Long Island professionals gathered on Nov. 22 at the Stonebridge Country Club in Smithtown for the Hauppauge Industrial Association of Long Island’s (HIA-LI) 9th annual Women Leading the Way Executive Breakfast.
Some of the most distinguished female executives on LI served as featured panelists. They included Discover Long Island CEO Kristen Jarnagin, Carolyn Mazzenga, managing partner of the Melville office of Marcum LLP and tax partner and leader of Family Wealth Services Group at Marcum LLP, Rebecca O’Connell, managing director and region-head of Chase Bank, and Long Island Press Publisher Joanna Austin. The event was moderated by Domenique Camacho-Moran, partner, Farrel Fritz, P.C.
The panelists explored common issues experienced by local female professionals and empowered attendees to approach their careers with knowledge, strength, courage, and faith and to never give up on a dream, whether personal or professional.
Here are some key takeaways:
FIND YOUR INSPIRATION
Inspiration is a key motivator for personal and professional success, according to Austin.
“You have to find inspiration from every aspect of your life whether it is from your family that influences your work or your work that influences your family,” she said.
For Austin, “the everyday hero” who gets the job done, is happy, and is still standing at the end of the day is certainly applaudable.
DEFINE YOUR SUCCESS
For most of the panelists, the definition of “success” was initially tied solely to financially security but evolved to include more substantial values.
While in college, O’Connell said, “I had my eye on the money.” Her vision changed once she embarked on her career. She came to define success not only by earnings but also by abilities, thriving on her own courage, commitment, humility, and ability to connect with others.
“The minute that I recognized that and started leading in that capacity was the minute I started making a difference in the organization, as well as for myself and for the individuals around me,” she said.
PROMOTE AND PERSEVERE
“Hope is not a strategy,” said Mazzenga.
She recalled a childhood memory in which she asked her mother why there were no female paper carriers; her mother could not answer. From that point on, Mazzenga was determined to not let anything stand in the way of her success.
“If you can’t tell me why I can’t do it, then I’m going to do it,” she said. “That drove me all through my career.”
Success takes wholeheartedness and ambition, asserts Jarnagin.
“You have to have the passion for what you love and what you do,” she added.
OWN YOUR SKILLS
O’Connell offered some key advice she received from her mentor while at a crossroads in her career. She said these words helped her reach a greater level of success.
“Don’t sit back and wait,” she said. “Find outside opportunities and be proactive.”
Jarnagin said the proof is in the pudding.
“If you want to be a manager, act like it,” said Jarnagin. “Take on management roles and show that you can do it.”
Austin added, “You have to have the courage to push boundaries.”
Respect yourself and respect your team.
“Listen,” Austin advised.
DON’T FEEL GUILTY
Leaders can have hearts, but they also need to have thick skin and the ability to make difficult choices, said Mazzenga.
Regarding terminating an employee, she said, “There are times when you just need to part ways.”
It’s possible to do with no hard feelings.
FIND A BALANCE
“If you want to have it all, you need to manage your sacrifices,” said Jarnagin.
While work and family are both a priority, she notes that sometimes, something’s gotta give. Finding the balance to keep everyone including yourself happy is critical, she noted.
There’s no hard-fast formula to achieving work/life balance, said Austin. It’s personal.
Notice something suspicious on your skin? Early detection saves lives, reminds the Skin Cancer Foundation.
But what do you do when you call for an appointment and you’re told you’ll have to wait days or even weeks for an appointment? Enter the new convenient care, designed to help patients avoid panic mode, achieve peace of mind, and receive professional treatment in a timely fashion: Walk-in Dermatology in Greenvale, Long Island’s first local walk-in dermatologic office.
“The increase in public awareness of skin cancers and advanced treatments available for chronic skin conditions has encouraged more people to have their skin examined,” says Stacey Brisman, M.D., F.A.A.D. ”This, combined with the shortage of dermatologists, has contributed to long wait times to see a board-certified dermatologist.
Dr. Brisman is a board-certified dermatologist and member of the American Academy of Dermatology, Women’s Dermatology Society and Skin Cancer Foundation. In April, she and Steven Dresner cofounded Walk-in Dermatology, which provides medical and cosmetic dermatologic services and allows patients to book online, call the office or simply walk in on the same day to be seen by a dermatologist. Dr. Brisman is joined by dermatologists Dr. Louis Siegel and Dr. Kumar Sukhdeo, both Fellows of the American Academy of Dermatology.
