Keeping the holiday spirit alive, grappling with COVID-19

Posted 12/23/20

LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY — Ah, COVID! First, it was in the high school auditorium, then the cafeteria. 

On Thursday, December 17, the Sullivan West Central School …

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Keeping the holiday spirit alive, grappling with COVID-19


LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY — Ah, COVID! First, it was in the high school auditorium, then the cafeteria. 

On Thursday, December 17, the Sullivan West Central School District Board of Education (BOE) held its monthly meeting via video-conferencing on Zoom, the ultimate social distancing.

The meeting commenced with a moment of silence in honor of former Sullivan West High School graduate, Jailyn Flecha.

Abigail Gaebel, the student member of the board, explained that the student council recently held a candy cane fundraiser as “a fun way to share some cheer,” the sophomore class hosted a virtual gingerbread decorating class and, with the assistance of the school’s National Honor Society, a new tutoring program was developed “to connect junior high students with senior high tutors, helping students work together in challenging assignments.”

“As the holiday season unfolds, we are keeping the holiday spirit alive. We’ll come back in 2021 for a fresh beginning,” she said in conclusion.

Board member Annette Rasmussen updated the board regarding several proposed amendments to existing policies: #6215 (probation and tenure), #7110 (comprehensive student attendance), #7240 (student records: access and challenges), #7511 (immunization of students) and #8120 (equity, inclusivity and diversity in education).

Rose Joyce-Turner, president of the board, expressed her desire to see an update to the controversial grading system that was presented at the previous monthly board meeting, “hopefully by February.”

Joyce-Turner questioned how it helped students in the first marking period versus the second marking period, adding she would like the administration to submit periodic reports to the board comparing “how the [new grading] policy is working. Is it beneficial for our students, or less beneficial?”

In his administrative report, superintendent of schools Stephen A. Walker singled out two students and a staff member for special recognition. 

Nathan “Nate” Diehl, a second-grader at the elementary school, was selected as Student of the Month for “regularly helping his classmates when they need assistance, and for exemplifying the kind of kindness and helpful behavior we look for in all our Bulldogs. His favorite part of school is recess, and his sister describes him as a pretty good little brother,” said Walker.

Arron Keller, a 13-year-old eighth-grader, recently placed first in the boys’ 13- to 14-year-old division in the 4,000-meter course at the AAU Cross Country National Championships at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee, FL on December 5.

He grabbed gold with a time of 12:30.80 ahead of second-place runner Cole Jameson’s time of 12:33.34 and Gavin Engtrakul’s third-place posting of 12:35.29.

“Congratulations. Great job, and keep up the good work,” said athletic director David Eggleton.

Brenda Manzi, “a vital part of the nurses’ office,” was recognized as the newest Sullivan West Standout.

“For the past 10 years, she has greeted and supported students and staff members, communicated with families and helped ensure that all visitors to the nurse’s office are treated kindly and with care and discretion,” said Walker.

According to Walker, Manzi tries to live by the motto, “Don’t let the world change your smile; let your smile change the world.”

“She shared that she loves giving back to the schools in the area that raised her,” added Walker, noting that, in Manzi’s words, she “loves seeing the kids every day, and making them feel good that they are here... passing my smile along to them and having them say hello to me, even if it’s early in the morning and they’re still waking up!”

In other student news, a quartet of advanced-placement seminar students in Billy Templeton’s class shared videos of projects they developed to help their peers deal with the unprecedented aspects of the pandemic, including how hybrid learning affects students and a video appearance by the senior select choir. 

Taylor Allen and Elizabeth Chellis discussed a peer tutoring lab, while Jessica Schwalb and Zachary Stevenson presented virtual meetings in which students led discussions of areas they are passionate about, including the presentation featuring the choir. 

In personnel matters, tenure was granted to Madelaine Ramo as a teaching assistant, Ashley Kutschera was appointed typist/secretary in the high school guidance office, Kristen Sayers was appointed as a full-time teacher aide, and Dorothy Cohen and Angela Jamieson were appointed as three-hour teacher aides.

The board accepted the resignations of three part-time teacher’s aides: Douglas Farrell, Courtney Conner and Kristen Sayers.

The board created the position of accounting supervisor in the business office, and appointed substitute personnel and extracurricular positions.

The next regularly scheduled Sullivan West BOE meeting is scheduled for Thursday, January 21 at 7 p.m.


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