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Pride on Display at Islip’s Hispanic Heritage Celebration

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The district held its fourth annual Hispanic Heritage Celebration on Oct. 20, recognizing Hispanic students who have engaged in civic and community engagement and participation within their school while demonstrating pride for their language and culture. Held during the Board of Education meeting at the high school auditorium, the event coincided with Hispanic Heritage month, which pays tribute to the generations of Hispanic, Hispanic Americans and heritage speakers who have positively influenced and enriched the nation and society.

Selected by Islip’s ENL and world languages department, in collaboration with the Hispanic Heritage Committee, nine district students were honored: Zuleyma Coto Guzman of Wingl; Cristian Martinez Ortiz, Alexis Montoya and Emily Sarai Coronado of Commack Road; Dennys Alfaro Umanzor and Bryan Alvarenga of Sherwood; Viancy Cordova Mejia of the middle school; and Daiana Fuentes Velasquez and Jimmy Larrea Salvatierra of the high school.

Suffolk County Legislator Samuel Gonzales, a Hispanic community leader, was on hand as a special guest to recognize the students along with administrators and Board of Education members. As their proud families watched, each of the honorees received a proclamation from Gonzales, an award certificate from the ENL and world languages department, and a gift coupon from BJ’s Restaurants.

“This year’s theme was ‘Hispanics Proud of Their Culture and Language,’ and there are many ways that our students show pride for their culture and language,” said Priscilla Zarate, Islip’s coordinator of ENL and world languages. “Often times this pride can be visible through three concepts of a culture: products of a culture, practices of a culture and perspectives of a culture.

“Products of culture are the tangible and intangible pieces of our Hispanic culture. For example, we sometimes hear our students share stories about how a Sunday cleaning home chore is also about teaching the children how to dance merengue, salsa or cumbia or vallenato. Nothing is done in isolation in our Hispanic culture. Everything is done with intention, to help our children become multi-taskers. So, children learn how to clean, dance and become stronger as Spanish speakers through this task. Another example is when our students share with their peers how they helped their parents cook a ceviche or rice and beans or an arepa con queso for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

“Practices of a culture are the social interactions and behaviors of our culture, and we often see these reflected in our students when they share their traditional celebrations such as: Three Kings Day, Day of the Dead, the Patron Saint Festival of San Salvador and the many other national celebrations that take place throughout Latin America.

“Perspectives of a culture are the attitudes, values and beliefs of our culture that are represented by the importance of family unity, or when students demonstrate signs of respect towards an adult or an elder by making minimal eye contact when an adult is speaking, as it can be taken by our elders as an affront or a challenge of authority. All of these concepts – products, practices and perspectives – are merely examples, representative of the Hispanic culture.”

  

Fifth Graders Find "Happy Place" During Outdoor Lesson

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To start off a fabulous year, Islip’s EXCEL program for the gifted has focused on mental health and social-emotional learning as a top priority. In a recent Inventing Self activity, EXCEL fifth graders were guided through a meditation in an outdoor lesson that incorporated music, a reflective writing activity and creating an artistic visual representation of the students’ “happy place,” which they can choose to go to at any time.

“We are learning how to apply positive psychology to cultivate inner calm,” said EXCEL coordinator Julia Johnson.

  

Commack Road’s Outdoor Chalk Talk Creates Joy

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In a special “Chalk Talk” art lesson with teacher Bethany Majestic, students at Commack Road recently studied Julian Beever, a British sidewalk chalk artist who has been creating trompe-l’oeil chalk drawings on pavement surfaces since the mid-1990s. The students then created their own outdoor chalk masterpieces to beautify the school grounds and get their fellow students excited to start their day when they get off the bus.

“Our amazing young artists set the tone by creating a feeling of joy in students first thing in the morning,” Majestic said.  

  

Islip Welcomes Students Back Safely and Successfully

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Islip’s schools reopened on Sept. 9 and 10, safely welcoming students from each building – high school, middle school, and Commack Road, Maud S. Sherwood and Wing elementary schools – back for a new year of learning in a challenging new environment of masks and social distancing.

“The first day of school was an amazing success for all of us,” said Commack Road Elementary School Principal James Cameron. “It was the culmination of many weeks of hard work and collaboration between the community, parents, students, teachers, staff and administration. Even with all teachers, staff and students wearing masks, we could see their huge smiles and excitement in seeing each other again.”

"This year is so much different than every other year, for the better," said Islip Middle School Principal Timothy Martin. "We get to have two first days of school, and that is wonderful. At Islip Middle School, we know how to make lemonade out of lemons, and we believe that when you look good and feel good, you will ultimately do good."

“Although this year is not the start we had hoped for, I am elated to have students and staff back in the building,” said Jason Cohen, the middle school’s assistant principal. “Life will always challenge us, and it is those challenges that allow us to truly appreciate the good times. There is power in our own positivity, so let’s have great days, then great weeks, to make it a great year.”

  

Brian Kroll Named New Director of Fine and Performing Arts

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The district has named Brian Kroll as the new director of fine and performing arts. Kroll replaces interim director Dr. Jeff Dailey.

Kroll comes to Islip from the Babylon School District, where he had worked since 2000 as Babylon Junior-Senior High School’s director of the junior and senior choir, extracurricular women’s choir, vocal jazz ensemble and chorale, as well as musical director of the all-school musical production and coach of the varsity golf team. During his time in Babylon, he was named an ASSET Bright Light educator in 2010. He served as SCMEA Division III East chorus co-chairperson in 2004 and 2005 and as SCMEA Division II East assistant vice president in 2006, and was chosen to direct the SCMEA Division III East honor choir in 2007.

He previously worked from 1998 to 2000 at the West Islip School District’s Beach Street Middle School, serving as chorus director, general music teacher and Drama Club musical director; and in 1998 at the Comsewogue School District’s John F. Kennedy Middle School as a chorus director and general music teacher.

A Manorville resident, Kroll earned his bachelor’s degree in education from Hofstra University, his master’s degree in music from Five Towns College and his advanced certificate in educational leadership from Stony Brook University.

“Arts education promotes critical thinking and collaboration in order to solve complex problems and to create and appreciate aesthetic works,” Kroll said. “Our goal is to foster art and music education because research shows they are linked to academic achievement, social and emotional development, and community engagement.”

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