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"When It Comes To Our Children, We Cannot Be Too Careful"

As I ready myself for the holidays, planning and creating my culinary contributions for my large Irish family, the headlines about the heinous Penn State Child Sex Abuse scandal continue to galvanize broadcast and print news and the victims lay heavy in my heart.

The second those headlines came through my kitchen t.v. a week back I had a sense of panic. My son Bryan and a few dozen Kings Park athletes from the high school went to Penn State to attend a track and field camp in the summer of 2005.   I rang Bryan and spoke to him in his Binghamton dorm room and he said he saw nothing unusual in his short 4 or 5 day stay at the famed university.

The headlines coming out of Penn State are shocking for a myriad of reasons and leave so many of us asking – how could this have happened and even more so, how could this have happened so many times?

About seven years back while on the board of St. Joseph’s CYO, all the board members and coaches were asked to submit to a background check as are most people who work with children today.  We all welcomed the new protocol.

I am happy to say that in the last twelve years since I’ve resided in Kings Park, there has a been an enormous commitment to educating parents about child sexual abuse.  Our former superintendent provided the Apple of My Eye program from Parents for Megan’s law.   My parent organization comrades and I also ran the program through Council of Schools and the Mary DeRose Parent Center and Senator John J. Flanagan brought it to the district in 2009 as well.

A child-protective phenomenon, Parents for Megan’s Law is a local non-profit that give parents and children the tools to protect them from the monsters who carefully and methodically hunt their victims. 

PFML tells us that 90% of all sexual abuse occurs with someone a child has an established and trusting relationship with, whether known or not by the parent and who is often a person of authority. They also provide ten rules for safety for children and teens and a gamut of helpful information on their website www.parentsformeganslaw.org.

I’m thrilled to see the commitment to educating parents about preventing childhood sexual abuse remains steadfast.   Council of Schools will be providing an important seminar by the Director of the Coalition for Child Abuse and Neglect at Kings Park High School on January 24th from 7-9 p.m. for parents of all ages.  They will offer information on keys issues surrounding preventing child sexual abuse including critical data from Parents for Megan’s Law.  They will offer parents warning signs and preventative strategies, it is a must see for all parents and grandparents.

Unfortunately in my forty-seven years I have known several people dear to me who have had the same fate as the Penn State victims.  I can tell you it forever changes the person and their family.

When it comes to our children, we cannot be too careful; we must arm ourselves with every piece of information available to ensure their safety.  BRAVA to the women at Council of Schools for their dedication to this critical issue.  There are a lot of reasons Kings Park is a great place to raise a family but the collective commitment to our children is undoubtedly number one. 

Maureen Ledden Rossi




SHS Graduate - Mike Specchio - Takes Pride In Smithtown

Smithtown Schools Receive a New ‘Welcome’


(back row from left) Smithtown West Assistant Principal Dan McCabe, Peter D’Ambrosio, Charles Cocchiola, Mike Walsh, Rolando Adamovicz, Peter Moran (front row from left) Smithtown Superintendent Edward Ehmann, Mike Specchio, Smithtown West Principal John Coady, Giuseppe Abbrancati, Sherry Marsico, Melvin AguillarSmithtown, NY.  Over the last year, almost all of Smithtown’s schools and District Office have received new masonry welcome signs and landscaping.  The stone, landscaping and electrical work were all donated by a company co-owned by a Smithtown graduate who wanted to show his appreciation for the education and guidance he received throughout his public education experience.  For Mike Specchio, the endeavor became a way to share his pride in Smithtown schools.  “When people drive by our schools, I want them to see a unified look for all of the schools, and I want them to see something that generates pride,” said Mr. Specchio.  Gappsi Group, the company headed by Giuseppe Abbrancati and his partners including Mr. Specchio, created the welcome signs for almost all of the school buildings in the district.

Early in 2010, Smithtown West Principal John Coady began discussing with Assistant Principal Daniel McCabe ideas to help identify and beautify the entrance to the high school.  “West had no identifying marker that let people know they were entering our campus, and we were brainstorming ideas on what we could do to welcome students, parents and visitors to our school,” said Mr. Coady.  “We thought that having a stone wall created with the school name embossed on a plaque would be an attractive welcome to everyone who came up our driveway; Mr. McCabe then set out to solicit bids from interested companies.”  As the plan was being discussed, Ann Marie Specchio, a staff member at Smithtown West heard about the idea and spoke to her son, Mike.  After graduating from what was then Smithtown Central High School in 1996, Mike joined Gappsi Group and began his career.  “After my mom told me about the bid proposal, I went up to the school and thought back to all of my experiences here.  I wanted to give back to the school and the district.  I wanted to repay them somewhat for giving me a foundation to build on.  After talking with Giuseppe Abbrancati the founder and CEO of Gappsi, we decided to donate the work to the school and once we began we decided we would expand our vision and redo all of the buildings in the district.  Giuseppe is also a Smithtown resident, and he shares my thanks for the education our students receive,” explained Mr. Specchio.  Gappsi Group has been a local business for almost twenty years creating landscaping and other home improvements with an expertise in masonry and natural stone.

