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Farmingdale High School seniors Kiley Cacace and Madison Krug have been recognized in Columbia Scholastic Press's Gold Circle Awards.

Gold Circle awards celebrate individual achievement by student writers, editors, designers, and photographers. Kiley and Madison had artwork published in Farmingdale High School's student-run Labyrinth Art and Literary Magazine. Advisors Courtney Cozzetto and Laura Steffen selected these pieces for submittal to Columbia Scholastic Press. Over 4,000 entries were submitted. Both Dalers were recognized.

Kiley Cacace received a Certificate of Merit in the "Photo illustration" category for her digital artwork titled "Distortion."

Madison Krug took First Place in the category "Single Subject Feature Package, Single Page Design" for her artwork titled "Robbed."


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At the Farmingdale School District, it is a time-honored tradition to recognize community members who have made a significant, positive impact. This year was no different. Three new honorees of the Farmingdale community will soon grace Farmingdale High School’s Wall of Fame. The 2023 inductees include Melissa Firmes-Ray (Class of 1991), Kevin Bayen (Class of 1975), and Dr. Monica Lockwood (Class of 1980). On Wednesday, May 24, 2023, an intimate ceremony at Howitt Middle School was held in the courtyard. Family, friends, District Administrators, and Board of Education members joined the honorees. Watch the Wall of Fame ceremony HERE

“The Wall of Fame is not about being the most successful in your career,” said Farmingdale High School Assistant Principal and Chairperson of the Wall of Fame Committee, Carla Stillwell. “It’s about giving back to the community.”

Farmingdale High School journalists from the school’s newspaper, “The Paper Lion,” interviewed the honorees before the ceremony. Each spoke briefly to the crowd about what they learned and how these recipients inspired them.

Mrs. Melissa Firmes-Ray earned her Associate’s Degree from Farmingdale State College, a Bachelor’s Degree from St. Joseph’s College, and a Master’s in Social Work from Stony Brook University. Mrs. Firmes-Ray is the distinguished president and co-founder of KIDS NEED MORE, an organization dedicated to bringing programs and support to children and families coping with cancer, including Camp Adventure, where children with cancer and their siblings have the opportunity to attend a week-long sleep-away camp. Mrs. Firmes-Ray is an avid volunteer and has experience with many local and community boards, including Kiwanis, NYAPRS, COCA-I, and NAMI. The American Cancer Society has recognized her as Volunteer of the Year, earned the title of Town of Babylon Woman of Distinction, and her efforts have been documented by Newsday, ABC, and Channel 12 News. Mrs. Firmes-Ray builds healing communities for families coping with life’s most significant challenges. Based on her professional accomplishments and her community commitments, the Wall of Fame Committee views Mrs. Firmes-Ray as an excellent role model for students.

Mr. Kevin Bayen completed his Bachelor’s Degree at LIU Post and continued his graduate studies there and at Brooklyn College. Mr. Bayen’s music education career began in Hewlett-Woodmere Public Schools, where he served as a teacher and then as the high school band director. Mr. Bayen held multiple leadership positions within NYSSMA, including All-State Instrumental Jazz Chairperson, president of the Nassau Music Educators Association, and the president of the Nassau County Chapter of the New York State Council of Administrators of Music Education. Mr. Bayen was a Supervisor of Teachers for SUNY Fredonia and trained educators to be adjudicators for the NYSSMA Large Organization Festivals. Mr. Bayen’s service to public education and impact on students and educators has been heralded with Grammy recognition, NYSSMA’s Distinguished Service Award, and The Award of Excellence. On March 11, 2022, Mr. Bayen lost his courageous battle with cancer. He dedicated his life to music education and leadership and has left a profound mark on all those that knew him.

