10/03/13 4:33pm
10/03/2013 4:33 PM
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Riverhead Charter School students at Thursday's groundbreaking ceremony.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Riverhead Charter School students at Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony.

The Riverhead Charter School held a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday to celebrate the start of its $14.1 million construction project that will accommodate the school’s increasing enrollment.

Charter school principal and executive director Raymond Ankrum gathered with hundreds of students wearing yellow hard hats at the school on Route 25 in Calverton and explained how the new building has been “years in the making.”

“Finally, it’s happening,” he said. “It’s an exciting time for our students and employees. We’re on the verge of big things.”

The 50,000-square foot project is expected to include a two-story building with new classrooms and space for an auditorium, gymnasium, library, administration offices and a kitchen. The design features will include a grand main entrance atrium and a large bay window that will act as a reading area in the front of the building.

Outside, there will be a general grass play area with landscaping, including tree plantings and standing ornamental lampposts.

A new bus loop, parking lot and drainage system will also be constructed.

The school will also get its first gymnasium, and a 150-seat portable bleacher.

Officials said the state Board of Regents approved the charter school’s request in March to expand its program through eighth grade, making it the only K-8 charter school in Suffolk County. The school was established in 2001 as a K-6 program and currently has students enrolled from about 14 local districts.

About a month after the state’s approval, the charter school held a lottery to fill open positions in the school’s kindergarten and grades 1, 2, and 6 programs. Mr. Ankrum had said the lottery was the first of its kind at the school, which saw more applications before the deadline this year than ever before.

Normally, the school will put students on a waiting list if they apply after the April 1 deadline, but this year the school received more applicants before the deadline than they had spots to fill.

Officials said the new facility will be able to accommodate about 500 students, up from its current capacity of 300.

During the groundbreaking ceremony, Mr. Ankrum also gathered with representatives involved with the project, including BBS Architects, Landscape Architects and Engineers of Patchogue. The company is also involved with capital improvement projects in the Riverhead and Shoreham-Wading River school districts.

Representatives from Stalco Construction of Islandia; the project’s general contractor, SCC Construction Management Group of Hauppauge; the project’s construction manager, DeLuxe Building Systems of Berwick, Penn.; and PW Grosser Consulting, also attended the event.

The project, which will be paid for through a bond, is expected to be completed next winter.

jennifer@timesreview.com

09/04/13 1:50pm
09/04/2013 1:50 PM

liveblog

Update: The Town Board has tabled a resolution that would have rejected a mining permit for Driftwood Family Farms in Calverton.

Click the blog box at the bottom of this post to follow along.

ORIGINAL POST: The Riverhead Town Board is meeting today, Wednesday, at 2 p.m. instead of its usual Tuesday due to the Labor Day holiday weekend.

As first reported last week, the board is expected to deny a controversial excavating permit application for Driftwood Family Farms, whose owners have been seeking permission to excavate more than 415,000 cubic yards of material from a 42-acre farm in Calverton.

The board discussed the resolution briefly at its work session last Thursday when reviewing resolutions for today’s meeting.

The board appeared to have at least three votes to deny the application, with officials fearing it could set a precedent, given the millions of dollars that can be fetched from selling sand.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Mattituck Laundry at 1044 Parkway Street in Riverhead.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Mattituck Laundry at 1044 Parkway Street in Riverhead.

Board members are expected to approve a clearing permit for an expansion of the Riverhead Charter School in Calverton.

Work is expected to begin soon on a new two-story building at the Riverhead Charter School that will replace the portable classrooms the school has been using since 2002. The permit will allow contractors to export 4,075 cubic yards of soil from the school property.

There is also a public hearing scheduled on whether to expand the Riverhead Sewer District to accomodate Mattituck Laundry with sewer connections at 1044 Parkway Street in Riverhead.

News-Review staff writer Tim Gannon will be reporting live from today’s meeting.

See below for a full agenda. Click below that to follow along.

 

September 4, 2013 – Agenda

04/21/13 6:00pm
04/21/2013 6:00 PM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | (L-R) Melanie Leathers and her sister Vanessa Wigington moments after the charter school lottery ended.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Melanie Leathers (left) and her sister Vanessa Wigington moments after the charter school lottery ended.

Vanessa Wigington leaned forward in her chair as the man at the front of the room continued to pull slips of paper from the bowl in front of him. There were just twelve charter school kindergarten spaces available now. Her 4-year-old son James would have to get in. He had to.

