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

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

09/24/13 5:00am
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Superintendent Nancy Carney, left, with school board president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse at a Board of Education meeting in February.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Superintendent Nancy Carney, left, with school board president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse at a Board of Education meeting in February.

The Riverhead school board is expected to vote on a new contract agreement with the district’s teachers union at Tuesday night’s meeting.

On Saturday, the News-Review reported the school board and teacher’s union were close to reaching a new contract.

Lisa Goulding, the new president of the Riverhead Central Faculty Association, which represents district teachers, declined to comment on the specifics until the new agreement is finalized.

“Although Riverhead teachers have been without a contract for more than a year now, the new leadership of the RCFA hopes to foster a relationship with administration and the board that allows us to continue to serve the needs of our students and this community, while honoring the professionalism of our members,” she said in an email.

The memorandum of agreement’s timeframe is between July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2017, according to the meeting’s agenda.

In addition to the teacher’s contract, the school board is expected to vote on Superintendent Nancy Carney’s recommendation to suspend a non-instructional employee without pay for 30 days pending an investigation. The move is pursuant to Civil Service Law Section 75.

If the school board approves the resolution, Huntington attorney Lawrence Spirn will be designated as a hearing officer and will make a disciplinary recommendation if the unidentified employee is found guilty.

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

Riverhead school board meeting agenda, Sept. 24, 2013

09/10/13 4:00pm
09/10/2013 4:00 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | One of the two new classrooms at Riley Avenue Elementary School.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | One of the two new classrooms at Riley Avenue Elementary School.

The Riverhead school board is expected to discuss employee contract negotiations during an executive session at tonight’s regular meeting, according to meeting agenda.

The district’s teachers contract expired June 30, 2012.

In addition, the school board is expected to vote on a couple of change orders related to capital improvements currently underway. Superintendent Nancy Carney will also give a construction update, according to the agenda.

The public portion of tonight’s meeting is at 7 p.m. in the high school cafeteria.

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

Riverhead School Board Meeting, Sept. 10, 2013

09/08/13 12:00pm
09/08/2013 12:00 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO  |  Work on the new Riley Avenue Elementary School facade as of last week. The window wall marks the school's expanded cafeteria and auditorium.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Work on the new Riley Avenue Elementary School facade as of last week. The window wall marks the school’s expanded cafeteria and auditorium.

The start of a new school year is an ideal time to roll out changes to curriculum, faculty or initiatives, and in Riverhead Town public schools, the 2013-14 school year is no exception.

From new computers at Shoreham-Wading River to 30 new staff members in the Riverhead School District, the two local superintendents each shared a list of four things that will be new or different in their districts this year, as well as their hopes for the next nine months.

Nancy Carney

Superintendent Nancy Carney

• The district has hired over 30 new staff members, including over 20 new teachers to replace retirees.

• Construction work is complete at Aquebogue, Phillips Avenue and Riley Avenue elementary schools. There are new parent drop-off areas and bus loops, renovated libraries, classrooms and computer rooms, a new kitchen at Aquebogue, two new classrooms and an expanded cafeteria at Riley Avenue and new playground surfaces at all the schools. At Riverhead High School. There are new bleachers in the gymnasium and the library and auditorium will be completely renovated this fall. Construction will continue at the high school over the next two years with the addition of new science rooms and a new weight room.

• The district has installed new physical education equipment at Pulaski, Roanoke, Phillips Avenue and Aquebogue. Equipment at Riley Avenue will be installed this fall. Riverhead is the first district in New York State to be awarded a Project Fit Grant, in collaboration with Peconic Bay Medical Center.

A new curriculum is being implemented in the physical education program as part of the grant.

• Riverhead will continue to take delivery of new propane-powered buses to replace older diesel models.

“This continued overhaul of our transportation department will be complemented by a bus garage committee that will begin work this fall to oversee the design and location of a new bus hub,” Ms. Carney said. “We are looking for community members who are interested in joining this effort. Please contact me if you would like to participate.”

Steven Cohen

Shoreham-Wading River Superintendent Steven Cohen

• The district is implementing a technology initiative in all five buildings. This includes new computers throughout the district, as well as Smartboards.

• The faculty will be strengthening its new professional development program.

• The district will be adding more security measures to all the schools

• Officials are continuing to strategically plan for the future of the district’s facilities while developing a five-year plan for programs and fiscal plans to preserve the high quality of education in Shoreham-Wading River.

ryoung@timesreview.com

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