10/15/13 11:05am

JOANN KIRKLAND PHOTO | Kathy Gooding (left) moderated a panel discussion among authors of historical works at Shelter Island School last Friday. The writers, all Shelter Islanders — (from left) Gary Paul Gates, Linda Goetz Holmes, Janet Roach and Patricia Shillingburg — told students history isn’t about dates, but about people and their unique stories.

“You can’t know enough history if you want to be a writer of anything that involves history,” journalist and author Gary Paul Gates told Shelter Island students Friday at a forum at the school that boasted four historical writers — all Islanders.

Three of the four — Mr. Gates, Linda Goetz Holmes and Janet Roach — all worked for CBS at various times in their careers while the fourth, Patricia Shillingburg, has researched and penned numerous books and reports with her husband Edward on Shelter Island’s history.

Kathy Gooding of the Shelter Island Historical Society moderated the panel and worked with teachers Brian Doelger, Peter Miedema, and Devon Treharne to bring the program together.

Mr. Gates, who wrote “The Palace Guard,” with Dan Rather, among other books, credited the newsman with providing much of the information in the book dealing with the Nixon White House. Because much of his writing and research involved talking with normally closed-mouth journalists, it was often a challenge. He acknowledged at times using the reporter’s ploy of implying that he knew more than he actually did in order to draw people out.

Ms. Holmes, who has written extensively about World War II prisoners in the Pacific, said her research actually started on Shelter Island when she learned that a resident was the step-daughter of a returning POW. More than 60,000 Americans and Australians died building the famous bridge over the River Kwai during the war, Ms. Holmes said. T

”I maxed out my credit cards,” she said, financing a trip to Melbourne, Australia to meet survivors and hear their stories. Many had never talked about their experiences before, but were moved to speak with Ms. Holmes, convinced her interest and willingness to travel so far was sincere.

Ms. Roach, has written film scripts, documentaries and was an Academy Award nominee for the screenplay for “Prizzi’s Honor.” She was a writer and director for various CBS reports including “Too Little, Too Late” that won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Television Production in 1979.

“History is about people, not about events,” she said. She started her career writing obituaries, citing the experience as an excellent means of learning about history and learning how to write.

“Obituaries are the primary tools of historians,” Ms. Shillingburg agreed. She and her husband are about to publish their 10th historical book, “The Nicolls of Sachem’s Neck” that will be launched at a publication party at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church November 2.

“I write about dead people,” Ms. Shillingburg said, emphasizing the importance of obituaries to her research. In the case of Charlotte Nicoll, the main character in the latest book, one thing the protagonist wanted people to know through her letters was “what a jerk her husband was,” Ms. Shillingburg said.

The author admitted hating history in high school because it was all about dates. But in college, she encountered a professor who told stories about people and discovered information that was sometimes “wonderful” and other times “horrifying.”

Interviewing can be a fascinating process, Mr. Gates told the students. Even when people are hesitant to talk, often those around them can offer important insights. And if you press people, you can often get them to open up, he said.

Ask broad questions to which people can’t just give yes or no answers, Ms. Roach said. If subjects “know you’re not axe-grinding,” they’ll often be willing to talk, she said.

One student asked if the writers ever started out with an assumption that turned out to be different once they did their research.

Absolutely, the writers agreed. The women on the panel pointed out how much history was long told through the eyes of men. It was only when historians dug deeper and researched the women involved that they were able to tell a fuller story of an event.

“Read, think, speculate and then start again,” Ms. Shillingburg advised as a means of getting at the truth.

“You should rejoice if you run into information you didn’t expect when researching a book,” Mr. Gates said.

06/20/13 12:30pm

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | Members of Charlie Company, 10th Signal Battalion on Shelter Island in 1993 for Operation Golden Circuit, designed to improve communications throughout Suffolk County in the event of a hurricane or other emergency.

