At the Jan. 6 meeting, the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District first presented two district awards.
Grand Avenue Social Worker Steve Rose was awarded a Civil Service Employees Association Achievement Award. The longtime administrator was humbled by the award as his wife looked on.
Rose began his career with the Bellmore-Merrick CHSD in 1974 at Mepham High School as a Community School Counselor. Moving on to Grand Avenue Middle School in 1977, Rose began prevention counseling and was involved with several outreach programs. These programs included Family Project, SADD Chapter for Drug & Alcohol Prevention, Hope House Ministries and Down Syndrome Center. The district noted that Rose successfully continues these outreach programs today.
"You have really made a difference in all of the lives of our students," one board member noted.
Calhoun soccer player Michael Guerra was then presented an award for making the All State team. Board member Dr. Matthew Kuschner did the honors.
After moving on to various agenda items, the board opened the floor up to the public.
George Brucia, the parent of a Calhoun junior, then addressed the board about the recent suicide death of a Mepham student. He said the purpose of his statement was to elicit the board to "assert, take action and direct."
"There have been two tragedies in this district in the past year," Brucia said, referring to 16-year-old Lyla Stern, a Calhoun student who committed suicide on Jan. 13, 2009 and most recently Mepham student James Clare, 16, on Dec. 20, 2009. The teens were hit by a train in both incidents.
Brucia told administrators to ask other Long Island districts, "Is this the norm?"
An educator himself, Brucia also suggested suicide awareness and prevention seminars to "educate our youth so we can take the appropriate action."
"I'd like to teach the students to intervene," he added.
Recent Mepham graduate, Gregory DeLilla then addressed the board on the same topic.
"I did not come here with answers," he began. "I don't think any of us have answers."
He continued about other seminars students took at the high school level, but nothing relating to teen suicide. He also stressed that the same effort and attention that went into the turf field project should be directed toward this issue.
Board President Diane Seaman immediately responded that the administration is looking into "further education for the staff to be more proactive."
"It is certainly in everybody's best interest," she added.
Vice President Nina Lanci, the parent of a Mepham junior who was affected by the recent tragedy, noted that the staff did a "terrific job at intervention." She mentioned crisis teams that were put into place in the building and open intervention that was available to students. She also suggested reaching out to the Long Island Crisis Center for teen suicide prevention and awareness.
"No child...no parent should have to go through what these parents went through," she added. "We will do everything to help support our children."
Administrative Assistant for Community Relations and Grants Michelle Gagnon added that they are looking into different programs.
The next meeting of the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District will take place on February 3. A January 20 meeting will be held for the Budget Lay Committee.