“Number 36,” the man said, “James -”

Ms. Wigington’s eyes widened.

“-Marlules,” he finished.

She sank back into her chair. The wrong James. Not her son, who suffers from hearing loss and could benefit from the charter school’s smaller class sizes.

Ms. Wigington turned to her sister in the chair next to her and mouthed, “I’m going to throw up.”

The Riverhead Charter School held a lottery at the Riverhead Free Library Wednesday evening to fill open positions in the school’s kindergarten, grade 1, 2, and 6 programs.

Charter school executive director Raymond Ankrum said the lottery was the first of its kind at the school, which saw more applications before the deadline this year than ever before.

Normally, the school will put students on a waiting list if they apply after the April 1 deadline, but this year the school received more applicants before the deadline than they had spots to fill, he said.

“For us to have that many applicants, it’s pretty good,” Mr. Ankrum said.

Students who had siblings in the school or were from Riverhead were given preference, then out of town students were called. The dozen or so students who didn’t get in will be placed on a waiting list based on the date of their application, school officials said.

Some parents smiled as their child’s name was called, others whispered a quiet “yes” in celebration. Some high-fived their kids fidgeting in the chairs next to them.

The basement meeting room where the lottery was held was mostly empty; parents who did not attend the lottery will be notified if the child made it into the school or not.

Steve and Shirley Burgess of Middle Island were at the lottery with their three grandchildren, whom they care for. The oldest, 6-year-old Vitali, was placed on a waiting list for first grade, while his younger sister, Amya, was accepted into the kindergarten program.

Ms. Burgess said the family isn’t happy with the quality of Vitali’s education, and were hopeful he would get into the charter school off the wait list.

“That’s all we can ask for right now,” she said.

About 6:45 p.m., the man pulling the names from the bowl, auditor Elliatt Di Lieto, made the announcement for the kindergarten applicants.

“There’s three more seats left,” he said.

In her seat, Ms. Wigington was perfectly still. Her sister, Melanie Leathers, held her hands over her mouth. Another name called, not her son. Two spots left, and three student’s names left in the bowl. The last student called wouldn’t get in and would have to be placed on the waiting list.

Mr. Dilieto pulled a yellow slip from the bowl and read the name.

“Number 46,” he said. “James Wigington.”

Ms. Wigington threw her hands into the air, her face frozen in shock, and her sister clapped and started laughing. The two hugged, and Ms. Wigington sighed. After the lottery, she couldn’t stop smiling.

“I was freaking out,” she said. “I was just nervous it wasn’t going [to happen]. I was thinking of how much I would have to pay for a private school.”

James is now a student at Cleary School for the Deaf in Nesconset. He’ll join his cousin, Ms. Leathers’ daughter, at the Charter School this year. Because he’s enrolled, his 2-year-old sister will get preference when it’s her turn to join the school two years from now.

“Just complete relief and excitement,” Ms. Wigington said. “I’m very excited.”

psquire@timesreview.com

04/18/13 2:00pm
04/18/2013 2:00 PM

Riverhead parent Angela Partridge’s 8-year-old son arrived late to school Wednesday morning. She dropped him off at Riley Elementary School in Calverton about 11 a.m. to join his third-grade class.

The late start wasn’t due to a faulty alarm clock. It was because Ms. Partridge didn’t want her son to sit quietly in a room — away from his classmates and teacher for 90 minutes — reading a book by himself while a small group of students requiring assistance took an exam he was scheduled to take.

That was how her son spent his time the day before, Tuesday, after refusing — at his mother’s request — to take the state-mandated English assessment.

Ms. Partridge and other parents across Long Island and New York State have committed to have their children “opt out” of taking state tests this week, a statement they are making to Albany to express their displeasure with its testing model.

“For the past two months, they’ve just been preparing for these tests,” Ms. Partridge said about her son’s class. “It’s taking them away from the enrichment of what third grade is supposed to be.”

The mother of three said she sent a letter to principal David Enos and Superintendent Nancy Carney last week explaining why she doesn’t want her son take the state assessments.

“I’m not against testing,” Ms. Partridge said. “I think it’s great, as long as it’s written by the teacher and is appropriate for the students.”

