(SEPTEMBER 2023) — Schools in the Valley Stream 24 School District recently opened their doors to their students for the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year.
“The first day of school is always exciting and we are so happy to welcome new and returning students for the 2023-2024 school year,” said Superintendent of Schools Mr. Unal Karakas. “This year, our educational journey embarks on a special theme, Make the Connection. Our theme encourages all members of our school community to come together, strengthen bonds, and unite in pursuit of a common goal—celebrating a year of excellence and achievement," Superintendent Karakas explained.
Students and faculty at Brooklyn Avenue Elementary School, Robert W. Carbonaro Elementary School, and William L. Buck Elementary School started the school year with great excitement as they look to create another memorable and successful year.
Mr. Karakas visited every classroom, extending his warm welcome and words of encouragement to both students and staff. To facilitate a smooth transition into the new school year, teachers and staff members across the district actively engaged students in discussions about their first-day experiences and guided them in practicing mindfulness techniques. Valley Stream 24 is excited to Make the Connection this school year!
For more information about Valley Stream 24, please visit the District’s website at https://valleystreamschooldistrict24.org and ‘like’ our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/VS24SchoolDistrict #LookForTheAwesome #VS24
(JULY 2023) — Students enrolled in Valley Stream 24 School District’s Summer Program have been engaged in a variety of STEAM activities as they prepare for the upcoming school year.
Through one activity, incoming Kindergarten students engaged in a captivating color wheel experiment. They explored the magic of colors by adding drops of vibrant dyes to a bowl of milk and observing the mesmerizing transformation as soap created new hues. The activity sparked curiosity and creativity, igniting young learners' fascination with science.
Another activity was an engineering challenge in which students were tasked with building the tallest tower with only the materials they were provided. Students worked in groups and were given cups and straws to construct their towers. Groups brainstormed different methods to build tall towers with strong foundations to keep them standing. Reflecting on the experience, they celebrated their achievements and learned valuable teamwork skills.
The Summer Program, organized through Nassau Board of Cooperative Educational Services (Nassau BOCES), concluded in July, leaving students equipped with newfound knowledge and skills as they eagerly anticipate the start of the new school year in September.
"Students enrolled in our summer program are provided an ideal platform to continue their educational journey while experiencing a supportive learning environment," said Superintendent of Schools, Unal Karakas. "Witnessing our students' enthusiasm and engagement in the activities is truly rewarding."
(JULY 2023)—Valley Stream District 24 held its Board of Education Reorganization Meeting on Thursday, July 6, 2023. At the meeting, Donna LaRocco was elected Board President, and Armando Hernandez was elected Vice President.
"I am excited about the opportunity of collaborating closely with the Board of Education to uphold our commitment to providing an outstanding academic experience for all our students," stated Mr. Unal Karakas, Superintendent of Schools. "I look forward to building upon the strong foundation already established in our District, while fostering a collaborative approach with all stakeholders, to consistently enrich the supportive and inclusive learning environment we offer to our students.”
During the meeting, re-elected Board members, Armando Hernandez, Cynthia Nuñez, and Melissa Herrera, were administered the oath of office. Donna LaRocco was sworn in as Board President and Armando Hernandez was sworn in as Vice President for the 2023-2024 school year. Mr. Karakas took the oath of office as the new Superintendent of Schools.
(JUNE 2023)—Valley Stream Union Free School District 24 recently held a commencement ceremony to commemorate the elementary school district’s 2023 graduating class. The graduates received diplomas and commendations for the hard work and dedication they exhibited during their elementary school years. Each graduate was celebrated and awarded a diploma, giving family and friends a chance to capture their milestone.
John Maier, President of the Valley Stream School District 24 Board of Education–along with the Board trustees, principals of each school, and the administrators–addressed the graduates and their families and friends at the ceremonies. After a year filled with great memories and accomplishments, Valley Stream 24 is very proud of their soon-to-be middle schoolers!
(JUNE 2023)— The Valley Stream 24 School District Board of Education has selected Unal Karakas to be the next Valley Stream 24 Superintendent of Schools, effective July 1, 2023.
“We partnered with District Wise Consultants throughout the recruitment process, allowing us to choose from a wide range of educational and professional backgrounds,” said John Maier, 2022-2023 school year President of the Valley Stream 24 Board of Education. “We felt strongly that Mr. Karakas was the perfect candidate and will be a great addition to Valley Stream 24.”
