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Cotten-DeGrasse: Why I don’t support the teachers’ pick for school board

04/30/2018 9:38 AM |

To the Editor:

After 50 years of being associated with education in Riverhead Town, I am breaking with the Riverhead Central Faculty Association’s endorsement for the Board of Education.

I am probably the only former member of the Riverhead Board of Education who can see our school district through four different lenses—a teacher for over thirty years, the teacher union president for five years, a community member for 50 years, and a BOE member for eight years, four as president.  I have been on the sending and receiving ends of criticism and kudos for work in each of those areas.  I am proud of the contributions I have made over the years to ensure fair and equitable education for all of the students in this school district.

As I am sure you are aware, I resigned from the BOE last year in protest of its lack of transparency and the lack of regard for New York State Education Law.  At the time I resigned, the President of the BOE, Susan Koukounas, made numerous decisions without input from fellow members.  Several of those decisions involved keeping a secret “personnel file” in the district office.  

Deals were cut behind closed doors. Her attitude was that the other six members, without being consulted, were there to rubber stamp her arrangements made directly with the superintendent.  Her response to my resignation was, “these allegations are untrue, and Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse is having difficulty not being the BOE President.”

I expressed my concerns regarding Ms. Koukounas’ leadership style to her and other members of the board in 2016, hoping for a change.  However, after two years of her presidency, if anything, the situation got worse.

I have expressed my concerns to the Riverhead Central Faculty Association, but am sorry to see that they are endorsing Ms. Koukounas for re-election.  The school district has a new superintendent and we need a new Board of Education — one that is honest with parents and taxpayers, not one that hides its decisions and disregards any concerns brought before it.

I am working with Elizabeth Silva, Amelia Lantz, and Ronald Fisher for election on May 15.  In all my years in education, I feel this is the most important decision we will make.

Ann Cotten-DeGrasse

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