At Walk-in Dermatology, “anyone can walk in and be seen seven days a week for any skin care condition,” Dr. Brisman says. Plus, the office accepts most health insurance plans.
The secret to Walk-in Dermatology’s success is quite simple, says Dr. Brisman. While the practice provides the same services — full-body skin examinations, diagnostics, cosmetic procedures, etc. — as a traditional dermatology office, their approach is more modern and keeps in mind that people are busy and sometimes waiting is not an option.
“It’s all in the scheduling,” she notes. “We manage our calendar to avoid scheduling back-to-back patients so that someone who needs to be seen the same day can simply walk into the office.”
“In dermatology, faster is better,” notes Dr. Brisman. “The sooner you are diagnosing any kind of skin cancer, the more treatable it is…rashes, contact dermatitis and other skin issues need to be dealt with faster before they spread.”
The goal of Walk-in Dermatology’s founders is to achieve efficiency in patient management, monitoring and follow-up by utilizing advanced technology systems to manage electronic medical records.
“It’s super high-tech stuff and we believe this is really the future of care,” Dr. Brisman says.
While Dr. Brisman is thoroughly enjoying being able to serve patients more efficiently at Walk-in Dermatology, she notes, “The hardest part about starting a new practice for me was leaving the special bonds that I had made with so many of my prior patients.”
She says thankfully she has been reacquainted with some familiar faces. Robyn Doubert of Port Washington was a patient of Dr. Brisman’s at her previous practice who says she owes her life to Dr. Brisman. For years, other physicians missed a spot that had concerned Doubert; Dr. Brisman tested the area and diagnosed Doubert with melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer.
“I was very lucky and thankful she is so thorough,” Doubert says. She has also taken her three children to Walk-in Dermatology. “It’s a big relief to know you can get right in. We maybe waited twenty minutes; you can wait an hour plus 20 [minutes] at a regular doctor’s office.”
Great Neck residents Harold and Jacqueline Lamkay also followed Dr. Brisman to Walk-in Dermatology.
“We were so impressed with her there; we’d follow her wherever she goes,” Harold says.
The quick and easy access to care at Walk-in Dermatology has come in handy for Mr. Lamkay. Upon returning with his wife from a recent trip overseas, he had noticed a rash.
“She [Dr. Brisnan] saw me immediately and prescribed medication; she gave me her cell,” he says.
The rash was healed in five days.
“I feel humbled everyday with the incredibly positive feedback from patients old and new about the convenience of Walk-in Dermatology and the exceptional care they received by our board-certified dermatologists,” says Dr. Brisman.
Walk-in Dermatology is located at 50 Glen Cove Rd. in Greenvale. It can be reached at 516-621-1982 or walkindermatology.com
Between 2012 and 2016, there were 13,064 new cases of female breast cancer in Nassau and Suffolk counties, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In response, New York State and Long Island healthcare systems continue to raise the bar in care and treatment for patients facing a breast cancer diagnosis, enhancing their approach from an emotional, physical, and physiological perspective and making it more accessible overall. To date, most healthcare systems have embraced a multidisciplinary approach to treating breast cancer, as well as innovative practices to improve their patients’ outcomes.
“It’s easier to share information and sharing information leads to more consistency and higher quality care,” says Dr. Brian O’Hea, director of the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Care Center in Stony Brook.
As an academic medical center, Stony Brook has access to the most current clinical trials, in addition to standard of care, he says.
“We also have a radiation oncology team looking for ways to treat patients successfully with less radiation treatments,” he says, noting that the goal is “patient-centered and patient-focused care.”
Dr. O’Hea was the first fellowship-trained breast surgeon on Long Island.
“Breast cancer surgery was [initially] mixed in with hernia and gall bladder surgery,” he says. “The advent of breast fellowships and specially trained breast surgeons trained on the technical aspects of breast cancer surgery, and also including adjuvant therapies, was a huge innovation for women.”
Stony Brook was also the first in New York State to receive accreditation from the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC), he notes.
Going forward, Stony Brook remains committed to research, for example, “looking for better imaging of the armpit lymph nodes to see whether there is cancer or not using a special MRI coil,” Dr. O’Hea says.
The center isn’t alone in its innovation. South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside recently partnered with Mount Sinai to becomeMount Sinai South Nassau.
