It’s Time

Six years went by in a blink. But the countless late nights, public hearings, press conferences, crime scenes, phone interviews; you name it, to some it may have been a burden. Most feel happy hour needed more attention.

But the near 72 months I spent toiling my coverage areas truly felt privileged. Some may say that sounds crazy, but I could’ve been working outside of my field with a sullen start out of college if Anton hadn’t come calling. And I thank my publisher, Angela, for putting faith in me to do my job well.

But it’s time to say goodbye. This is my last week as an editor for Anton Media Group, where I’ve run at least six of their publications, my two main papers being the Mineola American and New Hyde Park Illustrated News.

As I prepare to leave Anton, it’s a Thursday in Mineola at our main office. A cold, brisk breeze washed over me as I head to Biscuits and Barbecue for a cup of coffee down the block. I will surely miss these vibrant communities I’ve covered over the years. They were never short of interesting.

I want to thank my sources who took time out of their day to talk to me, both on and off the record. You were at the ready to comment on both the positive and the negative.
You were, at times, in tough spots, but never refused my call or step-aside-chat. You understood that I’d be there when you’re getting commended but also if something went wrong.

To my editorial team. You were the reason stories were clean, why awards were won and friendships made. At times it was tough, especially on production day. Recognizing Betsy, Christy, Dave, Elizabeth, Frank, Jen, Jill, Kim, Maura, Sheri, Steve and Wendy…you are my first friendship-worthy newsroom and I will cherish each of my experiences with you.

To the design team, you were always ready to listen and help with the process that is making a top quality local newspaper. For my lead designer, Donna, thank you for making production day seamless with your speed and understanding when returned phonecalls awaited me, photos to be received and headlines to be formatted.

In this area of journalism, one must appreciate the little things. You may never get a Watergate (although I’ve come close) but you’ll surely inform a community that wants to know what’s going on where they live.

That’s what makes community news special. We may not get the President on the phone, but we’ll tell you when your street will be paved, when businesses open (and sadly close), what the school and village budget is, when your street fair or school event is and how your local sports teams are doing.

This could go on forever.

While I’ve covered my fair share of big ticket news from the NFL, presidential debates and high-profile criminal court cases, the satisfaction paled in comparison to the phone-call from a parent excited their child was featured in the paper for a school initiative or a local war veteran being recognized for their contributions to secure our freedom.

A loving note from a mom excited about her two son’s football accomplishments and even a shout out from the mother of an Academy Award-winner saying her son was featured in some of the top publications across the globe, but she felt my take on her son’s achievement said it best.

I want to thank the readers over the years who’ve called to commend our work and even the ones who rang to detract it. It means people care. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t call.

The time to move on always proves difficult, but a new adventure awaits. I say to the readers and the writers that serve them: keep caring.
—Rich Forestano

Concerned About The Kids

After reading the article “Board Talks Berner, New Academics,” I was left feeling confused and frustrated.

Like the district’s parent meetings and presentations to the school board, where no questions from the public are permitted, the above-stated article was pro-move in focus.

The article never mentions that almost 3,000 Massapequa residents have signed a petition hoping to convince members of the Massapequa Board of Education to vote against moving the 6th grade to the Alfred E. Berner Middle School. Many residents are against the move for a variety of reasons. Among the top reasons I have heard against moving the 6th grade to the middle school are: 1) the potential of an elementary school to close due to increased unused capacity; 2) no real benefit to students in terms of academics; and 3) more pressing academic priorities (such as moving the 9th grade to the main campus) in the district that need to be addressed.

While I acknowledge that Massapequa Superintendent Lucille F. Iconis has stated that closing a school is not part the reconfiguration plan it is hard to ignore the trend in school closings on Long Island. Most recently, Sachem School district voted to close two elementary schools and a middle school citing decreasing enrollment. Currently all our elementary schools are operating below full capacity. Moving the 6th grade to the middle school will create and even larger void that, in the future, may precipitate permanent school closings; when schools close property values drop. Research has shown that many factors directly related to school closings contribute to a decline in property values. Two Massapequa elementary schools have already closed in our district, why increase the potential of having to close another?

