02/05/13 9:59pm
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Superintendent Nancy Carney, left, with school board president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Superintendent Nancy Carney, left, with school board president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting.

Over 20 Riverhead School District employees have accepted a retirement incentive offer that Superintendent Nancy Carney described as a vital move to maintain current programs next school year.

During the school board’s regular meeting Tuesday night, a handful of audience members listened as Ms. Carney presented her 2013-2014 preliminary spending plan. If the school board were to roll over all existing programs into next year’s budget, she estimates the current $111.8 million spending plan would need to increase by about $6.6 million next year through a tax levy increase of 7.48 percent.

But since that proposed spending plan would need to be reduced by about $2 million in order to comply with the state-mandated tax levy cap, Ms. Carney said a decision was made to offer the retirement incentive.

“We really do feel that we’re at the point where we can’t reduce anymore without a significant effect on students in a negative way,” she said. “The result in savings [from the retirement incentives] will allow for the preservation of all of our programs that are now in place.”

CLICK TO VIEW LIST OF RETIRING EMPLOYEES

Although each employee that takes the retirement incentive will receive $20,000, Ms. Carney said the move will still save the district over $70,000 per employee that accepts the offer.

One of the district employee who plans to retire at the end of this school year is physical education teacher and Riverhead Central Faculty Association union president Barbara Barosa.

Ms. Barosa, who has worked in the district for the past 26 years and has been the union president for nearly two decades, said after the meeting that she decided to retire in order to spend more time with her husband, who is also retired.

“The stars were aligned and somebody said ‘Maybe you should go, Barbara,’” she said, adding she would like to continue coaching in the fall if possible.

Ms. Barosa said the union will hold an election in May to fill her position.

After Ms. Barosa thanked the school board for coming up with the cost-saving plan to maintain programs and congratulated her colleagues on their retirements during the public comment portion of the meeting, school board president said Ann Cotten-DeGrasse described the retirement incentive agreement as a “pleasant surprise.”

“It did make a big difference to us,” she told Ms. Barosa. “Thank you.”

In addition to the retirement incentive plan, Ms. Carney’s preliminary spending plan also includes a $583,000 expense for an energy performance contract. She said the investment this year on new energy efficient lighting and windows will ultimately produce savings on future energy costs.

The district will also receive a 6.6 percent increase — totaling over $18 million — in state aid if Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget is approved.

Here’s the remaining timeline for this year’s budget process for the Riverhead School District:

• Feb. 26: Presentation on regular day school budget, transportation and facilities

• March 12: Presentation on special education, PPS, guidance and other instructional items

• March 19: Presentation on revenues and projected tax levy

• April 9: Presentation on total tentative budget

• April 23: Deadline for school board to adopt proposed budget

• May 21: Budget vote scheduled from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at local polling locations

jennifer@timesreview.com

01/09/13 7:00am

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO

Riverhead school officials presented the district’s new standards for teacher and principal evaluations, a state-mandated task the teacher’s union president described as “monumental,” but something the  district should be “proud” of.

During the school board’s regular meeting at the high school auditorium, about 10 people listened as officials explained the district’s new teacher and principal annual professional performance reviews, known as APPR.

The school board unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday to adopt it. The state has imposed a Jan. 17 deadline on school districts to have an approved plan in place or the district will lose state aid.

Riverhead’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, Lois Etzel, who served on a committee made up of teachers and administrators tasked with coming up with the plan, said not all school workers will have to take part in the new evaluation system.

Although most teachers and all seven principals will have to receive the evaluations, she said the state has excluded some school workers, such as substitute teachers, speech pathologists, psychologists, social workers and librarians.

The evaluation system will consist of four categories: “highly effective,” “effective,” “developing,” and “ineffective.”

Using a mathematical formula, a teacher’s or principal’s score is determined by coupling classroom observations and student assessments.

Riverhead Central Faculty Association union president Barbara Barosa said during the meeting the amount of time teachers and administrators put into creating the plan was “monumental,” adding that the district should be “proud.”

“It’s a very complicated plan,” she said. “It’s not intended to be so. We had to adhere to what the state said we had to make. There are lots of conversion charts…It’s going to be a very interesting procedure for teachers, as well as administrators to administer.”