“We are pleased to be the flagship hospital for Mount Sinai,” says Dr. Christine Hodyl, director of breast services at Mount Sinai South Nassau.“All of the components are here in the hospital, with less travel and having expertise in breast cancer care in a patient’s own backyard.”
Mount Sinai is embracing new approaches to breast cancer surgery, utilizing oncoplastic techniques.
“We provide the most innovative surgical techniques that have excellent cosmetic results and improve the functional quality for a patient,” Dr. Hodyl says. For example, “We are now placing implants above the muscle and we are able to do an immediate implant reconstruction at the same time as a mastectomy, leaving the muscle in place; and this leads to less pain, quicker recovery and a smaller number of surgical procedures.”
Mount Sinai is also adding genetic testing programs, genetic counselors, and nurse navigation to its protocol in order to best serve patients with breast cancer.
NYU Langone Medical Center and Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola united several years ago to enhance their healthcare networks on Long Island.
“We are able to provide the same kind of care that is provided at NYU Langone at the Perlmutter Cancer Center on Long Island,” says Dr. Nina D’Abreo, medical director for Breast Health at Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Winthrop.
Perlmutter aims to improve the multidisciplinary approach to breast cancer care and breast cancer survivorship. Dr. D’Abreo chairs an annual breast health symposium committed to offering up-to-date care and the latest innovations “right from prevention to survival,” she says. This includes everything from education and screening to social work and navigation to research and advanced treatments.
Perlmutter has dedicated breast surgeons who are skilled in minimally invasive techniques for breast surgery-reducing lymph node surgery, as well as Savi Scout technology, which uses radar technology to guide a surgeon and target breast tissue during a lumpectomy or biopsy procedure, Dr. D’Abreo notes. Perlmutter helped pioneer prone breast radiation therapy, which minimizes radiation damage to the lungs and the heart, she adds.
The Perlmutter Center is researching immune therapy for triple negative breast cancer, participating in local and national clinical trials, says Dr. D’Abreo.
Located in Uniondale,Memorial Sloan Kettering Nassauoffers expert cancer care including chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiation — with greater convenience for Long Islanders.
“At Memorial Sloan Kettering, we have many clinical trials that are available to patients in all stages of breast cancer treatment both up front, as well as clinical trials that have cutting-edge therapies for metastatic disease,” says Dr. Tiffany Troso-Sandoval, board-certified medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering.
“The role of DNA molecular profiling gives a more comprehensive understanding of the DNA mutations that contribute to the cancers’ function,” she says. “This test is run on every patient that has recurring or metastatic cancer. Results are placed in a databank shared with physicians and patients so if a clinical trial should arise and a patient has that same gene, our computers will pick that up immediately.”
“MSK is considered to be one of the top organizations with cutting-edge evaluation and therapy for breast cancer,” she continues. “Our facility at Nassau has full-time social work, nutrition, and physical therapy, in addition to layers of supportive nursing and multiple subspecialty positions to help support the patients physically and emotionally.”
Northwell Health is committed to assuring that “patients are better informed, more supported and experience a better journey when they’re diagnosed,” says Dr. Karen Kostroff, chief of breast surgery at Northwell Health. Northwell’s cancer centers throughout Long Island — including Huntington, Great Neck and the Imbert Cancer Center in Bay Shore — make expert care accessible and offer everything from screening and diagnosis to surgery to posttreatment, which includes a breast survivorship program.
Northwell’s multidisciplinary team allows for consultation and discussion to ascertain an appropriate plan of treatment for individual breast cancer patients. Treatment could include radiation, chemotherapy, surgery, etc., however, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, explains Dr. Kostroff, noting that genetic history and testing is also valued.
Dr. Kostroff leads a systemwide tumor board that addresses patients whose cancer is uniquely “challenging and complicated.” This forum includes 12 sites throughout the Northwell system.
“All of these physicians are learning and discussing — sharing updated information on new clinical trials and education,” she explains. “We are also involved in a tumor donation program, where instead of the tissue being discarded once it’s studied, it is given to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories so they to can research on a fresh tumor.”
With Northwell Health’s Center for Wellness and Integrative Medicine, “patients can also focus on taking care of their bodies through programs such as reiki, Pilates, massage and more,” says Dr. Kostroff.
Catholic Health Services offers patients diagnosed with breast cancer treatment and services throughout Long Island. CHS’ six hospitals include Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip, Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Centre, St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown, St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson, St. Francis Hospital The Heart Center in Roslyn, and St. Joseph Hospital in Bethpage.
