03/26/14 2:00pm
03/26/2014 2:00 PM
Close to 40 people, including many local veterans, came out in support of a measure to allow tax breaks for veterans in Riverhead School Districts. (Credit: Jen Gustavson)

Last year, the state Legislature approved an amendment to expand the veterans’ tax exemption program to school districts, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law in December.. (Credit: Jen Gustavson)

“When I came home from Vietnam, I couldn’t even get a cab when I was in my uniform. This is a chance, I believe, for the school board to really do the right thing for veterans.”


09/21/13 5:25pm
09/21/2013 5:25 PM
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Riverhead School Board president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse is the East End Women's Network 2013 "Woman of the Year."

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Riverhead School Board president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse confirmed that the district made a contract offer to its teachers.

The Riverhead Board of Education may vote on a new teacher’s contract at its Tuesday meeting after the district made an offer to its teachers, who have been without a contract for just over a year.

Board of Education president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse confirmed today that an offer has been made.

“It’s my understanding that the teachers will ratify it,” she said. “But nothing has been formalized yet.”

She said the leadership of the teachers’ union held meetings with teachers in various school buildings Thursday and Friday. Another meeting is set for Monday.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse said that if the teachers’ union ratifies the agreement, it will likely be voted on at Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting.

Lisa Goulding, the new president of the Riverhead Central Faculty Association, which represents district teachers, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse said that while the district has made an offer, she is not at liberty to disclose any details.

The district’s last teacher contract ran from July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2012. (The school’s fiscal year starts in July.)

That contract gave teachers a one percent increase for the first six months of both years with no step/increment increases, and another one percent increase for the second six months of both years, with step/increment increases.

The step/increment raises are in addition to the base salary raises teachers get annually according to the terms of their contract and are based on experience and other factors, such as whether they have a bachelor’s or master’s degree and how many graduate credits they have.

The last Riverhead teachers’ contract had a salary scale with 30 steps.

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08/28/13 5:00pm
08/28/2013 5:00 PM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | School board vice president Greg Meyer (from left), Superintendent Nancy Carney and board president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse voting on resolutions during Tuesday night’s board meeting, at which Ms. Carney spoke at length about more planned construction work for the high school.

Repairs at Riverhead High School costing $1.7 million, which were identified by a community-based committee, were approved at this week’s school board meeting and will get underway alongside other school construction projects currently in progress.

Superintendent Nancy Carney gave a presentation at Tuesday night’s meeting on using the district’s repair-reserve fund for various upgrades at the high school, including replacement of lighting and crumbling concrete in the back plaza courtyard, repair of the south and student parking lots and replacement of a damaged ceiling and lighting in the cafeteria.

Ms. Carney said the needed repairs were identified by the district’s Community Partnership for Revitalization Committee, known as CPR. The volunteer group, made up of district residents and employees, was asked to revise an infrastructure upgrade plan after the district’s proposed bond project was overwhelmingly defeated in 2010. Residents ultimately approved both a scaled-down $78.3 million capital improvement bond project in 2011 and a referendum to establish a repair-reserve fund of up to $5 million to pay for infrastructure upgrades. Capital improvement projects included in the voter-approved bond proposal — such as a new roof, windows, ventilation and electrical systems, science classrooms and additional music and art space — were identified by the CPR committee as a “priority,” and are included in the work through the bond, Ms. Carney said.

The bond project also includes installing a new gym floor and new bleachers, a new auditorium and renovating classrooms to replace the high school’s portable classrooms.

A third “wish list” was created that included items like a turf athletic field, she added.

“In order to have the best buying power and minimize the costs, we had these [secondary] repairs built into the [bond proposal] bidding process as alternates,” Ms. Carney said before the meeting.

Following Ms. Carney’s presentation, the school board closed the public hearing and voted 6-0 to approve the $1.7 million repair-reserve fund expenditure. School board member Amelia Lantz was absent.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Calverton resident Sal Mastropaolo criticized the school board for voting on the resolution the same night as the public hearing because he believes it doesn’t give the public a fair chance to weigh in on the proposal. He suggested the school board leave the public hearing open for two weeks to allow for written comments.

“There’s only six or eight of us here,” he said, “but yet there are maybe several hundred watching Channel 22 when the meeting comes up.”

Ms. Carney said the school board has the authority to vote on a measure after closing a public hearing.

In addition to discussing work at the high school, the school board approved a change order to replace solar panel and wind power plans from its energy performance contract. The energy performance contract is separate from the bond proposal and repair-reserve fund.

The photovoltaic project had been planned for the high school, middle school and Aquebogue, Phillips Avenue and Riley Avenue elementary schools. The estimated cost per school was $50,000, according to school documents. Also in the plan was a $12,000 wind power generation project at the high school.

