04/25/13 5:00pm

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Riverhead School Board president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse is the East End Women’s Network 2013 “Woman of the Year.”

The East End Women’s Network has named Riverhead Board of Education president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse its 2013 “Woman of the Year.”

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse, who lives in Jamesport, was elected to the Riverhead Board of Education in 2007. Previously, she taught business for 32 years in the Riverhead School District and also served five years as president of the Riverhead Central Faculty Association.

After two scares with breast cancer in the mid-90s, Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse established the North Fork Breast Health Coalition in 1998 with her husband, Antonio. The organization helps breast cancer patients cope with diagnosis and treatment.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse will be honored at a dinner celebration on May 20 at Giorgio’s, in Baiting Hollow. The event is open to the public and begins at 5:30 p.m. Speakers include Riverhead Superintendent of Schools Nancy Carney and Janine Nebons, general manager at Tanger Outlets. Pre-order tickets are $60 for EEWN members and $75 for non-members. Admission is $85 at the door. To make reservations, go to www.eewn.org or contact woy@eewn.org.

The East End Women’s Network was founded in 1981. The organization aims to bring together women of diverse business accomplishments and to educate members and the public on issues affecting women.

ryoung@timesreview.com

10/19/12 8:00am

The front steps of Pulaski Street School will play host to a rally against last year’s state tax levy cap legislation next Thursday.

“Stop the Cap, Close the Gap,” planned for 4 p.m. on Oct. 25, will raise awareness about New York State policies that “are the causes of the unfolding education crisis,” said Barbara Barosa, president of the Riverhead Central Faculty Association.

The RCFA along with Educate NY Now, a coalition seeking to encourage others to “demand that our state government fulfills New York’s constitutional obligation to provide all students with a quality education,” will host the event.

“We’re having this rally because public education is in a crisis,” Ms. Barosa said at a school board meeting on Oct. 9. “The state has reduced its role in funding our schools and they’ve passed the burden down to the local communities … this is only going to get worse.”

The tax cap was passed last year in the state Legislature.

The law limits the amount government agencies and school districts can increase their tax levies — the total amount collected from local taxpayers — to no more than 2 percent from year to year. Agencies can override that cap, but require a supermajority from voters for approval, a tactic few Long Island school districts attempted during the last budget votes in the spring.

To remain under the tax levy cap, the Riverhead school district was forced to cut more than $3.2 million from its planned budget for the 2012-13 school year, largely through the firing of 21 employees, including 12 teachers and nine teaching assistants.

The district also cut its entire adult education program, made smaller cuts to after-school activities and sports, and combined bus runs to save money.

The roughly $112 million budget passed with 61 percent of the vote in May during the lowest voter turnout since at least 2000.

Ms. Barosa said the state’s policies, which include decreases in state aid, are forcing local school boards to make “very tough decisions.”

The rally is designed to help people understand the tax cap situation, she said.

“We know it, but we need to make sure everyone in our community also knows this because they look to the boards and they say, ‘You guys, fix it’ and you can’t fix it alone,” Mr. Barosa said. “But all of us, the entire community of school board members, teachers, parents, students, we can do it together.”

Ms. Barosa said she understands the community pays high taxes and agreed something needed to be done to address that concern. But the tax cap, she said, is not the answer.

The rally is open to the public, and at least one school official said she would attend.

“I’ll be there,” said school board president Ann Cotten-Degrasse.

psquire@timesreview.com