CHS offers early detection and imaging services, utilizes minimally invasive techniques for breast disease, and also provides genetic counseling for individuals who have an increased risk for breast cancer. Education and support groups are offered to ensure patients are provided with emotional as well as physical care. Like the majority of, if not all healthcare systems, CHS also embraces a multidisciplinary approach to breast cancer.
Lifting spirits while dropping their drawers is the cast of the smash hit Broadway musical The Full Monty, which opens Sept. 12 at The Argyle Theatre at Babylon Village.
This comedic masterpiece, based on Terrence McNally’s book with music and lyrics by David Yazbek and the 1997 film proudly struts the stage beginning September 12, thanks to Argyles’ beloved father-son duo and owners Mark and Dylan Perlman and brilliant artistic director Evan Pappas.
“The audience will want to root for everybody,” says Pappas. “At the end of the day, these wonderful, glorious people are just trying to survive out of their love for their families and children, and just to work and protect their world by doing something so wonderfully silly.”
The musical follows the story of six recently unemployed steelworkers from Buffalo, all low on funds, self-esteem, and hope but high on anxiety and desperation. The story takes place in the 1980s, when Chippendales dancers were bringing in lots of dough. Feeling inspired and eager to pay overdue bills and child support, and improve their relationships with themselves and their loved ones, the guys unite to create their own act, in which they will strip down to nothing to give their audience The Full Monty.
The actual story of The Full Monty is “brilliant,” and “so well written,” including the lyrics that emit a fun, urban vibe, says Pappas. The audience will find they can surprisingly relate to the story’s central themes and characters. Pappas says his vision for the production included keeping it real, as well as hilariously funny. Picture six average Joes preparing for their act in the living room.
In addition to a stellar cast, bringing this awesome musical comedy to life is Argyle’s fantastic creative team, including set design by Front Row Theatrical, costume design by Peter Fogel, lighting design by Graham Kindred, sound design by Carlos Dias, Jr., props and production coordination by Alison Savino, Technical Director Michael Kauffman, Production Stage Manager Krista Swan, Assistant Stage Manager Julianna Cricchio, and Casting Director Michael Cassara.
Get your tickets today!
Argyle Theatre at Babylon Village, 34 West Main St., Babylon. argyletheater.com, 844-631-5483. The Full Monty tickets $49-$74. Sept. 12-Oct. 20.
For several years, Shelley of Floral Park suffered from debilitating chronic back pain, resulting in missed work, difficulty with everyday tasks like grocery shopping, and an inability to enjoy favorite activities such as bike riding.
Four years ago, everything changed. Shelley made the choice to address her pain through noninvasive, drug-free chiropractic treatments. She felt relief in only a couple of weeks.
“My back pain is very manageable because I keep regular visits,” says Shelley, who asked that her last name not be used. “I have many days that I am pain free and movement is very easy. Drug-free management means, to me, that I am not using a Band-Aid, or relying on medications that provide relief, but do not address, nor fix, the underlying issue. And that is truly important to me.”
New York State lawmakers who recently designated September as Drug-Free Pain Management Month hope that if more people follow Shelley’s lead, there will be fewer fatal overdoses due to the national opioid crisis, which is largely fueled by prescription painkillers.
“You have millions of Americans — millions of people all over the world — that suffer from chronic neck and back pain…migraines, [too],” says state Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-East Northport). “It’s very important that we spread the word that there are alternatives to treating chronic pain. Unfortunately, in Suffolk County, we have an ominous distinction — that is leading New York State with opioid deaths. Now, that was in 2016; fortunately, every year those numbers are going down a little bit.”
Raia announced the designation, which is led by the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress, during a news conference at Levitan Chiropractic at the Pagoda Wellness Center in East Northport, where he was joined by state Assemblyman John Mikulin (R-Bethpage), Dr. Mark Levitan, other practitioners at Pagoda Acupuncture and Wellness Center, and members of the community.
“There are just so many people suffering from this,” says Mikulin, noting that Nassau County has also been impacted by the epidemic. “We’ve had success, but it’s very important that we have awareness and it’s important there are alternatives to opioids.”
As a member of the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress, Dr. Levitan believes spearheading this national effort on a local level is critical.
“We need to get out to the people not just awareness of the problem, but awareness of the solution,” he says.