One day of ferry delays

Ten years ago, North Ferry was hobbled with serious delays when its MV Mashomack, the company’s largest boat, had to be taken out of service for repairs to its steering mechanism. The fact that one of the company’s 12-vehicle ferries was also out of commission, leaving three small boats made for long delays for drivers. Some reported waiting as long as four hours. The problem was further compounded by the need for Corazzini Asphalt to bring large trucks loaded with asphalt to the Island for paving work. And, wouldn’t you know,  it all happened on a Thursday, that day of the week when truck traffic is particularly heavy with many suppliers bringing goods here for the weekend. It took until the following day to get the part for the Mashomack and get it back in business, restoring service to the normal summer levels.
POSTSCRIPT: Last Saturday’s Shelter Island 10k demonstrated that North and South ferry companies were well up to the challenge of handling particularly heavy traffic from the North and South forks. Boats were full and heavy, but lines moved relatively fast with no complaints about wait times that may have been a little longer than usual, but very tolerable.

U.S. Army sets up command post on Shelter Island

When members of Charlie Company, 10th Signal Battalion were spotted on Shelter Island in late June 1993, rumors abounded about what brought them to this community that locals and visitors consider paradise. Was it related to a cargo ship of Chinese refugees recently grounded off Rockaway? Or was it linked to terrorist activity that resulted in the bombing at the North Tower of the World Trade Center the previous February? Try none of the above. In a relatively peaceful period when troops weren’t being deployed around the globe in the numbers they have been in more recent years, it was all part of a training exercise for a hurricane emergency response to test communications between all the towns in Suffolk County. Then Supervisor Hoot Sherman said he had been informed of the dry run, but never expected it to take the form it did with so many soldiers on the Island. He would have informed residents in his weekly Reporter column had he been told the nature of the troop deployment, he said.
POSTSCRIPT: Today, there are efforts throughout Suffolk County to improve responses to emergency situations such as hurricanes. But much of the emphasis is on local  preparedness, recognizing that it could be several days before outside emergency help could arrive to shore up relief efforts. Police Chief Jim Read leads the effort on Shelter Island, meeting with various emergency responders to assess previous efforts and determine what needs to be done to improve Islanders’ abilities to handle a crisis.

Bergman, Card picked as top scholars

Anja Bergman was Shelter Island School’s valedictorian and Donald Card Jr. was salutatorian in June 1983. Ms. Card was headed to the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, on a four-year Army ROTC scholarship while Mr. Card planned to attend Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, on a four-year Navy ROTC scholarship.
POSTSCRIPT: This year’s valedictorian is Katy Binder, who plans to attend Villanova University as a physics major. The salutatorian, Morgan McCarthy, plans to attend Geneseo. Both will address their classmates and those who attend Saturday’s graduation ceremonies.

Landslide vote re-elects Village trustee

The year was 1963 and five residents out of the 19 eligible turned up to vote in Dering Harbor’s village election that swept William O’Connor back into office. He won all five votes and was elected to another two-year term.
POSTSCRIPT: Heather E.G. Brownlie and Richard A. Smith were re-elected on Tuesday to the Village Board.

03/18/13 10:00am

BEVERLEA WALZ | Hunter Starzee ready to rip a high hard one as the Shelter Island boys varsity baseball team took the field for its first workouts last week. Riley Willumsen does the catching as Henry Lang waits on deck. Inactive for several years, the varsity boys play a full schedule this spring.

Soggy soil, blustery wind, stinging hands — it must be baseball in the northeast.

After months of being cooped up in the gymnasium, the boys have replaced sneakers with baseball cleats, donned their mitts and are now preparing for the 2013 baseball season. The Shelter Island boys team is returning to a varsity schedule after taking a hiatus for several years. With the first game only two weeks away, the boys have begun spring training with much work to complete. After competing at the JV level for three years, the boys need to up their game in order to be competitive at the next level.

The team is extremely excited to play on the upgraded field thanks to the Shelter Island Bucks collegiate baseball team and the summer league organizers who have replaced sod and clay for the mounds. Future upgrades will include a new backstop, dugouts and a scoreboard.

The returning juniors and seniors who hoe to light up that scoreboard will be led by team captains Hunter Starzee and Mathew BeltCappellino. Rounding out the group is Riley Willumsen, Nathan Mundy, Myles Clark, Spencer Gibbs, Chandler Olinkiewicz and Thomas Mysliborski. Along with sophomore Johnny Sturges, newcomers include Peter Kropf, Richard Ruscica, Will Garrison and Henry Lang.