Many educators predict dramatic drops in their students’ standardized test scores — not because students aren’t prepared, but because new standards have resulted in exams that are more rigorous than in years past.

This year, English and math state assessments include elements of the Common Core State Standards Initiative. The common core standards are a new set of national benchmarks to help public school students master language arts and mathematics. It requires instructors to teach more non-fiction and rigorous math to students at a younger age. The move aims to better prepare students for college and careers.

The state’s lesson plans are created and updated frequently online at engageny.org.

The results of the new assessments are also tied to the state-mandated annual professional performance review plans, known as APPR. The teacher evaluation requirement originated in 2010 after New York was awarded a grant of nearly $700 million under the federal Race to the Top program. For school districts to qualify for part of the grant, the state required them each to implement their own APPR program.

Riverhead Charter School principal Raymond Ankrum told the News-Review he believes a growing number of parents are becoming concerned about how the state is measuring the growth of students and educators.

RAYMOND ANKRUM

RAYMOND ANKRUM

“I’m not sure if I agree or disagree with [opting out],” he said, adding that as of Wednesday, only one of his students had refused to take state assessments. “However, I must say that I am extremely impressed with parents exercising their right to do what they think is best for their students.”

Ms. Carney confirmed Wednesday that out of 2,177 Riverhead students in grades 3 through 8, seven students who were present declined to take tests.

“We followed state regulations, which states that ‘All students must have an exam placed in front of them, students must place their name on the exam and the directions must be read to them,” Ms. Carney said in an email. “If, at that time, a student chooses not to take the exam, the test is coded as such. Teachers were to let the student read quietly until the end of testing time.”

“As per the [state Department of Education], there is no ‘opt-out’ option,” she said of the phrase, which could be misleading.

Over at the Shoreham-Wading River School District, Superintendent Steven Cohen said Wednesday about 20 students out of nearly 1,200 students in grades 3 through 6 didn’t take the test.

According to a letter from the state Education Department issued in January to schools, there will be a “negative impact” on a school district’s accountability if it fails to meet a 95 percent participation rate in state testing.

“State testing is considered an important part of instruction in education programs,” the letter states. “It provides an evaluation of student mastery of content and skills in various courses of study and helps shape future instruction.”

Riverhead Central Faculty Association union president Barbara Barosa said this week the Riverhead district’s policy is to “not encourage nor discourage students opting out.”

“Parents need to do whatever they feel is necessary,” she said.

Ms. Barosa said she’s organizing a June 8 trip to Albany for a rally, not only to discuss the new state tests, but other issues parents and educators have about how children are being educated. [For more information on the rally, call (631) 727-2262.]

Ms. Partridge said she understands the position educators are in, and believes a grassroots effort, such as the Facebook group, called “Long Island Opt-out Info,” is the best way to currently deal with state assessment concerns.

“I feel they really need the parents to stand up to say, ‘This isn’t right,’” she said. “[Educators’] hands are really tied.

“But I think if we don’t do something then nothing will happen.”

jennifer@timesreview.com

Read more in next week’s News-Review newspaper.

Follow News-Review education reporter Jennifer Gustavson @jengust

02/21/13 5:06pm
02/21/2013 5:06 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The Riverhead Charter School on Route 25 in Calverton.

The Riverhead Town Planning Board approved a proposed two-story, 49,000-square-foot building for the Riverhead Charter School Thursday.

The new school, located to the south of the 5.8-acre property on Route 25 in Calverton, will replace an existing 8,000-square-foot modular school building that the school has been using on an interim basis for several years.

The Planning Board also approved 1998 Peconic LLC’s proposal to build a 17,000-square-foot building on a lot immediately southwest of the charter school property.

At a Feb. 7 public hearing on the charter school expansion, Keith Brown, an attorney for 1998 Peconic LLC, raised concerns about children from the school wandering onto his client’s industrial property.

“We don’t want to be liable if, God forbid, any child goes from that (charter school) property to a property with industrial purposes,” Mr. Brown said at the time.

The charter school agreed to put up a fence separating the two properties. The school agreed to pay for 75 percent of the cost while 1998 Peconic pays the remaining 25 percent.

Headed by Paul Elliot and Jim Miller, 1998 Peconic — a real estate development company — also owns the property west of the charter school where a gas station and convenience store are located. It also owns the vacant property just south of the Cinco de Mayo restaurant, on which it received approval for a drive-through pharmacy and a bank last year, neither of which has been built.

