The Huntington PTA Council’s annual awards luncheon at the Huntington Country Club was a happy affair. The group bid farewell to a group of longtime volunteers who are “retiring” after seeing their children graduate. A new slate of executive board members was welcomed with enthusiasm and high hopes for the organization’s continued success.
The end of year luncheon is a Huntington tradition. It celebrates the success of individual building PTA units and sends the group into the summer months with new leadership. PTA volunteers and district officials dined on chilled gazpacho soup and roasted lemon pepper boneless chicken with baby vegetables.
A commemorative stone will be installed at Huntington High School to celebrate the service of retiring PTA Council President Michel Kustera
Huntington’s PTA units and its arts in education committee raised over $200,000 during the 2018/19 school year. “All of it has gone back into programs,” outgoing PTA Council President Michele Kustera said.
“I couldn’t possibly name all the events held this year, but to name a few, we have sponsored authors, historical presentations, character building, anti-bullying, family events, socials and block parties, to name a few,” Mrs. Kustera said. “We also provide support through our parent volunteers at district events and if that isn’t enough, many of our PTA parents also volunteer in other school community organizations such as HFEE, booster club, drama club and marching band. I am so thankful to be a part of this community.”
Longtime PTA volunteers Jeannie Dempsey, Bari Fehrs and Laura Mills were all recognized for their impressive service. All three are “retiring” from the organization after having served in executive offices.
Mrs. Kustera spoke about her personal experiences with each of the three dynamic women, adding touching anecdotes. “Bari was my PTA mentor and go-to person for all things PTA,” said Mrs. Kustera about Mrs. Fehrs, a former PTA Council president and two-term Huntington School Board member. “She was always there at any time you needed her. As a new PTA president you have a lot of questions and I asked a lot of questions. She was the meaning of PTA; collaborative, cooperative and all about doing the best for our students.”
Mrs. Kustera first met Mrs. Dempsey six years ago when the latter was serving as the J. Taylor Finley Middle School PTA president. “She has given her time and talent to the PTA for many years,” Mrs. Kustera said. “This past December when we had Reflections entries that needed to be delivered to North Babylon on a Friday evening she volunteered because we couldn’t find anyone that was available. Suffolk PTA had set-up their Reflections drop-off site for a Friday night, two weeks before the holidays. Without hesitation Jeannie said she would do it. The night she had to deliver them, the paperwork was incomplete for some entries and she had to stay and complete it.”
Mrs. Kustera and Mrs. Mills met in 2003 when the entire eastern seaboard suffered a massive blackout. The two are next door neighbors, but hadn’t met during the first month that Mrs. Kustera had lived in Huntington.
“I saw fire trucks pull up to her house and went over to see what was going on,” Mrs. Kustera said. “Her CO detector was tripped because of the power outage. Laura, you are the reason I standing up here today. To me, Laura is Huntington.”
The PTA Council executive board for the 2019/20 school year consists of President Kristin Kanzer, co-Vice Presidents Jennifer Carrillo and Tonya Guandique, Treasurer Carolina Addeo and Secretary Mariam Murtaza.
Mrs. Kustera was elected to a three year term on the Huntington School Board last May. She assumed office this month. The PTA Council recognized her service to the group with various tokens of its appreciation, including an engraved stone that will be installed in the main plaza outside Huntington High School.
“Michele, thank you for everything you’ve done during these last 10 years while you have tirelessly served PTA,” Mrs. Kanzer said. “The landscape of PTA has changed. It used to be moms with some free time doing bake sales and 50 people at meetings. No it’s iPhones, video conferences, doing a ‘meeting’ in the car while running to our next stop for work or for our kids. It’s lunacy sometimes. But we are all here because we know there’s still power in making our school district feel like a community.”
Mrs. Kustera helped bring the PTA Reflections program back to Huntington UFSD, regularly reviewed the district’s educational data and prioritized issues which required immediate advocacy.
“We love you Michele and we are so grateful for your leadership,” Mrs. Kanzer said.