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VIDEO: Two Intel Semifinalists from Wantagh Explain Winning Projects

MacArthur High School seniors Melissa Slyper and Jacklyn Sullivan find out Wednesday if they are finalists in prestigious research competition.

seniors and Wantagh residents Melissa Slyper and Jacklyn Sullivan will find out Wednesday whether or not they are finalists in the Intel Science Talent Search competition. 

Last week, Patch sat down with the to give them a chance to explain their projects. Slyper's project was entitled "An Analysis of Social Networking Among Adolescents: Gender Differences, Sexting, and Narcissism." Sullivan's project was entitled "The Social Cost of School Restructuring: The Impact of Middle School Reform on Young Adolescent Girls’ Body Image."

Sullivan is the third of her siblings to be named an Intel semifinalist. Her sister, Christine, was named a semifinalist in 2006 and brother Michael achieved the honor in 2009.

Chris Wendt January 24, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Funny (not) that the Levittown School District encompasses parts of Wantagh and Seaford, yet neither Wantagh nor Seaford School Districts seem to participate in the Intel Science Talent Search competition. I know in Wantagh the excuse is that "we don't have the money for this." The irony is that the two Levittown School District semifinalists are from Wantagh, and they are not the first. As is the excuse about the Intel competition, Wantagh also does not have the money for Full-day Kindergarten, and certain BOCES programs. Both Wantagh and Seaford do seem to have enough money for employee raises and a host of administrative (non-teaching) positions. Why couldn't the Wantagh and Seaford school districts get together and fund a joint, 2-district Intel competition program? The Levittown Intel competition program is doubtlessly funded, in part, by State money, some of which is derived from residents of the Wantagh and Seaford school districts. What would prevent Levittown, Seaford, and Wantagh from putting together a 3-district Intel competition program? I mean, other than nobody bothering to ask? (I'm asking already....)
SSteacher January 24, 2012 at 11:29 PM
Wantagh and Seaford both have had money issues the last couple of years with their budgets. These programs are expensive, my current building has one, but are great for kids who have the ability to compete. No district would want to "share" the time, effort and recognition that goes into the program. Why should Levittown share what they are already doing for their kids. Maybe its time that Wantagh and Seaford installed these programs as they help those who are really gifted in science.
Chris Wendt January 25, 2012 at 10:33 AM
Wantagh, Seaford, Plainedge and a host of Long Island school districts have had "money" "issues" since 1989-90, when then-Governor Mario Cuomo cut their state aid in the middle of the school year. Everything a school district does or provides is "expensive", and everything a given school districts does not do or does not provide is generally covered by the lame excuse, "because that is 'too expensive', and as you are aware, we have 'money problems'". But our "money" "problem" is by no means lack of money; the problem is the utter lack of future planning, coupled with the lack of clear goals to be accomplished within a time period with the tens of millions of dollars, the money we do have. Our school boards have tied-up most of our tax dollars in the salaries and benefits of labor contracts and administrative positions, leaving none for doing the things left undone. Worse, however, is they do not even have an official prioritized list of all their things left undone for both lack of planning and prioritization of the use of our money. There is precedent for districts sharing in competitive science programs. Levittown or Seaford or Wantagh school boards may not "want" to share in any programs, but these programs (even the Levittown program) are funded with our state tax dollars. Future Intel semifinalists "from Wantagh" or Seaford should not be limited by on which side of Jerusalem Avenue children live, on which side of the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway.
SSteacher January 25, 2012 at 01:02 PM
School districts are based on the communities that pay for them. If one community is willing to pay for program and can afford too, than kudos to that district. This is America, land of locally funded schools. You know its a stretch to say that they paid for it with state money because the local and state money is all thrown together. There is a reason that the North Shore of the island has a lot of intel semi-finalists. This is a program about money. Seaford had no money because they ran a shoe string budget for years. Other places squirreled away money for difficult times, lessening the blow on the tax payer yet ensuring programs that were good for kids would remain. If you wish to create a larger school system for Nassau county, look at the NYC public school system. I know you think that it will shrink some administrative costs. That maybe true. It will increase the amount of red tape that exists and NOTHING will get done. Not to mention that Seaford teachers would then be paid like Wantagh teachers; the difference is significant. More important than all of that, congratulations to the wonderful work by the Levittown students in becoming intel semi-finalist. That is really difficult work and a major accomplishment. To the teachers that helped guide, wonderful job as well.
Wayne Smith January 25, 2012 at 02:17 PM
Basically, what this means is that if you grow up in a poor area - and I will acknowledge that I did - you'll have less opportunities than kids who grow up on the North Shore of Long Island or any other affluent area. Everybody knows that is exactly the system we have today but I sure don't think this is defensible.
Lorraine DeVita January 25, 2012 at 02:23 PM
