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Letters About Literature Award Winners

Letters Literature

Madison Mangogna, a junior at South High School, and Mika Langel, an eighth-grader at South Middle School, are First Place winners in the 2017 Letters About Literature contest, New York State level. Madison won in Level III, Mika in Level II. Their awards were presented at the New York State Writers Hall of Fame Induction. Letters About Literature is a reading and writing competition for students in grades 4-12. Students read a book, poem, or speech and then write to the author (living or dead) about how his/her writing affected them personally. Letters are judged on state and national levels. Tens of thousands of students from across the country enter Letters About Literature each year. The Letters About Literature contest is funded by a generous grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and by additional support from the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.

Madison - read Our Tomorrows Never Came, by Etunia Bauer Katz. Her English teacher is Daniel Weinstein. Following are brief excerpts from her letter to the author: “I bought your book on a school field trip to a Holocaust museum. You happened to be speaking there. I heard the story of your journey first-hand and after that I wanted to hear more. I went home that night with a million questions on my mind. I read your book and didn't stop until I had finished it. I can’t quite remember how long it took me because I swear I sat up thinking about what I had read longer than it took me to actually read it. Your message hit me very hard. You wanted people to be so impacted that they tell the story to someone and that someone tells it to someone else and so on. If I had to choose one way your book changed me I don't think I could. Your book inspired me to pursue my learning of the Holocaust, it made me appreciate the hardships of my heritage, and, most importantly, your book changed my perspective on the meaning of the word, ‘Remembrance.’”

Mika - read Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury. Her English teacher is Beth Cahn. Following are brief excerpts from her letter to the author: “On page 57, Captain Beatty is explaining that eliminating all books and [allowing] censorship ensures people feel a sense of equality and justice in their lives. Is it right to take away the joy of one person to eliminate the sorrow of another? Will our society eventually end up like your vision of the future, where books are burned and outlawed? These thoughts, as frightening as they may be, will only be answered with time. Reading your book made me realize that mankind has the power to either shape the future or destroy it. Fahrenheit 451 allowed me to see the possible future of my society and how I must appreciate the books I can hold in my hands. Books are the tangible forms of emotions. Ceaseless sorrow or happiness can stain the white canvas of a page. Anger can punch through the sheet. Fear can shake the paper. They can tell thousands of stories with just a few hundred pages. Books are the essence of life itself put into a physical form. Thank you, Ray Bradbury, for allowing me to see this. I will treasure books forever.”


Student Wins National Electronic Music Composition Award

Music Award

Michael Jan, a junior at North High School, has won the 2017 National Association for Music Education (NAfME) Electronic Music Composition Competition for High School, grades 9-12, for his piece, “Mist and Stars.” He is the only national winner in the grades 9-12 category. To hear Michael’s piece, go to The NAfME Electronic Music Composition Competition recognizes outstanding compositions and highlights the effectiveness of music technology in school curriculums. Entries were judged by member adjudicators based on their aesthetic quality, use of electronic media, and power of the composition. Schools of winners will receive a one-year subscription to Soundation4Education, a sequencer and audio recording program, courtesy of Music First. Michael has won other piano-related awards, including the American Protege Award and the American Fine Arts Festival International Competition for Romantic Music in Piano. He is an avid piano player for over 11 years. Michael enjoys playing classical and pop, as well as improvising. He also plays the violin and has performed in North High’s orchestra and chamber music group. His orchestra teacher at North High is Joseph Rutkowski. Michael is a member of the school’s Piano Club and was entered in the NAfME competition by Dr. Janine Robinson, faculty sponsor of the Piano Club.


Stock Market Game Top Winner

Stock Market

Jacob Levine, a fourth-grader at Saddle Rock School, took First Place in the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) Stock Market Game, Year-Long Elementary Competitive Division. This past fall, Saddle Rock offered an inaugural enrichment course, “Introduction to the Stock Market” that used the SIFMA Stock Market Game as its curriculum. The 10-session class, taught by Evan Chen and Dr. Anthony Iacovelli, met weekly for an hour before school. The class was open to fourth- and fifth-graders, with 20 students participating. The Stock Market Game is an online simulation of the stock market that enables students to learn about economics, investing, and personal finance. Working in groups, students researched different stocks to buy and sell, using $100,000 of virtual money to invest to try to make the greatest profit. Students learned about collaborating and finding consensus in their decisions. At the conclusion of the course, students could choose to pursue individual virtual buying and selling for the rest of the year. While transactions were done from home computers, teachers were able to monitor them. Dr. Iacovelli said that Jacob made “excellent choices,” enabling him to win. Based on the students’ positive learning experiences, there are plans to offer “Introduction to the Stock Market” again in the fall.


Wind Ensemble Takes Gold Award

Wind Ensemble

South High School’s Wind Ensemble received a Gold Rating, the highest, at the recent New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) Major Ensembles Adjudication Festival. They performed a very challenging Level 5 program. The 29-member ensemble encompasses students from grades 9-12. Marc Boschen is the South High wind ensemble director


GNPS/TV June Programs

Current programming over Great Neck Public Schools Television (GNPS/TV) features District Spotlight and South High School’s operas, Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi. GNPS/TV programs are available on demand, 24/7, at Programs can also be viewed in the incorporated villages of Great Neck on Cablevision Channel 75 and on Verizon Channel 32. Airing times in program descriptions below are for Cablevision and Verizon viewing.

