03/06/14 5:00pm
03/06/2014 5:00 PM

schoolsSix local school board incumbents are up for re-election this year. So far, one has said she’ll step down after her term, two are on the fence about appearing on the May 20 ballot and another two are gearing up to run again. One board member was unavailable for comment. To gain a spot on the ballot, candidates must submit their petitions by April 21, under state law.

RIVERHEAD (3 SEATS)

Three of the seven seats on the Riverhead Board of Education will be up for grabs in May.

Board president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse announced last year during her campaign for town supervisor that she will not seek re-election at the end of her second term. A retired teacher who taught in the district for more than 30 years, Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse is a former president of the teachers union in Riverhead and a co-founding member of the North Fork Breast Health Coalition. The Jamesport resident was first elected to the school board in 2008.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse said in a previous interview that she decided not to seek another term on the board because she feels that she’s accomplished what she intended. “My goals were to bring civility and respect back to the board and to see that the bond passed,” she said. “I did the two things I really set out to do and I’m ready to move on.”

Board vice president Greg Meyer confirmed last week that he will seek another three-year term. Mr. Meyer, a Calverton resident, was first elected in 2008. He’s employed as a firefighter and emergency medical technician at Brookhaven National Lab.

When asked if he’s interested in becoming board president given Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse’s decision, Mr. Meyer said, “We’ll have to see what the board decides.

“I enjoy what I’m doing and believe the progress the board has made in the last six years has been terrific,” he said.

Board member Kimberly Ligon said last week she hasn’t decided if she’ll seek re-election. She was first elected in 2011.

SHOREHAM-WADING RIVER (3 SEATS)

Incumbents Bill McGrath, John Zukowski and Jack Costas are up for re-election to the seven-member board. Mr. McGrath, who was elected in 2008 and has been board president since 2011, said last week he hasn’t decided if he’ll seek another three-year term. As the budget season unfolds, Mr. McGrath, of Wading River, said he’s focused on helping to draft next year’s spending plan.

Mr. Zukowski, an attorney who was first elected in 2011, said last week that he plans to run for re-election. Mr. Costas wasn’t immediately available for comment.

03/03/2014 2:00 PM
Shoreham-Wading River Superintendent Steven Cohen (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson, file)

Shoreham-Wading River Superintendent Steven Cohen (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson, file)

Shoreham-Wading River Superintendent Steven Cohen is expected to discuss his preliminary budget for the 2014-15 school year on Tuesday night, according to the school board’s meeting agenda.

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02/04/2014 10:54 PM
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River School District Superintendent Steven Cohen, left, and school board president Bill McGrath at Tuesday night's meeting.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River School District Superintendent Steven Cohen, left, and school board president Bill McGrath at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Shoreham-Wading River School District Superintendent Steven Cohen announced Tuesday he’s moving forward with a 2014-15 budget that does not include funding for Briarcliff Elementary School.

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01/07/14 1:30pm
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River superintendent Steven Cohen and school board president Bill McGrath.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River Superintendent Steven Cohen and school board president Bill McGrath.

The Shoreham-Wading River school board is expected to vote on a resolution ratifying a retirement incentive agreement with the teachers’ union for the current school year, according to tonight’s meeting agenda.

Superintendent Steven Cohen said nine teachers and one administrator has accepted the offer, in which the district will pay employees 50 percent of their final salary.

Since criteria to qualify for this retirement incentive is already built into the teachers’ contract, the school board must vote on a resolution to extend the offer to include some additional teachers, Mr. Cohen said.

When asked how much the district will save under the new agreement, he said it hasn’t been calculated because his administration and the school board have yet to determine if the retirees’ positions will be filled. If they are, then savings will be realized from the difference between the old and new salaries, Mr. Cohen said.

In recent years, he said if someone with a salary of $100,000 retires, the replacement’s new salary typically starts at around $50,000.

In addition to voting on the retirement incentive agreement, the school board is expected to discuss instructional program support plans.

The topic is part of Mr. Cohen’s series of presentations titled “Strategic Planning.”

The public portion of the meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the junior high auditorium.

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

Shoreham-Wading River school board meeting agenda, Jan. 7, 2014

12/18/13 12:30pm
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | From left, Shoreham-Wading River School District Superintendent Steven Cohen, school board president Bill McGrath and vice president John Zukowski at Tuesday night's meeting.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | From left, Shoreham-Wading River School District Superintendent Steven Cohen, school board president Bill McGrath and vice president John Zukowski at Tuesday night’s meeting.

A Wading River resident took to the podium at Tuesday night’s Shoreham-Wading River school board meeting to accuse and chastise a school board member for wrongfully “leaking” an email sent from an unidentified resident to another resident.