“After we decided to donate the welcome signs, we set about designing and planning the work with all of the partners in the company.  This project was a collaborative effort and we wanted to create these signs so that each had a unique quality while maintaining continuity from building to building.  Mike Walsh and Rolando Adamovicz designed the stone work and landscaping. Charles Cocchiola supplied carpentry, Pete D’Abrosio and Peter Moran worked on the masonry and Kevin Anderson added to the project with his insight.  We began working in mid-2010 and have completed work at Branch Brook, Smithtown, St. James, Mills Pond, Accompsett, Tackan and Dogwood Elementary Schools, Great Hollow, Nesaquake and Accompsett Middle Schools, Smithtown West and District Office on New York Avenue,” stated Mr. Specchio.  Still to be completed are Smithtown High School East and Mount Pleasant Elementary. 

Edward Ehmann, Smithtown Superintendent of Schools remembered Mike Specchio as an energetic student who would be destined for success once he harnessed his talents and drive.  “Mike and I had many conversations about his future while I was principal.  He was always involved, and I told him that once he graduated and found his footing, he would be a great success and a good man.”  Mr. Ehmann noted that one of the goals of the Smithtown School District is to instill in students a sense of community and the fulfillment from volunteering to serve others.  “As I visit the schools in our district, I am grateful for the outstanding work Mike and everyone at Gappsi accomplished.  On behalf of the Board of Education and all of the parents and students in our district, we are very honored by all the time, material and work that were donated to our schools and the district.  It is fulfilling for all of the teachers, the staff, the Board to see students giving back and honoring the education they received in Smithtown.”

“Every morning when I drive into the school entrance, I look at the sign and the landscaping and can’t believe the difference it has made in the appearance of our campus.  I have had parents say to me that the sign is such a presence and it radiates a welcome to our school,” said Mr. Coady. 

“I have had many people call the company and thank us for the work we did.  They can’t get over that we would donate back to the district, but like I said, Smithtown Schools gave me the tools to succeed and now that I can repay them in some way, I am happy to show them my gratitude,” said Mr. Specchio.

Each of the Smithtown schools has a natural stone wall with a plaque of the school name in the center.  The walls are surrounded by a cement walkway, shrubbery and perennial flowers, and landscape lighting.  “I think this a wonderful thing that Gappsi did.  This really brightens this corner and is a welcome to downtown Smithtown, which is sorely needed,” Jeanette LaRock, a long-time Smithtown resident stated when asked about the work completed at District Office on New York Avenue and Main Street.  To view the finished signs and other work completed by the Gappsi Group, visit their website at www.gappsi.com.



Bellone Wins Smithtown - Democratic Chair Ed Maher

Dear Editor,

The results are in and Steve Bellone wins Smithtown! (Newsday November 10th). In the race for Suffolk County Executive, Democrat Steve Bellone received fifty percent of the vote in the Republican stronghold of Smithtown. For this result I want to thank every member of the Smithtown Democratic Committee and all of the volunteers and staffers who worked with the Bellone Coordinated Campaign in Smithtown.

While I had hoped for a better outcome in the local elections as the Smithtown Democratic Leader I’m proud to have had been represented by our candidates Howard Knispel, Teresa Haft and Martin Aponte.  It takes a lot of courage to run for public office and for doing so Howard, Teresa and Martin deserve our gratitude and respect. I’m looking forward to their continued contributions to our party as members of the Smithtown Democratic Committee.

The results of the Bellone-Carpenter race demonstrate that the voters in Smithtown are not monolithic and will cross party lines to vote for the person who they feel will do the best job. This knowledge gives me and my group the optimism to press on and should sow at least some doubt in the opposition as to the notion that they have a lock on the local electorate.

In the post election period the Smithtown Democratic Committee will be turning its attention to efforts to strengthen its organization and will be accepting applications for membership from Registered Democrats who live in Smithtown. Interested parties should inquire through our website www.smithtowndemocrats.org.

Congratulations to the winners and thanks to everyone who voted.


Ed Maher


Smithtown Democratic Committee

Kings Park



Teresa Tellekamp - Winner of the 2011 VFW Voice of Democracy Essay Competition

2011 VFW Voice of Democracy Essay Competition

Essay Theme:    Is There Pride in Serving in Our  Military?


Teresa Tellekamp

Hauppague High School


A current of energy and excitement surged through the people lining the streets. I clutched my father’s hand and peered between the tree trunks of legs, trying to see what was coming from down the road. The clapping and cheering all around me amplified as cymbals crashed together. Then I heard what sounded like heavy rain beating down on a tin roof. The consistent rolling of sticks against the snare drums created a crisp, high-pitched sound that cut through the noise all around me. Mallets swung into the sides of the bass drums, and the steady rhythm reverberated against the brick walls of the apartment buildings. Through the gaps between the bodies huddled together, I could make out hundreds of stiff navy-blue legs, all marching as one.