The key to a successful season will be pitching. Gibbs and BeltCappellino led the staff last year and they will be the anchors of the staff this year. Both will be working on improved mechanics to increase velocity, techniques to hold runners more closely, and the ability to pitch on the corners to establish more favorable counts. Also contributing on the mound will be Starzee and Willumsen, who will catch the other hurlers most of the time.

Scoring runs becomes much more challenging at the varsity level, so playing solid defense will be at a premium. Repetition, focus and constant review of scenarios will be the emphasis over the next few weeks of practice. The weather has been difficult to start the year, so the team will utilize gym and class time to discuss the importance of hitting counts, moving runners and other nuances of the game.

Overall the team is excited and a little nervous at the outset. However, the older players revel at the chance to play at the next level. The team is shooting for a winning percentage of .500 and to challenge Smithown Christian for the Class D title of Suffolk County.

The first game will be Friday, March 22 at Stony Brook followed by the home opener Monday, March 25, a doubleheader versus Greenport.

02/17/12 10:00am

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | School Superintendent Michael Hynes presenting a PowerPoint slide show on his budgeting proposals Monday night.

Facing an incoming kindergarten class of only seven or eight children, School Superintendent Dr. Michael Hynes on Monday outlined a plan for merging next year’s kindergarten class with the first grade.

“No decisions have been made,” Dr. Hynes commented later, noting that the Board of Education would have to approve any changes to the class structure.

Under the proposal for the next school year, Dr. Hynes said this year’s first graders would move into the second grade while current kindergartners would stay in the group for one more year as a new group of kindergarteners joined them.

The kindergarteners would be able to learn from their older counterparts as well as their teacher, according to Dr. Hynes.

“I don’t know if I like the sound of that,” parent Joanne Calabro said of the idea. She added that the plan would mean a class of 26 or 27 students would be handled by one teacher. “I thought we fought for smaller class sizes,” she said.

Dr. Hynes noted the teacher would also have a teaching assistant and teacher’s aide.

“And the teachers are happy about this?” Ms. Calabro asked.

Dr. Hynes said he would never propose anything that the teachers were not behind.

“It’s normal to feel nervous,” he said.

Dr. Hynes also announced that fourth and fifth graders would get a taste of junior high earlier than before as those grades could be “team taught” next year by a combination language arts/social studies teacher and math/science teacher. Those fourth and fifth grade students would begin to move from class to class for their core subjects.

“Math and science go together,” Dr. Hynes said, telling the audience the change would strengthen student learning in those core subjects. It also would allow students to go into different classes based on their ability.

Dr. Hynes said he was excited to be able to introduce such measures. “If the elementary school and junior high were in different schools, we wouldn’t be able to do this,” he said.

Board member Linda Eklund spoke out in support of the proposals. “If you’re familiar with the school 20 years ago, the students could go into the third grade for reading if they were younger and reading at a third-grade level. The vision we have is three schools within a school. A student that needs enrichment or support can go within the building to get the enrichment or support they need.”

As part of the structural changes, Dr. Hynes proposed new courses to be offered next year, including a journalism class. “We’re going to resurrect The Shelter Island School Starter,” he said, holding up an old copy of the periodical that was once the school’s newspaper. A school newspaper, he said, is akin to having access to “the pulse of the student voice,” he said, adding that the class could team up with the Shelter Island Reporter during the course of the year.

Dr. Hynes also proposed an Intel Science Research class, an AP Studio Art class, an Interactive Math 12 class and a History of Shelter Island class, which he said would be a plus as far as “having our students understand the underpinnings of our wonderful Island.” He said part of the course would be working with the Historical Society, Mashomack Preserve, and/or Sylvester Manor.

02/06/12 12:51pm

COURTESY MSG Varsity | Shelter Island's team will appear on Channel 14 tonight (Monday, Feb. 6) at 6:30 .m.

“The Challenge” — an award-winning high school quiz show in the tri-state area —  is back for its 15th year on MSG Varsity, Cablevision’s Channel 14, and on Monday, February 6 at 6:30 p.m. the Shelter Island School team will face off against East Islip High School in first-round competition.

Advisors for the Island team, from the left in the photo, are Janine Mahoney and Peter Miedema; team members, from the left, Corey Brewer, Team Captain James Read III, TV host Jared Cotter, and team members Elaine Liu, Morgan McCarthy and Wyatt Brigham (alternate).