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Oct 16, 2019 12:33 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach School District Earns Rare School Of Distinction Honor

From left to right, New York State Assemblyman Fried Thiele, Westhampton Beach senior athletes Belle Smith, Mackenzie Kim, Jesse AlfanoStJohn and Westhampton Beach Athletic Director Kathy Masterson. CAILIN RILEY
Oct 21, 2019 12:56 PM

October 16 was a day that Westhampton Beach High School Athletic Director Kathy Masterson figured some of her senior student-athletes might be tempted to cut, at least in the morning, when most regular classes were canceled because of PSAT testing. But she had something special planned that she wanted them to be in school for, so she instructed her coaches to make it clear to the seniors that she would not be happy with them if they weren’t on campus.


That message was received.

All of the school’s senior athletes were on hand last Wednesday morning in the auditorium as New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. issued a proclamation recognizing the school for becoming a New York State Public High School Athletic Association “School of Distinction.”

It is a rare honor, bestowed on a school only when each one of its varsity sports teams has a combined grade point average of 90 or higher. For a school that has 21 varsity sports teams, it is an impressive accomplishment. Assemblyman Thiele spoke briefly to the senior student-athletes who were on hand, along with Ms. Masterson, Superintendent Michael Radday, and Principal Chris Herr.

The large proclamation from the State Assembly, signed by Assemblyman Thiele, was presented to the students and staff, along with the School of Distinction certificate from the New York State Public High School Association, as well as a glass trophy from NYSPHSAA touting the achievement.

Assemblyman Thiele pointed out that Westhampton Beach and Shelter Island are the only schools in his district — which extends from William Floyd Parkway east to Montauk — to earn the honor, and that the school was one of just eight in Suffolk County, joining Babylon, Elwood/John Glenn, Kings Park, Northport, Rocky Point, Shelter Island and Smithtown West, and 36 in the state to earn the award this year. He added that it was a testament to a decades-long tradition of prioritizing both academic and athletic excellence in the school district.

Assemblyman Thiele, who played three sports at Pierson High School before graduating in 1971, said he still remembers playing in a basketball game against Westhampton Beach, which the Hurricanes won with a halfcourt shot at the buzzer, and he added that he recalled playing against one of the school’s most recognizable alums, Dan Jiggetts, who is most well known for starring on the school’s football team before playing at Dartmouth and later for the Chicago Bears.

“There’s such a great athletic tradition here that goes back a long way,” he said, addressing the student-athletes. “And you have all continued that.”

This year marks the second time in four years that Westhampton Beach has won the award, adding to the previous time it was honored, in 2016.

Ms. Masterson said the achievements could not be overstated.

“In my 14 years as athletic director, these are the two most prestigious things I think we’ve ever won,” she said, referring to the School of Distinction award and the proclamation from the state assembly. “It’s huge.”

Ms. Masterson pointed out that, as a larger school than many in the surrounding area, she is managing a high number of teams and athletes, and that means there are many different types of kids on those teams. Getting them all on the same page when it comes to being committed to both their athletic pursuits and schoolwork is not easy, she said, but she gave credit to the coaching staff for making it happen, while adding that the students themselves have proven they are up for the challenge.

“I attribute it a lot to our coaching staff,” she said. “They’re constantly on our kids about their grades and being good citizens. And every one [of the senior student-athletes] was here today, and they didn’t know anything about it. That says a lot about them, and about our coaching staff.”

Ms. Masterson chose three senior student-athletes to stand before their classmates and accept the awards on behalf of the class, 80 percent of whom play at least one sport. Those three included Belle Smith, Jesse AlfanoStJohn, and Mackenzie Kim. Smith is an All-American lacrosse player and is also a standout on the girls basketball and volleyball teams, while AlfanoStJohn stars for the football team and is also a lacrosse player, and Kim is the number one golfer on a very successful Westhampton Beach boys golf team this year and also plays baseball.

The trio spoke afterward about what the recognition meant to them.