The school board agreed Tuesday night to swap out the solar and wind proposals for two walk-in refrigerators at the high school to replace models purchased in the 1970s, and for LED lighting projects at Phillips Avenue and Riley Avenue elementary schools.

According to the school board meeting’s agenda, the solar panel project was canceled due to “capital construction project roof work overlap” and the wind project was removed because the manufacturer is “no longer in business.”

School board president Greg Meyer said the decision to pull the solar panel project from the plan was made in part because of a “timeframe” conflict.

“It’s not like we’re scrapping them,” he said. “Our energy performance contract requires the solar panels be in at a certain time and with our new roofs going in we won’t be able to meet that part of the contract.”

Ms. Carney said after the meeting that the district is looking at its alternative energy options and companies have approached the district about different solar energy projects. Those proposals will be presented to the school board at a future meeting, she said.

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05/16/13 8:00am
Riverhead bus barn

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The bus garage is used for mini-bus storage and houses the Riverhead School District’s transportation and maintenance departments.

To the Editor:

We write in response to critics of our approach to address longstanding structural deficiencies at the bus garage. We understand the anger that some feel about the proposal; and with those concerns in mind, we want to explain our reasoning.

Without a doubt, the existing bus garage will need to be addressed in some way in the near future. As photographs posted on our website show, the 1920 transportation department building is deteriorating. We felt the best way to handle this was through the use of a capital reserve, which functions as a savings account. The reserve allows us to save money over time to address the problem rather than incurring more debt. The savings account is budget neutral and does not increase taxes. Thus, Proposition 1 is on the ballot for your approval.

[Previous Coverage: New school bus barn draws opposition]

There are several options on how to best replace our aging facility. One is to renovate in place. Another is to relocate the facility to a different location, thereby creating athletic fields at the current site. In looking for a new location, we had three criteria. The land needed to be: 1) non-residential; 2) centrally located within our 100-square-mile district; and 3) affordable.

[Previous Coverage: Editorial: Riverhead schools mishandled bus barn planning]

We saw many properties that met the first two criteria, but none that were also affordable. Therefore, we investigated using land far behind the Phillips Avenue School for our facility. Property we already own there is large enough for our buses. Solely in order to move the buses without impacting any residents, we are seeking permission to purchase two small tracts of land between Phillips Avenue and Enterprise Zone Drive, an industrial park on Flanders Road.

Critics of this plan have said that it was not properly studied before going to the voters. We feel, however, that it is improper to spend taxpayer dollars on a study before we know if the voters are in agreement with the idea. The ballot proposition to buy the land is just to secure the option to make that purchase. A traffic study will be the first order of business if Proposition 2 is approved by the voters.

We hope that you will take the time to vote on May 21. We hope you will join us at future Board of Education meetings; and we invite you to attend the many wonderful events occurring at Riverhead Central School District schools.

Riverhead Board of Education Members

To read more letters to the editor, pick up a copy of this week’s Riverhead News-Review or click on the E-Paper.

05/08/13 4:00pm
BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The Riverhead School District’s $78.3 million bond project approved by voters in 2011 remains on schedule with the exception of the high school, planning consultants said at Tuesday night.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The Riverhead School District’s $78.3 million bond project approved by voters in 2011 remains on schedule with the exception of the high school, planning consultants said at Tuesday night.

The Riverhead School District’s $78.3 million bond project approved by voters in 2011 remains on schedule with the exception of the high school, planning consultants said at Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting.

Larry Salvesen, an architect with BBS Architecture of Patchogue, updated the school board on the renovation work and said a delay in approvals from the state Department of Education has pushed back the high school’s completion date by a year. He estimates the state will sign off on the project shortly and work will be completed by the summer of 2015.

The school’s front entrance, auditorium seating, gym bleachers and library are slated for upgrades.

Work at Phillips Avenue Elementary School in Riverside, Riley Avenue Elementary School in Calverton and Aquebogue Elementary School will be completed by September, Mr. Salvesen said.

Parking lot reconfiguration, rubber-matting installation at playgrounds and classroom upgrades are planned for those elementary schools.

The school board held a ribbon-cutting ceremony in March at Phillips Avenue school, unveiling a new library and media center. The ceremony marked the first completed facility upgrade paid through the bond.

Riley Avenue school will undergo roof and kitchen work and Aquebogue school is getting a new kitchen.

Plans for renovation work at the middle school, Roanoke and Pulaski Street elementary schools are on schedule to receive final approvals, Mr. Salvesen said.

