See what’s new this year at our local schools

Third grader Matt McGunnigle showed his excitement as he stepped off the bus. He said he couldn't wait to see his friends and learn.

Schools across Southold Town opened this week and many new faces greeted students as they got off the bus, most notably in the Greenport School District, which has more than 18 new faculty members.

Eight full-time teachers and a part-timer were hired, along with four teacher assistants and four support staff — mostly in the business office to replace staff who recently left the district, Superintendent David Gamberg said in a recent interview.

The district was able to hire new staff and reinstate numerous teaching positions this year because voters approved a nearly $13.7 million budget in May, which pierced the tax levy cap with an 8.52 percent increase.

“I am very excited about bringing ‘new eyes wisdom to support the old eyes wisdom’ that we have in Greenport,” Mr. Gamberg said in an email. “I think I speak for many people who share my excitement in bringing on board a great group of new staff to work with our very dedicated staff in Greenport.”

Chris Golden, longtime Greenport resident, high school history teacher and the district’s new athletic director, gave 12 of the new hires a tour of the village last week. Elementary principal Joseph Tsaveras drove the bus, which has operated as the district’s Book Mobile this summer, through residential neighborhoods, down Front Street and past numerous village landmarks, including Mitchell Park and Eastern Long Island Hospital.

“As you might know,” Mr. Golden explained to the newcomers, “Greenport is a very small, tight-knit community. The school is the hub and kind of the center.”

The district also shifted its part-time librarian and psychologist positions to full-time and added full-time teachers for reading, special education and English as a Second Language (ESL).

The district is also looking to create a new position: a part-time science, technology, engineering arts and math (STEM) teacher for grades K-8, Mr. Gamberg said.

Greenport also received two grants to launch new programs this year: $60,000 for Project Fit America fitness equipment and curriculum, and $10,000 from Seeds of Change to expand the school garden.

The Southold school district, where Mr. Gamberg is also superintendent, also has additions slated for this year, including physical education programs.

A $10,000 donation from the Southold Athletic Association paid for a new fitness room at the elementary school. Elementary students will also find more equipment in the school’s playground. High school students will take part in Fit For Life, a physical education program that includes an interactive online component, Mr. Gamberg said.

Inside the classroom, he said, ninth-graders will be able to take a new Science Research II course and a coding program will be offered to high school students.

In addition, the district’s garden program will now include a “fully functioning greenhouse,” Mr. Gamberg said.

“I am looking forward to honoring the unique qualities and strengths of each district and finding ways to best support the mission of both learning communities,” the superintendent said. “Where there are opportunities to share professional expertise I will support these programs and individuals.”

In Mattituck, the new school year also brings with it new student garden programs.

The district is offering a greenhouse course in which high school students work with elementary students work and create gardening lesson plans for them, Superintendent Anne Smith said.

As for staff development, Dr. Smith said faculty members gathered this summer to “focus on stronger collaboration within the district” and the entire staff participated in an AED and CPR training course during orientation led by athletic director Gregg Wormuth.

“It only made sense to me that the more people who knew how to provide emergency care would add to a more safe school and community,” he said. “I think they felt empowered that they could provide this care if needed. That’s the why we did it.”

The faculty and Board of Education also created focus groups to work on deciding what’s best for the district in the future, especially to address concerns about dwindling enrollment concerns.

“There’s a lot of excitement about shaping the future,” Dr. Smith said. “We love what we have, but what’s next? We’re regrouping to make sure we pay attention to what’s important to our students.”

The New Suffolk School, which has an enrollment of 12 students, hired a new physical education teacher and is reassigning some teachers to different grade levels, school board president Tony Dill said.

“I thought that a lot of the new people we brought in — a new art teacher, a new gym teacher and a new language teacher — they got their feet wet and really produced some remarkable results for the elementary grades,” he said.

Over at Oysterponds Elementary School in Orient, students and staff are celebrating the district’s 50th anniversary.

The building, which opened in 1966 after a merger of the Orient Point and East Marion districts, will be decorated with pictures highlighting the school’s history, Superintendent Richard Malone said.

The K-6 school is also expanding the use of personal learning plans to all students. The program was introduced last year with a select group of children. Mr. Malone said a personal learning plan identifies learning methods that are best suited to each individual student.

“Teachers will be writing narratives in lieu of report cards,” Mr. Malone said. “The narrative reports are based on the personal learning plan and the growth and accomplishment of students over the designated periods of time.”

In addition, the district’s pre-K program has been expanded this year to include children as young as 3. The program offers both half- and full-day options, the superintendent said, adding that he believes most students will attend full-day classes.

Due to the success of the district’s pre-K program, Mr. Malone said, enrollment has increased from 76 students to 93 this year.

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Top photo: Third grader Matt McGunnigle showed his excitement as he stepped off the bus Tuesday at Southold Elementary School. He said he couldn’t wait to see his friends and learn. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

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