Desk of Kanas: It’s time again for budget workshops

Elaine Kanas

February starts our series of budget workshops for the public.  

Check the district website for a listing of all these meetings.  Your input is valued and important.  

A most special evening!  –  East Williston School District’s first multicultural dinner held

The district held the first of what we plan to be an ongoing series of multicultural events for the adults of our community.  

Last week’s event was a celebration of the Lunar New Year, highlighting the Asian culture. 

 Many of our Chinese families generously donated the delicious appetizers and dinner.  This evening grew out of a goal from the Board of Education Educational Advisory Committee, which consists of representation from East Williston staff, parents, community and the Board of Education. 

While our students have many opportunities to experience and celebrate each other’s cultures and build a greater sense of our connectedness, it was felt that similar opportunities should be provided for the adults of our community.

With many guests wearing celebratory red for the Lunar New Year, the evening began with parents, staff and Board members checking in at the reservation table where everyone received a lanyard name tag with a picture of one of the Chinese Zodiac signs and a few symbols of Chinese culture (the animals or other symbols on your name tag indicated the table you would later be sitting at for dinner).  

The nametag also provided some “icebreaker” suggestions. The icebreaker activity took place in the Wheatley lobby as everyone enjoyed a “Bubble Tea” hour with an incredible spread of delicious Asian hors d’oeuvres. 

During this initial part of the evening, I was very excited to meet some of our parents, in person, that I hadn’t previously had the chance to do so. A beautiful display of many flags that represent the cultures of our East Williston School District hung as a backdrop.

Next, we all moved into the auditorium for a presentation by our very own Wheatley students, hosted, performed and produced by Wheatley’s Intercultural Unity Club, which is advised by Wheatley teachers Gail Leibert and Steve Fitzko.  An important aspect of each of the multicultural events is to provide some insight into the highlighted culture to promote understanding and enrich our perspectives.  

Our students are amazing!  Their poise, maturity and sense of presence is so impressive. Wheatley seniors Joy Bestourous and Lavanya Reddy MC’d this part of the event.  Student presentations included:

A Fan Dance, performed by Anne Yan and Anusha Ramnarayan; 

An overview of music from East Asia, from ancient times through modern day from Jane Kim and Anne Yan;  

A video about the Celebration of the Lunar New Year, the Year of the Monkey, prepared by Christopher Shen;

A K-Pop dance medley performed by Samantha Leong, Emily Chauhan, Anusha Ramnarayan and Anne Yan; and

An abridged version of the ICU Assembly Fashion Show, which takes place each December at Wheatley. Melissa Farhangian, Ethan Moreh, Rahul Ajmera, Tiffany Jiao, Lin Chen and Michaela Balboni modeled a beautiful display of traditional Japanese kimonos, Chinese Cheongsams and Changshans and Korean hanboks.  

Mr. Fitzko also performed a Lunar New Year song, Jasmine, on his trumpet.

Our Wheatley multi-purpose room was transformed into a festive holiday setting with beautiful table settings and wall decorations, shining in red.  The Multicultural Planning Committee created the seating arrangements so people would be sitting with families and staff from their children’s home school, but with parents and teachers that, for the most part, they did not already know. Each place setting had a beautiful tri-fold with all the signs and meanings of the Chinese zodiac and suggestions for cultural discussion starters. 

In the lobby, our ICU club students served the delicious catered buffet meal that was donated by many of our Chinese families. Committee member, Tina Leong, our North Side Mandarin Enrichment Club teacher at, performed an actual Tea Ceremony.  Still full from the delicious dinner, we were all treated to a special dessert and a Lunar New Year remembrance gift. 

Multicultural Planning Committee, you did a fabulous job. Warmest thanks : Joan Anderson, chair, Susan Checkla, Barbara Creamer, Priti Jain, Tina Leong, Yingju Susan Li, Lily Lin, Qin Ma, Tanuja Reddy and Ivy Sun.        

Thank you ICU club students.  Your hosting and serving and all around helping made the evening go so smoothly: Rahul Ajmera, Michaela Balboni, Joy Bestourous, Emily Chauhan, Lin Chen, Melissa Farhangian, Haseeb Jangda, Tiffany Jiao, Jane Kim, Samantha Leong, Ethan Moreh, Anusha Ramnarayan, Lavanya Reddy, Brenden Resnick, Chris Shen, Nick Vazquez, Erin Wu, Anne Yan and Rachel Yang.

Host families. Thank you for your generous donation of the delicious food and Lunar New Year remembrances: Sethi/Anci Chen, Ye, Yan /Dan Ping, Zhong /Daphne Huang, Zhang /Fei Chang, Lin /Janice, Qianghua Chen/Jia Hong, Ken Wu/Irene Zheng, Ivy Sun/Eddie Wong, Yong Zhang/Jing Yu, Daniel Morgan/Julia Yu, Xu Li/Yao Guo, Jack Ching/Karen, Thomas Wong/Kathy Man, Sam Yang/Lin Lin, Wen Jian Zheng/Lucy Lu, Eric Rong/Lucy Liu, Hui Liu/Maggie Sun, Hua Jiang/Michelle, Mike Ma, Edward Chang/Miao Jun Yen, Ling Zhu/Qin Ma, Jing/Xin Zhong Jiang, Brian Holland/Rachel Sun, Zhong/Sanny, Li/Susan, Conan Tu/Teresa Wang, Bao/Li Lu, Frank Zeng/Vicky Tang, Jiao/Vivian, George Lin/Wendy, Kuo/Wenny Lo, Yi Qian/Yun Wen, Ho/Zou Yuan Yuan and Wei Shi/Emma Zhe Sun.

Thanks to Mike Deister and the rest of Wheatley’s custodial staff for helping make this event a success. 

Congratulations & Commendations

Wheatley senior Julian Nathan was named a candidate in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program by the U.S. Department of Education

Wheatley junior Lianna Golden was awarded the Bertie Green Travel Scholarship presented by the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese for her essay and video interview highlighting her interest in Ecuadoran culture and how this travel experience might affect her life. Special thanks to Lianna’s teacher, Mary Martinez, for encouraging her students to challenge themselves to go beyond the classroom.  

Fifty-one high school Science Olympiad teams from around eastern Nassau County competed to earn a coveted spot at the State Competition.  

The Wheatley team came in second place overall and is headed to Le Moyne College in Syracuse (in March) to battle the best teams from across the state!

Congratulations to our team members Karan Amin, Joy Bestourous, Robert Chang, Krista Chen, Ari Jain, Haseeb Jangda, Vani Kumar, John Li, Karen Li, Jeffrey Poomkudy, Christopher Shen, Manan Shukla, Vedant Singh, Emily Wang, Aiden Wong, Cindy Zhou and Andrew Zuckerman. Thanks as well to Alexis Blondrage and DJ Paulson, co-advisors to the team.

Steve Cadet, Wheatley’s Dean of Students, Physical Education teacher and Boys Varsity Soccer coach is being inducted into the Long Island Soccer Player Hall of Fame on March 5 at 8:00 p.m. at the Huntington Hilton. 

Have a Good Weekend

As always, please email me at or call me at 333-3758 with any questions, suggestions and/or any topics you would like to see in this newsletter.

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Elaine Kanas

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