The district is hopeful a groundbreaking ceremony will take place at the middle school by the end of the year and by the spring of 2014 for Roanoke and Pulaski Street elementary schools.

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04/25/13 5:00pm

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Riverhead School Board president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse is the East End Women’s Network 2013 “Woman of the Year.”

The East End Women’s Network has named Riverhead Board of Education president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse its 2013 “Woman of the Year.”

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse, who lives in Jamesport, was elected to the Riverhead Board of Education in 2007. Previously, she taught business for 32 years in the Riverhead School District and also served five years as president of the Riverhead Central Faculty Association.

After two scares with breast cancer in the mid-90s, Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse established the North Fork Breast Health Coalition in 1998 with her husband, Antonio. The organization helps breast cancer patients cope with diagnosis and treatment.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse will be honored at a dinner celebration on May 20 at Giorgio’s, in Baiting Hollow. The event is open to the public and begins at 5:30 p.m. Speakers include Riverhead Superintendent of Schools Nancy Carney and Janine Nebons, general manager at Tanger Outlets. Pre-order tickets are $60 for EEWN members and $75 for non-members. Admission is $85 at the door. To make reservations, go to www.eewn.org or contact [email protected].

The East End Women’s Network was founded in 1981. The organization aims to bring together women of diverse business accomplishments and to educate members and the public on issues affecting women.

[email protected]

04/23/13 9:26am

FILE PHOTO | The 2013-14 school board and budget vote is scheduled for May 21.

The names of two newcomers will appear on the ballot in this year’s school board elections in the Riverhead and Shoreham-Wading River school districts.

Challenger Christopher Dorr of Baiting Hollow will face incumbents Jeff Falisi of Calverton and Amelia Lantz of Riverhead. There are two seats carrying three-year terms up for grabs on the seven-member board.

Over in Shoreham, two seats on the school board carrying three-year terms are up this year. Candidate Sean Beran of Wading River is looking to secure former school board member Marie Lindell’s seat. Ms. Lindell resigned in October due to scheduling conflicts between school board meetings and her job as a pilot. The Board of Education decided to wait until the May election to fill her position.

Incumbent school board vice president Richard Pluschau is running for re-election.

The 2013-14 school board and budget vote is scheduled for May 21.

Pick up Thursday’s copy of the Riverhead-News Review for more on this story.

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04/17/13 10:44pm
RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | Director of Facilities Mark Finnerty discusses new security features being added to  Riverhead schools.

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | Director of Facilities Mark Finnerty discusses new security features being added to Riverhead schools.

Riverhead Board of Education members voted unanimously at a special meeting Wednesday to use just over $100,000 from existing reserve funds to implement new districtwide security measures.

The new initiatives include purchasing new or upgraded security cameras, digital recorders, shatter-resistant film for glass windows, the addition of “Smart Key” technology and the creation of a bigger security office with large-screen video monitoring. The district has already updated their burglar panels, allowing them to put silent alarms in some offices.

“No matter what, you want your kids to be safe,” Superintendent Nancy Carney said. “We’ve put a lot in place, but we have a lot to work on.”

“We’re in a new era and a new world and we all know that,” she said. “These are very important conversations.”

The board unanimously rejected a second proposed option to raise the tax levy from 3.82 to 3.94 percent to cover the costs. Ms. Carney said dipping into reserves will not pose a problem for the district.

“Our reserves are in good shape because of very careful oversight of what we’re doing,” she said. “This is an option we feel very comfortable with.”

At Riverhead Middle School, a software program called Project Safeguard will be installed. The technology, which costs $22,000 and has already been purchased for Riverhead High School and will be implemented there by the end of the month, allows administrators to enhance current remote monitoring by producing a digital map of school grounds that marks key locations in the building — including areas with cameras, fire extinguishers and boilers —  with a colored icon.

“It’s very usable,” director of facilities Mark Finnerty said of Project Safeguard. “If there was an incident in the art room, the fire department would be able to pull this [program] up on their laptops and then give directions to their squad as to what door to enter.”

Mr. Finnerty said there are currently about 145 security cameras at Riverhead High School, 45 at Riverhead Middle School and about 25 at each elementary school. Of the cameras at the high school, Mr. Finnerty said, 100 of them were purchased in 2005. He said it would cost $22,500 to purchase new or upgraded cameras.

The measures, Ms. Carney said, are a good start, but she emphasized the importance of creating a culture of security in the district.

“I think it’s important to educate every single person,” she said. “Every one in the district can call an emergency. The more eyes … the better.”

Board trustee Thomas Carson agreed.

“This is not a one-shot deal,” he said of the approved purchases. “This is forever going on for the rest of our lives.”

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