As 2016 winds down, it’s time to reflect on the changes that occurred at local schools this year.
The News-Review recently sat down with Nancy Carney, superintendent of the Riverhead Central School District, to discuss everything 2016 brought to Riverhead — including continued construction, new teachers and programs, and more.
News-Review: What are some of the staffing changes that took place this year people should know about?
Nancy Carney: In order for us to really make sure we were able to keep our programs and sustain all the things we have [because of this year’s .12 percent tax levy cap,] as well as add some additional programs that are very much needed in the school district, we decided to do a staff retirement incentive. We had over 40 staff members retire, which is really unprecedented. We’re really grateful for all our retirees’ dedication and their service to the district, but it’s also very exciting for us as we welcome even more new staff members. We also have a new assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. We have a new security firm. We have a new commander of our NJROTC unit.
NR: Have any classes been added or any curriculum changed in the schools?
NC: We really put a lot of effort and work into updating our curriculum at the elementary level, particularly in math and social studies … We also implemented National Geographic as a science program at the elementary level … Another thing we did this year was add a brand-new science lab at Pulaski Street School along with a brand-new technology teacher, a new science teacher and new programs in each. We’ve also added a bunch of new electives at the high school this year, including robotics, different tech courses, home and career courses and a few other different electives that really are just providing our kids with more opportunities. We also added a newcomer program at the high school, which is something beneficial for students who are new to the country, really helping to immerse them in the English language.
NR: Were any non-academic programs introduced this year?
NC: At the middle school this year, we’re very excited to be starting a mentoring program. We’ve had over 45 staff members volunteer to be a mentor for a student that might benefit from just that additional one-to-one support from an adult … It’s hopeful that it’s going to be a long-term relationship that’s going to be really positive in helping some students have that additional support they may need … Also, at Aquebogue, Roanoke and Phillips, 100 percent of students receive free lunch. Parents don’t have to apply for it and it’s based on the amount of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch.
NR: What challenges has the year presented?
NC: There’s no question that in our district we’ve had an unprecedented increase in student enrollment. We’ve had over 600 new students enter the district in the last five years. At the high school level, this year alone we have over 100 new students who are new to the country and have not previously been in the district, many with interrupted instruction. So that, of course, brings a whole lot of challenges and extra support that we need to provide for our students … We’re already at capacity in pretty much every one of our buildings. We’re hoping things stabilize in the future.
NR: The state designated Riverhead as a focus district this year, allowing students at Phillips and Roanoke elementary schools to transfer to Aquebogue. How has that transition gone?
NC: It’s been fine. Unfortunately, the kindergarten class is the one class that is larger than we would like it to be, so we are looking to add an additional first-grade section next year if we’re able to do that.
NR: What did you enjoy about what’s gone on in the schools during 2016?
NC: The enjoyment has been getting to know new staff … I’m very excited about our new security firm … It’s really aligning and having a solid curriculum and the excitement of bringing the bond to fruition.
NR: What are you looking forward to in 2017?
NC: I’m looking forward to changes by the state. I’m looking for the state to implement changes that make sense for kids and using multiple measures to assess students and change the accountability system. I’m looking forward to the continued contributions of both our experienced staff and our newer staff. It’s an exciting time when you have all the energy and passion that’s here … and providing learning environments for our kids that excite them and engage them.