Dr. Monica Lockwood completed her B.S. at Niagara University, her M.S. at SUNY Buffalo, and her Medical Degree at St. George’s University School of Medicine. Dr. Lockwood works in Bridgeport, CT, and specializes in Internal Medicine. She is affiliated with St. Vincent’s Medical Center and works with several volunteer organizations to provide medical care in her community and communities in need worldwide. She is a volunteer physician at the Bridgeport Free Clinic, proudly serving patients without insurance and accessibility to medical treatment. Additionally, Dr. Lockwood is a dedicated member of many organizations, including Americares Global Response Team, Health Horizons International, and Health Education for Haiti. Dr. Lockwood’s dedication to underserved and in-need populations has led her to the Bahamas following Hurricane Dorian, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Poland following the Ukraine crisis. Due to her passion for tending to underserved communities, she received the Patch Adams Award from the Fairfield County Medical Association and the Geoffrey H. Bourne Award in recognition of outstanding integrity and motivation from St. George’s University School of Medicine.

Farmingdale’s Wall of Fame was established to honor distinguished Farmingdale High School alumni now serving as role models for the school community. Located in the high school lobby, the Wall of Fame is an homage to these community trailblazers and displays plaques for all honorees from years past. Candidates for the Wall of Fame must have graduated from Farmingdale at least ten years ago and have demonstrated success in their chosen professions following graduation.


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Ava Lanot, a junior from Farmingdale High School, was recognized with the Nassau County SHIELD Award from District Attorney Anne Donnelly. The SHIELD Award — which stands for Service, Honesty, Integrity, Excellence, Leadership, and Duty — honors high school juniors who demonstrate outstanding character, commitment to self-growth, and the spirit and initiative to bring about a positive change in their community.

The district congratulates Ava on this honor and for being an example for other Dalers.


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Howitt Middle School hosted Genre Con on May 13, 2023. Genre Con is a celebration of art, literature, and pop culture organized by the Howitt Genre Con Committee. The day was packed with author visits, writers’ workshops, drawing lessons, contests, and photo ops.

“I am so excited to bring Genre Con back for the fifth time,” said Howitt Middle School librarian Julie Ehrenpreis. “We are thrilled to provide a fun-filled event for our students. Now, more than ever, our students need something engaging to participate in.”

The event kicked off with award-winning author Gordon Korman speaking to students about his career and how he wrote his first book when he was in seventh grade. Korman joined GenreCon virtually and took the time to answer questions from all the students. Another popular activity at Howitt Middle School was sketching lessons from Science Fiction and Fantasy illustrator David O. Miller. Students practiced drawing while Miller guided them and answered questions.

Farmingdale students were also treated to several engaging activities—scavenger hunts, costume contests, crafts, and photo ops with Darth Vader, Kylo Ren, and Troopers from the 501st Legion.

HMS Genre Con Committee, 2023: Julie Ehrenpreis, Samantha Black, Chris Blair, Audra Donroe, Maria Hallahan, Kristina Hilton, Pablo Lizana, Sue Reilly, and Yurema Torres

Residents Approve Farmingdale School District’s 2023-2024 Budget

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Farmingdale residents have voted to approve the Farmingdale School District’s 2023-2024 budget. The budget includes a 6.24% spending increase over the current year and a 2.30% tax levy increase.

The $194,297,069 budget passed with a vote of 2296-1146

“Farmingdale is a terrific community, and we are so grateful that residents voted in favor of this budget,” said Assistant to the Superintendent for Business Michael Motisi. “This budget maintains and expands upon the high-quality curriculum offered to our students while being mindful of the impact on taxpayers.”

In addition, residents elected three members to the Farmingdale Board of Education. Congratulations, Dawn Luisi, Ralph Morales, and Sheree Jones.

“I want to thank the community for participating in this year’s budget vote and election,” said Superintendent Paul Defendini. “We are so thankful that year after year, the residents of our town continue to show their support for our District. Congratulations to Dawn, Ralph, and Sheree on their election to the Farmingdale Board of Education. I look forward to working with them and moving our district forward.”

The voters approved the Farmingdale School Budget. The results are as follows:

Proposition I—School Budget Yes 2296 No 1146

Proposition II— Farmingdale Youth Council Yes 2518 No 855

Election of three (3) members of the Board of Education. The results are as follows:

3-Year Term: Dawn Luisi—2132 Ralph Morales—1996

1-Year Term: Sheree Jones—1839

Matt Wilson—1420 Parsa Karimi—1257 Barbara Abboud—1161

By The Numbers