Huntington PTA council

Huntington PTA is Ready for New Year

Huntington PTA Council President Michele Kustera (center) with the 2017-18 executive board.

July 17, 2017

When classes begin in September, the Huntington School District’s PTA organizations will be up and running with the ringing of the first bell.

Individual building PTA organizations as well as the PTA Council have all be reconstituted with changes to their respective executive boards. Officials have already met and sketched out plans for 2017/18.

The district’s new PTA Council executive board consists of Michele Kustera (president), Kristin Kanzer (co-vice president), Toniann Mangan (co-vice president), Colleen Perfetto (secretary) and Carolina Addeo (treasurer).

“I am so excited to serve as the 2017/18 PTA Council president,” Ms. Kustera said. “This year’s board and PTA leadership across all our units will continue to serve and support all our students. I am looking forward to working with everyone in the Huntington school community.”

Huntington’s PTA individual school executive boards include:

Huntington High School: Nancy DiGiacomo (president), Laura Befumo (co-vice president), Deb McGinniss (co-vice president), Donna Kye (corresponding secretary), Peggy Low (recording secretary), Sandy Saginaw (treasurer), Jeanie Dempsey (PTA Council delegate) and Toniann Mangan (PTA Council delegate).

J. Taylor Finley Middle School: Tina Evans (co-president), Michele Sabatino (co-president), Dana Forte (co-vice president), Denise Murtagh (co-vice president), Rene Babich Dumas (corresponding secretary), Bruce Segal (recording secretary), Kara Piti (treasurer), Laura Befumo (PTA Council delegate) and Amy Girimonti (PTA Council delegate).

Woodhull Intermediate School: Meaghan Buffa (co-president), Kerry Rinaldi (co-president), Rose Carusone (co-vice president), Jennifer Donatelli (co-vice president), Kerri Brandine (corresponding secretary), Amy Schnitzer (recording secretary), Tricia Evans (treasurer), Jennifer Carrillo (PTA Council delegate) and Shaki Coulter (PTA Council delegate).

Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School: Sara Baliber (president), Katie Dopico (co-vice president), Colleen Perfetto (co-vice president), Christian Waters (corresponding secretary), Rosaria Pepe (recording secretary), Gregory Parks (treasurer), Christine Flewelling (PTA Council delegate) and Allison Schirripa (PTA Council delegate).

Washington Primary School: Danielle Falk (president), Jenn DiBenedetto (co-vice president), Fidelia Zivkovic (co-vice president), Suzanne Hepworth (recording secretary), Kishia Mills-Lindo (treasurer), Kim Joynt (historian), Mariam Murtaza (PTA Council delegate) and Leah Van Horn (PTA Council delegate).

Southdown Primary School: Kerri Brandine (co-president), Kimberley Steinberg (co-president), Nicole Boeckmann (co-vice president), Devon Perotti (co-vice president), Jennifer Tullo (corresponding secretary), Jen Gooch (recording secretary), Michele Oliva (treasurer), Kim Einmann (PTA Council delegate) and Janine Luca (PTA Council delegate).

Jefferson Primary School: Jen Biancardo (president), Kelly Donovan (co-vice president), Wendy Naborre (co-vice president), Stacey Fiore (corresponding secretary), Ken Guandique (treasurer), Jennifer Carillo (PTA Council delegate) and Jasmin Garcia (PTA Council delegate).

Flower Hill Primary School: Tara Poli (president), Kerri Beatty (co-vice president), Heather Goldman (co-vice president), Anne Poli (corresponding secretary), Melissa Argaman (recording secretary), Kerri Malone (treasurer) and Noel Meystrik (PTA Council delegate).

Special Education PTA (SEPTA): Tonya Guandique (co-president), Elizabeth Lopez (co-president), Lisa Hanna (co-vice president), Julie Porzio (co-vice president), Laura Ubriaco (corresponding secretary), Miho Verfenstein (recording secretary), Jennifer LaVertu (treasurer), Denise Murtagh (PTA Council delegate) and Alice Marie Rorke (PTA Council delegate).

The Origins of Huntington’s PTA

The Huntington School District has one of the longest and proudest traditions of any district in the country. For nearly 95 years, the Parent Teacher Association, or PTA as it is widely known, has been an active partner with the educational professionals responsible for educating the tens of thousands of students who have moved through district classrooms.