Suddenly I felt two hands lift me high above the sea of people and onto a pair of familiar shoulders. I gasped and my eyes grew wide as they fell upon the men and women of the Marine Corps Marching Band. The silver trumpets held high in the air gleamed in the afternoon sunlight, and with every step, the shiny black boots struck the pavement all at once.

I was overwhelmed with an emotion I had never felt before. Now I can understand how the Marines maintained such composure, such diligence, and how they garnered such tremendous respect from the crowd. They marched together, united by one genuine, impenetrable feeling: pride.

            Although times and interests have changed, the pride in the United States military still remains the same admirable quality that contributes to everyday acts of heroism overseas and define our nation as the greatest in the world.

            “Pride as a soldier involves the saving of lives and the return for the fallen on the field of battle, even at the risk of one’s own life” said Barry Shatoff, a Vietnam War veteran. “Being a proud soldier means no other American soldier is ever left on the battle field.”

Shatoff sees pride displayed in the military in the way soldiers present themselves, how they support one another, and how they conduct themselves on and off the battlefield. That pride enables soldiers to fight terrorists and keep them from disrupting the way of life at home that is so often taken for granted.

“Soldiers reflect all that is good and wonderful in a strong and healthy nation,” Shatoff remarked.

“Pride is something that is deep inside each person. You can’t touch it or taste it, but you can feel it,” said Mario Yanneta, a combat veteran in Panama in 1989 and Iraq Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990-91. “I feel proud to have served and represented my country around the world with honor and respect, as I was taught by the veterans before me.”

            Yannetta’s oldest son, Jimmy, followed his father’s footsteps. Jimmy is now a Marine combat veteran of Afghanistan, and shares the same pride and respect his father feels for this great country and for the armed forces.

            This year, like every year, I will march with my high school band for a local Memorial Day parade. We play the theme songs of each branch of the military. My favorite part about the parade is marching past war veterans who recognize their song and stand at attention with their hands over their hearts or against their forehead in a firm salute. That is pride in one’s country. That is pride in serving for the greater good of all Americans. That is pride, knowing they have won freedom and the right to pursue happiness for their fellow citizens.

            Last year, I noticed a young girl sitting on her grandfather’s lap. As my marching band halted in front of him, I noticed the man dab a tissue at the corners of his eyes. He sang along to the Army theme song loud and clear, and bounced his granddaughter up and down on his knee.

            The parade ended, and we boarded buses that brought us back to our high school. As I sat on the bus, I stared out my window and thought about that man and his granddaughter. I wondered if that little girl, while she watched me play my trumpet and tapped her feet to the beat of the drums, felt that same deep, indescribable emotion that I felt years ago when I was her age. I wondered if she understood what that feeling was, or why her grandpa was crying and singing at the same time.

            Someday she will. She will understand that the pride her grandfather possesses for the United States carried him through war and molded him into a role model for others to follow. Pride in the military is the determination to protect all with honor, valor, and love for one’s country and fellow man. The immense pride that existed and continues to live on in our military from yesterday and today is what sets the United States apart and lays the foundation for a safer, freer, tomorrow for all. 


Giffords’ office urges supercommittee to give Congress a pay cut 

Reprint of Washington Post Article by Beth Marlowe 11/18/2011

In a letter to the debt-reduction supercommittee organized by Giffords’ Washington office, 25 lawmakers urged the supercommittee to cut lawmakers’ salaries to reduce the federal deficit.

The letter, sent Thursday and signed by 11 Republicans and 14 Democrats, said a paycut would be a “commonsense” way to cut the required $1.5 trillion from the federal budget, as well as “a powerful message to the American people that Congress should not be exempt from the sacrifices it will take to balance the budget.”

Slashing lawmaker salaries was one of the last major issues Giffords advocated before she was shot in the head at a January 2011 constituent event. Only days before the shooting, Giffords had proposed legislation to cut the salaries of senators and representatives by five percent.

“Members of Congress can’t ask any American to cut back before we are willing to make some sacrifices of our own,” Giffords said at the time.

The five percent pay cut that Giffords advocated would add up to $50 million in savings over ten years, according to Thursday’s letter, which also notes that U.S. lawmakesr receive salaries that are 3.4 times higher than the average full-time wage for an American worker.

Reps. Dave Schweikert (R-Ariz.), Jason Altmire (D-Pa.), Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) and Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) joined Giffords office in leading the effort to write and gather signatures for the letter, Politico reported.

Giffords gave her first public interview since the shooting to ABC’s Diane Sawyer Monday night, just before teh release of the couple’s new book, “Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope.”

Read the complete letter here.



By Beth Marlowe  |  03:08 PM ET, 11/18/2011