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

06/25/13 10:30pm
06/25/2013 10:30 PM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Riverhead School Board president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse hands a plaque to assistant superintendent Joe Ogeka at Tuesday night’s meeting. Ogeka is retiring after 30 years in the district.

The Riverhead School Board approved a resolution Tuesday night encouraging state and federal regulators to cut back on the ”overreliance” of standardized testing.

“The growing reliance on and misalignment of standardized testing is eroding student learning time, narrowing the curriculum, and jeopardizing the rich, meaningful education our students need and deserve,” the resolution approved Tuesday states.

The resolution calls on the state education commissioner and the Board of Regents to reduce its reliance on such tests. It also calls on Congress and the president to do likewise. Research recommends, according to the resolution, the use of multiple measures to gauge student performance and teacher effectiveness. The state’s growing reliance on standardized testing adversely affects students, lowers morale among teachers and drains district resources, the resolution says.

Last year, more than 1,000 college professors from throughout the state signed a petition urging the same message. Riverhead school board president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse said numerous other school boards have done the same.

“The amount of time taken away from instruction is exorbitant,” she said.

Reserve funds approved

The board on Tuesday authorized transferring “excess fund balance” from the current budget to several existing reserve funds to guard against unexpected shortfalls.

The amounts approved were $50,000 for the retirement contribution reserve fund; $50,000 for the workers compensation reserve; $910,000 for the employee benefit accrued liability reserve; $632,237 for the repair reserve; and $3.5 million for the transportation and athletic fields capital reserve.

Sam Schneider, the assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations, said the resolutions merely authorizes the transfer of up to those amounts if needed. He said it won’t be known how much actually needs to be transferred into each account until the books are closed at the end of the school year, June 30.

Resident Laurie Downs said that when added up, “that’s an awful lot of money that was left over from” this school year’s budget.

Falisi thanked

Outgoing school board member Jeff Falisi was given a plaque thanking him for his three years of service on the board Tuesday. Mr. Falisi was defeated in his bid for reelection, and his spot on the board will be taken by Chris Dorr. Board members also accepted the retirement of assistant superintendent Joe Ogeka and approved several administrative moves.

Irrigation donation

The East End Football Club, also known as Riverhead Soccer, will pay for the installation of irrigation on the athletic field at the Riley Avenue Elementary School School in an agreement that would give them preference for use of the field over any other outside organization that seeks to reserve the field.

District use of the field will still have priority over Riverhead Soccer.

The school board approved that agreement Tuesday night.

Cut teachers return

The board on Tuesday approved the probationary return of four teachers whose positions had been eliminated in the budget for the 2013-14 school year. The openings were made possible by the high number of retirements among district teachers this year, officials said.

The four returning teachers are Maureen Hollett, Amanda Jester, Jutta Mariotti and Timothy McCready.

tgannon@timesreview.com

06/20/13 12:00pm
Joe Ogeka retires from Riverhead

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

Longtime Riverhead School District assistant superintendent Joe Ogeka will retire at the end of this month after 30 years in the district.

Mr. Ogeka was not among the retirees announced at the Jun 11 school board meeting, when he was the one presenting plaques to the 31 district employees who are retiring at the end of this year, including another assistant superintendent, Lois Etzel.

But while rumors spread Wednesday that Mr. Ogeka was being forced out of the position, Superintendent Nancy Carney said this is not the case.

“Mr. Ogeka has been contemplating retiring for over a year,” she said. “He is retiring after many years of dedicated service.”

The retirements of two assistant superintendents has set off a change of other changes in district administrative positions.

Ms. Carney said current high school principal David Wicks will be replacing Ms. Etzel as the assistant superintendent for curriculum and insruction.

Assistant high school principal Charles Regan will replace Mr. Wicks as principal, and Sean O’Hara, who is the district’s director of fine arts and music, will replace Mr. Regan as assistant high school principal, according to Ms. Carney.

In addition, Stephen Hudson, who is the associate principal at the Phillips Avenue Elementary School, will take that same position at the Pulaski Street Elementary School, while Pulaski Street’s current assistant principal, Alison Conroy, will take that same position at Phillips Avenue, according to Ms. Carney.

“This is a mutually agreed upon opportunity to broaden their experiences,” she said of that switch.

The changes would take effect at the beginning of July, pending board of education approval.

The district has yet to name a replacement for Mr. Ogeka’s position of assistant superintendent for personnel and community service.

Mr. Ogeka is the district’s longest serving administrator, having been an associate high school principal prior to moving to the district office in 2003.

tgannon@timesreview.com