The forerunner of Huntington’s PTA was formed in 1923 at what was then known as Lowndes Avenue School in Huntington Station. After the building was doubled in size over parts of 1926/27, the school was renamed in honor of former President Theodore Roosevelt. The dedication ceremony drew dignitaries from across the town and was even attended by Mr. Roosevelt’s widow, Edith and his fifth child, Archibald.

Nucleus of Parents Met in 1923

“The nucleus of the first PTA of Lowndes Avenue School/Roosevelt School, consisting of about six parents, met together in Room 115 to discuss ways and means of providing free milk to a large number of undernourished children whose parents were economically unable to supply their children with the necessary amount of milk for good health,” wrote Roosevelt Principal Agnes B. Bailey in 1958. “This was about 1923.”

The parent’s milk campaign was the start of something special in Huntington. “At this time we were buying milk in quart bottles (retail price) and serving it in paper cups,” wrote Mrs. Bailey. “The front of our auditorium was the area used for this purpose.”

The group’s first organized fundraiser was a roast beef dinner prepared and served on the second floor of the old four-room School Street School. It was located across the street from the current Jack Abrams School parking lot (the one with the basketball courts on the south side of the building).

Parents from Two Schools Affiliate

After a period of rapid enrollment growth, Lincoln School was erected on E. 9th Street in Huntington Station adjacent to St. Hugh of Lincoln Roman Catholic Church in 1923/24. (Woodbury Avenue Grammar School was built at the same time.)

By 1925 the parents of Lincoln’s students had affiliated with parents from Lowndes Avenue School to organize the district’s first PTA. “The first two years this organization included parents and teachers from both Huntington Station schools,” according to Mrs. Bailey.

By 1927 “the parents in Roosevelt School felt they could do more for our children working as a separate unit, so they withdrew and formed their own PTA,” wrote Mrs. Bailey, who served the district as a principal for 36 years, longer than anyone else.

“Our PTA over many years has contributed much to the welfare of our children,” wrote Mrs. Bailey. “I recall programs of free milk when needed, graham crackers with milk for all children, [and] the purchase of a radio. During the war, a program was set up to supplement family budgets; in some cases eyeglasses, tonsillectomies, and many other necessary and worthy causes.”

A No-Nonsense Principal

Mrs. Bailey was in a unique position to see the genesis and growth of Huntington’s PTA. Her career in Huntington began on September 7, 1921 as a fourth grade teacher at Lowndes Avenue School. The next year she moved to the eighth grade level. In 1924, only her third year in the district, she was elevated to principal of the school.

Regarded throughout the community as a no-nonsense principal, Mrs. Bailey had a stern appearance that discouraged anyone from challenging her. She was said to have run her school with an iron hand. Prior to the opening of Robert K. Toaz Junior High School in 1939, Lowndes Avenue/Roosevelt School accommodated students from kindergarten through eighth grade.

After 36 years as principal, and 38 years in the district, the 65-year old Mrs. Bailey decided it was time to call it quits. She sent a letter to Superintendent J. Taylor Finley on March 23, 1959, announcing her intention to resign for the purpose of retirement, effective at the close of the school year in June.

“The parents of our PTA have always been cooperative with one primary objective in view – that of the welfare of children,” wrote Ms. Bailey.

Over the past 90 years, the PTA in Huntington has spearheaded countless initiatives in every building and on every grade level. It has been responsible for raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, to promote and enhance the educational experience of young people of all ages.

The memory of Mrs. Bailey has virtually disappeared from the community’s consciousness, although at least one current high school teacher aide still recalls the legendary principal. It was Mrs. Bailey and a group of dedicated parents that gave birth to Huntington’s PTA, an organization that continues to make the district and its schools a better place.

Huntington's first PTA unit
Huntington's first PTA unit was formed at Lowndes Avenue School, which is pictured in 1916.
Lowndes Avenue School
Lowndes Avenue School was renamed for Theodore Roosevelt after its size was doubled.
Agnes Bailey
Principal Agnes Bailey helped create the first Huntington PTA unit at Lowndes Avenue School.