With regard to academics, the district’s most recent presentation, Instructional Program and Expanded Opportunities, proposes the opportunity for Languages Other Than English (LOTE) as a benefit of the 6th grade reconfiguration. Strong evidence shows that time spent on foreign language study strongly reinforces the core subject areas of reading, English language literacy, social studies and math. I have yet to see a plan that will fully immerse our 6th graders in LOTE and provide LOTE to all our elementary students. At best, what has been proposed is LOTE every other day to 6th graders after they have been moved to the middle school. In comparison, the Jericho, Sag Harbour and Syosset (high performing school districts with a k-5 configuration) school districts offer LOTE starting in kindergarten—a critical developmental age for children . Why not, put our effort into designing a curriculum that will put LOTE in our elementary schools providing the academic benefit to all elementary students not just 6th graders, as early as possible?

I want to know why the district is so set on moving the sixth grade when the State has indicated major changes to the curriculum are on the horizon. We have no idea of the types of resources that will be required due to the impending change in curriculum. As has been published in several major New York newspapers, the Common Core curriculum was found to be, in many instances, developmentally inappropriate and too difficult. The June 2015 Algebra Regents was deemed too difficult, as few students attained college mastery scores, and the entire curriculum, from grade K-12, is under review. Therefore, moving the 6th grade to the middle school in order to accommodate an evolving curriculum is premature. Additionally, Massapequa has not provided any textbooks or referential materials for students in math classes. How are they supposed to succeed without basic reference books? New York State’s Department of Education (NYSED) itself has stated the math and ELA modules–used as stand alones by Massapequa–were not meant to be a complete set of curricula tools, but instead were intended as supplementary material. Why are we embracing what appears to be an incomplete program? Why are we not supplementing these materials, as many successful districts do? How are we, in these cynical times, supposed to feel that the move is little more than an effort to boost middle school performance on state tests, when no additional and more substantive curricular materials are provided, only more class time dedicated to ELA and math with the modules as the teaching and reference tools? Furthermore, why aren’t we addressing the gaping holes in our curriculum? For instance a student who is in accelerated math in 9th grade cannot go down a step, for there is not a step for them to go down to–the configurations and current curriculum don’t allow for it. Wouldn’t fixing this quandary be a priority so that students who are college bound in three years have more of a chance to succeed where they may otherwise struggle?
Finally, there are many other priorities facing our school district that seem to take precedence over the 6th grade reconfiguration. For example, effort should be put into moving the 9th grade to the main campus so that our ninth graders can have a true high school experience. On the Ames campus they the ninth grade is completely cut off from interacting with the high school. Students I have spoken to say they do not feel like high school students. They indicate that although they are bussed to the main campus to participate in sports and other activities, they often arrive late and are not able to fully participate as they would like. Additionally, they are deprived of important academic and peer-to-peer learning opportunities. Students learn a great deal by explaining their ideas to others and by participating in activities in which they can learn from their older and younger peers. They develop skills in organizing and planning learning activities, working collaboratively with others, giving and receiving feedback and evaluating their own learning.

Another troubling problem with having students at Ames is the additional school transition the students have to experience. Some studies suggest that an increase in the number of school-to-school transitions increases student dropout rates. A few studies also show that the number of school-to-school transitions exerts a negative influence on student achievement.

Overall, I am disappointed in the administration’s attempt to push this reconfiguration on residents in just a few short months (presentations began in November 2015 and the BOE will vote on February 9, 2016), especially since many residents are unaware that this move is even being considered and the reconfiguration could potentially affect their home values and taxes. In addition, unlike other districts (like Sachem) considering a reconfiguration, Massapequa has only presented reasons to move the sixth grade. The district has not provided residents with any alternatives to the move, has not attempted to fix holes in our current curriculum and has failed to provide residents with a 5 or 10 year plan for the newly freed space at the elementary schools. This article is extremely misleading and fails to adequately convey the community’s level of frustration of moving forward with a reconfiguration plan that just two years ago was rejected.

—Allison Pulizzi

Shine A Light And Send It On

12540650_10100397043498806_4166531398833906282_nA recent editorial highlighted the deaths of the late great actor Alan Rickman and iconic musician David Bowie. Last week, another death hit a little closer to home for me.
One of the most beloved professors to ever walk the halls of Adelphi University passed away in a tragic accident. Sculptor and artist Thomas McAnulty was struck by a motorcycle last week while crossing the street near his home on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Upon hearing of this shocking news, as an Adelphi alum, I was not at all surprised to see the university and community pull together, starting with the formation of a Facebook group dedicated to Tom in less than a few hours. With hundreds of members already, the page continues to grow every day and is full of photos, memories, stories and condolences to Tom’s family and friends. That is making a mark on a community.

