Back to School: Here is what’s new as classes begin this week

New Suffolk

There will be no “major changes” for the 15 students enrolled at New Suffolk Common School this year, school board president Tony Dill said. Following the resignation of Martha Kennelly in April, the district is looking to put the focus back on the students. 

The school plans to do that by increasing opportunities for interaction between students and the community. 

The curriculum is expected to remain the same, but there will be some new faces in the classroom. A few part-time faculty members, including the music and physical education teachers, have left the district. Some have been replaced and interviews are ongoing for other positions, Mr. Dill said. 

Additionally, district principal/superintendent Christopher Gallagher is set to retire Sept. 30. Mr. Dill said the Board of Education is now in talks with a retired educator who lives locally and hopes to hire that person, who has not been named, during its Sept. 17 meeting. He added that Mr. Gallagher’s prospective successor is interested in reviving the school’s drama program.

Lastly, minor capital work was done at the school over the summer, including replacing window shades and repaving the asphalt outside. 


Expected changes in the Mattituck-Cutchogue School District have been announced at Board of Education meetings throughout the year.

Most notable among them is the presence of a new superintendent, Jill Gierasch, who has entered a five-year contract with the district that runs through July 31, 2023. Ms. Gierasch previously worked as deputy superintendent of the Plainview-Old Bethpage School District.

The district also received a $200,000 grant from the New York State Education Department to expand the foreign language program it created last year.

That grant, which runs until Sept. 20, 2019, will expand the high school world language program, offer K-12 teacher development, build community involvement in the program and add visual learning. Administrators hope more students will choose to study two languages , the board said previously.

The approved 2018-2019 budget allows for expansion of the one-to-one Chromebook initiative to grades 5 to 8, upgrades to the high school TV studio, equipment for the district’s new wellness center, a districtwide i-communication platform and additional security enhancements. The security enhancements include the hiring of a fifth security guard and an upgraded security entrance that requires visitors to be buzzed into a holding area where they will have to present an ID before they can enter the building, administrator Kevin Coffey explained during a March meeting.


Southold will continue its focus on safety, security and mental health in the upcoming school year. To this end, there will be a security guard, who was added last year, and a front entrance greeter. The district is also awaiting state funding to further enhance security with surveillance cameras and a more secure front entrance, Superintendent David Gamberg said. 

Like the other North Fork districts, Southold is part of the newly formed North Fork Mental Health Initiative. The first of two therapists that will work with the districts was hired recently by the Family Service League, Mr. Gamberg said. 

Students at the secondary level will now participate in an advisory program, with a focus on grades seven and eight, meeting in groups of 10 to 15 with an assigned teacher for brief periods every day. This time is unrelated to academics, Mr. Gamberg said, but is meant to encourage small group contact and establish an additional support system for students. The secondary school will get a new principal this year in Terence Rusch. 

Finally, Mr. Gamberg said, many projects that are part of the overall capital bond work were completed this summer. They include a new TV studio/lab, library media center and tech shop at the high school and, at the elementary school, a new library media center and a tech café.


The Greenport School District will also focus on security this year and will add a security guard for the first time, as well as hire a greeter for the school’s front entrance, Mr. Gamberg said. 

Greenport also joins the Southold, Oysterponds and Mattituck-Cutchogue districts in the North Fork Mental Health Initiative and will implement an advisory program similar to Southold’s for grades 7 to 12. 

An AP Capstone program, the first on the North Fork, will be introduced in the high school, Mr. Gamberg said. It will offer two courses — AP Seminar and AP Research — that promote college readiness through emphasis on skills such as research, presentation, collaboration, time management and critical thinking. 

The Greenport and Southold school gardens, Mr. Gamberg said, will both add hydroponic systems that allow fresh vegetables to be grown on site throughout the winter. Greenport technology teacher Mike Davies will work with his students to develop those systems, he said. 


As part of its STEM program, the district will introduce a Spanish immersion program for first- and second-graders, which will be taught jointly by the classroom teacher and a teacher fluent in Spanish. Superintendent Richard Malone said the program is expected to move with the students through later grades. 

Additionally, Oysterponds faculty members will collaborate with educators across the globe through to develop units of study for their students. 

The district is also expanding social-emotional learning through mindfulness activities, a character education program and participation in the townwide mental health initiative, which Mr. Malone said is designed to “improve access to mental health services for district families.” 

Finally, Mr. Malone said, the district will continue to offer its 101 enrolled students cultural and artistic enrichment experiences through the “Reach for the Stars” program. This year, for example, it will involve approximately 95 percent of the student body in a production of “The Pied Piper” set for April 2019. 

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Photo caption: Students learn how to code at Cutchogue East Elementary School last year. In the new year, the district will continue to offer these courses. (Nicole Smith file photo)