03/12/14 2:00pm
03/12/2014 2:00 PM
Residents are asking the Riverhead School District to allow Calverton Hills students to attend nearby Riley Avenue Elementary School.  Parents say the community was required to send its children to Phillips Avenue Elementary School in Riverside after the neighborhood was redistricted in the late 1990s. (Credit: Google Map screenshot by Jennifer Gustavson)

The Calverton Hills community was redistricted several years ago that moved the community’s children from Riley Avenue Elementary School in Calverton to Phillips Avenue Elementary School in Riverside. (Credit: Google Map screenshot by Jennifer Gustavson)

Years after the Riverhead School District moved elementary students living in the Calverton Hills community from Riley Avenue School to Phillips Avenue School, residents are still wondering why their kids have to travel to Riverside, which is farther away, when there’s a school closer to them in Calverton.  (more…)

03/11/14 12:17pm
03/11/2014 12:17 PM

Riverhead School District Superintendent Nancy Carney is expected to give a budget presentation Tuesday night. (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson, file)

Riverhead School District Superintendent Nancy Carney is expected to give a budget presentation at Tuesday night’s regular school board meeting to discuss special education, guidance and pupil personnel service expenses projected for the 2014-15 school year. (more…)

02/26/14 12:00pm
02/26/2014 12:00 PM
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Riverhead superintendent Nancy Carney speaks at a school board meeting.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Riverhead superintendent Nancy Carney speaks at a school board meeting.

While an overall increase in Riverhead School District’s 2014-2015 budget remains unknown at this time, Superintendent Nancy Carney reported that “the bulk” of the budget — regular school day expenses, transportation and facility costs — is expected to increase just over 3 percent next year.

During Tuesday night’s school board meeting, Ms. Carney gave her second presentation on part of the district’s budget, following a meeting in the middle of February about the debt obligations the district is facing. She has stated that her main goal in crafting next year’s spending plan is to stay under the state-mandated two percent tax levy cap.

Most of the budget is in general classroom teaching, instruction and support expenses, she said, which are projected to total $38.4 million in 2014-15. That’s a nearly a 3.23 percent increase over the current school year, she said.

“We’re in good place going into the 2014-15 school year,” the superintendent said. “I appreciate all the work the staff has done in the district in being very fiscally responsible and trying to present a budget that is very fair to the taxpayers, as well as preserving our programs.”

Although most of the increases are contractual, Ms. Carney said the Riverhead Charter School budget line is expected to increase by about 18.5 percent, totaling about $2.5 million in tuition costs. The spike is the result of the charter school receiving approval in March to expand its K-6 program through eighth grade.

Under the curriculum, instructional administration and state-mandated testing budget, Ms. Carney estimates about $4.1 million in expenses, a nearly .35 percent decrease compared to the current spending plan. Most of the decrease is a result of more projects in house as opposed to contracting out for services. Another cost savings projected for next year is with material and supplies because the district is using more digital materials as opposed to printing them on paper.

The facilities and security budget is up slightly by .84 percent, totaling about $8.1 million, and transportation expenses will realize a 2.4 percent savings over the current $5.8 million budget due to the district reorganizing its bus routes.

The school board is expected to adopt the spending plan on April 22. The budget vote is set for May 20 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at local polling locations.

Jennifer@timesreview.com

02/12/14 8:00am
02/12/2014 8:00 AM
Riverhead School District Superintendent Nancy Carney, standing, gave a budget presentation Tuesday night. (Photo by Jennifer Gustavson)

Riverhead School District Superintendent Nancy Carney, standing, gave a budget presentation Tuesday night. (Photo by Jennifer Gustavson)

The Riverhead School District’s first debt service payment for the 2011 voter-approved capital improvement bond is due next fiscal year and is expected to increase the 2014-15 budget by about $2.8 million, Superintendent Nancy Carney said Tuesday night.