Opioids were originally intended for cancer pain, post-surgical pain, and for use over a limited period of time, Dr. Levitan explains.
“What changed was that it became too readily available and too profitable for pharmaceutical manufacturers,” he says. Citing recent court settlements in excess of $10 billion involving pharmaceutical companies Johnson & Johnson and Purdue Pharma, Dr. Levitan adds, “They misled the public in terms of the actual true addictiveness of the agents.”
He says that doctors also need to adhere to guidelines set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Food and Drug Administration, and other organizations that say, “the first line of attack for chronic pain is supposed to be nonpharmacologic alternatives.”
“Chiropractic is the most widely researched and documented and has the highest patient favorability of all alternatives,” says Dr. Levitan. “It’s the largest nondrug, nonsurgical healing art in the world.”
Adjusting the spine normalizes the body’s inherent capability to heal and maintain homeostasis and normal balance, explains Dr. Levitan.
“When everything is functioning properly, pain manages to go away,” he says.
Raia adds that there’s no time to waste in raising awareness of drug-free alternatives to pain.
“The truth of the matter is four out of five people that are addicted to heroin started with prescription drugs,” says Raia. “Here, we recognize acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractic care. These are all the things that are very successful in treating chronic pain. People have a choice.”
Teamsters Local 817 President Thomas J. O’Donnell was driving with his father in New York City when he witnessed the first plane crash into the World Trade Center on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
“We saw that plane hit the tower and we knew the country was under attack,” recalls O’Donnell, who leads the Great Neck-based union that works in transportation, casting, and locations for film, television, and Broadway productions.
Although his union’s members work in the entertainment industry, they were among the many unsung heroes who responded to Ground Zero within hours and spent days, weeks, and months after the attacks. And just like the first responders facing severe health challenges, some members of the union have succumbed to cancers caused by toxins present at Ground Zero. As a result, his members are among those receiving support from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF), funding for which was recently extended until 2090.
The day after the attacks, he received notice of a need for mobile power and lighting with a request for volunteer drivers. For the next two weeks, Local 817 had two 12-hour shifts of about 30 teamster drivers transporting generators on box trucks with lights. They also drove flatbed trucks to help carry large equipment and cables. Water trucks were also provided to spray down dust and keep it out of the air. O’Donnell notes that Local 817 collaborated with Local 52 Motion Picture Studio Mechanics, among other unions.
“Conditions were hazardous and everybody was issued breathing masks,” O’Donnell says. “Over a period of years, some people started developing symptoms or problems that resulted from their time spent there.”
James Leavey, a third-generation Local 817 teamster and retired recording secretary, assisted in the coordination and supervision for Local 817 in the 9/11 relief efforts.
“We turned night into day with generators and lighting equipment,” Leavey recalls. ”I was never prouder of being a teamster and member of Local 817.”
Leavey, who, with support from the VCF, is being treated for respiratory issues, sleep apnea and chronic post-nasal drip, says he is “one of the lucky ones,” as others have either succumbed to cancer or are currently being treated for more severe health issues.
“There was actually asbestos and carcinogens down there,” he says. “When the World Trade Center collapsed the dust was so thick you were really walking in a fog at times. We knew that there was going to be health problems, but nobody gave a second thought.”
That’s just what Local 817 does.
“There were miserable nights, pouring rain at times, the temperature had dropped, and it was really a tough situation,” O’Donnell recalls. “To all my members that volunteered and served, as well as every other volunteer who gave their time and put themselves out there, I’m both thankful and proud.”
Kseniya Sullivan of Bellmore, now 34, suffered with depression since she was 15, chronic pain since she was 25, and migraines for as long as she can remember. Her 16-year-old son is challenged with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), major depression disorder, and anxiety. They both felt like prisoners of their prescription medication up until about one year ago — until they discovered CBD.
Regulated by the Food and Drug Administration , cannabidiol, or CBD, is a nonpsychoactive compound derived from the hemp plant. Not to be confused with tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the chief psychoactive compound in marijuana that gives a high sensation, CBD is available over the counter or from a trusted healthcare provider. It comes in the form of oils, drops, sprays, gummies, supplements, topical lotions, and more.
Two gummies a day and CBD balm for pain have offered Sullivan positive results. Her son takes five drops two times per day or eats a gummy.
“It calms him enough to focus,” she says. “It’s not a perfect fix but it has helped so much with his depression and anxiety. For me, it is a savior. I haven’t had a full-blown migraine in six months now.”
