New CHSD Curriculums Prepare Students for Careers


The Central High School District has developed two new popular curriculums modeled after its successful On-Tour program developed in the ‘70s at Calhoun High School that now offer students a career pathway into a vocation without the need to go outside the district to such schools as Barry Tech.


The new programs would enable students to also determine during the four-year curriculum if the programs are worthy to become careers suitable to continue in college, rather than spending tens of thousands of dollars to discover they don’t like the career path.

The programs are the Broadcasting Communications program and the Culinary and Hospitality Applied Management Program (CHAMP), with the CHAMP program falling under the broader aegis of Career and Technical Education (CTE) provided by New York State.

Ellen Palazzo, Long Island field associate of the CTE Center of New York, told Your NewsMag that the state Board of Regents passed a program designed to provide a platform in which students could blend academics with technical understanding to achieve a more critical real-world education.

“Relevance makes the rigor possible,” she said of the focus of the program. By combining academics with technical knowledge, “students are pushed to higher levels of relevance of the subject,” and will ultimately have a deeper understanding of how many things work. Such practical knowledge can help them in determining their career goals in the future.


Jon LaRochester, assistant principal at Kennedy High School, remarked that the programs were implemented to take advantage of the $50 million bond issue passed by district residents in late 2013. He said that “Superintendent John DeTommaso wanted to increase technical education” that would act as a career pathway for students into the future – while basing the education right within the school district.

The prevailing thought became that the district could save thousands of budgetary dollars each year implementing four-year pathway  programs that are otherwise spent sending students to such technical schools as Barry Tech, a Board of Co-operative Educational Services technical school in Westbury, to learn the same vocations.


The programs permit students enrolled in them to make that school their ‘home school,” even if they don’t live in the same town. A student living in North Merrick enrolling in the CHAMP program who would normally go to Calhoun High School could now make Kennedy their “home turf” for the duration of the program. Or a student living in south Bellmore who would normally go to Kennedy could make Mepham their home school when enrolling in the four-year broadcasting program at Mepham.

LaRochester noted that when going to Barry Tech, for example, “students were away from their friends and classmates for a half-day every day.” He said such travel away from their home school could affect their abilities to play in after school sports or to become involved in other school activities.

However, the “ideal” scenario of a four-year career pathway will take time to unfold, in which nine-graders from middle school would start immediately in the program and carry it through for four years. While there are ninth-graders enrolling, most in the classes are now juniors or sophomores, with a smattering of seniors, some taking the course as an elective.

The challenge to begin students as early as possible to experience the full benefits of the full four-year curriculum was confronted front-and-center when both the new culinary kitchen at Kennedy and the new broadcasting studio at Mepham could not be fully functional until this school year.  State Education Department permits to build the classes during the summer of 2015 were not given until the mid-summer of 2015, holding up construction of the classes and making them ineligible to open to begin the 2015 school year.

Schools instead started new program students in the Family and Consumer Sciences (Home Economics) program at Kennedy or the Film Studies program at Mepham – neither including the newest technologies.


“People love to eat,” remarked junior Jonathan Schantz in Kennedy’s culinary kitchen, “and I’ve always loved cooking.” He boasts of preparing Thanksgiving Day feasts for his family.


“I want to open a bakery,” said sophomore student Sarah Enella, a transfer student from Calhoun living in North Merrick now fully immersed in the new four-year CHAMP program at Kennedy.

“I hope to be able to open my own restaurant,” continued sophomore Jocelyn Cohn,  who added that by learning the secrets of what it takes to be a chef and learning how to bake,  it could finally be a dream within her reach.

Speaking to chef-instructor Michael DiGiovanni within the new culinary kitchen on the first floor – complete with three 6-burner commercial ranges, a commercial mixer for baking purposes, a multi-gallon square soup maker and other multi-purpose ovens for heating and cooking, he noted the kitchen was to have been completed last year but construction was held up in summer 2015 as the state Education Department signed off in mid-summer, too late to begin construction.

“This was the Family and Consumer Science classroom last year,” and it worked well enough in accommodating freshmen and sophomores who signed up for the four-year CHAMP program, continued DiGiovanni.

The new culinary kitchen, however, also contains a smaller kitchen toward the back with an electric range and sinks for seniors looking to cook as an elective, and for ADA students.

Freshmen signing up last year will go through the complete four-year program, and sophomores and juniors from last year will receive fewer – but equally intensive –  years of chef training. This includes a primary focus on baking, bread making, pastry arts and garde manger (salads, terrines and charcuterie) that will provide them with an in-depth understanding of food chemistry. Because of the scientific aspect of the course, students will explore and critically taste ingredients to learn how flavors and textures influence taste.