“It’s an awesome honor,” Smith said. “The past few years, Westhampton has really grown both academically and athletically, so to have this honor and having everyone be able to see it is really cool.”

AlfanoStJohn credited the school faculty for helping him and his peers achieve success both on and off the field, and added that the recognition helps prove what he already believes about the culture at Westhampton Beach.

“The teachers help us a lot,” he said. “It just shows that everyone has a grit, not only in sports, but in the classroom, and that we do the right thing when it comes to academics and sports.”

Kim admitted that balancing the rigors of schoolwork and the demands of being a varsity athlete can be rigorous, but the key to success is straightforward.

“Obviously, when you play sports, it’s not easy to get all your things done in one night,” he said. “But you just go to school and do what you can, and then just go home, eat dinner, and do your work.”

 

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Great job WHB!!! Great teaching, great coaching, and great parenting. Students you are great are role models to the younger hurricanes To me this is a better award then being state champs in any sport.

Oct 16, 19 2:21 PM appended by coolref
Great job WHB!!! Great teaching, great coaching, and great parenting. Students you are great role models to the younger hurricanes To me this is a better award then being state champs in any sport.
By coolref (11), East End on Oct 16, 19 2:21 PM
Go WHB. I am so happy for the teams and their academic success. Kathy Masterson is a great leader who sets high expectations. I am happy to say the multiple sports that my children played at WHB contributed to the great adults they are today. All the students'parents are getting their A report card in setting firm challenges and rewards.
By james L. Fogarty (6), remsenburg on Oct 16, 19 2:58 PM

These accolades attributed to the Westhampton Beach School District are derived from diversified branches that have been nurtured from the deeply embedded roots :
Families who provide the quality youngsters
Community..SchoolBoard Members who spare no worthwhile expenditures
Faculty, Staff and Administration enabling those charged to them with unlimited opportunities to succeed.
And finally, the Athletic Department, headed by Ms Masterson, whose expectations of student athletes ...more
By kahuna (70), Tampa on Oct 16, 19 3:30 PM
Yes, it all starts with the parents first, then the School Board, and progressive, competent Administrators and teachers. Bottom line, they will all be judged by the results they produce. Congratulations for this great honor and accomplishment to show the Hamptons school districts are not all totally hopeless.

You should put up a Summer School to train all these other school board members, administrators, teachers, and staff of all the other school districts in the Hamptons who should really ...more
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Oct 21, 19 8:33 AM
And still it’s not obvious there is preferential treatment/grading standards given to the athletes of WHBHS?! Hmmm....
By EVV7902 (12), Westhampton on Oct 16, 19 6:56 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By roydaleo (2), Westhampton Beach on Oct 16, 19 8:04 PM

Evv7902

Your one sentence analysis of the academia at WHB HS marginalizing both students and educators is merely “ Bomb Throwing.”
Unless you can re- respond with precise, factual data to support your theory...
You have self destructed and smeared those who have been acknowledged by those who have used calibrated measuring criteria to award this deserved tribute.
So, put up... or re think your preposterous two cents worth of criticism.
By kahuna (70), Tampa on Oct 16, 19 9:53 PM
1 member liked this comment
Hail to the Westhampton Beach educational administrators, teachers, and staff! You are a shining example of a different Hamptons academic beacon of light in a sea of Hampton academic mediocrity and decay where school Boards and academic administrators routinely raid tax coffers, wasting up to $50,000 to $80,000 per student for public school when the national average is roughly $13,000. With negligible academic results.

Many schools nationwide do far, far, better, with far, far less expenditures ...more
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Oct 20, 19 11:34 PM
Hail to the Westhampton Beach educational administrators, teachers, and staff! You are a shining example of a different Hamptons academic beacon of light in a sea of Hampton academic mediocrity and decay where school Boards and academic administrators routinely raid tax coffers, wasting up to $50,000 to $80,000 per student for public school when the national average is roughly $13,000. With negligible academic results.

Many schools nationwide do far, far, better, with far, far less expenditures ...more
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Oct 20, 19 11:35 PM