According to a 2013 study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, CBD can act as an anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, antioxidant, antiemetic, anxiolytic and antipsychotic, helping to treat a number of health conditions, including inflammation, epilepsy, oxidative injury, vomiting and nausea, anxiety and schizophrenia. It has even been found to help pets: A recent study by Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine suggests 2 mg/kg of CBD oil administered twice daily can help increase comfort and activity in dogs with osteoarthritis.
CBD works with the endocannabinoid system to achieve balance in the body.
“The endocannabinoid system is the largest regulatory system in our body,” explains Craig Zaffe, CEO of CBD Oils of Long Island and ACD Health and Wellness in Huntington. “We have CBD 1 receptors in our brain and nervous system and CBD 2 receptors in our organs and skin that naturally secrete natural cannabinoids. As we get older, we become deficient in the natural production of cannabinoids. That’s where inflammation and disease start.”
Phytocannabinoids such as CBD help restore the endocannabinoid system. Dr. Amir Herman of East Northport-based Natural Pain Solutions says the bulk of his patients turn to CBD to relieve pain, anxiety, headaches, and improve sleep.
“It helps them to relax,” he says, noting that CBD also works on the central nervous system. Patients with nerve pain have reported less numbness and tingling. “It has a calming effect on young patients with ADD and ADHD.”
While CBD has shown to be relatively safe, Dr. Herman says it’s certainly not free from side effects.
“There are absolutely people who developed issues with vaping CBD … irritation to their throat and lungs, coughing,” he says.
Reported side effects also include tiredness, dizziness, light-headedness or stomach discomfort. The greatest challenge to administering CBD is that there’s not yet an “established standardization of dose,” says Dr. Herman.
“You have to slowly titrate, increase the dose,” he says. “It could take anywhere between two weeks and two months before they get their optimal benefit or know that it’s not for them.”
“Recommendations and dosages vary from patient to patient and whether a condition is acute or chronic,” adds Dr. Joy Moy, physician of acupuncture and owner of Joy of Acupuncture in Huntington. When considering CBD, Dr. Moy says to “pay attention to the quality of the CBD that is harvested and extracted and whether or not it has been backed up independently or tested by third party labs.”
Identify a healthcare provider with competent knowledge of CBD, she advises. Dr. Moy says that bloodwork results on her patients who used CBD sublingual drops revealed lower overall body inflammation. A 91-year-old patient with a severely arthritic ankle who used CBD cream twice a day for two weeks no longer relies on his cane.
For more than 26,000 students, New York State’s recent repeal of the religious exemption for immunizations means they may never be allowed to set foot in their school or daycare again.
Among those in legal limbo are children on Long Island, whose families anxiously await news of two lawsuits seeking a resolution that may allow their kids to stay in their usual classrooms as their parents feverishly consider options. For those who are steadfast in their conviction to not vaccinate, if the legal challenges fail, considerations include home schooling, moving, or splitting up their family come September. Some public and private school administrators on LI are not sitting idly by amid the turmoil.
“As we begin to prepare for the upcoming school year, we are now faced with the horrific ramifications of this decision with no clear direction on how to serve these children,” East Islip School District Superintendent John V. Dolan said in a letter supporting a preliminary injunction and a stay while a lawsuit seeking to overturn the law is pending. “As an educator, as a parent, and a member of the human race, I implore you to grant a stay so that we can work together for a solution to this situation.”
Sparking the legal challenge was a state law passed on June 13 that ended the state’s religious exemptions from immunizations, which allowed parents to send their unvaccinated children to public and private schools as well as day care. The law was in response to a measles outbreak in Brooklyn and Rockland County. The law took effect immediately, giving children 14 days to attend school, after which they are required to show they received the first dose in each series of immunizations. After that they have until the 30th day to show a schedule for the remainder. All children are required to be fully caught up according to their age by June 30, 2020.
The case Superintendent Dolan sent a letter supporting is one of two lawsuits challenging the religious exemption repeal. His letter was submitted in support of the lawsuit filed in the Albany County court — in which a key hearing is scheduled for Wednesday —seeking a preliminary injunction and a stay allowing all students that had or would have been entitled to a religious exemption to continue attending their usual schools. The second lawsuit filed in Brooklyn federal court raises federal challenges seeking the same remedies for Special Education students with Individual Education Plans (IEPs).
