South Huntington Welcomes Commissioner King

Dr. King looks for answers from Birchwood students about their current books.
Dr. King looks for answers from Birchwood students about their current books.
At Birchwood, Commissioner King, and Regent Tilles were very interested in discussing recycling with Colby Goldsmith. Colby is a fifth grader in Mr. Ryan’s class. Joining the discussion is  Assistant Principal Annie Michaelian.
At Birchwood, Commissioner King, and Regent Tilles were very interested in discussing recycling with Colby Goldsmith. Colby is a fifth grader in Mr. Ryan’s class. Joining the discussion is Assistant Principal Annie Michaelian.
Commissioner King, along with Birchwood teacher Ms. Wilkinson and Regent Tilles enjoying the responses from the Birchwood 4th graders.
Commissioner King, along with Birchwood teacher Ms. Wilkinson and Regent Tilles enjoying the responses from the Birchwood 4th graders.
Commissioner King encourages South Huntington students to take advantage of every academic opportunity they are given.
Commissioner King encourages South Huntington students to take advantage of every academic opportunity they are given.
Oakwood students performing several songs.
Oakwood students performing several songs.
Whitman student Alexandra O'Toole discusses a question with Dr. King.
Whitman student Alexandra O'Toole discusses a question with Dr. King.
Maplewood students with Principal D'Elia lead the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Maplewood students with Principal D'Elia lead the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.
left to right: Dennis Callahan, Eileen Kerrigan, Laura Carey, Edward Nitkewicz, Commissioner King, Harolyn Harris, Claude Cajuste, and Alexandra O'Toole.
left to right: Dennis Callahan, Eileen Kerrigan, Laura Carey, Edward Nitkewicz, Commissioner King, Harolyn Harris, Claude Cajuste, and Alexandra O'Toole.
Left to right: Senator Carl Marcellino, Superintendent Dave Bennardo, BOE VP Nicholas Ciappetta, BOE member Chad Lupinacci, BOE member Lisa Brieff, BOE member Edward Nitkewicz, Commissioner King, Regent Roger Tilles, Assistant Superintendent for Student Service Jacqueline Harris, and Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Joseph Centamore.
Left to right: Senator Carl Marcellino, Superintendent Dave Bennardo, BOE VP Nicholas Ciappetta, BOE member Chad Lupinacci, BOE member Lisa Brieff, BOE member Edward Nitkewicz, Commissioner King, Regent Roger Tilles, Assistant Superintendent for Student Service Jacqueline Harris, and Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Joseph Centamore.
State Education Commissioner Dr. John B. King, Jr., was our welcome guest in South Huntington today, where he participated in a panel discussion at Walt Whitman High School before moving on to Birchwood Elementary School, where he stopped in to Ms. Wilkinson’s and Ms. Lopez’s  fourth-grade class to discuss the importance of reading. 

Opening the 11 AM event at a packed Walt Whitman Performing Arts Center were students from Maplewood Elementary School, who led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. Oakwood Primary Center students then sang several songs before Board of Education Vice President Mr. Nicholas Ciappetta introduced Dr. King.

Dr. King told the audience, “Take advantage of every academic opportunity you are given. Every book you read, every essay you are asked to write is an opportunity to learn, to improve yourself, and to prepare for a better future.”

Dr. King, who was orphaned at an early age, met many challenges growing up in central Brooklyn, and he challenged the students in the audience: “The reason I got the opportunity to go to Harvard is that I saw every day as an opportunity to prepare for all possibilities in life. And you have that opportunity as well. The question for you is whether you’ll take that opportunity.” 

The first question from the panel was from Dennis Callahan, president of the South Huntington Teachers Association, who applauded Dr. King's efforts to address the quality of education in failing schools.

“South Huntington is not a failing school system, and yet we are being asked to modify our practices as if we were a failing school system. To cut to the heart of the matter, our students are now burdened with a regimen of over-testing,” said Mr. Callahan. “Would you be open to proposing a system that lifts the testing burden on students in a school such as South Huntington, where test scores and graduation rates already far exceed the state average?”

King responded by saying, "Education has a long history of testing, and educational institutions need to have a common aspiration and a common measure of whether they’re effective. At the end of the day, tests are a part of the instructional educational experience. There are no educational institutions that don’t have some sort of assessments to evaluate whether they measure up. The challenge is to make sure that instruction aspires to rich academic experiences that will prepare students to succeed on the tasks.”

Other questions from the panel focused on students who come from economically disadvantaged homes, increased parental involvement, ensuring that all of our children's education needs are being met and not just those that are covered under mandates, and advice or suggestions for our community, our administrators, our teachers, our Board of Education, and our children contending with rising class sizes.

Joining Dr. King was Education Regent Roger Tillis, a long-time Long Island resident and supporter of public education. After the panel discussion, Stimson Middle School students, accompanied by Principal Faye Robins, helped to ensure that Commissioner King would remember the spirit of South Huntington by presenting him with Wildcat spirit sportswear. 

Dr. King and Regent Tillis then traveled to Birchwood Elementary School, where Principal Anthony Ciccarelli and Assistant Principal Annie Michaelian gave them a building tour, stopping in at Ms. Wilkinson’s and Ms. Lopez’s fourth-grade class. Dr. King talked with the students about their favorite parts of school and their favorite books and authors. He encouraged the students to read, and then read some more.