SS teacher, never thought i would say this but... You are 100% correct in BOTH your posts. Major congrats to both these students , their teachers , their School district and their parents! As for Seaford/Wantagh-to be honest I can probably say with certainty most people in either community & the administrations dont care one way or the other about funding a program of this caliber. they would prefer fielding winning football and athletic teams or marching bands and more to the point probably dont have anyone on staff capable of indoctrinating and teaching these types of programs. Again, job well done to both these bright young ladies - we are all rooting for you! As my 5 yr old Granddaughter prances around chanting comlete with fist pump each time she receives a 100 on her kindergarten Spelling or Math test "EDUCATION DOMINATION ,GIRLS ROCK! " lol.. YOU ROCK ladies keep up the good work!
Chris Wendt January 25, 2012 at 05:54 PM
Data indicate that Seaford has more measurable wealth than Bellmore-Merrick CHSD and Wantagh has more wealth than Levittown. Seaford and Wantagh should have been in the Intel competitition before Levittown and B-M CHSD. http://www.oms.nysed.gov/faru/Profiles/18th/wealt_indicators.htm Data for 2009-10 rank these districts as follows, from greatest to least wealth per pupil: District...................PWR.........APWR Seaford.................1.418........1.120...Wealthiest, but no Intel Program Bellmore-Merrick...1.355........1.170...4 Intel semi-finalists Wantagh...............1.217........1.002...Not in Intel competition Levittown...............0.977........0.799...2 Intel semifinalists (from 'Wantagh') Brentwood.............0.604........0.385...Poorest, wbut with one Intel semi-finalist. PWR is the property wealth of each district compared to the rest of the state. APWR is the Adjusted Gross Income (IRS) wealth of each district. To my point that these programs are financed with OUR state tax money, you should next read about semifinalists and now the 5 FINALISTS from LI: http://www.newsday.com/long-island/education/more-coverage-li-students-in-the-intel-science-competition-1.3476254 One factor in several of these projects was the use of local university resources--not high school science labs--in performing a lot of the actual research work. Maybe what we have here is more of a 'failure to communicate' than any actual "money" "problem".
Chris Wendt January 26, 2012 at 01:21 AM
I have confirmed that 100% of the LI Finalists in the Intel competition did their work at Stony Brook University, which is a SUNY school funded in part by our state tax dollars (income tax, sales tax, alcohol and tobacco taxes, driver license fees, car/boat registration fees, and state park fees). I am not advocating for a large LI school district, but I certainly am advocating that, since state tax dollars partially support competitive Intel research at SUNY Stony Brook, and state tax dollars partially support other school districts' Intel programs, including their science advisors, that participation in the Intel competition should be opened up, financially, to any LI school district and even parochial high school students. One way to do this could be for the BOCES to establish partnerships with SUNY Stony Brook and connect interested students from anywhere on the Island with this program. Or are we more interested in fighting with our unions, winning football games, and defeating our school budgets?
wantagh January 26, 2012 at 02:38 AM
When as the last time wantagh won a championship football game? The only people worried about football games are the 30 kids and their parents maybe.The same would hold true for full day kindergaten in my opinion, The only people interested in full day kindergarten are the people that have young children and need or want them in a full day program. Boces programs cut out of the budget, a few parents come fight fr them to be put back and only they care. We live in a very selfish world/town and Yes that is true for many not all .
Chris Wendt January 26, 2012 at 10:23 AM
Are you saying that those 5 people up there are the Board of Whatever the Most Loudest People Want This Month? ...and if YOU want something, then you need to either be louder than or outnumber everybody else who wants something else...this month? What about "The Children"? What about...education? I happen to disagree with that as an assessment of the members of the Wantagh Board of Education. Although they sometimes have to contend with large numbers of highly vocal people who want various things, the Wantagh BoE is concerned about education first and foremost. I hope to serve as an example for you of older people in Wantagh (and Seaford) who are concerned about--and willing to fight for and fund--programs like BOCES Summer Arts, Full-day Kindergarten, and high caliber scientific research (like the Intel competition) which is the topic of this thread. There are a good number of us who actually want our hard-earned tax dollars spent on children's education, rather than on excessive employee salaries and benefits, and a cadre of administrative (non-teaching) positions. Wantagh is not as "selfish" as you think!
Wayne Smith January 26, 2012 at 10:47 AM
I think any direction that provides more kids with a legitimate opportunity to compete in programs such as the Intel awards is a great idea - not just for the benefit of the kids themselves but for what I woud hope would be a positive benefit for Long Island's economy. Given high taxes and other problems companies are leavling Long Island in droves and as a result we are losing jobs when other parts of the county are now creating jobs. Meanwhile what new jobs do spring up on Long Isalnd tend to be in lower-paying categories such as retail. Bottom line: we need some kind of story to tell when it comes to attacting higher-paying jobs in technology and research. Showing that we have a wellspring of talented kids - beyond just a handful of selected school districts - would be one way to do that.
Lorraine DeVita January 26, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Perhaps the parents and residents who are truly interested in quality and equality in education should form their own SPECIAL interest group, just like band parents, athletes parents, etc. A BOOSTER CLUB FOR EDUCATION! What a shock that would be. Parents VOICING for EDUCATION. my heart be still..
wantagh January 26, 2012 at 03:45 PM
