Miller Avenue school parents decry principal swap in SWR

06/05/2013 2:30 PM |
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Parents and teachers rallying for popular principal Louis Parrinello.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Parents and teachers rallying for popular principal Louis Parrinello Tuesday.

More than 200 Shoreham-Wading River parents and school staffers flooded the high school auditorium at Tuesday night’s school board meeting to protest a planned transfer of a popular elementary school principal to a different school in the district.

Despite urging from the audience to reconsider the move and threats of voter retribution, the board voted unanimously to move Louis Parrinello from Miller Avenue Elementary School to Briarcliff Elementary School in exchange for current Briarcliff principal, Patricia Nugent.

School officials said they understood the move was not popular, but explained that the transfer fit into the district’s long-term plans to preserve student services.

“We have to plan for administrative turnover,” said district Superintendent Steven Cohen. “We need to find ways to eliminate unneeded administrative positions to save money to preserve our programs.”

School officials would not go into further details about how the transfer of principals plays a role in the district’s plans. For more than an hour during an extended public comment section of the meeting, parents of Miller Avenue students praised Mr. Parrinello for his caring work with his students, and said the sudden switch of principals “flies in the face of logic” while demanding answers.

“My question to the Board of Education is, ‘Why?’ ” said district parent Lisa Julian, to a standing ovation. “Why would you make such a dramatic change in such a successful school?” Some members of the audience carried signs that read “Mr. Parrinello IS Miller Avenue” and recited sayings he would use to motivate kids in the school.

The crowd quickly grew frustrated when the board said it “couldn’t comment on personnel matters” because of state law.

One of the last speakers held a moment of silence with his last minute of talking time to “recognize the arrogance and stupidity of this decision.” After a moment, the parent shouted, “Mr. P, I love you. Good luck!”

Mr. Parrinello, who attends most Board of Education meetings, sat in the fifth row of the auditorium and spoke to parents and faculty as they patted him on the back and shook his hand after the transfer was finalized.

He declined to comment on the move.

psquire@timesreview.com