Letter to the Editor: As Reagan said, ‘Trust, but verify’


As a former superintendent of schools (18 years), past president of the New York State Council of School Superintendents, current supervisor of the educational leadership program at Niagara University and an educational consultant to private companies, I have been involved in many administrative personnel matters. None trouble me as unfair as much as Mike Ivanoff’s recent dismissal as assistant superintendent by the Riverhead Central School District Board of Education.

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released an audit report on Feb. 2 that approved the Riverhead Central School District’s payroll department internal controls implemented under Mr. Ivanoff’s watch. The comptroller found “Safeguards meant to prevent fraud are in place and deemed to be effective.” Both internal and external audits performed by outside CPA firms of the district finances under Mr. Ivanoff’s watch have been positive.

The school board and the superintendent of schools are entrusted to operate with the best interest of the public in mind. Transparency of decision-making is an essential component of assuring public trust. Trust is an essential component of a school district and, as a direct result, its stakeholder value.

Former teachers union president and first-year president of the Riverhead school board, Ann Cotten-DeGrasse, wants the public to blindly trust her decision in the Mike Ivanoff matter. Yet, there are just too many facts that should make the public dubious about the actions and the judgment of the board.

The school board members made an unconscionable decision regarding their assistant superintendent of finance and operations without ever verifying the validity and accuracy of information provided to them by their inexperienced, financially naive superintendent, Nancy Carney. As a tenured assistant superintendent at Rocky Point, Mr. Ivanoff already had a proven track record in school finance. He was recruited by the former superintendent and approved unanimously by the school board in June 2008. Moody’s upgraded the school district’s bond rating after conducting an in-depth interview with Mr. Ivanoff in November 2010.

The facts and circumstances surrounding the Mike Ivanoff matter are such that the taxpayers in the Riverhead School District should demand answers from the superintendent and the school board. Einstein said “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.” As a taxpayer, if you think the Mike Ivanoff matter is no concern to you, think again. An independent forensic audit should be performed and released to the public.

James Mills, Ph.D.