"I am humbled and honored to have been selected the next Superintendent of Valley Stream 24. It is a privilege to work alongside dedicated educators, staff, families, and community members. I embark on this journey with great enthusiasm, knowing the immense responsibility we have in supporting our students,” said Mr. Karakas. “ I am excited about the opportunities that lie ahead, and I am confident that with our collective efforts, we will achieve great success together. I look forward to working collaboratively with our entire community to ensure that our schools continue to be a place where every child can thrive and reach their fullest potential."
Mr. Karakas is currently pursuing his Doctorate in Leadership and Learning in Organizations with a focus on Innovative and Equitable Leadership at Vanderbilt University. He received a Master of Arts in Childhood Education from New York University, a Master of Science in Educational Leadership from Iona College, and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Iona College.
Additionally, Mr. Karakas is an educator with 18 years of experience, formerly serving as the Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources in the Glen Cove City School District. In that position, Mr. Karakas helped support the development of teachers and administrators by spearheading the development of the New Administrators Academy and the New Teachers Academy. Mr. Karakas also played an integral part in the Glen Cove City School District’s successful passage of its $30 million bond referendum in 2022.
Prior to his role as an Assistant Superintendent, Mr. Karakas was the Principal of Brookside Elementary School in Baldwin for three years, during which time his school was recognized as a National School of Character for its robust and inclusive character education program. Criteria for selection for this prestigious nomination included providing students with opportunities for moral action, fostering shared leadership, and engaging families and communities as partners in the character-building effort. His focus at Brookside Elementary also included innovative teaching and learning, and his school was part of the district’s AASA’s Learning 2025 initiative to create student-centered, equity-focused, and future-driven education. In fact, his school’s Hello Neighbor Project helped recognize the district as NYSSBA’s “Champion of Change” Award.
Before moving to Long Island, Mr. Karakas spent four years as a Principal in an elementary school in the Bronx, where he not only helped increase student achievement, but spearheaded the school’s technology education, fine arts, and sports. His educational experience began as an elementary school teacher—in the very same school he attended in Queens—teaching fifth and sixth grade for nearly 10 years.
(JUNE 2023)—Valley Stream 24’s Schools recently participated in the Friends of Bridge Essay Contest. Three sixth-grade students from each of the schools were announced as winners.
The winners were Jaden Ortiz, of Robert W. Carbonaro School; Chalisa Vytalingam, of Brooklyn Avenue School; and Eva Weiner, of William L. Buck School. Students were encouraged to write about making good choices and about the importance of setting an example for others.
The Friends of Bridge writing contest was established in memory of a former principal of William L. Buck Elementary School, Diana Pirrone, who later became assistant superintendent and passed away in 2009. She was actively involved with Friends of Bridge and served on the board of directors for five years. Throughout her time there, Ms. Pirrone was passionate about educating children about the importance of making sound decisions and living a healthy lifestyle.
The Friends of Bridge is a non-profit, community-based outpatient counseling center that focuses on helping individuals whose lives have been affected by substance abuse and dependence. The non-profit organization has been serving the community for over 50 years, helping clients achieve and maintain abstinence and assisting clients in maintaining a healthy and responsible lifestyle.
(MAY 2023)—Valley Stream 24 Schools’ William L. Buck Elementary School recently participated in a Box Out Bullying assembly, sponsored by the PTA. Box Out Bullying is an organization that tours nationwide to educate students about bullying and being an upstander through dynamic live theatre and research-based bullying prevention.
“The Box Out Bullying assembly was a huge success. At Valley Stream 24 Schools we have a zero tolerance for bullying and incorporate numerous learning opportunities, such as the Box Out Bullying assembly, to teach our students the importance of kindness, respect, friendship, and compassion, and pride ourselves in our students for having a unified understanding of kindness, friendship, and respect” said Johanne Gaddy, principal of William L. Buck Elementary School.
Students utilized auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learning cues during the assembly, all of which have been shown to promote enhanced learning retention and understanding. The assembly focused on promoting empathy and empowerment and equipped the students with the skills needed to identify bullying, both direct and indirect, and provided information and guidance regarding what to do when bullying, in any form, is identified.
(MAY 2023)—Valley Stream 24’s Robert W. Carbonaro kindergarten and first-grade students recently went on their very first field trip to Bellmore Theatre to experience live theatre. They watched Frog and Toad learn the importance of being kind and creating meaningful friendships.
“Our kindergarten and first-grade students were thrilled to experience their first field trip and for many, it was their first time on a bus ride,” said Rosario Iacono, Principal of Robert W. Carbonaro Elementary School.”