The Planning Board approval also gives the charter school an extension on the use of the modular building on a temporary basis until July 15, 2015. The school had received several prior extensions for the use of the modular building, with the most recent one slated to expire on July 15, 2013.

The charter school currently goes from kindergarten to sixth grade, and it hopes to add seventh and eighth grades with the new, larger building.

The additional grades, which require approval from the state Board of Regents, would expand the school’s maximum enrollment to 400 students. It currently has about 275 now, according to officials.

tgannon@timesreview.com

12/25/12 12:00pm
12/25/2012 12:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Charter School student Andres Alvarado during a school presentation last December.

The Riverhead Charter School is seeking out local businesses interested in helping to sponsor a technology upgrade at the school.

The school’s principal and executive director, Raymond Ankrum, said this week that the school is looking to purchase 50 Google Chromebook computers, which cost $249 apiece.

“That’s a little bit over $12,000,” Mr. Ankrum said in an email Monday. “We want to solicit area businesses in hopes that they would sponsor a student or two.”

The school, which is located on Route 25 in Calverton, is utilizing the services of the online fundraising non-profit donorschoose.org to raise the money needed to purchase the computers. Anyone interested in helping out is asked to contact Mr. Ankrum at rankrum@rcsli.org.

“We want technology to help our students stay competitive with the more affluent school districts,” Mr. Ankrum said. ”Think of all of the good that this can do for our students.”

gparpan@timesreview.com

12/19/12 5:00pm
12/19/2012 5:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The Riverhead Charter School is located on Route 25 in Calverton.

The Riverhead Charter School budget has significant discrepancies between its 2011-2012 school board-approved spending plan, the budget it submitted to the New York State Department of Education and amounts reflected in the school’s end-of-year report, a new state audit has found.

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a press release Wednesday that the school board missed a June 1 deadline last year to approve its spending plan and failed to keep accurate records of employees’ sick and vacation time.

Mr. DiNapoli’s office released the report titled “Riverhead Charter School – Fiscal Monitoring, Leave Accruals and Information Technology (Suffolk County)” earlier today. The report examined the school’s finances between July 1, 2010 to Dec. 31, 2011.

In addition to failing to approve its budget by June 1, the audit found that the school board also “did not receive and review quarterly balance sheets, budget-to-actual reports or monthly cash receipts reports” and last year’s spending plan failed to reflect $56,343 in revenues and $42,739 in expenditures.

As for leave accrual calculations, the audit found that the sick leave balances for the school’s six employees “were all either overstated (by a total of 19.5 hours) or understated (by a total of 77 hours) and the vacation leave of three of those employees was overstated (by a total of 72 hours).”

The audit also found one employee was overpaid $570 for unused vacation leave and the school’s records “were not sufficient” to confirm the accuracy of the principal’s leave accruals.

“The lack of accurate accrual records and adequate oversight of the leave accrual system is a significant internal control weakness,” the report states. “As a result, the school has paid employees for leave time to which they are not entitled and continues to be at risk of making these errors.”

In a letter date Dec. 6, 2012 that is attached to the audit, school board president Deborah Rutigliano said the board is in the process of complying with the report’s recommendations to better control its finances and will seek legal counsel to recoup the overpayment in accruals.

“We appreciate the extensive process that the [Office of the State Comptroller] auditors went through in evaluating the school’s operations and financial controls,” she wrote. “We are pleased that OSC’s three month process resulted in only minor recommendations, validating that our commitment to create an environment that ensures the school’s resources are being safeguarded for use in fulfilling our mission to serve the students who attend the school is being met.”

Charter school principal and executive director Raymond Ankrum, who replaced Dorothy Porteus in August, said Wednesday that although he doesn’t refute the audit’s findings, he believes it doesn’t compare to financial mismanagement reported at other Long Island schools.

For example, he said the report faulted the charter school for creating only one username and password for computer access to the school’s finances. Mr. Ankrum said the computer’s software has since been updated to allow the creation of individual access for multiple users.

“We’ve addressed it and we’re ready to move forward,” Mr. Ankrum said. “We’ve taken on the challenge. We fully embrace the report and we’re going to make the changes that need to be made in order for us to be a great school.”

Scroll down to read the complete report.

jennifer@timesreview.com

2012 state audit of the Riverhead Charter School