Ms. Barosa said she believes the state is requiring students to take too many tests, a system she also believes isn’t an equitable way to measure classroom performance.

“Kids are a whole lot more than a test score,” she said. “Teachers are a whole lot more than a test score.”

Now that the district has adopted the plan, Ms. Barosa said revisions are expected to be made as the implementation process unfolds.

“We put a lot of effort into this and it’s not over yet,” she said. “We’re hoping it gets more simple as we go forward.”

Copies of the report weren’t immediately available.

jennifer@timesreview.com

10/25/12 6:48pm

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Supporters hold signs during a rally demanding the state give more funding to local school districts

More than 100 people, including members of the Riverhead School District school board and Congressman Tim Bishop, gathered near the front steps of Pulaski Street School Thursday afternoon to demand the state provide additional funding to schools

Gatherers also criticized the state’s voter-approved tax levy cap.

The “pro-education” rally featured speeches by district teachers, students, Mr. Bishop and school board president Ann Cotten-Degrasse, who compared the district today with the district as it was in 1969, a few years after she began working as a Riverhead High School teacher.

Education has changed since then, Ms. Cotten-Degrasse said. Despite more classes offered, more extra-curricular activities, and more sports in the district, the state devotes a smaller percentage of its annual budget now to education than it did in the 1960s, she said as the crowd booed.

“If we want to continue to provide the resources necessary for our students to succeed in today’s world we must insist that the state share more of the burden by relieving us of unfunded mandates,” she said.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | More than 100 people attended the rally Thursday afternoon.

She said the year-to-year 2 percent tax levy cap — which limits the amount of money the district can collect — could turn out to be a good or bad thing, but added that if the district is to continue it’s current programs, people’s voices must be heard.

“We, all of you people, including parents, grandparents, are the stewards charged with preparing this and future generations for getting full employment,” Ms. Cotten-Degrasse said.

People at the rally carried homemade signs or ones distributed by Educate NY, a coalition devoted to state aid reform, that read “Reverse the Cuts” and “Stop the Cap, Close the Gap!” Many of the attendees wore red to send a message to the state to “stop.”

The rally was one of 11 rallies occurring across Long Island that called for the state to increase funding to schools, organizers said.

Catherine Kent, a Riley Avenue 2nd grade teacher and district parent, said there was a funding crisis in district schools.

“We have been writing letters, sending emails and faxes, having conversations with Governor Cuomo and the lawmakers in Albany,” Ms. Kent said. “Today, parents, educators, school leaders and community members are joining together to stand up for our schools and tell the state and Governor Cuomo that enough is enough.”

Riverhead High School junior Jessica Sisti spoke at the rally about the different school activities she enjoyed, like AP classes and music programs. She warned that losing these programs to cuts in the district would “have a negative impact” on her and fellow students, and blamed the tax levy cap and lack of state funds for the crisis.

“This is a backwards way of solving the problem of debt,” she said.

Mr. Bishop also made a speech at the rally, and also railed against Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, whom he said supports spending cuts for education.

“If you care about K through 12 education … if you care about higher education, there’s only one vote to cast,” Mr. Bishop said. “Nationally that’s for President Obama and if you’re in the First Congressional District that’s for me.”

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | School board president Ann Cotten-Degrasse speaks at the rally Thursday afternoon.

Riverhead Central Faculty Association union president Barbara Barosa said she was “dismayed” to see that no school administrators attended the rally.

“If they can’t support a pro-education rally, what can they support?” Ms. Barosa said.

Ms. Cotten-Degrasse was joined at the rally by fellow school board members Kimberly Ligon and Sue Koukounas.

At the previous board meeting, a resident said she felt it was inappropriate for the board to attend the rally because of the anti-tax cap implications, but Ms. Cotten-Degrasse disagreed.

“As an elected member of the board of education, I do not leave my rights at the door, and those rights include free speech,” she said. “I feel strongly about this … and I’m willing to stand up.”

She said that while she had hoped to see more members of the community, she saw the rally as “an excellent start.”

“I think there’s a lot of work to be done,” Ms. Cotten-Degrasse said. “A lot of people need to put their shoulder to the wheel. It affects all of us.

“It’s not just a teacher issue, it’s not just a board of education issue.”

psquire@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