10/22/13 12:00pm
10/22/2013 12:00 PM

Riv_board_Carney

Riverhead School District Superintendent Nancy Carney is expected to give a presentation about Common Core practices within English Language Arts and math in grades kindergarten through second grade, according to Tuesday night’s school board meeting agenda.

For the first time this past April, the state’s ELA and math assessments included elements of what’s known as the Common Core State Standards Initiative. The Common Core is a new set of national standards designed to raise the bar for classroom instruction and help “prepare students for college and careers in the 21st century,” state officials say. The initiative primarily requires instructors to teach more non-fiction and more rigorous math to students at a younger age.

In addition to Common Core, the school board is expected to discuss its budget-planning timeline for the 2014-15 school year.

On Jan. 14, the school board will go over its tentative budget goals and will hold a special meeting Jan. 21 to discuss personnel issues in executive session.

Ms. Carney is then expected to hold the following budget presentations:

Feb. 11: General support, benefits and debt service

Feb. 25: Regular day school budget, transportation and facilities

March 11: Special education, PPS, guidance and other instructional items

March 25: Revenue and tax levy

April 8: Tentative budget

The school board is expected to adopt the 2014-15 spending plan by April 22 and release it to the public by May 2.

The final budget hearing is set for May 13 — one week before the vote.

As for the school board race, president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse, vice president Greg Meyer and member Kimberly Ligon are up for reelection. Board of Education candidate petitions are due April 21.

Scroll down to view the complete agenda. Check back for an update.

jennifer@timesreview.com

Riverhead school board meeting agenda, Oct. 22, 2013

09/21/13 5:25pm
09/21/2013 5:25 PM
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Riverhead School Board president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse is the East End Women's Network 2013 "Woman of the Year."

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Riverhead School Board president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse confirmed that the district made a contract offer to its teachers.

The Riverhead Board of Education may vote on a new teacher’s contract at its Tuesday meeting after the district made an offer to its teachers, who have been without a contract for just over a year.

Board of Education president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse confirmed today that an offer has been made.

“It’s my understanding that the teachers will ratify it,” she said. “But nothing has been formalized yet.”

She said the leadership of the teachers’ union held meetings with teachers in various school buildings Thursday and Friday. Another meeting is set for Monday.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse said that if the teachers’ union ratifies the agreement, it will likely be voted on at Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting.

Lisa Goulding, the new president of the Riverhead Central Faculty Association, which represents district teachers, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse said that while the district has made an offer, she is not at liberty to disclose any details.

The district’s last teacher contract ran from July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2012. (The school’s fiscal year starts in July.)

That contract gave teachers a one percent increase for the first six months of both years with no step/increment increases, and another one percent increase for the second six months of both years, with step/increment increases.

The step/increment raises are in addition to the base salary raises teachers get annually according to the terms of their contract and are based on experience and other factors, such as whether they have a bachelor’s or master’s degree and how many graduate credits they have.

The last Riverhead teachers’ contract had a salary scale with 30 steps.

tgannon@timesreview.com

09/10/13 6:30pm
09/10/2013 6:30 PM
GRANT PARPAN PHOTO | Councilwoman Jodi Giglio celebrates her primary election win with fellow Town Board members James Wooten (left) and George Gabrielsen.

GRANT PARPAN PHOTO | Councilwoman Jodi Giglio celebrates her primary election win with fellow Town Board members James Wooten (left) and George Gabrielsen.

Riverhead Town Democratic Committee nominee Angela DeVito beat challenger Ann Cotten-DeGrasse by 501 to 229 votes in the primary race for the Democrats’ supervisor nod Tuesday.

In the at-large Republican race for two Town Council nominations, Jodi Gilgio was the top vote-getter with 912, followed by John Dunleavy with 878 and Anthony Coates with 484, according to the county Board of Elections.

And in the Independence Party primary for Town Council, Ms. Giglio led the three-candidate pack with 68 votes, followed by Democratic nominee Bill Bianchi with 65 and Mr. Dunleaby with 37. That was also an at-large race.

The News-Review had reporters at all the candidates’ camps and reported live from 8:30 p.m. The polls closed at 9 p.m.

