11/08/13 10:30am
11/08/2013 10:30 AM
Newsday Common Core

Friday’s Newsday cover story tackles state education concerns.

A group of Suffolk County school district superintendents has sent a letter to state education commissioner John King urging him to address their concerns about over-testing, the fast pace of mandating Common Core standards inside the classroom and issues with new teacher and principal evaluation programs, according to Friday’s Newsday cover story.

And, according to Newsday, all county superintendents are expected to send another letter in the coming days.

Mr. King has received harsh criticism since New York adopted the Common Core State Standards Initiative and decided to tie state assessments based on the rigorous curriculum to a new, district-by-district teacher and principal evaluation systems.

Mr. King is scheduled to hold a public meeting to discuss the state’s new direction in education on Wednesday at Ward Melville High School in East Setauket.

A second Suffolk County meeting is scheduled for Nov. 26. The state Department of Education and Board of Regents are working with state Senator Ken LaValle to organize that meeting somewhere within his legislative district.

08/24/13 8:00am
08/24/2013 8:00 AM

FILE PHOTO | For years, anglers turned to Newsday columnist Nick Karas for reports on the outdoors.

To the editor:

I don’t know where to start when discussing Capt. Nick Karas’ impact on fishermen like me.

I read his columns continuously throughout his career at Newsday. I missed very few. He always put me right there as if I were his shadow.

The first time we met was at Salivar’s in Montauk during an evening before a cod trip in the very early ’70s. A few years later, despite our initial conversations, I felt strangely intimidated when I called him to ask if he would accompany a large group of fourth-graders on a school boating and fishing field trip I had planned. Naturally, he followed his guest appearance with a wonderful and accurate column on our adventures at sea.

Thank you again, Nick. After that, I would see Nick regularly at the winter outdoor shows or on the Orient or Montauk docks. I was always greeted with a friendly smile and an enthusiastic hello. He frequently spoke of the refurbished center console that he now took charters from. A few years ago, he joined my dinner guests, consisting mostly of fishing addicts, as a guest speaker at a local restaurant. He did a fine job of outlining and discussing sight-casting on the flats for large and small stripers.

Nick Karas wrote so much about the outdoors, his writing credits are way too many to list. They were all terrific works.

What stands out the most to me is “The Complete Book of Striped Bass Fishing.” It is considered by many to be the bible for linesider anglers. Nick’s attention to detail is overwhelming. The book is a must-read for every bass angler, including the best of the pros.

Sadly, Nick Karas will be missed by many, including this angler.

RIP, Capt. Nick.

Capt. Jerry McGrath, Wading River

Mr. McGrath is a licensed charter boat captain and the owner of Sportfishing Adventures in Calverton. He’s a retired Shoreham-Wading River schoolteacher.

04/25/13 12:00pm
Carney of Riverhead

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Superintendent Nancy Carney and board president Anne Cotten-DeGrasse at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Riverhead school officials denied allegations this week of misusing the district’s electronic record-keeping software to influence voter turnout during budget votes.

According to Newsday, the state education department is investigating more than 60 Long Island school districts that use software from Bold Systems, a Bellport company that allegedly claims the product can be used to influence voter turnout during budget votes. According to the Newsday report, the company has said the software can “track voter turnout in real time, and gives districts the ability to generate call lists of key voting blocs.”

State election laws prohibit public entities, like school districts, from influencing voter turnout in this manner, although some school officials quoted in the Newsday report deny using the program in that way.

Riverhead Superintendent Nancy Carney stated Tuesday the district hasn’t used the software to influence budget votes and has not been notified that the district is under investigation.

“We never used this software in any way, shape or form for electioneering,” she said.

The district is required to keep its own records of its 24,000 registered voters, and Bold Systems’ software allows it to organize the records electronically, she said. The electronic database gets registered voter information from both the Suffolk County Board of Elections and the district’s Board of Registration, which is headed by district clerk Barbara O’Kula, she said. The data is then put into a web-based browser, and the district uses the information to sign voters in on election day. The process enforces the “rule of one person, one vote,” Ms. Carney said.

The district bought rights to the Bold software in the fall of 2008 through a shared-service contract with BOCES, and the system has been in place since the May 2009 election, she said.

Shoreham-Wading River Superintendent Steven Cohen said that district is not among the 60 Long Island districts Newsday says uses the software. Shoreham, with about 9,000 voters, gets a list from the Suffolk County Board of Elections of everyone in the district who’s registered to vote in Suffolk County, district clerk Janice Seus later explained. The district keeps a separate book for people registered to vote in the school district but not in the county, she said.

“It’s a little cumbersome and it’s a little bit of work, but I don’t mind doing it,” Ms. Seus said, adding that the Bold software was prohibitively expensive, so they stuck with the old system. “I’d rather do the work than have us spend the $20,000.”

Ms. Carney said the Riverhead district uses the program “one day per year” for the school budget vote. Instead of using the system to mail election notices to voters, Ms. Carney said the district mails them to all addresses within the district.

Riverhead school board president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse told the News-Review in an interview this week that she supports the software because of its efficiency. She said that throughout her 32 years of teaching and her past experience as a teachers union president, there have always been concerns about the paper method of tracking voter records.

“On the day of the election, there would be three tables filed with voting records,” she said. “It was a real mess.”

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse also denied the district has been involved in any illegal actions.

“To my knowledge, the school district has never used that system to call people and try to influence how the election goes,” she said.

During the public comment portion of Tuesday night’s Riverhead school board meeting, local resident and school board watchdog Laurie Downs discussed her concern about the software’s legality.

“You’re giving me the impression that you’re doing something illegal,” Ms. Downs said. “After all, you took an unpopular budget and an unpopular bond and it passed.”

Her exchange with the school board became heated when she took exception to board vice president Greg Meyer’s body language during her remarks.

Mr. Meyer responded, “You do great things for us, but when you stand here and say you don’t trust us, that bothers me. That’s why I’m shrugging my shoulders.”

The back-and-forth resulted in Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse’s slamming her gavel and calling for order. Ms. Downs ended her comments by saying she planned to contact Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota Wednesday morning.

After the meeting adjourned, the argument continued when Ms. Downs approached Mr. Meyer. It ended with him telling her, “Call Mr. Spota in the morning.”

“I invite him down,” Mr. Meyer said.

jennifer@timesreview.com 

with Paul Squire

04/22/13 1:26pm
NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO |

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Riverhead School District Superintendent Nancy Carney said Monday the district uses Bold Systems software primarily as a voter registration electronic database.

(See the April 25 News-Review newspaper for a full, updated report.)

The Riverhead School District was one of 12 Long Island school districts named in a Sunday Newsday report about schools purchasing special software last year that allegedly aims to influence voter turnout during budget votes.

According to the Newsday report, the program is touted as being able to “track voter turnout in real time, and gives districts the ability to generate call lists of key voting blocs.”

The process of a public entity influencing voter turnout in this manner is against state election laws, though some school officials in the news report denied the program is used in such a manner.

When contacted by the News-Review, Riverhead Superintendent Nancy Carney issued the following statement via email:

“Here at Riverhead, we use Bold solely as an electronic database for voter registration and management.  If we did not have the system, we would have to keep the voter database by hand using the old ‘buff card’ books. We have about 24,000 registered voters.  Keeping this all straight with cards would be an unnecessary use of time and resources.

“With the Bold system, we have an electronic database that is automatically updated from the Board of Elections when people move into the district, move out of the district, or move within the district.  It is also automatically updated with newly registered voters and with the names of deceased voters.

“We do not use the system to attempt to influence the outcome of the election.”

School board president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse was not immediately available for comment.

jennifer@timesreview.com