Field trips benefit students academically and socially. It allows teachers and students to get out of the classroom and create shared experiences. For students, field trips provide authenticity to the learning experience not possible in a classroom setting.
(MAY 2023)—Healthcare professionals from Northwell’s Cohen Children’s Medical Center recently visited Valley Stream 24 Schools with their Wellness on Wheels mobile van. The Wellness on Wheels program is an interactive and educational experience for students, educating them on the importance and value of exercise and making positive nutritional choices. The program goes further and provides insight into making positive life choices.
“Nutrition education provides our students with information and skills that they will use throughout their lives. The Wellness on Wheels program complements our own classroom wellness curriculum while offering our students an immersive, hands-on experience that further highlights the importance of making sound nutritional and lifestyle choices,” said Dr. Don Sturz, Superintendent of Valley Stream 24 Schools.
Students worked in collaborative groups to have meaningful discussions about how nutrition is vital to their growing bodies and practiced fun ways to raise heart rates. Students also had the opportunity to plant their own vegetables and fruits to take home to replant and share with their families.
(MAY 2023)—Sixth-grade students from all three Valley Stream 24 Schools recently went on their annual overnight field trip to The Ashokan Center in Olivebridge, New York for an outdoor educational experience. Accompanying the students on the trip were Dr. Scott Comis, Principal of Brooklyn Avenue Elementary School, and Mr. Rosario Iacono, Principal of Robert W. Carbonaro Elementary School.
“Field trips are an important part of the elementary school experience because they provide a fun and engaging opportunity for our students to learn outside of their classrooms,” said Dr. Don Sturz, Superintendent of Valley Stream 24 Schools. “Our students are able to make long-lasting memories as well as experience hands-on learning, real-world connections, socialization, and exposure to new experiences.”
The sixth-grade students worked cooperatively during their outdoor adventures as well as other activities including preparing meals together. Students had the opportunity to learn about nature and how to respect the outdoor environment. The highlight of the trip was learning about wild birds of prey and other animals.
(MAY 2023)—Valley Stream 24’s proposed 2023-2024 budget continues the district’s efforts in creating a safe and supportive learning environment, maintains all current programs and services, and supports student achievement in academics, the arts, and in their social and emotional development.
Valley Stream 24’s proposed 2023-2024 budget provides a well-rounded education that addresses the needs of the whole child. Programs included in the proposed 2023-2024 budget are:
The proposed budget also provides funding to support building and grounds improvement projects. While the expenditure budget represents an 8.95% increase, through careful fiscal planning, the use of reserves, and additional state aid, the tax levy increase has been limited to 1.25%.
On the May 16 ballot, there will be two propositions directly related to Valley Stream 24. Proposition 1 is the proposed 2023-2024 budget. Proposition 2 asks the community to approve the expenditure of up to $425,000 on capital improvements. Three additional propositions will appear on the ballot related to the Valley Stream Central High School District.
For more information about the Valley Stream 24 2023-2024 proposed budget and what is happening in Valley Stream 24 Schools, please visit the District’s website at www.valleystreamschooldistrict24.org.
All residents are encouraged to become informed and vote on Tuesday, May 16. Polls are open from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. To verify your polling location, please check https://nb.findmypollplace.com/valleystream24ufsd.
(MAY 2023)—Valley Stream 24 promotes and supports strong connections between parent and child to help ensure student academic success and emotional development. The District prioritizes family forums, which are designed to give Valley Stream 24 families the opportunity to have a better understanding and insight into their children’s education, providing them with tools and information to become more engaged with their children’s educational experience.
“One of the four pillars of Valley Stream 24 is family engagement. We pride ourselves on our efforts to increase parent engagement by collaborating with families and school staff to keep improving this connection,” said Dr. Don Sturz, Superintendent of Valley Stream 24. “It’s always an inspiring and collaborative experience for families to participate in our family forums. We truly have a great community of families and staff that are excited to actively participate in our children’s lives.”
The students and staff at Brooklyn Avenue Elementary School’s family forum had a theme of culture and identity with a gala red-carpet evening. Students and staff walked the red carpet and expressed their pride while engaging with the audience in creative clothing, flags, and details about their heritage. This wonderful celebration was coordinated by the Brooklyn Avenue Equity Team in partnership with the PTA.