Affected families are hoping they won’t have to uproot their kids while they’re planning for the worst-case scenario.
“He will no longer have the opportunity to foster relationships with his teachers and continue to overcome his anxiety,” Valerie Domenech of East Islip said of her 8-year-old son. “My son will not be able to attend school with his friends. He will no longer be able to learn with them, play with them, eat lunch with them, or socialize with them during the school day.”
Should a stay not be granted in either case, the Domenech family plans to homeschool. Aside from a feeling of isolation, Domenech, a full-time teacher, says the new arrangement will have a negative impact on her family financially.
“We are just completely devastated,” she added. Domenech said she has friends who already quit their jobs and moved out of state while others put their homes up for sale.
“And yet others are in a state of uncertainty,” she said. “They will not violate the tenets of their religion. They cannot homeschool. They cannot move. They are at a complete loss.”
State Assemb. Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx), who sponsored the law, said the only thing stopping kids from going to school are their parents.
“They simply have to get the appropriate vaccinations for their children in order to protect their own children, as well as other children,” he said. “If a child cannot attend school because their parents failed to have them vaccinated, then it’s not anybody other than the parent who is keeping them out of school.”
Some school officials who made their opposition to the repeal public relayed concerns about the emotional and educational impact of losing critical academic, extracurricular, social, and special education services.
In his letter to the Albany court, Rev. Joel Maus, Superintendent of Smithtown Christian School, noted a “grossly implemented change” in which families were given little time to process the law and make a decision. He cited “students on the cusp of their educational career now graduating from nowhere.”
It’s not just parochial school administrators speaking out.
“These kids have been our students in some cases for nine or 10 years and next year, they can’t come to school anymore,” said William H. Johnson, superintendent of the Rockville Centre School District. “It would be very helpful if more time was given to both the families and the school district to work this out.”
Advocates feel as though thousands of students have become outcasts as a result of the state law.
“Families feel cast aside like non-members of society and their children like castoffs and rejects from the educational system that has nurtured, loved, and educated them,” said Rita Palma, founder of advocacy group My Kids, My Choice. “Vaccinating their children is not an option for the majority of these families. Religious beliefs did not change miraculously on June 13.”
With women increasingly assuming home and career responsibilities, work-life balance is paramount to feeling accomplished personally and professionally.
Since 1960, the number of mothers serving as the primary earners for their household increased from 11 percent to 40 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Moreover, 70 percent of mothers with children under 18 participate in the labor force with more than 75 percent of them employed full-time.
“The roles of women have changed, and they will continue to change,” says Mary Hauptman, president of the Long Island Center for Business and Professional Women. “We all have 24 hours in the day. It’s how you use them that’s important.”
Achieving harmony between family and career is an everlasting work in progress for most Long Island women — but one that if successful, could be rich in rewards.
Stacey Rees, of Northport, is married with four children. She and her husband, Kyle, opened Island Kids Early Childhood Center (two locations), prior to the birth of their first child. Organization, flexibility and collaboration are what she says keep both her family and her business up and running.
“My children have all had chores from very young ages and we work as a team to make our larger family run a little smoother,” she says, noting that family members’ responsibilities may change depending on the daily schedule and needs.
“Delegation” is key at work and at home, she says. “It is important that my staff all understand and can fully carry out our vision for the schools.”
“I know most people say you can’t have it all, but I would beg to disagree,” says Laura Maier of Massapequa.
Maier and her husband, Jeff, have three boys ages 3, 9, and 11 years old. The Maiers are franchise owners of Dairy Queen Grill & Chill (Massapequa, Levittown, Huntington and East Northport) and of Jersey Mike’s Subs (Farmingdale, Massapequa Park and Lindenhurst). Laura Maier plans to run for Town Board of Oyster Bay in the fall. The secret to her family’s success is having “an amazing husband and awesome kids, a supportive family, and restaurant managers that really care and are invested in the company.”
To keep home and businesses operating efficiently, the Maier family strives to maintain an open line of communication. Working outside the home sets an example for her children, she says.
“I’m teaching them that it is just as important for a woman to earn a living as it is for a man,” she says.
Administrating Facebook moms’ group, Long Island Amazing Moms of Nassau and Suffolk, which boasts nearly 22,000 members, has given Fran Daniels, who is also a Talent Acquisition Specialist at Winston Staffing and director of social media for Long Island Loyalty Rewards, great insight into the most common struggles faced by working mothers, as well as what they value most.