(more…)

01/15/14 9:00am
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Pulaski Street School literacy coach Amy Brennan, left, and principal Dave Densieski at Tuesday night's school board meeting.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Pulaski Street School literacy coach Amy Brennan, left, and principal Dave Densieski at Tuesday night’s school board meeting.

Pulaski Street School students are learning to read “closely” by using more social studies materials than in previous years under the rigorous new English Language Arts curriculum mandated by the state.

Pulaski Street School principal Dave Densieski and literacy coach Amy Brennan gave a presentation Tuesday night about how Common Core in ELA is being implemented in the district’s fifth- and sixth-grade classrooms. The presentation, at the school board’s regular meeting, was the fourth Common Core discussion this school year.

Ms. Brennan said students are not only reading more non-fiction, but are also answering questions about what they’ve learned based on the reading materials.

“Close reading is not new,” she said. “It’s just really popular now. It’s a hot topic because Common Core puts such an emphasis on it.”

Close reading involves students carefully rereading text to fully understand the meaning and requiring the students to precisely attribute where they found their answers.

Mr. Densieski said he believes the academic transition from fifth to sixth grade is the most demanding for students and teachers are using the new lesson plans to help students achieve higher standards.

“Thinking is tough and it’s hard work sometimes,” he said. “It is a struggle to think problems out and to think deeper and to think critically, but that is what we’re being asked to do.”

The Common Core State Standards have been adopted by most states across the country and aim to better prepare students for college and careers by requiring instructors to teach more non-fiction and rigorous math to students at a younger age.

After New York adopted Common Core, the state published lesson plans teachers can use to help students achieve the new standards. The state doesn’t mandate use of these lesson plans, but they are available online at engageny.org.

Ms. Brennan said the school is using two of the state’s ELA Common Core modules this year. In fifth grade, teachers are using a module entitled “Becoming a Close Reader and Writing to Learn: Stories of Human Rights.” Under that lesson plan, the books students will read include “Esperanza Rising” by Pam Munoz Ryan.

As for the new sixth-grade module, she said teachers are using a lesson plan about Greek mythology.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, parents expressed concern about increasing rigor at Pulaski Street School because they believe the classes are too large. Mr. Densieski had said during his presentation that class size ranges from 25 to 28 students and teachers are receiving professional development to help customize instruction to their classrooms.
Parents also asked about the repercussions when children do not take the Common Core assessments, a movement known as “opting out.”

Superintendent Nancy Carney dismissed the term, saying that “opting out” isn’t an option for the test. A student’s name is printed on each assessment and presented to them at the start of the exam, she said.

Asked what happens if a student refuses to take the assessment, Ms. Carney said each situation will be handled individually.

She said the district isn’t allowed to give those students other work to do during the test and they might be asked to remain at their seat or move to another available room to read.
If a student is absent on the day when an assessment is given, Ms. Carney said, the test will be presented to the student again the following day when he or she returns to school. If the student decides not to take the assessment, she said, those students “won’t receive a score.”

Ms. Carney said although the district respects a parent’s decision, she recommends that students take the assessments because she believes doing so will help them academically.

“We do encourage people to take assessments simply for the fact that the more familiar students get with assessments, the better they’re going to get at taking the assessments,” she said. “Eventually, you do need to pass assessments in order to graduate.”

A presentation about how Common Core math is being implemented in fifth and sixth grade is scheduled for the next school board meeting on Jan. 28.

Ms. Carney said the district also plans to host a public forum to discuss Common Core and to address any concerns residents have about the district’s curriculum. She attributed the idea to parent Yolanda Thompson, who suggested at last month’s board meeting that a committee be created to enhance dialogue between the district and community.

SUPE: CONSTRUCTION ON SCHEDULE

The superintendent also gave an update on current construction projects and said facility improvements remain on schedule.

Projects at Phillips Avenue, Riley Avenue and Aquebogue elementary schools are in the final stages of construction and have a few punch list items remaining.

At the high school, she said, the new library is expected to open soon, the large group instruction room will be ready by Monday and the new science research lab will be completed in the next few weeks. The auditorium and four bathrooms have already been renovated, she said.

