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.

jennifer@timesreview.com

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 woy@eewn.org.

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.

ryoung@timesreview.com

04/23/13 9:26am
FILE PHOTO |

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.

jennifer@timesreview.com

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.”

ryoung@timesreview.com

02/05/13 12:00pm
PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Superintendent Nancy Carney will give a presentation on next year's budget at tonight's Riverhead Board of Education meeting.

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | Superintendent Nancy Carney will give a presentation on next year’s budget at tonight’s Riverhead Board of Education meeting.

Superintendent Nancy Carney is expected to give a presentation on her preliminary 2013-14 budget at tonight’s Riverhead Board of Education meeting.

According to the school board agenda, Ms. Carney will discuss the general support, benefits and debt service components of next year’s spending plan.

Last May, residents approved a nearly $111.8 million budget for the current 2012-2013 school year that carried a 1.73 increase to the tax levy by a 1,703 to 1,061 vote.

The tax levy increase had fallen under the state-mandated tax cap.

The school board will also likely vote on a bill to approve a memorandum of agreement with the Riverhead Central Faculty Association “concerning the resolution of a grievance filed by a certain employee.” No other details about the agreement were immediately available.

The public portion of tonight’s school board meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium.

Scroll down to view the complete agenda.

Riverhead Board of Education meeting agenda, Feb. 5, 2013

01/09/13 7:00am

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO

Riverhead school officials presented the district’s new standards for teacher and principal evaluations, a state-mandated task the teacher’s union president described as “monumental,” but something the  district should be “proud” of.

During the school board’s regular meeting at the high school auditorium, about 10 people listened as officials explained the district’s new teacher and principal annual professional performance reviews, known as APPR.

The school board unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday to adopt it. The state has imposed a Jan. 17 deadline on school districts to have an approved plan in place or the district will lose state aid.

Riverhead’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, Lois Etzel, who served on a committee made up of teachers and administrators tasked with coming up with the plan, said not all school workers will have to take part in the new evaluation system.

Although most teachers and all seven principals will have to receive the evaluations, she said the state has excluded some school workers, such as substitute teachers, speech pathologists, psychologists, social workers and librarians.

The evaluation system will consist of four categories: “highly effective,” “effective,” “developing,” and “ineffective.”

Using a mathematical formula, a teacher’s or principal’s score is determined by coupling classroom observations and student assessments.

Riverhead Central Faculty Association union president Barbara Barosa said during the meeting the amount of time teachers and administrators put into creating the plan was “monumental,” adding that the district should be “proud.”

“It’s a very complicated plan,” she said. “It’s not intended to be so. We had to adhere to what the state said we had to make. There are lots of conversion charts…It’s going to be a very interesting procedure for teachers, as well as administrators to administer.”

Ms. Barosa said she believes the state is requiring students to take too many tests, a system she also believes isn’t an equitable way to measure classroom performance.

“Kids are a whole lot more than a test score,” she said. “Teachers are a whole lot more than a test score.”

Now that the district has adopted the plan, Ms. Barosa said revisions are expected to be made as the implementation process unfolds.

“We put a lot of effort into this and it’s not over yet,” she said. “We’re hoping it gets more simple as we go forward.”

Copies of the report weren’t immediately available.

jennifer@timesreview.com

09/12/12 10:05am

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | Riverhead superintendent Nancy Carney, left, and Board of Education president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse at a meeting earlier this year.

The Riverhead school board adopted a series of goals for the new school year, including open communication with parents and staff, improved test scores, and fiscal responsibility for next year’s budget.

The board will “provide the resources” to “maximize academic support” and raise standardized test scores, as well as look for cost-saving measures through shared programs and energy-efficient means, according to the resolution passed unanimously at the Tuesday night board meeting.

Riverhead School District received a mixed report card from last year’s state standardized testing results, with English scores improving but still lagging behind the state average. Superintendent Nancy Carney said the district will implement more grammar and handwriting courses to improve students’ writing abilities.

The district’s math scores were mostly above average, according to the state’s results.

However, some requested clarifications on how the district would increase test scores without Academic Intervention Services, and how open the board would be toward parents’ concerns.

Riverhead Central Faculty Association president Barbara Barosa asked what the district would do to increase scores without AIS services — extra instruction to help students who are struggling to meet state learning benchmarks.

“We are completely trying to provide whatever support services we need for all of our students based on the resources that we have, and we are committed to doing that in varied ways,” Ms. Carney replied, adding that the district was working on a “response to intervention” program to help struggling students.

Details about that plan were not immediately available.

Resident Laurie Downs, a former president of the Riverhead Parent-Teacher Organization, also spoke before the board and asked about openness for parents to discuss their concerns with the board if they were having issues with school administrators.

School board vice president Greg Meyer said in those instances parents could attend executive sessions to speak with the board privately.

psquire@timesreview.com