he said. “That way, they see what they can do with what they are learning.”

As of now, the district has decided to cut its drama program, which, at a cost of $4,000, allowed for two productions a year, Mr. Dill said.

“But if things work out and we can get a break on some expenses, it’s not inconceivable at all that we might be able to find a way to put it back in,” he said.

Mr. Dill said the district might be recouping an unexpected $2,000 in transportation costs for a student within the district who will now be home-schooled. The unexpected change could allow for at least one production for the calendar year, he said.

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