“It’s the guilt moms feel when they can’t be there to watch a baseball game or juggling who’s going to watch your child when she’s sick…and about not going to work feeling like you will get into trouble,” notes Daniels.
Daniels, who is married to Howard and has a 12-year-old daughter, says that women thrive on giving and receiving support to get through tough times.
“We see we are not alone on this journey,” she says.
Over the course of her 47-year career, St. James resident Natalie Weinstein learned that being able to prioritize, “accept you can’t do everything,” and doing your best at both jobs — family and career — has an impact on your success and happiness. Finding your “happy place” at home and work is paramount.
With two grown children (shared with her late husband, Bernie) and two grandchildren, Weinstein, owner of Natalie Weinstein Design Associates and Uniquely Natalie/Quality Consignment Home Furnishings, and founder of nonprofit Celebrate St. James, she knows the balancing act well.
“Raising a family isn’t about just being there,” she says. “When you’re there, make it count.” Eat breakfast with them; help them with their homework. “Enjoy the process. Be kind to yourself and value yourself as a person.”
Fourteen-year-old Jaime Guttenberg was beautiful and intelligent. She commanded a room, whether she was dancing or dazzling her audience with her vibrant energy and empathetic, kind and mature nature.
“She had a voice that needed to be heard,” says her father, Fred Guttenberg, a Long Island native who has lived in Florida since 1989.
But on February 14, 2018, Jaime Guttenberg — along with 16 other students and staff of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida — lost her life to a 19-year-old gunman who opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle, leaving behind her father, mother Jennifer, older brother Jesse, and their beloved golden doodle pups Charli and Cooper.
Almost immediately following the shooting, Mr. Guttenberg thrust himself into a mission to improve gun safety throughout the United States, essentially becoming a voice for his daughter and every other parent who has lost a child to a senseless and seemingly preventable tragedy.
In 2016, 38,658 persons died from firearm-related injuries in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Guns were used in 87 percent of homicides involving youth.
LI is not immune. In 2018, more than 30 percent of violent crimes in Nassau and Suffolk Counties combined were related to firearms, according to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.
“I want to do everything I can to lower the gun violence death rates, so we are stopping these things and saving lives,” Guttenberg says. “I don’t get my daughter back, but I need to be a part of making sure that other parents don’t go through what my family is going through.”
Jaime was very close with her parents, especially her mother. Their family was very “tight.” Siblings Jesse and Jaime “laughed a lot,” Guttenberg recalls.
“The hardest part is not hearing them laugh in the back seat,” he says.
Jaime also had big plans.
“She was going to be a pediatric physical therapist,” he says. “Her dream was to help a kid walk for the first time. She was just an unbelievable kid and there isn’t a second I don’t think about her and miss her.”
Advocating for gun safety has become a priority for Guttenberg and a way to work through his grief. Just days following his daughter’s death, Guttenberg faced U.S. Sen. March Rubio (R-Florida) at a CNN Town Hall meeting on February 21.
“Unfortunately, there has been way too much gun violence in this country,” Guttenberg asserts. “I always felt the reaction was way too polite, way too comfortable, and way too temporary.”
After his daughter’s passing, Guttenberg established two organizations: Orange Ribbons (www.orangeribbonsforjaime.org), a nonprofit foundation aimed to honor his daughter and all her life’s passions, including anti-bullying programs and the Humane Society; and Orange Ribbons For Gun Safety, a nonprofit that advocates for gun safety reforms and candidates who will pursue gun safety.
Guttenberg was instrumental in introducing Jaime’s Law, to the House and Senate.
“We have to deal with a dysfunctional and broken background check system,” he says.
The law would require universal background checks on the sale of ammunition. Restricting the age to purchase weapons or ammunition to individuals ages 21 and older is critical, Guttenberg says.
“We don’t let these kids drink until they are 21,” he says. “We shouldn’t let them buy weapons.”
Enforce red flag laws, Guttenberg says.
“Give law enforcement the ability to remove weapons from those that are a known threat to themselves or someone else—or a certified domestic abuser, because they have already shown they are violent,” he says.
And finally, “we need to allow for the CDC to do funding and study of gun violence,” Guttenberg says. “We need to limit magazine capacity.”
None of the above proposals violate the second amendment, Guttenberg notes.
“It’s all about lowering the gun violence death rate, which is about 40,000 per year,” he says. “This is my life mission.”