Click below for the live reports, including quotes, photos and reactions from the candidates and supporters.

Riverhead voters head to the polls on primary day

Brief bios on primary candidates for town office

Republican rivals square off at primary debate

Supervisor hopefuls on how they would run town

09/09/13 8:00am
09/09/2013 8:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | (L-R) Anthony Coates, John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio at Monday's debate.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | (L-R) Anthony Coates, John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio at an Aug. 26 debate

Voters in Riverhead Town who are registered with the Republican, Democratic or Independence parties will head to the polls on Tuesday for primary day.

Below is a brief biography of each of the candidates.

TOWN SUPERVISOR

Angela DeVito

Angela DeVito

Hamlet: South Jamesport

Occupation: Retired

Primary Race: Democratic

Angela DeVito, 65, is the committee nominee for supervisor. She is a longtime workplace safety advocate with related degrees from Columbia University and the University of Utah School of Medicine. She retired in 2000 from a NYS health department occupational medicine program at SUNY/Stony Brook and then served as director of workforce development for the Building and Construction Trades Council of Nassau and Suffolk counties. She is an active civic leader who has served on the town Industrial Development Agency and the Riverhead school board.

Ellen A. Cotten-DeGrasse

Ellen A. Cotten-DeGrasse

Hamlet: Jamesport

Occupation: Retired teacher

Primary Race: Democratic

Supervisor hopeful Ellen A. Cotten-DeGrasse, 70, also known as Ann, taught at Riverhead High School for 32 years before retiring in 1997. During her time in the district she served as the head of the teacher’s union, Riverhead Central Faculty Association, from 1992 to 1997. She is the current president of the Riverhead Board of Education, to which she was first elected in 2008. She’s also a co-founder of the North Forth Breast Health Coalition, a charity and advocacy group that assists breast cancer patients.

TOWN COUNCIL

John Dunleavy

John Dunleavy

Hamlet: Calverton

Occupation: Retired police officer

Primary Race: Republican, Independence

Republican incumbent and committee nominee John Dunleavy, 72, is running for a third four-year term as a town councilman. Mr. Dunleavy is a U.S. Navy veteran and former Grumman Corporation employee who later joined the Riverhead Town police department where he came to head the department’s juvenile aid bureau for 15 years before retiring in 1988. He then worked in banking until 2007. Mr. Dunleavy was first elected councilman in 2006.

Jodi Giglio

Jodi Giglio

Hamlet: Baiting Hollow

Occupation: Owner of Bennett Enterprises

Primary Race: Republican, Independence

Republican incumbent and committee nominee Jodi Giglio, 45, is running for her second four-year term as a town councilwoman. Ms. Giglio has a business background, which includes relocating corporate executives for United Van Lines and serving as an on-site construction superintendent for a Long Island townhouse project. She owns and runs Bennett Enterprises, which assists landowners with residential and commercial applications.

Anthony Coates

Anthony Coates

Hamlet: Riverhead

Occupation: Investment consultant

Primary Race: Republican

Republican challenger Anthony Coates, 52, is seeking his first term in public office. He’s been active in public service since age 16, when he was an aide to a county legislator. He helped run a home heating oil company and is a former publisher of the Record newspapers, which were based in Port Jefferson. He’s also been a political adviser to local and nationally elected officials and worked as a financial portfolio manager.

Bill Bianchi

Bill Bianchi

Hamlet: Riverhead

Occupation: Owner of Bianchi-Davis Greenhouses

Primary Race: Independence

Democratic committee nominee Bill Bianchi, 82, is a former Bellport resident who served as a state assemblyman from 1972 to 1994. Mr. Bianchi got started in public service as a South Country school board member and president. He then was part of a lawsuit that effectively ended the county’s Board of Supervisors in favor of a Legislature. He’s worked continually in the orchid business and co-owns orchid greenhouses off Doctors Path.

*Sources: the candidates

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Supervisor hopefuls on how they‘d run town

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Republican rivals square off at primary debate

08/27/13 11:20am
08/27/2013 11:20 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Democratic candidates (L-R) Ann Cotten-DeGrasse and Angela Devito.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | (L-R) Ann Cotten-DeGrasse and Angela Devito.