Construction is expected to get underway at Pulaski Street and Roanoke Avenue elementary schools and at the middle school sometime in the summer or fall, she said.

The projects are being paid for through a $78.3 million construction bond project voters approved in 2011.

SCHOOL BOARD GOES DIGITAL

For the first time, the Riverhead school board meeting was conducted “virtually” through a new online system called BoardDocs, which enables the district clerk to track meeting progress and summarize discussion in real time on a large screen behind the school board members. The software also allows board members to display a three-minute timer during the public comment portion of the meeting, which alerts speakers when their allotted time is up.

Each board member was also given Think Pads in order to follow along with the digital agenda.
In addition, BoardDocs allows the district to post and organize notices, agendas and other information online.

For more information about BoardDocs software, visit the district’s website or http://www.boarddocs.com/ny/rcsd/Board.nsf/Public

jennifer@timesreview.com

12/10/13 10:28pm
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO |

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Phillips Avenue Elementary School principal Debra Rodgers giving a presentation Tuesday night about Common Core practices within fourth-grade English Language Arts and math.

Angry Riverhead School District parents and residents are expressing their frustration over new Common Core materials for elementary school students, particularly new math curriculum.

During the school board’s regular meeting Tuesday night, parent Yolanda Thompson said she’s upset because she and her husband have been unable to properly assist their third-grade daughter with the new homework. She said she fears students aren’t exposed to building a strong foundation in math before moving onto more complex arithmetic.

“As parents, we’re wondering if we’re further confusing our children,” said Ms. Thompson, who provided the school board with handouts of her daughter’s homework. “There’s tears. There’s frustration.”

School board member Amelia Lantz said she’s concerned about her daughter’s fifth grade math homework that’s sponsored by the state because she has found it to be riddled with misspellings and errors.

Like Ms. Thompson, Ms. Lantz said she’s frustrated that she can’t help her daughter with her homework.

“Myself or my husband are trying to teach this to a child the way we learned it,” she said. “Now you’ve got three things going on in there and you’ve got one very frustrated child. That’s the gap that really concerns me.”

The Common Core State Standards has been nationally recognized and adopted by most states across the country that claims to better prepare students for college and careers by requiring instructors to teach more non-fiction and rigorous math to students at a younger age.

After New York adopted Common Core, the state published lesson plans for teachers to help students achieve the new standards. The state doesn’t mandate that schools use these lesson plans, but they are available online at engageny.org.

The public discussion came after Phillips Avenue Elementary School principal Debra Rodgers gave a presentation about Common Core practices within fourth-grade English Language Arts and math.

She said fourth grades teachers district-wide are collaborating together and combining current curriculum with state lessons plans Riverhead educators have deemed will be beneficial to students.

As for math, Ms. Rodgers conceded parents are most frustrated with not knowing how to help their children with math homework and suggested they contact the student’s teacher as soon as possible. Notifying the school will help to let the teacher know if the lesson needs to be repeated in class, she said.

“Close the book and send it back to the teacher,” Ms. Rodgers said.

Superintendent Nancy Carney reiterated that the district hasn’t “blindly adopted” the state’s recommended curriculum and is moving in a “slow and careful manner” when developing curriculum aimed at achieving the Common Core standards.

She also asked parents to be opened minded to new learning methods and gave an example of how children are able to use technology more readily than their parents.

“There are going to be new ways of learning, thinking and doing,” she said. “We need to be sure as parents and educators that we don’t frustrate kids. That’s very important to us.

“Please keep articulating to your building principals and your classroom teachers what your kids are struggling with so we can have those conversations and figure how to move forward.”

jennifer@timesreview.com

11/12/13 12:00pm

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Riverhead school board members at Tuesday night's meeting.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | A Common Core informational meeting will be held at Tuesday night’s Riverhead school board meeting.

Aquebogue Elementary School principal Phil Kent is expected to give a presentation about Common Core practices within third grade at Tuesday night’s school board meeting, according to the agenda.