Freshmen starting from “scratch” will receive a basic beginning regimen, such as basic knife skills to training in every kitchen station. They will learn about kitchen safety and equipment, culinary terminology, chef’s math and recipe reading. Students will work with fruits, vegetables, grains, poultry, red meat, seafood and baked goods.

Sophomore Renata Dabi, who recited a family history of baking going back to her grandfather, said her father is a baker and she, too wishes to open her own bakery. “I’m excited to be able to use the commercial grade mixers,” she said.

The program will also teach her essential techniques of cakes and chocolate, highlighting key ratios and methods. Students’ abilities will progress through development of all the dough-based products, from delicate strudel to tarts and puff pastries. They will learn to prepare such yeast-raised classics as baguettes, brioche, pizza and bagels.

Indeed, during Kennedy’s Homecoming game in September, Cohn, Dabi and Enella were expected to be in the culinary kitchen baking “goodies” for sale to everyone in attendance at not only the game, but at the pep rally and festival before the game.

Meanwhile, junior Joe Logozzo, claiming he was taught by his family, including ‘Nonie,” says he regularly cooks up breakfasts and dinners for family. Like Schantz, he hopes to take his skillset to the next levels in taking the class, levels that includes knife skills.

Particular to the four-year program is that students can take several other classes that complement or co-ordinate with their discipline. Cohn and Enella speak of taking an art class, in which their project(s) can include creating promotional campaigns for restaurants they might develop as part of projects they create in business classes.

As CHAMP students, they can take other curriculum classes that will help develop their overall skills toward a career pathway, said LaRochester.


Assistant Principal Marie Netto, former English chairperson at Mepham High School, told Your NewsMag she was watching television news one day “and saw a field largely underrepresented in secondary education.” She recognized how far the field had indeed evolved, and began almost immediately researching schools around the country to determine if any schools actually had implemented broadcasting communications programs as part of their curriculums.

She found many, and visited several of them before concluding it could be a good fit for its already established college media course and its films studies program. She approached the administration with the idea, and with it began the district’s Broadcast Program.


Located on the second floor, the broadcast studio features 30 iMac screens, with 24 workstations for students to learn film editing, special effects, lighting and cropping using the Adobe Suite. There are three broadcast cameras, including one teleprompter to read from.  Six workstations fill the control room.

Mary Donnelly, chairperson of the school’s English Department, said that freshmen will begin the four-year curriculum in Broadcast Communications 1, which will thoroughly familiarize students with editing and lighting techniques, sound recordings and editing, as examples.

During their sophomore year, students will then take Broadcast Communications II. Many sophomores, juniors and even seniors who signed up for the broadcast program last year, are now taking the course this year.

“In this class,” continued Donnelly, “students will learn interview techniques, journalistic etiquette, more advanced journalism” and will even be able to create their own news packages for possible dissemination over school communications devices.

Netto then remarked that Broadcast Communications III, the fourth year of the curriculum – which will include instruction in advanced production techniques, interview techniques, and graphics design, and in which students will produce a short film and documentary  –  was still in the developmental stages, and would be ready soon.


Juniors Ronnie Gibney and Mike O’Brien, who were chums during elementary years, told Your NewsMag  that they both enrolled in the broadcast program in some measure because of their early experiences in grade school in working together to  videotape their own lives and things around them, and edit their “work” for others to see.

Now, O’Brien looks to a career in sports broadcasting, in which he will be able to report on football and baseball, among his favorite sports. He remains eager and receptive to learn what he can of broadcasting and interviewing techniques, and even hopes to be able to intern at some production houses  during the summers.

Gibney wants to “expand all that I know” to provide himself with tools to help toward more successful career opportunities. Because his father Tim Gibney was a former Bellmore Fire District Fire Chief, son Ronnie knows the ins and outs of firefighting, giving him an “insider’s” look at the world of firefighting – and perhaps an opportunity to develop a documentary revealing the definitive story of the fire department.

Freshman Spenser Matthis, while living in south Bellmore, has now made Mepham his home school in enrolling in the four-year curriculum, rather than Kennedy. “It’s a brand new class, I’d like to see where it goes,” he remarked. Saying it could help him with a career path, he added, “I might like to be a sportscaster, or make videos.”

He noted that in going to Grand Avenue Middle School, he made friends that went to both Kennedy and Mepham upon leaving GAMS, so he feels at home at Mepham.

Juieann Erhard, also a freshman, already calls it one of her favorite classes. “It seems very interesting, and all this new technology will be a good learning experience for the future,” she concluded.

Among teachers teaching the class this year are Stu Stein, who has worked at WNYC-TV in New York, and Comedy Central, where he wrote comedy.  Matt Russell is an assistant who has worked in computer art and design, and worked in Hollywood, in behind-the-scenes productions.  Teacher Filiz Cooney is in her 16th year at Mepham, and helped write the curriculum in broadcasting communications.






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