In Monday night’s debate between Democratic supervisor candidates Angela DeVito and Ann Cotten-DeGrasse, both candidates criticized the incumbent Republican administration of Sean Walter while touching on major issues facing the town.

They also, at times, took issue with each other.

The debate, entitled “Riverhead at the Crossroads,” was sponsored by local media outlets Riverhead News-Review and RiverheadLOCAL.com and held at the Suffolk Theater.

Ms. DeVito, the Riverhead Democratic Committee nominee, is being challenged by Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse. Both are retired and both have served as Riverhead school board presidents, a position Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse currently holds.

RELATED: See the entire video of Monday night’s debate

The winner of the Sept. 10 primary will take on incumbent Republican Supervisor Sean Walter in the Nov. 5 general election.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse is a former Riverhead High School teacher and union president who said she has made a difference in the lives of many of the students she taught and hopes to do the same as supervisor.

“Do we want to continue with the two-party system or do we want to break from that?” she asked.

“Town government isn’t working,” said Ms. DeVito, who worked for the Long Island Building Trades Council and is a former civic association president in Jamesport.

She said there is too much bickering and cronyism in town government.

“We need a candidate who can defeat Sean Walter and I am that person,” she told the crowd of more than 200 people downtown.

Among the issues the two differed on, Ms. DeVito said she would support using eminent domain to acquire empty downtown buildings through condemnation.

“We’ve waited long enough” for buildings owned by Riverhead Enterprise to be developed or sold, she said.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse said she might have supported eminent domain in the past, but doesn’t think the town can afford it now.

In eminent domain, the town must convince a court it needs property for a public purpose, and the courts, if it agrees, would determine the sales price later.

The two also disagreed on the role of the town’s Industrial Development Agency, which grants tax breaks to businesses to help lure them to town.

Ms. DeVito, who served on that board a few years ago, thinks the IDA is necessary, but believes the current board has made some bad decisions.

Ms. Cotten-Degrasse said the IDA “has never seen a proposal they don’t love.” She said she is not opposed to tax abatements, but is opposed to giving them to companies that would have come here anyway.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse said the IDA gave a 10-year, 100-percent property tax abatement to Atlantis aquarium and the Hyatt hotel when Ms DeVito was on the board. Ms. DeVito said she voted against that abatement, though later voted for a measure that allowed the building plan to move forward.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse said the town needs to prioritize its spending, because it needs expensive items like sewer and infrastructure improvements in downtown and the Enterprise Park at Calverton.

Ms. DeVito said Riverhead needs to partner with Southampton Town to clean up blight in neighboring Riverside.

“As long as that side of the river remains blighted, we’re going to continue to have quality of life issues in downtown Riverhead,” she said.

“We must raise revenue,” Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse responded. “We are fighting a deficit.”

She said the town needs to closely audit its operation and “look at cutting staff,” she said, adding that Republican Supervisor Sean Walter “is not supervising.”

Ms. DeVito suggested using temporary workers in some town positions to save money and trying to get the state and county to share some of the sales tax revenue generated in Riverhead.

Mr. Cotten-DeGrasse then countered she didn’t favor hiring “part-time workers,” to which Ms. DeVito said she never mentioned part-timers, only temporary workers.

On developing EPCAL, Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse said she envisions the former Grumman plant property becoming a “Silicon Valley” of Suffolk County, adding she would form a committee of people with real estate or development backgrounds to help bring development to EPCAL.

Ms. DeVito warned the town must be wary of speculators buying key pieces of the subdivided EPCAL property in order to hike up the price of the those parcels when developments nearby need them. She also feels that the town should work with scientists at Brookhaven National Lab and Stony Brook University to bring scientific research to EPCAL.

Both were asked about the school board’s long-alleged conducting of business in closed, executive sessions that should be public.

Ms. Cotten-Degrasse denied this claim, saying school board members get a packet containing background information on matter that will come to vote several days before a meeting, and do not discuss public business behind closed doors.