At William L. Buck Elementary School, the family forum format invited students and families to Tapas and Talks where students had the opportunity to make scrapbook pages to illustrate their culture and identity. The highlight of the night was the scavenger hunt where participants were encouraged to find others with similarities and differences. William L. Buck's families exchanged small plates of food and enjoyed a family dinner.
Family forum night at Robert W. Carbonaro Elementary School was a culture night. Families and students worked together to complete a flag to bring to school. They filled the flags with the languages they speak, colored in the flag, and drew or wrote the recipe for a national dish that best represented their culture. During the event, the students were asked to work with their families to create a template of a person that represented their culture with various materials.
(MAY 2023)—Outside the classroom, students can show off their creative skills in various ways. Recently, sixth-grade Challenge students from Valley Stream School District 24 competed in the Olympics of Visual Arts. Students were tasked with creating solutions to problems through photography, sculpture, fashion, illustration, and architecture. This competition required students to conduct detailed research and allowed them to present their educational findings creatively.
“Giving our students the opportunity to increase their knowledge in subject areas they are passionate about and to also be recognized for their hard work and creative efforts enhances the educational process as well as drives their particular passions even further, ” said Dr. Don Sturz, Superintendent of Valley Stream 24. “Seeing our students take first place in various categories of the Olympics of Visual Arts is representative of the talent these students have and the dedication of our teachers. Great job students and a special thanks to Challenge teacher Risa Miller, as well as our art teachers Jessica Rosenthal, Nicole Barci, and Leighanne Jaronczyk for guiding our students.”
The Olympics of Visual Arts took place in Saratoga Springs and was judged by over 50 professional artists, architects, graphic designers, fashion designers, illustrators, sculptors, photographers, and visual arts educators. Students from Valley Stream School District 24 competed in five categories and were successful in each one.
“Our Challenge students excelled in each of the five categories they competed in. Of special note is that our students competed at the middle school level against 7th and 8th graders from school districts representing every geographic region in the New York State” said Risa Miller, Valley Stream 24 Challenge teacher. “We are incredibly proud of our student’s hard work and commitment to their artistic and creative endeavors.”
Categories and Winners:
Illustration: Robert W. Cabanero students Sophia Campos and Aryandeep Singh - Silenced Memories
Visual Arts: Robert W. Cabanero students Gianna Hunt and Jasmine Persaud - Wild Thing
Photography: William L. Buck student Sarah Ramirez - Oblitus Home
Sculpture: William L. Buck students Benjamin Campoverde, Jacob Leo, and Eva Weiner - Let Me Shine
Architecture: Brooklyn Avenue students Adriyan De and Massimo Rodriguez - The Emmett Till Park for Tolerance and Unity
(APRIL 2023)—Valley Stream 24’s William L. Buck Elementary School recently completed its third No Place for Hate activity, enabling the school to qualify for certification as a No Place for Hate school. No Place for Hate is a national program that supports schools in celebrating diversity, promoting respect for differences, and challenging bias and bullying.
“At William L. Buck we continue our efforts to maintain a school community where our students feel safe, respected, and included,” said Johanne Gaddy, Principal of William L. Buck Elementary School. “Our No Place for Hate committee is made up of a diverse team that cultivates student leadership and unity.”
As part of the No Place for Hate campaign, the school’s book of the month was Be You by Peter Reynolds. Students read the book during their Library Media Class, discussing the book and poetry. As part of this lesson plan, students had the opportunity to explore various aspects of their identity, including their name, race, ethnicity, physical characteristics, interests, and more.
The Identity Parade was the highlight of the day. Students in kindergarten to third grade wore the identity crowns they created while older grade students created a shield that represented their family. Everyone was encouraged to dress in any way that represented their identity and made them stand out.
(APRIL 2023)—In honor of National Autism Awareness Month, Valley Stream 24’s Brooklyn Avenue Elementary School students welcomed Luna, a special service dog from Therapy Dogs of Long Island.
“Autism Awareness Month is another great opportunity to highlight the importance of recognizing that everyone is different, and it is just those differences that make us all stronger, ” said Dr. Scott Comis, Principal of Brooklyn Avenue Elementary School. “At Brooklyn Avenue, we continue our efforts to celebrate, foster and embrace our unity in diversity.”
Luna is a specially trained dog to assist people with special needs. Luna’s trainer and handler, Ms. Lyons, demonstrated Luna’s skills while discussing with the students the importance of service dogs and their impact on those service dogs work with. In recognition of Autism Awareness Month, students read the story, My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Eliza Beete. This heartwarming story is based on Holly’s son who is autistic.