I met Tom when I spent a summer in Florence with him, art professor Jen Maloney, English professor Adam McKeown and about 22 of my peers. It was the trip of a lifetime and an honor to learn under Tom’s passionate tutelage every day, starting with a drawing of what our day would consist of and ending with a checklist making sure that we were all back safe and sound.

To know Tom McAnulty was to know kindness, love and laughter. You don’t have to be a celebrity to evoke those feelings in another.

I would say rest in peace, Tom, but I know you’re already dancing with the greats. I just hope heaven has an art studio big enough for you.

If this week has taught us anything, it should be that nothing is promised. You never know who you might lose so finish the silly argument, forgive, say “I love you” and try not to let the trivial things spoil all of the wonderful things about life. Be your best and brightest you. You never know who you might be inspiring.

—Jennifer Fauci

Celebrities, They’re Just Like Us

hollywood-walk-of-fame-starLast week, the world lost David Bowie and Alan Rickman. Both the musician and actor were 69 years old and lost their lives to cancer, causing fans around the world to pay tribute to the stars and remember their finest works through social media and memorials.

Celebrity deaths always seem to come as a shock to the world, perhaps because we hold celebrities to such a god-like standard. We expect them to be perfect and flawless, and we attack once they show any signs of humanity such as wrinkles, extra weight or a flub during a beauty pageant.

But celebrities do play into this image. For example, when’s the last time you saw a famous person leaving the gym with sweat stains or frizzy hair? Or a celebrity mom holding her newborn baby, who looks like she actually went through excruciating labor, not a day at the spa? They want you to think they’re perfect, and we love thinking that standard is attainable—whether through workouts, crash diets, makeup, surgery or other measures.

But then, death comes for one of them and suddenly we’re reminded that those celebrities we often attribute to being god-like creatures—well, they’re as mortal as us. They get sick, they die and all that’s left is their legacy. Bowie’s music, which spanned decades, changed lives all over the world and Rickman will live on forever through the roles he played, most notably Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series. Those two left great legacies behind, however, there are plenty of celebrities who left behind tarnished reputations. But you don’t have to pack out concert halls to leave behind a lackluster reputation, and you don’t have to be on the silver screen to leave behind positive memories. So what will you be remembered for? Celebrity or not, it’s a question everyone has to answer.

—Betsy Abraham

At What Cost?

As we begin a new year, it’s a great time to reflect on how we live our lives. Most of us are so busy with work, home and family responsibilities that we find ourselves just trying to make it through each day and week. Here on Long Island, where we have such high expectations, are we really living life or just passing through? And what are we teaching our children?

Nassau schools top national lists, but our kids are getting stressed out as we make it to the top. By fifth grade, they are already being asked to consider what they will do when they grow up. They are 10 years-old, shouldn’t they experience life and be outside playing instead of stressing about what to do with their lives?

Our children are told that if they don’t do well in middle school, they won’t do well in high school. If they don’t do well in high school, they won’t get into a good college and basically, their future is shot. So they’re brainwashed to believe they must get straight As.

It’s hard to believe, but many high school children don’t want to go on family vacations over school breaks for fearing they will be overwhelmed with work when return.
Some have extracurricular activities six days a week and take college courses over the weekend and during the summer to get a jump on the next school year. Why the rush? Why can’t they be kids and enjoy their childhoods?

During his recent talk at the NYCB Theater at Westbury, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, one of the world’s top scientists, said he was a B student. He questioned the notion of kids getting straight As, saying perhaps their courses aren’t challenging enough. Are we raising learners or are we raising the next generation of rat racers?

Something’s got to give. As this new year begins, let’s take some time to smell the roses, hug our children and teach them how to enjoy life.

—Sheri ArbitalJacoby

Until We Know Who’s Knocking

No doubt the recent Paris terrorist attacks followed by events in San Bernardino have left you as shocked and as angry as I am. Like many of you I spent these past few weeks trying to understand the violence and frankly, I just don’t.

Currently, the Obama administration has undertaken the controversial resettlement of thousands of refugees from war-torn Syria into the United States. At first glance, there would seem to be a clear moral imperative to us as Americans to take in some of this displaced population. After all, most of these innocents have been victims of the same type of violence that we saw in Paris, except more brutal and systematic. Yet at the risk of sounding insensitive, I would respectfully suggest that Governor Cuomo join the 31 other governors from around the United States who object to such action and here’s why.