Ms. DeVito disagreed, saying the public’s business is being conducted behind closed doors, and it was when she was on the school board, too.

Both candidates said they would sign pledges promising to uphold the state’s open meeting laws.

The event raised $1,045 for the Brendan House, a Sound Avenue facility that will provide 24-hour care for people people withe brain injuries.

tgannon@timesreview.com

Monday night’s debate also featured Republican council candidates Anthony Coates, John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio.

08/27/13 9:00am
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Town Board candidate Anthony Coates, from left, and Town board members John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio address the moderators at Monday's debate at the Suffolk Theater.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Town Board candidate Anthony Coates, from left, and Town board members John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio address the moderators at Monday’s debate at the Suffolk Theater.

The first of two town political debates sponsored by local media took place at the historic Suffolk Theater Monday night.

Monday’s first debate featured Democratic supervisor candidates Ann Cotten-DeGrasse and Angela DeVito, followed by Republican town council candidates Anthony Coates, John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio.

The debates were moderated by News-Review executive editor Grant Parpan, RiverheadLOCAL editor and publisher Denise Civiletti and News-Review editor Michael White.

The Democratic candidates debated first, for about 45 minutes, followed by the Republican candidates.

The debate can be rewatched at the link below. The Democrats start at the 7-minute mark; Republicans begin one hour, 20 minutes in.

08/23/13 8:00am
Joe Ogeka retires from Riverhead

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Joe Ogeka talks to Riverhead school officials on election night.

Recently retired Riverhead School District administrator Joe Ogeka will be paid his full salary throughout the coming school year as he assists the district with “transition and restructuring,” according to an agreement between Mr. Ogeka and the district.

The agreement was unanimously approved by the school board and signed by board president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse on June 25. It was obtained by the News-Review through a Freedom of Information Law request. [Scroll down to view Mr. Ogeka's agreement]

Superintendent Nancy Carney said the plan to have Mr. Ogeka, who served as assistant superintendent for personnel and community services, stay with the district to assist with administrative transitions, came as a “clause in his original contract,” which was approved June 26, 2012, and was set to expire June 30, 2015. Mr. Ogeka retired this past June after working in the district for about 30 years. His total annual salary, listed on SeeThroughNY.net is $173,041.

“There’s a clause,” Ms. Carney explained. “We had to give him his 12 months and he does get his salary. We have to fulfill the contract.”

When reached for comment Tuesday, Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse said she believed Mr. Ogeka’s unused sick time was being used to make up his salary.

When told by a reporter that the agreement states Mr. Ogeka is entitled to his accrued sick and vacation time in addition to his full salary for the 2013-14 school years, Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse said, “I don’t know exactly how it was worded, but I thought that the sick time made up the salary. That was my understanding.”

She also said she didn’t know the details of what Mr. Ogeka’s day-to-day duties would be in the district.

“That’s really not our purview,” she said. “It’s Nancy Carney’s, because she is in charge of making the district office run. We don’t micromanage that. I can’t comment on what he’s going to be doing.”

Later Tuesday, Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse left the News-Review a voicemail message in which she said she had since spoken with Ms. Carney and she wanted to make it clear that if she had given the impression that she didn’t know Mr. Ogeka was to receive a year’s salary, then she had “misrepresented” the matter.

“I knew he was getting the year’s salary, but I thought that it was coming from unused sick days,” Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse said. “In reality, it was a clause in his contract that said if he was going to be replaced or … excessed, he got 12 months notice.

“He’s been talking about retiring for a couple of years,” she said.

Ms. Carney described the 12-month agreement as a retirement incentive that was included in Mr. Ogeka’s original contract that would go into effect should the district choose not to fill his position. The 12 months pay was also referred to as an incentive in the agreement.

She added Mr. Ogeka’s salary was budgeted for the 2013-14 school year. Since the district hasn’t filled the position, she said, his salary isn’t costing the district any additional money.

Asked why Mr. Ogeka and the district had parted ways, Ms. Carney said he had “talked about wanting to retire and the district is looking to go in a new direction … It was mutually agreeable for both parties. We’re going in a different direction and, during that time, he’s completely available to us for anything we need.”