District Spotlight - District Spotlight is a program in a lively, magazine-format that highlights the wonderful events that take place throughout the Great Neck school district and community. This edition features events from North and South Middle and High Schools, and includes the North Middle Board of Education Awards, South Middle Ballroom Dancing, North High’s Artfest, South High’s St. Baldricks fundraiser, and more! Spotlight may be seen at 8 and 11 a.m., and at 2, 5, and 8 p.m.

Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi - South High School’s 48th annual, full-scale, student-performed opera consisted of two of Giacomo Puccini’s one-act operas: Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi. Suor Angelica (Sister Angelica) is the story of Sister Angelica, a Florentine noblewoman, who has been compelled by her family to become a nun because of a youthful fault. She has been waiting, in vain, for seven years for tidings from her family and friends. When her aunt finally comes to visit, the tragic story unfolds. Gianni Schicchi, a comedy based on a reference from Dante’s Inferno, tells the tale of a man who falsifies a will by impersonating another, with the objective of swindling his relatives. South High operas are under the musical direction of Dr. Pamela Levy, conducted by Michael Schwartz, and directed by Robert Stivanello. Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi air at 9 a.m., and at 12, 3, 6, and 9 p.m.
GNPS/TV Programming - GNPS/TV programming reflects the offerings of the Great Neck Public Schools and the achievements of its students and staff. For information about GNPS/TV and its programs, please contact Robert Zahn, district educational cable TV producer/director by e-mail at, or by phone at (516) 441-4676.


Regent Tilles Visits Kennedy School

Tilles Visit 1 Tilles Visit 2

New York State Board of Regents Member Roger Tilles recently visited the John F. Kennedy School and read several of his favorite poems by Robert Frost and Shel Silverstein to third-grade students in Dorit Yakuel’s class. While at the school, Mr. Tilles also attended a production of the fifth-grade play, The Wizard of Oz. He was amazed at the caliber of the production that the students and staff produced within the limited time and constraints of the elementary school schedule. His laudatory comment was, “The arts are alive at JFK!” Teachers who oversaw the play’s production included: Gina Boneri, Nathan Cohn, Alyssa Gies, Mona Haber, Daniel Regini, and Janet Rumble, artistic director. They were assisted by teaching assistants John Biegen, Nelly Galanis, Lisa Keen, and Morgan Rumble. Dr. Christine Mulligan was scenery director.


NCJW Helps Parent-Child Home Program

NCJW Helps

The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) Lakeville Section recently presented Great Neck Public Schools Board of Education President Barbara Berkowitz with a check for the Great Neck/Manhasset/Nassau BOCES Parent-Child Home Program (PCHP). This annual donation was given by Miriam Chatinover, NCJW past president. Also at the presentation were Board Vice President Lawrence Gross, Board Trustees Donald Ashkenase, Susan Healy, and Donna Peirez, and Superintendent Teresa Prendergast. Representatives from PCHP included: Program Coordinator Regina Farinaccio, Lead Teacher Suzanne Belmont, Parent Educators Celina Flores and Anne Lupkin, and Volunteer Linda Burke. PCHP has been in the district for over 40 years and NCJW has supported it since its inception. PCHP, for eligible 16-month- to three-year-olds and their parents/grandparents, is based at the Cumberland Avenue Center. Research shows that early-childhood programs such as PCHP contribute positively to children’s performance in school.


Popkin Elected NYAPT Secretary

James Popkin

James Popkin, Great Neck Public Schools supervisor of transportation, was recently elected by the New York Association for Pupil Transportation (NYAPT) Board of Directors to the position of NYAPT secretary. Mr. Popkin assumed his position as Great Neck’s transportation supervisor in 2013. Prior to that, he was a transportation specialist in the Syosset Central School District (2008-13), and an administrative quality assurance specialist for the Office of Pupil Transportation, New York City Department of Education (2001-08). NYAPT is a professional organization dedicated to the support, development, and representation of the professionals who are responsible for the safe and efficient transportation of New York’s school children.

Gross Receives School Board Service Award

Larry Gross Award

Great Neck Public School Board of Education Vice President Lawrence Gross is the recipient of the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association (N-SSBA) 2017 Outstanding School Board Service Award. The Service Award recognizes extraordinary contributions by school board members to local school boards and communities. In her speech at the Award presentation ceremony, Board of Education President Barbara Berkowitz characterized Mr. Gross as the “consummate school board trustee who works collaboratively with the Board, administrators, staff, and community.” She went on to say, “He is, without question, the quintessential School Board trustee. He has served the Great Neck Board of Education for 36 years, 10 as president and another 13 as vice president. He promotes cohesiveness and has been a mentor to all who follow in his path. Larry Gross is famous for listening to all sides of an issue, contemplating his decisions with precision and fairness, and isn’t averse to changing his mind after listening to another point of view. He has always been available for anything asked of him, be it to present a topic at a meeting, or chair a committee. The public has tremendous confidence in the issues he presents, as he does so with immersed and complete knowledge. Larry Gross exemplifies the adage that there is no “i” in “team.” Due to a move out of the district, Mr. Gross will be retiring from the Board of Education on June 30, at the conclusion of his twelfth term as a Board Trustee.