i am aware of what the thread is about.I was not talking about The BOE What i was trying to say was their are not enough people to come out and voice their opinions about the science program because it seems to me people (besides the usual people that attend BOE meetings)only come to present their promblem and once it is resolved they dont come back..I wish that i could agree about wantagh not being selfish and I am glad their are some people who care but wish that their were more.
Chris Wendt January 26, 2012 at 07:20 PM
Although you did not intend to be speaking of the BOE, it is inescapable that the BOE are the advocates for education, representing all interests, regardles of the number or intensity of their "issues". However, I need to correct myslef a bit on that statement. Of course, the missing key ingredient in Wantagh is a permanent Superintendent, whose role over and above anyone else, is the keeper of the "vision" for our school district. We need a new oracle, a new, true visionary to get us on the right track, to set a course that is not dependent on loud voices and special interests, a leader deterimined to stay that course regardless of which way the wind is blowing from month to month; a master and commander who is able to withstand...all that silly selfish nonsense.
SSteacher February 01, 2012 at 03:51 AM
Chris, with all due respect, these programs are NOT funded by your state dollars. Students are assisted by teachers at their schools in refining their ideas. You also ignore the fact that all three HS in bellmore-merrick are significantly bigger than Seaford. You are also not willing to admit that the local school needs to have the program that creates intel finalists. If the budget fails in Seaford or barely passes in Wantagh, how can the board or anyone else possibly say that they are going to add programs when they are forced to cut them based on the will of the voters. Because Stony Brook does have students go there for their intel projects does not mean that because they get state aid anyone gets to go. Students must apply for internships with an idea. The assistance of teachers in this regard is very important. Unless Seaford is willing to pony up the cash as a community, the students will continue to miss out on educational opportunities. In many countries in the world, each school is funded by the national level equally. In America, we have chosen to have locally funded schools. To say that Seaford should pay less and then take from others who are willing to pay more does not sound fair under the current system we have funding our schools. I teach in Bellmore-Merrick and I know that our ASR program is large, but the community wants it.
SSteacher February 01, 2012 at 03:51 AM
If people in Seaford want it, they should have to pay for it like everyone else and stop failing budgets. Again, congratulations to the semi-finalists. No matter what happens at the next level, you have done an amazing job.
Lorraine DeVita February 01, 2012 at 05:11 AM
SS teacher, Seaford has a LOOOONG history of accepting mediocre, on many academic levels. Most of it is driven by apathy or the fact that if it doesnt affect THEIR child academicaly they arent going to get involved or voice a concern or suggestion. Those that DO get frowned upon. We have a Jock driven mentality ruling the kingdom on mnay levels . Like i stated before Many times, education takes a back seat here, quality education, it is historicaly subjugated to the whims of the boards and administration. Taking the quality of teaching aside , if Seaford wants to establish a higher quality academic reputation we need to direct funding CURRENT AVAILABLE funding towards building a strong progressive challenging educational game plan with goals and milestones so perhaps in the next 10 years Seaford is known as a leader in academics. sadly we can not say that now. Adequate yes, mediocre certainly but not a leader .. Its a mindset - Seaford wants RAH RAH on the field of dreams lit up at nite .. we are envied for our football field not our educational programs. Priorities are skewed and kids are getting screwed out of the best we can give them in the classroom for a myriad of reasons. Faliure of a budget is the least of them....
Lorraine DeVita February 01, 2012 at 05:24 AM
Congrats ot the semi finalists, your hard work,combined with the support of your teachers, mentors,school district and your parents have helped you accomplished something that not many can or even try to . You are WINNERS in every sense of the word.
Chris Wendt February 01, 2012 at 10:40 AM
I have very recently (this very morning already) been informed that Wantagh does have a thriving science research program. I intend to educate myself more about it in the coming days. Perhaps Seaford is in a similar situation? Certainly, being designated a national Intel semifinalist is a very big deal. But having participated in real ("high-caliber") science research as a high school student is a winning endeavor for all concerned. There are no "losers", which is something that scientific research really teaches you well, especially when your hypothesis is "busted".
Tim Brandt February 03, 2012 at 05:57 PM
I just learned that the work of the 2 Levittown students was done in class! Not a lab!!Not a University.. Infact it has been the same teacher running research there for a few years and all of his INTEL semis were done in the school and not a university or lab. Perhaps that has something to do with it? Congrats to the girls. Maybe we need a new research "teacher"?
Generals Fan February 04, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Everyone is always so quick to criticize sports programs. Academics is most definitely important, but so are sports.Team sports teach children very valuable lessons which are just as important in life. Not every student can be an Intel finalist just like not every student will be a star athlete. Both are important in that child's growth. We at MacArthur are very proud of both girls, we have known Melissa since her Lee Road days and she is a wonderful girl. We are also very proud of those athletes who go out there and give 100% for their respective teams. Many of these athletes are honor students as well. Sports and team spirit have helped to make them the terrific kids they are today. Please do not marginalize the important role athletics play in a students overall school career, as well as helping them deal with whatever life throws at them.

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