Nikko Lavey claimed the email, which the News-Review could not obtain, was addressed to Shoreham-Wading River Superintendent Steven Cohen and contained “unflattering” comments about another person in the community. Apparently, the email got into that person’s hands. Although Mr. Lavey offered no details, he said the email was about the controversy concerning longtime boys varsity lacrosse coach Tom Rotanz, who will not be returning to Shoreham to coach the team in the spring.

Mr. Lavey said the email in question has created an uproar among district lacrosse players.

“The end result, teammates on the lacrosse team are now pointing fingers at each other and there has been no shortage of dissension among families involved,” he said.

Mr. Lavey declined to say which board member he believed had provided the email to the person mentioned in it.

Jeff Hayes of Wading River was the only other person to address the school board on this matter during Tuesday’s meeting.

“How is an email sent to you and only you forwarded on to board members or community members?” Mr. Hayes asked Mr. Cohen. “What is the policy on that? It was an email sent to you and only you and it ended up in a community member’s hands.”

None of the school board members responded to Mr. Lavey and Mr. Hayes.

Mr. Cohen declined comment after the meeting.

Also at the meeting, interim athletic director William Denniston honored several coaches and student athletes from this past fall season.

Some of the accomplishments were the tennis, cross country and football teams’ victories.

jennifer@timesreview.com

12/17/13 5:00pm
JOE WERKMEISTER FILE PHOTO | The Shoreham-Wading River school board meeting is at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the high school library.

FILE PHOTO | The Shoreham-Wading River school board meeting is at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the high school library.

The Shoreham-Wading River school board is expected to discuss instructional program support plans during its regular meeting Tuesday night.

The discussion is part of Superintendent Steven Cohen’s series of presentations titled “Strategic Planning.”

The school board is also expected to vote on coach appointments, according to the meeting agenda. The district doesn’t release the names listed under personnel recommendations until after the resolution is approved, administrators have said.

It is unclear if the list includes a replacement for boys varsity lacrosse coach Tom Rotanz, whom the superintendent has said will not return next school year.

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

SWR School board meeting agenda, Dec. 17, 2013

12/04/13 12:30pm

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River superintendent Steven Cohen gives a presentation at Tuesday night’s school board meeting.

Shoreham-Wading River School District’s elementary students will be divided among buildings based on grade level — not neighborhoods — starting in the 2014-15 school year.

The school board voted 4-2 in favor of implementing what’s called a Princeton Plan — developed in Princeton, N.J., and currently used in other districts — to enhance educational opportunities by grouping elementary school teachers and students by grade in the same buildings while downsizing staffing levels.

Superintendent Steven Cohen said a Princeton Plan model will benefit students because teachers will be with all their grade-level colleagues, which he said will result in an increased opportunity to collaborate on lesson plans.

But which grades will be housed in each building isn’t yet known.

Under one proposal for implementing the Princeton Plan, Briarcliff Elementary School would become a kindergarten-only building. That school currently runs a K-1 program. Students in grades 1-3 would attend either Miller Avenue or Wading River elementary; those in grades 4 and 5 would go to the other.

“The most important benefit from the Princeton Plan is that there’s much more dynamic interaction among teachers in order to improve and distribute high-level instruction and continuity of curriculum,” Mr. Cohen said. “In these days of heightened demands from Common Core and state ed, that is an important consideration to keep in mind as we talk about elementary school.”

The second Princeton Plan option, which would only be implemented if the budget fails in May, would involve closing the Briarcliff school.

During his presentation Tuesday, Mr. Cohen said his office has also drafted a Neighborhood Plan, an option that groups students by “catchment areas,” or where they live. Mr. Cohen wanted to present it for the board’s consideration because residents have said they’d prefer a more traditional option, but the board opted to go with a Princeton Plan.

School board member Robert Rose, who, with Sean Beran, cast a dissenting vote against the Princeton Plan, said that although he liked the Princeton Plan, he believed it would be more appropriate at this time to implement the Neighborhood Plan, which he described as “a baby step” toward the large-scale reconfiguration of the elementary program.

After a nearly two-hour discussion, and with more residents speaking in favor of the Princeton Plan than against it, the board approved the Princeton Plan proposal, with school board vice president John Zukowski and members Richard Pluschau, Michael Fucito, and Jack Costas voting for it. School board president Bill McGrath was absent from the meeting.

Now that the board has agreed to move forward with a Princeton Plan model, Mr. Cohen said it must now look at ways to reduce expenditures in the district’s secondary program.

He said that should the district do nothing, it would face a $8 million budget deficit next year.

The deficit was caused in part by the district’s pulling from its reserves in recent years to maintain programs and staffing levels at the school. Last year, the district used $5.5 million in reserves and leftover balances from the previous year.

Were this year’s budget to roll over into 2014-15 as-is, the district would be looking at a $2.5 million increase in expenditures.

jennifer@timesreview.com