Roanoke and Phillips Avenue schools will each have new principals next year

Two of Riverhead’s elementary school principals will be switching places come fall.
Debra Rodgers, who has been Roanoke Avenue Elementary School principal since 2004, will be the Phillips Avenue Elementary School principal in the upcoming school year, while Tom Payton, who was appointed as Phillips Avenue’s principal in 2005, will become Roanoke Avenue’s principal in the fall, according to outgoing Superintendent Diane Scricca.
Mr. Payton was removed as Phillips Avenue principal in January for reasons the district has never stated publicly, and he was replaced by Phillips Avenue assistant principal Patricia Nugent, and moved to the Roanoke Avenue school to assist Ms. Rodgers.
The Riverhead school board two weeks ago voted to move Ms. Nugent back to an assistant principal position, but officials at the time did not comment on who would be principal at Phillips Avenue.
Mr. Payton did take legal action against his removal as principal, but Dr. Scricca would not comment on that or whether it affected the decision to bring Mr. Payton back as a principal.
She said, in explaining the switch, “Roanoke is a smaller school that really has been doing very well under Ms. Rodgers, and we will be giving Mr. Payton a lot of support so he can do the job there.”
She said Phillips Avenue has had the lowest test scores of the district’s elementary schools, but said Ms. Rodgers “has done an excellent job at Roanoke in terms of being able to bring that school up to where it should be.”
Dr. Scricca will be retiring at the end of this month and Deputy Superintendent Nancy Carney will take over as superintendent.
Earlier this year, a number of residents held signs calling for Mr. Payton’s reinstatement as principal during a school board meeting held at Phillips Avenue. One resident implied that his removal was racial, as Mr. Payton is Native American and the only minority principal in the district. A group of parents several weeks later complained that bullying was rampant at Phillips Avenue, although none of them publicly blamed Mr. Payton.
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