The agreement also includes clauses that would preclude Mr. Ogeka from filing any claims against the district.

Mr. Ogeka’s agreement, June 25, 2013

08/18/13 10:00am

TIM GANNON PHOTO | A new 16,700-square-foot building on this site off Miller Way in Calverton will be home to Allied Building Products’ first East End site.

As Riverhead Town residents, our property taxes pay for the services we receive, such as town water and sewage systems, schools, police, sanitation collection, recreation and road maintenance. Our personal property taxes are supplemented by taxes collected from businesses within the town. Having a strong economic base is a necessity; therefore, new businesses should be encouraged to come to Riverhead.

The original purpose of the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency was to promote, develop, encourage and assist in acquiring, developing and equipping various business facilities, thereby advancing job opportunities and resulting in an increase in the general prosperity and economic welfare of the people of the town. The IDA has the power to abate property, sales and mortgage tax. Under federal tax law, IDAs can issue tax-exempt bonds to cover manufacturing facilities, governmental projects, nonprofit projects (a YMCA or civic facility) and exempt facilities (airports, solid waste facilities). The creation of new, well-paying jobs was expected to be a direct result of this exchange.

Adchem Corp. is one of Riverhead’s success stories. The company’s IDA process worked according to criteria that had to be met in order to be eligible to apply for tax exemptions. These included local and regional economic conditions, the creation of new jobs, the type of industrial or commercial activity, the benefit afforded to residents and the project location. After the company’s abatement period was over, substantial local jobs were created and they continue to make a significant contribution to our tax base.

I have been attending IDA meetings for almost a year. I can truthfully say that many of the projects approved met very few of these criteria. Two new businesses come to mind. In June 2013, Theriac Enterprises was granted tax abatements for the renovation of the old PC Richard & Sons building on Route 58. This company has offices in 28 states and seven foreign countries. It is well-established and its 21st Century Oncology facility will compete with a local business, North Fork Radiology, right around the corner on Roanoke Avenue. Theriac plans to occupy a third of the new building and rent out the remaining two-thirds. What criteria they met to be granted their abatement is unknown. This is outrageous!

Then, last week, Allied Building Products was granted IDA tax abatements. The public commentary was unclear but it seemed the Riverhead IDA was under the impression that, if not granted, the company would locate in Westhampton, where it was being offered Suffolk County IDA abatements. However, David Doran of Allied Business Products later admitted the company had not filed with the Suffolk County IDA at all. Again, Allied Building Products has over 180 locations and employs 3,100 people. It is well-established. Why does it need tax abatements from us to expand the business?

Has the current IDA board ever seen a proposal it didn’t like? Are we granting every application in order to create a salary base for an employee? Over the past year I have been attending IDA meetings; this board did not deny a single application, with board members often failing to ask pertinent questions along the way.

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has continuously been critical of IDA practice statewide. You can access actual NYS IDA audits online and read how few real jobs have been created for the large tax breaks received. Mr. DiNapoli is currently sponsoring legislation that would provide taxpayers with the ability to evaluate if the IDAs are deriving the promised economic benefits, as they state. In cases where criteria are not met and jobs are not forthcoming, benefits can be “clawed-back.”

There are many fine regional examples of IDAs that share, and are proud of, their ability to grow their town’s economic base. If one were to access the Town of Islip, there is a transparent website explaining their projects, current and past, at islipida.com. They celebrate and share their success stories openly; financial reports and projects are there for all to see. In Islip Town, IDA board members and Town Board members are one and the same. They are directly responsible to the taxpayers.

Contrast theirs with ours at www.riverheadida.org and click on the “Projects” tab. There is nothing there. Information is unknown. There is no transparency for the taxpayer. This has become another runaway train.

Here’s the bottom line: Businesses that come to town immediately create the need for the additional services listed in my opening paragraph. Since the business’ taxes are abated, the burden of providing those services fall on the taxpayer. It’s time to re-evaluate the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency and send the responsibilities of the Riverhead IDA back to the Town Board.

Ann Cotten-DeGrasse is a Riverhead resident and current president of the Riverhead school board. She is running a Democratic primary for town supervisor.