The vetting process: It looks good on paper but is truly without substance. The lack of data is simply too great for the FBI to be expected to perform the task adequately. In many cases, there are no government records, no police records, no fingerprints and often, no official paperwork at all on these refugees. Even if there were, we don’t have sufficient access to it. Syria’s government has been decimated by years of civil war and corruption. Furthermore they recognize us as enemies and actively resist cooperating in the world community’s effort to resettle its population. So precisely what are we checking?

Numerous failures: For starters, we’ve “vetted” so-called allies in Afghanistan and Iraq since September 11th for security roles only to be met by regular “green on blue” attacks on our military personnel. From 2008 to 2015 alone, 91 attacks claimed the lives of 148 coalition troops and wounded 186. Then just recently here at home, the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) admitted that as many as 73 people on their “terrorist watch list” somehow obtained aviation jobs around the country. They blame “sloppy record keeping” and “inter-agency red tape.” So I ask you plainly: If the federal agencies charged with protecting us and our military here and abroad drop the ball, why should we believe that they can root out subversives from among the thousands who have no paperwork? It’s preposterous. But it’s an election year, folks.

Historical precedent: In 2011 President Obama’s State Department stopped processing Iraq refugees for six months after the Federal Bureau of Investigation declared dozens of Iraqi terrorists had come here through the refugee program. ISIS already claims to have sleeper cells among Syrian refugees and a local, New York Syrian leader maintains that Syrian corruption is so rampant that authentic, official identification papers with fake names are routinely obtained via bribery. Throw in the five Syrian nationals on their way to the U.S. that were apprehended two weeks ago in Honduras with fraudulent passports and we have a clear picture of imminent danger. The president took sound advice in 2011, so why not now?

There are those who claim that any reluctance on our part in accepting the Syrians betrays some engrained American ethos; that we would have to “give back” the Statue of Liberty and her promises per se. But nothing could be further from the truth. In reality the United States has historically been and today remains the most generous and welcoming nation in the history of civilization. In that light an even more outstanding element of our national character is prudence. We should not discard our national prudence at such a critical moment under pressure from revisionists who would have you believe otherwise.

My friends, when the political posturing ends, the simple question remains: Could the influx of Syrian refugees pose a terrorist threat to our nation? The honest answer is yes.  The bloodshed and carnage caused by ISIS is sickening, as is their pledge to exploit the refugee crisis to cause even more devastation elsewhere (which they did in Paris). Our hearts break for the people who are truly suffering, because they are fleeing the same terror we are trying to prevent here. But without appropriate safeguards to keep terrorists from infiltrating our borders, we should not proceed. On that note, I leave you with an observation I read that certainly applies to us as a nation: “I don’t lock my door at night because I hate the people on the outside, but because I love the people on the inside.”

-Senator Jack M. Martins

Beware The Spoiler

A long time ago, on a planet just under your feet, movie spoilers came few and far between. The only way you were thwarted in your attempt for blissful ignorance walking into a theater was by overhearing a conversation about the film.

With the advent of movie blogs exploding ten-fold over the past decade or so, it’s become increasingly difficult to sit in a comfy chair without a working knowledge of a film’s plot.

The most recent story I can tell you is with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I wasn’t spoiled, but my brother was.

He was scrolling Facebook and came across a news story that peaked his interest, but when he clicked on the link, it came to an image from Star Wars, showcasing a picture of a theater screen; a focal turning point in the movie. Just above the image, the perpetrator wrote a sentence or two, including an expletive stating their happiness with the spoiling.

No warning, no disclaimer. Just a horrid joke that most likely ruined a generational-type experience.

This is not to say the Internet is solely responsible (Darth Vader body actor David Prowse spoiled the Empire Strikes Back reveal in a newspaper two years before it premiered). There are plenty of movie news sites that go out of their way to let readers know that spoilers are a scroll away.

Movie spoilers have become such the norm, that news organizations put tag lines at the top of posts, alerting to readers of spoilers in the body of the story. Upsets have become so rampant, that Google Chrome released a program users could install that would alert them if any Star Wars news graced the homepage they were clicking on. Too bad my brother never knew of it.

