17. Berner High School 1962



Berner  School Celebrates 50th Anniversary

Our Hall of Fame newsletters in the next few months will carry news of Berner’s 50th Anniversary celebrations. A faculty committee chaired by Don Nobile (former Dean of Students) are planning a year long celebration to honor of the school.

Berner JuniorSenior High   School  / Berner High School /

 Berner Middle School

The Berner School was opened in January 1962.  7th, 8th, &  9th pupils assigned to the Parkside and McKenna Jr. High Schools enrolled mid-year. A small number of 5th and 6th grade pupils from southeast Massapequa were also transferred to alleviate overcrowding at Unqua.

  In September, 10th and 11th grade students living in the new Berner high schools enrollment area transferred from MHS, thereby bringing Berner’s initial enrollment to 1400 pupils. The following June the pioneer  Class of 64 graduated. In each succeeding year a lower grade was discontinued until Berner High School served only grades 9-12.

 The Berner High School was closed in June of 1987 after some 25 years of honored service. Since that time, the school underwent several grade configurations. The building was converted to an 8th and 9th grade Junior High School. The school then housed a 7-9 pupil population, followed by a final change to a 7th and 8th grade middle school.  

 In this issue we offer some little remembered stories about the behind the scene decision – making  factors that led up to the building of the Berner school.

Two High Schools or Three

…Neighboring  large districts to the west (Valley Stream Central, East Meadow, Levittown, Bellmore Merrick CSD) as well as  Massapequa were required to make a basic facilities decision in the mid to late sixties. As enrollments climbed, each of the district had to determined whether or not to build 2 or 3 senior high school.

 The decision making factors were primarily the number of  pupils projected and the number and size of available building sites. The economic affordability profile of the district and the national economic outlook were the other factors that drove the  final determinations.

 …In Massapequa, three voter rejections of a proposition to buy the 52 acre John Burns Park for a elementary and secondary building site was a major factor in nullifying any plan for 3 senior high school buildings. The votes were not close. The inclusion of a swimming pool recreation building may have been a major factor in the defeat.

 … In 1958, after McKenna opened only three available large land sites that were left on the district’s saturation maps. Attempts to acquire the Amityville Laundry land which now houses the Shopping Mall failed. The Massapequa Zoo and Drive-In Movie acres  (currently Waldbaum’s Center) were not available.  Accordingly the Carman Rd.  site became the only viable option.

The final expansion plan, to build a large junior/senior high school and enlarge the Massapequa High School took shape and guided the district in the peak secondary years (1969-70) when the district peak K-12 enrollment reached 17,000 pupils. Each school would exceed 3,000 pupils with the liberal use of portable classrooms constructed on the west side of Berner and the East ands west sides of MHS.

(Assistant Superintendent Frederick Keyes assisted in designing a 3 grade floor plan that located lab service on each floor)


 Berner JHS -1962     Berner  Opens September 1962

   District Enrollment

           In January of 1962 Berner High School opened for grades 5 to 11. A 12th grade level was added and the first class graduated in 1964. A total of four secondary schools began serving the districts 7-12 population. At the District’s 1971 peak enrollment of 17,000 +, Berner and MHS enrolled over three thousand pupils each.

Enrollment begins to decline   

     click to enlarge




Principal Don Woodworth and Vice Principals Don Sabolinski, and Ziggy Wachsmuth’s immediate leadership task for  Berner was to build a cohesive professional staff that could quickly develop academic standards and build school spirit and identity. 

 Berner organized its classes according to district norms. Classes were tracked: Advanced (Honors); Enriched “A” track; College Prep and Technical “B track” and remedial (C Track) as proscribed by the District Curriculum.

 Experienced M.H.S, McKenna and Parkside teachers were appointed to Chairperson positions in each of the Departments:  (Click Links for Departmental Photo’s)


 English & Reading

Mathematics & Business Education

Social Studies & Foreign Language

Science, Homemaking &Industrial Arts


 The Pioneer Class of 1964

The Class of 1964 (much like MHS Class of 1956) quickly became the generator of school spirit and identity by their excellent achievements in scholastics and extra curricular  activities. Football, Baseball posted winning seasons. The future Berner Varsity team are pictured as the 61-62 Massapequa JV team (coached by Joe Diange). Only five Varsity and JV players remained at MHS.  John Lotz and Chris Sweeny were the Varsity and JV Coaches chosen to guide the Bisons. By design, MHS increased the sizes of the Varsity and JV in 61-62 in preparation of the split. The 63-64 Bisons were Division 2 Champions.

First Row: T. Ganley, E. Mahr, A. Giovescco, R. Collins, J. Christensen   Second Row: R. McGuire, T. MacGilvray, J. Wolf, N. Lopardo, J.Andrews,      D. Tierney Third Row: K. Moyer, A. Meigs, A. Miller, K. Winchester, W. Kane. They were joined by R. Erwin who was a sophomore on MHS Varsity and Berner 1964 Juniors for their outstanding season.

Two years later, District football team at both high schools logged an extraordinary string of  undefeated seasons. The Berner Bison were 8-0 in 1967 and 1968.



From George Freund

Joe DeDinato was one of the players on our team, and yes, his dad was involved in the “Dad’s Club”. The quarterback for the ’67 year team (Class of “68) was Mike Capone (wore white football shoes like Joe Namath) and the ’68 year team (Class of ’69) was Jimmy Hughes. I believe Capone is presently the Gymnastics Coach at the High School and teaches at McKenna. Jim Hughes is an FBI Agent.

Bill Brown was our head coach (Al Brown’s father was in the Dad’s Club and they were not related to 4M Coach Brown to my knowledge). Bob Reifsnyder was the lineman coach and he was a fantastic man. A Baldwin HS standout in football, All American at the US Naval Academy, 1957 College player of the year, member of the NY Titans (precursor to the NY Jets) and in 1997 named to the College Hall of Fame. He was a big man, but could outrun everyone of us teenage athletes. Sometimes running backwards.

Being a member of the football teams at McKenna and Berner were at the top of my list for favorite school experiences. I was blessed to relive the experiences when my son George played on the MHS Football team that also went undefeated for two seasons, winning the Long Island Championship both times and the Rutgers Cup in his Senior year (1994). The High School stole it from Berner in 1968 (LOL). Cherished memories.


Photos   link  to 290 photos  from Facebook Berner alumni page maintained by Liz Cavalli.Craig.


Berner HS Alumni was started by Liz Cavalli Craig.





We are starting to accumulate memories and stories from “Pioneer” Berner Staff Members that were transferred from MHS or were hired in subsequent years.  Berner expanded its enrollment (from grades 5 to 11 in 1962 ) of some 1500 pupils to a Grade 9-12 High school with a peak enrollment of some 3200 pupils in 1970. HJP

From Al Midura










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