Last month, Riley Avenue Elementary School principal David Enos and Roanoke Avenue Elementary School principal Thomas Payton gave a joint presentation about Common Core practices within English Language Arts and math in grades kindergarten through second grade.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a new set of benchmarks that requires instructors to teach more non-fiction and rigorous math to students at a younger age to better prepare them for college and careers after high school.

In addition to Common Core, the school board is expected vote on a resolution to finalize the district’s Tuthill Lane land deal with the county and hear a presentation from the district’s external auditor.

Scroll down to view the complete agenda. Check back tonight for coverage from the meeting.

Riverhead school board meeting agenda, Nov. 12, 2013

10/23/13 5:00am
10/23/2013 5:00 AM
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO |

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Riley Avenue Elementary School principal David Enos giving a presentation about how Common Core is being implemented in the district.

Riverhead School District Superintendent Nancy Carney wants the public to know where the true frustration lies with Common Core.

During the school board’s regular meeting Tuesday night, Ms. Carney said she believes there’s a lot of confusion about the Common Core Standards Initiative since New York adopted it, because several different developments occurred simultaneously when the new curriculum was rolled out, including a state-mandated annual professional performance review plans, known as APPR.

Under the state’s mandate, teacher evaluations are tied to new students assessments based on the Common Core. The initiative primarily requires instructors to teach more non-fiction and more rigorous math to students at a younger age and is a set of national standards designed to raise the bar for classroom instruction.

It’s also designed to help prepare students for college and careers upon graduating high school.

Ms. Carney described the Common Core curriculum itself as “good” and “worthwhile.”

“Our stress and anxiety is from the state’s implementation of putting this into place before we can even unveil our teaching of the Common Core and putting high-stakes testing in place along with tying it to teacher evaluations to something that hasn’t been properly implemented yet,” she said.

The state Department of Education has been heavily criticized by school officials across New York for pushing the new mandates before districts were ready for them. Ms. Carney said she believes the state should set aside new student assessments and the APPR plan until Common Core is properly implemented inside the classroom.

“Public education is at a crossroads,” Ms. Carney said. “We need to be sure its serving everybody and kept under local control.”

She said Riverhead is taking a slow approach toward the new curriculum and wanted the public to know that although the state has designed domains (kindergarten through second grade) and modules (grades 3 through 8) to help teachers achieve the Common Core’s college and career ready goals with students, those lesson plans aren’t mandated.

“Many of the things we’re already doing is helping to meet those standards,” she said. “But we are looking at modules to make sure we are exposing our kids to the skills they will need to be successful.”

When parents express concern about students falling behind as tougher programs are implemented, Ms. Carney said teachers are creating “individual differentiated instruction” as each student’s learning ability is identified.

To make sure students don’t fall behind as tougher programs are implemented, the district is offering new types of support for teachers and students. For example, the district’s Response To Intervention program, known as RTI, provides students with one-on-one instruction.

Tuesday night’s meeting marked the district’s first Common Core presentation of a series planned for upcoming school board meetings.

Riley Avenue Elementary School principal David Enos and Roanoke Avenue Elementary School principal Thomas Payton gave a joint presentation about Common Core practices within English Language Arts and math in grades kindergarten through second grade.

Mr. Enos talked about how ELA is changing under Common Core, including how elementary students are increasing their vocabularies by reading more non-fiction, learning how to attribute information in their writing and how to read closely.

“They’re like detectives looking for evidence,” he said. “Students are learning about the world by reading.”

Mr. Enos said the domains Riverhead has chosen so far — “Learning the Five Senses” for kindergarten; “Animals and Habit” for first grade; and “Cycles in Nature” for second grade — will be implemented during science and social studies class times.

As for math, Mr. Payton said there’s more focus on teaching students math concepts and integrating them within other core subjects.

“Math isn’t just done during math time anymore,” he said. “Students are practicing math concepts with an intensity that focus application in relevant situations.”

jennifer@timesreview.com