Each graduating class from Oyster Bay High School is unique and the Class of 2004 is no exception. On Sunday, June 27, they mentioned their most obvious claim to distinction is that they were the first class to leave the Vernon Middle School without being the "big kids on campus" as they entered the newly enlarged high school. The decision to create a junior/senior high school had been a difficult one for the community, but the class has done well.
Oyster Bay High School Principal Dennis P. O'Hara said when he arrived at the school in August he was greeted by student Amanda Edell. She asked if he was the new principal and shook his hand and said, "It's nice to meet you. Welcome to Oyster Bay." He said it was an example of the warm treatment he had from the class and the community and said it was a pleasure to work here.
He called graduation a beginning and said what was most important in life was the contribution they made to others. He offered advice from Mother Teresa who said give to the world your best "anyway" in spite of whatever the world gives you.
Julie Kaplan, salutatorian said she had been looking back at photo albums and home movies as she savored her experiences in school. She had bittersweet feelings of leaving the school after 18 years of familiar faces and asked, "Why do things have to change?" She said life wasn't a VCR tape where you could play Janet Jackson or Friends over and over again. She remembered they were the first seventh grade class to go to the high school and looked at her graduating classmates: a student council president, yearbook editor, captain of the softball team, that said they had done well. "It's time to move on and show the world what we have to offer!"
In introducing Dr. George Chesterton, Principal O'Hara said he was his role model and quoted him as saying "That's the right thing to do," and "Anything for the children." He said "Being principal of Oyster Bay High School is my big break."
Dr. Chesterton praised the students who "when the budget was defeated in May, it gave the students the opportunity to shine and show they are citizens of the community. They came to the board and were well spoken and thoughtful and they took action, writing letters to the newspapers and making fliers and signs and encouraging people to vote and the budget passed by 500 votes. I'd like to commend them for their effort."
For himself, Dr. Chesterton said he and the class of 2004 both finished and started 13 years ago. The class has 50 children who started in kindergarten; 17 joined in high school and the others joined during their elementary years. "This has been my first district [as superintendent of schools] for my entire career." He said he's watched their plays, concerts and athletic events, moving up exercises and now watching them graduate, he offered them a quote from Thomas Jefferson who said, "I'm a great believer in luck and find the harder I work the luckier I am."
Cheryl A. McEvoy, valedictorian recalled that in September of '99 they came to class timid eighth graders, as the youngest in the school. The high school teachers looked threatening and they were limited to the third floor. "Now we are the seniors we admired so much. The past few weeks we have walked in the halls calling out celebratory remarks and asking how many days to graduation. We camped out in the teacher's parking lot and banished them to the senior parking lot." She recalled their beginnings in a ninth grade lip sinc act where they were dressed in black clothing and their music couldn't be heard. They joined clubs and sat in the back of the band but this year, she said, "We became leaders and were the soloists."
Now, she said, they are the most recent arrivals in the real world, on a path never traveled.
She remembered Ms. Reed dancing on her desk; Ari and Karen in a lip sinc contest; the yellow slips from Mr. Imperiale. She said they were known as a class as unconventional and mischievous but they were all getting their diplomas. "We have energy and potential and these five years will impact on us for a lifetime. Let's look forward to our high school reunion. We really did it and we should be proud."
Board President Robin Dando told them to believe in themselves as they make life choices. It was time to receive their diplomas, turn over the tassels on their hats, flip them into the sky and go home to graduation parties - and on to colleges, the military and jobs. Congratulations to all.
Voters passed the Oyster Bay East Norwich Central School District budget. The second budget figure presented to the voters was $38,824,095, a 7.754 percent increase. Former board member Jack Lin got back from a business trip just in time to vote. He assessed the vote saying "a high turnout is generally a good sign."
That prediction turned out to be correct as the numbers from the first machine were called out by Board President Robin Dando. "Yes 526, no 383," and the group broke into cheers. It got silent as the second machine was closed up and the back was opened to access the numbers. Again Ms. Dando called out in a strong voice, "Yes 563, no 347." The last machine numbers were 482 to 319. "There are 44 affidavits but it doesn't look like it matters," said Ms. Dando. "My faith is restored," she said to OBEN clerk Jean Tworkowski who gave her the tally. Ms. Dando announced the count, "It was 1599 to 1072. [The figure included 51 absentee ballots of which 28 were yes and 23 no.] The 44 affidavits won't impact the budget." Board member Jim Smiros chimed in with, "But they do count."
There was applause in the foyer. People were hugging. [Ms. Tworkowski gave the final figures on Monday. "The total ballot count includes: "Yes, 1,621 and no 1,078 for a total of 2,699 of which includes 56 absentee ballots of which 51 were included and five were ineligible; and 44 paper ballots (affidavits) of which 28 were included and 16 were ineligible."]
Ms. Dando said, "You can declare it a victory. I thank all of you for your support. You are fabulous."
Judy Wasilchuk took a darker view. "I just want to say I wish these people came out before - the first time."
Board member Keith Kowalsky said, "Thank you to so many people who stepped up to the plate and helped the board to get this passed. It was tough, there is no question about it this year. There were so many misinterpretations. People got misinformation and it's hard to get the correct message out."
Board member Jim Smiros said, "I'm pleased with the outcome. The public of Oyster Bay-East Norwich came out and spoke today and supported the children and showed education was a priority of theirs. The community are putting children first."
Soon to be Superintendent of Schools Dr. Phyllis Harrington said, "I'm thrilled for the community - mostly the kids and I can't thank the community enough for their support in so many ways. We look forward to the year to come."
Gwyeth Smith, supervisor of guidance walked over to Ms. Dando to talk about the students. "Great work captain. These kids are incredible. They were standing out there in the rain emploring people to vote; that, and the phone calls. They have been extraordinary. There have been so many people who said how articulate and passionate they were. What a statement for the community."
In spite of the rain on Tuesday, standing outside of Stop & Shop were Brad Goldberg, Matt Haefele, Andrew Palczewski, Brandon Williams, Steven Chen, Ari Allen, Victoria DeMaria and Elizabeth DeMaria. There were kids standing outside of the Vernon School with signs too, as well as students standing outside the high school. The students got actively involved in their education.
Walter Karppi said on Tuesday afternoon, when he was heading home to East Norwich he spotted the students standing out in the rain with their signs and it reminded him that he hadn't voted. He drove up Route 106 and turned around to go to the high school to vote. "I saw three or four kids at Vernon holding up signs saying vote yes. I beeped the horn and gave the thumbs up sign. As I went by Stop & Shop I beeped too," he said.
Ms. Dando said, "We knew they just needed the parents to come out and vote."
A mother said, "My 16-year-old wanted to vote and I told him he couldn't."
Tammy Ashley too was really happy and proud of what the students did to get the vote out. "They were out there standing in the rain with a sign that said 'Honk if you're in favor of the budget' and big trucks were hocking as they rode by."
Ms. Dando said again, "I'd like to thank the community for supporting the school and children of the district. We worked hard to bring forth a comprehensive budget. I believe we did so and I thank the community again for supporting us."
She was glowing.
Everyone was heading for their cars and as they got to the parking lot Mr. Smith called out "Congratulations" to Ms. Wasilchuk. Everyone was elated.