The handful of ignoramus’ that get kicks out of ruining the fun for everyone make the week or two before and after film premieres an anxious time for the filmophiles.

Trump’s Wits End

Presidential candidates can experience the same exasperation as the rest of us. Without condoning his latest example of personal outrage, it is difficult to deny that Donald Trump wants and demands an end to anti-American terrorism any less than we do. The statement he made about denying Muslims from any country and for any purpose to enter the U.S. called for “a total and complete shutdown until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” His idea of an ultimatum came just five days after a radicalized Islamic couple residing in this country shot and killed 14 persons and wounded 21 in a massacre at a San Bernadino clinic for the disabled where the husband had worked. Trump’s initial reaction was, and who are we to judge his personal feeling of urgency and responsibility, understandable.

In a way the billionaire candidate was both inadvertently and purposefully using the underlying message of his well-known TV putdown, “You’re fired,” to rebuke and castigate all Muslims even though only the criminal acts of extremists are the rightful target. But the buck stops here when you are sitting in the Oval Office and that’s what a growing cross-section of citizens admire about The Donald, who continues to lead the polls of GOP contenders. What’s more, at a Long Island rally to negate Trump’s threat, leaders also criticized Republican candidates Ben Carson and Ted Cruz for comments they thought cast Muslims in a bad light. So it’s all a matter of vantage point and voters in the 2016 election will have to compare the opinion of each candidate, Republican and Democrat alike, to see which stacks up with their own.
—Joe Krupinski

Merry Christmas And A Rosy New Year

As we come to the end of 2015, there are so many wonderful things that have happened that we truly must give thanks for the blessings we have received. Having dealt with a most harsh winter, it took several weeks to defrost and begin to enjoy the warmth of the summer season. Now that winter begins, we are still blessed with warm temperatures to make all the outdoor activities like decorating and Santa runs fun. Of course, with our past history of snowy winters, most people have prepared themselves with new boots, coats and snowblowers for the upcoming season that may or may not come.

As we prepare for 2016, we look to a brighter future. According to the Federal Reserve, the economy has improved enough so that the markets can withstand an increase of .25 percent. After seven year’s, the Fed has scratched an itch that has been burning to be scratched for the past year. This move is the beginning of actualizing the change.
With the premier of the new Star Wars movie, our love affair with space continues. What is exciting is the prospect of travel to Mars. NASA is recruiting candidates for the next class of astronauts. Applications are until February 2016, the class will be announced in 2017. This next class of astronauts will be making history. These future astronauts will be launching once again from Florida on American-made commercial spacecraft.

What is so exciting is the prospect of new jobs and opportunities with these space missions. I remember the excitement of the launch of man into space and how everyone was glued to their televisions watching the historic missions. I believe we have finally gotten to the Star Trek mantra of “Space: The Final Frontier.”

Merry Christmas and Peace on earth!

—Elizabeth Johnson

A Pie In The Face For Consumers

This season’s hottest, out-of-stock toy is Hasbro’s Pie Face, the whipped cream version of Russian Roulette and it’s close to impossible to filk_jds - Pie Face-1nd online or in stores this week. Yesterday, by luck, I did find a newly delivered stock of the game at a local Toys “R” Us, on sale for $14.99 (regularly priced $24.99) and with a purchase limit of two. But the purchase limit and the fact that it’s really a $15 toy has not stopped price gougers from taking full advantage of the demand for this game of suspense and chance (for kids, ages 5 and up) and driving the price of the must-have toy past the $80 mark on resale options like Amazon Marketplace and eBay. I’ve seen dozens of blog feeds and comment boxes complaining about the reselling gougers, but if you are that person to pay $80 for this $15 game, it is you who should get the pie in the face. Supply and demand. That’s how this works. If you want the $15 toy and are willing to pay $80, then the delight on your little one’s face on Christmas morning was worth the $65 extra you threw away to get that toy in your hot little hands on a deadline. Don’t blame the gouger.

We’re in a generation of instant gratification. Don’t you think your kid would be as excited to receive the same toy a week after Christmas? Wouldn’t it be nice to receive an extra gift, for seemingly no reason, when the price and demand has relaxed?

Think Cabbage Patch Kids. Think Tickle Me Elmo. Think Furby. Think Zhu Zhu Pets. The game will be reselling for $5 each within weeks of Dec. 26, when every store in the free world will have an overflowing supply of this game.